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‘Never say no, have the courage to do what you want’: Dolly Thakore’s advice to young women

"I wish that women would accept that no matter what pitfall you have in life, it's all part of growing up," she said

Written by Shweta Sharma | New Delhi |
December 29, 2021 12:30:30 pm
Dolly Thakore, Dolly Thakore interview, Dolly Thakore book"I want to see a more tolerant world with no discriminations of any kind," she said. (Express photo by Vasant Prabhu)

Veteran theatre personality Dolly Thakore strongly believes there is “only one way to live life — without regrets.” So it is not surprising that she decided to also name her memoir so — Regrets, None (published by HarperCollins India). Dedicated to her son, Quasar, the book, which has been co-written with writer-theatre director Arghya Lahiri, took almost three decades to pen, but for Dolly it was like “reliving her childhood.”

In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, the author talks about the experience of penning the book, life lessons, being a single mother, and why it is important for women to believe in themselves. Edited excerpts:

In your book, you give readers a rare glimpse into your professional and personal journey. How was the experience of putting it all together?

It was wonderful! I really enjoyed putting it all together because it feels like you’re reliving your whole life — your childhood, all the complexes, reservations, and the prejudices that you had about people. But it was great because I don’t bear any of those grudges today; its like suddenly your childhood unravelling in front of you.

You started writing the memoir in 1982, took a break, and then resumed in 2011 — what kept you away, and then compelled you to return to it?

I started in 1982, because that was the time when there was an emotional break in my life. I thought I should put down all my feelings on paper, and more so because I wanted to share all this with my son. As I started, I thought I should also share it with the young people of today to let them know what my life has been. But once I’d done the initial writing, I kept it aside because I had so much happening in my life — earn money, pay bills, maintain the house, attend to assignments — that writing took a back seat. I just concentrated on the life I was leading, and I’m so glad I did because I didn’t have to depend on anyone. Today, I can hold my head up high; it also added to people getting to know me, and I am where I am today because of that. That is also the kind of advice I would like to give all young women — that it doesn’t matter what happens in your life, don’t ever give up.

Can you tell us about your session at the Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest– ‘How a generation of women fought their battles’, and your message to women who are currently battling theirs?

I’ve been very lucky. Somehow I was the kind of person that collected women who were ‘doers’ — all my friends, right from school. They were people who were wanting to achieve something. As I grew older, I met people like Protima (Bedi), Shanta Gokhle, Lynn Fernandez — women who have terrific courage. And I did exactly the same thing: never gave up. It gives you courage to know that there were other women, too, who went through the same thing.

I’ve been brought up in a middle class home where my mother kept a beautiful open house open for all my friends. But at the same time, I had no communication with her because she wasn’t educated (in the sense of having a university degree). And I wanted to be somebody who was well informed, well-read and pursued my own path. However, she she never stopped me from anything; instead she encouraged me to take part in debate, elocution, and then travel with the college to film festivals.

dolly thakore, dolly thakore book, dolly thakore theatre Regrets, None is dedicated to her son, Quasar.

So it gave me a lot of strength to know that there were people who are not going to condemn you in the end. They may not approve of some of the things that you wanted to do, but they will always be there. And I think, girls and women today should know that they have to depend on themselves, and believe what you’re doing is right. I wish that women would accept that no matter what pitfall you have in life, it’s all part of growing up.

You wear many hats, that of an actor, columnist, communications specialist, social activist, have even dabbled in theatre — which role do you enjoy the most and why?

Every Monday evening, Hamid Sayani used to have a program on Radio Ceylon, and as a girl of 10, I would rush to hear that program. I was impressed with his voice and the way he spoke. And also, Melville de Mellow, who I met then about 10 years later. These have been, at that time, the heroes of my life. So I’ve always wanted to be on radio and as luck would have it, I moved around in circles where it gave me the opportunity to review books on radio to audition for All India Radio — this is when I was 14 and 15 years old. Even when I was in college, I took part in radio plays. So the progression of my life has always been towards being in the media.

I’ve also always wanted to do social work and got the opportunity when I came to Mumbai when I met Dr Zuli Nakoda, who introduced herself as a social worker. I immediately threw my arms up. That’s how it all started. And before I knew it, I was up to my neck in social work, helping people. I loved it, but that didn’t stop me from doing my commercial work.

So, I’ve done so much, but that hasn’t stopped me saying yes to anything else that came my way — whether it was casting or acting in a serial or film. I’ve had great experiences that I’ve loved in my life. So my advice to all the young women is never say no, and go ahead and have the courage to do what you want. There’s great joy in it.

dolly thakore, dolly thakore book, dolly thakore theatre Dolly Thakore with filmmaker Mira Nair at the inaugural photo exhibition by Sooni Taraporevala. (Express photo by Kevin D’Souza)

You raised your son in a society that looks at single mothers in a different way. How would you describe the experience, and in what ways did it help you become who you are today?

I worked so hard and never said no to anything because I didn’t want my son to feel deprived over anything as a result of the choices I had made. As a single mother bringing him up, I might have gone without breakfast or a particular meal, but I made sure that he got his favourite meals. These were little sacrifices, but it gave you so much joy to be able to achieve it without having to ask anybody for help. And I think, my son has learned a great deal from those sacrifices, and even appreciated them. I am very proud of my son. Even the kind of theater he does is the kind I like doing — one’s that have a social message. As I said, every experience I’ve had has taught me a lot — to accept people, tolerance, acceptance, hard work. That’s what makes life so exciting and worth living. I have lived my life and I’ve lived it my way and I’ve had very interesting experiences.

Were there jitters before the book was released? How does it feel now?

Since I’ve been very honest about every single thing that I have said in terms of my relationships or professional achievements, I did worry that there may be some people who would object to my naming them in the book, But touchwood. I’ve had none of that. I’ve only received very good responses from everybody. I’m so happy that a lot of them have written and said how much courage it’s given them.

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