eShe July 2018

Page 1

July 2018 Vol 2 Issue 7 `150

Nandita Das The habit of fearlessness


10 pathfinders who are changing the way we think




Leading the Change


Nurture Minus Nature


Habitually Fearless


A Divine Absence


Being Their Voice


CafĂŠ with a Cause


Home at Work


A World of Flavours


Home Run

The Art of Being Unladylike

Radhika Vaz is defying social codes with her comedy acts

JULY 2018

10 pathfinders who are changing mindsets

What pollution is doing to our babies

Cover personality actor-director Nandita Das

Madhu Tandan on love and longing

UK-based feminist activist Zahra Rasouli

Three eateries that serve good karma

Women with soul-soothing workplaces

Recipes from Simi Kohli’s Shibuya

Home building as a metaphor for marriage


YOU SAID IT Congratulations! At UNIDO we have been trying to empower women in many projects and what you are doing is remarkable (“Ready, Set, Grow”, June 2018). Donatella Magliani, Vienna

Stories like “And Still I Rise…” (June 2018) need to be written to dispel the generalization about “motherhood” – some mothers and some children experience it vastly different from the “loving mother” generalization. The “abnormal” is quite “normal” in nature. Maha Laxmi, Noida

Thank you for present-

ing the perspective of an Iranian girl protesting the hijab. Wherever you go in the world, religion is used as an excuse to suppress women’s rights and freedoms. And the more one enforces an ideology, the more hatred is generated. (“Unveiled”, June 2018) Rashmi Samal, Mumbai

Women would usually leave financial matters to the “men” in the household. All they have been interested in is how much they can spend. Beyond that they have never been interested in learning about earning and investments. Kudos to Namrata Durgan for her work (“Ready, Set, Grow”, June 2018). Gayatri Sagar, USA

Write to us and win an eShe notebook! Email your feedback to mail@coralcontent. com or send by post to Coral Content, C 3/1 GF, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi 110057 Mentor: Kul Bhushan Editor and Publisher: Aekta Kapoor Marketing and Research: Nyamat Bindra ( Sales: Pankaj Sahni (North, West, East) Simran Maini (South) Brand Managers: Amrita Nagpal, Pallavi Pratap Malik Contributors: Ananya Jain, Anupam Dabral, Kaveri Jain, Kay Newton, Rabia Sooch Khandelwal, Sakshi Agarwal, Dr Suhela Kapoor, Sunita Pandey

All rights reserved throughout the world. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited. Printed and published by Aekta Kapoor on behalf of the owner Coral Content. Published at C3/1 GF, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi 110057, India. Phone: +91 9818166621. Printed at Modest Graphics (P) Ltd, Shop No.C-53, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase 1, New Delhi 110020. Title verified under Title-Code DELENG19647 / File No. 1322441: For queries, write to mail@ To subscribe to the free digital edition, visit JULY 2018



M Aekta Kapoor Founder Editor, eShe

y husband and I curl up on the sofa on most nights these days to watch the football World Cup. During half-time, we talk. I often share with him stories of the amazing women I’ve met, and this past month, I met two for whom marriage was part of the spiritual growing process, just as it has been for me. As a subversive rebel, I used to find the concept of marriage stifling once. But as our relationship grows older and the edges are rounded out, I have come to understand that commitment does not have to negate one’s freedom. Our growth lies on the tightrope balancing act between the two. eShe began as a joyful expression of my love for my countrywomen, a way for me to use my skills to celebrate their strength and stories. It was a step dipped in freedom for I finally had the time and resources to launch such a project. It was effortless because I love what I do. I am in the flow. But as the magazine completes a year, and my team of supporters grows, something has changed. It’s gone from love to marriage. Commitment has crept in – to my readers, to my contributors, to the many women whose lives we touch. Subconsciously I resisted the commitment, and ended up manifesting a roadblock in my progress. But as I opened up to the lesson in the experience, I realized that commitment is not the problem, it is the opportunity. Like a snug-fit marriage, it is a platform for freedom and growth. The legendary Queen Bey said, put a ring on it. Happy anniversary, my loves.

JULY 2018



INSPIRATION The stories of these girls and women were the most-read on during our first 12 months JULY 2017 The heroine of our launch issue was 17-year-old Oorja Gonepavaram from Pune, whose first-person piece on quitting full-time high school to study part-time and take up scuba-diving left readers amazed. The cover featured Alankrita Srivastava, director of Lipstick Under My Burkha.

AUGUST 2017 Cover girl Jennifer Winget’s story went viral when it was first posted online; it continues to get plenty of hits almost a year later! The TV icon’s unconventional life and career choices mark her as a woman to watch out for, and her intensely personal interview had readers hooked.

