Nature and Nurture


“I would have loved to join you all over this weekend, but I teach English to immigrants” – One of our ‘white’ friends in UK during my initial days there. Just getting into my sales sector and being a married, teetotaler, new to country employee, I found my husband Bala’s university colleagues more open to get into groups. They were diverse too. It included Brits, Jamaicans, an Arabic, an Indian, a German, and a Barbadian. Their discussions varied from accents to dialects to baking and cooking to cultures to racism. To me, who grew up with ‘Fair & Lovely’, a face cream to enhance fair skin by the Hindustan Unilever company, racism is totally an ambiguous concept. Racism to Indians is a concept we compromise and get used to on a daily basis. It could happen with in the families to inter-state. Many of us wake up to the word racism only when we step out of the country! To non-Indians, we are all brown skinned and this Indian concept of fairness doesn’t matter. So this Indian fairness, a myopic concept of what is fair on which the fairness and skin-bleaching industry is built, is a made to believe concept. This is both a nature and a nurture problem. But why?

Every country has its own internal differences and issues that are unavoidable or inevitable. India too has them. Wounded by innumerable invasions, cultural disparities, and religious persecutions India has been evolving every day for the past 3700 years. Now, the fight is between the powerful vs the normal citizens, and with politicians giving every struggle a political touch, it has become the responsibility of India’s mature citizens to truly demonstrate ‘unity in diversity’ with all these ongoing issues. There are about 50+public holidays in India and children have always been growing in a multi-cultural society for as long as any one can remember- the amalgamation of nature and nurture. But we still believe in white is good, black is bad; with an instilled Indian belief that southerners are dark /black in complexion, this is also a also a North vs South problem. Yet, applying those fairness creams, we join the BLM (Black lives matter) movements that happen abroad. Rather ironically, the same film stars who are brand ambassadors of these creams are the first to tweet support for BLM.

It has always been the case of the stronger oppressing the weaker, be it under the pretense of colonialism, nepotism, capitalism, or racism; across the countries, across the cultures! So, is this a nature vs nurture problem or a question of mind over matter? May be both, or to put in simpler words, it’s the mindset. But with societies evolving, can we generalise opinions and facts? The answer is “NO”!
Unquestionably black lives matter; human lives matter; women matter; lives matter. We are all one human race. Who are we to decide if one race is more equal or less? And why do we even have to fight for what is ours? Even after decades of abolishing slavery and untouchability, after the win in the women’s suffrage movements why are we on streets fighting for equality? What can we do to be the change? Definitely not by sharing what’s already been published in the news papers; not by taking political sides to stay disguised and play the game of equality. As literate souls, we need to look inwards and educate ourselves and the ones dependent on us for their formation.

I have observed that not all families or parents discuss these issues with children and these future citizens are raised being totally blinded to the efforts put in by some reformists and achievements that happen slowly but steadily. Until children reach to their individuation process, their thoughts and deeds are either taught and practised at home, or hereditary.

“Can you decline a service offered by a doctor that doesn’t belong to your caste/religion/faith? If the head of the district/state/country who hails from another faith invites you to dinner, would you reject it? In the casteist society, some were treated inhumanly by others, and our forefathers might have done it too. Would you be okay if your own friend harbours such an opinion against you and humiliates you? It’s time we bear the brunt to bring in the desired change. One cannot be prejudiced, judged, discriminated or hated based on the physical appearances or the nature of the birth.” This was my dad’s response to my sister’s query about casteism in India.
With head held high and hand on my heart, I can proudly say, he showed us the path of humanity and led us the right way. In this whole process of uplifting the down trodden masses, my dad was a victim too. He was denied prestigious professor posts in reputed universities twice -once by a powerful sect and another time because of ‘generalised’ view by the decision maker, whose forefathers might have been oppressed on the name of casteism. He never complained about those nor developed hatred against any one particular community. All he did and does is to encourage any one interested in pursuing education and support them how ever he could including feeding those aspirants at home- irrespective of what caste or religion they belong to. These life lessons have been helping me navigate professionally and personally, and not be judgemental based on people’s appearances and origin. Be it my dad in his own country or my kids else where or me or you -everyone of us is always generalised and judged. Yet, the beauty of this journey is meeting similar people with same values; majority of them don’t share my nationality, skin colour or faith. People aren’t all good or bad based on their physical appearances.

