Despite the assaults and intermittent attacks, celebrating the glory of women is celebrating the spirit of India. In our culture, the Devi is divinity in many forms: the nurturer, the protector, the giver of knowledge and wealth, as well as the one who brings retribution to those who violate the balance of the ying and yang, or the equalizing principle of the universe. On December 17, The Sunday Standard celebrated 20 such Devis, who are out to transform India with the courage of their convictions, the power of their personalities, the strength of their efforts and the voltage of their intellect. The achievers had been carefully chosen from across sectors, locations and ages, by the senior editors of the newspaper and a jury of eminent personalities.
They couldn’t be more different in nature, or more similar—in their dynamism and innovative spirit. The mountaineer had scaled the Everest at age 48—the first of the Seven Summits she went on to climb, the loan recovery agent preferred communication tactics over strong-arm tactics to help banks get their money back, the disarmament activist fought her battles in the violence-prone North-East, the criminal lawyer slogged in Delhi to ensure that the common man didn’t spend his life waiting for justice, the stand-up comic highlighted the idiosyncrasies that women everywhere face every day. Also on the laud list was a cardiologist, a landscape designer, an art impresario, a film-maker, a contemporary artist, a singer, a textile revivalist, a luxury marketer, a judge, a scientist, a social entrepreneur, hoteliers doubling up as Indian ambassadors, and a policewoman who battles daily for women and children in Jharkhand.
Giving out the awards was Rajasthan first woman chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Celebrating the awardees, she said: “All the Devis have excelled in their respective spheres. Each one of them is a woman of substance with an indomitable spirit.” A dynamo and super-Devi herself, Raje added: “While we have been making strides in niche areas, many are trying hard to break that glass ceiling,” and pointed out how 70 per cent women work longer hours but earn much less. “From caves to penthouses, women have been working longer hours to make life easier for people around them. And they are gracious about what they do.” Echoing her sentiment, Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director of The New Indian Express & The Sunday Standard, said: “Our Devis are transforming the world with the courage of their convictions. For them, conviction is not a matter of convenience. They have the power of personality, they put forward rational arguments and are defeating men everywhere.”
The mood was celebratory at ITC Maurya’s Kamal Mahal, both on and off stage. Art specialist and columnist Kishore Singh was the master of ceremonies and introduced each awardee in his own witty style. Over a burst of short and sweet responses—unlike the clichéd acceptance speeches that call for a drop of tears and a mention of a distant uncle or a dog—each Devi came forth graciously and spoke with logic while accepting her trophy from the Chief Minister. The trophy was a wood-and-silver rendering of the Devi logo; a grander representation of the silhouette stood in the hall outside, resplendent in red, black and white, the theme colours of the evening.
Outside was a windy Delhi evening; inside the hall was warm and toasty. There were shiny red ribbons on the black upholstered chairs, red blooms sat atop the round tables covered in white. The lighting was muted to let the colours shine through. The attendees were a happy mix, from politicians and bureaucrats to industrialists and fashion designers. Almost everyone adhered to the theme of the evening. The men were dapper in black bandhgalas and suits, red squares peeping out of many pockets. The ladies cleverly mixed and matched white, black and red in shrugs and gowns and sarees, adding dazzle with gorgeous jewellery.
By default, even the wine paired itself with the theme. Clutching flutes of red and white wine, the chatty guests sauntered in and out of the hall and posed endlessly for pictures. Trophies given and speeches made, a fish-bowl full of people’s names was brought out on stage for a lucky draw just before the crowd broke for dinner. The lucky ones went home with sparkly ornaments from PC Jeweller, skincare hampers from Clarins, ceramics from Villeroy & Boch, a gorgeous giant candle from Illuminati and bubbling bottles of Chandon.
Finally, with a generous spirit that celebrated every woman there as a Devi, brands Episode, Pravek and MSM presented each guest with an assortment of goodies to take home.
To spread strength and positivity, the Devi has risen.