Canadian actress, model, television host, philanthropist and social activist Lisa Rani Ray publicly revealed that she has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare cancer.
Her acclaimed blog The Yellow Diaries which was a chronicle of her cancer experience spoke volumes about the fighter spirit in her. Ray opted for a stem cell transplant and in April 2010, she announced she was cancer- free due to the transplant.
Since then, she has been an advocate for stem cell technology. She went on to help raise funds for the establishment of the first research chair for multiple myeloma at Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto.
She also took part in global movements that fights for the rights of girls around the world who face discrimination because of their gender and age. Excerpts:
Q. You have been an actress, a model and a philanthropist. So, how will you describe your journey?
It’s a journey without boundaries. I have crossed all of them and even though the perception of me in India is completely a different one from what the reality is. I’d like to say my life is a split screen. There are many things going on now simultaneously.
There is much more beyond what’s apparent in me. That is just one part. But there is always a lot more to me. I am a Bengali. I am picking up impressions throughout my life and I have a book coming up shortly.
Q. You are an inspiration for many. How do you feel about it?
I feel honoured and a little shy because I don’t believe I am special. I believe we all are equal; we all have the same potential. I believe we all have a survivor personality inside us.
It depends on the circumstances that you go through in life. What I have to offer is because I have been in front of the camera and media for many years. I can use my story to share with people, to be able to perhaps inspire and connect.
That’s what we need in India today particularly when it comes to cancer and similar issues. Now we are becoming much more open in our country.
It is necessary to speak openly about cancer. Fear is only created when you hide something.
Something that is kept in the dark must be brought into the light. And naturally the fear will decrease. This is why I like to speak openly about cancer.
Q. Recently you have become a mother. How has your life changed after that?
I would like to say that being with kids makes one get rid of their egos instantly. All my life I have been a seeker and a searcher of how to put my ego on the backseat. There’s so much joy, so much to share.
Yes, it’s a lot of responsibility and there are days when I feel tired, but also it’s the same thing that keeps me going. I find an incredible energy and feel much more energised.
Q. How do you manage your personal and professional life?
I don’t see any division between them. I am fortunate that I have been doing something that I love and it’s not a conventional profession. It is something which you have to enjoy. I am also a rider. And I love doing everything I do. I love the opportunities that come my way and I do not feel the necessity to distinguish between personal and professional life.
Also, I love to go along with the flow. Next time, I hope I will be able to bring my kids along because they should also be a part of my lifestyle.
Q. You spent your childhood in Kolkata. Share some of your childhood memories with us.
I come to this city regularly. As a Bengali I feel very connected to this city whenever I come here. I have so many memories and I have written about them extensively in my book. Our ancestral home is in Shyambazar which a really ancient and traditional part of Kolkata. I was my parents’ only child and I remember, being surrounded by my cousins.
One of them used to take me to the roof and pinch me behind the water tank. And I would stand on the roof and watch the other kids coming home from school in their half pants and I wanted to join them. But I have always remained a bit apart from everything. Because being of a mixed identity gives you a unique place in the world.
My love for words has been inculcated in me by my family, which is why I have been a voracious reader and a writer. And that’s why I never took a conventional path. Mainstream never attracts me, and I owe that trait to my Bengali background.
Q. What are your next projects?
I recently completed a project which will come out next year. It’s a very exciting one. It’s a film by AR Rahman called 99 songs. And I have also completed working in an Amazon series.