Hello People! I hope the first half of our interview has given you enough time to read and learn about Girija Shettar’s film journey. Presenting you the second half of our blab, which shall give you insights about Girija’s career post films, her inclination towards spirituality, and more:
Sandy: Why did you leave films?
Girija: I did it in order to prove my fitness to follow a higher calling. It was related to a choice I made to take up a dedicated path of life in the line of Indian or Vedic spirituality. (More below)
Sandy: Where do you reside currently?
Girija: I live in London (UK).
Sandy: Which career path did you choose after you decided to leave films?
Girija: Journalism. I like to think that my entry into it was kind of blessed by the by the late great British-Indian actor Saeed Jaffrey who, as magical as he was on celluloid, mysteriously appeared in my life at two crucial junctures: once in India, where I interviewed him about his own career working with movie legends including Richard Attenborough in Gandhi and Daniel Day-Lewis in My Beautiful Launderette – he also told me about a charming and amusing conversation he’d had with Marilyn Monroe.
The second time, I met him by chance on a completely empty road in Wales. We stood and talked under a canopy of pine trees. When I’d met him in India, he told me: “I bring people luck”, after which I was signed for Geethanjali. This time, in Wales, he said: “Are you a journalist now?” and about a year after that, a lovely recruitment agency called Peach found me a role in a publishing house. Once in, I applied to be a journalist, and that was the start of my writing career.
Journalism was a natural fit. Whilst growing up, I had been interested in teaching, especially the Montessori system, and psychology, but I spent most of my time writing. During my first days in India, too, I was consumed with writing about everything I saw and experienced, including my interview with Saeed, which I turned into a Q&A type feature and sent to a magazine. When I was young, I enjoyed several of the arts: acting, dancing, and I played saxophone in a jazz band, but it was always writing that I gravitated towards most strongly and consistently.
Sandy: I have learnt that you are into spiritualism and yoga. How important is it for you and how life- changing has your inclination towards them been? Could you also share a few snippets upon your stream of Journalism?
Girija: Spirituality has influenced everything I think and do since I was a child. I wanted to be free more than anything else. I explored consciousness to find better feeling places and ways to be; I also found that surrender and rejection expanded consciousness. I did not consider the process as something ‘spiritual’.
It was psychological. However, there were experiences more mystical in nature, which suggested that something magical and meaningful lay behind physical appearances. When I got to India, one of the most exciting things was to discover Vedic philosophy and yoga. In that body of thought, analysis of consciousness is a fully developed science.
It was very impressive; and I was so excited to find out the meaning and origin of my experiences. It was a vast world, though, and far surpassed everything else in terms of power and wonder. I then had the chance to learn yoga under the guidance of a teacher along a specific path of practice. I left acting because that was the condition I had to fulfill in order to take that path. I studied and practiced only that for five years, which was when I fell in love with India as a powerful center of spiritual culture.
The kind of journalism I went into once I returned to England was specialist trade journalism. It’s a great profession if you’re intellectually driven because it involves much research. I had completed some higher academic studies by then, including a PhD, so I was studious and analytical and took to this career
You learn in depth about industries that are mostly hidden from public view. It’s not only about companies, regulations, and economics, there are also human rights issues that impact these industries, and by covering those concerns in the right way, you raise awareness and provide a humanitarian service.
I used social media to raise awareness about some of these matters – at the time, these were piracy, and refugee rescues carried out by commercial ships in the Mediterranean Sea – and in 2014 I won the Seahorse social media journalism award for this work.
I will never forget the many impressive people I met through this career. Some are visionaries. For example I traveled to Madurai to interview the late Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy, founder of the Aravind Eye Care network of cataract hospitals in south India. He demonstrated to me the diamond strength of a visionary activist who puts their entire life, everything they own, into their vision. His hospitals continue to be a Harvard Case Study pored over by countries throughout the world thirsting to replicate his sustainable model of healthcare.
Sandy: What are the things that excite you daily?
Girija: Indian psychology, culture, and history because of the enlightened approach to human life and consciousness they reveal. They integrate physical skill with deep psychological insight, and offer a graceful, intelligent, and progressive way to unfold and live life.
There are historians who are unearthing the great civilisational achievements of ancient India in every field of knowledge, from the worldly to the cosmic to the spiritual. Indian scientists knew about things like gravity and the movements of the planets, and even the age of the universe well before anyone else.
They were advanced – and across all fields, including metallurgy, engineering, town planning, politics, medicine and surgery, not to mention the arts and spirituality. These achievements were trampled and hidden from view due to the oppression of colonialism and then globalization. It is important for Indians to know this unique and valuable culture for our own well-being, but it may also reveal new strands of valuable research for the future.
A few trailblazers in the field include: historian Shri Michel Danino; his teacher, the prolific archaeologist Professor B.B. Lal; US physicist Professor Alok Kumar, who is raising awareness about the extraordinary scientific achievements of ancient India; psychologist Dr Kundan Singh of the Hindu University of America is de-Orientalising Indian history and culture.
Kundan Singh is also among a group of psychologists producing studies on concepts of Indian psychology that explains them in mainstream psychological terms and also demonstrates their value to modern psychology. Another key name in that field is Kiran Kumar Salagame.
There are also numerous institutions, such as the Vivekananda Institute of Human Excellence, working hard in this area, offering publications, education, and seminars.
Effectively all these continue the work of India’s intellectual giants of the past, such as Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, and Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (your relative, I believe, Sandy).
My other passions are Indian classical dance (watching, not doing!), photography and Japanese haiku poetry. I write informally about my interests on my website, The Scientific Ethical Revolution: https://scientificethicalrevolution.wordpress.com/
For those who want to see more, or buy prints of Girija’s works, you can visit the website: https://girija-shettar.
Sandy: What’s in store for you in the near future?
Girija: Like you, Sandy, I love to write, and that is something I wish to always do. However, for the past few years, I have also been working on a major transition into the field of psychology and counseling. I’m starting dedicated studies this year.
Sandy: Any chances of being back on the screen?
Girija: There is nothing in the works currently, sorry, but you never know what’s around the corner.
Sandy: What do you think about HL (Hyderabad Local)?
Girija: I love your website’s clean, bright design. Your interviews are well presented and carry a much needed positive vibe. As Dale Carnegie said (I paraphrase): ‘How often have you been positively influenced by a negative commentator?’ I suspect the answer to that is: Never! So, Congratulations! I wish Hyderabad Local all the success in the world.
Editor’s note: It has been an enriching journey with Girija over the last couple of months. We’ve shared quite a few personal and professional talks and it was quite a learning. I thank Girija Shettar for agreeing to be a part of my interview series #blabwithsandy. I am not sure how it feels when we receive an Oscar, because I am nowhere near to it currently, but I must admit, the trials I did in order to find and get Girija onboard as good as getting an Oscar. 🙂 Wishing Girija Shettar a blissful journey ahead, filled with essence and goodness. I am sure our paths shall cross again. Until then, I shall keep this blab of ours close to my heart!
Hey folks, this isn’t the end to this story. I am hopeful to bring you a sequel to her journey in a couple of years from now! You can reach out to me @blabwithsandy to stay connected. 🙂