It looked like a scene out a Baz Luhrman movie (think Moulin Rouge). The imposing facade of Bikaner House provided the perfect background for the dazzling red, black and white sets of the third edition of The Sunday Standard Devi Awards in New Delhi. It was a full house as the city’s A-listers turned up to watch 12 women achievers being felicitated by the newspaper for displaying dynamism and innovation in their line of work. Union textile minister Smriti Z Irani presented the awards.
The function began with an introductory address by Editor Ravi Shankar, who stressed that while India has had more remarkable women—from Lakshmi Bai to Rukmini Arundale to Tessy Thomas—than any other culture, it also needs to remember that a nation is only as good as the status of its women.
The evening progressed with the awardees being invited on stage to receive the award from the Minister. Irani, visibly impressed with the achievements of each winner, picked up each woman’s story and commented on it. About Usha Choudhary, a social activist who runs a campaign against child marriage in Rajasthan after almost being forced into one at the age of 14, she said: “Usha must have had huge courage to take that step, and now she is helping others as well.” Commando trainer Seema Rao, she said, was battling stereotypes every day. “We need such women and their life stories to set new standards in our society.”
Taking about how important it is for women to assert themselves and not be apologetic about their choices, Irani gave an example of her own life: “I was 17-18 years old when my father told me that I would be married soon. I told him, “Upto this point in my life I have lived as your daughter and after marriage I will live as someone’s wife. I want to live life on my own terms’. That’s how much courage I possessed.”
Stressing on how much Indian women had evolved over time, Irani added: “There is a huge legacy that stood on this stage this evening. Ritu Kumar described her 40-year old journey and here I am, a minister at 40. That says so much about how much women have travelled through the history of our country and made a name for themselves.” She added: “It is a fact that Laila Tyabji (craft revivalist), Vandana Luthra (wellness entrepreneur), all have done things that they were not in a position to do. I remember Vandana’s (Luthra) journey. She started her venture with a loan of `20,000 and people thought she was opening another beauty parlour. I am sure if they look at her balance sheet today, they’d see that her company has reached the `1000 crore mark.”
Irani’s speech was followed by a Q&A session with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director of The New Indian Express Group. Managing Editor Shampa Dhar-Kamath gave the vote of thanks and acknowledged the partners, PC Jeweller, KVIC, Wave and Paras Buildtech, for their unyielding support and encouragement. The award function came to a close with a lucky dip and a special few going home with gifts from Canali, Illuminatii, Jaypore, Moet Hennessy, MSM and Sarita Handa.