#MeToo, #wtfFari, action figures, artificial ovary, AwesomeCon, Bangladesh, Batista, Batista Unleashed, Biomedical Engineering, bodyshaming, career, chasing the dream, Dave Bautista, dream, Dream Come True, dreamchasers, dreamer, E&C Podcast, education, entertainment, fan, fangirl, Friday night SmackDown, gravity, hollywood, infertility, life, Love, Monday night RAW, PCOS, PCOS Awareness, Penn State, Penn State Behrend, personal training, polycystic ovarian syndrome, respect, Sports, The Rock, twitter, unconditional love, Washington DC, workout, wrestling, WWE
If you know me, you probably know the following:
1. I am a dreamer.
2. I am hopelessly ‘in love‘ with David Michael Bautista Jr. a.k.a Dave Bautista a.k.a Batista.
3. I am 100% serious when I say I am passionate about helping women with infertility issues by creating an artificial ovary.
And somehow these are all connected.
Facebook memories can be useful sometimes. Just this past Saturday it showed a post from 5 years back that read: “You say I dream too big. I say you think too small.” And it is very true. I really do dream big.
6 foot 4 inches, 290 lb to be exact.
Words in this world can’t suffice to describe my elation as I am typing this, but I will still try. In order to understand my story, you have to use your imagination. Imagine being the native of a small town that is as big as the Penn State campus, where you have about 3 million people of different socio-economic backgrounds living together. Now imagine you are a young girl who doesn’t fit in anywhere. When I say you don’t fit in, I mean that you stand out like a lonely meerkat in a sea of lazy regular cats laying down.
Now that all my similes and metaphors (and cheap humor) are out of the way, I will try to explain my situation. I was a tomboy (with spiked boy-cut hair) in a then conservative society, who enjoyed watching WWE, playing soccer and cricket, and had more male friends than female friends. To make matters worse, I have always been on the heavier side, which made me subject to constant body-shaming (24 years and counting!). Growing up as Fari was challenging only because I was never accepted as myself by people other than my parents. Being Fari wasn’t easy and was, at times, frustrating. Whether it was my strong drive to stand up for women’s rights, my battle against local corruption as a lowly teenager, my inclination to resist social norms, or my very own multiple #MeToo situations breaking me at every step of the way, I couldn’t find a baseline to normalize myself to. Things can get difficult when you can’t express yourself to anyone for the fear of judgment or victim shaming. Teenager Fari was simultaneously strong and weak. And in a world where you don’t fit in, and nothing seems right, it’s crazy when you find something that grounds you…something that holds you steadier than gravity has ever held you.
If Batista were a thesis topic, I’d have become Dr. Fari at the mere age of 11!
It was during my summer vacation of 6th grade when I was recovering from a terrible typhoid (and malaria, and anaemia) that I stumbled across a beautiful photograph of a person I didn’t know, on my cousin’s phone. Let me get this out there- I was pissed at WWE after The Rock left and I hadn’t watched wrestling in a while at that point. Anyways, I saw this photograph of a beautiful man in a black suit and shades, and the next thing I know, my teenage hormone-crazed brain couldn’t stop thinking about him. And by that I mean that I was losing my mind thinking about this person, and I wanted nothing more than to get to know him. Unlike the kids today, my parents regulated my computer and internet access, not to mention we had crappy internet with 0.01 kb/min speed via dial-up connection, and God forbid someone would call just as you’re about to connect – you’d spend 5 hours trying to reconnect. Hence, finding out about this man from the internet was the true test of my patience, since it took about 45 minutes to load wwe.com using that horrible internet connection. But I have always been a determined person, and whenever I set my heart to something, I very likely achieve it. I invested every waking second of my entire summer vacation and learned everything I possibly could about this man in black suit. This man was none other Mr. David Michael Bautista Jr. a.k.a Batista. If Batista were a thesis topic, I’d have become Dr. Fari at the mere age of 11!
It was the era of Ulead Photo Express 2.0 SE, and in a span of 15 days, I ended up with about 105 badly edited photos of me with Batista, because my 11-year-old brain was convinced that I was in love with this man, who at the time was married with two daughters, and his youngest daughter was my age!
