In conversation with 13 fabulous women

They say youth is wasted on the young. I think that applies specially to women, with so many of us losing precious years in our search for strength and sensuality. Which is why, while the world rushes towards the Millennials, I decided to look in the other direction towards 13 fabulous women who actually know something about navigating the complex journey called Life, to get a fix on what womanhood and International Woman’s Day means to them.

‘When the face fits’ is an Italian way of saying ‘someone is comfortable in their skin’. I like the ‘face fits’ analogy; it has a wonderful symbolism of someone who’s found herself, let go of pretences, complexes and all that’s unnecessary. And it’s the best way to describe the achievers you’ll encounter on this page. All these women have been through their share (and then some) of highs and lows, and have emerged victorious in the most authentic version of themselves.

Pour yourself a nice cuppa (or a stiff vodka) and read what they have to say. Maybe you’ll agree with their views, and maybe you won’t. But that’s all right. As a wise man once said, ‘it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it’.

My 4 questions

  1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
  2. What would be the most important things you’d tell your younger self?
  3. If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?
  4. If there was a dream you had for women globally, it would be ……?

The answers ..

The answers are priceless and opinions varied. But if you are in a rush, find a gist at the end of this post though let me warn you – to not read their outlook in their own words would be a terrible loss!

Bina Ramani

Socialite, fashion designer, restauranteur, trend-spotter & experience-marketer Bina has lived several lives in this lifetime and is currently working on a ‘secret’ project which promises to change how we drink our water!

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_9725Frankly I wish that day could be every day of the year! Why should there only be one such day?

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

Only because I grew up in a large conservative family with separate set of rules for the sons and daughters, and abided by them, I would have a lot to say.
First of all I would go to college and Graduate with an Architectural Degree.
I would marry the man I loved, instead of surrendering to an arranged mariage. It failed.
I would feel free to share my thoughts and opinions. That was not an option available.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

Oprah Winfrey. TIna Turner. They fought against all odds, and suffered in their early lives because they were born a female. They are role models to millions and have shown what epitome of woman can be.

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

That we have equal rights in every way. And never have to live in fear or inferiority. That we have more women leaders ruling the world.

 Brinda Miller

An Art Graduate from Parsons School of Design, Brinda is an artist and passionate promoter of Arts. Straight-shooter, unstoppable & allergic to nonsense, she spearheaded a team of volunteers to take Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai from passé to fabulous – making it India’s best platform for Arts in less than a decade.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?IMG_9724

Everyday could be International Women’s Day.. Is there an International Men’s day? Nobody ever discusses it.

What would be the things you would tell your younger self?

I would acknowledge that I am blessed to be a woman.. and make the most of it. Though I would worry more about my physical safety.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

I would hangout with the guys! If I had to hang out with a woman, it would be my paternal grandmother – she was a strong and powerful matriach.

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

I would like to see all women make it on their own – without any reservation or quota

 Jyoti Birla Kasliwal

Art & Antiques collector, philanthropist, publicist, marketer and brand-builder Jyoti is a charming hybrid of a traditionalist and a rebel. Unpredictable, hilarious & generous, her three great loves are (not husband and children but) scrabble, pinterest and keeping everyone on their toes…

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_4187I think International Women’s Day should be celebrated every day of the year!

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

The first would be never to worry about what the world or the people have to say about what I do, or not. The second thing I would tell myself is to believe in myself, listen to my intuition and take the risks. The third would be to fill life with nothing but love – love for myself, my surroundings, for nature and for the people in my life – to let love be at the centre of all karma regardless of our circumstances.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

I’d rather just hang with an older version of myself because by then I’d be better, brighter, smarter, nicer, funnier and that’s more than enough inspiration for me.

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

My dream for women is that they should dream fearlessly : dream of whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it and whoever they want to be. There are thousands of women who have anonymously created the building blocks of our civilisation. Just because they are not written about it doesn’t mean that their contribution is any less. Just be a better version of yourself. Take a leap of faith and remember that victory is on the other side of fear.

 Malvika Singh

Publisher, columnist, author, public-speaker and taste-maker Malvika ‘Mala’ is razor-sharp, passionate and larger than life. Intimidating on a mellow day, she is the grand dame of Delhi’s elite club and currently busy building capital’s newest Arts & Design space – Bikaner House

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?IMG_9749

It doesn’t mean anything to me … everyday is our day …. needs 24X7 respect, partnership and celebration

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

Nurture freedom of thought, follow a passion be it an idea or a person(s), stand by ones personal values and ethics regardless of taboos, and don’t compartmentalise one gender in combat with the other.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

I would love to hang out with Gulbadan at one end and Indira Gandhi at the other. Endless wonderful women like Sarojini Naidu and Joan Littlewood.