SEPTEMBER 2017 Sometimes life closes one door because it wants you to notice the open window. After losing her sight, software techie Jasdeep Kaur set up a music academy as she was passionate about music. Losing her sight helped her see more clearly, she says. JULY 2018


OCTOBER 2017 After a long soul-crushing marriage, difficult divorce and a decade of self-healing, Madlén Hjelmroth left her hometown in Sweden to travel the world by herself. She was 59 but what does age have to do with it? Her travels often lead her to India; she’s currently in Rishikesh.

NOVEMBER 2017 Prerona Roy went from being a small-town girl from West Bengal to a super achiever in a US-based multinational, but it took a devastating fire and 82% burns to unleash the true power of her spirit. On the first day of work as a 24-year-old post-graduate, her dupatta caught fire, and Prerona’s life took an unexpected detour. The next decade was a battleground of surgeries and pain, but she won against all odds. Today, she runs her own company.

DECEMBER 2017 Sanmeet Kaur went through an experience no mother ever should: losing her nineyear-old son to cancer. Soon after the tragedy, she conceived again, and had a baby girl. Ever the energetic optimist, she transformed her life’s greatest loss into a catalyst for her life’s grandest work. After quitting her job, she now conducts workshops on personal and professional growth. JULY 2018


JANUARY 2018 Sheetal Kapoor was the quintessential housewife for two decades, until she joined her husband’s garment business. Within weeks, she’d learnt how to sell clothing online, and soon, she was retailing from top shopping websites. The 48-year-old then launched her own label, Shree, which is now an e-commerce success.

FEBRUARY 2018 Would you become an egg donor even if the process is painful and there is nothing in it for you? Arvinder Bhandoola, a homemaker and mother of a little girl from Delhi, was plagued by self-esteem issues, but when her friend needed an egg donor, she courageously volunteered. Our readers were touched by her candid, heart-rending story.

MARCH 2018 How likely is it that a woman at the peak of her career in reality television – rubbing shoulders with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan – would give it all up to move to a village to restore an old fort at her own cost? Priyamvada Singh left a cushy life to restore her family’s 148-year-old fort in Rajasthan. She ended up giving the village of Meja a new look, and the rural community a new outlook. JULY 2018


APRIL 2018 The loss of her husband transformed diffident homemaker Saumyashree Nayak to a confident professional and brave single mother. She learnt the ropes of working in a corporate job, and Buddhism helped her cope with the grief. Her story led to an outpouring of support on social-media.

MAY 2018 Social activist Madhavi Kuckreja is not only empowering underprivileged Indian women, she’s also walking her talk in her personal life. In her 30s, while living and working in a UP village, she chose to have a biological child out of wedlock, and went on to foster 20 more abandoned children in her own two-bedroom flat. Now, at 54, she and her 30-year-old partner have adopted a baby girl. Hers was our #1 viral story of all time!

JUNE 2018 She had studied only till class 5 in a village school, he went on to do his post-doctorate from Europe. And they have been happily married for 68 years! Jasho Panda’s story is one of forbearance. She stayed home, raising four kids, while her husband Abanish travelled the world earning accolades for his work. She’s the real hero in the relationship, writes their daughter in this heartfelt piece. JULY 2018






Standup comic Radhika Vaz is out to provoke – with her jokes and with her feminist agenda

adhika Vaz knew she was a the 44-year-old believes there is no bonafide comic when she difference between femininity and performed in a theatre with womanhood: “It is what each female no greenroom toilet. “I had makes of it.” With her constant chalto pee into a coffee cup and dis- lenging of gender roles and expecpose it off after the show,” says the tations, her performances leave you much-acclaimed comedian. both tickled and thoughtful. While her comedy journey started It’s not only her words on stage nine years ago, Radhika that provoke; Radhika has been much talked also captures eyeballs “ANYTHING about in the past few with her actions. When years for her sold-out BORING, DULL OR she shot in the nude shows, opinionated OLD-FASHIONED for ecommerce brand tweets, editorial pieces, FabAlley’s #Unfollow IS LADYLIKE” accolades such as the campaign, the video Gotham Independent went viral for underFilm Award for her web standable reasons. But series Shugs & Fats, and for going Radhika herself is pragmatic about completely nude on screen for an ad it: “It was an advertisement. I was campaign. paid to write the copy and perform Her most iconic performance, in it. It was a great gig.Working with however, continues to be Unladylike, female clients, I felt free to do whatin which she plays an elegant lady ever I wanted. So I felt free to take discussing private things that wom- my clothes off!” en don’t usually talk about, such as How does her family respond to body hair and queefs. After the show her crazy antics on stage – and the sold out in places such as New York, fact that she often pokes fun at them, Dubai and Singapore, Radhika pub- including her father, husband and lished a memoir with the same title. mother-in-law? “So far so good. No Stating that “anything boring, one has cut me out of a will. That I dull or old-fashioned is ladylike,” know of.”  JULY 2018


