Nupur Tewari from Murshidabad now heads Heal Tokyo in Japan!
•You have spent your childhood in Bengal. How has this land inspired you to do what you are doing today?
Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached! That was the first thing I saw every day, when I entered my room as a child. Swami Vivekanandawas since then the ultimate Guru for me.I feel blessed for coming from a culture which has taught the world both ‘tolerance and universal acceptance.’ Yoga teaches Vasudeva kutumbakam (The world is a family) and these are the foundations of Heal Tokyo.Bengal inspired me to shape my dreams, being brave, making things possible and dedicate this life for betterment of mankind even if no one gives you the company.Through the writings of Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore, I realised my goal.
• Why is Heal Tokyo different?
I could have started charity by teaching other things also but I chose Yoga and I don’t charge people for the sessions. For I believe education is search for knowledge, leading to perfection.Yoga is discovery of that knowledge, which unites and unity leads to perfection. Knowledge brings celebration. Through world’s first and the best education I want to uplift the underprivileged who need our support. Yoga can give us a free and enlightened soul.
• Give us some anecdotes from your childhood, that has framed you to be independent and successful in life and to reach new heights
One Sunday, we were all watching Satyajit Ray’s Nayak and Uttam Kumar had a dialogue that said: “Life is one. Anything you wish to do, you have to do in this life time only.” That dialogue hit me and I told myself, I have very less time in my hand and there are lots of things to do. It’s funny but that dialogue made me to be more active in life, indeed.
• Which part of Bengal are you from?
I’m from a village in Murshidabad where I spent my first 14 years of life. We used to walk a long way in mud during rainy season to reach school.
• What are your plans for rural Bengal?
I have lots of plans for my land, through Yoga and modern Japanese education system.Last December when I visited Kolkata, I met the honourable education minister of West Bengal and spoke on empowering the rural children through yoga. I feel children need to be literate, but they also need to be confident and empowered. Their confidence and kindness will reflect on their faces and this will lead to an infectious positivity and energy. Bengal has always thought first, and we did everything first. So why not this?
• Are you already involved with charitable work in Bengal? If so where?
I’m in discussion to have schools for underprivileged children in Kolkata and Berhampore, Murshidabad. I’m visiting my land in July and will make things happen soon.
• How did you reach Japan? And what do you do there now? A brief on your family life in Japan
I went to Japan through a Japanese MNC where I was working. And I realized things happen for reason.I’m a teacher now. I have taught in 35 Japanese publics schools in different parts of the country. I have thus watched the culture and education system of Japanese schools very closely, from the grass root level. I am an anchor, a model and an actor too. I have done different TV shows in Japanese. Above all, I am a mother, which helped me to be more passionate about children and the purpose of Heal Tokyo.
• Do you return to your roots? To your village in Bengal? If so share some experiences and how it has changed, for better or worse?
Last year I visited my village where I spent my childhood. I just wanted to go to my house and places where I have memories. However, I didn’t want anyone to recognize me, so I wrapped my head and wore big sunglasses. Took a public transport, and four of my co- passengers asked me where I was going. I did not wish to tell them though. No one lives in our house anymore. It looks kind of haunted now. I found my nickname, carved on the walls as well as my cousin’s name.Sat for a long time at a place where my father’s dead body had been brought to. Then went to the riverside, where I used to sit with my father often, to the mango orchard, finally to our family temple, my favourite place, where my father used to do puja for hours and I used to watch. While on my way back, I met a 15-year-old girl who was going to school. She asked me if I have relatives in the village and also pointed at our house and said the people of that house are very good. The girl told me their family now lives on our land as they had no other place to stay. She also recalled: “Two years ago jethu died and thousands of people gathered.” I couldn’t hold back my tears. I knew she was talking about my father.
She suddenly looked into my eyes and said: “I want to be like you. But we are Muslims and my father is already looking for a groom within our relatives. They will not let me study anymore. I am now in 9th grade.”
I only said “Live your life Ruby, fulfil your dreams and don't marry the person who you don't like. Doesn't matter if you are a Hindu or a Muslim, you’re a girl and a human being, you've all rights to live! I hugged her.And I can still see a 15-year-old Nupur, full of dreams but confused, not knowing how to break the system.
• Any plans for collaborations in Bengal?
Of course! I have lots of plans for my land of birth. Apart from spreading education for underprivileged,I want to spread positivity through yoga and make youth feel more confident about their existence and purpose of life. Yoga is booming around the world, so I want more yoga instructors from Bengal who can travel the world and make people feel better, understand the purpose of being humans! For girls I want to introduce martial arts program so they can be equipped and be fearless in facing the world. Many more things on the list to give back to my land with love!
• Some words for the women of rural Bengal. How can they look up to you as a role model?
I am acting in a Japanese movie and planning do a talk show in Kolkata where I can communicate with these dreamers, the rural women of Bengal and solve their problems directly. TV is the best media to reach to millions. Apart from that I can say....
Somewhere a little girl watching sunset and wondering where the sun is going...dreaming to visit that land.. I wanna be hope for her!
Somewhere a girl going to town by bus and watching through the window that some well dressed children speaking a different language called English and trying to figure out what they’re speaking and wishing that she could speak that language too, I wanna be hope for her!
Somewhere a little girl going to the small market in the village by crossing the river by a dingi and dreaming to take her father to Tokyo’s best supermarket and have a cruise dinner on his birthday... I wanna be the hope for her!
Somewhere a little girl dreaming to try all the beautiful dresses in the world but she doesn’t have access or permission... I wanna be hope for her!
Somewhere a little girl wants to fly and discover the world, know people and learn many things but doesn’t know how because she’s in a remote village where sun and moon give them lights, not electricity, I wanna be the hope for her!
Somewhere a little shy girl with low self-esteem wondering why she’s different than other girls, can’t do stuff what normal girls do, I wanna be the hope for her!
Somewhere a very young girl is getting married but thinking how her dreams are dying with her new life... I wanna be the hope for her!