Next time, before any of us try to generalise, remember, that’s not fair!

Yes, people are being oppressed and movements must be justified. I exercised my first right to vote at the age of 18 with pride without totally appreciating the women’s suffrage movements that went behind. I also enjoyed living in the West without being humiliated everyday because of my skin colour. There were lots of sacrifices made by our pioneers and the BLMs help us survive too. I would also appreciate white people who fought for our human rights then and participating now in the BLM movements just like many of the social reformers from the Hindu upper castes that fought against untouchability, and men who fought against sati (cruel system to kill wives whose lost their husbands). I believe that to bring in the equality, we don’t have to pull others down. Equality cannot be a wheel in which some one has to be oppressed all the times. We need a change in the mind set. One cannot bring in their preexisting opinions while dealing with people of any colour or country. Yes, we do carry a herd mentality that represents us and separates one sect of people to the other. But every interaction must be started afresh. It has to be beyond the method in madness. All we need is to remind ourselves that we are humans first.

In innumerable counts, I have seen people vehemently spreading hatred and I wonder what they teach their children? The golden rule for parenting is to not say ‘don’t‘ to a child; instead its advised we offer them a safer alternative and encourage they try that. So, that principle doesn’t apply to these adults? Judging everyone based on their appearances, culture, and likes/dislikes is utter nonsense. Instead, to express what one prefers and why is much more a better approach than announcing what one hates! This latter approach doesn’t serve any purpose.

Be the change doesn’t mean preach hatred. Be the change is to do something valuable that really could help those who need it. Be the change includes educating our own children about how they deal with others including being empathetic towards everyone’s needs, being socially responsible, being part of community events- not just our dedicated group that only caters to our individual needs; using our language/professional skills not to just support our children get those ‘voluntary hours’ but truly dedicate time and efforts to those communities that are in desperate need for them just like our English friend I mentioned in the beginning.

Any movement aimed at bringing in equality or treating every one and thing with respect should be an ongoing process, not triggered by one event that creates the troughs and crests momentarily. “Go with an open mind when you meet any one. Let not their colour, creed, faith provoke you into assumptions. Have an open dialogue, offer a true hand of friendship. Not everyone can be friends, but that shouldn’t be b(i)ased on physical appearances. Everyone is equally equal”- is what I teach my kids. What do you teach them?

Happy Mother’s Day

A mother/amma is the one who has warmth and care for anyone who needs it; needless to say, we all do, don’t we? One need not deliver an offspring to be called a Mother. Not everyone who does can be a caring mother. To all those wonderful beings who nurture anyone in need with care and love – Happy Mother’s Day!

It will take me another forty years to describe my mum, Sarada, her warmth, and nurture. Born in an affluent family, being raised with utmost love, she molded herself to the needs of the family she is married into. My dad hailed from a lower middle class and always was quenched in thirst for knowledge, but he had the responsibilities of his siblings-older and younger. At a very young age of 21, he joined as a lecturer and continued his quest to learning deeper and more by doing PhD. But alongside, my mum was the one who had a lot of compromises and sacrifices to make to let everything run smoothly.

Over the time, with my dad, Dr Ayalasomayajula Gopalarao garu, becoming a well-respected and busier literary personality, she resigned her job as a teacher at a school where my sister and I studied, and continued her studies online and earned her master’s degree. But, none of us had to do any compromises that may have had her duties lessened. My mum, who never cooked until she got married, believed the same in raising us. She always believed women should be financially independent and thus always did what she had to, to make us totally believe that we were in the ‘student phase’- only studying and having the fun a child deserves, and encouraging us to make great friendships- nothing else was thrust upon us! At that point, me and my sister were the only ones from our neighbourhood who went to an English medium private school that was then the top most rated in the town! My dad took every cue my mum gave him with regards to our raising. To date she has this fascination of speaking fluently in English- that I am sure, we, as her daughters fulfilled.

