Satish Kumar has had 14 years of experience in the corporate space, and in that time, he has always been determined to put his best foot forward. For him, his merit and hard work count before anything else. A warm and caring person, Satish told us how his life has not been easy, but he is happy in the position he is in right now.
As is scarily familiar for queer people anywhere in the world, and especially India, Satish has been a victim of bullying and abuse in his childhood. Having grown up in a military family, Satish was aware of his father's disappointment of him not living up to society's masculine standards. Unable to understand what was happening because of the lack of information and social media, it was natural for him to be engulfed by self-doubt and negative thoughts. Wearing his mother's clothes secretly made him feel happy and gay (yes, he intended that pun), but along with that was a growing feeling of being an outcast. Satish also found himself turning to prayer and worship in hopes that this "illness," "sin," and "unnaturalness" would go away.
Simple thoughts like having a crush on a boy were a "nightmare," and Satish experienced feelings of such self-hate that at one point, he even attempted to end his life.
Satish has since then come a long way. Calling life "a gift of God," he now embraces it and regrets his past decisions. Although he once used music and academics as an escape, his face lit up when I inquired about the role Carnatic music has played in his life. In fact, his love for music and performance, as well as his conviction in the power of hard work and honest intentions, ultimately resulted in him performing in several concerts with his idol S. Janaki, also known as Janaki amma. Crediting her in helping him stay sane, he says
The greatest satisfaction and accomplishment of my life has been singing with my music goddess - S. Janaki. We share a great bond of over two decades, and she has brought so much joy and love into my life. She has taken the role of my mother and shown me what unconditional love is.
His narration of self-acceptance is also filled with love and appreciation for some people in his life who made him believe in himself, which in turn nurtured Satish's will to excel and enjoy life. When Satish's encounter with an unrequited love affected his performance at work, his dear friend Cassandra accompanied him to psychologists and counselors and "gave him the courage to be true to his own skin." He thanks allies at his employer Swiss Re, where he had come out two years ago, for always making him feel comfortable and accepted. He particularly wanted to bring our attention to Runjhun Malhotra, Nilesh Iyer, Amit Kalra, Gayatri Hazarika, and Bharath Somisetty. Satish's genuine and abundant gratitude towards multiple people in his life, people who have stood by him, supported him, was heart-warming.
Although Satish admits the struggle to be socially accepted is the same, whether it be a corporate space or a performative one, he believes both spaces ultimately lean towards meritocracy. With pride, Satish mentions Narthaki Nataraj, the first transgender woman to have won the Padma Shree in 2019, and many others from the LGBTQ community who excelled and gained recognition based on their sheer hard work. He also elaborated on the broad spectrum of his personal interests, ranging from Carnatic music, fashion, and makeup to calligraphy and tech shows.
I love to watch eye makeup tutorials on youtube! I have also tried wearing it at work. I have received plenty of compliments from my wonderful colleagues, and I am often asked for advice too!
Having lost both his parents at a young age, he is no stranger to loss. Satish regrets that they couldn't see the man he has become today, which has left a deep void in his life. He has shared the stage with his idol, managed to work at some of the top corporates in India, and learned acceptance, self-love, kindness, and the power of being and doing good.
Satish is used to taking complete ownership and accountability of things and wants to achieve his vision of collaborating with the transgender community to incorporate them into the mainstream. He wants to set an example and bring his best self to work and home. He already successfully became a role model by sharing his coming out story, an act which he believes has immense power because it not only expresses his side to non-LGBT members but also reassures others in the community that they are not alone. And they can and should bring their truth to work.
If you have talent, you will be recognized. I purely believe your talent should speak for yourself.
To the LGBT community members who are hesitant to be out and open in their current corporate space, Satish says, "They should not fear showing their vibrant colors of life. There are a lot of opportunities as a lot of companies are creating safe spaces for all." According to Satish, corporates are now taking note of diversity, which has also accelerated their economic benefits. He makes it a point to create awareness at Swiss Re by engaging others in dialogue, expanding their definition of 'normal,' and speaking out when decisions are taken on the diversity and inclusion forum. When asked about his current goals and dreams, he told us he is pursuing his CPA, after which he hopes to settle down abroad, also shyly adding, "maybe getting a partner too?"