A Global VEDH with Shree Paradkar

        As I could see my 12th board exams coming to an end, I had thought of a whole lot of plans for my vacations, like any other student! But a very unusual and unexpected COVID-19 pandemic struck and the entire world down. Then ensued the lockdowns, people were dazed and frightened, fear, despair ,uncertainty and economic crises took over the world, devastating lives and livelihood. 

Amidst all this, on a “normal” weekday, I caught hold of a WhatsApp message which informed me that VEDH was becoming “Global”. I was elated and ecstatic. I could finally attend VEDH, that too in the comfort of my home!

The first ‘GLOBAL VEDH’ was held on 29th August 2020 at 7pm by broadcasting the interview on Avahan IPH channel as a Youtube Premier. Dr.Anand Nadkarni Sir and Dr. Jyoti Shirodkar ma’am interviewed Shree Paradkar, a Canadian journalist, who has worked for a variety of publications including Femina, The Times of India, The Singapore Straits-Times and the Toronto Star. She has also authored a book named “Betrayed (My cousin’s wrongful conviction for the murder of her daughter, Arushi)” and is a proud recipient of the ‘Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy’ and two prestigious ‘Amnesty Awards’.

Her journey began right in childhood when she started witnessing discrimination on the ground of various identities like race, sex and colour. Those incidents, which are often trivial for others impacted her young mind and left an indelible mark on her. She was inspired to take up a Bachelors degree in Journalism from Pune University. Despite all odds, her journey still continues. Currently, she is working with the ‘Toronto Star’ as a race and gender columnist .       

As the interview progressed and Shree ma’am talked about the social issues like racism and gender inequality, my curiosity about these topics reached its peak as . The awareness her interview imparted in us about multiple things gave me goosebumps. One such time was when I realized that ‘discrimination’ is something a person is taught, something that they learn right in their childhood! And to think that they will carry this ‘learning’ with them as future citizens of the world! This left me thinking about social problems and the discrimination that has started ages ago, but prevails till date. 

Shree ma’am’s article about the unique Prerna School, which is based in Lucknow, India and the documentary she later filmed on it won her 2 Amnesty Awards.  ‘Prerna School’ is a school which is run for under- privileged girls, living in the slums nearby and forced to work as domestic help. The school is a pioneering effort of the ‘Study Hall Educational Foundation’. It follows a curriculum around Critical Feminist Pedagogy and uses multi modal tools such as critical dialogues, drama, digital stories and music. If only the entire country received such a socially sensitive education already!

Later on, I was reminded of an incident from my personal life. A few days ago, I was shell shocked when our new domestic help asked for the common society washroom, refusing to use the one in our home despite us insisting on it! She asked me if she could really use the washroom at home, taken by surprise and doubtful. Surprised she would even have to ask for the common washroom, I answered in an unhesitating affirmative. Having heard that, she simply smiled and told me that none of the homes where she worked allowed her to used their washroom. It rendered me speechless, making me realize that fundamental rights were still limited to the alleged “cream” of the society and are yet to serve their function completely; Oppression still exists.

Ma’am also talked about the balance between ‘liberty’ and ‘responsibility’, something that does find a deliberate mention in civics textbooks but one fails to imbibe in themselves. Basing the next line on the learnings from this interview, what we as a society really lack is ‘awareness’. For we are the same citizens who talk about freedom and equality and then perform the paradox of very casually forwarding messages and jokes that are rooted in discrimination. of race, caste, gender, complexion and weight, indirectly feeding the inequality and social injustice that victimized us too!

We all as citizens, probably, no wait… surely need to go beyond this in order to build ourselves a better world. There is a need for us to be truly responsible for our thoughts and behaviours.

At the close, the interview left me in a deep thought. As I bid adeau to Shree ma’am, I resolved to respect every human as a human being, to treat them as they should be treated. I personally feel that this interview was truly an eye-opener, and has left an indelible mark on the minds of budding journalists, activists, parents ,teachers and students alike.

Though there is misery and pessimism scattered all over the world, there is a ray of hope that I see in these faculties at VEDH, who contribute in making this world a better place to live in and who truly serve the motto of VEDH ‘Jeevan ki Pathshala’.