THE GOA OF SMALL THINGS Why must parents miss out on the exciting nightlife when visiting Goa with their sons, daughters and daughters-in-law?

t’s early morning when the daughter-in-law rings up. I pull my steaming cup of chai closer to the bed and settle down for a good natter. I glance at the husband. He is sitting seemingly oblivious to the world, surrounded by his pile of newspapers. Good. It’s much more

fun if I can gossip peacefully with no interruptions. And we have much to discuss. Just one more week to go and we are off to Goa, our first real ‘family’ holiday. Bahu and I spend a happy 10 minutes comparing the clothes we are taking, specially the imagJULY 2018



By Sunita Pandey


inary bikinis for our non-existent bikini bodies. The daughter and she have decided on a colour scheme for the mandatory coordinated family portrait, which has to be shared on Facebook. We brag about our respective social-media presence and chortle at how shallow we sound. A regular ma-beti conversation. Then she drops the bombshell. Apparently, the son has asked her to Google the details of a club in South Goa. Once Ma-Baba are in bed, he will take her and his sister there, it seems. It’s an amazing concept called noiseless voice or voiceless noise. People wear headphones and the DJ plays music at a low decibel. “Isn’t it wonderful, mama? So environment-friendly!” “What mama? Kiski mama?” My inner mother-in-law has risen and she is seeing red. “You are going to leave us behind and go clubbing? Why are you taking us on a holiday with you? I know you think we are old and decrepit… I always knew it.” “But mama, you are the one who says you like to be in bed by 9 pm. It’s lights-out for you guys at 9.30,” the daughter-in-law sputters. The husband looks up from his pile of Amar Ujalas and Dainik Jagrans at this sudden ranting and railing. He wants to go to the ‘jad’ of the ‘mudda’. The root of the matter. I tell the daughter-in-law to hold on while I enlighten the husband. “Hmm,” he intones solemnly. “Tell the bahu I have experience of foreign nightclubs.” I feel a giggle building JULY 2018

up. It’s almost as if he is asking her to update his curriculum vitae. Then I remember. “Hey, what do you know? I too have experience of foreign nightclubs. I’ve been to the Lido in Paris. I’ve actually seen hordes of topless women prance around on stage,” I inform my daughter-in-law sternly. Now top that! is inherent in my tone. The daughter-in-law is instantly all cooperation. “Okay, mama, I’ll

That’s me with my one and only bahu

Google some more. It will probably take some research to find a club of your standards, what with all your foreign experience, but I’ll try.” I ring off, satisfied. This new generation is not too bad, I think. But wait… Was it uncontrollable laughter I heard at the other end as I put the phone down? This new generation, I tell you... 


It’s easy to follow the leader, not so easy to lead. It’s easy to fit in with the throngs, not so easy to steer them in a new direction. It’s easy to go with the flow, not so easy to chart a new path. Some women don’t take the easy way out. They lead change. They change mindsets. These are the stories and destinies they write.



VISION Madhu Singhal’s own personal challenges triggered the founding of Mitra Jyothi, a 28-year-old organization that empowers the disabled


By Rabia Sooch Khandelwal

ntil the age of 13, Madhu Singhal had never felt there was anything different about her. The third child of a businessman in Haryana, she was brought up in a large joint family, and was well loved. A sharp and intelligent child, she began taking singing lessons from the age of six,

and a home tutor taught her Braille. It was only when she started going to regular school in her early teens that her peers made her visual impairment clear to her. This was her first encounter with the social stigma associated with the disabled. Undeterred, she went on to complete her matriculation, graduation JULY 2018


and post-graduation in Hindustani classical music with top ranks. They say we are only confined by walls we build ourselves. Breaking down these walls of self-imposed limitations is what Madhu, the founder of Mitra Jyothi, has done best, first for herself and then for thousands others in the past 28 years. “My mother is my hero,” Madhu says. “If the teachers or I pointed to any problem or hurdle in my education, she would find a solution. She made sure I had the opportunity to study as much as I wanted to. And my father was always looking out for what I could do next. He expanded my world. At that time, we would get Braille books only in Dehradun, so every time he went there, he would return with a car boot full of books for me to read.” Her father’s sudden death took Madhu to Kanpur to live with her brother. In a new and unfamiliar city for the first time, she felt her wings had been clipped. Four years later, she moved to Bengaluru to live with her older sister. Encouraged by her brother-in-law, in 1990, she decided to set up an organization to assist the visually impaired and enable them to become independent through education, training, counselling and communication technology. Everything was uncharted territory for Madhu. She began learning Kannada. She started meeting others with disabilities to understand their needs, their issues and to brainstorm for solutions. She visited other instiJULY 2018

tutions to see how things worked. During this time she met her mentor, NS Hema, the late founder of The Association of People with Disabilities. “She has been the most important person in my life. I am

