Television host Amrita Gandhi, popularly known for her TV series 'Royal Reservation', is an author, mom and more. This Women's Day, the great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi gets candid about her journey, how she finds the balance between her personal and professional life, dealing with working-mom's guilt and more.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
How difficult was it to come out of your family's mold and make your own identity in a male-dominated field? What has your journey been like?
When it comes to family name, it has never been part of my personal/professional journey and that has been the case from the day I got my first job with NDTV as a reporter and then a travel show host, a long time ago.
I just literally applied for the opportunity, interviewed for it and I got it.
My family has had very little impact on my work so far. Perhaps, because it has never even occurred to me that it should have any bearing upon my work.
When was the first time people realised that you were part of the Gandhi family?
When I entered my work space the first time I was a young girl, who'd just graduated. So, I was one of many qualified kids entering the work force at a certain stage in their lives. We all had to work really hard and prove ourselves.
I suppose some people might have known the family lineage, of which I am part.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life?
I am one of the millions of women in the world, who find Oprah Winfery a very big inspiration. I just love how little she needs to do and say to get people to speak about what matters to them. Just her presence in itself is pretty much all that's needed and that comes from having broken so many barriers and her personal story of struggle.
While people usually talk about the advantages of your family name, what are the challenges you've had to face because of it?
I think in school everyone just wants to fit in and be like everybody else. So, in school, I would've loved to be Ahuja, Malhotra, Talwar or Chopra. I would've just killed to be like any one of my other friends from Delhi whose names didn't draw particularly more attention than anybody else's name.
Sometimes, a teacher or somebody would make me feel self-conscious, but my friends never did. My friends have never cared. It has never affected my friendships.
It might've put me on the spot sometimes. The teacher must've been overly partial. Like, my Hindi teacher would give me brilliant grades no matter how bad my Hindi was or bad my essays were. He would give me such good grades. But, when it came to my board exams, I did so badly and I was like, 'What has Shukla ji done to me?' Made me think that I was brilliant in Hindi all these years when I've sucked. The board exam results spoke for themselves.
Another challenge was when sometimes even teachers in school would have an ideological difference with Gandhi ji. I was just 8 years old and I will never forget when she talked about it in class. She pointed to me and said, 'Gandhi said that.'
I didn't even know what she was talking about. I hardly knew what her point was. I am sure her opinions were valid but it wasn't nice to be put on the spot.
To be honest, it's more of an inner challenge, a challenge from within because you feel you don't ever want your name to be seen as reason why you're doing something or not. So, you almost pull yourself back a little. I think it has been a challenge for me because I've held myself back. I've tried to sometimes just pretend that it doesn't exist when am in the workspace.
And, whoever you are, you have to be fully there. You don't need to erase any part of you to prove yourself.
I feel I've tried to erase my family's political, well not political because there has been very little politics in my family for past several decades, but I have tried to erase the significance of the name in my professional space and that has been perhaps an unnecessary challenge.
Did you have a constant urge to prove yourself because of the family lineage?
I don't think it drove me to prove myself further, to prove myself as independent from my name.
I have been proud of who I am and I am who I am. And, that is a family trait. It is very true for me and my family to be who we are and not to try to borrow laurels from a great man.
How do you deal with the criticism and trolling on social media?
I have never dealt with it. I am very social media shy, I go there only for fun.
To be honest, I've protected myself by being hardly present on social media and that is something I will have to navigate in the future if I get unduly trolled. But, in general, if anyone crosses the line of decency, you do not engage.
Sometimes, conversations cross the line of decency, cross the line of facts, lines of truth, we need to change these patterns.
On a one of one level, I have been told by those more experienced that I shouldn't engage.
While balancing your personal and professional life, how do deal with working-mom guilt?
I will be very blatantly honest. It's a very feminist thing or I don't know how I will be labeled, but I deal with it by putting my children first. I will sacrifice my work for my children.
I always put my kids first, I do it and I am sure a lot of other mothers do, which makes us amazing.
An advice for all the women on how to celebrate Women's Day 2021.
This year has deprived a lot of us from giving our loved ones hugs and kisses. I would say this Women's Day, as soon as it's safe for everyone to be with each other, just find a family member that you have not seen enough or whoever your dearest ones -- like my parents don't live in the same city as me- so just give everybody a hug.
We've all been so strong, just allow yourself to be you and to lean your head on your mom's shoulder, allow yourself to feel loved. You don't have to say much.
We feel we need to carry the world on our shoulders and we sometimes just deserve to be loved and held, be with the people we love. We don't need to carry the weight of our family, all our responsibilities.