OUT NOW: KINDNESS, KALE AND KETTLEBELLS – SUDHANA SINGH
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“A poignant and evocative story told from the perspective of a person with a deep spiritual understanding of different cultures, with a love for South Africa and England.” – Nerusha Naidoo, Secretary: KwaZulu Natal Legislature, South Africa
“I believe in a culture of non-labels. I am not a woman, British, South African, Indian. I am a spirit soul.” From Kindness, Kale & Kettlebells
Sudhana Singh worked hard to land her dream job as Head of a primary school in Reading, Berkshire UK.
She was not to know that within one year her dream would lay in tatters and she would be fighting for justice against the bullying and racism that saw her finally resigning from the job she had loved.
The resulting case drew headlines from both local and national press.
Sudhana is successfully moving her life on from this traumatic experience, as well as the breakdown of her marriage, and decided to write a book. It went well for a few weeks before she suddenly lost all enthusiasm. She soon realised that she needed to tell her own story before she could begin to tell that of another. This realisation prompted her to write her memoir, Kindness, Kale and Kettlebells, which is due for release in June.
Now putting her degree in Psychology and her own personal life experiences to good use Sudhana is Director of Imbue, a coaching and training company. As an executive coach, she inspires others to change the narrative of their life stories, and to overcome trauma with positivity and optimism.
Sudhana has three beautiful daughters – Uma, Radha and Lavanya.
“Kindness, kale and kettlebells serve my body and mind, which are only vessels for that atomic part – the spirit soul. The spirit soul is the invincible spark that exists in you and me, and will never be destroyed, irrespective of the power of the weapon wielded.” – Sudhana Singh
5 July 2010
I turned into my parking space, pulled my heavy laptop bag onto my shoulder, and punched in the school security code. The building was ominous and watchful – like the still African veld – with every creature hidden behind the lush grass at the waterhole, eyes squinting against the dazzling morning sunlight, ears pricked, primed for the impending spectacle. I entered the building. Moorlands School was my battleground. I had travelled over 10,000 miles to drink here.
Inside, the imminent danger flooded my being, like diesel glugging an engine. It filled me with terror. I shook my thoughts aside and squared my shoulders. ‘You can do this’, I reminded myself. I checked my diary. A short morning meeting with a parent. Usual whole school assembly. The regional union rep was coming in straight after assembly. I had received the email from her the previous evening. She must have known that events had escalated. I hadn’t slept the last few weeks. Every time I woke up, I felt exhausted. And alone.
I had talked to Mum and Dad the night before, and I could still hear Dad’s anxious voice, ‘Don’t drive your convertible. Don’t put your windows down.’
‘We are praying for your safety,’ Mum added, with a catch in her voice.
After the assembly, I went into Bree’s office and closed the door. Bree was a member of the Leadership Team, and clerk to the governors. Her droll wit, delivered with a deadpan face, had lightened many moments in my early months of headship. As our professional relationship had grown into friendship, I used her twenty-one years at the school as a barometer for my relationship with the governors, Reading Borough Council (RBC) and my own staff.
‘What are Ms Green and Ms Jones (senior RBC staff) doing here? I didn’t see anything in my diary?’
‘No, there’s nothing in the diary,’ Bree confirmed. ‘I received a call at 9.05 saying that they will be here at 9.15 for a meeting.’
We looked at each other. I saw my sense of foreboding mirrored in her face.
‘I need help. There is no one I can talk to,’ I said. ‘Let me finish this parent meeting.’
She touched my arm, her blue eyes clouded with concern.
At 9.55 I was done with the parent meeting. Ms Green and Ms Jones were waiting for me.
I looked at Ms Green. She looked straight back, determined and watchful.
‘I have not been informed of this meeting, and don’t feel comfortable taking it,’ I said to her.
‘Things have happened over the weekend, I’m afraid the meeting has to take place. And you have your union rep to support you,’ she insisted.
We went into my office. Ms Green, Ms Jones, and the rep, all took a seat opposite me.
Ms Green opened: ‘Ms Talbot informed me over the weekend that the children and staff are at risk. I have the right to shut the school down. I’m not going to do this. Instead, you are being placed on a week’s garden leave.’
‘I would like to speak to the rep alone,’ I said.
Ms Green and Ms Jones left, went to the car park and waited in their vehicle.
‘If you don’t take the garden leave then you will be suspended. This will be on your record,’ the rep said. She continued, ‘RBC are willing to offer you severance pay. If you don’t take them up on this offer, you will be placed on garden leave.’
‘Garden leave? What does that mean?’ I asked her.
‘It’s when you take time off to do gardening.’
‘You can agree to leave the school, take compensation and a good reference, and you would not have to go through any further mental stress,’ she added.
‘I won’t be taking the compensation.’
‘Would you like to tell Ms Green?’
‘I will tell her. And walk you to your car.’
I picked up my handbag and we walked out of my office. I darted into Bree’s office and whispered to her what had taken place. She hugged me, fighting back tears. I felt like burying my head onto her solid, dependable shoulders and crying.
‘Tell Andrea,’ I said.
‘Oh, Sudhana, this is horrible. The way this is being done. It’s so obvious, the way Ms Green and Ms Jones waited around for an hour for you. All the staff know something is happening.’
She looked at me and said, ‘I’ll get my keys. Let me drive you home.’
‘No, I’ll manage,’ I said.
‘Are you sure?’ she asked.
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak without breaking down. She turned her face away as she tried to control her tears.
I opened the door. The rep was waiting. I passed the school secretary in reception. She usually looked up when I left. Now her head was bent as she pored over a riveting document. The admin assistant looked up, saw the rep and looked away. I opened the school door and walked the few metres to my car. The rep waited for me to get in, and walked back into the school.
“A memoir of lion-like courage told with compassion, love and humour. A chilling insight into racism in a mature democracy, a wrong set right after 135 years, a woman’s triumphs that a generation can share.” – Tim Jeebodh, Community Activist & former Member of Parliament, South Africa