Living in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, back then, meant we didn’t have the luxury to afford the official WWE Batista merchandize. However, my friends and family always went above and beyond to support my madness. My mom kept hunting everywhere, and would bring home all these ‘Made in China’ replica action figures with Batista’s name on them, that remotely looked like him! She once brought home a WWE monopoly, and she said of the 5 packs, she picked that particular pack because it had Batista in the cover! On my birthday, I received birthday presents with Batista’s printed photos for wrapping papers, and his framed photos on the inside for presents. So in a year’s time, my bedroom had turned into the ultimate Dave Batista shrine, and everyone knew that this Papa’s boy with a boy-cut hair was officially transitioning to a woman, who was a devoted Batista fan.
In a world where I had a hard time fitting in, Batista gave me my own world where I could be myself.
In case you still can’t fathom the height of my madness, let me tell you more. Our only access to watching wrestling matches were TenSports televising weeks old Monday night Raw and Friday night SmackDown on Mondays and Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m, respectively. And like a good girl, who knew Batista would be on SmackDown, I would come home from school every Tuesday, finish all my homework way ahead of time, and spend solid 30-minutes getting dolled up (to stay at home and watch television, mind you), before SmackDown would start. Sometimes my grandma and uncle (we all lived in the same multigenerational home) would tease me and say, “You do know how the television works, right? You CAN see him. He CAN’T see YOU!” But none of that mattered to me. For the ten to fifteen minutes that SmackDown would show Batista- either wrestling or addressing the crowd- I would forget everything else in the world. And God forbid there was load-shedding (the usual Bangladeshi power cuts), and I’d miss seeing him at a given Tuesday, the entire house would know Fari was sad and was crying and wouldn’t eat dinner. Later that year, when I aced my mid terms in school, my brother bought me an mp4 as a reward (that was the closest to an iPod we could afford at that time). Since then, I would spend my Tuesdays recording Batista’s entrance music and voice on my new mp4 and play them on endless loop, listening to them as I fell asleep every night.
In a world where I had a hard time fitting in, Batista gave me my own world where I could be myself. It really didn’t matter to me that Batista didn’t know who I was or even know I existed, but to me he was everything. He gave me the strength to imagine a world where being Fari was normal- where being a strong, smart and outspoken woman, and standing up for myself was acceptable; where I could be myself with a 6 foot 4, 290 lb man encouraging me to never back down every step of the way.
I was only allowed to use the computer and internet for “Batista purposes” and that opened a whole new world for me. I wrote an essay about him and won a contest in August 2007. I kept looking into his works, which led to me requesting my uncle in NYC to get me a copy of Batista Unleashed. That was the first time ever that I had asked him for anything, and once I got that book, I studied it- in and out, word by word. I dissected that book more than I have dissected Dr. Morgan’s paper on artificial ovary in the last four years!
“Stay in school and finish your education. Education is important in life.”
When you are 13 or 14, you usually don’t know what you want in life. I was no different. Up until Batista came into my life, I knew I wanted to do ‘something’ to help people, but I had no direction. Once I started ‘studying’ Batista, I learned about his then wife Angie and her battle with ovarian cancer. Since this fell under the scope of “Batista purposes only” use of the internet, I started studying about ovarian cancer, and I stumbled upon the emerging field of Biomedical Engineering. At the mere age of thirteen, I decided I wanted to become a biomedical engineer and create an artificial ovary. For a young girl trying to maneuver life with no sense of direction, somehow Batista had gift-wrapped and given me my life’s purpose. Getting diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) a few years later and combatting it everyday ever since only strengthened my focus on helping women with infertility issues. I still remember reading the line in his book Batista Unleashed, “Stay in school and finish your education. Education is important in life.” There was a time when I was the only female student in my high school class, and I was asked to switch/quit schools, but I stayed in school, and despite all the obstacles, graduated as the class valedictorian.
In one of his interviews Batista once said, “Work hard and sky is the limit,” and it became my living motto. I woke up every morning, committing to work hard. I saw another man besides Batista who embodied that rule- my Papa- and with two great men fueling and lifting my spirit everyday, I continued to dream. Papa has always been there in person, encouraging me to be myself, and Batista has always been there in spirit making me smile and helping me get through days when I fell on my face and couldn’t get back up.
