All eyes were focused in the direction of this charming lady who walked across the room at Gulf City Shopping Complex. Like a professional model she turned around to look at the people who filled the auditorium before continuing to walk to her seat as a judge on TTT’s Mastana Bahar. The lady is Vidya Pooran Muradali, principal of the Tabaquite Composite School. She flashed a pretty smile when asked if she will consent to an interview for People magazine. “Listen, I wouldn’t mind at all. I have something interesting to say,” she said in a polite and humble voice. She was the very first principal of ASJA Girls High School in San Fernando. She served as principal for 18 years before moving on to the Tabaquite Composite School. She has been serving as principal there for 20 years now. “Shortly after my return from India where I obtained my degree in Human Psychology the president of ASJA, Haji Shaffick Rahaman approached me to head the staff at the girls’ college. This was back in 1966. And the school was housed under the mosque in San Fernando. I accepted but I wanted to pursue law. I thought I’d leave after a year. But my love for children kept me at the school for so many years,” she said. Before serving as a teacher she was the principal at age 22.
She said that back then she was admired for being a brave and intelligent woman. “I was never the shy type who would not speak up. I was always very outspoken and conscious of what must be done in any given situation,” she said. She had the opportunity to be the boss of the now Minister of Education, Hazel Manning. “Hazel was a teacher at ASJA and I was a principal. And you know once a boss always a boss. Although she is now the Minister of Education, she still has lots of respect for me,” she said. Speaking about her childhood days, she said that she lost her father Roopchand Pooran, when she was just 14 years old. “He was a hard working man who left us (her sisters) with enough money to be educated and to live comfortably,” she said. She has three sisters who are just as successful as herself. Her elder sister is Dr Kala Pooran Mahabir, and her younger sister Joy worked as a flight attendant for many years with BWIA before becoming a radiologist. Her youngest sister Malti is now a registered nurse. All four girls were all very beautiful. Vidya’s father was the proud owner of the Oriental Bazaar in San Fernando and the Metro cinema, also in south. Together with her sisters she would spend long hours at the cinema looking at the Indian movies that were coming out of India during the 50’s. “Imagine we would see the same movie over and over again. And we would emulate the stars by making the same kinds of outfits and singing the songs. Those were the good old days,” she laughed out loud while speaking.
Other memorable pastimes were when the stars of India visited TT. “Of course my home is close to Skinner Park so they will stay at my house and I had an opportunity to eat and laugh with them. Back then my sisters and I were considered to be like stars ourselves. We carry an equal amount of beauty and we were all very educated,” she said. She remembered when the legendary star Amitabh Bachchan and his wife Jaya Bachchan came to Trinidad. “I had the time of my life just sharing the same room with this person. He is really a star in every sense of the word,” she said. She remembers waking up early to apply makeup and get dressed up so that she could serve breakfast in the morning for the stars of India. Vidya is married to the well-known radio announcer, Nazim Muradali who is now a Justice of Peace. She noted that on her return from India, Nazim came to interview her for radio. “I was wearing a green Shalwar Kameez (traditional East Indian fashion), and he fell in love with me back then. He came for the interview and he never left after that,” she joked about her first encounter with the man who became her husband. They have two children, Kavita who is practicing lawyer in Barbados and Navi her son who is a doctor at San Fernando General Hospital. Navi holds two degrees including a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and MBBS (medicine). Although Vidya is married to a Muslim, she maintains a strict life as a Hindu woman. She is a vegetarian and a devotee of Lord Shiva. “I have a gift that I would know when someone is plotting against me. I can sense the negative vibrations. Even with my children, I would know,” she revealed. She noted that intense devotion to Lord Shiva is the reason for her powers. She spends long hours chanting and doing devotion and she this she says is the reason for her success in life.
She also had a strong link with the saint of India, Satya Sai Baba. She quoted Baba’s word, “Maan Maana Bhav,” which means “remember me.” These words worked wonders for Vidya through the years. She noted that if one remembers Sai Baba he or she will never be denied of the good things in life. “If you pray to God with a genuine heart, then all your wishes will come true. It is that simple,” she said. Her passion in life is to travel the world, looking at the different cultures and meeting the great people of the world. She loves to sample the different types of foods and to enjoy the open air at the seaside. Vidya also loves community service. It is no surprise therefore that she has been serving as a judge of Mastana for the past 22 years. She has also been judging Miss Maha International, Miss Ebony, the Indian Cultural Pageant, the local leg of Miss World and many other beauty competitions in the country. She is a member of the Cheshire Home for disabled children as well as a member of the Soropthomist. She received an award from ASJA College for the longest serving principal of the school recently. Although she is in her 50’s, she is very active and energetic. This beautiful lady remains one of the most admired in south Trinidad.
[Ed: Muradali passed away on the 22nd day of October, 2006.]
Article first published by Newsday November 2 2003