Asha Bhaskar

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Asha is a Chennaiite at heart. Though she tries her best to avoid the peak-time rush, constant honking, overpriced auto fares, and finally the lack of civic sense among a few that gives Chennai an unclean image, she gushes about the city’s versatility: Chennai is home. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. Where else would you find a Gucci alongside Kanjivaram silk, hot potato-laden bondas alongside chocolate truffle, and where in the world would a classical Carnatic aalaap meet Taylor Swift?

Chennai gives people the space that they need and the warmth that is necessary to bloom. I love the lanes of T. Nagar and Mylapore, where you will be able to find almost anything you are looking for (or not!). Temples of Chennai are intriguing and the stories behind each one of them and their origins fascinate me. As a child, I was very interested in classical dance, which called for a musical way of telling stories. That connect ·with the divine has never left me.

The time Asha spends with her sons constitute the happiest memories for her. “My younger son is a riot of laughter while the elder one is a composed person. With two contrasting personalities I find it very amusing going through everyday life as each activity and every possibility is received differently.”

Asha calls her mother a superpower and a wonder woman. “She is Ms. Dumbledore with the Elder Wand. She has a solution to almost every problem in my life, and I simply cannot imagine a day without an argument with her, which she wins hands down. I am a huge fan of Maya Angelou, and her ‘Phenomenal Woman’ is my mom!” Asha’s grandmother has impressed her most with what she has accomplished. “She moved to Chennai at the behest of her children who found professional growth in the city, far removed from the remote village of Thanjavur. She must have had a lot of challenges to deal with given that she was not educated and was a home-grown bird that never took flight into the skies. Her sheer steely-nerve persona puts her on top of my list.”

The top three items on her bucket list: enabling her son to win the nationals in swimming, visiting as many places in India as possible so that her sons learn the culture and history of their land, and compiling a book of poetry. Asha recharges by talking to her sons.

Asha loves thrillers, and romance is something she cannot handle. “Godfather is an epic to me, and both as a movie and as a book I have yet to come across an equal.” Ponniyin Selvan (a Tamil historical novel written by Kalki Krishnamurthy) is the best book she has read: “Grossly underrated, perhaps, in the international arena, where it deserves much more attention. A book that will leave you spell-bound and amazed for many days.” Asha feels she can get things done if she sets her mind to it, and also let go of things in the same way. She doesn’t get the whole deal with Facebook: “I don’t see why it is so important that when something is not posted, it is almost like it has not happened!” Writing poetry was something she secretly enjoyed doing, until a few years ago when “life caught up, I suppose.”

If a movie were to be made of her life, she would like Jennifer Lawrence or Alia Bhatt to play the lead role. Three things that no one at Newgen knows about her are that she is a foodie, “to the extent that anyone who is hungry stops by at my workplace for food”; that she can binge-watch sitcoms, season after season, in record time; and that she is a coffee addict.

Asha’s take on women’s place in today’s society: The words that keep me going are, “You may write me down in history / With your bitter twisted lies / You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I rise.”

Woman is a phenomenal source of energy, a force that keeps the universe in balance, and she is the aggression that quells the negativity and reinforces optimism. No matter how society suppresses her, like the buoyant force she rises each time.

It is good to see women rise in power across sectors today, although there may be an equal proportion that is succumbing to family and outside pressures. But a day will come when those women will break the shackles and see the sunshine.

A long way to go, perhaps, but we are slowly but surely getting there. Nevertheless, more could be done.

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