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be

A respect for the freedom of spirit as equal partners in shared ideals and dreams, passions and in breaking new ground with ideas and personal initiative

Meenakshi Menon

Fierce and Fabulous, Meenakshi is an activist in a business suit. Be it career, environment, her daughter, friends, trees, love or life, her passion to make every living moment alive, is legendary.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_9726NOTHING! it’s just another idiotic “day” and has no meaning, no substance & never will. It is another example of tokenism at work. It started to give women the vote but along the way while we earned the right to vote we still have not earned the right to be treated as equals. That’s why I am very allergic to the tokenism that is associated with this day. I demand respect and my rights each day of the year. I am not happy with just one day being considered Women’s day!

What would be things you would tell your younger self? 

Unfortunately not much has changed for the better since the time I was 21. yes we do drive better cars & external accouterments of change are visible but in my view there has been a deterioration in the status of women. 35 years ago when I got into advertising the images and social depictions of women were positive and encouraging. Today the physicality of the female form has become the only measure of a woman in popular media. I am glad I am no longer young and naive, cynicism is an important means of surviving & thriving in a man’s world.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

I would love to chill with Mata Hari. That was one iconic women. An exotic dancer & courtesan who was killed by a firing squad for being a spy….except she was not a spy. She was killed for knowing too much and being too much of a woman. It would be wonderful to get to know her.

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

I have a dream for women in India. That they should be free to breathe. That they should be encouraged by their mothers and sisters and grandmothers to fly. That women should help other women instead of clipping their wings. If all women made this promise to themselves we could change this world and make it a better place. Every rapist has a mother & I am sorry to say had she done a better job of teaching her son to respect women, he would not have turned to rape. There are always exceptions but they prove the rule!

 Neelima Dalmia Adhar

Author, poet, astrologer, thinker, mother, wife and homemaker par excellence Neelima is the female version of Raymond’s complete man.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_9728International Women’s Day is a day of celebration of womanhood. A day when women can get together, celebrate being women, all they’ve come through with a reminder of how much further there still is to go.

What would be the things you would tell your younger self?

Don’t allow body shaming to intimidate your thoughts and conduct.
Don’t be afraid to explore your sexuality.
Don’t allow male dominance, or oppression in any form to shackle you.
And don’t be obsessed by fear of social isolation.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

Cleopatra the Queen of the Nile because she knew how to manipulate and swing men according to her whims and fancy.

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

To live in a world that reveres the womb as the sacred sanctum sanctorum, the fountainhead of all life on earth.
To live in a world entirely free of fear, of the mind body and soul.
To live in a world where women are recognized as the omniscient and eternal feminine Shakti that can neither be created nor destroyed.

Sacha Mendes

Writer, fashion stylist Sacha is the force behind one Goa’s best shopping destination-Sacha’s Shop. A multidimensional curator, Sacha thinks of aesthetic not just as a set of principles but more as a person who lives within us all.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_9785It’s a celebration of the female spirit. While i appreciate the idea of women’s day, I think that women should celebrate themselves everyday, and men too!

What would be things you would tell your younger self? 

Be fearless, be confident, stay calm.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

Frieda Kahlo — her work and her life have always fascinated me. It would be nice to hang with her and her pet monkeys i think.

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

Given the current times, I wish for women to be safe in their own skin.

 Sangeeta Pillai-Lander

Copywriter, blogger, foody, Sangeeta is a Mumbai-born Londoner who finds great joy in discovering little things in life. In her spare time she is either writing her novel or finding trouble – there isn’t a dull day under Lander’s sky

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_9729I’m a feminist: my entire life has been defined by a fundamental belief in women’s rights. So while it’s good to have a day like International Women’s Day to celebrate our spirit, perhaps we need many more such days? Still, as long as we receive wishes and perhaps a chocolate or two…let the celebrations carry on!

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

Great question. I would tell my 21-year old self (which is a long, long time ago:) that I should continue fighting for all the important things in my life. You see, while I was fighting for my freedom to choose the life I wanted, I was petrified that it was the wrong thing to do. (I had a very traditional Indian family telling me I was wrong.) Hindsight has shown that if I had listened to them, my life would have turned out very differently. At 21, I would’ve loved to know that I was right…like every woman does:)

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

Jane Austen. She lived in a very traditional time and managed to carve out a strong, self-sufficient life for herself. I loved the language of that time, all the lethal conversations couched under so much polite chit-chat. Plus she’s a fantastic writer so perhaps I could learn a few novelist tricks.

