Rebirth and change come every spring, and this year beijingkids is blooming with new staff. We’ve said "see you around" to former Managing Editor, Aisling O’Brien, School Editor, Yvette Ferrari, and Shunyi Correspondent, Sally Wilson. We’ve introduced you to Jessica Suotmaa, the current School Editor. Now meet Anjana Kainikkara, the new Shunyi Correspondent. We’ll introduce Andrew Killeen and Vanessa Jencks this weekend.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child and all the way until I went to College, I wanted to be a professional Bharatnatyam Dancer (a form of Indian Classical Dance from the South of India). The sole purpose of going to college to train as a Civil Engineer was to be able use that as a fall back should my dancing career not pan out.
Do you have any siblings? If so, tell us their name(s) and a fun fact about them.
I have a sister who’s a year and three months younger, Vandana Unni. While I admit there are times when I wish I could pretend I don’t know her, we are extremely close and the bond keeps getting tighter as time passes. Apart from being beautiful inside and out, she has been blessed with the charming gift of being able to chat up even a wall if she were standing next to it!
Who was your childhood hero?
My Father. Born into an illustrious family of writers in India, he graduated from Medical School with a Gold Medal and went onto to join the Indian Army. He volunteered to train as a Paratrooper and Commando and then joined the Para Brigade, the elitist regiment of the Indian Army. During the Indo-Pak war of 1972, he was sent to the battle front. He managed to save the life of every ‘war casualty’ that came his way. For this he was recognized by the President of India, as well as bestowed with a decoration, VSM. He then did his MD in Health Administration and broke all academics records by receiving a ‘Distiction’ from the Indian Prime Minister at the time. He did not know how to be second best in his life. He is and will never cease to be my hero, literally and figuratively.
What was your favorite childhood food? Has it changed as an adult?
I grew up on finger-licking Indian food at home, no pun intended! My favorites as a child were all mutton or chicken curries with Indian bread (parantha) or savory rice crepes. Having traveled so much as an adult though, my palate has changed and adapted to multicultural food. However, comfort food for me is still Indian food.
List up to three of your favorite childhood books:
• Enid Blyton, my favorite was Secret Seven and I always wanted to be one of the ‘Seven’!
• Heidi, I still think the relationships in the story were beautifully developed.
• Tinkle, an Indian comic series that made age-old Indian legends, fables and myths more accessible to our generation with lots of humor. My kids today enjoy them too!
Tell us an embarrassing or little-known childhood anecdote about yourself.
As a seven year old, I once overheard a conversation my parents were having about a family friend. What they said should not have been repeated anywhere, and I thought it was a good idea to share what I’d heard with my friend, who was ‘their’ daughter. The talk spread like wild fire. My parents were embarrassed; the friends were embarrassed! Multiple apologies later, things were forgiven, but, definitely not forgotten. That family never talked to us after that incident. Lesson learned! I’ve never repeated hearsay since!
Tell us about your parents’ quirks and how they’ve shaped you.
My parents were highly educated and pushed education over everything else. Very competitive and extremely high achievers in their fields, my parents were stars wherever they went. My mum’s sense of style, my father’s public speaking skills–all of this influenced my formative years. Growing up in that household meant not being second best at anything. Be it academics, dancing, music, debating, sports, student council…I’ve done it all to live up to my parents’ expectations. All in all, these experiences shaped me, and I only have my parents to thank for who I am today.
As an adult, I’ve managed to find a balance, be far less competitive and a lot more centered, focusing on what’s most important to our family’s health and well being, instead of chasing after accomplishments in life. Today all I focus on is being able to contribute to society and lead by example, in the hope of inspiring my children to make right, conscientious choices in life, just like my parents did for me.
How many children would you like to have?
Two teenage daughters and I’m glad we stopped there. Although having more seemed like a good idea about 5 to 7 years back, good sense prevailed and we didn’t cave to the temptation of having more adorable babies, because the fact of the matter is that, they all grow up into a completely different species, commonly known as teenagers!
Photo: Anjana Kainikkara