Freedom is living in a world where everyone is treated equally: Raageshwari Loomba
Raageshwari Loomba is an Indian pop singer, actress, model, television anchor, former MTV and Channel V VJ, a yoga practitioner and a motivational speaker, met with The Oslo Times Editor in Chief, Hatef Mokhtar, for an exclusive interview, during which she spilt the beans not only on matters related to Human Right’s but also her secret on how she has retained her youth.
The Excerpts below give us an interesting insight into her views on freedom, her solution to ending the Indo-Pak feud and a whole lot more:
What do Human Rights mean to you?
Human rights are the complete freedom to basic rights for every human being including the freedom of speech. But the most important are food, clothes and shelter. In our part of the world, even basic rights like these are still lacking. A very few number of people have access to them. In case of children, it’s more concerning. It is a cause that is very close to my heart. I feel our children teach us so much, but we probably forget it as we grow older. Adults, especially, have a very contagious virus—negativity – that we pass on to our children. When children are born they are absolutely positive, happy and very close to nature. Because being close to nature comes very naturally to them, I think they like playing in the mud and in the water. So, for me all these is a part of human rights. Thus human rights is access to food, access to clothing for a dignified life and access to shelter and most importantly freedom of speech so that we can express ourselves comfortably.
What is media and freedom expression for you?
I would say that the media actually shapes the society and the moral fabric of the country. It is very much backward in India or in Pakistan and we have very similar issues. For me they are similar. Back when India and Afghanistan had strong ties, I remember Mr. Feroz Khan telling me that Afghanistan is haven for him because he would shoot so much with his Afghan friends. We had great love for the Afghani people.As far as media is concerned in India, it so much writes about Bollywood that it seems that India is all about Bollywood. That is not what India is all about. India is about great athletes, great social activists like Mr. Kailash, who not many people knew about but also has won the Nobel Peace Prize. So, media should be given complete freedom but it should also be very versatile and should be run by wise entrepreneurs who support their editors. You need the right kind of journalist to write the kind of article that could actually shape the moral fabric. Today, even in the West you controversially become a superstar. For instance I know if I tweet something controversial or if wear something more seductive I will catch more eyeballs. This would make me popular instantly, because the media is supporting it. But at the same time if people, buy or read news on web portals like The Oslo Times, they have that kind of respect because they kind of know that this is a paper or news portal that is intellectually copious. I understand the pressures of the media too because if you don’t have great entrepreneurs supporting you than you will have your sponsors telling you only write articles about Bollywood or only write articles about controversies. I do understand that too.
Can you tell me something about women’s rights in India and the kind of challenges Indian women face today?
India is a country of small villages and towns and big urban cities where we all co-exist peacefully. Despite such diversity, it has blanket laws, in terms of marriage or in terms of family planning law. Just like Pakistan, our cities are very different from our small villages. In our cities I would say women rights laws are fine. Everything changes with education because educated women can choose their husbands well, can choose their careers well, can have better dialogue, have better intellectual strength and are financially independent to sustain themselves. In contrast women in small towns and villages are deprived of these luxuries because they have not been encouraged to study. Instead, they are nudged to marry. I would say personally I believe in equality, and I don’t believe in being anti-men to be a feminist. I have great respect for my father, my brother, my husband and other men, because I believe in co-existing with them for peace and harmony. Women’s rights starts from the grass root levels. Allow me to educate myself, allow me to choose my career, allow me to make the choice when it comes to marriage. Allow me to have the same freedom as a man would have on his job. We have so many companies that support women who are pregnant and when they have their babies, with paid leaves because they know that after having the baby, they will be coming back to work. We need to be more sensitive towards women to allow them to continue their professions as they have to build family, support it and ensure that it goes forward.
Well I have been a fan of Malala for years. I was in Pakistan on a peace project where I worked with the Children of Pakistan Sweet Home and the Shobit Khan hospital the year she was shot. Besides singing and acting I do a lot of motivational work for wellness and positivity. I have loved the clarity, the humility and the gentleness Malala talks with and there has been no change in her – from the girl I saw then to the girl she is now. She is till so humble with her beautiful Dupatta’s (shawl) like we call it in India. I feel she is a girl who would be stronger with or without the Nobel Peace Prize. She is just 17, but she is very clear in her vision and this a beautiful achievement in its own way. She speaks so maturely that sometimes I forget that she is only 17. On the other hand Kailash ji, I feel completely blessed to have come from the country of Mahatma Gandhi, who never won The Nobel Peace Prize, but he was someone who loved India and Pakistan equally he loved everybody including the Bangladeshis and the Afghans.
