Truth be told, “guilty” is a woman’s “default setting”. At the Delhi launch of her book, No Regrets: The Guilt-Free Woman’s Guide To A Good Life (HarperCollins), former journalist Kaveree Bamzai regaled an episode from the days when politics in Smriti Zubin Irani’s life was confined to a family drama of an Ekta Kapoor TV production — Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi — whose face was Irani as the proverbial Tulsi. After a triple-slap-sequence shot, when Irani went home to her three-day-old child, she was not overcome with guilt. With Irani that day, Bamzai felt she could relate to this woman. Experiences like this, nudged Bamzai to build her book.
“I don’t know why there’s a stigma attached to the fact that a woman does not feel guilt,” said the Union minister for Textiles, and Women & Child Development, at the launch this weekend. She added, “I belong to me, not to a relationship, to a work ethic, to a city, and that is what makes me have no regrets.”
The result of a “dire choice”, says Bamzai, 53, a journalist for over three decades and mother of two boys, “between a lifetime of therapy or joining a mental asylum”, is the non-fiction book, replete with references from high literature to pop culture, studies and reports. It is peppered with tips and tricks — for that elusive guilt-free work-life balance — from Irani and other working mothers, including Twinkle Khanna, Farah Khan, Kiran Rao, Shobhaa De, former IBM chairman Vanitha Narayanan, and banker Naina Lal Kidwai.
“Consensus,” Irani said, is key. That “the children can never play one parent against the other.” She added, “Have a conversation with them, about your work, what’s happening in society, in the country, the world. It makes for a healthy relationship.”
A mother of three, Irani has, at times, found her children having a view “diagonally opposite” to hers. “I’m a giant-killer at home who gets swatted every day. But your upbringing has been correct when they learn to argue, debate or disagree with you, respectfully, and not just walk away,” said Irani, who doesn’t want her children to enter politics, though it is from them that she’s learnt her political-negotiation skills: “The minute you get angry, you’ve lost the battle,” she said. When asked whether she would accept if her children adopted the Congress party’s ideology, she said, “That is next to impossible. I have full faith in my upbringing.”
On being asked about the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, she spoke of a young doctor in Maharashtra’s Beed district, who fed the female fetuses he delivered to six dogs in his clinic. She said, “While the government has brought into existence Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and laws such as the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994; while the government will ensure that girls get education, Mudra loans, startup support, a miracle can only happen when there’s a conscientious effort by everybody.”