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Wisdom Stories Ep.26: Ms. Renu Kapoor

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 qualified as a Chartered Accountant at a time when there were very few qualified women Chartered Accountants around. I was the only girl in my examination centre both during Intermediate and final exams. This made my journey both interesting and challenging.

In 2000, I was offered a consultant role by an Indo-UK collaboration company that was one of the first movers in Vocational Education. I decided to take a sabbatical for a year from my Chartered Accountancy practice which got extended to 16 years, while I set up vocational Institutes in the fields of Fashion, Design, Media, Lifestyle and Jewellery, Hairdressing and Insurance (Wigan & Leigh, Indian Institute of Jewellery, Nalini & Yasmin etc).

My life mantra is never say die. I have never considered the word “No” as a failure. I had signed an MOU with an Institute in California for a technical collaboration in India, where I made 90 presentations which were rejected before the Indian Institute of Jewellery was established. Strangely every time I heard a no, I was motivated to carry on.

I used the same philosophy when it came to my social crusades. It has now been 7 years since I started a reconstruction project of the crematorium at Chandanwadi, Marine Lines. It will soon see the light of the day. The mortuary at St George’s Hospital, another project under the banner of Dignity in Death, is also a work in progress. It took perhaps 50 physical meetings and a thousand interactions for both these projects to commence. I have ~98,000 signatories to my petition on Change.org  “Stop treating a Morgue like a butcher’s shop #Dignity in Death”. In my latest crusade against the stench emanating from the Sassoon docks, I along with a few residents, have filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court and also launched a petition on Change which reads “HelpusbreatheMumbaiporttrust”. I wrote the lyrics in protest for a dance which is on YouTube called “The Stink”.

At her Arangetram at age 56

I was deeply impacted by my mother, who imbibed in me the importance and ability to work hard and with your hands. I learned from my father that truth will always prevail. I lost him when I was 14, but those limited years were enough for me to absorb his unwavering values. If I have one regret, it is to have lost him so early.

Later on, I was deeply inspired by Meera Mahadevia, who gave me the motivation to go back to Bharatnatyam after a gap of 30 years at the age of 53. I did my Arangetram, just like her, much later at age 56.

Performance at age 64 in 2019 called Bhishaj, around the theme of Healing with Dance

I came back to practice 7 years ago. I became certified as a mentor during the Lockdown and counsel young women entrepreneurs today. I keep myself relevant to offer meaningful advice to the women I work with.

There has to be something to look forward to when one gets up in the morning. My advice to the wisdom generation is to find their purpose and commit to it. This is a great phase when one can tend to unfulfilled aspirations because now we do it for ourselves. I dance not because I am the best but because I love dancing and I hope to dance till I drop dead.

Renu Kapoor

Interview Credits: Saonli Sen Choudhury of WisdomCircle

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