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Wisdom Stories Ep.25: Ms. Gitanjali Prasad​

Cultural expectations surrounding the elderly are being challenged today, and with good reason!

While it was the norm to slow down and retreat into a quieter life post-retirement, more men and women are finding purpose and joy in doing the opposite.

WisdomCircle honours such men and women by shining light on their journey through an inspiring series called “Wisdom Stories”. These people have successfully smashed stereotypes, and their stories remind us that life should be lived to the fullest, no matter what age or stage.

I knew I wanted to be a writer at age 11. I wanted to live in the mountains, have 12 children, dogs, and horses. Well, achieving one ambition out of three is not bad! 

Success came early, at 23, I was the Creative Chief of an advertising agency. But then I got married and had children, and the maternal tug was so strong, that I worked from home for the next decade. I wrote children’s stories, and I was a freelance writer, writing humour pieces, opinion pieces, travelogues, and of course articles on work and family life for every major newspaper and magazine.  

A move to Calcutta, and I became Bureau Chief of Savvy, Society, Cookbook, Interiors, Health and Nutrition and Family Life. All my interests suddenly found a platform. I, interviewed Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu for Society, B.K. Birla, Sanjeev Goenka, artists, musicians, sports people, achievers in every walk of life.

I then won a Chevening Press Fellowship to Wolfson College, Cambridge, UK. Here, I interviewed the experts in the field of work and family life, senior journalists, and academics from business institutions in the UK, INSTEAD, France, and IIM, India. This led to the book, “The Great Indian Family: New Roles, Old Responsibilities” (Penguin 2006) was the culmination of a lifetime of questioning many truths that were built into our collective DNA, beliefs about men and women, motherhood, fatherhood, and work-family balance  I was immediately invited to be the keynote speaker at Citibank,  to give talks and hold workshops at premier institutions, and Star TV appointed me as short-term Consultant to de-code the Indian family for their senior executives.  

Then suddenly, without warning, my husband who was in the prime of his life, passed away. I dealt with this by immersing myself in work. I joined the Confederation of Indian Industry where I worked for 8 years. I wrote speeches for politicians, captains of industry and bureaucrats. It was hard, but I learnt a lot.  

After I left CII, I trained as a coach, certified by the ICF, (the International Coaching Federation.) and was coach and counsellor on both relationship and career issues.  

After this, renowned industrialist, Priya Paul commissioned me to write her mother, Shirin Paul’s biography. Researching and writing this book, was an exceptionally rewarding experience.  

I am now at peace, working on two books, and open to whatever life has to offer. For others in their wisdom years, I feel this is a precious time for reflection, but also to engage with others. To enrich their lives and in turn, be enhanced and enriched.

Gitanjali Prasad

Interview Credits: Saonli Sen Choudhury of WisdomCircle

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