Compiled by Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan
|Dr. Padma Baliga taught English Literature at St. Aloysius College, Mangalore, and then at St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore. Perhaps the first serious study of Indian writing in English for children, her doctoral thesis examined ‘the construction of masculinity and femininity in women-authored Indian children’s novels’. Describing herself as a library evangelist, Padma wanted to bring the magic of books to every child. Reading Stars India gave her the opportunity to introduce underprivileged children to books from all over the world.|
It was with shock and sorrow that we received the news, on 12 May, that Padma Baliga had succumbed to the Covid virus. She a dear friend and valued colleague of many, including The Book Review. As readers of TBR know, she guest edited the annual children’s issue in November 2018.
Padma and I first met at a storytelling course in Kathalaya. We kept in touch, and I cherished our warm, lively exchanges. Like when we chatted about her translation of Alice in Wonderland into Konkani (Adhbhuta Lokanthu Alice, 2015, Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy), she thanked goodness that untranslatable words like jabberwock, brillig and slithy tove appeared in Through the Looking Glass and not in Alice!
The world needs many more Padmas; instead, we’ve had her snatched away prematurely. Our hearts go out to her family, her husband, the son she was so proud of. In this time of pandemic, I’m haunted by the poignant words of the Hamilton song: ‘who lives, who dies, who tells the story…’
We’re telling your story, Padma. You are missed, and will be remembered by all those who knew you.
Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan, writer and organic farmer.
When I first met Padma three years ago, she introduced herself as someone setting up libraries for urban underprivileged schools. I didn’t know till later that she was a Ph.D. holder and accomplished teacher. I’ve had the privilege of learning from her, picking her brain on everything under the sun and discussing so many books with her. There was still so much to learn, so many libraries to set up…
Apoorva, colleague, Reading Stars
Padma Baliga brought great warmth and kindness to her interactions with MA students, and her Gender Studies classes had a way of catching the ear of the class, getting young women to recognize the wound in their circumstances, and begin reading for themselves out of the furious curiosity that this recognition caused. She was also the driving force behind a popular elective course in Children’s Literature; her meticulous attention to its design sparked self-directed reading and the discovery of research interests amongst dozens of her students. For the first edition of ‘Meta’, our literature festival, in 2013, she organized the first of our panels that brought together writers of Children’s Literature, publishers and readers in a most stimulating evening of conversation under a banyan tree.
Arul Mani, colleague, St. Joseph’s College
I first met Padma five years ago when she joined the Library Educators’ Course at Bookworm. She was a very attentive listener and it was only gradually that I realized how experienced she was as a teacher and how knowledgeable in the field of children’s literature. What I remember best were her energy, enthusiasm, and passionate concern to include all children in the library. She once described the daily race with her sisters to reach the library first during the summer holidays and her delight once there, ‘With every book I borrowed from the library, I was venturing further into another world, a world where I was in charge, where I could live life my way.’ It was this joy she wanted to share with children and students.
Jane Sahi, writer and teacher
Like most of us, I haven’t stopped thinking about Padma. I feel sadness, yet her memory brings a smile to my face. Smiles of joy at our shared pleasure in children’s books and libraries, shared conversations, advice, memories, laughter. These wonderful memories of her graciousness, humility, intelligence and friendship will keep her in my heart, always.
JoAnne Saldanha, library educator
Padma enjoyed participating in my book club called Book Bound. Quiet and self-effacing Padma always added to the evening’s enjoyment. Whether it was discussing a book we had read or sharing a plate of goodies at our fun-filled evenings. WhatsApp kept us connected even to her last day, when she asked for prayers. Her sudden and unexpected passing has left us all very shaken and sad.
Marianne de Nazareth, writer, colleague
When I first met Padma, it was as though we had always known each other. She would gently make you comfortable. The spontaneous gestures of affection defined her. Like how she remembered a snack you liked, or a book you had shown interest in. Next time you met, she just might pull it out of her bag for you. We would discuss cabbages and kings, family histories, translation and travel… I’ll miss you, sweet and gentle friend.
Monideepa Sahu, writer
Some people have the ability to connect instantly and deeply with others, simply by being warm, open, and comfortable in their own skins—they have no fear of the other, no desire to dominate the conversation, no preconceived notions about the direction a conversation should take. They are genuinely interested in what you have to say, and happy to share their thoughts, knowledge and insights too.
Padma Baliga was one of those rare, fine people. When she first got in touch for her doctoral thesis, I was thrilled not just for myself but for my whole tribe that a Professor of English Literature in one of Bangalore’s best colleges was taking Indian kidlit seriously. The questions she sent me about my books gave me a chance to reflect upon my choices (many of them, as I came to realize, subconscious) in terms of plot and cast and hierarchy of characters—and for that I shall always be grateful to her.
Roopa Pai, writer
My desperate search for a partner for our Classroom Libraries project ended when I met Padma Baliga three years back. A bundle of energy, she believed that every child should read for joy. In a short period we worked with four schools, curated 62 classroom libraries, one community library, placed 9056 books, conducted 5850 library sessions and impacted 2524 children. Padma was instrumental in setting up libraries in five schools in Nagaland.
Love and concern for children, particularly the less-privileged, was her hallmark. She was a promoter of Indian authors, inspiring teacher, researcher, voracious reader. Always humble, and always there for family and friends. I will miss her dearly but cherish the memories we created together.
Shahnaz Sultana, colleague, Reading Stars
To know Padma Baliga was to know the best kind of reader and book lover: open-minded, generous, humorous, perceptive and empathetic. Teacher, writer, translator, litterateur, and champion of free libraries, Padma straddled these roles with ease, wearing her scholarship lightly, sharing her ideas abundantly, and touching the lives of people she engaged with. I was privileged to have worked with her, learning how to unfurl the magic of books for children.
Vidya Mani, writer and reading champion