Abhilasha Sethia, the President of LSG began the event by felicitating the Ramkrishna Mission with the Shanti Devi Khaitan Award, a Rs. 50,000 prize dedicated to supporting the nursing diploma of a woman. The LSG Charitable Trust Annual Award was awarded to S.A.F.E., an organization that provides clean drinking water to underprivileged communities in Kolkata. The award included a cash prize of Rs. 2 lakhs and a citation, which was read by Diya Jaiswal. S.A.F.E. provides clean water to over 2500 slum households and impacts over 5000 lives. Women in particular are the beneficiaries of this program, as on an average they save 4 hours a day, which would have otherwise been spent collecting water. LSG is the first Indian organization to recognize S.A.F.E’s efforts of providing clean drinking water.
President Lsg, Abhilasha, then introduced the guest speaker of the day, Apurva Purohit, President Jagran Group and author of the book Lady, You’re Not a Man. Purohit took the stage for her talk titled “Can Women Have it all?” She spent the first 20 minutes questioning the assumption surrounding the title of her talk.
“Why is it that women cannot have it all?” Purohit asked the audience. Ms Purohit questioned why the “or” was a deciding word in women’s lives that made them choose between career and familial responsibility. Ms Purohit dates this prejudice against women being able to “have it all” to Babylon in 1867 B.C. when a woman’s life was worth one-fourth of that of a goat. She acknowledges that women’s lives have changed for the better since, but have not improved to that extent. She asks if “[women] are leading the change we want to see around us”.
Ms Purohit blames the Indian woman for her own suffering. Also known as the “suffering Sita syndrome”, women turn to grief to make sense of their lives and to drown their guilt. Bollywood is largely to blame for this syndrome, as most Indian baby boomer women have grown up watching movie scenes of suffering women. Apurva Purohit would like Indian women to change this mindset as a starting step to being happy in their personal lives.
Secondly,Ms Purohit would like Indian women to bring up their sons differently as she believes gender disparity starts at the household level. Most of today’s educated younger generation of men do not believe that women should work after marriage, Purohit said, citing her experience at a top MBA school in India where only 10 percent of the male students said they wanted a working wife. At home, if we ensure that our girls and boys are given the same opportunities and treated equally, more young men will be likely to treat their wives as equals. More women would also have to enter the workforce so that our sons would be used to having working women at home, Purohit said.
Ms Purohit left the audience with three thoughts on what it takes to be happy. The first is that we need to sit and define what makes us happy. A defined list of things that make you happy will ensure you are on the path to happiness. The second is that we all need to have a purpose in life. Purohit quoted the Dalai Lama who said that it was good enough that he “had a [purpose] in life”; it did not matter if that purpose was achieved or not. Third, we need to make choices that define our own happiness for us. The choices we make carry 40 percent weightage in the “happiness formula”—the other two determining factors being birth order and circumstance—and so it is up to us to decide whether we are going to be the “victims, heroines, or bystanders in our own lives”.
Ms Purohit’s speech was followed by some comments from the audience and a vote of thanks from Namrata Sureka, Vice-President of LSG. The audience then proceeded for refreshments.