Meet Tara Suresh Kumar a former Principal, and a teacher who studied the Science of Happiness (Happy Morphosis) to fill the void of retirement only to be an author of a children’s book.
Age is definitely just a number when it comes to Tara. Apart from being a positive and happy individual, she loves meeting and interacting with people. Tara confirms that she’s more outgoing than her reserved husband Suresh Kumar – a man of depth as she lovingly refers to him. Both Tara and Suresh are originally from Kerala and were brought up in Chennai and have known each other since childhood. In fact, distantly related, their love blossomed when they were in college together. Fluent in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, Tara is also a postgraduate in English literature.
A tragedy early in life and later both Tara’s daughters moving abroad led them to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives. Tara had been dividing her travels between Seattle to her youngest daughter Sunethra and in Melbourne to her older daughter Sunayana. Tara along with Suresh had been visiting Australia since 2011. Rest as she says is history as her visits to this beautiful country attracted her and Suresh to moving here; the stronger and more compelling reason however was being in proximity to the grandkids.
Since moving to Melbourne just before the lockdown in 2020, she’s been working as a Teacher Aide and as she’s familiar with the Victorian curriculum, she’s been taking tuitions; and teaching general English for students of years Prep – Grade 8.
“I observed that many children perceived that happiness came from outside: through acquisition, through external validation. I felt the urge to help children understand that happiness comes from within and is in no way dependent on external factors.” This is what prompted her to write her book Happy Morphosis.
We at G’day India couldn’t ignore Tara’s and Suresh’s brave move to leave everything familiar to embrace the unfamiliar in a brand-new country. As we bring this story of courage and hope it is a reminder to all of us that every now and then life shakes us up to bring out the best in us.
Having been through a traumatic incident early in life, how has it changed you?
All of us go through incidents in life which serve as an eye-opener. Agreed, ours was a tragic one wherein we lost our son Sandeep. I must admit that initially, I did experience feelings of victimhood. With time, this gave way to the realisation that there are no answers to ‘Why’ it had to happen to us. However, now that I am into this Buddhist practice, I am able to understand that it is all a part of our Karma and that Suresh, and I were meant to go through that experience.
As for the change – I am more empathetic and understanding of another’s pain and suffering. Life is short and so truly precious. We need to savour each and every moment with our loved ones.
With three decades of teaching experience can you share some highlights?
Teaching has always been my passion as I get to spend time with young children. I saw myself rise in rank from a teacher to a Head Mistress and then the Principal of a leading school. I have taught a considerable number of students and am proud to state that I have definitely made a difference in the lives of quite a few of them. I am still in touch with so many of them via Facebook and Instagram.
Starting all over again, what are the challenges you face?
It has been very challenging indeed. As we are all aware, establishing oneself all over again in a new country and environment is far from easy.
Suresh is an Electrical engineer, and his field of work involves working with electrostatic precipitators which help reduce air pollution. Unfortunately, Australia does not have much scope for work in this area. Despite my decades of teaching experience, I am required to obtain a local certificate
But yes, I have been very fortunate to register with ANZUK. This agency deputes me to different schools as a Teacher Aide. I enjoy this role because of the opportunity I get to help kids with learning disabilities. At the end of the day, there’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction that I am able to help a child in need.
What do you and your husband do for living in your new country of choice?
My husband provides engineering consultancy to companies in India, and we are hoping he gets an opportunity to work with local companies doing the same.
I continue to work as a Teacher Aide. The urge to be of value in a student’s life has been so compelling that I have also started online and in person tutoring classes to help improve a child’s comprehension and creative writing skills. I’m happy to share that I am already taking classes for students based in Melbourne, U.S. and India.
Post-retirement, you authored a book – Happy Morphosis. How did that come about?
Retirement – this word is insignificant to me for I feel I still have so much to give to the society. I am glad to be in a country where you are valued for what you can offer by means of work and where age is no criteria.
Prior to writing the book, I undertook an online course on The Science Of Happiness from UC Berkeley. This helped me coalesce several years of life experience and words of wisdom from great authors – all of which helped me with the content of the book that conveys a lucid and simple message.
It would come as a surprise to you that I completed the book #HappyMorphosis in just two months. Although the book is primarily directed towards children, I understand that adults too have benefited from it.
What did you do to keep yourself motivated?
My Buddhist practice of chanting has kept me strong. In addition, thanks to the lockdown, I could get back to yoga, meditating and reading. Apart from Rhonda Byrne, Louis Hay and a few others, I’ve developed a strong liking for Wayne Dyer’s books and videos.
One thing you felt very special when you first arrived in Australia?
Other than the wonderful fact that I am near my children, I absolutely love this beautiful and picturesque country and have had beautiful experiences– so yes… I would love to continue being here.
Away from friends, was lockdown very difficult in a foreign country?
Well, I never experienced lockdown in India. So, I wouldn’t be able to comment on the difference. Lockdown here was okay except for two months when I couldn’t get to visit my daughter’s home. Thanks to technology, we could chat with the little ones online.
I chose to make the best use of my confinement indoors. Since my online classes had already commenced, there was much for me to do – be it preparation of the tasks I had planned or checking their work.
Since when are you an ardent practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism and how does it help?
Suresh and I were introduced to Nichiren Buddhism by a very dear friend Sunita Narang when we visited her in Delhi in 2017-2018. There has been no looking back since then.
The philosophy is to enable every single person to be happy without exception.
All one needs to do is chant – ‘Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo’
It is an expression of determination, to embrace and manifest our Buddha nature. It is a pledge to oneself to never yield to difficulties and to win over one’s suffering. At the same time, it is a vow to help others reveal this law in their lives and achieve happiness.
“By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we awaken to the reality that within our life is unlimited reserves of courage, wisdom and compassion—that we are in fact Buddhas.”
What is next for you and your husband?
Suresh has incredible experience, and he wishes to put it to good use here in Australia. As for me, my passion for teaching and being with kids is only getting stronger by the day and it’s my ardent desire to make a difference in many more lives.
With hard work and determination, we definitely look forward to a promising future by gaining a firmer foothold in our respective careers and in jobs that will bring out the best in us.
Tara’s and Suresh’s bravery and their lived experiences exemplify that if life gives you an idea, run with it. We at G’day India and The Indian Weekly not only wish them the very best for their new life in Melbourne but we couldn’t help quoting Tara’s favourite lines by Elizabeth Gilbert “No matter who you are, or where you are, or how mundane or tough your situation may seem, I believe you can illuminate your world. In fact, I believe this is the only way the world will ever be illuminated, one bright act of grace at a time.”
By Nandita Chakraborty
(You can contact Tara regarding the classes she conducts for Years Prep – 8, you may send her an email to: [email protected])