Spiritual intelligence can lead to happiness, says IAS officer and author Anju Sharma
Author of Corporate Monk, and Principal Secretary (Higher and Technical Education), Government of Gujarat, Anju Sharma tell us why the pursuit of happiness should be at the centre of our lives.
Anju Sharma dons multiple hats. In a career spanning 27 years in the Indian Administrative Services, she is currently the Principal Secretary (Higher and Technical Education), Government of Gujarat. She also turned author with a book that is a telling tale on Indian corporate life.
Anju’s recent book Corporate Monk is influenced by her own experiences addresses the issue of burnout most working professionals face. However, the protagonist is a male whose journey from wealth creation to attaining wisdom is influenced by three very strong female characters - who present different issues that modern day women face at the workplace and how their personal lives are affected.
HerStory caught up with Anju to learn more about her career and her love for writing, finding balance in her own life.
Born in Rajasthan, Anju’s father had a strong influence on her life and it was he who motivated her to become an IAS officer. She focused on the goal and cleared the Civil Services Exam exam in her first attempt and started her career as Assistant Collector, Rajkot in 1991.
With almost three decades into the service she has taken up multiple projects and served in various capacities as DDO Baroda, as Gandhinagar, District Collector and also in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Government of India; NRHM, among others.
One of her far-reaching projects has been the Abhayam 181 Helpline launched in 2014 that continues to help women in distress across Gujarat. “The helpline not only provided counselling but also had a team that consisted of a policewoman and counsellor to provide help when a woman wanted a safe place,” she says.
She adds, “Another project close to my heart is Khilkhilahat – an ambulance service for expecting mothers which plies through the city to help women get to the hospital and drops the mothers and newborns back home. In my current assignment, we have taken up several initiatives to enhance the quality of higher education in the state. Student start up and innovation policy has been one of my key initiatives here, which helped in building a robust startup ecosystem in Gujarat. In all our initiatives, we have an exclusive category for women, and endeavour to make all schemes inclusive.”
Anju feels that the biggest challenge the country needs to address is women’s safety.
“We need to move women from a position of vulnerability to a position of security. It is essential that they are given the confidence that they are safe and secure. To achieve this, a lot of work needs to go into the way society functions. We need to fix the psyche that makes men and women look at women as weak and vulnerable entities. Why can’t women be looked at as individuals who have a strength of their own, without setting benchmarks or points of reference?” she asks.
Pursuing her passion
Anju has always liked to write but doesn’t see it as a second career option. She says it will continue to remain her passion.
Her first book I of the Storm: Discover Your True Self was on emerging stronger with every setback while her recent one Corporate Monk touches upon spiritual intelligence.
She said, “When I looked at my own life, I realised things had to be simplified. There is a lot of spiritual literature available but that also needs simplification. I realised that if you connect to spirituality when approached through religious texts, it could be difficult to understand. But if it is simplified as spiritual intelligence, then it becomes very easy. All you have to do is apply the knowledge to your life and it makes everything very simple. After working on it for three to four years, I wrote my first book and now Corporate Monk. I want to take this concept ahead and I am also doing a PhD in the subject.”
Happiness over everything
Anju points out that in the pursuit of “perceived achievements” people lose out on happiness found in human relations such as friends and loved ones.
You have to remember that there is a human element in everything. Stress is unavoidable. You have to be aware of the impact of stress, deal with it by remaining detached by practising exercises such as meditation. This world is ever changing, you can never be perfect and complete. If you miss out, something else will come your way. Keep moving with awareness. In the end, all of us will end up the same. Fear is the biggest enemy of happiness.
When it comes to her own life, Anju has not shied away from the challenges in the path and has always tried to maintain a balance. “Managing various stakeholders and bringing them together on the same platform for a common agenda – that remains the biggest challenge for an IAS officer. Balancing family and work, meeting timelines and pressures on both sides – are some other challenges that come up often.
Be it at work or home, you need to be patient, look at the brighter side and work with your colleagues and your family members like a team. If you can manage that, there’s nothing that is impossible in this world, ” she says.
To all the women who are trying to find not just a balance in life but are also chasing a dream, Anju has a message,
Believe in yourself and believe there is nothing you cannot do. The sky's the limit, just go for it.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)
She became an IAS officer and got justice for her father's death after 31 years of struggle