Nutan Chettri is strong, unapologetic and independent. Nutan is a Senior Tax Manager based in USA. She has been volunteering, performing dance, hosting events and advocating for women’s issues and gender equality as ways to give back to community and nature. “These skills have been honed through practice, guidance from spiritual gurus, reading, and an openness to learning,” says Nutan.
On a recent visit to Kathmandu, she spoke to WOW about her professional journey, how a woman’s successful career can hurt her marriage, and why smart and successful women tolerate abuse. Excerpts:
What were you like as a child?
During my childhood, I was an active and engaged kid who enjoyed participating in various extracurricular activities like sports, dance and music. Rather than being solely focused on academics, my parents encouraged me to explore my interests by taking dance, taekwondo, painting and sitar lessons. In fact, I even had the opportunity to be a part of a television show. Since both my parents worked, I spent a lot of time in daycare and around my neighbourhood, surrounded by many other children. This experience helped me to become highly social, and I naturally had an assertive personality that other kids gravitated towards. This meant I found myself in leadership roles growing up. Whether it was being a class captain or leader of a social club, I always enjoyed being around my peers and taking on decision-making roles.
Growing up, what was your definition of beauty?
As a child, my understanding of beauty was heavily influenced by my surroundings. Whether it was the movies I watched, fairy tales I read, or dolls I played with, society’s definition of beauty was constantly reinforced. However, as I matured, my definition of beauty evolved. I came to understand that beauty is a subjective concept, and how we perceive it is largely influenced by the media. Societal standards of beauty are constantly in flux. Now, I have a healthier perspective on beauty. I believe that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. I find beauty in all forms of nature, including plants, animals and people. Beauty transcends language, race, colour, and nationality. To achieve true beauty, it is essential to maintain a healthy body and mind, practice good hygiene, and cultivate happiness and confidence. When we focus on positive thoughts, our external beauty will naturally shine through, giving us that radiant glow.
When did you first start thinking about wanting to work abroad?
I never really thought much about working abroad before I came to the U.S. I went to high school in India and going to the United States for further education just seemed like the natural progression at the time. Once I arrived and completed my studies, my life simply progressed naturally into my professional career, and I stayed.
What are the attributes and qualities that allow you to do what you do?
We live in a world of constant change, and it is very important to change and adapt along with the times. I accept new challenges and adapt to new situations with confidence and perseverance. It’s also important to be passionate. When I am passionate about something, it gives me a strong desire to fully immerse myself in the task at hand and do whatever it takes to make sure I am successfully at seeing said task to completion.
Does a woman’s successful career hurt her marriage?
It certainly can. Some men may initially find it intriguing to be with a successful, smart and independent woman, but later those same attributes may begin to bother them. It really depends on how confident a man is. Whenever one partner has a more successful and fulfilling career than the other, ego can come into play which causes a lot of issues. This is especially prevalent in patriarchal societies where historically men have always been the breadwinner of the family and women’s professional careers and achievements have languished in their own shadow. Women are also expected to be more submissive, so a confident and assured woman might be off-putting to men who are not confident themselves. Men who have very successful careers tend to have supportive wives who are willing to sacrifice their own careers to help their husband’s career prosper. Unfortunately, women rarely have this luxury. A woman is not allowed to shirk her responsibility as a homemaker to focus solely on her career. Communication is the key. Men need to share and address feelings of insecurity in a healthy way to achieve healthy relationships.
Why do smart successful women tolerate abuse?
First, I think women often feel pressured to conform to the societal ideals set for them and don’t want to cause stress and disappointment. They assume they will be at fault if a marriage or a relationship fails. Second, there is an unhealthy taboo around openly discussing abuse because women who come forward about abuse are often not believed, are ridiculed, or become the subjects of demeaning gossip.
Women are too often made to believe that their opinions and thoughts aren’t valued, and that their sole purpose in life is to serve their husbands and their children. So, when a relationship fails, it is automatically assumed that the woman has failed in her primary responsibility, while the man’s responsibility in making a relationship work seems to be an afterthought. Most women stay in abusive relationships simply because they know they will not have the support they need, and society will see them as a failure. I have heard instances of women sharing their story of physical abuse followed by questions like “you must have done something to make him mad.” It is always contingent on the woman to be perfect. This norm of always trying to find flaws within the woman for any failed relationship puts a huge psychological toll on women and breeds self-doubt. Generations of patriarchy have brainwashed women too. They tend to believe men in their lives more than women. A man’s version of the story is always given more grace than a woman. Also, there are no repercussions for abuse.
I don’t believe in canceling people, but when there are no repercussions for abusing women in society, and abusers can freely skip from one relationship to another unscathed, what is the incentive for women to share their trauma?
What about failure? How do you deal with it?
I first accept failure and acknowledge any difficult feelings that come along with it. Then I let go of any judgment I am feeling from myself or others. I remind myself that failure does not define who I am as a person. I stop searching for external fixes that are beyond my control and start looking within to unleash my personal power and tackle the areas that I can improve or do differently. I believe that failure is a learning experience. I also reflect on my previous successes to help boost my confidence. Pursuing your hobbies can be healing and helps boost self-confidence. In my case, workouts, meditation, dance practice, and nature walks help.
What are the most pressing challenges you face while living abroad?
First and foremost, someone working abroad needs to adapt to a different lifestyle, language and work culture. It can be challenging to find adequate support and guidance to navigate the rules and customs of a new system when you’re far away from friends and family. Whether you are dealing with homesickness, cultural adjustment, or language barriers, it’s important to find someone to talk to. However, when you are too busy to make new friends or feel like you don’t fit in, it’s easy to isolate yourself. It helps to find a supportive community or join local clubs or organisations that match your interests. Discrimination and misunderstandings can also be very difficult in some areas. For instance, my culture emphasises humility and conformity, and we are less likely to speak up and voice our opinions. But in the U.S., non-assertiveness can be seen as a lack of confidence and motivation. It is a constant struggle to find the perfect mix of retaining my Nepali values while adapting to American culture to progress my career further.
What keeps you inspired?
I love staying positive, and one of the ways I do this is by reading and watching positive and inspirational stories. Nature also inspires me, and I enjoy taking walks outdoors. My family members also inspire me. My mother is a strong, educated and independent woman who successfully raised a family and built a career without compromising her values. I find inspiration in how she juggled being both home and profession. My father inspires me with how he supported and encouraged my mother to further pursue her education abroad even after I was born. My younger brother is always pushing me to excel in all areas of my life. I also find inspiration in spiritual gurus, a few close friends and family members, as well as some of my own personal achievements. Perhaps one day, my story can serve as an inspiration to others.
What have been your most cherished memories so far?
Life is a beautiful collage of wonderful memories. The most important one in my life was the day my younger brother was born. My parents were okay with just one child, but I always wanted a brother. Today he is one of my biggest supporters. He understands me like no one else and is constantly acting as a motivator and a cheerleader pushing me to do better.
Another recent cherished memory is the day my dad was declared to be in complete remission after battling prostate, lung, and throat cancer. His years of treatment were a challenging time, but we made it through as a family.
What are some of your other aspirations?
I aspire to make the most of my life every day by spending time doing all the things I love, such as pursuing my hobbies, volunteering, continuing to build my strong professional career, and eventually starting my own business. I would also love to become a motivational speaker and write a book.
Of course, I am always watching for the next big thing I might want to tackle. I hope to continue searching for sources of inspiration as I build my career and discover more opportunities for myself. Perhaps one day, my own story can be an inspiration for someone else. When women share their stories and support each other, I think it has a powerful and profoundly positive effect on the world.