My dad growing up with financial restraints and unable to study at University as a full time student, always had a special place for students with similar struggles. So, he continued the tradition of ‘varalabbay’– feeding students on 2-3 specified days of the week at home. He couldn’t have done these without my mum’s support as she has to cook fresh for all of us on those days, and not an easy task! Those students considered my parents as theirs.

One of the best memories from childhood usually are the birthday parties. Until now without needing any reminders, friends and relatives wish me on my birthday only because of how my mum used to host the parties. Dad is also all up for celebrations too. Mum is an excellent cook and used to bake egg-less cakes in pressure cooker on sand in place of water. Those were the days sans internet- WOW! The other regular birthday dish was ‘saimya pulao‘. The whole neighbourhood buzzed with her hospitality. I have had so much fun celebrating birthdays with friends as a kid and an young adult, now I make it a point that I celebrate it not partying but through giving to those in need. Here, I have to thank my husband, who cares and shares this joy of giving.

My mum is a softhearted person with self-respect and due respect for others. I am sort of short tempered, and all she tells me is to hold on to my emotions and reminds me to not let them loose; how ever others may behave, I shouldn’t change my core principles but be my caring self; I shouldn’t do anything that make me regret of my deeds in years to come. A tough ask but I am trying my best. At this juncture, I must mention my maternal grand parents who were as soft, and were enamored with this culture of spreading love and warmth.

Mathru devo bhawa,
Pitru bevo bhawa
acharya devo bhawa
Athidhi devo bhava
Respects to Mother, Father, Guru and Guest. They are all forms of God.
This is the culture that nurtured me and alike.

మంచి మాట/One Good Word 

False friendship like the shadows of the forenoon goes on decreasing, and at last dies out; while friendship true like that of afternoon though scant at first achieves full stature soon
– Bhatruhari Subhashithani.

The same was quoted by my father, DrAyalasomayajula GopalaRao garu, in one of his books, ‘మంచి మాట’ (-one good word).


In this book my father highlighted various aspects of life such as importance and need of true friendships, moral responsibilities, the power of truth, strength in leading an exemplary life, what we seek vs what’s good for us, how our inner thoughts influence our deeds, and many more. A must-read.

I am still on the first chapter of friendships reminiscing and celebrating my true friends that come and go (with my nomadic lifestyle;)) but treasured in my memory chest preciously forever. Who else can value them better than the one badly back stabbed on more than one occasion!
Every experience is worth it; no light without darkness.

The author, Dr Ayalasomayajula GopalaRao, served as a Professor of Telugu and Sanskrit languages at Maharaja Sanskrit College, Vizianagaram before retiring in 2003. He was appointed by the Government of Andhra Pradesh as one of the four members of Official Language Commission to study the usage of Telugu, its current impact and suggest steps to improve its continued usage, given the English & Hindi preponderance in our day to day lives.

Dr Rao has conducted several ‘Netravadhanam’ a language spoken just with eyes) and ‘Angushatavadhanam’ (language based on the movement of fingers) sessions across the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. His contribution to these relatively less known aspects of Telugu literary arts has earned him recognition from the Government of Andhra Pradesh.

More about my dad in detail soon!

Semiya/Vermicelli Pulao

Dry roast vermicelli and keep it aside. Grind Indian spices (Cloves, Cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper, kasuri methi) with fresh coconut and tomatoes. Shallow fry vegetables and dry fruits of your choice, add the ground paste with ghee/butter. Add water (2:1 with vermicelli) and let that boil. At this point, add the vermicelli, let it cook until the water is all absorbed.

This is my mum’s signature dish and my favourite!

Pepper Peanut Rice

Dry roast peanuts, red chillies, cloves, black peppers, cinnamon, coriander and fennel seeds, any lentils, cashew, almonds.. whatever you can dry roast. Once cooled down, grind them all.

To a table spoon of oil, add chopped bell peppers, sweet corn, green peas, edamames, broccoli, and any vegetables that cook faster. Add boiled rice, salt, and butter/ghee. Once mixed well, add the powder we made. Switch off the flame and there you go!

Pepper peanut rice is ready!