Sakshi Jadhav,
Bachelor of Arts,
S.P College, Pune.

You never know when a person will have a huge impact on your life. Preferably you want them to be a person who will guide you by showing the goodness in your heart, theirs and the world’s. I am immensely thankful to VEDH for showing me the gem and inspirational personality that is Shree Paradkar.

The interview was obviously a great one, a hallmark of VEDH events. One of the benefits of the online format is that the video has been saved. Along with that, viewed on YouTube by many people seeking knowledge and wisdom. For all events under Global VEDH, we will have the joy of going back to all interviews. We can watch them any time and continue moving forward with new found inspiration.

Shree touched on many topics affecting society today. As a 23 year old about to set foot into the wider world, as soon as it’s safe enough, there is one thing I appreciate the most. She did not give a set of rules and answers to copy. Instead she raised questions, challenged assumptions and made me curious about social issues, a person’s potential and the ability to learn constantly. An hour of listening to Shree assured me that to affect change, positive change, in the society around me I don’t need to pursue it like Tom pursues Jerry. Her words also taught me that just as Tom’s pursuits end in disaster, a pursuit of change would end similarly. For change is a byproduct, a result as opposed to something that can be brought about purposefully.

One such change is gender equality. Shree spoke on gender equality through many directions. Again, since the video is viewable on YouTube any time I won’t repeat her words.

‘What can I contribute to making a socially and economically equitable society?’ This big question found a part of the answer from Shree. She led me to do some of my own research. To find a man named Steven Pruitt. A man who has edited three million articles on Wikipedia and has created 35,000 articles. One-third of English Wikipedia has Steven’s mark on it. One of his biggest projects has been addressing the gender inequality in biographies on Wikipedia. Only a few years ago 15% of all biographies were about women. Today that number is around 19%. While this progress is good, there is obviously a long way to go. To apply what Shree said, offering young girls and boys inspirations from both, women and men, of previous generations is important. These inspirations being 19% women isn’t helpful of course. As such, that gives us another goal in creating a better society.

Shree’s words and Steven’s example taught me two lessons:

First, admittedly, it is not possible for all of us to be on the grassroots of social needs. It is also not possible for all of us to give hours of research and writing to share knowledge on Wikipedia. Following Shree’s or Steven’s footsteps is not the point. The point is to realise that there are many unexpected and unexplored ways to make society better. Most of us will be unable to have the same impact as Shree, however, we will be able to channel her work. When someone is confiding into us about their pain, we can listen more carefully. We can channel Shree in responding with compassion and sensitivity.

Second, we don’t need to be the next Shree Paradkar (or Steven Pruitt). We have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of these giants. It would be quite a dull life to not take this privilege. Shree has done the work that she has. Many youngsters like myself and many young women of my age do not have to go through many painful experiences, thanks to Shree. This is great news in 2020 – a year that will surely get a special, dark name in history. It is in these overwhelming times that the challenges of living in society can seem daunting. It is also in these times when we ought to look at Shree and the other VEDH Global panelists. Thanks to these trailblazers, a lot of challenges have already been confronted. With Shree Paradkar and so many inspirational personalities by our side, society can confidently look any challenge at its hardest and proclaim “WE CAN DO THIS!”

-Srujan Palkar,
Masters in International Studies

Johns Hopkins University.

‘शी बाबा! This is so not fair’ हा माझा पहिला विचार होता जेव्हा प्रत्यक्ष वेध नाही होऊ शकत ही बातमी आली. पण मग म्हंटलं, ‘ठीक आहे, काहीच नसण्यापेक्षा काहीतरी असलेलं बरं!’ पण आत्ता Global VEDH चं पहिलं session ऐकल्यानंतर compromise हा शब्द मुळीच शिवला नाही. कसला मस्त अनुभव होता हा! Recorded कार्यक्रम असल्याने ‘am i audible?’, ‘there is some technical glitch, give me us a minute, we’re trying to fix it.’ वगैरे तत्सम वाक्यांचा पाऊस नव्हता. पण तरी live कार्यक्रम पाहिल्यासारखीच तृप्ती मिळाली. प्रत्यक्ष वेधच्या वेळी जागा पकडण्यासाठी लवकर येऊन वेधच्या booklet ने उन्हापासून वाचण्याचा प्रयत्न करणे ही एकच गोष्ट miss केली. बाकी वेधची kick अगदी तश्शीच होती.

