As I sit staring at the blank MS Word document, thinking about the woman who this article is about, I can't help but roll my eyes above and give a grateful sigh heavenwards. Ever had a person who walked into your life with so much life and love, that everything you had previously seems like a colored blur? Ever had a person a person gets into your life and fill some part of you, that you didn't even realize was a void? Ever met a woman in your life, who can forever leave you with a smile and a sense of happiness, with just a smile? In short, have you ever come across Mathangi Manikandan in your life?

If you had, then you have been blessed with a dose of good leprechaun luck!

I owe a great deal to my husband, who is the prime reason for all the fantastic people in my life. He always pushed me out of my comfortable, introvert zone and introduced me to some fabulous people who I carry the privilege of calling friends. One such person is Mathangi.

I still remember meeting her the first time, walking towards us like a breath of fresh air. All through the meeting, I think I sat quite self-conscious, mentally trying to estimate her age. She prodded me subtly, with an occasional question, and without realizing I had opened, encouraged by her ever-present, mischievous smile. A memory that I would carry for life.

And that’s the first thing I asked her. “I’ve always seen you with an upbeat, positive smile no matter what happens with life, how do you do it?”

“A healthy dose of that Sagittarian optimism (or denial?) maybe?!” she said.

Honestly, trust her to come up with quirky one-liners like that! Did I tell you about guessing her age, when I first met her? I had decided that she was a postgraduate probably in her final semester, so I think you could imagine my shock when I heard that she was an architect who had a thriving business. She runs The Inside View, a firm that does fabulous interior décor. Her designs are versatile, they are breezy, sophisticated, minimal, elegant, all at once. I was curious about the roots of it.

“Have you always been interested in architecture and interior design? where did the journey start?” I asked,

“My dad used to be a builder/contractor, and so I was essentially raised on construction sites playing real-life Lego. So, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to be an architect - except for a brief while when I was 10 and wanted to be the Prime Minister of India.”

For all knew, we would have more beautiful roads if she had gone on to pursue, her ten-year-old self's dream (Sigh!). As I always say, customer satisfaction in the design field is an arbitrary concept. What would be considered a good theme, in terms of aesthetics and technical expertise may earn nothing but a displeased purse of lips from the end user and vice versa. It is always about striking a balance between the customer's needs, and our expertise and Mac is an excellent juggler of things.

“How do you stay at the top of your game? How do you keep yourself updated about the design trends around the world and get it to your clients?” I questioned,

“We live in great times where you can go online and educate yourself on just about anything. Clients are more aware these days, well-traveled and Pinterest the hell out of each trend and so the online community helps a lot overall. But having said that, trends and fads are just transient. What makes you stronger and more consistent as a designer is a firm conviction that you design for real people with real lives. These are spaces that people get to work in for most of their day or get back to each evening as a haven from the world. I remind myself with each project that it is the client's home or office and the design needs to reflect their own personality, lifestyle, all quirks included. It keeps me grounded and makes me deliver what exactly they need. After all, we don't design just for the photographs to turn out pretty or seem Pinterest worthy." She answered without a hint of pretense.

That is what defines Mac! She is genuine, smart, humble, reliable, no pretense and no-nonsense. She has been a strong pillar of support and friendship ever since she stepped into my life and I told her as much. It made me wonder, who does she lean on? And that was my next question.

“You are a strong pillar in my life, and you seem to there for people no matter what! Do you think it's imperative to have a support system? Who is that person for you?

“Oh, am so touched you feel that way. We all get overwhelmed, and we all have days when we feel we just can't go on. It helps to have people who have your back, who always show up for you, check in on you from time to time or at least someone to rave and rant to without being judged. Otherwise, it is just one long lonely journey on earth isn't it? As cliché as it sounds, my family is everything to me...we are this oversharing, tight-knit bunch that sticks together no matter what!” she said, with absolute conviction.

All through the series, this has been the consistent answer. A woman can step out an do to achieve anything that she sets her heart, despite all the odds when she a strong support system and it's all the more profound when it comes from your family. And family doesn't stop with kith and kin. It grows full with your friends, your well-wishers and anyone who contributes to your happiness and draws pleasure from the prospect.  For me, Mac is family.  

We don't meet for months together, don't even chat as often as friends do, but the mere thought she exists keeps me content and happy. This time I did extract a promise for a meet-up soon as I put forth my last question.

“What message do you have for the women out there?” I asked,

“Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and be judged. Everyone has their own set of insecurities and daily battles they are fighting. So, the fear of being judged negatively shouldn't stop you from going after what you want. Even if you fail, people will get bored of talking about you and move on eventually. But the regret that remains if you didn't even give it a shot is probably the most expensive of them all.” She said. And that’s all I am going to leave here for you folks, to take with you from here!

PS: Checkout Mathangi Manikandan on Instagram, The Inside View on Facebook