Why Ramma is a role model.
Among the audience at McGill for my talk on mixed relationships was a distinguished Professor of Computing. For Kerelan born Prakash Panagaden 60th birthday his research community held a three-day symposium, called Prakash Fest, at Oxford University. He made a comment that made me realise that I got the character of Ramma right in Sculpting the Elephant. Prakash said Ramma goes alone to Oxford which is rare. He mentioned an Indian PHD student at McGill who insisted to him,
‘I am here by myself for myself. I am not a wife.’
He said most female postgrad students come accompaning their husbands. I wanted Ramma to be a strong and independent woman but for readers to realise that was harder for her than for most Western women.
Sadly many Indian men regarded their wives as their possession. But the reasons why striking out alone is hard are not all negative. Anyone who has experience of an Indian extended family will know how all embracing it is. It involves all the senses. The tactile silks and hugs, the aromas of the food and incense, the sights of beauty that surround you at a wedding or naming ceremony, the sound of hypnotic chants that accompany the Hindu rituals carried out in the home equally by men and women. For the most part Indian families are loving and supportive during good times and hard times. Unlike the isolation and responsibility of a mother in the West , childrearing is more collaborative. What’s not to like?
I have Ramma leave that behind her and travel alone to study in Oxford where I live. Like most academics Ramma is ambitious Fiercely ambitious because she believes in what she is doing and believes it can help her country .Wouldn’t it be nice to have everything ? Life is about making choices. Her choice to get a PhD in Oxford was to have unexpected consequences. I told the students at Oxford Brookes and McGill ,
‘You are working hard to get your degrees hoping they will open doors for you. They probably will do just that but don’t ignore the role that chance plays in all our lives especially when it comes to meeting people.’
So what do you think? I’d love to get feedback especially from ambitious South Asian women. Is it harder for a South Asian woman to be independent than a Western woman?