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Wisdom Stories Ep. 44: Renu Roy

a portrait of Renu Roy

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 was still in my teens when I began to cultivate my love for theatre. I realised that acting came to me quite naturally. However, I never received any formal training. Over the years, I honed my skills mainly through my mistakes, experience, observation, and the indoctrination of accomplished directors. I played pivotal roles in more than sixty successful theatrical productions. Under the banner of the theatre group I formed, I also took to direction, production, writing and adapting dramatic scripts.

I co-founded and spearheaded a cultural foundation, “Spandan”, with Aparna Sen, who was its President. She has been a dear friend and a major source of inspiration for me. This venture was a significant milestone and an interesting turning point. I took the plunge with great involvement and enthusiasm. In time, it developed into a well-patronised, reputed organisation in Kolkata with multiple wings and objectives. We were privileged to invite and showcase the talent of scores of performing artists and groups from across the country and abroad in the arena of dance, music, and theatre, staging and curating their shows for informed audiences. These included full-fledged cultural Festivals, both classical and contemporary.

Simultaneously, we promoted and showcased the works of both established and aspiring fine artists in several art exhibitions and created a platform for them. What was extremely gratifying was that we organised many of these events in aid of various social causes.

a picture of Renu Roy

Under the banner of Spandan Films, we produced several feature films, including the award-winning ‘Unishe April’ for which we received the prestigious national Film Festival Awards’ The Golden Lotus’ and ‘The Silver Lotus’ for Best Director, Best Film and Best Actor from the President of India. I was also humbled to receive several other important cultural, theatre and film awards, like the Women Achievers’ Award, The Bharat Nirman, The Kalakar Award and The Aparajita Award, in recognition of one’s work and contribution.

It was something of a national record to have been elected as the first woman President of The Saturday Club in Kolkata, a hallowed 114-year social institution in the country. Here, one learnt some important principles of corporate governance.

I have met innumerable artists from creative, artistic, and literary fields and feel that I have learnt something meaningful from each of them. Most of all, one learnt from the humility that many of them possessed and the manner in which they conducted themselves. Without exception, the one common refrain was that they achieved what they did with a high measure of hard work and perseverance. Closer home, I have been deeply inspired by my father, who took the spiritual path, and my husband, who is my source of joy and worthy of emulation.

It has been a deeply fulfilling career, a creative journey that spanned more than 55 years. I don’t think I worried about failure or was ever intimidated by fear of it. At every step I was determined to succeed and possessed a clarity of vision and mission. An important lesson I learned was to develop a strong mindset to cope with myself and the world and respond with kindness and commitment.

I had a great passion for poetry from the early days, something that deepened with time. I have published three books of poems. I was fortunate to have been invited to several significant literary festivals in the country, including the Tata Steel Kalam Literary Meet and the iconic JLF in Jaipur, with my recently published’ The Far Side and Other Poems’.

Today, having reached the silvering age, one is moved and struck by the sheer wonder of life, by a realisation that a divine power moves everything and through everything. Through this philosophical lens, I now pursue a simple spiritual routine, indulge in writing short fiction and poetry, some occasional theatre, a fair bit of travel, learning the art of relaxation, and follow my purpose to engage with causes that hold meaning for me.

To the wisdom generation, I would say that one should primarily feel good about oneself and those around us. This sense of positive energy will impel one to feel motivated about anything one undertakes. Define clearly what one wants to do, no matter how humble, unorthodox, or difficult the task is. Then, engage with it with confidence, enthusiasm, and integrity. Integrity is central to everything. It is important to feel inspired, empowered and relaxed without building any unnecessary stress…the purpose being to live with joy and composure in this most precious and meaningful stage of life.

Renu Roy

Interview and photograph credits: Saonli Sen Choudhury of WisdomCircle

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