Once A Woman Is Economically Independent, It Will Give A Different Status Altogether
By Dr. Shayama Chona- Founder of Tamana Association and the former principal of DPS RK Puram
Dr. Shayama Chona – A woman of substance
Dr.Shayama Chona, Padma Shri(1998) and Padma Bhushan Awardee(2008), is former Principal of Delhi Public School RK Puram, New Delhi - a world class institution. Her efforts to break the barriers of schools to include the poor and the handicapped are unprecedented. She has launched major initiatives to strengthen school teaching of STEM subjects: Science, Technology ,Engineering and Mathematics which now also includes Arts and has moved from STEM to STEAM. She is a strong advocate of critical thinking and believes that it should be promoted since childhood by parents and teachers alike.
Dr. Chona has been serving as a member of over 99 Advisory Boards, Committees , Educational Institutions and is a member of UNESCO. She serves as Member of the Ananda Foundation : Indian Advisory Board of Coca-Cola India Private Limited. She is nominated as an independent Director of Medanta and also serves as a member of their ethics committee.
She has been associated with the Special Olympics, Concerned Action Now’ and the Society for Human Development .She has been named in the Limca Book of Records 2007 as the woman who has received the highest number of awards. She firmly believes and lives by the principle that “We also live in a wider world, a world in which we bear enormous responsibility”.
Dr. Chona has given concrete shape and direction to her transcendent principles, by setting up 3 centres for the mentally challenged: ‘Tamana Special Centre’, Tamana‘Nai Disha: Skill Development Centre’ and the Tamana ‘Autism Centre’. As their Founder-President, she has been working for the upliftment of the multiple-handicapped children since 1970, and celebrates humanity with the dictum, “Numberless are the world’s wonders, but none more wonderful than man”.
Her journey remains full of glory and inspiration. She is a woman who has never given up and has always stayed strong throughout her life.
We hope that her journey will inspire one and all !
Please take us through the beautiful journey that you have travelled so far ?
I must confess that I am not consciously aware of all the successes and achievements of my journey. What I am really conscious about are my trials, tribulations, hard work and challenges. Success comes with a cost. The sacrifice that one has made for the Nation and the children of the dusk have paid tributes which don't really belong to me. I strongly believe that name and fame is not important, what is important is ones commitment to humanity.
In the words of Henry Longfellow :
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time”
When people come and praise me for my work, it comes to me as a great surprise because I just love working and I have worked all my life. I started teaching in college in the year of 1964 and am still into education as a professional.
“This is my 54th year of work.”
I did my MA from Rajasthan University and Rajasthan was very backward at that time when it came to women. I was 21 when I got my first job offer for teaching. At that time, my father asked me if I seriously wanted to get into teaching profession as he knew that Rajasthan had a very narrow mindset about women. As a bright student my father wanted me to join the civil services but soon he realised that I was born to be a teacher. In fact the local newspapers brought out an article on me as the youngest lecturer in Rajasthan university.
The newspaper mentioned that “if you want to promote education in Rajasthan then get more women lecturers as. Ms Shayama Sethi.”
The same year, I became the correspondent for Femina. Also, I got an opportunity on winning a scholarship to go to OHIO, USA from the Rotary club – Region 301. My parents had no intention to send me but they used that letter whenever I rejected a marriage proposal.
I was destined to marry an army officer and while I worked through Rajasthan University in collecting supplies for the soldiers in the 1965 Indo-Pak war I was carried away into marriage by an army major while reading Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’. while he went pillar to post, I kept on working as I was equally wedded to my profession.
After giving birth to my second child, my daughter Tamana in 1970, life came to a sudden halt as she was born a spastic with Cerebral Palsy. It is at this time that I moved from college to school education and stayed back in Delhi for her medical treatment. This is the time when I joined DPS.
“I am thankful to Mr. Lugani for giving me an opportunity of being a teacher in such a prestigious institution as it changed my life all together.”
While I was multi tasking in DPS RK Puram, it finally led to the pinnacles of success and I was in DPS for nearly 40 years out of which I was the Principal for almost 20 years.
All through my life, I have never professed that I know everything. I welcome new ides as I feel innovation must be encouraged and failure should never be thought of.
“So, this is how my journey began and I feel that I am not the cause of building this institution, it is my team, people, my parents, children, my good luck and ofcourse God.”
What were the challenges that you faced in your entire journey ?
It was a tight rope walk for me. My motherly duties took precedence over being a wife. My husband became a Major General inspite of the fact that I couldn't accompany him station to station or on transfers.
Bringing up two children, living alone in Delhi, doing school duties to the zenith, following up with Tamana's rehab routines – all together was extremely challenging.
“But , I think whatever the circumstances might be, women never give up. Every woman stands to the call whenever required. And that is what is so beautiful of Indian women and Indian families.”
Do you manage your finances on your own ?
Managing 8000 students, 500 employees and a transport company with 102 buses while at DPS RK Puram has equipped me to successfully manage my finances both on micro as well as macro level. My personal financial management is guided by my CA but I do know that it is very important to have good dividends on your savings for old age.
I follow the following aspects when it comes to money managing :
1. Firstly, I have knowledge that my money should be clean.
2. Nobody should has upper hand on you.
3. What I earn goes into the bank.
4. My knowledge of investments is limited to fixed deposits. It will be really useful for women to be educated on investment alternatives.
“I feel secure that whatever I am doing is the way I am doing.”
Should women be financially independent ?
By all means, yes, It is very important for women to be financially independent. The value of a woman goes up 100 times when she is financially independent. She can take decisions which otherwise would be impossible. She is a confident human being no lesser than the men of the world. The main purpose of good education is to have a career and feel independent, self reliant and self esteemed. She should also know how to protect her Monet giving herself security for existence.
“Knowledge of money is very important. I think everybody should be doing economics and it should be made compulsory in schools as economics is all about banking and money management.”
I feel, that there should be financial classes held for women. There is a recent study that 29% of Indian women are working. So, even if that labour force understands what it means to save, invest, earn an interest and know the alternatives for there money then it will make a huge difference in the country itself.
“Once a woman is economically independent, it will give a different status altogether.”
What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs who want to start fresh ?
Those women who want to be entrepreneurs and start fresh must be encouraged. In some well to do families it is not encouraged and they feel that a job is need based, this is not true. Women must utilise their education and work and earn. It is only when they are financially independent can they help others and feel powerful.
Also in unseen circumstances a working woman can stand up to the situation with ease. It is very important that the assets created by a working woman are in her possession and they cannot be floundered away.
There is no reason why you should not have the right to hold on to your money and invest it the way you want to and should know the investment options.
People have to be wise and success has to be defined.
Remain Happy as it is mandatory for a successful and healthy life.
Wisdom is the key – How much ever highly educated , beautiful and powerful you might be, but you have to be modest.
The universal mantra is to have faith in yourself and be spiritual.
When it comes to working with Dr.Chona, she gives you the freedom of doing things the way we want to. There are times when we have doubt on ourselves wondering if we have done it right but Dr. Chona shows full faith in us. So, work doesn't feel like work – : some beautiful words for Mrs. Shayama Chona by her team.