A prolific writer, thinker, philosopher, trainer and a change maker are some of the descriptors for our guest speaker Dr. Priya M Vaidya. An Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy in the University of Mumbai, Priya has a doctorate in Swami Vivekananda’s and Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of education. She is passionate about bringing in a reflective and values-based approach in society.
Naughty Child to a Reader
From a young age, Dr. Priya had interesting questions about life which were answered by her parents. She says that her parents showed her different perspectives. She is blessed to have exceptional teachers. Though she didn’t enjoy reading, a teacher pushed a book by ‘Swami Vivekananda’. Just because she didn’t want to come across as rude, she started reading the book. This was a turning point in Priya’s life. The casual, playful tomboy was suddenly drawn to know more.
Influence of Swami Vivekananda
Dr. Priya Vaidya was introduced to Swami Vivekanada’s work at the age of 14. As a child it was easy for her to comprehend and understand due to the simplicity of the text. Since a young girl she found Swami Vivekanada’s work accessible and relatable.
Swami Vivekananda’s quote, “Each soul is potentially divine”, had a huge impact on her and she started experimenting and taking up challenges to test the quote.
After being introduced to Swami Vivekananda, Dr. Priya started reading more about him. She started gathering books and her library was filled with books of ‘Vivekananda’. She became curious about life and started reading more.
Her mentor, Prof. Shubhada Joshi inspired her to develop objectivity of philosophy and study Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts
“When you read, you reflect; and when you try to reach out, it makes you a better person.”Dr. Priya Vaidya
Teaching and Facilitating
When Dr. Priya asked an expert, “who is a good teacher?” she replied, ‘A good teacher is someone who is missed by students when she does not attend class.” A teacher needs to earn respect of her students to maintain this level of bonding.
Learner for life, Dr. Priya has an approach of learning while teaching/ training. Every teaching session becomes a learning session for her as she tries to understand the thought process behind the person’s choice of choosing the course and prepare for each session.
“If I don’t learn, it wasn’t a good class” – Dr Priya Vaidya
When she was invited to deliver her first workshop, she declined, saying I am a teacher, not a trainer. The task at hand was to sensitise and bring about behaviour change around the sensitive topic of corruption without using the word “corruption”. She took this up as a challenge and invented a value game using Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy to resolve ethical dilemmas.
Darkness to Light
Change can make you a better person. The dimensions in life help you understand the meaning of life. We need some push, something inspiring and that’s the journey from darkness to light.
There is a need to connect with people, to help them understand that there is goodness in everybody, even yourself. People, especially youngsters should be inspired and told that there is goodness in the world.
She says, philosophy has answers to all problems; it can take away the darkness. You need to come out of your comfort zone and take a round away from the problem.
She feels happy to get others out of their darkness. She believes everyone has the ability to come out of it by themselves. The minute you know there is something wrong with yourself, you can bring about change in yourself. The human dimension is to improve which makes life interesting and you start the transformation process.
Each person is a potential philosopher. Priya believes that the more we try to look within ourselves and then try to see ourselves from a third perspective, the more likely we are to change.
Engaging with Children
Priya had a long-held wish to work with children. She got her first opportunity to conduct an online workshop that was attended by 50 participants. Thorough and rigorous in her preparation, she googled, read research papers, read about moral development patterns in children, browsed through the ongoing work of world organisations working for child development. Priya spoke to children, prayed and meditated to know the deeper zones of life as a child. It was after a long wait that the idea of developing value games for children emerged.
The joy to develop was amazing since for many hours I had to be a child – to imagine, understand and play. Those games had to be simple, easy, interesting and without much paper pencil intervention. The colors used on the slides had to be vibrant.Dr. Priya Vaidya
Finally five online value games emerged called:
1. WHO IS THE WINNER?
2. JUST DO IT
3. JUDGE IT !
5. LOCATE VALUES
Priya’s “Unforgettable Moments”:
- In response to a game about care towards grandparents, 28 children from Calcutta (workshop participants) sang a Nepali song that was melodious and rich in meaning. (Song: It states to the grandparents, you are not alone – we all are with you)
- An activity at the end of the event which was a big hit was to make a greeting card for the best person you know so as to express gratitude.
- Cards were made for mothers, fathers, mother and father, and friends.
I was fortunate to receive a beautiful card for the workshop conducted. This is the best feedback through art ever received…a heart of gold shining on it. This I will cherish forever.~ Dr. Priya Vaidya