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GB Real-Life Dashabhuja – DR PAULA RAY

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When I was asked to write about myself, I panicked. Not because I was given a deadline within which I had to deliver, but because I am not comfortable talking about myself. The fact is I have never given how I live my life much thought. So, in a sense, this piece is self-reflective.

Yes, I have always been a multitasker. But I never thought of myself as a Dashabhuja. Right from childhood, my parents instilled in didi (older sister) and me the importance of multitasking. So, we never just went to school and studied. We used to always, I mean always, pursue activities beyond our school curriculum. These would include sports, art and craft or even household chores. 

Dad made me go to the bank for financial transactions from the age of 11. I would make mistakes and would have to overcome my awkwardness, go back to the bank and fix them. Mum, on the other hand, divided daily chores between didi and me, in spite of multiple hired helps at home. For example, setting the table before dinner or putting the empty milk bottle near the entrance door for the milkman to pick up next morning or even making our beds when we woke up. 

I learned from dad to make ‘to do’ lists every night for the next day and tick off everything before going to bed the next night. This is a practice I follow to this day - the only thing that has changed is that my ‘to do’ lists are now on my mobile phone with multiple reminders that go off at the most inappropriate times of the day and night!

Perhaps it is my upbringing that has helped me tide over so many difficult situations over the years. Not only have I managed my parental home after Maa passed on when I was in my late 20s, but have moved cities 6 times over 7 years across 3 different continents and managed to set up home in each of these cities - either as a student, as a professional, as a new mother, or all of them together! These experiences have strengthened my self-confidence to such an extent that not so long ago I moved to New Zealand as a single parent of a 3-year-old and managed to write a doctoral thesis at the University of Auckland, while juggling two very demanding part-time jobs, and managing a household with limited finances. 

Today, I am an academic professional in the same city, which we now call our home. My daughter is a teenager, who pursues art, athletics and piano alongside her school commitments, while I share my leisure time publishing and working for the migrant communities, especially the Kiwi-Indian community, as well as participating in activities that help me stay healthy - both physically and emotionally.

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