Faced with a battle for our health, happiness and life, some of us become the best we can possibly be.
That’s the feeling you get from Lisa Ray, who is living with multiple myeloma – "technically, an incurable cancer," she says in a calm, straight forward manner that is at once both assuring and inspiring. After stem cell transplants and cancer treatment throughout 2009, in 2010 Ray was declared a survivor, but continues to manage the disease stoically with healthy eating, prayers, lots of love and a mix of western and ancient eastern approaches.
Ray is undeniably beautiful on the outside (she was voted by a Times of India poll as one of the ten most beautiful woman of the millennium) but it’s really the bright spark in her eyes and the effervescence that she shoots off that make others smile and hug life that little bit more when they’re around her.
“You have to be positive, but I’ve also realised on this journey that you have to take responsibility for your own health. We all need to talk about disease more – bring it more into mainstream dialogue. In India there is fear and even taboo surrounding it. And because I was one of the first Indian personalities to talk about cancer, a lot of people look to me for advice and to dispel misconceptions around the disease. So now I would like to start a patient advocacy group, and I try to use the platform I have to do whatever I can, talking about it and encouraging others to do so as well.”
Ray was born to a Bengali Indian father and Polish mother, and grew up in Ontario, Canada. She shot to stardom after being scooped up by the modelling world in India, and from there went on to studying, acting, and starring in TV shows and films including the acclaimed Water, directed by Deepa Mehta.
But no matter where she has spent most of her time, from the moment you meet her, Ray’s love for India is palpable. So it’s no surprise that she recently added another role to her busy life – becoming an ambassador for Insight Vacations, promoting their Indian travel itineraries. “As an Indian I feel very emotional about our country, and want to be able to share our many treasures while also addressing people’s natural concerns and natural obstacles. Through travelling with Insight I’ve realised that when all of the irritating details of travel are taken care of – like haggling with a taxi driver, or figuring out how to get to your next flight, you are actually free to immerse yourself in a country. Then you can connect with everyday life – see the divine in the daily.”
And asked what she loves about Indian people, the smile doesn’t leave her face. “It’s the natural warmth Indian people have. We have this special saying in India – which translates as ‘Guest is God.’ You experience that when you go there. Indian people want to embrace others and bring them into their homes – and feed them!” she says with a signature loud laugh – eyes shining, face open, and her unflappable spirit ready for anything.’