Conversation with Blogger-in-chief for march
- IWB Post
- March 19, 2014
Almost everyone knows about this lady. She is the first Indian Woman to receive Légion d’honneur in 2009 – the Highest Civilian award of France. Dr. Asha Pande has been honored for promoting French language in India. And not only this, she is also the founder director of the Rajasthan University’s Master in European Studies programme and heads the Department of Dramatics at Rajasthan University, and Center for French and Francophone Studies. Phew!
That’s not all. She has done her education from JNU Delhi and Sorbonne Paris, her voluntary venture Centre for foreign languages has empowered thousands of youngsters with soft skills. Over and above this, she is a social activist and strong advocate of women’s rights. She has authored/coauthored many books, articles including ‘Staging international feminism’ – published by Palgrave Macmillan New York.
The day we decided to cast her as Jaipur Women’s Blog’s Blogger-in-Chief for the March month, we were already sweating. To meet and to almost virtually live with such an intellectual woman for a month is not an easy task. But to soothe our nerves, we rather focused on what we had heard about her – an extremely down-to-earth and friendly woman.
To begin with, we had to encounter Mr. Simba Pande. The family’s dog and very much a part of Pande family. Though he didn’t growl at us but he managed to freak us out. And then we met the little boy, the maid’s son who also lives within the home’s vicinity. The boy has a special relationship with Dr. Asha, much more than her own mother. As his mother puts it, “He waits for madam’s arrival everyday and runs to open the door so that he is the 1st one to welcome her.” But this affection is not just one-sided. Dr. Asha has equal compassion for this little boy whom she considers her grandson.
When we met her, we started with the most obvious yet genuine question – ‘Why did you choose French?’ And at this she says, “It was accidental.” She explains, “I wanted to become a Doctor. I missed my entrance examination because my family shifted to Delhi. So the faculties there suggested me to pursue French language (which was a newly opened stream in that university). I made a logical decision of not wasting a year and rather go for it with a plan in my mind to switch to Science background next year.”
So what happened? “My teachers didn’t allow me to do so after a year since I was the topper in French course!”- Smiles Dr. Asha.
And then we wanted to know about her childhood, thinking some more interesting and yet unknown facts will be surfaced. Dr. Asha humbly agreed to narrate us the ‘tale’: “I am the youngest among 9 siblings. When I was born, few suggested I must have been discarded because I was the 9th child and moreover a ‘girl’. But it was my mother who survived all the harsh views and rather told them – ‘she is going to make me proud one day.’ The female infanticide was a major issue during that time and sadly it is on a boom nowadays. My mother stood for this cause in her own family and her guidance gave me the insight on this issue more closely.”
She continues, “My mother’s nurturing gave me the inner quality of becoming a fine mother myself. And this may be the reason many of my students consider me just like their own mother. I remember once a girl whom I used to teach knocked my door late at 10:30 p.m. When asked, she said she wanted to discuss and seek my advice on something very personal. She showed her confidence in me and that made me realize I have even a greater responsibility to carry! I still get calls from my ex-students who now live abroad, sharing things with me just like they would do with their own parents.”
And what about the time she met with legend Mr. Amitabh Bachchan? FYI, he is also one of the recipients of the Highest Civilian award of France -Légion d’honneur. She quips, “It was enriching to listen from a man like him. He addressed us as ‘samdhi-samdhan’ since we both are related via this award. Funny he was! Also, it was memorable when he gifted me one of his renowned father’s books as a token of our meeting. I treasure the book a lot.”
So how the world around her reacted on her success after the award and how was life after it? The answer we were expecting was ‘Awesome!’ On the contrary, she said this – “It was one of the toughest phases since I had lost my father-in-law just before the felicitation had to take place. I went in teary eyes to receive the award. He was very close to me, just like my own father. So much so, that once I mistakenly put his name in a form that asked my Father’s name. And then later also in a newspaper article, they mentioned him as my father. I remember how fast I ran to show him that news article, and he smiled with tears rolling from his eyes. I miss him and thanks to my family and students who are my greatest strength till date.”
She kept on telling us: “On a funny side, my students would say to me – ‘Mam, now you can’t teach us in the university, you are a big person.’ They are all lovely and are my biggest honor. And in the other worlds, I faced envies from the people in my field. I even heard stories saying I had an affair with someone Big. I have had my share of sad time & all I did was overhear those negative taunts against me.”
Commendable, how this iron-strong lady had struggled with those lame minds. She surely is one woman in Jaipur who has carved her own name and fame. But she tells, “It wasn’t easy. My husband is an IAS officer and I had also faced days when people would identify me as the wife of this IAS man. I was given lots of importance as the wife but was treated in a neglecting way as just another woman. That pinched me to the core and made me realize what I was and what I could become. So, after that I would only introduce myself as ‘Asha’. Even to the University delegates, I fixed my appointment by saying I am some Dr. Asha from French lingual field and want to take forward this course for the children. I felt proud when I successfully endeavored in my field. Nobody got a hint about my husband also because I used to come to university via Rickshaw and not in some officer’s car. Funny enough, later after some time when they got to know about Mr. Pande, they were taken by surprise. Later the Director also asked me why I never disclosed. So at that I told him – ‘because I wanted you to hire me based on my qualifications and caliber and not on my position in the society.”
No offense about this whole episode, the love between Mr. & Mrs. Pande is more than one can expect. She recalls, “I didn’t bring any dowry with me when I married him. Reason was my husband’s support. He and his family are against the dowry system and so am I. I remember the day I entered my new home along with him and every one waiting looked at us with anticipation. We were carrying only 2 suitcases filled with our clothes, and that’s that. People thought ‘where is the ‘other’ stuff’, and my husband read their minds and quirky replied – ‘oh, the trucks are about to reach, don’t worry.’”
By Asha Pande
Blogger-in-chief for March