From top: Madhu (centre) with former President Abdul Kalam; a class on independent living skills

what I am today because of her,” says Madhu. Seeing Madhu’s potential and drive, NS Hema took her under her wing and taught her everything about running an organization, raising funds and managing people. Mitra Jyothi came into being in 1990.A registered trust in Bengaluru, it started out with Madhu’s mission


Madhu Singhal receiving an honorary doctorate from the State Women’s University, Karnataka, in 2015

of helping to integrate the visually ity as a lifelong limitation. They do impaired into mainstream society not even attempt changing their and systems,. Today, it works with lives. And their parents feel that as people with other disabilities as well. long as they are feeding them, what Madhu has had to is the need for them face various chal“THEIR PARENTS FEEL to go out of their lenges along the homes?” she shares. THAT AS LONG AS THEY way.Apart from raisThese issues are eleing funds, finding vated in the case of ARE FEEDING THEM, full-time employwomen. To begin ees proved to the WHAT IS THE NEED FOR with, their parents greatest hurdle. She don’t allow them to THEM TO GO OUT?” states, “Working in step out of home. this sector means If they do go out, less pay, barely any growth.You have they are often easy targets for sexual to be fuelled by your passion to harassment and other forms of abuse. help,” a rare quality indeed.The next Madhu tackled these challengbarriers are the people with disabil- es head on. She counselled families ities themselves and their families. to change their mindsets. She urged “Often, people accept their disabil- them to understand the emotionJULY 2018


Clockwise from top right: Learning life skills; listening to audio books in the library; at the women’s hostel

al needs of the disabled, especially women. Besides providing resources for education and skill development, Mitra Jyothi also has a hostel facility for women at very nominal charges. The organization conducts awareness drives with schools and offices to sensitize society towards the needs and capabilities of the disabled. Many corporates offer jobs to those with special needs through Mitra Jyothi’s placement cell. Starting out from a garage, today the trust has two buildings of its own which house India’s first Talking Book Library where audio books are available in three languages; the computer training centre; the placement cell; the Braille transcription centre; and the Centre JULY 2018

for Empowerment of Women with Disabilities. There are 28 full-time employees with the organization and countless volunteers. Madhu has won numerous accolades for her service over the years including the National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. She says, “We complain too much about everything that’s wrong with our lives, our cities, and our country. Have we ever realized our own responsibilities towards them? If we are well settled, why not help others?” To those whose lives she has changed, she says, “Don’t thank me. Do the same for ten other people and I will feel my mission has succeeded.” 



A comic on menstruation designed by Aditi Gupta as a college thesis snowballed into Menstrupedia, a creative platform for social awareness


By Rabia Sooch Khandelwal

orn and raised in the small town of Garhwa, Jharkhand, Aditi was all too familiar with the myths associated with periods in India. She had been raised to be a confident girl, with great emphasis on education by her liberal and highly educated family. At 12, however, with her first periods came the first blow to her freedom in the form of a list of dos and don’ts. Aditi recounts, “I was told to keep it a secret, as if it was

some kind of unspeakable sin. I was not allowed to touch or eat pickle. I was not allowed to sit on sofas and other family member’s beds. I had to wash my bed-sheet after every period even if it was not stained. I was branded impure for those days and could not go to the temple.” Like her, millions of other girls in India are ostracized every month during their periods. At this delicate age, their curious minds are overwhelmed with confusion, taboos JULY 2018


and shame. Many resort to unhygienic practices posing grave health hazards; most develop low self-esteem and an unhealthy body image. From here begins the systematic oppression of women. “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” Deeply motivated by this quote by Maya Angelou, Aditi

research, she found that this problem was more widespread than anticipated. Neither parents nor educationists were comfortable talking about this natural process. The two young students of communication design saw the need for an effective tool to bridge the gap. Hence, the comic called Tales of Change was created to educate girls about periods in a fun and creative way.