“Why Penn State?”
Besides all the amazing reasons to attend Penn State- one of the best schools in the world, I also decided to follow my dreams and pursue a career in Biomedical Engineering in Batista’s land. However, even as a freshman in college, I could only dream about meeting Batista in person. To be honest, I wanted to be worthy, and someone before I could meet him. I went on to become the first ever international student to receive the Freshman of the Year award (http://news.psu.edu/story/315839/2014/05/13/penn-state-behrends-outstanding-first-year-student-sky-limit) and while Penn State covered my story and mentioned how Batista had inspired my journey, I still didn’t think I’d ever meet Batista in my lifetime.
I wonder if he has some sort “Today Fari is Sad” radar…
College is never easy. College especially isn’t easy when you develop a learning disability following a concussion, and your cognitive skills get compromised. All that mixed with a lot of math-based engineering courses and additional research? You have a recipe for disaster. And this horrible recipe was in my plate as I started junior year in college. It was around the same time that Batista decided to start his acting career from scratch, and wasn’t backing down despite all the struggle. So while I was no longer seeing him wrestle everyday, I was getting fueled by his courage. Batista’s courage to move out of his comfort zone at the peak of his career fueled me to not give up despite the struggles I was facing. I remember one particular night when I was upset and couldn’t study for my ‘Electrical Circuits and Simulations’ exam – the next morning was Eid-al-Adha and I was homesick. And just as I was sitting with my piles of notes, teary-eyed, Batista ‘liked’ my comment on one of his Facebook posts, and I was euphoric beyond limit! I jumped around, called my mom, Papa (and almost everyone on planet Earth) to let them know how happy I was! And that was not the only time that he made my day. While I religiously tweet at him everyday, somehow Batista always responds/acknowledges my efforts on my WORST days! I wonder if he has some sort “Today Fari is Sad” radar…
And the stars aligned to make my dream come true on March 31st, 2018 in Washington DC- Batista’s hometown.
It was a January evening this year, and one of those ‘worst’ days. I was having a meltdown while listening to the E&C Podcast episode with Batista in it, that I fell in love with him all over again. Batista’s work ethic highly impressed me, and my post-concussion self could relate to him all too well, “I have a tunnel vision. I can only focus on one thing.” And as the podcast continued, I noted down something Batista said, that went on to become my favorite motivational quotes of all time- “I pick something I am bad at, and work on it until I am the best at it!” For a person who was sitting in a foreign land all by herself, not knowing where life was taking her in 90 days, and almost gave up on hopes, those words gave me a new jolt of life! I got a new boost to keep pushing hard, with new excitement. And it was at that spur of the moment that I decided I had to meet this man and thank him for everything he has done for me over the last 13 years!
And the stars aligned to make my dream come true on March 31st, 2018 in Washington DC- Batista’s hometown.
And I truly appreciate my friends preparing me for the worst.
Between January and March, I had a lot to accomplish. I was recovering from a spine misalignment, I was overworked, and I had lost my body fitness. I spent these three months training hard (S/O to my Personal Trainer Keith Ligon for helping me reach my goal) just so I could be Batista ready. I spent hours at the mall trying to find the ‘perfect dress’ for when I’d meet him. And God knows how much money I’ve spent on miscellaneous things, getting dolled up for Batista. And as the day approached, I had friends and family preparing me for the worst- “You will only have 20 seconds or so. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t ‘talk’ to him,” “Don’t hold your hopes up high. He probably meets a ‘biggest fan’ everywhere he goes,” “May be see if you can get a hug. Don’t be sad if you can’t though. He will have a tight schedule.”
And I truly appreciate my friends preparing me for the worst.
In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting anything too crazy out of this opportunity. One thing I’ve learned from loving Batista over the years is to love without expecting anything in return. I spent 13 years loving and idolizing a man who didn’t know I exist. I spent 13 years defending the honor and respect of a man who probably had no idea that a young Bangladeshi girl was raising her voice for him (yes haters, you know who you are!). I spent 13 years of my life following and living my life on the principles of a man who had no idea his words and actions influenced a small town girl to become a biomedical engineer. To me, this was an opportunity to see the man of my dreams in flesh and blood, so that I could tell my grandchildren about a man who played such a big role in making me who I am, and that I’d once met him and shook hands with him or something.
