Travel Bliss Interview Series: Janet Serrao Agarwal
As part of my Interview Series wherein each month I feature two interviews with people from around the world – who may be a home-maker, a traveler, a blogger, or a biker or a painter or a potter or an entrepreneur or a writer or just about anyone who have chosen to follow their bliss against all odds. This time my very special interview is with the very young, beautiful, multi-talented and social butterfly: Janet Serrao Agarwal.
It came as a sudden inspiration to me, to feature Janet’s interview on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Janet is an epitome of womanhood. She has recently been interviewed on IWH – Indian Women in Hospitality – Beauty with a purpose.
Her interview is sure to inspire us and motivate us to continue to strive and explore and try out new things or just excel in whatever we put our minds to do.
1. Tell us about yourself:
Dream Unlimited-“Your limitation—it’s only your imagination and great things never come in your comfort zone”.
I was brought up in a very beautiful place in Goa by the mountains, beaches, looking at sun rise and sun set each day with a lot of discipline and values coming from a single mother (widow at a young age), teachers, priests, sisters and friends for lifetime and this outlines my life. I have learnt from my mother to win every battle with a smile and pass it on even in the toughest situation.
Education being the motto of my life and have seen my life transform. I faced a lot of challenges & hurdles to complete education and matured faster than my age. I began working in Mumbai and studying together to fund my education at 16 yrs. due to which I had to give up a lot of desires; but I never let them die.
Professionally, I am into a serious intellectual profession – Chartered Accountancy and Company Secretary along with masters in commerce, but I am more HUMAN than NUMBERs.
Life unfolds new challenges at every stage in relationships be it as a daughter taking care of her mother, as a sister, as a wife, and now mother of 6 year old boy now. I am on my toes to take responsibility of it all like any other women.
But I always had a super strong willpower it’s only “I” who can make my life. I’m like the ball which falls down and bounces back and each time higher than earlier. So I don’t give up.
2. Apart from leading your regular, successful life, managing your home, parenting, being a freelance consultant, you also do a lot of other stuff, which I am forever losing count of! Could you please share with our readers your multi-talented side?
I loved my name Janet because it means God is gracious and hence I must make most use of my talents inborn or some that I could acquire.
Along with being a professional and have high pressures and deadlines at work, I brush my skills regularly at job with a lot of reading as my profession demands that along with soft skill and leadership training programmes being in leadership role certifications like ISO auditor, Excel skills, IFRS and ever changing law in the country etc. etc. I bagged several corporate awards and felicitations as a young Director / CFO in last 16 years of my career now.
Recently also featuring an interview on Indian Women in Hospitality (IWH), Young achievers award, and now publishing of my inspiring story in a book “Swing” along with 35 other CA‘s in India on journey of being a CA which talks on how one can achieve their goal with all the hardships . It is an honour for me to be able to inspire students and colleagues.
Jack of all trades – I am also award winning INIFD fashion designer, passionate about art and handicraft.
I was definitely much focused and a go-getter in school being the House Prefect, Vice-Captain and then Best Student of the Year. Everyone knew me going up fearless to the stage and winning several competitions be it dance, singing onstage or the church choir, drama, debate, elocution, managing the stage and events, and art and handicrafts, best out of waste, writing poems (which I now post on a blog called love on my brain) and we didn’t go for any classes to learn these. It was self-learning. Like everyone, with studies, job, marriage & responsibilities, I forgot what I used to be. We lose our real identity.
Later after I achieved my professional goal I began learning swimming, driving and various different dance forms like Jive Salsa, Bachata, Belly dance, Lezim, Manglagaur, Laavni, Rajasthani,Garbha, Bharatnatyam, Rap, Hip hop, Bollywood and it goes on as dance is my expression. My hunger for knowledge and the curiosity to learn new things, hence I ensure I add one skill (feather) every year to my hat.
With several health issues, miscarriages and surgeries I had lost my health and I decided to regain that. I didn’t want to copy paste someone else so I listened to my likes and my body -joined Zumba, functional training and over the time running marathons regularly. So I follow my fitness regime. I run 21 km (TMM) marathon every year and raise funds for deaf and blind children or a social cause which also gives meaning to my running.
Most women forget that we all are great multi- taskers.
3. Wow Janet!! I am already feeling dizzy just reading about the other stuff that you do! You have also been recently crowned as The Eternal Gorgeous Queen of Maharashtra 2019. Wow! Congratulations on that! So tell us about it.
Who doesn’t have a Cinderella dream to be a queen? But it always got buried with studies, marriage, profession, and child and at a point in time I absolutely didn’t think beyond this and even forgot what I really am.
Also this step coming after the profession I belong to was a bigger challenge but I didn’t want to let go of my little princess dream and there is never a perfect time. So let me tick this as well my best once before time goes off.