Tuhin Paul and Aditi Gupta collaborated on a comic book on menstruation as part of their college thesis

stands today as the one who challenged the taboos and myths around periods. An engineering graduate and a New Media Design post-graduate from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, she collaborated with her classmate Tuhin Paul during their thesis project to study menstruation taboos. After extensive JULY 2018

The comic was an instant hit with all stakeholders. “Visitors on our blog said that 80% of the information was new to them. It brought home the fact that even educated people lacked awareness about menstruation,” recalls Aditi. In 2012, having saved up enough for the initial investment and braving objections


JULY 2018


from loved ones, Aditi and Tuhin quit their jobs to start Menstrupedia. In 2013, they were joined by Rajat Mittal, a post graduate in computers from Arizona State University as their third co-founder, and was launched. The path to entrepreneurship, however, was fraught with challenges. Aditi and Tuhin – who got married along the way – were both clueless about the economics of running a business. “Menstruation was a taboo topic and investors saw a very niche scope for it,” shares Aditi. The inspiration to push through came from users on the website. “Every voice that questioned the myths and the hypocrisies around menstruation strengthened my resolve to spread awareness,” she says. So Menstrupedia launched a crowd-funding campaign and they managed to raise Rs 5.15 lakh to produce more comics. Since then the company has been self-sustaining and ploughs back profits into further expansion. Aditi Gupta made it to the Forbes India 30 under 30 list in 2014. Today Menstrupedia comics are available in 15 languages, including two foreign ones, and the work of translation to more languages is ongoing. The organization works with four state governments and is in talks with JULY 2018

more. They have also developed free tools such as a 20-minute video animation in multiple languages that is being used by Anganwadi workers to education girls and women at grassroot levels. Their mission is to eradicate all barriers to spreading awareness at all levels of society in India and South Asia. “When we get orders and queries from even countries like Australia, UK and Israel, I am amazed at the magnitude of this problem,” says Aditi. In partnership with Whisper India, Menstrupedia has led initiatives like ‘Touch the Pickle’ movement that got Bollywood celebrities and TV personalities to talk openly about periods. The ‘Touch the Pickle’ ad campaign won the Grand Prix for Aditi Gupta the inaugural Glass Lions in the gender-equality category at the Cannes Lions International Festival. Going forward, Menstrupedia will address the need of raising our boys right and will develop more such effective educational tools for boys on subjects such as puberty, sexuality and consent. With a culturally sensitive approach, Aditi believes that a change in mindset can be achieved. She states,“To change the mindset of a family, it only takes one generation. And that takes care of it thereafter. One generation is my hope.” 


THE EARTH ELEMENT With her maverick venture Geeli Mitti, Shagun Singh is teaching the world about the down-and-dirty delight of sustainable development


s it possible to live in houses made entirely of natural materials? It is possible to use the sun, wind and rain for creating highly energy-efficient, carbon-neutral, stunning abodes, with perhaps even a living roof with live plants? Is it possible to grow your own food organically, make compost with kitchen waste, keep chickens as pets and for eggs, make your own bread,

jams, jellies, sauces, pickles, pizzas? Shagun Singh doesn’t just think so. She shows you how. Twenty-five kilometers from Nainital in the hills of Uttarakhand, Shagun has set up a learning centre unlike any other. Here, amidst the lush green trees and fresh air, she teaches students how to build earth-friendly buildings. You don’t need a degree to do so: “One of the JULY 2018


Clockwise from top left: Shagun at work (and play!) at Geeli Mitti; students peek out from a building made of natural materials; a workshop in progress; a home made using traditional building techniques

key concepts we focus on is to get over the societal myth that you need to be a trained architect or engineer to build your own house or that it is impractical and difficult to live responsibly,” assures Shagun. The techniques she demonstrates include the earthbag technique (which was developed to provide low-cost housing, and even lunar housing, using bags filled with earthen materials), and cob building JULY 2018

(using hands and feet to form lumps of earth mixed with sand and straw, and make homes in organic shapes). Besides many other techniques of making homes (adobe hobbit caves, bamboo lofts, anyone?), you can also do a permaculture design course, which is the “harmonious integration of environment and people”. And people are lining up to learn. Shagun’s month-long courses are mostly sold out and the waiting list


goes into many months. Her students come from all over the world, and go back with vivid memories and a connectedness with the planet they’d never imagined. And it’s all the grand vision of a woman driven by a cause greater than herself. Born in Patna to a businessman father and a social-worker mother, Shagun moved to Delhi in her teens, where she studied political science from Delhi University followed by

her permaculture design certification from renowned teacher Rico Zook, and now teaches others. Her workshops are fun and healthy – besides building, there is a bit of yoga and martial arts as well, and students can go down to a nearby stream to take a dip now and then. The idea, as Shagun puts it, is to learn to live life in accordance with nature and the local resources. “Natural buildings are made with a

Students learn how to build natural buildings using locally sourced materials that leave no carbon footprint

an MBA in finance and marketing. After several years in the corporate world, she felt as if something was missing from her life. So she quit her job in 2015, and a year later, launched Geeli Mitti, which translates to ‘wet earth’. The farm, which is in Pangot, is part of her Geeli Mitti Foundation, which also works with women’s groups among many other social empowerment projects. Shagun got

focus on durability and the use of minimally processed, plentiful or renewable resources, as well as those that, while recycled or salvaged, produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality,” she explains. Shagun gives an example from the 2015 Nepal earthquake, when some of the only structures left standing where those made with the earthbag technique. “The idea is to lessen the environmental impact of JULY 2018


