This article was first published on the digital platform Women’s Web:
May 2020 – and it was a month and a half since the world had come to a grinding halt. The lockdown was something that no one had ever imagined in their wildest dreams. In the media, heart-wrenching stories were pouring out. But amidst the confusion and pandemonium, there were individuals all over the world, who were working incessantly and extending their help without fear or favour. Many of these inspiring stories would perhaps go untold, as it did not involve celebrities but ordinary people. This is where Dubai-based Lakshmi Shrinath, 44, decided to do something about it. Her YouTube channel, Stageflix decided to start a series called ‘Lockdown Learnings’, where Lakshmi would go on to bring these inspirational stories to the public, through short interviews with everyday heroes, that included doctors, engineers, health-workers, educators, senior citizens and volunteers.
On May 2nd, 2020, ‘Lockdown Learnings’ debuted with the first story. The interview was all about the ‘war-room’ in Bangalore where the ‘Dasoha’ helpline that was created by the Government of Karnataka, was reaching food packets for those in need. More inspirational stories would come every Saturday to the viewers, showing us that there is so much to hope for in the world despite the dismal scenario. Another heart-warming and humbling story was the episode of a group of RSS volunteers in Nasik, who made sure that the Covid-19 victims were given a respectful last journey. All the way from Brooklyn, New York City, Lakshmi Srinath spoke to a doctor who was infected by the virus in the early days of the pandemic who narrated her traumatic experience. The stories about migrants being sent by Shramik trains as also NRIs in Dubai who went out of their way to send back stranded Indians using their personal resources was testament that humaneness was alive.
There are so many more stories that have been brought to the viewer in this succinct set of interviews by the 44-year-old, Lakshmi Shrinath. It was indeed interesting to know who the woman behind ‘Lockdown Learnings’ was and I decided to chat with her.
Lakshmi was born and raised in Mumbai, in an urban Kannada Brahmin family. Her father, migrated to Mumbai from Bagalkot, Karnataka to join the police department. A disciplinarian and a sports enthusiast, he encouraged all of Lakshmi’s passions. Says Lakshmi, “Since both my parents were working, I learned to take decisions and trust my intuitions very early in life, whether it was a course, a summer job or anything else.”
An achiever in school, she was Head Girl and excelled in academics as well as sports and was also a state-level athlete. A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, she went on to learn other forms of expressions like plays and drama. Later, she also went on to win beauty pageants and walked the ramp. Lakshmi completed her graduation and had enrolled in a part-time MBA when she landed with her first job as a PR executive. But a sudden marriage proposal changed 21-year-old Lakshmi’s life. Marriage took young Lakshmi to UAE. “Dubai, a melting pot of more than 100 nationalities and cultures was my window to the world,” reminisces Lakshmi. By spearheading cultural activities and celebrating festivals in the Kannada and Maharashtrian social clubs, she made sure her two children were acquainted with Indian sensibilities.
Lakshmi kept in touch with dance, as every year she conducted free dance workshops for women and children at the India Club. One of her recent projects that Lakshmi reminisces fondly is about a short film called Nirruttar (Unanswered), produced by ‘Reel Tea’ and hosted by Pocket Films, the leading partner channel for YouTube in India. “I played the lead role of mother of a 12-grade student and the film highlighted the dilemmas and pressures of exams faced by the young students. It also gave me an insight into camera angles and production,” says Lakshmi. The film had its impressive debut at the Khajuraho International Film Festival, Khajuraho and won critical acclaim.
This multi-faceted woman has also dabbled in script-writing. “The annual one-act play competition festival in the Middle-East gave me an opportunity to explore my scriptwriting skills and the directorial debut brought our team – Team Pashmina- five awards in different categories, namely, overall winner for the Best Original Play, Best Actor, Best Writer amongst other categories,” she enthuses.
So, what made her embark on Lockdown learnings? Says, Lakshmi, “During the pandemic, as the world came to halt, I decided to document the lives of people from all walks of life as social distancing had affected all of us directly. Initially, I wanted to keep the conversation light and wanted to bring cheer and happiness through the interviews, however, I was touched by a friend’s gesture as he worked selflessly to help the poor and needy in Bengaluru. And thus, began the idea of bringing more such stories of unsung heroes during the lockdown that gave me a sense of purpose while we all battled with social distancing, isolation, and depression.”
So, what next does she have in the pipeline? “Lockdown Learnings was a new beginning for me. As everything from schools to the corporate world went digital, the digital platform beckoned me too. I am looking forward to creating more meaningful content by dedicating an entire series of inspiring, transformational stories of women with purpose”, signs off this woman with a purpose.
You can find the series of interviews of Lockdown Learnings here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJX5Sk4zr9ks3qyzWXDIyDw