The Proust Questionnaire is a fortnightly feature that alternates with the Saturday interview. These questions were most famously answered by the French writer Marcel Proust, whose personality-revealing responses came to define this form of celebrity confession. This fortnight’s questionnaire was administered by S.B. Vijaya Mary
What is your idea of happiness?
Freedom of mind and spirit. An easy example is that wonderful feeling when I don’t have timelines, deadlines, appointments, phone calls or emails to attend to and everything seems complete in my mind, and I am free to take a long walk or swim with my loved ones.
What is your greatest fear?
Perhaps it’s the fear that some day I too will stop walking the talk. There’s is a fine line between living one’s truth and looking good. I hope I never choose to cross over.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I don’t romanticise history, but I do have a strong urge for environmental living — so I must have been a tribal or villager of some sort. I feel empathy for women during wars, losing their husbands, children and homes. War is such a wasteful activity. Who knows! Perhaps I have been there in the past and hence feel strongly about them.
Which living person do you most admire?
Nelson Mandela, Dada Vaswani, Harsh Mander, Shabana Azmi – I admire their humanitarian work. But sadly even Nelson Mandela could not keep corruption out of his cabinet and within a year, I am told, the victims of apartheid turned into perpetrators of corruption on their own people. Greed has no boundaries of colour or country does it? I admire my father-in-law a lot too. He is an amazing human being.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My immense attachment to my comfort zone.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What I find most deplorable is cruelty of spirit – racism, casteism, and religious or social prejudice.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Latitudes spa every Sunday.
What is your favourite journey?
The inner one. It makes me stronger and wiser to take the outer ones.
Who is your favourite painter?
A simple question but I am giving you a complicated answer. I have realised that paintings are of different kinds: living paintings, moving paintings, digital art and traditional ones. I enjoy them all and have no particular favourites. To stop and appreciate whatever is in front of one is a gift, and to be able to look within as well.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Charity without the spirit of compassion. I see too many individuals obsessed with charity for social name but have no true charity of spirit.
On what occasion do you lie?
When asked to functions. I treasure my quiet time and have tried to be truthful, but people don’t take quiet time as an option.
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Haven’t given it much thought….
Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t go there. Who am I to judge? But paedophiles and rapists should get the death penalty if you ask me.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Abhivruddhi kosam krushi chaeyyali, chaitanyam ravali, himsalu aapali. [Work hard towards development, bring in awareness, stop violence.]
What is your greatest regret?
Not being able to speak Telugu well.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Nag, of course!
When and where were you happiest?
Here and now, I suppose. This is the happiest I have ever been. I love the age and the wisdom and the phase I am passing through.
What is your present state of mind?
Busy. I do feel the need for some quiet time and am planning it soon. I am off for my 10-day annual Vipassana retreat.
How would you like to die?
I have come to terms with my mortality, so I am ready if the end comes. I would like it to be peaceful and prepare my loved ones and workplace to carry on just fine without me. I certainly would not want any grieving – a celebration of life perhaps.
What is your favourite motto?
I have lots of them: Never become too busy to save a life! If you take the praise then jolly well take the blame! Unwrap each day like a gift! Smile and the world smiles with you! The list goes on…
Amala Akkineni stepped into the limelight as a student of Rukmini Devi Arundale’s Kalakshetra. Films followed in the 1980s, and she ruled the marquee for a while. But she finally found her calling in animal activism. As the founder of Blue Cross in Hyderabad, she has worked hard to make people aware of animals’ rights. Today, Amala works passionately towards issues concerning the environment, domestic violence and women’s empowerment as well.