Workshops at Geeli Mitti include accommodation and food, and focus on the fun factor along with learning

buildings without sacrificing comfort or health,” she says. By using only locally available materials, cost is minimized, and there is no ecological damage. Energy is acquired from natural methods, and alternate sewage treatments and water reuse systems are built in. The 36-year-old’s workshops are reasonably priced and are inclusive of accommodation and food. A month-long workshop in natural building costs `18000, and there are courses for longer durations as well. Weekend workshops on bee-keeping, plastering and mud building cost between `3000 to 5000, and the 15-day Permaculture Design Certification Course costs `37000. The income from workshops JULY 2018

helps Shagun sustain the costs of the farm and foundation. She had to sell all her assets including her house and car, and withdraw all her savings to launch this labour of love. “I decided not to have any investors so that our values don’t get compromised because of excessive profit motive,” she explains. Constantly busy with coordinating workshops and handling logistics, Shagun has an earthy demeanour and speaks with an amiable humility that comes after years of self-growth. And she’s passing it on to her students, who only have glowing reviews to leave about their stay with her. Geeli Mitti’s ethos is pretty much the last word: “We believe in chasing happiness.” 


Votary of


Armed with nothing but a peacenik’s passion, Saumya Aggarwal is building bridges and resolving conflicts between countries and communities


he firstborn child of an engineer father and a homemaker mother, Saumya Aggarwal’s grandparents weren’t too pleased about a female grandchild at first. But then her grandma developed health issues. Since the baby’s presence seemed to be calming for the older woman, Saumya’s parents took the doctor’s advice and left her in her grandparents’ care in the ancient town of Hathras in Uttar Pradesh for the first three years of her life. Even in infancy, Saumya had a job: of keeping the peace. Less than two decades later, the baby with the calming effect grew up to be a peace builder and conflict-resolution expert, from giving talks in tense areas in Kashmir to working with Rohingya refugees. Exceptionally talented even as a child, Saumya moved to Delhi to live with her parents when she was three. At school, she aced all competitions, from art, dance and debating to computers. After class eight, in fact, Saumya and her father often argued over the matter of participa-

tion in competitions, since he didn’t want distraction from her studies. But when Saumya, who is a trained Odissi dancer, got an opportunity to perform in front of 50,000 people at the Commonwealth Games, her parents realised their daughter’s potential, and encouraged her more. Every year from then on, Saumya travelled out of Delhi for art or dance competitions, winning most of them. While in first year at Ramjas College in Delhi University, Saumya made a friend who “was interested JULY 2018


circle, the level of distrust is so high,” she recalls. “They wanted to talk of Kashmir and politics, we were trying to introduce them to the idea of inner peace, of responding to the outside world from a calmer place inside ourselves.” It was only on day three that she realised how important these modules were for them. She and her team have now developed a social enterprise model and conin peace and conflict”, and found duct workshops for up to 40 people herself drawn to it as well. The two on design thinking and conflict restrained themselves in the subject, olution. She was invited by UNDP and founded an organization to fos- to conduct a one-day workshop for ter peace. They held their first train- over 150 participants from 45 couning workshop in 2016 in partnership tries at the Commonwealth Youth with the Rajiv Gandhi National Summit in Malaysia earlier this year. Institute of Youth Development and And then she headed to London the Commonwealth Foundation. for more training. “It was a dream “That was the turning point,” says come true,” she says. In a world full the 21-year-old. “I understood what of clashes and chaos, we need more I wanted to do.” Putting together Saumyas to keep the peace.  a team of five core members with about 15 volunteers, they underwent development training and campaigned for Indo-Pak peace in partnerships with various organizations. “We had to constantly ask ourselves, are we doing this for recognition, or are we committed?” recalls Saumya. When she was invited to conduct a workshop for 26 participants in Baramulla, including young children, she worked hard to make it meaningful for them. “It was very difficult – the women were reluctant even to stand in a JULY 2018


FINANCING THEIR FUTURE Jeroo Billimoria has affected millions of lives with her organizations that protect vulnerable children and youth, and lift them out of poverty


s far as she knows, her name means wealth, “both spiritual and material,� says Jeroo Billimoria. Born in a Parsi

family in Mumbai, Jeroo imbibed all the qualities of her name: she now helps underprivileged youth around the world create wealth and break JULY 2018


