Ushaa Dhar is a lively, energetic and jovial lady. At an age of 71, her enthusiasm matches that of a young girl who is ready to take new challenges in life and is involved in different activities. Some people call her Diva, some call her magical, to which she prefers to be called as Ushi aunty. She follows naturopathy, practices Yoga, teaches children living in slums, used to be a nurse and is a Toastmaster at heart.
M: Being an Orator, your speeches have apt body gestures, face expressions, movements and tone which depict the emotions well and create a vivid atmosphere. How are you able to manage all this in such a perfect sense or is it a gift you inherited from someone.
U: Most of my speeches are from my life therefore maybe my expressions come naturally. The rest must surely be God’s blessings.
M: You use to participate in so many speech contests, dance performances, etc. What matters the most to you: participation, learning experience or winning.
U: (tricky one this). To me contests and performances are a challenge that I take on; a challenge to experience learning to participate to win.
M: You were a convenor of a Toastmasters District Conference last year and at that time you didn’t even know how to use Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. properly. Weren’t you afraid if you would be able to do that or not or if something happen wrong.
U: I like to take on challenges. Though a little apprehensive, I took on the role of Convenor Oration 2016. I learnt to access Facebook and WhatsApp by asking help from people like Tm Joyal, Tm Honey and especially Tm Ashish Batra. He would patiently guide me over the phone; I would take time understanding and jotting down his instructions. He would ask me to repeat what I had learnt. It was more fun than something to be afraid of.
M: What’s the impact of Toastmasters in your life and why do you believe in the spirit and soul of Toastmasters.
U: Toastmasters brought out the best in me, allowing me to speak even about my darkest secrets of life with ease. I believe in the spirit and soul of Toastmasters because here is where I have been able to express my spirit and soul.
M: Walk us through a day in your life.
U: I wake up at 4 a.m. After a short prayer of thanks, thanking God for showing me the day and praying for blessings for my children, family, friends, acquaintances, and myself. It is followed by 2 glasses of normal water. I enjoy my early morning cup of tea in the open under the sky. After that, I do my yogic exercises and pranayama. After a shower I do my daily prayers, listen to the news on BBC. At 8 o’clock, I walk a distance of 3 km to conduct yoga classes 5 days-a-week and come home at ten where dusting and cleaning takes an hour. Around 12:30, I have a bowl full of salad and yogurt. In the afternoon, I read, write, knit or crochet. For an hour or two, I essentially play puzzle games on my laptop, check mails and once in a while visit Facebook. My TV keeps me company with news: reality shows on dance and songs; animal planet etc. In the evening, I cook dinner which consists of rice, plenty of dal and sumptuous vegetables and have dinner by 7:30 p.m. Once a week, I wash clothes; attend Toastmasters meetings; do the market chores and such work. My bedtime is around 9:30 so I put my phone on silent mode at 9 p.m. after a quick shower.
M: Your hobbies at this age:
U: My hobbies at this age are not very different than before. I like to knit, crochet and embroider. I write stories and poetry. Though there is an added hobby to watch reality shows of music and dance on television.
M: If life was as per you, what would you like to become or wanted your life to be.
U: There was a time when l wondered and asked, “Why was I born a girl”. I didn’t have an identity. Like a puppet, I was prompted to do or not to do. Life taught me some lessons to become independent. Around 2002, I found my identity and since then have not looked back. The change ensued and I took on life’s challenges as they came. I am a satisfied person today.
M: When you look back in your life, what changes you want to make in you.
U: If I had a choice, I would have liked to ‘serve’; serve patients and my country. By being a nurse, I served in hospitals. I could not dream of joining the army as Girls do not do such work, according to my strict father.
M: How things have changed since you were a child.
U: Changes are inevitable and also the essence of life. In 71 years, I changed from a scared child to being a confused teenager to proud mother to the ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘myself’ that I am today: strong, self-reliant and self-made proud woman.
M: Why do you think people change.
U: Change is inevitable. It comes to us circumstantially. A trauma, a bad news, an achievement, sudden windfall anything can change a person.
M: What do you the want the world to remember you for.
U: I would like the world to memorize me for the person I am right now: loving, compassionate, caring, disciplined, energetic and strong. I would like to be known for my compassion towards all human beings unbiased.
M: Everyone has some aim or purpose on this mother earth, this land. What’s the purpose of your life that you are able to understand as of now.
U: My aim has always been towards ‘peace & harmony’ leading to unity in diversity.
M: The best feeling or moment you ever had:
U: There are many that I can be thankful for but the best moment would be when I saw my babies soon after birth.
M: How would you like the last day of your life to be.
U: I would like my last day to be thankful for the life I got. I would like to leave peacefully without troubling anybody.
M: Do you ever feel the feelings like hatred, jealousy, envy, greed, ego, etc.
U: Any normal human being is prone to emotions. One cannot be immune to all nine of them. If we are not cautious, we tend to succumb to them. I am content, therefore, not jealous. I am thankful to be neither greedy nor envious. Ego is not a bad thing as long as we don’t go overboard. As a normal human being, I think I handle these emotions as per circumstance. If I am angry, it does not stay with me for too long. Meditation helps to a great extent.
M: Have you ever been the victim of eve teasing, stalking, etc. and how you reacted to the same. Did you bear it and stay silent or you raised voice.
U: Every girl is a victim of eve teasing and stalking sooner or later. I have been too. As a child after being victim to incest, I used to be very scared but remained silent. As I grew up, I became somewhat bolder. With a bossy husband and a daughter in my arms, I became very bold. I can stand up and face any man now.
M: What’s the worst situation you have gone through in life and how you faced and kicked it out to shine once again.
