In this fast-paced world, women from every walk of life have learned to adapt their period as part of who they are. Some share a life-changing story, while some recall their period struggles that are slowly being overcome. Our series, ‘Periods & I’, is an ode to these women and their stories, and this one is about Renuka Kirpalani.
Growing up around a buzzing environment filled with the clangs of auto repair, working with cars was second nature to Renuka. “My father owned his workshop where he built, tuned, and participated in rallys with race cars. I was surrounded by cars my entire childhood. After school, I’d head over to the space and work on small tasks. Initially, it worked as a great distraction for a kid to be occupied, but I found myself loving its mechanical aspect. Soon, I’d be opening up radio equipment at home, which took my mother a while to get used to!”
Even though Renuka was drawn to exploring technology, she instead went down the route of interior design, but things didn’t feel the same. “I wasn’t able to do any car stuff, and it left me a little bit frustrated. Out of the money I made with interior design, I got one of the cars my father was selling at a depreciated value. Soon friends and peers in the rallying circuit convinced me to participate in a race without telling my father.” Not only did her close friends help out with the smaller semantics and details, but she ended up qualifying and winning it as well!
Racing is an expensive sport, so Renuka worked in a way where she would earn money which lent to supporting hercareer. “I participated in my last rally without knowing I was pregnant! It was a time filled with good memories but soon my kids and family took up more time and I eventually quit.”
Years later, however, a call changed it all again for Renuka. “Back in 2003, I was desperately missing the auto-world while helping my husband out with his business. Hormuz Sorabjee, the editor at Autocar India and a dear friend, called one day asking if I would be interested in hosting a television show and was looking for someone with extensive car knowledge”. Initially hesitant about it being one of his infamous pranks, Renuka went through the process, not realizing it was indeed a serious offer. Today, she’s in charge of the entire video content at Haymarketsac publishing.
With years of expertise in a more male-dominated industry, it’s not always been easy but things have progressed in the last few years. Renuka stated, “I do see a lot of change. I see a lot more women participating and more organizations promoting their participation. With social media, the world has opened up opportunities for women more than before, mostly as it wasn’t considered conventional at the time. The age-old joke of women not being able to drive properly was more due to lack of practice and encouragement. A while ago, we hosted an event called She-Drives, where women had a chance to perform stunts such as slides. While most of them were initially hesitant, encouragement from their companions whether it was their husbands, brothers or friends helped them have a full day where they felt elated and realized their potential to do things they would have thought unimaginable!”
“My earliest memory of getting my period was when my nanny did a quick aarti when I told her about it. I experienced cramps but never to an extent where the pain was debilitating. After a while, I learned about tampons and never looked back.”
‘Never looking back’ is a motto Renuka holds close to heart. It also helped her overcome the initial fear of staying in the field after getting her period. A late bloomer, Renuka was eager to start her menstrual cycle but once it arrived, the excitement didn’t last too long.
““There were lots of access points that needed to be thought of. The experience of wearing a pad for long hours while being jostled around in a rally car is not comfortable. Plus, you had to share a room with your rally partner, who was most likely a man and there was nothing you could do about it. Luckily, my parents were understanding of the situation and I was adamant about not letting it hold me back either.”
She encouraged her daughter to use tampons as well, after a brief and quick talk. Renuka recalls how her talk with her daughter involved just one sentence: “Please chill mom, I know what to do and we are not in the dark ages.” As a mother, she felt compelled to initiate the conversation but a more important aspect was helping her deal with PMS symptoms.
“Since I never experienced extreme levels of discomfort, I couldn’t understand why my daughter was making it seem so. I encouraged her to rough it out the same way I did but after taking her to a gynaecologist, it was I who got taught a lesson on how to help her manage these symptoms and make it easier for her.”
The one takeaway Renuka wished she could share with her younger self is how important it is to just take things one step at a time. “It’s important not to rush anything. Things take time, and taking a step back helps you get a better perspective to help you make a better decision.”
Whether it’s adjusting to a new way to manage your fear of trying something unconventional or getting over your fears, Renuka believes that being InSync with your body and mind can help you achieve all your goals, no matter what you choose to do.