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Mumbai's Mahilas: Leeza Mangaldas

Pictured Above: Leeza Mangaldas: freelance journalist, intellectual, language-learner.
by Antaraa Vasudev
23 September 2015

Brigid Connell (BC): Can you tell me a little bit about what you do for a living and how you got into that?

Leeza Mangaldas (LM): Right now I do a lot of broadcast television work, but I work as a freelance journalist. And I like being a freelancer because I don't have to sit in an office every day. I thought after graduating from college that I'd love to have the experience of a work environment that isn't sedentary and isn't the same every day. So this has really lent itself to providing that.

BC: Who or what do you think has been one of your biggest influences, personally or professionally?

LM: I was really inspired by many of my professors at Columbia. That whole world expanded my vision for what is possible and how you can do a lot of different things and still make it work. I was able to think of the arts and the sciences as not mutually exclusive. I've had some really wonderful mentors here. My parents have been fantastic as well. There are also people in the industry, like I think Jon Stewart is amazing.

BC: What was the most recent book that you read?

LM: Lena Dunham's book, "Not That Kind of Girl."

BC: So you went to college in the US. What made you want to move back here and start working in India and in Mumbai specifically?

LM: Well, I was 12 when I left home for boarding school, then I went straight to college in New York, so it'd been almost ten years that I hadn't been close to family on a daily basis. I didn't want to be completely cut off from my family, so I returned. But I don't think that it's any kind of sacrifice I made by any means, because right now Indian cities are just bursting with opportunity, there's just so much that you can do here. I think there's a really great spirit in Bombay, the people here are very resilient and innovative. There's also something really valuable about the emphasis that Indian society seems to place on family.

BC: Have you had any positive or negative experiences, at least in your professional realm, with gender stereotypes or anything similar?

LM: I think I've been quite lucky to have had a relatively unbiased work environment where I have been. I think more than gender, what I've sensed in my work environments is that as a young person, you're made to feel like what you're saying can't be that important or valuable. Experience gives you, of course, an advantage, but you shouldn't assume that someone is less competent just because they're young.

BC: What type of advice would you give to young women living in India right now about how to succeed?

LM: I really think that young women globally should support each other more instead of seeing another young woman as someone who's vying for the same opportunities as you are. I also think women have to stop seeing themselves as less capable than men. Many of us do, even if subconsciously. If you see yourself the same way your oppressor sees you, then how are you going to stop that oppression?

BC: What do you think is one of the most effective platforms for change within this society?

LM: I think it has to be a combination of education and state-sanctioned infrastructure projects. With education can come an awareness of everything from personal hygiene to gender equality. It's not just classroom education but creating a larger sense of equality and inclusiveness and empowerment in every sphere.

BC: What is something that you've worked on that you're very proud of?

LM: One of my biggest regrets growing up is that I never mastered an Indian language. I grew up in Goa and South India and so studied Hindi only in school; I never spoke it at home. I've been putting in a huge effort to learn and use Hindi confidently. I still have a very long way to go with being comfortable speaking it, but I recently had to conduct an interview in Hindi. It was personally a big achievement for me to be able to do that, because just a little while ago, it was like a foreign language.

 

Mumbai's Mahilas is an interview series conducted by Brigid Connell, Programme Development Intern, Asia Society India Centre. The series explores the diversity and drive of Mumbai's women, both personally and professionally. All women, especially those who are leaders in their field and who create change in their communities, were encouraged to participate. Interviews cover women's backgrounds, professions, successes, interests, reflections, and advice for other women. Any views or opinions presented in this series are solely those of the individuals and do not represent those of the Asia Society India Centre.