Faculty चं नाव ‘श्री पराडकर’ आहे आणि त्या बुवा नाही, बाई आहेत हे कळल्यावर मला आठवण झाली little women मधल्या जोसेफाईन मार्च a.k.a. ज्यो मार्च ची. बागेश्री ह्या नावाऐवजी घेतलेलं ‘श्री’ हे नाव मला ज्यो सारखंच वाटलं. पण हे साम्य फक्त नावपुरतं नव्हतं. श्री ह्यांच्या प्रवासातही ‘ज्यो’पणा होता. महाराष्ट्रातल्या साताऱ्यासारख्या लहान शहरात राहणाऱ्या श्री ‘मेडिसिन-इंजिनीअरिंग’ ही दोनच करिअर निवडायची असतात असं समज असलेल्या पिढीतल्या होत्या. पण त्यांना काय करायचं आहे हे त्यांना clear नव्हतं. त्यांच्या शाळेच्या, अमेरिकेत पत्रकारितेचं शिक्षण घेणाऱ्या एक माजी विद्यार्थिनी त्यांच्या शाळेत आल्या आणि त्यांना पत्रकारितेबद्दल उत्सुकता वाटायला लागली. मग त्यांना वाटलं की आपण अमेरिकेतल्या युनिव्हर्सिटी मध्ये apply करावं. त्यांनी काही युनिव्हर्सिटीस् मध्ये अर्ज केले. त्यातल्या एका युनिव्हर्सिटीचं acceptance letter सुद्धा आलं. पण फी चा खर्च अगदीच न झेपण्यासारखा होता त्यामुळे ते पत्र त्यांनी आईबाबांना न दाखवताच फाडून टाकलं. मग पुण्यातून शिक्षण घेतलं, पुढे सिंगापूर आणि तिथून त्या कॅनडा मध्ये गेल्या.

पत्रकारिता म्हणजे लोकांच्या गोष्टी लोकांसमोर आणणं आणि लोकांना मदत करणं एवढंच असतं असं त्यांना वाटत होतं. पण पत्रकारितेबद्दल त्यांना बऱ्याच गोष्टी समजत गेल्या. त्या आता टोरंटो स्टार नावाच्या वृत्तपत्रात काम करतात. त्या वर्णभेद, लिंगभेद वगैरे विषयांवर लिहितात. क्रिकेट सामना बघताना कृष्णवर्णीय मैदानात आले की, ‘माकडं आली बघा’ वगैरे उद्गार निघायचे तेव्हा त्यांना ह्या समस्येची जाणीव झाली. अशा बऱ्याच गोष्टी आपल्या आजूबाजूला असतात. बऱ्याचदा आपल्या conditioning मुळे ह्यात काही चुकीचं आहे ह्याची जाणीवच मुळी आपल्याला होत नाही. जरी असं जाणवलं तरी हळळण्याचा, चुकचुकण्याच्या पलीकडे आपण काहीही करत नाही. पण श्री मात्र त्यांच्या लेखणीच्या ताकदीतून ह्या गटांना न्याय मिळवून देण्याचा प्रयत्न करतात. त्या निर्भय आहेत. त्यांचं लिखाण, त्यांची मतं एका गटाच्या, शोषितांच्या favour मध्ये असतात त्यामुळे त्यांची मतं दुसऱ्या गटाला पटणार नाहीत हे त्यांनी स्वीकारलं आहे. पण कुणाला तरी आपलं म्हणणं पटणार नाही म्हणून त्यांनी व्यक्त व्हायचं थांबवलं नाही. त्यांनी ज्या विषयांवर लिहिलं, ते problems कुण्या एका व्यक्तीचे नव्हते. ते जगभर अस्तित्वात होते. कुठे वंशभेद, तर कुठे जातीभेदाच्या रुपात ही आव्हानं समाजाच्या solidarityचा भंग करण्यासाठी कारणीभूत आहेत. आणि लोकांच्या दुःखाची जाणीव होणं, आणि त्याबद्दल vocal असणं ही आपली जबाबदारी समजणाऱ्या श्री म्हणतात, “जेव्हा मी अधिकारांबद्दल बोलत असते तेव्हा मला भीती वाटत नाही.”

