PAULAWould you introduce yourself to me? I know we have been taking
a little before. Just a bit about you that you'd like for your interview.
SATWANTI am known as Mrs. H but my full name is Mrs. SATWANTRait. I grew up in a very
traditional family, where girls were not valued especially not in education. I was very lucky,
my father was liberal. I did my my Masters in India and worked in India in a Government
job in the Education department. As Indian tradition, I was an obedient child and I was
especially much more than an obedient child. I did not betray my parents and I said to
them that they could arrange my marriage if they wanted to do, but they knew I wanted
to further my education and go abroad so they chose a boy who was living here to come
over. He came to Delhi to get married and both of us came back here. That was one
struggle but I never realised that in such a liberal democratic country, there
would be other struggles. My qualifications were not recognized neither was my
experience. I had to top up my qualification and did a Masters in librarianship
in Sheffield. When I used to apply for jobs, they said 'you have not any
experience in this country' and my qualification was too high.
PAULAIt was catch 22?
SATWANTBut I do believe in emotions and I know a smile and a laugh can be artificial but then I used to stress, I used to laugh
and I never, ever in my life gave in to adverse circumstances. I strongly believe in God and strongly believe in trying your
best and make your life constructive and move on, so that is what I did. A lot of people said as you could not get a job
go for any job you could get such as post office worker or working in factories. I didn't do that. And eventually I got
a job but not according to my qualifications, it was a very basic job as a public library assistant stamping the books
and putting them on the shelves but I did it as I thought that was the way to move on and build my confidence.
PAULAThey recognized your experience?
SATWANTThey recognized my talent and hard work. And within 10 years I worked within 4 local authorities, Leeds, Kirklees,
Bradford and Derbyshire, but by then I had 2 children. I gave them the best possible bringing up under the circumstances.
We did not have much money but I gave them so much time and love. All my evenings and weekends were only for my children
and nobody else. We used to pack up all our things and a picnic box and leave home early when there was no disturbance –
just my children, my husband and me. That was our weekend programme every week-end. But it was a hard life because my
normal routine was getting up at 6 and going to bed after midnight, because it was not only having a full time job,
children and family it was also trying to publish books and articles so I had to work on that in the late hours.
PAULAGosh – a huge amount of determination to be able to...
SATWANTWhen I worked in Bradford – lot of people did complain of racism and people not treating them well, even the
courts not treating them well. I thought that I should taste it. I was selected for the Justice of Peace office
and I served s on the bench for 19 years. I chose Bradford. I did not want to sit in Leeds as it was my local
area and I knew almost everybody. During that period, I got the opportunity to sit on a lot of organisations
as a chair or secretary or executive member or management committee member and that was quite interesting.
I have always said that organisations are very beneficial and very useful especially f friends or family
leave them, they come to their rescue. I had a lot of input on a strategic level though not yet got any
benefit from them but I have given a lot of my time, energy and my skills to them.
PAULADid you think you feel you were making some influence on the system?.
SATWANTYes, Yes because after me there were so many women who became J.Ps.
PAULASo you set the scene for the future.
SATWANTSimilarly for my family if I wouldn't have had the determination to study none of the girls would have studied
at degree levels and after me most of the girls have done degrees and they are working, which I am very proud of.
PAULAYes absolutely. Where do you think you have got the confidence or the determination as a woman to take up
or make the opportunities the opportunities to...
SATWANTI think it was my father. He was a great believer in God and I never accepted him as a father –
I accepted him as saint.
SATWANTHis life pattern was very saintly. He was very helpful to others and he gave unconditional service to
other people. He was very determined, he had self-respect and was self-trusting even in a difficult situation
he would not ask for help. That was one of the things I learned from him.
PAULAHe did not ask for help?
SATWANTHe always managed by himself and that is what I learned from him and I am exactly the same, I will
never ask for help. My very close friends know that and they will just come and do it – and won't ask
me – and will not say just call me when you need it!