If there was a dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

My dream would be that we wouldn’t need a feminist movement any more. That the world would treat women well and give us equality in pay, marriage, workplace, sexuality…and we wouldn’t need to battle any more. That is a future I dream about…for all the women of the world.

 Shampa Dhar-Kamath

Editor, columnist, creator of Devi Awards, Shampa is a true-blue feminist is there is one. Distinctive, chic, a queen of word-play, she is a nurturer and a modern-day philosopher 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_4188I’ve never been a great believer or lover of ‘special days’ unless it marks a historic occasion related to my country. But, when I think about how much women the world over battle against harassment in the home and outside, against subtle slights and blatant neglect from even those who claim to love them; how they yearn for the same life chances as their brothers and spouses, for recognition and equality in the classroom and workplace; and, most importantly, how they struggle to keep themselves and their daughters safe—I appreciate the need for at least one day in the year when women and their achievements can be celebrated… and the largely-misogynist world’s attention can be drawn to all that needs to be done for them through the 364-day International Men’s Day celebrations.

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been cherished and celebrated by my family all my life. I’ve been encouraged to saunter up on any platform, unhindered, whenever and wherever I please. I’ve been given the freedom to canter ahead (or not) in life, with my hands controlling the reins. I’ve been left free to choose my career, my partner, my lifestyle and my clothes.
But yes, there’s a world and people beyond the family, and its vis-à-vis them that I would tell the young me:
• Screw the duty gene; decide in advance just how much of yourself you want to give.
• Don’t complain, never explain.
• And when in doubt, just cut out (the ignobles from your life, I mean)

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

No saint, for sure. I don’t like them goody-goody people, of either sex. Maybe Indira Gandhi, she of guts and glory (never mind that she liked play-acting as Joan of Arc, as a girl). I love the sass with which India’s first (and, hopefully, not only) woman prime minister once said: “There exists no politician in India daring enough to attempt to explain to the masses that cows can be eaten.”

If there was a dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

Education, education, education. And a world that doesn’t need an International Women’s Day.

Sherry Merchant

A world-renowned scholar and master practitioner of several disciplines of Chinese Metaphysics, Sherry is deeply intuitive and helps people navigate difficult time through a combination of her knowledge, a kind heart and a determination to succeed.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A0BD8DAD-0F69-442A-B267-19CB0E726F64-1848-000004B88023265B_tmpIt makes me cringe that we have one day designated womens day which means the reminder are men’s days? I prefer to live each ḍay as ir were a womens day

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

1. Learn to be financially independent and strongly so. This should be the first thing you work towards. Thereafter you are Free to take any decision based on choices as opposed to helplessness. Learn not to be dependent on anyone financially.
2. Don’t allow anyone to rule your happiness. Don’t give away your control to someone else. You should learn to be happy on your own terms and not the mood of your husband or father or brother. Learn to state your terms and feelings clearly but gently. Being abrasive is not equivalent to being liberated, on the contrary you must learn that a lot more gets done with kindness as opposed to a brusque approach.
3. Having said 1&2 most important is to learn to be a complete woman. Don’t lose your softness, your nurturing and Caring qualities. Work around other peoples inadequacies instead of judging them. The only person one can change is yourself.
4. Look at the issue from the opposite persons viewpoint and see in any situation how you can make things better, losing your ego.
5. Learn to be an obedient and respectful child even at age 60. A woman has to manage many relationships and accepting that is the Most important part. Dealing with them without anger and resentment will make your own life easy

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

Even if it sounds cliche’d I would say mother Teresa simply because she was happy in her selflessness and handles it so effortlessly

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

Financial stability and independence and education and rights on par with men. Truly. The world would have to acknowledge that all other things made equal, a woman would far far succeed ahead of a man.

 Shivani Pandya

Multi-tasker, conductor of possibilities, the brain & force behind one of world’s most successful Film festivals, Shivani is unmoved by glitterati. She is best known for thinking on her feet & keeping a cool head when filmy peeps turn diva’esque and all hell breaks loose.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_9751Celebrating being a woman, there is nothing more beautiful than that !. Only a woman can give life.. and no man can however hard he tries… it’s a woman who paves the way for every man, woman or child and there is no forgetting that..

