Friday, July 8, 2011
Vina Srivastava Is My Hero
Please look carefully at that face. Vina is one of the most beautiful women I know. It goes without saying. It's something anyone with two eyes can see.
But there is more to it than that. Her beauty is a reflection of an inner life which is complex and thoughtful, full of depth and mystery. The way that she thinks, the values she holds dear and lives out in her everyday life, the connections she makes and the understanding she brings to things both political and cultural amazes me. I admire her more than I can say. I learn so much by watching her move through the world.
Start with the garden.
Hers is a kind of metaphor for her life. Its abundance and exquisite design speak to the amount of time and energy she puts into it (she's up by five AM and out there first thing, inspecting, encouraging, training and pruning) but it is also a testament to her generosity. Her plants have offspring all over the city because she thinks nothing of sharing the wealth. My own garden not only got the bulk of its seedlings and cuttings from hers, but was actually planned and designed by her as well.
Second: Vina has young friends. I am one of them (at 53!), but she is also close to the next generation - like my children, her own grandchildren, and their friends too. She knows them all. But it's not a passing acquaintance where they say "Good evening, Auntie" as they move on to the next, more interesting thing. It's a cultivated friendship and she puts time and effort into it - as she does with everything else.
When the kids are in town, she makes a special point of coming to visit them. Whenever she can, she invites them over on their own - she wants to know what they are thinking, what they know about, what she can learn from them. This is a huge clue to her own vivid personality. She stays current. She's ready to try anything. 80 years old and one of the most active facebookers I know. On her ipad, no less. Yet with no hesitation at all about asking for help when she needs it. It's the perfect example of inter-connectedness. She knows how to network - it comes naturally and it's all about giving and taking.
Oh, one more thing: she never complains. At 80, she surely must have all the same aches and creaks that anyone else would at that age. But she knows - and remembers - that aches and creaks are interesting to no one other than the person experiencing them. I recite this truth to myself daily. "Be like Vina," I keep saying. "No one needs to know."
And finally, her amazing relationship with her children and the wonderful people they have filled her life with.
Everyone wants to be part of the Srivastava circle because they all have so much fun with each other. They travel in packs (dozens of them sign up for the family excursions to Tuscany, to Nairobi, to Portugal because none of them can bear to miss any chance to be together). Those of us on the periphery get in as close as we can, to bask in the reflected glory. They are generous. They welcome us and make us feel a part of the circle.
And the centre of their turning world? Vina. Is me koi shak hai?