श्री मतांशी आणि तत्वांशी एकनिष्ठ राहणाऱ्या आहेत. आपल्या तत्वांशी इमान राखणं, ती नुसती विचारांपुरती न ठेवता वर्तनात आणणं आणि त्यांचा फायदा इतरांसाठी करणं त्यांना फार महत्त्वाचं वाटतं. मग त्यासाठी कुठे personal, professional किंवा भावनिक तडजोड त्यांना करावी लागली तरी लिहिणं, समस्यांबद्दल बोलणं ह्यात कुठेही खंड पडत नाही. त्यांचं वंशभेद, लिंगभेदाबद्दल लिहिणं, तत्त्वांशी तडजोड न करणं ह्या सगळ्यात त्यांचा निस्वार्थ भाव दिसतो. त्यांना ऐकताना, ज्यो मार्चच्या तोंडी असलेलं ‘I like good strong words that mean something’ हे वाक्य आठवलं. आणि त्यात थोडा बदल करून श्री ह्यांच्या बाबतीत म्हणावसं वाटतं, ‘I like good strong values that can change something!’

विद्यार्थिनी, इ. १२ वी,
रामनारायण रुइया महाविद्यालय,

जसं लहान मुलाला वाढदिवसाच्या दिवशी दिवस संपताना पुढच्या वाढदिवसाचे वेध लागतात तसचं आधीचा वेध संपताना मला पुढच्या वेध चे वेध लागतात.यावर्षी वेध काहीतरी खास जबरदस्त असणार अशी कुणकुण मागच्या वर्षीच लागली होती.पण मधल्या काळात करोना ने सगळे चित्र बदलले.जुलै ऑगस्ट मध्ये माझ्या मनात वेध यावर्षी कसा आणि कुठे होईल हा प्रश्न घोळू लागला.म्हणजे वेध कुठल्याही परिस्थिती मधे होईल ही खात्री होतीच.तसच झालं.यावर्षी ग्लोबल वेध होणार ही माहिती कळली आणि आनंद गगनात मावेना.

आनंद नाडकर्णी सर ,पळशीकर सर आणि सगळी वेध ची टीम म्हणजे उत्तम नियोजन याची खात्री.

आणि आज पहिलं सत्र पार पडले.श्री पराडकर या Canadian पत्रकाराच्या मुलाखतीचे.पत्रकाराची मुलाखत म्हणजे झंझावाती असणार हे नक्कीच.
आज श्री जे काही बोलली ते विचारांना चालना देणारे ,अंतर्मुख करणारे होते.प्रगत जगात आम्ही पुढारलेले अस म्हणणाऱ्या देशातही माणुसकीचा अभाव आढळतो. वांशभेद आणि लिंगभेद यावर मात करणारे कोणतेही तंत्रज्ञान त्यांना अवगत झालेले नाही.
श्री या साऱ्या गोष्टीवर परखड भाष्य करते.स्वातंत्र्य आणि त्या बरोबर आलेली जबाबदारी याचे भान तिला आहे. प्रसंगी या जीवन मूल्य करिता ती तन मन धन यांची आहुती द्यायला ही तयार आहे.माणुसकीच्या शत्रू संगे युद्ध अमुचे सुरू असेच जणू तिचे ब्रीद वाक्य असावे असे वाटते.

आपल्या आजूबाजूला असणाऱ्या अशा या व्यक्तींना वेध च्या माध्यमातून भेटता येते. त्यांचा जीवनप्रवास जाणून घेता येतो.
पुन्हा एकदा वेध टीम चे आभार.

तळटीप: स्वागत गीत ( प्रेरणा गीत) खूप मिस केले. पुढच्या सत्रात आतुरतेने वाट पहात आहे.

सौ. सानिका करंदीकर,
सहाय्यक संशोधक,
सन्मति तीर्थ आाणि भांडारकर प्राच्यविद्या संशोधन केंद्र
प्राकृत शब्दकोश प्रकल्प,

To watch the first Global VEDH, click on: https://youtu.be/ZLl2-IIJ-Uc

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