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

First, be bold and beautiful. Stand tall as there is no telling how many may try and make you fall
Second, define yourself, don’t let others do that for you.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

Mother Teresa – for she stands for all that I fear I don’t have…

CoCo Chanel – to see how skillfully she made it in a man’s world and ofcourse because I love Chanel. .

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

It would be equality and respect…

Shobhaa De

Journalist, columnist, social commentator, opinion-shaper and author of 18 books, Shobhaa manages to balance her family, work and even those who are peeved with her straight talk with effortless ease and elegance.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A 16865

Honestly speaking International Women’s Day has been reduced to just another Archie Comics’ Day, full of hot air and tokenism .   In the Indian context, ‘celebrating’ this day and yakking about Women Power etc seems grotesque, given our social realities. Instead of seminars and Bar nights where urban ladies get drunk and sing, “I will survive’, it would serve the purpose better if the same women educated one more woman… sponsored a girl child…

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

Exactly the same stuff I tell myself today. And What I will tell my older self : Stay yourself. Stay strong. Never flinch. Take on the challenge.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why?

Cleopatra. To learn her beauty secrets and discover the fine art of seduction.

If there was a dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

Why settle for half the sky? Grab the whole bloody thing!

Smriti Kiran

Journalist, creative director (Mumbai Film Festival), producer, author, screenplay writer Smriti is multidimensional optimist. Perpetually bored, always ready for an adventure, she loves polka dots and wandering through the world.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

I wish the day will come when the need for a day to celebrate women doesn’t exist. IMG_9727Each day, year, hour belongs to us as much as it does to anyone who is alive.

What would be the things you would tell your younger self? 

1. Stay Fit – Don’t ignore your health. The incremental benefits of consistent care for the body and mind cannot be compensated for later.
2. Travel- This is the best investment you will make in yourself. Travel has the power to alter philosophy and perspective. Borrow money and travel but Travel.
3. Bust the beauty myth- Work with what you have. Don’t go around matching the nonsensical standards set by the world. You are beautiful. I spent 20 years of my life believing I was the ugliest girl on the planet. I was wrong but habits and notions that form early on are hard to break. I struggle with low self esteem even now.
4. Find a companion, a partner and not a ‘husband’: Any union with another human being is for companionship and a true partnership. Don’t give into the your-biological-clock-is-ticking, you-are-getting-old, you-will-die-alone bull shit we are fed with. Which man have you met who spends his childhood or even a part of his youth planning his wedding?!!
5. Never ignore your health, friends, work and finances when in a relationship.
6. Make your money count.

If you could spend a day hanging out with a woman from history, who would she be and why

Joan of Arc, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, Marie Stopes….The list is endless but I will pick these ladies out of the lot. They were courageous, sharp, game changers and aggressive. I would love to spend a whole day chatting and guzzling martinis with them! Dream date!

If there was dream you had for women globally, what would it be?

One day we will have the courage and knowledge to get beyond this number that the world has done on us. We will truly be equal, independent and feminine.

As for my view :

1. Every day, in fact every moment of each day, is ours to seize.

2. My message to my younger self would first be a gentle caution: it is hard to live on your own terms. If you are going be a rebel, be prepared to work for it. Tantrums, sulks and jugaad work only with family, friends and boyfriends, that too if you are lucky. To make real impact, you have to work hard, think smart and have the courage of a giant. I built my life ground up & from scratch – without relevant education, industry connections or money. And it was one hell of a rollercoaster ride. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. The confidence and independence I’ve gained are worth the pain a zillion times over.

· Second : Keep it simple. Please look at every person who has genuinely made it big in life and notice that they neither speak in jargon nor pretend to know everything. Any idiot can make things complicated; keeping things simple requires genius.

· Third : Find your own style. For God’s sake, don’t dress or behave like every other person. Be proud of your individuality (body and mind) and work to create your own niche.

· Fourth : Don’t worry about what anyone thinks, let your conscience be your only guide. Society will always need something to talk about, so be charitable and feed them tomorrow afternoon’s gossip. As for family and friends – they will always be happy for you.

· Fifth : Build a strong peer group of discerning, intelligent and like-minded friends who are preferably ahead of you in experience and knowledge. Share. Inspire. Connect. Above all be loyal.

· Finally, put yourself first. Being self-aware is different from being selfish. It’s easy to lose sight of one’s own needs, emotions, intuition or dreams as we balance various aspects of our lives. Make the time (and energy) to do what makes you happy. Selfishness is just bad manners.

