Dinaz Vervatwala: A Profile of Dogged Determination and Derring Do
To those who have often wondered about the book ‘Nice girls don’t make the corner office’ by Dr Lois P Frankel, there are innumerable posits of ladies with the drive, determination and derring do to rule the world. With fire in their bellies and song on their lips they surmount all odds in this male dominated world to reach the top and redefine success. Frankel cautions women that their careers could get sabotaged by “girlish behaviour” learned in childhood, such as working non-stop without a break, worrying about offending others, backing down too easily, explaining too much when asked for information or “polling” friends and colleagues before making a decision…
The book’s naiveté surprised me. All the women I have worked with or known have been go getters willing to push the envelope at all times better than their male counterparts. Not that I am deriding male workers but some examples will highlight what I mean. My ladies in the office, the stenos and personal assistants are at times better than the leaders they support. Well that may be so but this discourse is reserved for Dinaz Vervatwala – the Guiness World Record Holder for 26 hours nonstop aerobics at the age of 43 to be followed up by winning the Miss Fitness award in the US this year. The Hyderabadis know her too well. This is to excite the crowd across the globe to marvel at this gift of god.
Dinaz is a woman who loves what she does and successfully integrates this passion and her own character into her work. While the narrative is about one, it is reflective of the many wonder women who work in our midst and who make our organization a better place with their unique nature.
Dinaz was born in Jamshedpur, the youngest of three children and the only girl in the family. Her upbringing was far away from being girl like, thanks to the influence of her brothers. Cycling and hiking were great hobbies and pastimes, and formed the fitness foundations that ultimately charted her destiny. She lost her father while she was in Class X and life was hard after that. Her mother worked hard to bring up the children and it took a long time for the family to recover. After her schooling at Sacred Heart Convent School at Jamshedpur, Dinaz left for Mumbai to pursue her under graduation in Accounting hoping to be a Chartered Accountant someday. While studying, she worked at night and completed the course. She returned to Jamshedpur as an intern for S.P. Bilimoria and there resumed her hobbies and added jogging and free hand exercises to her routine.
She got married to Jamshed Vervatwala (an excellent mentor and chef apart from being an oil expert) in 1988 and moved to Hyderabad and continued to study and work towards becoming a Chartered Accountant. The internship was interesting but had long hours built in. Fitness and a healthy lifestyle used to pique her interest constantly, but time was not on her side. Some of her family members were victims of osteoporosis and it was sad to see them fall prey to this deadly disease that according to information available at that point, medication and prayers were the only solution. Many a time, she used to wonder how elderly women in the West were in relatively better shape than their contemporaries across the globe. Standard response to queries regarding women’s problems was attributed to `natural’ causes and fate (which she didn’t buy).
Her opportunity came after she had her first child in 1993. She was at home looking after her son and as expected putting on weight. She decided to start exercising by herself and then it struck her that that may have been the opportunity she was waiting for. She started on her own, encouraged by her family, started reading and watching exercise videos and getting better educated and informed.
Dinaz’s is Born
In 1993, she opened her classes to the public and waited for her first client. Dinaz’s was born and the rest is history. Since then she has remained committed to the well-being of women. She runs four studios, all wooden-floored and her operating systems of maintenance and management are comparable to the best in the rest of the world. All the instructors and administration show compassion and concern to our clients at all times.
Dinaz says, “I am proud to report that I have distinguished members of society as chief patron and patrons of Dinaz’s, a distinction not found anywhere in the country. The task of motivating women to exercise in society we live in is proving increasingly difficult as labour-saving devices and sedentary entertainments become more easily accessible. With this as a background, I am encouraging a number of youngsters to look into becoming fitness professionals. Today’s fitness pro has to stay on top of things because today’s exerciser is lot more knowledgeable about health and fitness than ever before. In 1999, I opened my doors to the 50-plus women in a programme called “Nifty-Fifty” designed by me to include women in the peri-menopausal, menopausal to the post menopausal population. At that point (may be even today), no structured and scientific programme was available in the country. Today, that programme is popular at all the locations and that caught the eye of the doctors from the Obstetrics and Gynaecologists Society of Hyderabad and the Indian Menopause Society – Hyderabad Chapter who invited me to talk at a scientific session called `Positive Health After 40′. I took along a 50-plus group who demonstrated and that led to us starting an exercise programme for the doctors at the OGSH.
