17/07/2007

17/07/2007.

It had to be that date.

More than 25,000 people affiliated with University of Wollongong looked at us when they opened the university website that day. We were on their screens.

On 17/07/2007

Two doctorates, two children and a passage to India. On 17/07/2007, University of Wollongong.

Two doctorates and two children journeyed through Wollongong.

Our 3-year-old little big boy played with a pen in his hand. His smiling daddy tried to keep him engaged for the photograph. Our 2-month-old cute baby boy was asleep in my arms.

I had just then returned to the campus from a physiotherapy session at Wollongong hospital. Perspiring through those three layers of clothing on that wintery morning I checked with the university photographer, “Do you mind if I go home and put some nice clothes on? I’ll be back in twenty minutes.” We lived on campus.

But, the photographer had other appointments. Instruction to photograph us was sudden and most surprising. There was a ‘story’ about us in the waiting. The faculty chief felt it. It was to be narrated to the world BEFORE I picked up my graduation certificate on 18/07/2007.

18/07/2007 PhD Graduation

With Chris Fox & Baby Varuna – After graduation ceremony on 18/07/2007.

Storying Us. ‘Us’ carried a little buzz. Vinathe & Eric. Brown-coloured Indian woman with a pale-coloured blonde British. Travelling across continents, they had arrived at the ‘Seas of the South’ – Wollongong. Right on the beaches of the Pacific ocean.  Both met at the university as researchers and completed their PhDs. They had all the time in the world for parenting whilst studying, working, travelling and partnering. The Universe granted them two gorgeously beautiful children. Our story.

Wollongong gave me ever-lasting friendships and loving bonds. My boys got their Godmother. Bless her! Gong became an epigraph.

Then 17/07/2007 ensued. Nick Hartgerink said to Wollongong-ites, “There’s much more to be gained at University than academic qualifications. Just ask Eric and Vinathe.” The local newspaper Illawara Mercury interviewed me and published my across-the-continent story.

There weren’t roses everywhere. Some disapproved the Indian-without-Australian-accent in their academia. Heads would turn away. Some looked ‘guilty’ enough to call them ‘I-know-what-you-did.’ A particular ‘academic’ said, “Kind-of-your-name popped up. It didn’t ring any bells.” Never mind, she wasn’t spiritual enough!

But, after 17/07/2007 phenomenon a few simply stopped and chatted with me. They would say nice things to my babies – boy in the pram, baby snuggled up in a Carrier on my chest.

That same week the Vice Chancellor was walking past as we stood by the Duck Pond.  He paused. Of course, he recognised us! With a big pleasant smile he looked at my baby, and then turned to my boy saying Hello. Boy was busy with a stick-cum-fishing-rod in his hands.

My final moment of glory arrived on an evening. The three of us stopped by as my boy watched the gardener blowing away winter leaves. He switched the machine off. Walking up to us he said, “Congratulations, lady. I saw your photo. You did well. Not your man. YOU DID WELL.”

Yes! My bells rang loud and clear.

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Say Thank You

The bus was ten minutes late. People waiting in the queue were stirring, shifting their feet, subscribing to a collective mind-mapping of ‘Why is it late’ investigation.

I boarded the bus first, put the currency note in front of the driver and announced my destination. He returned the coin change. I took the ticket off the machine uttering a Thank You.

As I turned towards the seats I heard the driver say “Sorry, I’m late. Terrible traffic. Thank you”. I looked over my shoulder. The driver had a smile on his face, engaged with the person behind me, a fellow passenger.

The driver didn’t initiate a conversation with me. He didn’t say the bus was late. He didn’t say sorry or thank you to me.

Just last year a friend was sharing about their travel to Sri Lanka. Somebody harassed them, poor tourists. “Oh, such things don’t happen in England.” Apparently, the English society is better – and, highly – civilised.

Year 2002. They wouldn’t say Thank You to me on the train or bus in Australia either. Their face, on most occasions, would be stern, and passive aggressive. They would throw a glance at me when I stretched out my hand with money or ticket. And, of course, when I said Thank You. The ticket inspectors on the train to Canberra usually checked my ticket with no words uttered.

But, I would hear them say to others Thank You, Sir or Thank You, Ma’am. Sometimes I looked at them when they said those words. They looked pleasant. The muscles on their face were relaxed.

I wish I had some skills of a cartoonist. I would sketch them as they looked on the train – at me and at others. I would also sketch imagining them eating Indian Butter Chicken curry with naan using cutlery.

Remarkably, and usually, I would be the only non-white person in my railway compartment. Travelling alone in the night with a bunch of people who had tight faces and stern glances.

Did I ever feel scared? Was I afraid of them? Did they look like monsters to me?

No. Never.

We were all just people travelling on the train or bus. Together.

Heterogeneity is better than homogeneity. Evolutionary biology says so too.

But, I did say Thank You to the drivers and ticket inspectors.

They didn’t. Bad manners.

Not even in England. The home of Thank You, Sorry & Please.

Acceptance is better than tolerance.

 

 

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Dolomites & I

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Dolomites

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I have a dream

I have a dream

I had a reality

Not long ago

It tried to suck me in.

Whilst swallowing me

Reality was delirious.

I looked at them

The creators of my reality

I realised it was not mine.

I searched my actionable space

I etched my own path

Walked the thorns

Saw flowers and rainbows.

Whilst drawing my own reality

I felt free.

 – Vinathe Sharma

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Saalumarada Thimmakka – she planted 384 banyan trees

 

 

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Arunima Sinha – She climbed Mt.Everest despite…

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