Be guilt-free and don’t ever stop working, says journalist and author Kaveree Bamzai in new book on women
In her book ‘No Regrets: The Guilt-Free Woman’s Guide to a Good Life’, Kaveree Bamzai urges women to take ownership of their lives, not feel guilty about their choices, and learn to manage their health and money.
If you are tired of reading sanctimonious self-help books telling you what to do at work or in life, it’s time to pick up noted journalist Kaveree Bamzai’s No Regrets: The Guilt-Free Woman’s Guide to A Good Life.
At the outset, let me promise that this book does not have a preachy undertone. It’s a breezy read that actually tells you what not to do, what to remember, and what to forget.
It’s peppered with Kaveree’s pertinent points (not advice) like, ‘don’t ever stop working’, ‘don’t brood over children’ and on how to straddle life with social media, money matters, and that elusive work-life balance.
Particularly interesting are the small inserts of advice from notable women like Naina Lal Kidwai, Arianna Huffington, Sudha Murty, Smriti Irani, and Twinkle Khanna, among others.
Also, as women, we need to understand “we can’t know everything”. While we may multi-task, it’s okay to seek help in each of your tasks throughout the day. Delegate and delegate responsibly.
Kaveree also touches upon the topic of faith and its meaning in our lives. She recounts a meeting with Emma Slade, a banker-turned-nun who instilled in her the belief that “a person without faith is a person without hope”.
The last chapter, Growing Old, Disgracefully, shines the spotlight on those women who are embracing old age with grace, enthusiasm and the I-don’t-care attitude. According to the author, they live full, happy, and long lives because they have an incredibly positive spirit, usually develop a passion that is outside of their work and family, surround themselves with a network of friends and relatives, and forever look for meaning in what they’re doing.
A meaningful end to a well-written book that essays why a woman should be free from guilt, in every aspect of her life.
In an interview with HerStory, Kaveree Bamzai speaks about the premise of the book and why we must embrace the sisterhood at all times.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
HerStory: What prompted a book on women?
Kaveree Bamzai: As I say in the book, I am forever inspired by Nora Ephron's diktat (which came from her screenwriter mother): everything is copy.
I am a woman, through most of my working life, I have met some fabulous women as co-workers, as interview subjects, and as stories. And I have often wondered, as I flailed and failed, how do some women get to be so cool and some of us just sit around watching slackjawed? So, I decided I'd write what I know best. #NoRegrets is inspired partly by my own life (such as it is) and the stories of some of these awesome women, who I realised were pretty much like all of us. No matter how successful, and how brilliant, there is always a core in us which is guilty, regretful, full of what-ifs and what-nots. And I thought it's time to get rid of that, tear it from our hearts, and leave us lighter in spirit and soul. As I grow older, I've shed a lot of excess baggage, and I wanted other women to have that feeling too.
HS: Did you have a particular plan in mind while writing the book?
KB: I just wrote as I thought and as I speak, which is the best way possible for me. I cry easily but I also laugh a lot, and have learnt to laugh a lot at my woes. So, I wanted readers to enjoy the process of reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Since I am a journalist I believe in file and forget. So when I read it almost six months later while it was being proofed I was curious to meet this person - and I realised, it was I!
Who did I write it for? Anyone and everyone. For the little girl who is reading Little Women as we speak and fantasising about being Jo March, to the cool girl obsessing about the horny heroine of Fleabag; from the working mum who empathises with Motherland to the WhatsApp mum trying to create the perfect mini-she. Live a little, laugh a little, do a lot; that is what my advice would be.
HS: Does the book transcend generations - Generation Y – through the millennials to Generation Z?
KB: I hope it's for everyone. And I'm not sure we're terribly different. Women of all ages end up eventually like their mums.
HS: I was particularly interested in two chapters – Don’t brood over brood, and You can’t know everything. In the first instance, do you believe women carry the mummy guilt all the time, and how can they get rid of it?
KB: Yes, I do believe women are damned if they do, damned if they don't. They'll be skipping along happily, coffee cup in one hand, ideas about their next story/next meeting/next presentation, when suddenly, boom, they will crash into the reality of motherhood, and be rudely brought to earth. My advice to women, for what it's worth, is better to be Dorothy Parker than Simone de Beauvoir (that is laugh into your drink and not cry into your coffee), though you must read both.
HS: In the second instance, why do women feel responsible for everything, right from family to climate change?
KB: It's in our DNA. We have been running the world silently and almost invisibly for far too long, whether it is the women who form the majority of our agricultural workforce or the women who are the construction workers, or the women who work at our homes, or are stay-at-home mums. They are half the world, and for far too long they have been running it without power. But that doesn't mean they don't feel responsible for the mess it is in. Which is why I am confident the solution to all our problems will come from them. whether it is water restoration, farm innovations, or cultural reinvention.
HS: From among the women whose advice you’ve featured in the book, whose touched you the most?
KB: Dinaz Madhukar (Senior Vice President, DLF Luxury Retail), who spoke so movingly to me about grief, and how she dealt with it. Death is something we tend not to consider or think about. I believe we should. She spoke to me about losing her son in an accident, and about how she felt at least he lived life to the fullest before he passed on. How do we deal with grief? With loss? What place does faith have in our lives--how do we handle suffering? We need to think about death before we can appreciate life.
HS: Why do we need more women to help other women, whether at work or in life?
KB: We need an old girls' network. We need women to stand up for other women. We need to be our own best friends. As someone once said: No Mum Left Behind. That needs to be our motto.
HS: Why do women always put their health on the backburner?
KB: Because there's always the husband's bad back, the mother in law's knees, the son's cough, the dog's fleas! Everything else takes precedence. When the woman is done sorting those out, a fresh cycle begins.
HS: And, finally, why should women never give up work?
KB: It's their only escape. It gives them a sense of self other than being chief nanny/driver/cook/cleaner. It doesn't hurt to have your own financial freedom. And the possibility of solo work travel - ah, my idea of luxury.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)