What are your views on the Indo-Pak conflict as a singer and what do you think would be the solution to it?
Well when I speak with the farmers and small traders in the border region I realize that they suffer the most from the conflict as they lack a market for their products and access to come in and out of India or Pakistan. From my hands on experience, I know it’s very difficult for them. As an artist we are very privileged, we are granted visas. We are invited by Pakistan and India also invites Pakistani artists like Rahat Fateh Ali. As far as the entertainment industry is concerned there is great harmony, we don’t see the need to have a dialogue. The basic warring community is the political community and our politicians. As an artiste, I feel we should not worry about the politicians or what the papers have to say in India or Pakistan.
I feel that we need to get into a dialogue personally. For example, if you are a friend from Pakistan I should start a dialogue with you in love, peace and harmony. It shouldn’t stop me. And if each and everyone does it at a personal level we will create a movement that will be so big that the governments will be forced to follow the suit. We wait for the politicians to make laws that will make things easy for us. But it doesn’t have to be that way, we can put in efforts on our own and start so many personal interactions. But how?
Well, we can write blogs, or write something really nice about each other’s countries on social media. For example, Indians can write something really beautiful about Pakistan on their Facebook or twitter and a Pakistani can write something nice about India. Let’s do this together and keep this dialogue going. I feel people will forget how I look, or spoke, but they will never forget how I made someone feel good and if you make each other feel good, it’s great.
Photo courtesy: Raageshwari Loomba
When did you start your singing career?
I started my singing career when I was 16, I am 39 now but I stand on my head and I do yoga that is why I have retained my youth. I have done Taalim-e-Islam, because I think it is such a scientific beautiful and empowering religion. I started working when I was 12, but I started singing professionally when I was 16-17 years old. My debut album, Duniya, did very-very well in Pakistan and since then I had always a great desire to perform in Pakistan.
Do you get angry?
No, I don’t, it’s very rare with me. My work also revolves around wellness and motivation, and I feel that I know why people get angry. When people start getting a little irritated and disappointed they don’t tell the other person that their actions have hurt them. They don’t solve the problem and the anger builds up inside us. And during this while we continue to work, live, meet colleagues, friends, our superiors anger and frustrations keep building up inside us. And, when we meet someone ordinary we get all our anger and frustration out on them. In my case I don’t let the anger and frustration grow inside me.
Till date have you done something that is significant in terms of helping to improve the human rights situation in your country?
In India I have a choir for blind children at Happy Home and we organize concerts and shows and they are very good at it. When Oprah Winfrey was in India, I met her and she had congratulated me for it. I hold this cause very close to my heart, because these children sing beautifully and I love them as my own.I am also the ambassador for AIDS awareness and for Leprosy, which is mostly prevalent in developing nations. In Mumbai, I do a lot of work with the Ackworth Hospital and I am personally connected with over hundred leprosy patients there. In terms of raising awareness about AIDS, mostly we find that there is usually an incident that leaves them infected with the HIV virus. I have done a lot of work with the slum children. We have lot of stray animals in India and I have adopted a stray dog. I do not differentiate between animals for rights. Be it an animal, plant or human being—everyone is a part of this planet, an extension of god. One does not have to win a Nobel Peace Prize to be kind and loving, we need to live our life like a Nobel Laureate and then we will always live our life in the right realm of life.
Tell me about your favorite Actor?
I love Feroz Khan. He was so attached to the countries around India. He was the one who showed us different colors of these countries, mainly Afghanistan through his films whether it was Qurbaani or through his films with Hema Malini. So as a human being I was definitely very inspired by him. And as someone who has done a lot of human rights work in India I have been inspired by Sunil Dutt. A very secular man, being a Punjabi, he had great ties with Pakistan. And my association with the blind school started with him. As his wife Nargis, had passed away with cancer, he was greatly associated with the blind school.
