Mumbai-based 22-year-old Aarti Kuber likes to call herself a Planeteer
and believes her life’s mission is to help our planet and its people heal. Having experienced child sexual abuse
, she went on to peacefully confront the person who violated her, ten years after the incident took place.
In 2016, Aarti went up to her teacher’s house with her friends and read out a letter she had written to him. Firmly but compassionately, she said to him, “Although your actions have had a very negative impact on my life, I forgave you in that very moment. I hope you’re able to forgive yourself. I’m glad to know that you have taken an oath never to harm anyone again. I’m proud of you, because it takes a lot of courage to own up to your actions and move on from there. I have and will continue to work with survivors of sexual abuse and work towards empowering them till they're as strong as I feel now, standing in front of you. Today, I am letting you go. From my mind, my thoughts”. Her teacher’s wife gave Aarti a hug and assured her that he is a changed man, after which he apologized to her. The psychosomatic back ache Aarti had had for ten years magically disappeared. She became a new person, broke her pattern of abuse, victim identity and self-blame.
It was during college, that she had begun spiraling downwards. She survived several instances of abuse and harassment from people she trusted, as well as strangers, but had not still acknowledged the damage those incidents had done. All the anger, fear and pain that she had unknowingly bottled up inside her began to suddenly surface. She numbed the negative thoughts in her head with alcohol and binge eating. She put on a lot of weight, was out of touch with her inner voice and had isolated herself from her friends and family. This is when she was diagnosed with manic depression.
Her transformation began in her last year of college, when she joined “The Circle
”, a support group that was started by her friends, to spread awareness about violence and mental health
, gender and sexuality through communication and art. Along with her classmates
, she led discussions and facilitated sharing circles, for people to express their thoughts and experiences, just listen or ask questions. The community now continues to grow in Mumbai and Bangalore, holding circles and workshops in homes, schools and colleges in the spirit of gift economy.
After college, Aarti set off on an exploratory adventure around South India for over a year, to discover her passion, engage in volunteer service, and heal herself. She was introduced to holistic well-being, veganism and began changing her lifestyle – learning Yoga, Reiki, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Tarot Card reading as tools for self-care. Aarti is currently training to be an Art-Based Therapy Practitioner. She is in the process of starting an initiative called Chandrakala
(“moonbeam” in Sanskrit), through which she plans to host healing and art circles every new moon and full moon to help people flow with nature’s rhythm, connect with their inner selves and make peace with the demons that live inside all of us.
Five Questions with Aarti Kuber
What Makes You Come Alive?
There is so much suffering in our world and it's easy to get overwhelmed by it. The polar ice-caps are melting, inequalities are deeply rooted in our systems. The news headlines reinforce violence, fear and pain. There was a time when my bubble of optimism popped and I was overcome by existential despair. Just in time, my cousin sent me a magical book. In "Blessed Unrest", Paul Hawken says, "The shared activity of hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations can be seen as humanity's immune response to toxins like political corruption, economic disease, and ecological degradation." Although I felt like a tiny leukocyte, I was inspired to start taking action. Assuming the role of a planeteer or steward of Mother Earth, I began taking baby steps in a direction that my heart had always known was right. Before I knew it, I was working alongside compassionate and innovative souls, to restore balance and ensure a peaceful and sustainable future. I've been alive and kicking ever since
Pivotal turning point in your life?
I am very grateful for the love and freedom my family has given me. After college, instead of pushing me into a desk job or towards higher studies, I was given the freedom to solo travel and pursue social work and environmentalism. I started off as an anxious little girl who was afraid to stand up for herself. My journey as a traveler, with all its ups and downs, has helped me become independent and reclaim my personal power. The beautiful people I met along the way have become my chosen family. My strong support system gets me through some dark days and takes me closer to accepting, forgiving, trusting and loving myself as well as the people around me.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
My 80 year old grandmother always cooks my favourite comfort food, every time I come home from a trip. She spends two whole days in the kitchen, carefully planning and preparing the meal, despite her health conditions. After a slobbery welcome from my dogs, we sit together and I share stories with her over lunch. She smiles and watches me till I finish all the food on my plate. "Do you want some more? I know you like this food, so I made it for you. Watching you enjoy it makes all the effort worth it!"
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
I love the ocean and marine animals. I've always wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef, before it's destroyed.
One-line Message for the World?
Hurt people hurt, healed people heal