Shervonne Rodney, of Arima Central Government Secondary, is the 2017 National Junior Calypso Monarch champ.
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Attorney Veera Bhajan…Standing proud
So much has been written about young phenom Veera Bhajan since she burst onto the national stage and into the national consciousness back in 1999. That’s the year she wrote and aced the then Common Entrance exam, passing for her first choice St Augustine Girls’ High School (SAGHS), and placing in the top 100 students in T&T. August born, she gifted her parents a tiny armless bundle 23 years ago, kicking and screaming ready to take on the challenges of the world. And that is exactly what this dynamo from central Trinidad has done in transcending these challenges that lesser mortals may not have had the mental and physical strengths to conquer.
Often described as inspirational and exceptional, the petite Bhajan was admitted to the bar to practise as an attorney, in October, and is now focused on building a successful career. Possessing great courage and determination to overcome the odds of being born armless, she has had to endure much adversity. “I have so much to be thankful for, especially God and my parents. “I’ve had numerous challenges and obstacles, but with the support and love of my parents, and self-belief and confidence, I have so far been able to overcome all of them.”
From an early age, her parents had encouraged her to use her feet to get ahead. “There was no special training involved, using my feet as my hands just came naturally. I would pick up pencils and other things as a little girl. Most things that others can do with their hands, I can do with my feet.” Bhajan is able to write using her left foot and she’s comfortable navigating her laptop with her toes.
"The teachers at my primary school... well my teachers at all levels were encouraging, so can we say teachers and friends were very helpful and encouraging. I was never treated differently at school and I made friends easily, and it did help that many of the students at school already knew me from the area where many of us grew up together.” Despite being subjected to constant stares and numerous questions, Bhajan has always received the assistance and encouragement of her teachers, friends and community throughout her life. Given her resilience and determination, it is no surprise that she was able to complete all levels of school and fulfil her dream of becoming an attorney.
Although she is faced with numerous challenges daily, Bhajan has seized every opportunity to live a normal, happy life. “Be thankful each day for your numerous blessings and always believe in yourself,” she advises. Among her more than 40 accolades and awards, she rates two of them high atop the list: 2004, recipient of Humming Bird Silver Medal for Youth Inspiration and Development, and 2006, Express Individual of the Year.
The Sunday Guardian caught up with the effervescent and jovial Bhajan.
Q: What were your dreams of the future when you were a kid?
A: I dreamt of being an attorney-at-law and thankfully I’m living my dream today.
Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
I wish to build a successful career in the legal profession and also become a motivational speaker.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
My parents and sister Reshma have been the biggest influence in my life, and their enduring love and commitment have allowed me to achieve my best.
What is/are the most important lesson/s you’ve learned in life?
I’ve learnt to have faith in myself and always focus on my abilities rather than my limitations. I’ve learnt to be thankful each day and keep a positive attitude at all times.
When and where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born on August 24, 1988, in Chaguanas and I grew up in Felicity, Chaguanas.
What area of law do you plan to specialise in?
I have an interest in corporate law.
Can you tell me about your religious/spiritual beliefs?
I’m a devout Hindu and I started attending temple with my family from a baby. I share a very close relationship with God and strongly believe that He will never let me fall.
Do you have a favourite joke you’d like to share with us?
Well, people hardly ever like this joke but I do: Why did Cinderella never make the cricket team? Because she was always running away from the ball (laughing loudly).
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Strong, bubbly, determined.
Who were the people who have influenced you the most outside of your immediate family, in your career and in life in general, and how did they?
I would definitely have to say my teachers and friends. They have always given me the encouragement and support I needed throughout my school life and private life.
Tell us about your inspiration to do the type of work you do. What would you say and what advice would you give to anyone contemplating a vocation such as yours?
It’s a field that is quite challenging but one in which you are able to learn something new every day. It could be very time-consuming but with a great passion for it, it can also be very enjoyable. You gotta make it fun!
Who was your hero or “idol” growing up (fictional or real or both) and why? And who do you admire most today?
The person whom I admire most today is my mother. She possesses enormous strength and compassion and is a wonderful example to all women, especially mothers. My mother is my greatest blessing, I believe she has done much more for me than I could have done for myself with two arms.
At what schools/institutions did you receive your education?
I attended the Princess Elizabeth Centre, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Nursery School, Felicity Hindu School, St Augustine Girls’ High School, UWI, St Augustine and Cave hill Campus, Barbados and Hugh Wooding Law School, St Augustine.
What is your favourite meal/ dish/food…and drink?
I love Chinese food and unfortunately I think I’m addicted to Coca Cola (big laugh).
What advice would you give to the young people of Trinidad and Tobago?
Despite the numerous challenges you are faced with, always stay focused and never lose sight of your goals. If you fall, pick yourself up and try again. Choose to complain less and give more. Be thankful each day for your countless blessings and always give your best at whatever you do. Have a clear sense of purpose and always remember with self-belief and confidence nothing is impossible.
If you could dine with anyone in history who would it be and why? What dinner conversation would you have with that person?
I’d say Nick Vujicic, an Australian guy who was born without arms and legs. I’m quite amazed by him and would definitely love to learn more about his life story and how he is able to overcome his challenges.
What is your greatest fear in life?
Losing my loved ones, especially my mother.
What daily motto/credo do you live by and in three words, your recipe for success?
Three simple words…Never give up.
What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make?
Ohhh, that’s a personal one (laughing heartily).
What are your most prized possessions: one tangible, one intangible?
My most prized tangible possession is my family and my most prized intangible possession would have to be my strength.
The one place you would like to visit and why?
Ohhh, I would like to visit as many places as I possibly can! Hopefully in the future I’d like to make travelling my new hobby.
Your pet peeve? Your favourite form of relaxation?
My favourite form of relaxation is listening to music and singing along.
What is your favourite pastime/interest/hobby?
I love music, dancing and food…so a nice dinner and a dance floor, with my family and friends is always special.
Of all your accolades, prizes and awards which do you rate as extremely special?
Express Individual of the Year 2006 is very special, the main reason being I was voted number one by the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
What goals and or ambitions do you still have?
I would like to use my life story to inspire others and as such I wish to become a motivational speaker and also write a book. I would also like to have a foundation someday.
What are the things you cannot live without?
Facebook. Okay, no, just kidding (laughing)...I cannot live without prayer, love and friendship.
What is the best compliment you have ever received?
Wow, there are too many to choose from…I receive compliments on a daily basis from numerous persons. I must say the support of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago is quite overwhelming and inspiring to me.
What else about Veera Bhajan would you like our readers to know?
I’m a fighter and a survivor. I am very passionate about life and I am determined to withstand and overcome all obstacles in my way to succeed in life. After all, who needs arms when you have wings.
Oh, and by the way, I am available to interview for any jobs in the corporate legal sector…(bursting out with a big laugh).