When I first met Kalpana, I couldn’t help but think of my mom.
Kalpana was just starting to realize the extent of her own power and begin testing the strength of her new-found wings. With the help of the women’s support group, she was opening businesses, making a better life for her children, leading the women in their first tastes of freedom and chasing big dreams like political office. She is fierce but compassionate, expressive and confident. She’s a role model for women everywhere – just like my mom.
Back home in the States, my mom was embarking on a new journey as a professor of physical therapy at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. She had been considering the idea of moving to the university level for years after her first foray into teaching at the University of Malawi over one of her many summers in the Warm Heart of Africa. This past fall, she saw an opportunity to teach and jumped at it. Before her new appointment, she had been working in public schools with children with disabilities for as long as I can remember, making an enormous effort to establish long-term relationships with her patients over the years of dedicated service. Mrs. Nesbit was a quiet yet powerful force in the lives of many beautiful children.
While I know her expertise and incredible care will surely be missed in those schools, I’m so glad she made the jump to California. I’ve seen my mother rack up additional degrees in physical therapy, working late into the night after work, ferrying us to and from soccer practices and making dinner for all of us. (I think we’re to the point of having to call her Dr. Dr. Nesbit…) I believe that her knowledge base - and her potential impact - has gone way past the one-on-one interactions that have been the staple of her time in the elementary schools. She has so much to teach about how to care for others as a physical therapist but more importantly, as a human being. She has taught me about compassion for others, how to understand obstacles in other people’s lives, the need to empathize with someone’s story in order to help and the importance of tenacity over the long haul.
There are some people who by circumstance will never meet, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if Kalpana and my mother - two strong, extraordinary women - could be in the same room. I like to think that they would trade knowing smiles. I can only hope that from our brief interactions over a few weeks, Kalpana was able to see some of the strength of my mother in me.