Judith Narayan Vaddi is the author of ‘Dark Shade of Black’ – a collection of 49 verses available on Amazon. I had the pleasure of spending 5 days in her classroom at a VBS many, many years ago. She remains undoubtedly one of the best teachers and genuinely good human beings I have met in my life.
Sydney had asked me to write a bit of a bio…something I would like people to know about me and I must say I was very flattered. I have never really looked at myself because well that was something we were never taught, to talk about oneself. So in a way, this too, is a new journey of sorts for me. :)
The one thing I am passionate about, perhaps to the point of obsession and can share unabashedly about is literature, whether it be plays or poetry or a novel. Growing up, I hardly ever played with dolls or dress up, two activities my daughter undertakes with a fierceness that surprises even me. I was always engrossed in books, nose deep in some adventure or the other, fascinated by the tales spun like magic across the inky pages of well worn, well read books.
Both my parents fed this ever growing appetite of mine and later on in school and college by my teachers and professors. So in a nutshell, writing and reading, apart from my children are then the defining and driving passions of my life.
# Diseases of the heart
Hearts that are clogged,
By the colour of my skin
The gender of my dress
The slant eyes of my face.
Minds that are set,
By the lowness of my caste
The tattered attire of my fate
The bleakness of my estate.
Emotions that are swayed
By the religiosity of my creed
Fed by the hunger, craving need
Insatiable, uncontrollable, unfathomable deeds.
Truth be told, I had intended to write about something else – the thought had come upon me as I sat and waited outside my daughter’s school just before pick up time. I saw a Traffic Sergeant bulldoze his way into why he needed to ‘fine’ us even though we park in more or less the same spot for the last seven odd months this year. There was something oddly familiar and yet at the time deeply disturbing about this scene that plays itself almost everywhere across our country.
But we’ll come to that a little later. I was struck by a question that someone asked yesterday on a social media network – are you even a … (name of an institution) girl? The person in question had some issues of her own, probably even a bad day at work or home or whatever, but the manner in which the frustration was poured out definitely left a bad after taste.
Which brings me to the question – Who am I? Am I a wife first or a mother? Am I a Hermonite or a North Pointer? An Indian or a North-east Indian? Or has been in the news lately, am I then a Hindu?
Who decides then the tags that precede us? Clearly at various points in our lives, we have introduced ourselves, with some degree of pride, as being part of an institution or church affiliation even. Trust me there is nothing wrong with that.
The danger comes when we start imposing our beliefs as to what the ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ that can be, must be associated with these tags, frowning upon the misfits, the ones that do not fit the mould.
There is a danger to that because in the end, kindnesses should matter, politeness and civility should be displayed and decency in all manner and form needs to be the thumb rule for all approaches and reproaches as well.
Having said all that, I come back to the tags by saying I am not a Loreto girl. Never was. And that is because I am also an MH girl, a Carmel Convent, an SJC girl and everywhere else that I have journeyed with my father during his tenure of service as an IPS officer.
In all of these wonderful institutions, I have made some incredible friends, met some wonderful mentors and guides and I have come away with a deep sense of gratitude for all the values that they have instilled in me. It is also true that in life’s journey, one’s intentions may not always be seen in the best of light and at best be misconstrued and opinions, as such, largely differ. What matters, however, is the manner in which it is expressed.
Too often though, the level of crassness has sunk further and further and even as our civilizations expand and grow, so unfortunately does our sense of appropriate behaviour diminish, with little thought or regard for the person on whom it is vent.
I will always be grateful to be associated with these institutions, places I have been, schools and colleges where I have studied and more so, with the people whose lives have touched mine.
But it does not for a single moment define who I am – because in the end, how we live our lives defines who we are, not a tag associated with a culture, race or even an institution.
So coming back to the Traffic Sergeant, when I look at him, I am reminded of my father, how tall his stature and unshaken his beliefs. And I am filled with a deep sense of sadness and a tinge of anger because this man will never be my father, this one who takes great pride in intimidating by virtue of his uniform.
So what do I do? Label him as a misfit, doomed to live a half-life of bribes and gaalis? I don’t think so, for that would make me no better than the others who look down upon my caste, sneer at my very obvious chinki looks and decry me for not being Loreto-ish enough…
I think I will be patient and understanding, little less pompous and ingratiating and a whole lot more tolerant. For in the end, in order for us to change how society works, thinks, behaves, we need to start with ourselves first. Always.