Radha Babu Reddy encompasses so many of the traits we look for in a Faces of Nashville profile: her life story is fascinating, her service and commitment to making Nashville a better place to live is tireless, and her quest to focus inward as a way to realize personal growth and happiness is a daily ritual. Content merely to have the opportunity to make a difference, she works behind the scenes to make our world a positive place, asking for no recognition. StyleBlueprint is pleased to introduce you to Radha Babu Reddy.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in the small town of Anantapur in the Southern region of India.
When and why did you move to Nashville?
I moved to Nashville right after college to marry my husband who is currently a cardiologist at St. Thomas. I was twenty years old. And as you may know, most marriages in India are arranged. My husband came to India on two previous occasions to find a bride and those meetings did not result in a union. He had high ideals and knew what type of person he wanted to marry.
Right now I am flabbergasted. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who had their marriage arranged. Can you elaborate?
It seems odd to you, but to me it was a normal thing. I trusted my parents to find someone who reflected the character and values of our family. In India love is learned. You fall in love after marriage. Also, I want to point out that I did get a vote — they selected the man and I gave my approval. You must understand, I had never dated a man or even looked at another man. I planned to further my studies and get a graduate degree, which was quite appealing to my future husband. His family was quite involved in the process, as was mine, with my relatives coming to his home several times to meet him. They sold me on his positive attributes. That helped me make my decision.
Was it hard leaving your family at 20?
Not really. I went to boarding school, so I had already left home. Now, I visit every year, but when I was first married, we only visited India every five years.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given?
“Being complete is more important than being perfect.” For me, I have learned to embrace life for what it is, understanding my strengths and weaknesses. If something is bothering me, I am comfortable searching from within to understand what is really going on with me.
You do a tremendous amount of service in the Nashville community. What motivates you to do this type of work?
I have always been drawn to service work for others. I want to be part of something positive, and to feel I make a difference. Through service to others, I learn so much, whether it is answering questions when I give tours of the Hindu temple or serving lunch to the homeless woman at a shelter. A simple question can lead me down a path to greater knowledge. If I enter this type of work open minded, I always find enlightenment.
Your reference to enlightenment reminds me that you said you follow a guru. Can you tell me more about that?
My studies with the SAI center is the most time-consuming work I do. It is a small spiritual center which concentrates on teaching in small study circles. My guru is Satya Sai Baba, a truly enlightened man. Gurus are divine beings and represent a torch of light through which one can find many answers. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to study under a guru.
The jewelry you make is sold at the Atelier and the Frist Center gift shop. Tell me about your jewelry?
I reconnected with an amazing woman from my hometown. She is running 5 charitable organizations back in India, one of which provides a nursing education for girls who would have otherwise dropped out of school. I knew if I sent money to her that it would go to the girls. I design and make my jewelry knowing that if people like it, then they will buy it. With each piece of jewelry, I intuitively know when it is completed. This year, 11 girls graduated from nursing school, with more to come. They say if you educate a woman, you educate a village. I believe in this philosophy.
Do you have any irrational fears?
I have studied music all my life, yet am terrified to open my mouth.
What books can be found on your bedside table?
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
I cook Monday through Friday, usually traditional Indian food. On Saturday evenings, my husband cooks – usually something other than Indian food. We have a lovely dinner together.
Event most looking forward to attending this fall?
The fall is a magical time in Nashville. I take long walks at Radnor lake, usually with my camera in hand. Thanksgiving is a big deal for our family. My husband starts watching the Food Network in September to get ideas for recipes. It is a big affair!
What is your “must-have” purchase?
I collect textiles. In India, every community has its own variation of textiles and artisans making linens with certain stitches, dyes and designs. I am lucky because my cousin is an interior designer in New York. She hires local artisans back in India who send her fabrics and textiles. She is able to design clothing and home goods for her clients. Most people don’t know this, but when we marry in India, it is not unusual for a bride to be given 20-30 saris for her wedding. They are gorgeous, handmade from 100% silk.
Where is your favorite place to eat in Nashville?
Probably F. Scott’s. If you are interested in traditional Indian food, Swagruha in the Farmer’s Market is the best example of gourmet food from the southern region of India. It is simply delicious.
Favorite vacation spot?
Of course, I love a quiet beach with long walks and reading, but I have to say that Machu Picchu is a magical place. It is the only place I have been where I feel the human spirit competing with God’s creation. I was completely speechless and felt so alive.
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God).
My three physical needs are:
A computer – especially Google search
Exercise – yoga, pilates, walking
Radnor Lake – a place of simple goodness
My three emotional needs are: