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Sitting down for an interview with Bitou Chaturvedi (pronounced Bit-oo) this month, I was greeted with her congenial hospitality. She is sometimes referred to as Betta for short.
Sipping on tea and Namakapara snacks from India, we engaged in a delightful conversation.
Originally from Delhi in India, she moved to Glace Bay in 1983, where her husband was already waiting for her. Bitou’s husband P.K. was a surgeon at the General Hospital in Glace Bay. While in the United Kingdom, he was invited by a local doctor to come to Canada to help with his practice in 1963. Since then P.K. Chaturvedi became one of the highest educated surgeons in Nova Scotia (maybe even Canada).
Bitou comes from a very large, musical family in India on her dad’s side.
“My family is too large for you to count,” she said.
She has learned to play the Sitar, a traditional Indian musical instrument used to play Hindustani classical music. Though she does not play anymore, she still enjoys all types of music, especially vocal music. She also has been known to sing a tune or two at local events of friends.
Highly educated herself, (Bachelor of Science and master's degree in social work), Bitou has volunteered for countless school activities as a chaperone at South Street School and Morrison High. She has two children of her own, Neha and Nitin, that grew up in Glace Bay.
Before coming to Canada, Bitou was a Grade 2 teacher. She has also lectured at Cape Breton University, local high schools, as well as elementary schools.
Bitou fondly remembers The Festival of Lights or Diwali. Similar to the Christian celebration of Christmas, The Festival of Lights celebrates victory over darkness or good over evil. There are gifts exchanged as well as a display of lights just like Christmas.
When asked if she believed in reincarnation as many religions believe, she advised to, “Focus on the present. It is all we have. We don’t have other lives; we have this one.”
Follow the religion you know best. Humanity should be celebrated as a religion, she said. “We should focus more on our commonalities rather than differences.”
Bitou said the comparison of Glace Bay and where she came from in India is too hard to explain. In India, she comes from a big bustling city, and Glace Bay is a small town, though bustling at times, it is still quite small in comparison. The one comparison she made, however, is that both Canada and India are peaceful nations.
She loves meeting people, and is a perfect host, as I was invited into her house for tea and other snacks. She was good friends with Art and Irene MacLean among others such as Barbara Ross, and Edna Buchanan. She loves learning about different cultures, and she is lucky to be surrounded by so many good people.
She loves meeting the new international students who come here, saying that for the most part, they are placid.
India, she said, has always been a peaceful country. “It was the most peaceful country in the world.”
It is a place at the heart of solace and contemplation for many citizens of the world. Many yogis and meditators who are visitors to India’s Ashrams would agree.
In most cases,” she said, living in Glace Bay has been a positive experience for me, “except for the weather.” We both chuckled, as I think everyone who lives here complains about the weather.
Talk about seeking commonalities in everyday town folk, I think I found one. Next time we should talk about winter.
Therese MacAdam is a Glace Bay writer with a deep interest in the community and its people. She can be reached at [email protected]