UshaGopinath Foundation

A Day in The Life of my Favourite Women


Since the Women who moulded and mentored me, musically and in every which way are no longer in this world, that is my Great Grandmother (Paternal) Swayamprabha (amazing musician and writer of children’s stories and other interesting narratives in Malayalam and English) she was a natural and schooled musician and learnt English by herself and with her husband's help she sought and got autonomy in that day and age in a joint family, matriarchal system (ironically sometimes the matriarchs can be worse than the patriarchs) my Paternal Grandmother Radha Menon with her drop dead gorgeous looks, widowed early, always deeply in love with my grandfather and had to face predators, an insidious lot of them in so called non threatening situations besides other major challenges, my Aunt Shyamala Gopinath (My Father's Sister) who was as soft as a flower and yet possessed an inner strength of iron and my most Precious Mother Usha Gopinath, Beautiful, Brilliant, Balanced...truly 'Zen' as many of her students described her, but wore everything quite easily with true humility.  Her steely strength of character kept us all from going to pieces including my tough and macho Dad ( who told Jaggi just before he passed on that my Mother was an angel and that there was nobody on earth like her) and honestly (this is my opinion only) everybody in our family owes everything to these women.  Not to ignore the men of course, who have been pillars themselves especially my Great Grandfather in that day and age,  he actually built a separate home independently for my Great Grandmother outside of the joint family of upper class ‘mundu veshti’clad women playing tennis in the family home in Calicut no less.  She was from a village, Kollencode and they did make her feel like it was a big deal being married to this tall, handsome only boy of this wealthy family (A great African American woman writer once said that one may forget everything but one never forgets how someone made you feel).  She did not want to have ten or more children like her mother did but chose to just have one. (That was a feat in those days.  And even today if you are single or don’t choose to become a mother a lot of people will automatically think something’s wrong or tell you about how blissful it is to bring up a child or how selfish you are to make your own choices. The list goes on.)  But performing and teaching Carnatic music was out of the question for my Great Grandmother.  (she wanted to be financially independent as well) And yet she continued singing constantly and writing constantly for the joy of it within the confines of her independent household. (Her writing included some rather unflattering narratives of the members of the joint family). 
Singing and writing is something I would gladly do even if I was not performing, teaching or getting published, etc.  Something all these women taught me was that if you love something, you will continue to love it and pursue it passionately despite never getting acknowledged or recognised or never getting opportunities or anything at all.  The women in my family also taught me to think independently, act independently, not to succumb to cronyism, and other things related (corruption begins here you know) being obligated to people, to not be false or be hypocritical even if I got to be unpopular, to be true to myself first and to be transparent as much as humanly possible.  To be upfront with why I had taken some stance or to be completely open.  Of course to choose my battles and my mother and aunt particularly with their very wise ‘loose Iips sink ships’ kind of advice to know when to be silent and when to speak (this is extremely difficult for me and I have still never learnt the balancing act ) I reiterate I love to sing and write.  I’ve got diaries filled with songs, narratives of other people from every cross section of life, society and psyche.  My own personal narratives as well and of course as life is leading me on, I can feel, hear and see that these will see the light of day.  But even if they didn't, these women have taught me to be joyful no matter the circumstance.  To continue to do the work I love no matter the outcome.  To make the process of work interesting and exciting and leave the rest to a Higher Power.  Another great lesson besides hundreds of other lessons was that we as women had to co-exist with, include and involve men, guide and mentor them.  My extremely impatient Father has patiently listened to a long monologue from me about how I would not give up singing professionally. Just before I turned 18, recording jingles in studios and being in an all girls’ band and being a tutor to other students had given me financial independence and that was very important to me.  A difficult man to convince, he was convinced  quite soon.   He then gave me a counter lecture on how my mother and he trusted me to go ahead and do whatever I wanted to do, keeping in mind my own conscience as a frame of reference and of course to be alert and aware at all times.  He also did tell me that he thought I had the potential to do something more substantial with music. So though it did put pressure on me at a young age, I still preferred autonomy.  With all the crimes against humanity and the environment we are witnessing today in our country and the world, a lot of things we as people can’t control at certain levels, but in our daily lives, given the fact that we need to make ends meet and carry on resiliently, I think we can extend ourselves in doing little things for others. Little drops do make a mighty ocean and in the Memory of my Mother and all the Wonderful Women in my family (my first Heroes)  who have handed down their dispositions and other things as well, I’d like to put it all into some good use and hence