Pria Warrick completed her post-graduation from Ecole Swiss (Finishing School), Switzerland, and went on to become Miss India in America. In 1990, she started a fi nishing school in New Delhi which is today regarded as one of the fi nest of its kind in this part of the world. Tulika Singh catches up with the lady
How has the journey been? Was this always your dream or did it unfold this way with time?
I was always into behaviour management and had studied clinical psychology at Cornell University, US. So this has always been a part of my life.
Clinical psychology is about behaviour management, changing perceptions of life and thought process. Then came the idea of a finishing school because I myself have attended one. I thought that soft skills added to one’s personal development and that’s what one’s inner conditioning is all about.
Initially when we launched this in India, only women came to undergo the course. But as soon as the economy opened up, influx of MNCs started and Indian business managers had to travel overseas and business executives now had to represent their businesses outside. That is when people started really coming forward.
I would say that major changes have come in the last 12 to 13 years. Women all over the world have always been tutored to manage their marriages and everything else around it. They’ve always been seen adjusting to situations. Rarely do we see men putting in that effort – be it in India, America, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else for that matter.
Finishing schools are not just teaching you how to get ready for marriage but they also tell you all about carrying yourself in the world. And back then, we saw that it was very important to bring this to India. So I guess we were at the right time in the right place.
When I look back at the 80’s, the most popular career paths were medicine, engineering or law. From where did this whole aspiration to study and teach etiquettes and manners come into being?
I was born in a high-society home and etiquettes were a major part of it. I hardly grew up in India. I was here till I was 10 years old after which we shifted abroad and hence I was groomed there. The India you see today was probably what America was two to three decades back. There was no such stereotype. You could be doing anything. You could be a clinical psychologist or an art director for that matter. That gave us a breather. But if you ask me frankly, that stereotype is still here in India. People think that if someone opts for humanities, then he or she is less intelligent; if someone takes up commerce, then he or she is a little more intelligent and in case someone is brilliant, they would almost always go for science. It doesn’t work like that anymore. Confucius said “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I love the whole concept of moulding people.
In your opinion, do Indian public representatives need a serious lesson in etiquettes?
They definitely need it. Haven’t we seen Somnath Bharti and the Aam Aadmi Party? We voted for them and now they reflect nothing what we thought they stand for. If you ask me, their behaviour is almost shameful. A lot of politicians do come to us for training but the point is that it’s not enough. There needs to be a code of conduct in our Parliament which they do have but I don’t think etiquette is a part of it.
When I saw Arnab Goswami interviewing Rahul Gandhi, I strongly felt that this man needs me. He needs to learn a lot when it comes to being media savvy, being confident and being politically correct because anyone who saw that interview could easily deduce that he was completely lost.
What’s your take on the Women’s Reservation Bill?
Personally, I feel it’s not required. But then you find that India has enlisted ‘Jains’ as a lower caste given the fact that they are one of the richest communities in the country. In my opinion, these are all politically motivated.
Women are coming out of the boundaries of their homes and are making their mark. How do you see the road ahead?
Women are, in general, more dedicated and natural multi-taskers. But there is another side to this. They’ve done everything and are everywhere, right from the kitchen to the lecture theatre. The pressure on them is increasing with every passing day.
They are the only ones who can manage homes and offices together. But now women also have to make their husbands proud on the social front. This is not equality.
Even in marriages there can’t be equality. Women, no matter what they do or become, come with a great quotient of guilt. They believe they haven’t done enough for their husbands and families and somewhere in the middle of this, the ‘self’ is forgotten. Or it works the other way around. Many girls are not tutored to handle a home. So they run away from responsibilities now. Twenty years back if someone asked me what I did, I would have said that “I socialise and manage my home”. But today, there is a lot of extra baggage added to that. Our problem is that we look at too many things.
Women want men taller than them, more educated than them and even older than them. So when you’re looking at everything ‘more’, you are automatically entering into a relationship where you already see a lot of ‘less’ in yourself. But on the other hand, you talk of equality.
As an entrepreneur, what would be your advice to women who want to start a business? It’s still not easy in this part of the world.
It’s not easy anywhere if you ask me. Don’t lose your femininity. That’s your best weapon – how you interact with vendors, officials and the outside world at large. Your approach has to be respectful. You have to be very strong. It’s not going to be a bed of roses. You’ll meet corrupt people and face difficulties. In a nutshell, you’ll have to do it all by yourself. Work for someone first before starting up. It gives you a lot of experience and teaches you how things are done in real life. A lot of women run away from financial management which they should not be scared of.
A few prominent people you think need to be taught about etiquettes…
To name a few: Arvind Kejriwal and his team (over all), Lalu Prasad Yadav (over all), Rahul Gandhi (confidence, spontaneity), Mamata Banerjee (over all), Mayawati (over all), Vijay Mallya and Richard Branson (dressing), Narendra Modi (toning down).