I was standing at a comic book convention wearing a dress and pantyhose!
Over the last 13 years, Dave Bautista has taught me to be a few things:
1. Being a dreamer, and dream chaser.
2. Being my true self, and always making my honest opinion heard (have you seen the man tweet?)
3. Being a lover- loving unconditionally, and with all my heart, without ever expecting anything in return.
So when the BIG day arrived, I stood in line at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at 11 a.m. hoping to breathe the same air as ‘the love of my life’ without expecting anything from him.
And what I got in return was more than what I could ever imagine!
As I saw Batista walk in and take a seat, I forgot to breathe momentarily. And then remembered that I was missing out on the opportunity to breathe the same air as him, so I started hyperventilating. Trust me, I am an engineer. I have my diploma sitting next to me. I have a functioning brain. I just forgot that I had a brain at that moment. As I stood in line, I couldn’t shut up! I had to tell everyone how I was feeling, because I was having a hard time breathing, and keeping my calm. And I was standing at a comic book convention wearing a dress and pantyhose! Yes.
As my line moved forward, and I approached Batista, I could only admire the man he is- especially his smile. I remember watching him smile as a 12-year-old and losing my calm. As a 24-year-old, I was still having a hard time keeping my head straight. I felt adrenaline, dopamine, oxytocin, and every other freakin’ hormone rush and energize my body. I don’t think I’d ever felt what I felt standing in line at the moment.
“I am one step away from Dave. ONE STEP!”- I thought as my eyes were fixated on him, and my hands held the ‘Bluetista’ action figure that was a graduation present from Steve (Thank you so much Steve!). I honestly forgot that there was a world outside that didn’t circle around this beautiful man right before my eyes. And yet, I made sure I didn’t get my hopes up too high.
Love people without ever expecting anything in return.
I wish someone had recorded the entire moment because I still can’t believe I lived it.
As I approached Dave, I had my I-am-losing-my-sh*t-high-pitched-shrilly-voice going on and I could say, “Hi Dave…” (so original!)
Dave let out his beautiful smile (I am crying as I am typing this), and stood up. And he said, “Come on back, you!” And for a split second I forgot the English language. Everyone directed me behind the table where he was sitting, and I was breaking out in tears as I walked up to the man of my dreams. As I jumped into Dave’s open arms for a hug, while looking at him through the tears welling up in my eyes, I still couldn’t believe what had just happened. “I know you!” he said.
When you spend 13 years strongly believing that a person you love with all your heart doesn’t even know you exist, it can be overwhelming hearing those words. The interaction that followed after was me rambling on about chasing my dreams, and loving him and getting inspired. I can’t recall what I told him because I don’t think I actually phrased a proper sentence in English in front of him, except the first sentence, “I am from Bangladesh and I never thought this day would ever come!”
Earlier that week, I was telling my buddy Liger how much I’d love to kiss Dave, or have him kiss me, and he said I shouldn’t pursue that. I asked Dave if he’d give me a kiss, and he gladly implanted a kiss on my right cheek. He asked me questions about Penn State, my goals, my life, and my PCOS. As we stood there hugging (and I was still crying), someone was taking a picture of us, and Dave was telling everyone how I was the girl who spent all her money getting dolled up for him. I asked him whether I was dolled up enough, to which he replied, “You look beautiful!” Love people without ever expecting anything in return. I still didn’t believe that the man of my dreams– My Dream- had just hugged me, kissed me, and said I looked beautiful. He asked who was ‘Fari’ as he signed my action figure, to which I replied, Fari is what my friends and family call me. I wouldn’t want Dave to call me anything other than Fari– while he’d been Batista for everyone else, he’s been nothing but Dave to me since day 1. And that day, Fari finally met Dave in flesh and blood.
Love and respect are intangible. You can only feel them deep down inside.