PAULAYou'll never do that
SATWANTThen I moved to Derbyshire and I had a very demanding job and also I did my PhD. I was commuting every day
to Leeds because of my family. I didn't't do much in the local community although I was very much involved
in the community where I was working. I was raising the library service awareness in minority
groups including Polish, Irish, other Asian communities, through art, crafts and entertainment
events. I got out a lot from the community in that way. I also worked with politicians and
counsellors. When I went I started from scratch and when I left it was a really well
taken up service – I was very happy.
PAULAIt was a huge achievement.
SATWANTI thought I had achieved something. I have also given similar ethos to my children, work hard,
never ever be dishonest, and do your best.
PAULAAnything in particular about positive emotion and ideas about positive orientation towards
life you made reference to earlier?
SATWANTI taught them never become miserable, try to smile whatever comes your way. Secondly,
when we are stressed rather than cry and moan to people – laugh or run. Any exercise
is good, – if one thing does not work go for another. Just keep on trying. Don't give
up, nothing is impossible.
PAULAHow did you hear about the project that Paul is involved with, the portraits? How did you meet
him – how did he come to talk to you about it?
SATWANTIt is very strange – I didn't know that ABA (Asian Blind Association) had nominated me.
At one time, not in the time of the current manager, the manager before I was
on the management committee, one of the executives, because of my husband's
illness and few other things, I had to resign. But I don't know why I was
nominated, you may have to ask them. One day I had a call from them saying
that we have nominated your name for this portrait. They sent short
information but I am still not sure what's behind it. What's the
objective of it and why have so many organisations supported it.
What will they get out of it?
PAULADid Paul has not talked to you about it?
SATWANTNo – that's another story. They said come and meet the photographer
and the painter – it was quite an early morning appointment something
like 9 a.m. I just dressed normal like today. Then I thought if I am meeting
them, I am representing myself as Indian or Asian so I put on a sari and
no makeup on, nothing, and there they are ready to photograph.
PAULASo you were a bit surprised?
SATWANTI was surprised.
PAULAWould you have had make up on?
SATWANTNormally I would have put my make up on but then I thought, you don't
need it because it's emotions they are capturing.
SATWANTSo I met the photographer and Paul. They didn't have any big chat because
they were busy and they took lot of photographs. Paul said he is going to
paint them – so that's it! Then after two weeks they sent me the photographs
and Paul said what he liked and went forward with mutual consent and then he
painted and last week I went to the studio to view it.
PAULAWhat did you think? Could you see it well enough?
SATWANTYes, I can't see very well but the sari was fine, underneath was fine but
the top bit I didn't look Asian, I look more like Afro Caribbean because my
hair's were down in the painting, which is very much more like Afro Caribbean
and the colour was much more akin to Afro Caribbean than Asian. It was
difficult for him to change at that time and on the whole he did a good
job and it was a good effort.
PAULADo you know what emotion you were wanting to capture in that picture?
SATWANTYes, I knew that, he explained it to me.
PAULAWas it happiness?
PAULAWas there a particular thing you were thinking about in relation to happiness?
SATWANTTo be honest, I don't know. What day it was. I was quite... My husband was coming
in my thoughts a lot and I was a bit down and Paul asked me to laugh. To be very
honest, I thought it was a superficial laugh but he captured in a good manner
– that's where his skill lies.
PAULAYou saw the photo – and although it looked like you were laughing, inside you were
sad because you were missing your husband.
SATWANTBut I think he is doing a good job on emotions. There were 4 pictures which
he showed me.
PAULAWould that have captured the experience of having your face looking as if it was
representing your inside happiness but actually being different to how you felt
on the inside. Would that be about what you were talking about earlier which
is to deal with people with respect and pleasure rather than being miserable?
SATWANTAt the moment I am an honorary chaplain in Leeds Teaching hospitals.
PAULAWe were talking about this earlier.
SATWANTWhen I go to see the patients I am always smiling, even if I have had a bad time,
my wedding anniversary or my husband's birthday, I am always smiling. I say
to the staff I never get into any of their politics, I just do my work and learn
from other people if it is worth learning because I am a great believer in learning
from other people and I just walk away. I am there but I am not in it. That's
my policy ‐ I always want to be away from any conflict especially now since
my husband died. I have changed a lot and become much more peaceful. Nothing
PAULAWhy is that do you think?
