Renu Fotedar: The lingering moments…
There were no tears, no feeling of sadness or of loss when I came to know about Renu’s move to another dimension. There was just a state of nothingness, a situation where the mind is in a state of full awareness but does not process the information into any sort of emotion. Possibly, this was due to the time we spent together on 10th April 2015 in New Delhi. That hour together was enough to chart our journey over the years and how we had evolved in our thinking and approach towards life. We shared our concerns, fears, and our triumphs.
The irony of the situation is that how just a month back in March 2015, we did our annual special “Celebrating the Spirit of the women of Kashmiri origin” at www.thecherrytree.in. Renu was one of them. She was one of the few who reverted to our questions within five days on 18th February 2015, probably her last interview. Just like our last dinner together, which lingered on till late at night over a cup of coffee. The news of her passing at the Everest base camp on that fateful Saturday is still lingering around me, yet to sink in.
During that hour we decided to brand her work in India, not knowing that in the next few weeks she would be across all media.
Fag end our conversation, she did ask me to edit her responses as per the requirements of www.thecherrytree.in
Renu, except for a few typos, your response has not been edited.
Spiritualism has always been a personal agenda of Kashmiris, but you seem to have made it your professional pursuit. How did this happen?
I personally think that spiritualism and spiritual energy is the backbone of each aspect of our life. It means to be in Expanded Consciousness, the lifestyle that carries God-consciousness consistently – not only in Temples, Masjids, Gurdwaras, or Churches. That is something, that I call spiritual constipation. Spirituality includes professional pursuits as well; because it is a serious part of our life. Spirituality has no meaning if it does not pass through your body mind and soul. Sitting in the Himalayas and meditating may alleviate one’s own self. How about being of service to your community, country, and the cultures you live in! Being spiritual is also in doer-ship (Karma yoga).
It is unfortunate that our scriptures were never presented to the masses in the lucid form of language. I feel there is a gap and a need, to bring this lifestyle into people’s awareness. I thought my skills will go waste and it will be an injustice to the education I acquired over the years if I do not share it with the world around me, which can help people create a fearless grid of life.
Being a trainer, you get an opportunity to interact with people from various cultural backgrounds, does that conflict with your thought process, more so having grown up in Kashmir?
There is no conflict as such because you learn to understand different cultures, while you live and work with people and surely, ease comes along with that. I have had opportunities of living and work in the Middle East, Australia, India, and Europe. And my experience as a transpersonal counselor is that deep down we are all human beings; no matter where we come from, which region or country we belong to. We will always face a certain amount of challenges; we will always have some concerns; we will live through sadness and happiness; we will realize our dreams and goals. In totality that is the game of life on Mother Earth.
On the contrary, being from the Valley where we have seen peace as well as extreme unrest – two broad spectrums of life, and in between the peace & chaos – somewhere the real-life exists. Some productive action happens, and some dreams get realized. I have learned to value this bit of life, which allows me to expand emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
Besides that, I am curious by nature; I love to interact and learn about people. I love to explore their world. I find it fascinating!
Was this career by choice or circumstantial?
A bit of both I would say. After finishing my master’s in management; I dabbled into the marketing of skin-care products in Dubai and was substantially successful. I did enjoy the challenges of the corporate sector, yet it had its own life & expiry. One fine morning I realized it was not challenging enough and personally also I was unhappy. All seemed so dysfunctional and unruly at that time. It felt like I had reached a dead-end in my life. And I had to explore my capacity more than what I was living.
There was not much to feed my soul in that environment. I needed to get to the next level to operate more effectively and more passionately both at professional and personal levels, that was the time, I decided to move to Australia.
The spiritual quest in me was something that has never got satiated to date. In pursuit of knowing more; I went back to school and studied transpersonal psychology/psychotherapy, which gave me some grounding. I pursued NLP, Holotropic Breath Work, Ontological Coaching, Shamanic Practice, Executive Coaching, and much more. Also started research work on women’s spirituality & shamanism. I developed a “Core Leadership Skills” workshop for Diplomats and Professionals. I also developed some workshops for women in particular; which include “Integrating Feminine Wisdom with Entrepreneurship & Revitalizing Feminine Energy”; these are being highly appreciated across the continents and have become my signature workshops today.
What have been your high points on personal & professional fronts?
Curiosity to learn, deep focus, and dynamic passion to live & let live.
Do you idolize any women of Kashmiri origin or anyone else who has been your aspiration and contributed to what you are doing today?
Firstly my deepest gratitude goes to Mata Laleshwari & Mata Roop Bhawani; two revered women of Kashmir; who lived true spirituality and were much ahead of their times. Every ‘wakh’ spoken by them is considered gold even today that oozes with spiritual juice. After that, my guides and teachers especially Prof. Anjali Razdan & Prof. Lily Want are the ones. These two women demonstrated to me; how it is to be a professional. For me, they will always remain the most beautiful women of the Valley.
What interests you apart from your professional career?
I love trekking, dancing, reading, creating rituals, traveling,
meeting people, writing, and chilling out with family & friends.
Would you like to conduct workshops in Kashmir?
Of course that goes without saying. Always! We are in the process of taking transpersonal psychology courses in the Valley through the University of Kashmir and other professional Institutes. Hoping to give some renovative & innovative approach to the more than 200-year-old education system.
What is your message for the Kashmiri youth (women)?
Never give up on your dreams.
Stay focused on your own life and live your passion.
Acknowledge your needs and wants.
Be the hero of your life. Rest does not mean much in life.
What efforts do you make to keep the culture of Kashmir alive?
It is effortless for me. Language, food, literature, mythology, rituals, and a sense of humor, all of this is embedded in my DNA. In that sense, you can call me a real “BATIEN”, living & working across the continents, yet bringing forward the feminine essence of Kashmir where ever I go.
Any anecdote that you still remember from your days in Kashmir which have left a deep impact on you?
Mass exodus in 1990, when Valley was engulfed in huge fear, chaos, unrest, betrayal, and unwarranted killings. Life was degraded, devalued, and reduced to social sorcery. I suffered from social sorcery and mind you it did not happen just with me, it happened to all of us. Social sorcery, as we understand; is one of the mediums used to extinguish people from the face of Mother Earth. It happens, when an individual is isolated from Motherland, and your rights are ignored and the message is clear that you do not exist, your life does not mean much and the fear factor becomes the prime mover of such societies. This social sorcery brought a lot of psychoses to the people of Kashmir; irrespective of whether they stayed back or moved out of the Valley. Most of us are suffering from depression as a community has developed split personalities, schizophrenia, and much more because “Peace” was eroded and it is a universal truth that only peace can give grounding to life, creativity, and loving relationships.
I think the impact was much larger than we all could fathom at that time. The price each individual paid has been unfolded over a period of the last 27 years. Truly speaking, we, the people from Kashmir lost the thriving quality of life and we are merely living in survival mode now. It will take a lot of time to produce quality people & quality leaders/professionals, doctors, engineers, poets, artists, writers, and so on in the Valley. And since we are not appropriately connected with our Motherland, it will always be double the effort for us to do anything we want to do in our life.
What do you miss about Kashmir?
Mystical Energy of some highly energetic spots, the places I grew up in as a child, adolescent, and young woman that include various temples, shrines, and dargaahs, and my favorite Church next to Women’s College. The mesmerizing landscape of Kashmir in totality; hospitality & warmth; Koshur sense of humor, wazwaan, and of course fun times spent with my friends.