out of the shackles of poverty. “My social-worker mom took me to every community meeting and social-work event, and my accountant dad was always ready to help everyone under the sun. I was 12 when I first helped a domestic helper get her own bank account,” says the 52-year-old who is now based in the Netherlands where she lives with her husband and two children. Her “amazing set of parents” definitely guided the younger Jeroo’s sense of purpose. Having graduated from the University of Mumbai, she did her Master’s in social work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and then headed to New York to earn an MS in non-profit management from the New School for Social Research. She worked for several years as an instructor in Tata Institute of Social Sciences before setting up Meljol, an organization to help children of all backgrounds learn about their rights and responsibilities, and to provide them with opportunities to contribute positively to their environment. In 1996, she set up Childline India Foundation, a 24-hour emergency number for children. Within just three years, with support from the government, Childline had spread to several states, and now comes under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. But that wasn’t enough for Jeroo. She pushed ahead and founded Childline Helpline International, a collective of child helplines supported by civil society and governmental JULY 2018

organizations worldwide. The first global meeting of 49 child helplines was held in 2003. Since then, it has grown to 180 countries. When Jeroo was 35, she fell in love with a Dutchman, and set up base in the Netherlands with him. There, she focused on expanding Childline. “I like to start things, take them to scale, and then let others run them,” she says, adding that the going was tough in the early years. “I had to face quite a bit of racism then, but

Jeroo has been a speaker at various forums

I still managed to take Childline to 134 countries.” What drove her was the knowledge that kids everywhere needed help. “I had to do the fund-raising myself,” recalls Jeroo of those years of setting up organizations that would go to on to affection hundreds of millions of lives across the planet. “I didn’t work with very large budgets, and I put in the seed capital myself.


Above: Jeroo (in red top and skirt) at the Global Inclusion Awards in Berlin last year: left: with her family in the Netherlands

You have to put your money where your mouth is.” Seven years ago, she set up another organization, Child and Youth

Finance International, a global network of states, financial entities and educational institutions that help increase the financial capabilities of children and youth through resource-sharing. Jeroo has been a speaker at World Economic Forum and Skoll World Forum amongst many other prestigious platforms. She has received numerous awards, the latest being appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau from the King of the Netherlands for outstanding service to society. And yet, she’s still as friendly and down-to-earth as ever. “I am not overtly spiritual but I believe God has given me this responsibility. And so I keep at it.” Some heroes don’t wear capes.  JULY 2018



The millennials have inherited a dying earth. Humankind’s toxic footprint has not spared any part of the planet. With countless crises just around the corner, these girls are out to secure a sustainable future By Sakshi Agarwal


19, Bengaluru

She launched a campaign called ‘Why Waste?’ to stop people throwing away half-full glasses of water in restaurants



hree years ago, Bengalurubased teenager Garvita Gulhati learnt, to her absolute shock, that water left behind in glasses at restaurants amounts to the wastage of 14 million litres annually.That very day, she began turning gears to establish her own venture, ‘Why Waste?’, which campaigns for eateries to make a conscious effort to conserve water, chiefly by filling

Further, through a short video, they train the waiters on how to explain to customers the motive behind the policy in a courteous manner. They put up posters and stickers in the premises. Lastly, to cover all bases, they also offer solutions to how water left behind can be reused. Her endeavour aims to implement this policy primarily in fine-dining restaurants, for she has observed that

Above and facing page: Samples of the posters and graphics that Garvita creates; right: with her team of volunteers at a restaurant

only half the glass with water at the time of first serving guests. She recruited volunteers who now, on a cyclic basis, visit different restaurants. They explain the issue that they are targeting – water conservation – and ask the restaurant manager what the business is doing to conserve water, if anything at all. Subsequently, they introduce the idea of the half-glass policy and request that it be implemented.

luxury sometimes necessitates the maximum wastage. Based out of Bengaluru, these young people have successfully implemented this policy in over a hundred restaurants in their city. They have also expanded to Delhi and Mumbai, and are attempting to spread their reach to Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Garvita has also begun an online petition to ensure this policy is implemented nationally by the JULY 2018


National Restaurants Authority of India.You can support her at change. org/glasshalffull. Lastly, through networking, ‘Why Waste?’ has recruited volunteers to pioneer this policy in Sri Lanka as well. The campaign has required Garvita to put in all her efforts after college hours. But she has no regrets: “Not going for parties or sacrificing my entertainment time for work-

cartoons that provoke one to think about environmental conservation, which she puts up on her Facebook and Instagram handles @whywasteorg. She strongly believes, and rightly so, that there is no single product, service or method that can miraculously serve the planet. Instead, conservation can only be successful as the culmination of the small and varied efforts by all individuals

ing towards the environment didn’t feel like ‘sacrifice’. I just knew it was my job and I did it without thinking twice,” says the 19-year-old student of PES University, Bengaluru. “People are empathetic about social and humanitarian issues, but fail to see how injudicious use of natural resources is hurting the planet and us,” she says. “This is the mindset I want to change.” Garvita has developed a series of

inhabiting it.The most trivial ways in which we waste an essential resource such as water must be identified and dealt with at the micro level. For this very reason, she persuaded herself to let go of her dream of becoming an architect. Instead, she has decided to become an engineer and contribute to the environmental revolution through the development of sustainable technology. Saving the world is a full-time job, after all! 