Okay, Raageshwari I am now going to shift to a different topic, what does extremism mean to you?
I think any kind of violence in speech and action is extremism, along with extremist thoughts. To me, from a wellness perspective and not many people agree with me on this, love and hate are two sides to a coin. So, when we look at a little bully in school, for the age group of 11-12, this little bully is a little terror for all the other kids. He keeps threatening kids, punching them pushing them around, and because of him other children never want to come to school. And this bully, this child never gets the love, affection and attention he needs to mold his personality. He is never told, sweetheart this is not going to earn you any friends. And he grows up into an oppressor. And, even terrorism for that matter when you speak about militants, when you speak of terrorists, I feel why do they express so much hate? Its because as a child or teenager, they have never been loved and therefore do not know how to express it. For example when we go to Pakistan’s Sweet home and meet children who were rescued from terrorist training camps. If you look at them they are so beautiful and loving. But, if they were not rescued they would have been terrorists. We never know how someone’s childhood has been. So yes I am talking about strong positive measures to curb it but simultaneously the path of human rights is also to understand emotions. Why are militant groups mushrooming, what is it that we have not understood about them, what do they need, have we abandoned the community? Why do they have so much anger and rage against us? Its just like a little child who is very angry with his papa and is beating his papa asking him for attention as he is not spending enough time with him. A lot of families completely change because of that. I have also done a lot of work with jails in India and I have met criminals during these visits. I don’t judge them because I want to know what led them to do that. I believe a lot on the rehabilitation of the soul and this is exactly what God would have wanted. Like Mahatma Gandhi beautifully said, “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future”.
Now coming to a few personal questions, tell me about yourself, who are you?
I am Raageshwari Lumba and I am an actress, singer from India who has done a lot of modeling, won plenty of awards as a VJ for MTV and Channel V, a pop singer who has many albums to her credit. I have performed live in various countries, including Norway. Besides this I own a wellness company where, as a motivational speaker I facilitate courses on motivation, positive and loving lifestyle.
What does love mean to you?
For me love is all around. It is an understanding between you and me and the other woman there. It has no beginning or end, we are all connected by the cosmos.
Okay, so, what is hate for you?
For me hate is the extension of love and it is not the opposite of love it is an extension of it. It is below love.
Have you hated anyone in your life?
No, I can’t think of anyone I hate. I might have been disappointed or saddened thinking that someone did something to me, but I would never hate.
Is there someone you have never forgiven in your life?
No, one like that either. I feel that we are all one and if I have made mistakes so have someone else too. The most important thing to me is that because we always ask god for forgiveness even if we have had or not made mistakes and if He can forgive us then we should also immediately forgive others.
What does freedom mean to you?
To me freedom is not differentiating between a boss and a cleaner. For me freedom is living in a world where everyone is treated equally regardless of their status or work. A complete freedom is to ensure that each and everyone views each other with absolute equality.
Some people in Europe believe that minority groups are being discriminated here, what is your view on this?
This exists all over the world. If you are going to say racism does not exist Oprah Winfrey is an example to it. When she went to Switzerland no one would show her bags at a store because they thought that African American could never afford such an expensive bag. Racism does exist and instead of being like Oh my God, we should try to address such issues positively. If such incidences can happen with Winfrey than it definitely can happen with other minority groups too. If very influential people, be it politicians, actors, business tycoons, Editors constantly sing and celebrate the work of people who work hard for humanity, and highlight the work and praise the work of the common man, people will start to realize it as a good cause.I think we should make heroes and heroines out of social actors. They should be our new stars, not Bollywood stars.
Do you have a message for our worldwide readership?
I feel as Mahatma Gandhi beautifully said , “be the change you wish to see,” and don’t underestimate the power of one. It was one woman who fought for the women’s right to vote, it was one man that led to the independence of India— it was Bappu (Mahatma Gandhi) alone who had stood up against the British for the independence of India and Pakistan both. Of course other leaders supported him but it was just one person from the valley of Swath who created this great movement. It was just one person like Kailash who stood up to fight for children’s rights.
So don’t ever underestimate the power of one and don’t undermine yourself. If your vision is strong people will support you, so take the first step.Even if you do one good thing for one human being on this planet it will have an impact and it will make a difference in the world because we are all connected in that way.
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