Later that day when we went on to take my official photograph with him, I told him I call him “the love of my life”. And the way he hugged me during the photo shows how he reciprocated my love and affection for him. He may not ‘love‘ me the way I ‘love‘ him, but I know he has an affection and adoration towards me, that I could feel- with his touch, the way he smiled at me, and through his beautiful eyes when he looked at me. Love and respect are intangible. You can only feel them deep down inside. And that day, I felt a deep sense of adoration from Dave that no one can ever fathom.
I always kid and say that Batista is my future husband, or that I am the future Mrs. Batista. Up until that weekend, everyone took me lightly. These days I have started noticing people getting alarmed whenever I say it. But here’s the truth- nothing matters to me more than Dave’s happiness, and Dave’s happiness is his wife, Sarah. Dave is an incredible man with a heart of gold, who knows how to care, and show that he cares. He is a man who knows how to love and project that love. I am one of the millions of fans he has worldwide, but for him to give the love and respect he has given me, shows that he is a down-to-Earth man who is great. “All great men know how to love, baby, and he is a great man too!” said Papa, once he heard about my experience.
…that’s because my ‘dream’ was resonating the love and affection I’d given him for 13 years
The next morning, April 1st, when I saw Dave again, we met and talked like old friends. I was still forgetting the fact that I have a brain (Dave asked me twice how I was doing, and I didn’t answer!), but we were able to carry out a conversation without me freaking out or crying. Walking up to Dave without telling him my name again, and him remembering that it’s ‘Fari‘ on his own meant a lot to me. He answered my questions, allowed me to hug Oliver, and we just talked. It felt too normal to be casually talking to the ‘dream’ I’d chased for 13 years. But maybe that’s because my ‘dream’ was resonating the love and affection I’d given him for 13 years.
At the end of the convention, I had the privilege to say ‘bye’ to him before he left (Thank you Jonathan!). We talked about how this might as well be the first and last time I’d be seeing him, and he seemed genuinely concerned. He told me not to give up, and keep trying, and he hoped that I’ll be able to work something out. It seemed like he wanted to see me again. I want to see him again too… and not just because he gives THE BEST HUGS IN THE UNIVERSE!
…chasing to make your BIGGEST dream come true is surreal.
Over the last 13 years, Dave Bautista has heavily influenced my life- from learning to use the internet (which was a luxury in Bangladesh back then) that I later used for school searches leading me to Penn State, to pursuing a healthy lifestyle, to leading me up to my career, to my choice of music, and to my outspoken personality. His honesty is contagious, and over the years I have realized that I am just like Dave- I speak my mind without worrying about how I am being perceived. While it works out great for him- he is a superstar- I still have a long way to go in terms of leaving my mark in this world with honesty. After the convention, Dave tweeted about me, and that tweet made me cry again. I was happy crying because once again, I was living through my childhood dream.
Dreaming is one thing. Chasing the dream is another.
But chasing to make your BIGGEST dream come true is surreal.
One of my cousins left a comment on my photo with Dave on my Facebook that made me wonder if that’s how the world, Dave inclusive, perceived me:
I have received a lot of positive (and negative) feedback from people I know (and people I don’t know) after my meeting with Dave. I am thankful for the positive remarks, and I am thankful for the negative ones too. As a devoted fan, nothing filled me with joy more than hearing multiple people say, “Now I am a Batista fan, just because of how well he treated you! He really is a great guy!” And one of the more thought-provoking feedbacks I received was this question, “How can you ‘love’ a person you’ve only read about?” It made me stop for a second and think. And I have an answer: I think of love as an emotion without a definition. You ‘love’ someone or something despite his/her flaws. We love our country- as a Bangladeshi we refer to our motherland as ‘Mother’, and so I grew up with immense love for a ‘mother’ who is intangible. We love God- an entity we can’t visualize. We love our pets, without knowing how the pet really feels about us. I love Penn State- the place, the community, the people. Love can’t be defined by textbook definitions. What I feel for Dave Bautista can be better described as devotion, and utmost respect. I idolize this man, and I draw inspiration from him. Without ever being there for me as a physical entity, his mere existence has fueled me through the toughest times. And may be that is how I’d define ‘love’- being the source of inspiration and encouragement for a girl, who is still working hard to find her place in this strange world.