3. The women from history I’d like to hang with are Coco Chanel, Edith Piaf and Amrita Shergill. Each of them had a tough life but channelled their pain into beauty and left a dent in our universe.

4. Things we most regret are the dreams we don’t pursue. Live with passion, let stuff happen – worse things happen at sea. So go on and be the best version of yourself.

Take Away

With all due respect to the essence of Women’s Day, how we value ourselves cannot be limited to a single day in the year – make every single one of them count. Define yourself, be financially independent, believe that you are capable of making every dream come true and make your own choices – it is your life. Your victories are your own, as are your regrets. Learn from the women who changed the world (and it’s history) to harness all your powers. Compassion from Mother Teresa, grit from Indira Gandhi, seduction from Cleopatra & Mata Hari, expression from Gulbadan, Austen or Stopes. or a signature style from Chanel. Above all, learn to thrive against all odds as  Joan of Arc, Oprah did amongst thousands of others. Dream big because the only thing between our success and us is the scope of our own vision.

By the way, did you notice that every one of these 13 ladies – regardless of their age, profession or circumstances – are busy creating things and leaving a legacy! What are we waiting for – hopefully not the International Women’s Day!


Published by

Chanda Chaudhary

Aesthete. Storyteller. Wanderer. Chanda is a lover of design, craftsmanship and individualistic style. She’s best known for hosting long champagne lunches filled with stories and tales of adventure, living life on her own terms and making the ordinary, extraordinary. She lives and works in Goa, India.

9 thoughts on “In conversation with 13 fabulous women”

  1. Thank you!!! An incredible and inspring article, I’m sending this to my 19 year old daughter, a must read for all women!


    1. Thank you for your kind words Paula. You are obviously raising your daughter to be a world citizen – how absolutely wonderful. The world needs more mothers like you. Wishing you and your daughter a happy women’s day.


  2. First of all, I am very happy to make your acquaintance here and on InstaGram. Wonderful blog post, love your style of writing. You make me want to be a better person!! Love what you wrote here; I have strived to be my own person my whole life. When I was younger, kids used to make fun of me because of my red hair, freckles, braces and who knows what else. It was so difficult to rise above it, but that I did and then some. And it made me a much stronger individual. My ex-husband left us when my daughters were two and four years old respectively. I tried to teach them to be strong women , and now they are both successful, smart, adults that I am so proud of. As a woman, it is wonderful to read all these inspiring words because we do need to hear this; it makes me great! Kudos to you and all the terrific women you interviewed. My favourites (apart from yours) were Meenakshi, Shampa Dhar-Kamath and Sherry Merchant.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!


    1. Thank you so much Cynthia for sharing your journey and success. What an inspiration! Kudos to you my friend. I am truly moved by your account and how you’ve channeled your pain into the beauty you share with not just your friends and family but also those of us who follow you on Instagram. I am taking the liberty of sharing a link to your gallery for my friends and fellow readers so they can view the beauty of your mind and vision as well.
      I will also share your comment with Meenakshi, Shampa and Sherry. I know they will be super ha[py to read your comment.


  3. Oh my goodness, Chanda!! I am very moved by this kind gesture of yours re sharing my IG account. Thank you so much!! And also thanks for sharing my comments with the ladies. It’s great to have such inspirational people to motivate others!! It’s so comforting for me to know that I have your support. I’ve never thought of myself as inspirational. My own mother died in a car accident when I was two and a half years old, and my dad remarried when I was 11. During that period of time, I thought the accident was my fault (since I was with them in the car when it happened), so I had a lot of emotional baggage of my own to deal with as a teenager and young adult. My stepmother is a good person, but very judgemental, and so I never felt a real connection with her (as someone I could confide my deepest thoughts and feelings to). And I’ve never been able to have a close relationship with my father either. Sadly I don’t have any close women friends in my life (but not for lack of trying). These days I am content to at least get through the day to day with a sense of personal satisfaction that I have done my personal best. I’m not sure why I’m telling you my sordid story; excuse me if I’m boring you. I just wanted to let you know that I am just very touched by your kindness and appreciate it more than you can ever imagine.

    Blessings to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Cynthia, thank you for sharing your story. Its an inspiration for many to find our own strength. I am grateful to you for your time and addition to the spirit of this post. With many wishes and love to you.


  4. Chanda – when words are able to create emotion, the soul must be pure. You know ofcourse that consider you blessed. Stay that way always.


  5. Chanda – when words are able to create emotion, it means the soul is pure. You know ofcourse that I consider you blessed with the art of bring warmth into homes. Here’s to all those energies back to you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s