“As a person who has been brought up amongst a very conservative society, it is not so easy to come out of it and think differently. But I slowly accept it, and I am a forward thinker.” On her mother’s side of the family, Padmaja Bharath is the highest educated and qualified among the female grandchildren. She earned her Masters in India and recently completed her MBA.
Born and raised in Chennai, the southernmost Indian state, Padmaja’s family are Brahmins, members of the highest caste in Hinduism. It is the caste from which Hindu priests are drawn, and are responsible for teaching and maintaining religious practices. Padmaja explains, “It’s like Rabbis. Here, Rabbis are treated as the highest order (that’s what I have seen) people who know more about religion, culture, practices – I’m from that community; my forefathers were priests. One or two people from a family for each generation will be priests. [A]nyone who wanted to do anything in their family, would first consult my dad.” “My husband is also a Brahmin, and has learned everything and leads the prayer group; his brother is well versed in temple duties. My brother lives in Detroit, he goes to all the temples and does the priest’s work.”
Padmaja enjoys friendships and relationships beyond her Indian community in Toronto, (she moved here in 2005) yet her Brahmin status and role continues to be relevant in her life; the community here will often call Padmaja to the temple to be a part of the religious practices.
Padmaja’s daughter struggles with the traditional female status in Hindu culture, so Padmaja has taken the time to explain to her daughter, “everything we do, why we do it and what is the benefit of it so that she understands that each and every small thing has a value.” Padmaja teaches her daughter how to translate the discipline of Hindu culture into every aspect of life including her endeavors in law school.
“I love kids. I’m very passionate about working around kids, and I get to do that and I’m so happy,” Padmaja expresses about her profession as Director of IT at Netivot for the past 10 years. She is beloved by students and staff alike, and plays a huge role in our school’s success.