One of the high points of her life was when she was invited by the President of the Indian Menopause Society as an expert to the Second National Revised Consensus & Policy Development Expert Meet on Menopause & the Role of HRT In Indian Women organised by Indian Menopause Society and Apollo Hospital at New Delhi. She presented a paper “Exercising and Menopause – Increasing the Joy of Living”. She was the youngest out of 45 experts to be invited and the only fitness expert in the country.
I came across Dinaz in 2004 while heading my organization in the army which warranted a lot of expertise on physical and mental well being of my people. I recall that humble and demure lady sitting across me and listening to my male bravado about the stern stuff we soldiers were made of. Whatever she was thinking, she did not trespass my vanity and offered to look at the current exercise regime to offer suggestions at improving output while curbing exercise injuries. I took that as a light hearted activity and agreed to go along with her.
Three days into the grind watching our methods she paused to formulate a programme of “training the trainers” to improve our standards. My officers and men initially scoffed at the idea of a female teaching physical fitness to them and there were many a chauvinistic discussions as to how this might adversely affect the morale. However, having gone through some basic classes in her studio in the meanwhile I had learnt more about her and prevailed over my team to let her conduct the programme. We set about training 30 of my most fit instructors under Dinaz. The rest they say is history – those inspired instructors continue to spread Dinaz’s resolve, methods and scientific approach along with practical nutritional guidelines to stay mentally and physically alert while achieving a fine balance.
Thus we started a study of a lifetime in leadership. Watching Dinaz at work is like watching spirituality in motion. Her dedication, passion and humility transcend regular human behavior. An otherwise quiet and serene lady she is a tigress in her studios. Putting hours in her home work, music and the hygiene factor of the studio, she is a no nonsense task master when it comes to her passion – her clients.
The turnaround in life came in 2005 when we were out In Rajasthan and learnt that Dinaz had met with a serious accident in a nasty gas cylinder leak in her kitchen. That was a shocker for all of us who had trained with her. She had suffered more than 40 percent burns and we thought that was the end of the dynamo called Dinaz. However, three months and a miracle by Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad later, Dinaz bounced back in her studio. Brandishing bandages and scares of the incident, she fought back all odds to start her sessions at the studio.
Guiness Record Feat
Her recovery was slow but her determination dogged. She recovered soon from the incident and embarked on an ambitious plan to break the Guinness world record of 24 hours nonstop aerobics by a human – male in this case. In 2009, infront of the entire Hyderabad town she achieved a feat which no human had done before her. 26 hours of nonstop aerobics by a living girl – a mother of two at an age of 44 years. Thus she broke the existing world record by of 24 hours by a man.
Not to stop here she went on to participate in Ms Fitness in 2010 in US and won accolades and a top four position for her outstanding performance.
Yet the feisty young lady is also very sentimental and has always placed great value on maintaining relationships. As a woman, she believes she is better equipped at building and nurturing relationships with her peers, team members and clients. She is convinced that she can be successful only if each one of her team members feels valued, appreciated and important, and has worked hard at achieving that.
Such emotional intelligence has only worked to Dinaz’s advantage. Ever since her early years, her sentiments were paid back in equal measure with ready support forthcoming from colleagues and managers. On her part, rather than giving directions all the time, she tries to be supportive and encourage team members to take the lead, discuss options with her before arriving at a collective action plan.
Dinaz is of the opinion that women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition! Fiercely independent, she believes that women are much more versatile, dynamic and adept at multi-tasking, which comes to them naturally as they play the multiple roles of executive, mother and spouse.
Dinaz has lived this belief at work. Life does throw in many a challenge along the way but she works through them with resolve. Her motivation to think beyond the normal allowed her to evolve as an individual and kept her going even in tough situations.
According to her, no one can stop women from succeeding, but only if they believe in themselves, dream big, work smart and hard. “Listen to your heart. Be sure. Be strong. Stay focused. Keep up the spirit of a woman,” says she.
Lessons in Leadership
Dinaz’s entire life is a lesson in leadership. Every trait, quality and principle later, she leads change from the front and with her dedication has produced a chain of fitness studios in Hyderabad. A lesson which has made Dinaz synonymous with drive, determination, passion and humility – the key ingredients of successful leadership when blended with dogged determination and will to fight through the thick and thin of life. Perseverance should we say?
I am proud to have worked and built a relationship with a person of her caliber and human qualities. This is my humble tribute to the great spirit of this wonderful lady.
Posted on November 20, 2010, in Leadership and tagged Apollo Hospital, army, Dinaz Vervatwala, guiness world record, Health, Hot flash, Jamshedpur, kamal kapoor, Menopause, Mumbai, New Delhi, Nifty-Fifty, Physical exercise, Physical fitness, Sacred Heart Convent School. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.