SATWANTI don't know – it happened naturally to me – a lot of people have said
'your husband has died, you will be feeling scared' even when the burglary
happened I coped with it ‐ I was quite peaceful. The other day somebody said
'why don't you move to a smaller place' but I love my house – I can walk from
one room to another then into the garden first thing in the morning – before I sit
at my computer. I walk around the garden every day.
PAULASo we are covering a lot of emotions in one chunk of conversation. You have the kind
of commitment to be a gentle presence in with other people, not someone who gets
involved in conflict and distress. Being very supportive of people who are in
distress but offering to them a calmness, peacefulness and also been talking about
missing your husband, he is very present in your discussions. It's almost
as if he is here in the room but you also feel very peaceful but sad sometimes too.
SATWANTYes because I think I owe him a lot. He made me what I am today that's something
goes to his credit because I had the opportunity – he gave me that opportunity
and he was liberal, he never suspected me – he never criticized me. Over the
years, the experiences I have had I think it doesn't matter how much hard work
you put in, what you do, at the end of the day it's in the hand of someone we have
haven't seen – what we call god or destiny – it's managed by them.
When I was getting to the top in my profession as a librarian, I lost my eyesight
and similarly now, when we were really enjoying our lives, I lost him.
We had both worked really hard, he was hardworking as well, God gave us 7 years
to enjoy and that was it. Nothing you can do about it, so why worry?
Ultimately it is not in our hands.
PAULAYou take comfort out of that? You don't have to take responsibility for
creating things that...
SATWANTThat's the principle that I take. It doesn't make me bitter, sad or bitter
about other people. When I recently lost my eyesight, I left the decision
PAULAYou found yourself being involved with hospital chaplaincy – I guess
at the moment, this has been a really important development for you. It's
taking you into a different direction, very meaningful and you are doing
training – 'Masters'?
SATWANTLot of things...I feel lonely.
PAULAYou have had years of being a good person.
SATWANTI mean now I don't know where I am going to be very honest. But I have respect
for these organizations. It doesn't matter what organization it is; either blind
or disabled or mental health. I think they are really dedicated to people,
especially voluntary organisations and they really give a good time to the
service users. Sometimes when family members and friends can't help because
they are not trained in that way and these offer good help.
PAULAI think you are on to – there is not a hidden agenda – the agenda is trying
to do something creative with the arts and also to connect to people who may not
be in the main stream so the theme is connecting with disabilities and also thinking
about emotions and foregrounding positive emotions that may not get picked up
sufficiently when people are thinking about disabilities, because people tend
to the issues of losses, constrains and disadvantages and this is your chance
to say something different.
SATWANTThat is what I say, when family and friends fail, organisations have a lot of input
into people's lives and it is good to support them by donations or volunteering.
If you have skills, you can be a support. For example when I had my eyesight problem
I used to collect for the RNIB because it is based in London. I can't physically
be there. I have been part of many organizations based in Leeds, for example, there
was – Yorkshire and Humber faith forum. I was a board member and secretary
there for 2 terms and that's the maximum you can serve. I left that in 2009/10
I became a board member of Touchstone, a mental health organisation. I think it
is good for a person who is suffering from those disabilities to have someone to
contact. I think people exist in this society who do good work even though it
may not be altogether free – but their heart is in it. They generally go for
art and creative work and people who have compassion and kindness help other
people if you look carefully. People are not always paid enough in voluntary
organisations, but they do a lot of work.
PAULASo this is a celebration and public face of things that go on in a low key sort
of way. Will you come to the exhibition?
SATWANT I hope so – I have not got the details yet. Paul said sometime in
January – in the New Year but he is not sure of the date.
I emailed my son and he said 'send us the date and we will come'.
PAULAHopefully I will be there and see you. We will stop now.
SATWANTDo you think you have enough material there?
PAULAI think so.