The Power Of Sisterhood
Harper's Bazaar India|March 2021
Mothers, daughters, and sisters...they are the women who shape us and teach us the value of female bonds. In a special Bazaar feature, we speak with four leading families of India, to celebrate the relationship they share.
Radhika Bhalla

SHOBHAA DE,AUTHOR, 73

AVANTIKKA RAJU, MAGAZINE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, 42

ARUNDHATI DE-SHETH, JEWELLERY ADVISOR, 35

ANANDITA DE, ENTREPRENEUR, 32

On the lessons they have learnt from each other

My daughters’ individuality is what always strikes me as being hugely inspiring,” Shobhaa De tell Bazaar, as she settles into a the couch at her Mumbai-based home, along with her daughters, Avantikka, Anandita, and Arundhati. “I grew up in a family where we were expected to behave a certain way and expressing your individuality was never encouraged. I have, on the other hand, always encouraged my daughters to celebrate themselves and I am glad they have taken full advantage of it! Each one is their own person and I love that,” she continues.

Shobhaa’s “chief censor board”—her daughters, who provide her “that reality check, along with the voice of love and protectiveness”— are equally in awe of her, sharing the lessons they have learnt from the acclaimed author who pioneered a complete genre of modern Indian writing. As Anandita tells us, “Some of the strongest traits I have learnt from my mother, and tried my best to keep up with, are integrity, honesty, and hard work. With these values, I have learnt, you become not just a good woman but also a good companion and an inspiration in society.”

Another quality that the young women have imbibed from Shobhaa is of being independent and to speak up for their beliefs. Arundhati adds, “The biggest learning from my mother has been to keep my chin up and live life with a childlike freshness. I give my mom too much advice, mostly unsolicited, and have now begun to tell her not to grow up because it is a trap!”

Amongst the sisters, there is a give and take of both intellectual stimulation and emotional security. As Avantikka shares, “We have a family group chat that all the siblings are a part of, where we exchange our views and ideas on various topics. And as we share our opinions, we learn and grow from each other. We are all at different ages, and there are so many of us, each one being so unique...we get to learn from each other and we cherish that.”

It is an unstated fact that daughters observe and absorb their values from their mother. Ask Shobhaa where she got her inner strength from, and she immediately speaks of her own mother. “My mother was a whole learning in herself. She was a very simple lady but extremely wise.” Shobhaa reminisces, “She lived by her teachings, and didn’t sit me down and given me gyaan and lectures. The worth she placed on her children, husband, family, and her value system are rooted in me—the middle-class common sense. She was not over-indulgent, but she provided me with unconditional love. And even though she didn’t completely understand all my choices, she never opposed them, which is a big thing.”

The women of the De family agree that their biggest strength is each other’s presence in their lives, as well as the courageous women that have stood by them through their ups and downs. We ask them what advice they would give to each other. To the matriarch, Anandita says she would want her to calm her nerves, relax, and enjoy life. “Mom has worked relentlessly for over six decades now, and I just want her to have the best years to come,” she shares. In addition, Avantikka states that she would want Shobhaa to “think with her head and not always with her heart”.

In return, Shobhaa picks a few leaves from her journey to offer advice to her daughters. “Remain true to yourself and your priorities. Maintain a sense of balance, and value yourselves. Know yourselves in a deep way, and do not compare yourselves to others. Create a yardstick which only you can define and the world can acknowledge.”

ANJUL BHANDARI,

DESIGNER, 52

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