“A woman always gathers all sorts of labels as she moves forward with her life. She can be the nurturing Devi or domestic goddess who devotes herself completely to her family, she can be a Diva if she lives life on her own terms and she can quickly be labelled She-Devil if she is assertive and firm when it comes to fulfilling herself either in her personal life or in her career. But these are all stereotypes,” explains author and journalist, Sudha Menon, in her new book – Devi, Diva or She-Devil: The smart career woman’s survival guide, a veritable treasure trove of life and career enhancing strategies from the likes of accomplished women in various career fields.
The author’s previous books include Leading Ladies: Women Who Inspire India, Legacy: Letters from Eminent Parents to their Daughters and Gifted: Inspiring Stories of People with Disabilities.
For her new book, the author has interviewed women from varying professions like choreographer and director, Farah Khan, Olympic-medal winning boxer, Mary Kom, India’s first female sports journalist Sharda Ugra, image management guru and Raindrop Media founder Rohini Iyer, Moelis Bank CEO, Manisha Girotra and many other accomplished women.
But, did all these women face similar struggles to get to where they are now? Menon responds emphatically in the affirmative, “Each of them had a different story but the narrative of women’s struggles are the same everywhere in the world. Sharda Ugra was the only women covering sports back in the early nineties when it was a very male-dominated sphere. When she would cover cricket events at Wankhede Stadium, there were no toilets for women. She made do by having a male colleague stand guard outside the lone gentleman’s loo in the media box. Eventually, she found out that even the famed Wimbledon tennis complex did not have a separate loo for women sports journalist! As a young girl Rohini Iyer dreamt of having a life in the world of films; today she has some of the top Bollywood stars on her speed dial since they are her clients. All of the women in the book have learnt to circumvent the challenges they face. They have one thing in common; a great awareness of their self-worth and passion for their work.”
Speaking about her experience while growing up as a child, the author says, “My parents always told us that there is no substitute for good education. I was not a great student but I had no choice but to work hard. Growing up in a small town in suburban Mumbai, I had close girl friends who came from homes where the boys would get the best of everything. They went to school but when they came home in the evening they had to help in all the household work before they attended to their homework. And they were barely out of college when they were married off. Nobody told them that their lives were worth more than that! And nobody asked them what they wanted to do with their life. It is so important to raise our girls with messages of the importance of self-worth and independence.”
The stories of all women interviewed in the book are easily relatable for Menon as she has had a tremendous journey as a journalist for 20 years and now as an author. “Women’s journeys are all linked by a common thread because we all face similar challenges. The only difference would be that of privilege. I could totally relate because I am very passionate about my career. I was a very young mother and I struggled with trying to raise my daughter, be a good journalist and play all of the other roles that I and every woman have to play. And so, when I got the chance to listen to the stories of other women who went through the same challenges and not only survived but made great progress with their life, I wanted to write a book about it so that other women can take lessons from these stories.”
Menon, who is also the founder of Writing With Women, a project to bring women from diverse backgrounds together to share their experiences through writing says, “When two women speak, they open their hearts to each other with complete trust. The women featured in Devi Diva or She Devil did just that. They trusted me and knew I would not doubt the authenticity of their stories. My key take away from this book is that we women have both the responsibility and the ability to empower the lives of other women and we should take this seriously. We can all do with hand-holding in crucial times in our lives, mentoring and flourish as a community if we all help each other.”
‘Devi, Diva or She-Devil: The smart career woman’s survival guide’ is now available online and in bookstores .
The author will launch the book at Crossword, Aundh , Pune, on February 11, 6 pm.
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