In Sudha Menon's book, 'Devi, Diva or She-Devil - The Smart Career Woman's Survival Guide', women talk about how they try to balance marriage, motherhood and a career
Photos: Sudha Menon; the cover of the book
By Shevlin Sebastian
At the end of 2010, Bollywood director Farah Khan released her film, 'Tees Maar Khan'. There were great expectations, since her earlier two films, 'Main Hoon Na' and 'Om Shanti Om' had been blockbusters. However, 'Tees Maar' became a flop.
“I remember the day the first reviews came in and the nasty jokes started doing the rounds,” she says. “I locked myself in our house when I realised that even my friends were laughing behind my back, saying cruel things about me and the film.”
Her husband Shirish Kunder told Farah to switch off her phone and stay off Facebook and Twitter.
Eventually, Farah recovered from the fiasco by recalling what her mother-in-law once told her: “None of the folks who are laughing at you, have achieved what you have. Just be grateful for the many blessings you have.”
This is an anecdote from 'Devi, Diva or She-Devil - The Smart Career Woman's Survival Guide', written by the Pune-based author Sudha Menon.
A lucidly written book, it details the experiences of many achievers as they tackle marriage, motherhood and a busy career. The chapter headings gives an indication of how Sudha went about her task: 'Living Your Passion', 'Don't talk to my chest, I have a face', 'Ambition is not a bad word', and 'Dealing with mother's guilt'.
Talking about their lives are achievers like food writer Karen Anand, actor Lilette Dubey and international boxing champion Mary Kom.
But what was an eye-opener was the guilt that women felt as they became mothers, and continued with their careers. Says Mary: “Returning to the boxing ring after leaving my one-year-old twins back at home [in Manipur] was one of the most difficult phases of my life. I was torn between the pull of the ring and the wails of my babies, and so I drove my husband and family crazy by calling them repeatedly, to give them instructions on how to take care of my kids.”
Some took the decision to prioritise their child over their careers. “Having a child did slow me down, but I know my duty to nature is more important than my duty to my job,” says top professional Manisha Girotra. “There is a reason why a child calls for the mother and not the father when she is sick or in trouble.”
Or as another professional Aruna Jayanthi says, “In the corporate world, no one is indispensable, but in my daughter's life, I am irreplaceable.”
Another hidden problem is the ostracism of the career woman by the home-makers. A mid-level executive told Sudha that she leads a solitary life, even though she lives in a gated community.
“One reason is because the [all-woman] activities like belly dancing and Zumba classes take place, either at 11 a.m. or 4 p.m., virtually barring anybody with a career from their inner circle,” writes Sudha. “When they socialise in the evenings, it is within their group.”
Meanwhile, since women wear so many hats at the same time, the key to survival is through delegating. ANZ Bengaluru Hub Managing Director Pankajam Sridevi says, “If you focus on all your seven or eight roles with the same precision, you will burn out and drop the ball. So, let go of trying to be the super wife and super mother.”
The book concludes with tips for working women. Businesswoman Devita Saraf says, “Find something to do that you are excited about, and work will never seem like a chore or a struggle.” As for scriptwriter Honey Irani, she says, “Who we become and what we do is all about self-belief.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)