It is a very widespread belief that women are in constant need of love, support and appreciation. While that may just be true (who, man or woman, doesn’t need positive vibes from people?), women are much stronger than they themselves think.
I would like to qualify this further. I specifically say, a widespread belief, since I have heard many a successful and powerful women always advising on how one should always balance the family, be a perfect mother/wife along with being successful at work. They also add tips on how one should work towards external validation and appreciation to boost oneself.
I personally do not believe in this theory and I had the good fortune to come across an inspiring lady who has lived this belief of mine. She has not only cared about appreciation, she has confidently stood up in the face of aggressive criticism.
Meet Bina Ramani, a woman who knows no fear and she has proved it time and again. She is well known as the key witness in the sensational Jessica Lal murder case. She fought against all odds and criticism to speak up during the case. She went through a lot during that time including imprisonment, threats to her life and a lot of negative publicity.
On the work front, Bina Ramani is an internationally acclaimed designer, social activist, author and entrepreneur. Her decades of experience in global luxury and hospitality has brought her a lot of accolades along with challenges. She was awarded the Bharat Nirman Business Woman of the Year in 1992.
With her fashion studios – Once Upon a Time – in New York and New Delhi, she introduced genuine Indian craftsmanship to the world. Her work was greatly admired by Indira Gandhi and she came to be known as the Godmother of Fashion in India.
Amongst her various entrepreneurial ventures, she runs a company called Malabar Secrets (https://www.malabarsecrets.com/). A brand that embodies the ancient Indian art of blending spices for enhance well-being, Malabar Secrets makes products based on the age-old knowledge of spice extract ingestion and aromatherapy, reoriented for the contemporary palate.
Besides an entrepreneur, she is a philanthropist and a social activist. Being a Heritage Property Restorer, her most prominent work is the transformation of Hauz Khas Village.
In awe of this iron lady, we wanted to know more about her journey. Here are a few snippets from our conversation with her:
Jyoti: From being known as Godmother of Fashion in India to Malabar Secrets dealing in Indian spices, you have had quite a journey. How would you describe yourself?
Bina: Quite simply – I’m often described as a ‘force of nature’ and I’ve come to believe that it is absolutely true!
Jyoti: You have achieved a great deal in the fashion world. What made you deviate from that line? These days people seem to prefer foraying into different businesses to form a conglomerate, especially when driven by quick profits. But you seem to be a woman of talent and passion. What has been your motivation in branching out?
Bina: During my years 1981 – 1999 of being in the Fashion Industry, I discovered Hauz Khas Village and that sucked me into the historic relevance of Indian culture as a whole. It soon included F&B which I had already experienced in my years at Taj Group of hotels in New York from 1973 – 1979. So, Fashion got somewhat diluted. Besides, my daughter, Malini, was showing great natural instinct for fashion and took a course at FIT in New York. Once her passion grew, I slowly stepped back. I got married to a wonderful Canadian Management Consultant/Artist. Together we bought and developed what was then the first little ‘Shopping Mall’ in India. It was in a beautiful old heritage building, we had 11 shops and a first of its kind Mediterranean Restaurant – the Tamarind Court Cafe.
Jyoti: Witnessing the partition of our country, getting uprooted overnight, starting afresh, difficult marriage, being separated from your children, a murder case, you have seen it all. Yet, what appeals is, you have handled it all without caving in to the external pressures. Please tell our readers the secret to standing up for yourself. How can we, when the world tells us one thing, take our stand and follow through with conviction?
Bina: Believe in yourself. There is a powerful reservoir of strength inside all of us. Do not cave in when you are representing the ‘Truth’! It always triumphs, and never lets you down. I am a warrior of social justice. That’s who I really am.
Jyoti: That’s truly inspiring and thought-provoking. You recently gave a very insightful webinar for Lean In India on ‘Writing your own Destiny’. What, according to you, would be the three key points that would enable women to write their own destiny?
Bina: Having utmost faith in oneself, and feeling rooted in yourself, knowing that the universe won’t let you down if you take the right path, not hurt anyone, be utterly true to yourself and do it all with true passion. You will write yourself a brilliant destiny.
Having said this, one does need some karmic luck on one’s side and a big dose of resilience and plenty of wit!
Jyoti: Very well said! Lastly, there is no one better than you to tell all the women out there about dealing with drama, obstacles and accusations. What would be your advice to women battling with difficult situations?
Bina: Just have total faith in your truth. Do not waver. It empowers you like an amazing shield through thick and thin!