U: What I am about to narrate now seems unbelievable to me even. It was year 1964, my sister and I lived in a hall like room at my mom’s friend’s house on rent. My father stayed at the farm 5 km away taking care of the farm and cattle. He used to send milk and vegetables everyday through a farmer’s son but that never reached us and that boy made a quick buck for himself. We sisters had nothing to eat; we couldn’t or didn’t tell anyone. On the 11th day of starving, as we were coming back from school, I saw a 4 Anna (equivalent to 25paise) coin on the road. I showed it to my sister; she made me pick it up. We bought a corn cob worth 10 paise and satiated our hunger with half the corn and saved the other half. A week later, when we tried to eat the other half, it had hardened and beyond eating. . On the 21st day, I fainted in school. Teachers picked me up and took me to the Principal’s office where my sister was summoned. When I came around from unconsciousness, I saw food in plates. The Principal got us food from her home. I tried eating hungrily but could not eat. It seemed like I had forgotten how to eat. Many days later my father came to know about it till then my sister’s best friend took us with her for food both the times. I never waste food since.
M: How were you able to cope up with the miseries, scars, sorrow that life gave you to be a strong and cheerful person you are.
U: I think I am gifted by God to NOT remember. Clinging on to unpleasant memories often makes one weak. I remember those moments to gather strength.
M: Had you always been such a strong lady. What made you so strong, the way you are today.
U: No, I was never as strong as I am today. Certain ugly incidents and hardships gradually sculpted me to what I am at present.
M: How was your life before marriage.
U: Life was full of hardships even before marriage. My father wanted to marry me off when I was in the 8th standard. I wanted to study but I was refused money for fees so I embroidered for my teachers and they gave me books in return. Since I couldn’t afford becoming a doctor, I joined BSc nurses training. Boarding and lodging was free. For my daily needs of toothpaste, soap, shampoo etc., I worked for two hours at the hospital gift shop and earned some pocket money. I managed with dignity.
M: You had been a victim of Domestic violence. How did you tackle the same and what was your parents and in-laws reaction to the same.
U: Silence was my solution to all problems in marriage. Neither my mother knew about it nor did my in-laws. Though my in-laws asked me about my bruises but I never told them.
M: Did you think what society will say if you leave your husband.
U: What society? The society I live in, was not bothered what I was going through. Why should I bother about such a society?
M: At any point in life, did you have a hatred for men.
U: Yes, I had in the past, I have in the present and will have hatred in the future for all those men who have no respect for women, who boss over women, and treat them like doormats.
M: What gave you strength to bring up your daughter and son as a single mother.
U: My children were already grown up and independent when I separated from my partner. When we were together, l used to work for their education and other needs. Life had been a good experience with a lot of learning. I am a very satisfied person.
M: How do you manage the living and livelihood.
U: I have mentioned that I do a lot of crochet, knitting and embroidery. Once I have a pile of ware, I put it on sale. I conduct yoga classes which provide me enough to take me through each month, with God’s blessings.
M: How is the relationship with your daughter, son and daughter-in-law.
U: I have very good relations with all three of them. I love them to no end. Touch wood!
M: Why you live alone.
U: I live alone because it is this way circumstantially. My children have their dreams to pursue and families to take care of. I am happy doing what I like doing.
M: What is the story or secret behind the magical hugs that you share with people with lot of smile and positive vibes.
U: After I walked away on my husband, I found my identity. I worked as long as I wanted to and did the kind of work that I wanted to. Besides earning a living by teaching Yoga, I taught needlework. Before I knew it, a lot of girls from the slums came to learn. Each of them had a sad incident or story in their life that left them devastated. I started hugging them to console them which brought smiles to their faces. Their smiles gave me comfort and solace. The more hugs I shared the happier l was. At Toastmasters, my hugs have become synonymous of me.
M: Why do you think you are a source of inspiration for so many people. What lessons they should learn from you. U: I never thought nor said that I am a source of inspiration. People like you feel that way.. Those inspired by me would answer this query best. What in me should inspire them is the spirit of patience full of strength. I would ask them to be thankful and satisfied for what they have, bless everybody and be who they are.
M: You are a source of inspiration for so many people, but what inspires and keeps you going at this age.
U: My inspiration is life itself. I feel we are born as humans for a reason. I learn from my life as well as from others’. At 71, I love celebrating my birthday (26 July 1946). I was born therefore l am inspired and inspirational. Young people with their vast knowledge, and my desire to live for others keeps me going. Age is just a number.
M: Each day I wake up, I don’t find any reason to live and I am not left with any interest in life. How would you help me or someone else out in such a scenario.
U: I love the life I have. I want to give back to this world for making me the person that I am. I will try to help persuade the person to try and bear the sorrow which is momentary. I will give examples from my life and explain the strength of prayers. I will emphasise on the fact that NO ONE is worth giving up your precious life for.
M: What message you want to share with today’s generation.
U: Utilize your abilities, capabilities and knowledge (which you are blessed with) to the fullest. Nights are for rest. Days are for work. Use your blessings for the benefit of others as well as yourself.
M: Would you like to write your autobiography or someone else to do so for you. What would be the title. How the readers can connect with you for the same.
U: Yes, I do want to write my biography. I would like someone like you, Mridul, to help me. Those who know me will connect easily, those who don’t; I would want them to feel like they’ve known me all along. The title would be YOU and ME or MYSELF, YOURSELF. I have not really decided. I might come up with something else.
M: Anything else you want to share which I have not covered or which you feel will inspire the audience from your life.
U: You will find everything in my biography when it is printed. (God willing)
M: Do you want the readers of this magazine to contact you. If yes, how they can contact you.
U: It is not about what I want. If my readers want to ask me something, they may call on xxxxxxxxxx.
I believe this lady deserves a biopic and an autobiography and it seems her birthday gift is awaited.