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Vinod Rao

Kishori Amonkar

Tell me a bit about yourself and the work you do?

I am a 37 year old single person, enjoying a great life with a beautiful family. I work in the development sector, trying to understand what can I as professional can do best to contribute to solving problems that people who are less privileged than me face.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh or feel really happy?

It has been really a long time, but I think the time that I spent with my late father and my nephew together was one of the best times. I have never thought my father can be such a lovable person, but his grandson changed that. Seeing them together was one of the purest forms of happiness that I have ever seen. Those moments will remain in my memory forever.

What do you like to do in your leisure time? Do you have any passions or hobbies? What do you like about them?

I love many things, some I pursue as a hobby such as drawing, painting, art working etc. but I take Indian music seriously. Much of my non-work time is spent on learning, practicing, listening, reading and writing about music. I am trying to get as conversant with the art form as possible, and I would like to spend my retirement time fully immersed in teaching, speaking and writing on Indian music.

How do you relax or soothe yourself?

My music gives me much of the relaxation, both listening and practicing. Often during times of stress, I like watching videos of happy kittens, painting, artwork, cooking or documentaries.

Can you give us a recommendation for a good book? Why do you like it?

A recent book that I read titled ‘Ants among elephants’ by Sujata Gidala. This book made me see closely the lives of people that are discriminated by caste. Being born and brought up in a privileged upper caste family, much of the notions of caste discrimination that I learned were from people from upper caste, it is only when I read this book, it opened up to me, that struggles of communities have to be seen always from their point of view, not from an outsider’s point of view.

Learned anything new recently that gets you excited?

For some time now, I have been trying to understand what marginalisation means for a person who is marginalised. This has gotten me much excited about this entire new way of looking at things which I have been assuming differently. It feels like I spent half of my life learning things wrongly.

What’s your favourite smell? Why?

Always loved the smell of camphor. There is a flower from a tree called ‘Parijat’ or ‘Prajakt’ which is found abundantly in India, even in dense urban areas. Nyctanthes arbor-tristis is its scientific name. It smells a lot like camphor but mildly, just like the flower which to me signifies something that is delicate, mild yet beautiful.

Do you have a favourite song or piece of music that gets you singing and dancing?

Being drenched in music, I love all sorts of music, though I know about a miniscule of all the genres. But every time I hear a classical music with a familiar melodic structure, it gets me singing inside.

What TV or film do you find entertaining? What would you recommend and why?

I have abandoned TV and films for over a decade I think. But I love documentaries, especially those that impart knowledge – history, science, travel. I have no interest in drama and recently realised I have no patience for it either! I love watching ‘The world from above’ which features beautiful places videoed from a helicopter.

What’s your favourite meal? Why? Does it have any significance?

Being a foodie, its difficult to say. But as a comfort food, it is ‘Dal Kichadi’. It is sort of a porridge made from rice and lentils cooked together. It can be just simple with little or no spice, or made fiery with spices, vegetables and a good tempering. In India, the cuisine changes almost at each 50 KM distance, because of the diverse customs, practices and ingredients that are easily available locally. Kichadi is omnipresent with slight variations in the preparation and the type of lentil used, across the country.

What are you doing in your photo?

This is a photo of one of the greatest Indian classical singers whose music I have worshiped. Kishori Amonkar in her musical moods. She was a big proponent to using music as a mode to enter a world of peace. This picture of her in complete trance in her music, the peace that is so visible in her expression, and those that have heard her music will agree her music too signified peace. Something that I think is much needed in today’s world. She was an artist who embodied what Constantin Stanislavsky said, “Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art”!

Do you have any tips for how we can spread more kindness and happiness?

Simple means of making fellow colleagues and people around us feel valuable is a good way to spread kindness and happiness. Complimenting people who may still have just done a simple routine thing, gifting people who you may have never thought of otherwise, making handmade tokens of love and gifting it to people who you think need some love, or just speaking a few kind words to even someone who is full of hate would probably mean a lot to them!

Do you have a particularly supportive colleague that you would like to celebrate? What makes them great?

I met Surekha Garimella just a year ago since we started working on ARISE, and I have found her to be the most sensitive person, as a colleague and friend. Her sincere feelings for those that are less privileged, marginalised and less fortunate than herself, no matter in which respect makes her very special. I am very blessed to have a colleague like her!