It was a process of self-discovery on aspects I never touched upon like how to showcase ones personality on the whole, to pick up your confidence and raise my self-esteem, to prove to people that it is not impossible to have beauty and brains together readily. The best was ramp walk with an introduction and then Q & A round where I knew I could win the battle being confident on stage and my final answer swept off the floor literally.
The pageant no doubt encouraged self-confidence and sportsmanship teaching me behaviors of people of all age
Success is definitely celebrated hence after winning the title I was all over media and making choices of what to pick up has not been easy. This is the phase of popularity and I made a conscious choice of my way ahead into few events, shows and guest appearances. It was about what we learn in life tends to be more about the journey; we go on together than just winning.
4. Super! Did you face any challenges / difficulties during this incredible journey?
Managing many roles is a challenge. But yes I took some risks to fulfill that one childhood wish.
The contest required a lot of preparation time for the Photo shoot, Maharashtra Round, making a script and video on depression awareness, garments to stitch and wear, make up, Introduction, Q & A , sports and voting round and last but not the least grooming for 3 days leaving behind your work and child which keep running on your mind.
After work and household, I would literally go practicing after 9 pm to learn from a choreographer the perfect Lavani dance for Maharashtra round. I scribbled my script on post-partum depression awareness several times. I conveyed the emotional pain of a women when she loses a child which was my own case or after delivery in less than one minute. I also won a special tile for that “Beauty for a Cause 2019”. The video is on YouTube. Watch it here on YouTube.
In the process I learnt how to let go negativity and focus on myself within a group of women and it’s very common. I also knew who are those friends / family who stand by me whether I win or not.
In all of this I realised the benefit of being fit, as I always took care of my health and my body which women tend to forget themselves after marriage and a child.
I really wanted to give it my best in those 15 days. One day before my mother & elder sister came to encourage me up saying you are unique and everything on stage should be unique to make you stand out. I began to believe the best and put in all my chords to direct it to the goal. Self-belief is the best one can have!!!!!
Challenges and difficulties are part of life. What’s the fun if everything was smooth?
5. Hats off to you Janet. Your YouTube video on Post-partum Depression awareness is really an eye-opener. Any one life lesson learnt or moment you will not forget?
At a young age I understood the value and essence of time. I remember when I always used a Natraj pencil and Camlin compass in school. I also really craved for designer ones looking at my friends. But I knew the limitations.
I learnt three things from that:
- Even with the simple Compass & Natraj pencil – I wrote better and always stood first in class.
- It was pointless for me to compare uncontrollable things.
- Time once lost doesn’t come back. I grew up and earned so much and can buy hundreds of those pencils but it doesn’t have the same value in my life
So gather the resources you have around and work around it. Don’t weep and feel disheartened, start writing by focusing on yourself. TIME DOESN’T WAIT.
6. My goodness, I can so much relate to that! What are your other passions?
Art work has been my passion ever since childhood which started with drawing competition as early as from grade 3. While in school we developed the art of making our own designer clothes with embroideries to make them look unique.
I continued self-learning of embroidery, crochet, cross stitch, flower making, canvas, Warley painting , knife painting or mosaic painting , decoupage, soap making , jewellery making , candle making, soft toys, quilling , or just best out of waste, I even designed and made my house without an interior decorator and everything decorated was made by my own hands. The satisfaction is incomparable.
It’s never too late to learn anything; hence when I was home for a year on sabbatical due to my son, I picked up my childhood dream to be a fashion designer from INIFD Bandra. My son was a baby so I would literally burn the midnight oil to complete assignments and successfully completed winning the best designer award where Femina Miss India Shristi Rana walked the ramp with my creation. I flaunt my designs with the name JSA couture. And now during the beauty pageant and after winning the title of gorgeous queen I am able to design and stitch my own creations.
I always dedicated time for my interest. People do ask me how I find time to do all this. I say I sit back after I am done with my work and house responsibilities and that is my “ME TIME”. It’s important .Most watch Television and I listen to television but I sit to do some art work every week. And surprisingly the more stress I have, the more beautiful is my creation.
7. Awesome! How do you manage to be this Super Wonder Woman? Juggling between your individual works, family, social life and pursuing your passions?
Women are most powerful and they forget that they are multi-taskers. Isn’t it?
I don’t lag behind any of my responsibilities (family or work). They are a number one priority for me too. I feel proud to say I take care of my mother too as she is proud to say she has a daughter.
But women have a tendency of putting only one priority in life. But it’s always a question of choosing and prioritizing each part of your day. Your priority today can be attending a show apart from kid or office. So if we understand this we can do a lot for own self and even the family. But first that desire to do something should be strong. And you will find ways to achieve them.
