Sreya Vinod , a girl who any day stands out in a crowd, has made inspiring contributions at the Little Banyan Tree initiative. She is a versatile speaker, dancer and singer, bagging several awards for the same. She has worked as Coordinator- Social Service, as part of the Student Council Board, ISM,Oman. A role model for many youngsters she has been a positive impact on them, raising their self-esteem and letting them know that, what she could do they can too.
Recently after coming second runner-up at a beauty pageant, May Queen, 2018, she obliged to answer a few questions about herself :
Hello Sreya! Are you ready?
Sure! ( smiles) No pressure!
I’ve known you for a long time and I’ve seen you participating in so many activities, winning so many prizes and recently this pageant. Tell me about the process, about getting there?
A major part of the journey belongs to my parents. They were pretty much the reason. When I wasn’t at an age when I knew how to decide, I know I have given them a hard time. I hated coming back from school and going for music classes…I hated hated taking my sweaty self to dance classes. At that age, if you would have asked me the same question I would have told you I don’t want to do this…I’m fine this way.
But right now, when I’m getting ready for college, I know how this has had a huge impact on me. I have not had stage fright as such, because I went on stage at an age when I did not care about what anyone thought. It became the norm.
I remember filling up forms for competitive events, with bullet points, signing up for 12 – 13 of them. There had been a time when I thought I could not put myself out there so much but now I know if I had been brought up only to ‘study’ it would not have worked for me. Even, during my 10th and 12th boards I had events I participated in. The structure that was created out of my busy schedule actually helped me manage my time.
Have you met children though who genuinely cannot take time-packed schedules? Have you heard of people talking about too much of pressure put on children ?
Oh yes! The kids would know for themselves if it is affecting them negatively. If it is taking a toll on their academics..that’s point number one. I don’t think there would be any parent who would put this over their child’s happiness anyway. For us, my sister and I, my parents knew that we were messing around (laughs). They knew this is what we were meant to be.
Even for the kids who think it is going negative, at least they would have given a shot and would have a conclusion. You will know if it’s good for you or not. You can decide for yourself. It’s better than doing one thing all your life and then regretting about what you could have done when you had the opportunity.
How about parents who simply cannot involve themselves as much as your parents have…what about those kids?
For kids who want to do as much as they can, it’s completely ok to not have so much of parental influence too. For my sister, her grooming had been through the Indian Social Club but for me it had been school mostly. At school parental influence is not there so much. There are plenty of opportunities at school. I would sign up for everything. You might think Muscat is a dry country, but it’s not!(laughs) Even if it was out of my league I would go and try it.
Tell me something about some of the activities you did at school.
At school, there was Jhankar, which is pretty much like an annual event. There is music, dance and literature…everything under Jhankar. Under music there would be choral singing, choral group singing, light vocal singing, Indian light vocal singing and so on.
So I used to sign up for everything (chuckles)…and the dance competitions too. There will be a few failed performances as well you know because you are doing it on your own. But I believe these performances will help you more than the ones you are trained in, or the ones you have your parental support in. They are the ones you have done on your own with a bunch of other girls.
There used to be this one dance performance, me along with two-three other girls, we learnt steps on you tube, and we made such a fool of ourselves because everyone else were so totally trained and had a professional choreographer.But then it was that performance that told us that hey, you can go up there and you don’t have to be embarrassed. You can do it! That really helped me.
Something as small as saying your school prayer in the morning, things you won’t be remembered by but they are all small steps to building who you will become. Don’t let yourself down on anything, just risk it!(chuckles)
Tell me something about your experience at student council.
Student council was something I never thought I would do but I always knew I was the one who always wanted to take initiative, count how many kids were taking part in what…so I knew this is something I wanted but then was comfortable with the thought of not winning too. I knew I could handle that. But, in the end I got my badge.
It doesn’t matter which post you are in when you are in such a big school. To organize anything you have to work as a team. You don’t have any designated roles as such but if you mess up, heads get blamed. It’s pretty much it. Otherwise you act as a team. As student council we got to interact with a lot of students, we got to organize many events, plus you feel like an adult for two years of high school… like you know how it feels.
You learn so much about budget (grins). We had such a hard time with money, now that the economy is not doing that well, conveniently when we were part of council…so to organize anything we had such big plans but never the money to do it. So we really learnt how to deal with budget, requisitions for anything…we learnt about the hierarchy.
You really tend to think as a kid you do want you want to do but as council we realized there is a protocol for everything. Even if you need trash bags you need to send for a requisition because there is a protocol and a strategy. That’s how school works and we were exposed to that.
We had until then only participated in everything never knowing the work behind it. As council, I learnt about how to raise money even when there are people to put you down. At any event you see the big stage, the decoration, you are the spectator. When you are a council member, you never get to be the spectator. Now, I have realized I am never going to de-value a stage ( laughs).
