On Women Empowerment

What does women empowerment actually mean? To me it means the ability to control my life; to confidently make a decision for myself, and to have the ability to dream, aspire and achieve goals. To live a full life the way life is meant to be lived, for me that is empowerment.

Swami Vivekanand Ji had once said said, “There is no chance of the welfare of the world unless the condition of the women is improved, for it is not possible for a bird to fly only on one wing.” and it is important to talk about this for in a patriarchal society like ours when a boy is born there is so much of pride and so much of joy, “beta hua hai-beta hua hai.” We hear that with so much of pride and joy, but is it their the same pride and joy when a girl child is born?

Let me share my personal story. When I was born, my Nanaji, my mum’s father, made a disappointed face. My mum was deeply hurt. She didn’t speak to him for weeks, and when I got to know about this years later, I was deeply hurt too. It made me wonder that why my birth did not give joy to my grandfather?

I found a common thinking behind this, which is so common in everybody that beta is a symbol of security and bread winner- “Hamare budhape ka sahara banega, Budhape ka lathi, Hamara vansh chalyega.” Whereas, the moment a girl is born, a sense of responsibility comes. Her safety/security becomes the prime most important thing for a parent, and the best way to ensure that is to get her married. To me it appears as though the responsibility is shunned from one hand to other.

Let us take a journey into a woman’s life from the time she is conceived in a mother’s womb till the time she dies. First issue, female infanticide, almost 50% girls under the age of 18 are married off. India and Nepal both featured lowest in female literacy.

Next, dowry issues, this problem is not only available for the poor and uneducated, but I was appalled to know that this problem exists in the middle class and upper middle class families too.

Domestic violence, crimes like assault, kidnap, rape, and acid attacks. When we hear so many stories on the news, it makes me wonder aren’t there laws? But of course we have laws, but implementing these laws are a problem because of the legal loopholes. There is a need to implement the laws so that there is a fear of the law. We need to hear more stories like if there is crime committed against woman, he is punished by the law. We need to see more examples like this.

Another rampant issue, income inequality. Imagine your equally talented, equally hardworking and equally sincere in your job as your male colleague, but just because your colleague is a male, he would get 25% more income. Is this fair?

As a Bollywood actress, I my story to share. There was a time when I was doing a lot of movies, and I was at the top of my game. I was shocked to know that the difference between my salary and the hero’s salary was huge. I thought I was important for the film, but when I saw this, I was hurt and disappointed. I asked the producer of this, told him that this makes me feel unwanted and small. Think about it, why don’t they make movies with only men, if female actors are not valued enough?

Finally, and the most important point is political participation. We have almost 50% of the \ voters as women, yet only 11% member of parliament are women. Imagine, if we have more women on decision-making chairs, on policy making and changing chairs; the kind of parliament we would have, and the kind of government we would have. We need more women in our boardrooms, in our courtrooms, in our schools and universities. The kind of society we would be making. The kind of nation we would be having.

I asked a question to myself: What can I write that would add value to you dear reader? Not long ago; some years back. When I was young, I saw double standards in our society, and in my work area. It angered me, and then I became a rebel. A rebel without a cause. I am not saying that’s the best way to be or that’s the best way to react. Many years later with a couple of wrong decisions, I now know better.

I am a little wise now, and in times of confusion, and in times of disappointment there is a better way to deal with, which is to stay inspired with the great ladies that this country had already produced. We had Rani Lakshmi Bai known as Jhansi ki rani. We had Ahilya Bai, and we had a Kalpana Chawla, we had a Mother Teresa. There are so many women, we need can be inspired by them. When it is in our culture, and in our history, for in our genes then why not take benefit from that. Let us remember them, and in times of confusion never forget who we are, we are Shakti, the wisdom to deal with life’s problems is all within us.

To Redefine Life, Simply Change Your Values

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I simply love Cynthia Occelli’s words: “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

Inside that tiny seed lies the potential of  becoming a huge, sturdy, fruit –filled , flower laden, leaf-canopied  tree, which can provide a home to numerous birds and give shade to many travelers. But can the uninitiated see that?

Life is all about re-invention, re-alignment, re-defining oneself. It is in this challenge that growth lies. Those who miss this point, misunderstand the purpose of this beautiful journey called life.

Each decade of our lives gives us a chance to pause, reflect, refill our souls, drop dead chains that bind us and to joyously soar into the skies towards our ecstasy.

Having travelled through the hurly burly of my life, with all its myriad experiences: the good, the sad and the unforgettable, I feel as if I am now able to view everything in a sharper focus. All seems rain-drop washed, lime-fresh, wind-cleaned and crystal-clear. With this new-found maturity everything non-essential, non-interesting, non-valuable seems to be whittling away from my being, leaving me to focus on that shining Core inside that defines my essence and IS me!

At this beautiful juncture of my life in my fourth decade, I have hit upon my personal formula  for growth and happiness: To redefine life, simply change your values.

How have I done that?

