A letter to my younger self - Devika Wood, published in 2017 for the Guardian

Dear Devika,

You are 19 years old, starting your BSc at King’s College London. Your excitement is overwhelming, as you are about to embark on what you believe will be the best years of your life. In truth, they won’t be.

Soon, you will meet your first boyfriend, who sweeps you off your feet and changes your life irrevocably. After two years together, you pluck up the courage to tell him you are leaving. It’s the night you put a stop to the abuse you have endured. He throws a rage, just like all of the other times. Your time with this man will take several painful years to talk about. You are too ashamed.

He will throw you around like a rag doll. He will kick you, spit on you, strangle you until you almost lose consciousness. You will cower on the floor. He doesn’t care you are crying. If anything, the crying will spur him on more. You will picture your family, your future, the life you want. This, Devika, this is the moment that changes your life. You fight back. You break free. And you run.

Putting yourself back together is hard. The physical and emotional pain is overwhelming. You will hear his voice inside your head, saying you deserved it, that it was your fault, that you are not good enough. You will believe your world has collapsed around you. It has not. You will channel this pain into something positive.

At 26, you start to believe in yourself again. You are head hunted by an investment firm that sees your talent and potential. You will invest less time and energy into dissecting the criticism of others. You will realise their opinions don’t matter.

In 2016 you met your co-founder Naushard and together you start Vida, a technology-enabled care provider. You make it your mission to ensure everyone gets the support, love and care they need. It’s a personal mission for you, after living with your grandmother who suffered a stroke when you were 10 years old. Over the 12 years she struggled with epilepsy and dementia, you saw 150 carers come through the door. You were struck by the lack of communication between them, the care providers, and your family, and were appalled when your grandmother was over-medicated, leading to institutionalisation.

Seeing this happen as a child, and being helpless to stop it, has propelled you forward at Vida. The greatest challenge has undoubtedly been working in an industry that is rife with problems and scepticism. Many of the families you work with have been badly let down by other agencies. It has been tough to gain their trust but your ethos has always been to treat clients like they are family. This means you often get too emotionally attached.

Your confidence as an entrepreneur will grow with each moment that passes. I bet you can’t believe that one day you’ll secure £1.6m for the business by pitching to investors, many of whom were men. Or that you’ll lead a team of 20 that look to you for advice as they work to realise their own potential, as well as the 300 care professionals you employ to deliver high quality care.

I know you will doubt this in the years to come but you are smart, determined and you have the precious gift of always finding the positive in negative situations. Your past suffering will not define you. It will simply magnify the beauty of the good people around you in the future. You won’t regret a single step on this journey. You are a survivor who will dedicated her life to helping others.


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