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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About Vinathe Sharma

I am an interdisciplinary researcher and practitioner. My engagment is to facilitate people's understanding of their own agency and the Actionable Space in their life. I draw from various theoretical and practitioner areas of Education, Psychology, Social Work, Environmental Studies, Literature, Sociology and History. I work with communities at the grassroots as well as in the academia.
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