inspiration Motivation feminism bollywood Gul Panag women empowerment entrepreneur Festivelle

I Just Always Followed My Dreams And You Made Me Your Role Model

( words)
*For representational purpose only.

(As told by Gul to Diksha Dwivedi)

It rarely happens that an opportunity comes knocking on your door but when it comes, you should make sure the door is not locked. That is my life in a nutshell. 

I was 15 when I saw this really cute guy in school and I fell in love. Not intelligent, not responsible, not charming, but cute. I dreamt of marrying him that day. I was soon 21 when my boyfriend was no more just a "cute guy", I still wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. My dream, my love, my husband, Rishi Attari is a part of my reality today and he's the wisest man I know.

I can't get over the depth of his personality, it's like I meet a new person every day. In the wee hours of the night sometimes when I'm working in my office alone, I take a moment to thank my stars for giving me him. I don't know if he feels the same way, I hope he does but I couldn't have made a better decision in my life. Only he could have made me believe in the concept of marriage.

All I had to do was dream first and go after it, second. I can easily call it the motto of my life.

I entered a beauty pageant while I was still in college. I was an all-rounder as a student and I just thought it would add another feather in my cap. It so happened that I won the 'Miss India' title that year and after that, there was no looking back. 

I've been a dreamer all along and that has helped me in mindfully selecting the building blocks of my life. I was in my first year of college when my father was posted in Patiala, and every time I crossed the Patiala Flying Club on my way to college, I wanted to fly.

I kept it a secret because I didn't want to fly commercially, I couldn't imagine flying big planes for a living. It was the little planes I wanted to fly, that's real freedom according to me. So, I kept this fascination a secret till the day I could afford to get a flying license for myself. 

Dream lived

Some say I'm privileged and I agree, I was privileged for the opportunities I was able to create for myself. With Rs. 200 pocket money as a youngster, I could save enough to enter the Miss India contest. I had a family that allowed me to chase my dreams relentlessly and I see that as privilege. 

Yes, my father's surname attached to my name is a big part of me and I'm proud of it. But just like me, I feel that every human being is just a product of the circumstances at birth. I still dream of waking up one day and seeing a world where women decide for themselves what they want to do. I feel claustrophobic every time I see a woman 'adjusting' her plans to be more in sync with the society and her family. 

I'm the most normal person I know.

But every time I followed my dream in so many years, I was made to be someone or the other's role model or inspiration. I can't help but love the feeling and it is very very very humbling but there are moments when I feel like saying, "Wait, I'm no Superwoman, I'm just doing what I love to do." I passionately hate the fact that the bar for women has been set so low that stepping a bit out of what's perceived as 'normal' in our society becomes a 'symbol of empowerment'. We've gotten used to celebrating mediocrity for females and it's sad. 

Every time I go campaigning for elections, the first thing I'm asked to do is sit on a bike even before I'm asked to address a rally because of the "symbol of emancipation" it presents. Almost every industry, including Bollywood, needs the smartest women to keep mum about their minds and thoughts. You see women nodding in conference rooms more often than not. Why?

Soon into my acting career I realised if I wanted to only do the kind of movies I really liked, it couldn't have been for my bread and butter.

So I started my entrepreneurial journey, which is the best thing I could've done to myself, by founding Skipper Aviation, an aviation consultancy company. Then came Tittar Lodge Productions (TLP), that makes cutting edge content. I later co-founded Mobiefit with my friend Gourav Jaiswal, a technology company that makes fitness apps. Today, our Running app — Mobiefit Run, is the highest downloaded indigenous health and fitness category app. And recently, Shruti Seth and I brought Core entertainment to life with an aim of creating interesting engagements targeting women. It is a women-only engagement platform. This way I'm literally doing everything I've always wanted to do in life. 

The one time I feel I actually got lucky was with the Miss India title in 1999. After that, I refused to look back. I made sure I walked through every door this platform opened for me. I can't think of even one time when I consciously said 'No' to a challenging opportunity. 

I'm an extremely emotional human being, just like every other woman is perceived to be. I cry at weddings, I can't stop my tears when I see a war martyr's family, I love puppies, I have two of my own, I'm in awe of my husband, my attention goes to the laundry more often than not. We, as women, have been conditioned to care about things and so we do; we feel, we love, we cry, we depend, but that shouldn't have ever stopped us from dreaming.

I'm an actress and I learnt to fly a plane. I was a teenager and I dreamt of marrying the cute head boy of our school. I was Miss India and an actress, today I'm also an Entrepreneur. I did everything I could to make my identity mine. I go on solo trips with my dogs and I say, "I'm having fun" when I'm asked what I do for a living.

My next dream is Festivellea women-only space, where urban women come together and celebrate each other. It is Core Entertaiment's dream project, if we're able to bring you out of your house without your boyfriend/husband/a guy friend, we'd see this as half job done at raising the bar for women in this world. Let the well-known men open the show for you while you sit there relaxed with other like-minded women, celebrating 'sisterhood' for a change.

It's on till 10 pm on 17th and 18th December 2016, at Juhu Hotel. Tickets are available at the venue.

See you there! 

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