How did the opportunity to participate in May Queen come?
I always knew I wanted to take part in a pageant. Hair brushes had been my mike and mom’s heels had been my thing. It was something I wanted even at a very young age. When I saw how competitive it was going to be it did put me down for a while but then I realized the competition was about me and my fear.
There were really gorgeous women who were so competitive. They were so cunning (laughs). You cannot imagine how they dealt with a gullible, naive 18-year-old (laughs). I was like the target victim there ( laughs) But you learn.
It is because of their insecurity that they act in a certain way. It’s really about how you carry yourself then. It did help me think that I can have a crown on my head. It was not the crown I imagined I would have but then it showed that if I wanted one I can have one. It gave me confidence to remember to keep smiling.
So for you, throughout your schooling, was it that you took up every opportunity that came your way, or did you have to be selective in any way? Did you have to recognize which was a good one and which was not?
For me, the recognition and selection was already done when I was a lot younger so when I was older I knew what was my strength. Perspectives are formed when you are on your own though. I realize I am better at singing than I am at dancing.I came to know that because I did both. When it came to writing I never gave it a shot because I knew that I would have a paper and a pen in hand and I would keep staring at it.(laughs)
Do you think it’s important for children to have a role model?
It is. I am not saying you have to be exactly the person you admire. You don’t have to physically aspire to be like that person. If you do, then that’s sad. Do not do that. If you want to be as pretty as a person or something, then no.That is very wrong.
If you feel, though, that a certain person is strong in their way of thinking, or the way they are doing something, then I think it’s great to have a role model, at least as an example. If they can do it so can I. You know, that there is nothing different in me and that person.
However do not push yourself so hard to become that person because in the end you are different and you cannot be completely like another person, but your readers are smart enough to know that. (smiles)
You’ve practically grown up in Oman. How does it feel being an Indian and growing up in Oman?
Oman, Muscat, is little bit less in exposure compared to India. If it was India, a lot of what I said would have come your doorstep. You would not have to take that extra mile. In India there is a lot happening around you.
However, as a Malayali Indian I can say most of the festivals and the culture is not compromised. That could be because this is the ‘Gelf’. ( chuckles). This is pretty much another Mallu land because we are an army of Malayalis over here.
When I go for vacations, I find that I know more about Onam and Vishu than my cousins who are in India. Since this is the Middle- East it did not compromise on my Keralite culture.
But then for instance the lack of exposure comes in the use of public transport. You can’t do anything here without your father or your mother driving you around. So you can never go out on your own the way you can in India. It’s difficult to take initiative when you want to do something.
Then, the fact that we don’t belong here, it’s not your country, so that involves a lot of protocol. I find that the children here are more gullible than the kids there. They are really fierce there. They have the liberty to be that way. Take for example, the way they might bargain with auto rickshaw drivers! I could not do that. (laughs)
Hmm, so now the important question. What are your future plans? What are your dreams?
Honestly, this is a question I would never be able to answer, because my dreams keep changing everyday. Most of the time they are unrealistic, unimaginable ones. As of now though, I am going for a course on B.Com honours. It’s an under grad course which covers all the subjects that I have been doing in high school. I need to make my work in high school pay off (laughs). I slogged in accountancy. I need to do more.
Cbse does not give you an exact view of the subject. They expect you to learn from scratch in 11 and 12th, and also have an idea of the subject. Economics and accountancy are subjects we started in 11th and graduated from 12th. So I am not yet sure of the field I want to get into, or specialize in. So I am pretty much buying three more years where I can do this in more depth and I can understand, which path to take.
The course that I am taking is just an integrated course of everything, not specializing in for instance in economics alone. It is a generic course, in which I am going to spend three more years and hopefully by then I’ll know.
Or(laughs) maybe like even say hey, forget these three years, change my course completely and do something else. But I would not know that without knowing the subjects in depth. It is a little vague for me right now to decide if this what I want to grow up and be happy doing.
Do you think about doing something for the people, for the larger good?
I do. I do always. I know it sounds clichéd and very made up but I would always pick someone else’s happiness because that would make me happy. I always wanted to do something for the community but then when I was younger I was told that the only way to do that would be to become a doctor. Then I said no, nothing that involves blood!(laughs) But that was just to get to me.
Later I was told that you can do good, by just being a good person. Little acts of kindness…what goes around comes around. Having said that I would help the community in any way I can, but even so for the animals. They don’t even have a voice. First I want to be financially stable so that I can ‘give’ the way I’d like.
Not that money is everything but when I am older I would like to be associated with an NGO and perhaps teach kids who can’t afford quality education.I know my life will not be complete if I just go to office and come back home and make a routine of that.
Animals, yes, and teaching. I love teaching! In the process of answering, I just found what I want to do.( laughs).
It was fun talking to Sreya. If you have anything more that you would like to know about her, you may go ahead and ask in the comments section below!