I have consciously evolved from being shallow to deep, from being outward-looking to being inward-seeking and from being a limited human to becoming an unlimited, spiritual being. No longer for me the dead chains of my past’s value system. Today, I rejoice in the simple, the mundane, the ordinary…

Earlier, my life was all about “working hard and partying hard.” I loved rebelling against established norms, simply because I loved rebelling. Perhaps  the title of “rebel without a cause” suited me perfectly back then.

I was brash and outspoken and said whatever came to my mind, without thinking of any consequences. Today, I cringe when I re-read some of my earlier interviews. I wonder, ‘Who was I, back then?’

I used to spend a lot of time and money on shopping. The clothes had to be up-to-the-minute and the bags had to be  designer. Labels mattered.  In fact, in my girlie group, we all bought, displayed and bought some more, just for kicks. Shopping was mindless fun.

Then— Life happened….

With that, came a sharp change in perspective. I suddenly began looking at life from the other end of the telescope and was struck by its vastness and magnificence. Suddenly, all material things seemed to shrink before the majesty of Life itself. I was in awe.  At first, the shift happened in my heart…then in my mind and finally… in my entire being. I felt reborn, revamped and renewed. So how could such a new person carry old values?

Don’t get me wrong. I still love pretty clothes, bags and material comforts. The difference is I am not consumed by them.

I have hit upon the truth that life is Simple. It is we who make it Complex. Therefore, true joy lies in simplifying one’s value system. The new me is a Holistic person and am I enjoying it? You bet!

I now give value to things that make my everyday life better, healthier and  therefore, more fulfilled.

Here is a list of things that interest me now:-
1) The exciting decision to choose between a blender and a juicer. What is the value a good choice will give me? It will give me good quality green juices. And that will boost my health by keeping my body alkaline . i came across vitamix through my sister in law as she has always been a health freak .  vitamix

2) Choosing the right coordinated and comfortable gym clothes.

3) Membership in a good Health Club. I feel blessed that a good Health Club and a Spa has sprung up near my home. Members get private trainers and clean equipment. Besides, I love going to “The Club” for an occasional swim and my morning-evening strolls.  inch by inch

4) I have been super excited about my new bike. I have to thank my neighbor and old pal Shahid for initiating this! But I must admit that I am still a little wary about the traffic in my city. Yet, every time I whizz away, I think about what a great investment it has been!
5) My Yoga/ Pranayam classes with my brilliant teachers Shambhu ji and Abhay ji I love Pranayam and while breathing, never forget to send gratitude to the heavens for the magic of the breath. read more on..

6) Organic foods—I simply love them. I am a huge fan of Whole Foods. I also feel that if organic vegetables are expensive, they are certainly worth it! Farmers market Bandra

(Ah, how I ❤ my organic Farmers’ Market visits on Sundays, as also shopping at other stores like Nature’s Basket in Mumbai and Whole Food store in NYC.

7)A good Nutritionist– I accidentally found out that my ESR level was high, instead of my IGF-1 level. ..meaning I had high inflammation. I began looking desperately for a good Nutritionist and thankfully stumbled upon my very reliable Rachna Chachi.read more..

8) A good doctor/hospital I can rely on. After 30, I strongly recommend periodic check-ups.I love seven hills as its very clean and doesn’t  have the smell of a hospital 😉 seven hills Mumbai

9) Newer researches on Wellness. It’s s whole new world out there. Why not discover it  by being fit and healthy?

10) Good skin/face products. Especially after 40, one must make very informed choices. Nothing should harm  our precious bodies.

And has this switch to a healthier lifestyle made me a complacent, contented being who has finally found what she was looking for? No way! It has only spurred me on towards newer frontiers. It has turned me into an energy –filled, luminous being who is hungry for the latest research, breakthroughs and offers on health and wellness. I want to Be more… to Do more…

Here’s My Wish List:-
1. Attending and organizing Cooking classes on healthier options.

2.Going for Ayurvedic /Health Retreats in order to understand my body… to discover and customize what exactly works for me.

3.Increasing  my circle of friends who are into Wellness.

4.Reading and writing more on Wellness- on the blessings of life and living.

5. Contributing more.

6. Spending more time  with Nature.

7. Focusing on buying skin products that will make me look the best at my age rather than make me look younger than my age. I do want to look the best at my age without cosmetic surgery. I would rather be dignified, slim, fit and healthy than an artificially beautified clone.

8 .Becoming  more organised.

9. Doing only those films that give me joy while I am on the sets.

10. Being more positive, more happy and certainly laughing more!

11. Spend more time in self growth, I can’t stress more on how important Oneness University has been for me since its a topic which needs a lot of space to do justice,I would write more on this soon but for time being read on..Oneness University

Today, I no longer care about carrying the latest designer bag as my arm candy. I even don’t care about travelling in Economy Class. Life is all about finding the joy inside yourself, rather than seeking it outside–in things.

It is funny how a little shift in perspective can bring such a huge shift in values, is it not?

I am finally brimming with Life….

Joy Unlimited,

Manisha Koirala.