Dhiraj Sharma: My mum in her own words

Celebrate Mother's Day with heartwarming stories of the intergenerational bond between Usha Sharma Rodriguez and her son Dhiraj.

Reading Time: 5 minutes


Our Mother’s Day series ‘My Mum in her own words’ pays tribute to our mothers, showcasing the intergenerational bond between mother and child. Here, Dhiraj Sharma, fraud consultant at NAB, interviews his mother, Usha Sharma Rodriguez, former Victorian Multicultural Commissioner, MC, Justice of the Peace and marriage celebrant.

Dhiraj Sharma: Looking back on the early years after we moved to Australia and after Dad passed away, what were some of the challenges you faced raising us on your own in a new country, and how did you find the strength to overcome them?

Usha Sharma Rodriguez: It was a shock when Dad passed; luckily on my in-laws’ side of the family I had a huge support network. By this time I had found myself a great job with Rennick and Gaynor Solicitors, so I had income coming in to support our day-to-day living, and support at work as well.

My brother-in-law Nalin Sharma and his wife Irene left no stone unturned to look after you and Deepanjali (Dipu), while I worked and paid our mortgage. We lived with them, and they took care of your school needs. They were our strength and support. My boss and senior partner at Rennik and Gaynor, David Corrigan, let me grieve and supported me through this difficult time. I still went to work but was given a lot of encouragement. my

Usha Sharma Rodriguez
Usha with her daughter Deepanjali (Source: Supplied)

Dhiraj Sharma: You’ve been deeply involved with the Indian community and cultural events since we were in high school. How important has it been for you to maintain a connection to our cultural heritage and to share it with the broader community in Melbourne?

Usha Sharma Rodriguez: It’s funny you ask that question, Dhiru (Dhiraj), because there was no intention for me to get involved within the community at all! I was invested in taking care of my parents-in-law and looking after our day-to-day needs. I must mention my brother and sister-in-law Raj and Usha Babbar took us in and we all lived with them for a while. At this point Biji would always tell Usha Aunty to take me with them when they went socialising. I was very hesitant, but they were fun filled entertaining parties where I started meeting people.

Then my brother, late Prem Charan forced me into doing an MC stint when one of the MCs for his musical show got ill. I put up all the resistance but to no avail; he said, “you come from a family of teachers and public speakers so you can do it.” That was that, as a good Indian girl – you do what you are told to do by your eldest brother, right! That was the beginning of my communicating with the Indian community.

Dhiraj Sharma: Serving as a Multicultural Commissioner of Victoria is a significant achievement. Can you share an experience or event during your tenure that you found particularly meaningful or impactful? 

Usha Sharma Rodriguez: My most important belief is that we must, at all costs, share our heritage and traditions with our children before they get forgotten forever. It [prompted] me to start an organisation for youth so they could meet older people away from their homes to support them. They also had a platform to show their talent; instead of making groups of drinking friends and involvement with sometimes unsavoury people, these youth had something to work towards.

I had the great fortune of meeting the late Mrs Hardeep Madan and we developed a massive relationship. We ventured into organising social entertainment events under Sangam Community Association with our team of excellent personalities in Melbourne in those days.

Dhiraj Sharma: From being a Justice of the Peace to a marriage celebrant, you’ve taken on roles that directly impact people’s lives. What motivates you to serve the community in these capacities, and do you have any memorable moments from these roles you’d like to share?

Usha Sharma Rodriguez: It was Hon. Hong Lim who recommended the VMC position for me, having seen my work in the community and my relationship with them. The first thing I remember Mr George Lekakis said to me at our first meeting was: ‘you’ll meet a lot of people in your tenure who will totally ignore you for many reasons, do not let that bother you. Listen and observe and do what you think is the best that you can do.’ I have never forgotten that.

Usha Sharma Rodriguez
Usha Sharma Rodriguez with her husband Mario Rodriguez and son Dhiraj (Source: Supplied)

Dhiraj Sharma: Considering our humble beginnings and the obstacles you’ve overcome, what are the most important values or lessons you’ve hoped to pass on to my sister and me?

Usha Sharma Rodriguez: Both you and Dipu have been my stars and I’m proud of what you two have achieved, like you said, from humble beginnings, so different from what you both were used in India. I remember when I had to sit you both down to explain that there would be times that we would not be able to have everything that we would desire, and you both joined this situation, pooling in money and effort with Uncle Nalin to achieve your education and become your own persons. You learnt very important lessons of life, and you are both living that today.

What I would like to pass on to you both is that family is very important, you are the ones that your children look up to. Be kind, helpful and give time to anyone that seeks help whether you know them or not – their blessings come back to you or your children in incredible ways. Do not expect anything in return for what you do.

Dhiraj Sharma: Looking back on your journey from when we first arrived in Australia to now, how do you think you’ve grown personally? And what achievements are you most proud of?

Usha Sharma Rodriguez: You know, I never thought I could do any of these things, and that was the pleasure of it, I did things without any knowledge that I could make a difference to someone. I can remember living from the back of my car for a bit… I think you also remember me running in and out of the house, going for this event or that function, and getting the meals ready as well! I don’t know how I did that Dhiru… luckily your Biji, Papaji, Nanaji and Naniji were a great help at this time, as well as Mario. Sometimes life brings events your way.

READ MORE: Uma Vincent: My mum in her own words

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