The Devi arrives: The first edition of Devi Awards in Kolkata was nothing short of phenomenal
WE DON’T NEED a gala event to celebrate women, but we got one, nonetheless. Indulge, The Morning Standard’s Devi Awards made its foray into the city of joy last week. Before the onset of Durga Puja—Kolkata’s biggest festival—we dedicated some time for living goddesses who have persevered against all odds, to rise to relevance.
The Devi Awards was started with the vision to recognise contributions of women from all walks of life who have triumphed in their respective fields, and uplifted fellow women and men as they went along. After 16 chapters in Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi, Lucknow and Chennai, the Devi Awards, conceived in 2014, came to Kolkata for the first time last week, to celebrate woman achievers from Kolkata and the East.
Speaking at the event, Smriti Zubin Irani, Union Minister of Textiles and Women & Child Development, said, “Women need no success mantra. Don’t ever doubt yourself, women know how to succeed.” Smriti, who was the chief guest, also fielded questions with panache. She called for doing away with gender stereotypes across the board. “Women, especially women my age, have struggled with the best of things and the worst of things. Today, I was called a Devi, by a gentleman. I would like to add that one cannot take the title of Devi lightly. It is a title bestowed upon you, which is quite heavy to bear, it’s a title given under the presumption that she shall do everything that is sacrosanct. But, this event is not about me, it’s about women who do not care about titles, but continue to do their work, irrespective,” the minister added.
This year’s recipients included acclaimed danseuse Alokananda Roy, social entrepreneur and environmentalist Ekta Jaju, filmmaker Pritha Chakraborty, sustainable fashion influencer Sujata Chatterjee, designer trio Laldinsangi, Lalsangzeli and Lalrinpuii from Mizoram, entrepreneur and fashion visionary Madhu Neotia, environmental activist Temsutula Imsong, educator and social entrepreneur Parmita Sarma, and lifestyle entrepreneur Ritu Agarwal.
The evening started with a panel discussion, moderated by Kaveree Bamzai of The New Indian Express group, featuring speakers like Malavika Banerjee, handloom revivalist and the brain behind t h e l abel Byloom, Manoshi Roy Chowdhury, the Co-Chairman of Techno India Group, Diya Jaiswal, Vice President of the Ladies Study Group and the awardee Ekta Jaju. During the discussion, one of the most noteworthy revelations came from Jaju, who said that it was a great time for women to pursue entrepreneurship.
Needless to say, the award ceremony was a smorgasbord of powerhouse talents. Kolkata at least hasn’t seen so many accomplished women unite under one roof in a while, and that too on a platform celebrating them. As the recipients received their awards from the honourable minister, they opened up about their success stories. While Parmita Sarma talked about her green school initiative which caused global waves, Madhu Neotia opened up about the relationship between The India Story showcase and the city of Kolkata.
“It’s a wonderful idea to recognise women who are doing such innovative work. The winners we had today — I didn’t even know there were so many women doing such deserving work, and I’m very overwhelmed to receive the award with them. Even more so, because I received it from Smriti Irani, who is someone I have admired tremendously, as a woman. She inspires every woman who is out there trying to establish herself, because she (Smriti Irani) started from nothing, and she has balanced her life so beautifully. I think there’s a great takeaway here, that a woman does not need to lose her femininity in a man’s world,” Neotia added.
“I do my work very quietly, and I’m very humbled that you thought of me as a Devi. When someone acknowledges what I’m doing, I feel honoured,” performance artiste Alokananda Roy reveals. But the night didn’t end before Smriti Irani was persuaded to say something in Bengali for her fans in Kolkata. “Abar dekha hobe, Dugga Dugga (Till we meet again, may Durga protect you),” Irani said in flawless Bengali.
Some of the noteworthy attendees at Devi Awards were National Award-winning filmmaker Srijit Mukherji, actor and Member of Parliament Nusrat Jahan, industrialists Sanjiv Goenka, CK Dhanuka and Harshavardhan Neotia, artist Shuvaprasanna, educationist Seema Sapru, Sangeet Natak Akademi winner musician Tarun Bhattacharya, JIS group head Taranjit Singh, Namit Bajoria of Kutchina, Joyika Sen, wife of Senco Gold and Diamonds director Suvankar Sen, former beauty pageant winner and model Ushoshi Sengupta among others.
ASSOCHAM India was the presenting partner for Indulge, The Morning Standard Devi Awards and the platinum partner for the awards was RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. The associate partners were Kutchina and Senco Gold and Diamonds, airline partner was Air India, celebration partner was Diageo, trophy partner was Le Trove, and writing partner was Linc Pentonic.