Everything Sujita Gurung does, she does it with love. That's how she's managed to be an educator, an entrepreneur, a certified Zumba instructor and a fitness column contributor, all while being a parent. We were fortunate enough to have a conversation with this wonderful lady.
As an educator, what approach do you take in the classroom?
Something that I have stood by since the start of my teaching career is that, it is all about open communication. As educators, being open to learning from the students and admitting our mistakes are important. This is not a popular approach or a new one, but this creates a different kind of environment; a more fun and enriching one. It also enables me to understand my students better.
What is one thing that you learned from your students that has stuck with you to this day?
I think I’ve always been the kind of teacher who has understood that kids are not always who they are in the classroom; there is so much more to them. But, in recent years, I’ve just been really amazed by the impact of social media and by who they are on social media, and how the pressure is actually tenfold today. Just trying to take into account that part of their lives, trying to understand how that might be affecting their performance and their personality is important. That is something I will always remember.
What inspired you to start Kataksha*?
The first thing was definitely that I’ve always loved books, as cliché as that sounds, and I’ve always loved going to a nice space to study or to read in a pleasant environment. I’ve always liked those kinds of places, and I saw that that was really lacking in Nepal. I was inspired by my school days back in Singapore. So, I thought why not do something like that? The second thing was entrepreneurship. Age and experience has taught me that, at the end of the day, you should aspire for your own small enterprise. So, I thought I might as well have a start-up in something that I’m passionate about. Kataksha embodies all of that, with the lively space, the books and reading, and the tuition classes.
What were you like when you were younger? Did you always try different things?
I don’t think I was very different then from who I am today, in the sense that I was this go-getter, I was just very sociable and I always wanted to do many things. Since when I was young, I realized how fortunate I was to be a Nepali born and raised in Singapore, and that I needed to make the best out of the opportunities that I had. Whether it was singing or dancing or debating or being a part of the student council, I always thought that I could do it. The fact that I had supportive parents is the reason why I am so self-confident.
How did you become a Zumba instructor?
It was a pretty straightforward thing; I was always in the fitness industry. I was doing aerobics at many clubs. Then, Zumba became huge in Nepal, and you’ve got to keep up with the times. I was lucky to have been in the midst of it all from the very start. There were many workshops and trainings in Nepal. I love to dance and exercise, so I decided, why not?
How do you balance everything?
I think the beautiful thing about all of this is that every little thing that I’ve been involved in has always been out of pure love for the job. I started RJ-ing when I was seventeen, the pay wasn’t good and it was a long distance from home, but I did it because I’ve always wanted to be a part of a radio station. Then, I started teaching, because I genuinely wanted to help the students. It didn’t pay very well either, but it wasn’t for the money at all. It was purely out of love and passion. It sounds very cliché, but that really helps.
When I was at the peak of my career, I was doing five things—RJ-ing, taking classes at two different colleges, writing, and doing Zumba classes every morning and evening. So, it was three industries, and all of it to be scheduled in a day. I could have given up one or two things, but I didn’t want to, because I felt like I was managing it well. Sometimes it got crazy and I took a week off from everything except teaching. I don’t see balancing as something I did consciously but something I got used to eventually.
What mental health care tips would you give to busy people?
For me, at this stage, being mentally fit basically also means staying mentally happy. I lucked out, because the biggest aspect in my life is my daughter. I would be dead tired. But then I would go home and not work on anything. Just spending time with her would make me feel better about everything. Aside from that, what I also really like to do is reflect. Usually, at the end of the week, I reflect back on what things triggered me and I try to learn from them. If I feel that something is really bothering me, I’ll try to get it solved or just put it out of my way. I don’t write journals, but it is advisable for people to write it out sometimes; to keep track of the different things that might be affecting you.
The other thing that works for me, and this is something I call my guilty pleasure, is that I love going through everything on Instagram for an hour. Mental health is so important. It’s so important to find what relaxes you. If you cannot do the reflections and meditations, you can kill two birds with one stone by getting physical. In the comfort of your bedroom, do five burpees, or ten jumping jacks. It automatically makes you feel better. I can guarantee this.
What do you hope people take away from your story?
I want them to know that it is so important to have a great support system and to appreciate that, because I would not have been able to do all of this in isolation. Having a support system is something you have a big hand in; if you support someone, the support comes back to you. Also, if you put your mind to it, you can do it.
What are your plans now?
Like I said before, age catches up to you, other obligations come up, so when you have a passion you should do it. I’ve done a lot of things, and now I’ve decided that the one thing that what I really want to do for the rest of my life is to be an educator. So, I decided to better myself by going further with my studies and do a course that is not really covered in the Nepali curriculum. I’m doing my masters in teaching and education. I believe it isn’t just experience, sometimes you need to learn and study certain things. I’m doing something that will help me further my goals of doing something for the Nepali education system.
Kataksha, a word meaning reflection, is an educational hub in Naxal.