I came to Bombay as a bride 45 years ago and I came from Delhi, a city as different from Bombay even then as the proverbial chalk is from cheese. 

The transition from mother to working mother happened more than a decade later when after a seven-year stint in South and North America we came back to Bombay. A little bruised, a little bemused. Two people with two little children, not even one job and not much money. 

My husband found a job soon enough, he was after all a highly qualified petrochemical engineer. But in the late 80s one income was not enough to run a home and raise two children. 

And so began my big adventure. Over three decades and the thrill of this ride hasn’t waned one bit. And I’m still alive and kicking and loving every bit of it. 

People ask me how do you do it? The commute, the stress, the daily drain on your reserves. Yes this city was/is surely demanding. It draws you deep down into its vortex but you know what it lets you keep your individuality. 

And it is that which keeps you sane and going. To know you have something in you which makes a difference in the lives of others. No matter what you do, to know and understand it makes a difference to someone, somewhere. 

So for me it has always been about finding joy in my work. I began working with nothing—no degree, no experience, no nothing! The city however embraced me and became my teacher helping me learn lessons I never thought anyone could teach me. 

So yes, Cancer! That’s who or what I work with. And my patients are my other teachers. They themselves who are learning. All the time. The lessons their fragile life teaches them. And makes them stronger than ever. 

What cancer has taught me is to love and respect life and find joy in every little thing I do because that’s the biggest thing in life. To live each day well. To invest even the littlest thing you do with dignity. To accept and move on. To be comfortable in your own skin. People look at you the way you see yourself. Dignity comes from within. There are no external factors. Everything is within us. Even the power to make us unhappy or for that matter, even happy ! 

You can understand how therefore my work itself is my biggest detox factor. 

Discipline and adhering to a routine play a very big role in how I spend a work day which most of the time is everyday of the week. And to know when to shut off. To listen to and hear my voice when I tell myself to stop. 

It can be anywhere—in the midst of it all to find time to be with oneself.

And of course finally technology. No one is alone anymore in this world—not with the whole world at your fingertips thanks to that little device—your smartphone. Such an amazing tool but if not used wisely can of course makes you the loneliest person in the world. 

I’m learning. All the time. I’m hungry. All the time. I reinvent myself. All the time. Therefore I survive. I get up each morning, raring to go. To fly. Daring this city to clip my wings. 


  • Viji Venkatesh

    Region Head (India & South Asia), The Max Foundation I Managing Trustee - Friends of Max I Trustee, Being Human The Salman Khan Foundation

    Viji began with The Max Foundation in 2001 by leading the administration of Glivec International Patient Assistance Program in India. Today, in addition to GIPAP, she has a key role in the management of the local Novartis Oncology Access Program. During the last 15 years, alongside these access programs, she has developed the Friends of Max patient support group, which began in Mumbai and now has 15 local chapters throughout India with over 250 core group volunteer leaders representing more than 18,000 members.  She is also one of the executive committee members of the Marrow Donor Registry India and the Terry Fox India Committee. She is a trustee of the Being Human The Salman Khan Foundation as well as the Friends of Max Charitable Trust.  Viji lives in Mumbai with her husband and travels regularly to see her family spread across the globe.