I decide what my values are — and which ones take precedence. Don’t look at standards around. I focus on things that I can do and not always what I’m asked to do. I also make sure I do things which must be done now.
Being human I never shy away from taking my time off. My social calendar is always full, I celebrate all religious festivals with all preparations.
It’s not easy with home, child and work but you have to make a choice. Sometimes family is also unsupportive or there are relationship concerns but I constantly say to myself “ Alright next time and I wait for that time and grab it “ I have to put in efforts and time to keep people , my network and friends but I know we have only one life.
Sometimes my time is after 10 pm and I start painting or stitching or just make my coffee for myself. But I still do it because more than being physically tired mental health is most important in today’s life.
I am that glass jar with pebbles and yet have space for my coffee beans in it.
Yes work pressures are higher and therefore I feel the need to fill them with coffee beans (social life) and I make that space may be by crushing it or mixing it with water or milk or just smell it to give that aroma and freshness.
8. Any words of wisdom / advice to all the women / men/ people out there?
- When tiredness takes over you, you may try burying your head under a pillow and pretend it’s night. But it’s not the night. Or say you left your dream on a pillow, then you might want to still stay on bed. But to make those dreams come true you have to wake up and action. Or beat your pillow in anger without any mercy and they will still stand in obedience… So push yourself beyond limits even if no one else supports you. So keep your dream alive be it your childhood dream and try to tick it off. You live only once- always remember this.
- Be yourself: take inspirations nut do what you can than copying someone else’s life. Birds fly because they have wings and because we can’t grow wings we can’t be called birds. The most alarming day is when birds decide to swim and fish want to fly.
- Most times the strongest women are the ones who love beyond faults, Cry behind closed doors, Fight battles that no one knows and fight through bad days and then earn the best of the days. Value life in whatever house it dwells because when time comes we are all stripped to bare bones and face eternity. Then the only law we were meant to follow was to love ourselves and each other.
9. What are your future plans? What’s next?
Make myself as interesting as possible because the maximum time I will spend is with myself.
I am yet to learn a music instrument which I started and gave up in between. And my bucket list will never end. I’m sort of greedy.
It’s is in giving that you receive hence life is not complete without working on a social cause. I began doing few charities starting with my office boys and maids. When people misuse this I have learnt lessons as well. Then I spent few year serving an NGO for housing and sanitation all over India and ultimately it helped me open my own trust “ray of hope “for educating the underprivileged. It gives me a boost to see this upliftment all around. I try my best to help people as much as I can. I hope to give more as I receive.
10. What is your Bliss? Are you following your Bliss?
My bliss is travel. As a kid we didn’t have liberty of family holiday but I did begin travel with my first trip to Kerala in 8th grade – solo representing school for national jamboree and then Assam for national science congress. I was afraid but still very bold for that generation.
But that developed an akin interest I don’t earn to keep the money in my bank, but I make memories in travel. Travel makes me richer in experience and memories, covered 32 countries both for leisure and work.
I sailed in luxury cruises & witnessed the Ariel views from helicopters of 12 apostles or the Grand Canyon, gambled in Vegas to feeding the koalas in Australia or sit in London eye, . Asian countries have their own beauty with the best corals, trekking in Nepal with river rafting in gushing waters, Taj Mahal. I have seen wonders of the world and various continents through length and breadth of the country as well.
Through travel I realised I have converted my fears into passion like driving , all water sports, para gliding, scuba diving I have conquered my fears of height water and road with solo travels, and being adventurous to activities which are in air water or on ground. Special love for scuba diving says it all. I push myself.
I enjoy be it a mountain or a sea or just a coffee. It can be with bunch of people or just family or with my son or just solo.
I thank God how he has created the world and there is so much to see and embrace. I even began writing on my travel page “bitten by travel bug” but yet not done justice to the page just to share how people should travel.
During this phase I met people of all kinds and I relate to their stories. Through my interaction I have met people with anxiety and depression where people think of tomorrow and not live today. I feel lucky that I have blessings and possess much more than many. That’s my way to happiness.
Only when you open up yourself to adjust and accept different kinds of people you are accepting God’s creation and there is reason behind it.
I practice human equality and adjust in any environment which is not taught in any syllabus of life. Live for today like there is no tomorrow.
Wow Janet! For a change I have run out of words to say anything more! I wish you all the very best and hope that you continue to follow your bliss and continue to be passionate in whatever you set your mind and heart to do.
Thank you Janet for doing this interview with me! Your journey and all that you are doing is truly an inspiration for me and all those reading this blog.
Happy Women’s Day 🙂 (Being a woman is sure a blessing!)
Till then, keep traveling and keep sharing your stories of inspiration here.