SBS Mag: So Ma’am, what were your interests as a child?
Mrs. Adams: Performing—singing, dancing and acting! I was quite a show-off, always very happy to be performing in front of people. I loved reading. I also took classes in painting. This was the time before proper television had come in; there was only the radio and “Chitrahaar” on Sundays. So, we used to do all kinds of things! We used to write, we used to publish our own magazines. We had to keep ourselves entertained with all this. We also did a lot of art and craft work.
SBS Mag: How did you convert your passion for acting into a career?
Mrs Adams: I started school in Kolkata, in an all-girls institution. It was an old fashioned, traditional school and they made us listen to proper radio. Handwriting needed to be perfect otherwise we were whacked! Likewise for not speaking properly. Then I went to Delhi, where I was in a convent school for the first time, and although it was a shock initially I loved it and wanted to become a Nun. But I didn’t! And I realized very late in life, it was only in college that I…umm…became rebellious. I didn’t think I was rebelling, but my parents thought I was! So, I got into theater and that was completely not done in those days.
SBS Mag: So, your parents didn’t support your decision?
Mrs. Adams: My mother was supportive but my father was not.
SBS Mag: Any particular reason that they that felt you shouldn’t get into that field?
Mrs. Adams: I was rehearsing with young men my age, sometimes even at night, and he was uncomfortable with that, as was the rest of his family.
SBS Mag: Or was it that he wasn’t sure about your future being secured by turning your innate abilities into a career?
Mrs. Adams: No, the problem was with my parents was that they gave me enough freedom to explore my interests. They sent me for a liberal, western education in one of the best schools possible. And then I had a different set of ideas in my head and they wanted me to conform to the good old Punjabi lifestyle, where I say ‘I am ready! Bring on the men and I will choose and live happily ever after!’That wasn’t going to happen—I wanted to work, to do theater. My plans meant late nights and being out. That meant, suddenly, this little girl was not being supervised and hence, he wasn’t supportive at all!
SBS MAG: But even then, you went to the U.K. and pursued your passion for drama?
Mrs. Adams: Yes! I went and did a master’s! But that was after his death. So, I continued my work in theater in a semi-professional way. I became a founding member of Barry John’s theater action group. We did some fabulous, fabulous theater! All of us were associated with Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi at that time. And so, I was doing theater and loving it!
SBS MAG: Ma’am, did you choose drama because you liked to be on stage or did something else influence this desire?
Mrs. Adams: No, it’s not because I like to be on stage. It’s because (here’s another secret) before I actually go on stage my hands are ice cold; I get really nervous! But once I am on, it’s a different world.
SBS Mag: So, were you a good student?
Mrs. Adams: I was a…yeah, yeah…pretty umm…*beep*!(Laughing) Oh my god! I shouldn’t have said that on record. Please, edit that!
I was good at academics but I devoted most of my time towards theater. And when I finished my master’s, my college called me back and I wore jeans and a ‘Kurti’ as I took my first class. I was still more connected with that group because I was just three years older. It was great, and I began to love teaching! I chose theatre, and I ran the theatre over there for about six years.
SBS Mag: Are there moments wherein you feel completely hopeless with your students?
Mrs. Adams: No! I never lose hope.
What worries me most though is that children today don’t mean to be disrespectful, but they don’t understand the meaning of respect. I have thought a lot about this and asked myself whether I was being old fashioned. But I just think that it’s the way that they talk and present themselves to you that is not in form. I don’t expect students to keep their hands behind their backs at all times but I do expect children to sit appropriately to talk and behave appropriately. Having said that, I do have a great deal of optimism and faith in today’s young generation.
SBS Mag: What’s your mantra to life?
Mrs. Adams: “This too shall pass”. This is my mantra to all parents, and also to myself. I’ll explain. This mantra works in two ways—when I am really happy I always say to myself, this too shall pass, so enjoy this time. And when I am really sad, then again, I say the same. I say it’s going to be okay! Hence, this too shall pass. It really works for me.
Thank you for your time Ma’am!
Gowri & Kabbir