A Born Writer Is What We’ve Nicknamed Her – Tanya Chaitanya

‘The question isn’t who’s going to let me; the question is who is going to stop me.’ – Ayn Rand

Growing up with stacks of books and newspapers for furniture pretty much sums up how Tanya Chaitanya could have fallen into a career in writing! The Editor of Femina spoke to us about her journey, her writing and how she was a reading addict at the age of 3.

Tanya confesses to being a workaholic and admits to finding her balance in her mother, who gave up everything to be with her and her granddaughter.

“Not kidding! I did by putting letters of alphabet together, making funny sounds till I got every syllable right.” Now that’s a dream every parent must have? A self-taught child. Tanya recalls sitting on her father’s lap and typing out new words she learnt every day, while her language teachers would keep her test copies to be read out loud to the class. Everyone around her evidently understood her path getting shaped towards being a writer, except her.

She pursued fashion but that was short-lived. Her career as a writer started when she dropped out of NIFT and landed up writing for BBC.

Being the Editor of a Magazine like Femina must be a tough job. Is it?

“In one word, hectic. Mornings are spent scanning the trending stories, news reports and analysing prime-time news. The idea is to get Femina across website, social media platforms to capitalise on the daily buzz and exclusives. As I rush into work, a million things need to be planned–shoots, assignments, storyboard, layouts, videos, accounting and admin issues. I am the official trouble-shooter, agony aunt and at the cost of sounding fully clichéd, the person for whom Femina is like a baby–to give birth to, to enhance and develop and finally deliver her to the world so that she can hold her own. Except that the labour pains happen every fortnight!”

A job like this needs a support system back home to balance things out. Tanya confesses to being a workaholic and admits to finding her balance in her mother, who gave up everything to be with her and her granddaughter. She doesn’t believe in micro managing and allows the person to take over once she has mentored that. This allows her to stay at top of the things without stress.

A magazine with such a large readership has the power to influence many…what kind of challenges do you face?  

“Fresh into my job as the editor of Femina, nine years ago, I got a panicky message to come and attend a phone call in the middle of an important meeting. I had to take it because the woman on the other end was on the verge of committing suicide. From north east India, she was an abused homemaker who was severely diabetic and completely depressed–she wanted to talk to me as she considered Femina her only friend in the world. I spoke to her for two hours straight, asked to talk to her teenage son after gathering information and immediately redirected an NGO from the region to reach out to her. She survived and today is separated from her abusive husband, runs her own business and lives with her son and new daughter-in-law. That call was a turning point for me–I realised how much we influence and enter the lives of people who read us, connect with us and take advice from us. I have done a few life-coach courses since then and also got a few NGOs to be Femina’s support system in cases like these. There are happy stories too. Like the lawyer who discovered her passion for fashion and was so deeply inspired by our start-up stories that she launched her own brand.”

In the era of trends and influence, we ask how are they managing their content and she says “We always put the woman first. Whether it is fashion or beauty, it’s about being as real as possible.”

She does not believe in following trends blindly and instead customisation is something that should be the way. Every woman is unique in her way and at Femina we celebrate that fact.

“Be Unstoppable, Femina’s tagline, defines the spirit of the woman who stays unhindered on her path.”

She especially loves working on the the inspiring women they feature in the magazine.