'Disagreement with parents not disrespect'

At the launch of a book, Smriti Irani spoke about how respecting diametrically opposing views keeps families together, her secret to balancing work and motherhood, and more

Stressing that disagreement with parents is not disrespect, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani recently said that respecting diametrically opposing views is what keeps families together.

"Parents should not consider it a disrespect if their children disagree with them. Indeed, diametrically views should not be disrespected," she said at the formal launch here of senior journalist's "No Regrets-The Guilt-Free Woman's Guide To A Good Life".

This prompted a tongue-in-cheek question from the audience: "How would you react if one of your children decided to join the Congress?"

"I have full faith in their upbringing that they would never follow that path," the BJP leader promptly retorted.

She also debunked the notion that the government's "Beti Bacaho, Beti Padao" campaign was directed against boys and resorted to a true life story to illustrate this.

"There was this doctor in Beed (in Maharashtra) who was aborting female foetuses and feeding them to dogs to hide the evidence. If an educated individual could do this, imagine what the others would do. Obviously, practices like this had to be put an end to. But, the government can only do this much. It requires a conscious effort by society at large to achieve this," Irani explained.

Prompted largely by the author, the event, seemingly attended by more women than men, turned into a primer for balancing work and motherhood, with Irani, who has three children, "one of whom has just left for college", that things had turned out just fine" for her.

What was her formula for success? In brief, come to terms with the transition, don't feel guilty about anything, be prepared for consensus ("that's one of the tricks of a working mother"), rely on yourself, schedule your day and maintain a sense of humour.

Speaking about the challenges she faced in her working life, Irani talked about an incident from the time she was the HRD minister.

A man running an educational institution against which Irani had ordered an enquiry for irregularities, walked into her office and demanded that the probe be stopped "because I know the higher-ups".

She threw him out and the man threatened to throw her out of the window if the probe was not halted.

A week later, she asked the man to come to her office. "Have you called me to apologise," the man asked. "No, I called you here to tell me that the last time you came, there were no windows in my office. This time, the CPWD (that maintains the building where the ministry is housed) has created two windows," Irani said amid much laughter from the audience.

"This is not a book that tells you what to do with your life. If I knew, hey, I would be making millions. Rather, it's a book that tells you what not to do, what to avoid, what to sidestep, what to remember, what to forget. It's a book that does so with the help of a few people I'm happy to call my friends and a few whom I have met over the course of my work," she writes.

It covers a wide sweep: From being a mother to lessons learnt from mothers, managing money to marriage, coping with pain and anger to taking ownership of their health and growing old.

"If there is one thing I learned well and in time it is this: there's no point in having regrets or feeling guilty. It's like carrying a whole lot of excess baggage and its not even monogrammed Louis Vuitton. So why bother?"

Noting that a friend once told her that the secret to a happy life is a good cook, a good driver and a good husband, she adds: "I agree. But you have to kiss many metaphorical frogs to find the perfect specimens of all."

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