Sara Adhikari: Theatre Personality, Journalist, Founder of NGO

talks to #NormMag about #Theatre, #Journalism and #Norms.

The beautiful Sara Adhikari, previous theatre personality, ex journalist & sub-editor at The Sun invited us to her house in Bangalore to talk about journalism, theatre and norms.

Q1. Theatre and Journalism, you’ve done both! Any parallels between them?

Sara: Words…and the brilliant way they can be used to create images in your mind, evoke emotions, tell a story, change attitudes.

Q2. 3 theatre personalities who have helped you during theatre and in life?

Sara: Difficult! If I go chronologically I have to mention Barry John first. I must have been about 10 or 11, living in Bangalore, and my parents were involved with Bangalore Little Theatre. My father was doing the sets for their production of Edward Albee’s Zoo’s Story, my mother, the costume and a friend of theirs Sujatha Modayil was the director. I had attended a few rehearsals, but when I went along to the dress rehearsal at the Ravindra Kalakshetra I was mesmerised by Barry’s acting skills. It was both inspirational and aspirational. Many many years later, I got to work with him in a TAG production in Delhi when he was directing Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink and I had the lead female role. Then it’s got to be Lillette Dubey, who became and remains a dear friend. We had not long moved to Delhi, I was working long hours at the Sunday Times of India and she persuaded me to take up acting again. Which I did. She is an actor & director and my best performance on stage was under her – as Bella in Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers. Lillete’s one trait that I love and emulate is living life to the full! Sorry I can’t think of a third!


Q3. After a theatre show, coming back to the kids. How did you push yourself to balance life?

Sara: I don’t know! I had a full time job, and doing theatre. The kids must have felt neglected – by me. But my husband Peter was a superb dad – he worked from home, was very supportive and I guess made it possible.


Q4. Journalism back then and now! Any differences you see?

Sara: Gosh yes! For a start, there was no internet. All research for articles had to be done in the library, looking through old cuttings! But what is really different now is the immediacy – satellite TV, 24-hour news channels happened in the late ’90s, by which time we had left India. And of course online anything didn’t exist. You didn’t get notifications of some disaster on the other side of the world on your phone. There were no mobile phones either! You could write an entire book on the difference.


Q5. Do you think journalism abroad is more ethical than the Indian scene?

Sara: No, not necessarily. I worked for The Sun in the UK – part of News International and the Murdoch empire – and I was there when the phone hacking scandal erupted and The News of The World was closed down overnight. So, no. I think the code of ethics comes from the publisher/editor etc. Of course there are individual journalists have ethics too and won’t bend the rules to get ahead.


Q6. Tell us about your NGO?

Sara: So I founded Small Change based purely on research, that most NGOs in India do not have the resources to do good communication, the kind that tells their stories and arouses interest and empathy – rather than a blanket mistrust because of a lack of information and media tales of a few bad eggs in the sector. So Small Change is an online platform to raise awareness about NGOs and their causes and help them raise funds.


Q7. How can anyone help your NGO?

Sara: By going to our site, reading the NGO stories, checking out our Facebook page and other social media, finding a cause you care about and giving. We all want India to get ahead – but how can it when it has the largest number of people living below the poverty line ($1.90 per day) in the world? We really can’t just leave it to the government. It’s a massive country with massive population – we all need to chip in.


Q8. What do you think was the biggest #Norm you had to fight against in India?

Sara: The way domestic help are treated in India – by us, the middle class. If I hadn’t started Small Change, I would have probably started one to fight for their rights.

Q9. Norms can be good too. Any norms that have helped you in life?

Sara: We in India are expected to have unconditional respect for our parents and elders. I think that is a good thing and something that has taught me tolerance and to see things from another’s perspective.

as told to our editor.

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