JULY 2018



Both 21, Delhi

They’ve developed a ‘Green Curriculum’ to promote environmental education among the urban and rural youth


fter finishing their 12th class board exams, Delhi students Sana Sawhney and Ayushi Gupta sat down to rant about the inadequacies of the Indian education system. They decided to develop a curriculum characterised by a hands-on approach. Identifying environmental studies to be the most neglected subject – and, ironically, not contributing to environmental conservation – they chose to paint this initiative green. After engaging with people through surveys, their suspicions proved to be true: most individuals remain ignorant of basic environmental concepts. Most couldn’t even sort waste into biodegradable and

non-biodegradable bins when asked to do so. How would they contribute to waste-management drives without being informed citizens? The duo also discerned a wide disparity between education provided in rural and urban India. Either way, practical application of theories was nowhere to be found. This led to, among other things, the woeful acknowledgment of the deterioration of the planet without any actual effort to reverse it. The girls then began compiling a list of activities that could be used to teach different concepts related to conservation. Age groups and location were kept in mind while deciding the methods of learning JULY 2018


appropriate for them. For example, in rural areas, poster making and role plays were a huge hit. This equipped participants to come up with solutions to environmental problems themselves. Children were given complete freedom to use their imaginations. The two ‘green heroes’ also worked towards imparting other skills such as spoken English through these activities. For example, sentence building and structure were taught through environmental terms. Such

with saplings to plant in the pots and take home with them. To encourage the underprivileged to think out of the box, they were provided with school kits containing donated stationery collected through social-media campaigns. Initially, such kits were paper bags, but now they have sponsors to supply them with cloth bags, which are eco-friendly and longer lasting. Now, at age 21, with Sana having completed her studies from University of Bath, and Ayushi from

The duo use social media to fund donations of eco-friendly stationery kits for underprivileged school kids

an approach also highlights the need for an interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies. An idea that worked in both rural and urban territories was ‘Best Out Of Waste’ in which participants made bookmarks, paper bags, and so on, using waste materials. In cities, children were encouraged to bring empty plastic water bottles, which could be turned into pots. Consequently, they were provided JULY 2018

Delhi University, the two have distributed over 625 kits across six schools and a community centre, spanning four Indian cities and towns – Delhi, Noida, Lucknow and Manali – and are reaching out to more institutions every month. To get Green Curriculum adopted nationally, they are formalising their activities into a fully developed curriculum. Follow their progress on 



18 and 17, Bengaluru

They work towards electricity conservation in schools and offices, and recycle newspapers to make notebooks for underprivileged children


akshi Chandak and Chandana Satish wondered why Bengaluru lacked a major energy conservation drive, even though other areas of environmental conservation were being tackled by various individuals and groups. So they took it upon themselves, and launched Students Take Responsible Initiative for a Viable Environment (STRIVE). Today, the teenagers have two projects running on the princi-

ple, “from roots to results�. The first, known as STRIVE Hour, is sculpted along the lines of Earth Hour, a global campaign in which people turn off all non-essential lights for a pre-decided hour. But instead of conserving electricity for just an hour once a year, the STRIVE team encourages various institutions to do so on a more regular basis. Their campaign was launched on June 5, 2016, on World Environment JULY 2018


Day. They started off with five minutes a month, and later, amended it to be longer with each successive month. Households are also urged to do the same, but on a weekly basis. Currently, the project has successfully engaged over 700 families along with five schools and nine offices. This translates into saving up to 15 lakh watts of energy. The second, known as N2N or Newspaper to Notebooks, focuses on completing the energy loop by turning waste into wealth. They

So far, they have collected 18 tonnes of newspaper, which have been transformed into 9000 notebooks distributed to students through organisations such as Parikrama and The Learning Curve. They plan on strengthening their links with NGOs and government schools. They’ve proved that age is no barrier to creating change! Both girls are headed to Canada this year to begin their undergraduate studies. Sakshi, who is 18, is headed to the University of British

collect newspapers from educational institutes; this has cleverly been turned into a competition, which ensures they get the maximum supply possible.The used papers are then converted into 100 percent recycled notebooks. These are distributed to underprivileged children, not only providing the needy with resource material but also becoming the tool through which they educate them about environmental conservation.

Columbia while Chandana, 17, will go to University of Waterloo. But their work in India will continue.They are appointing STRIVE Ambassadors from different schools and colleges, who can take up the two projects in their institutions and locations. This has allowed them to grow beyond Bengaluru, and spread their reach to Lucknow and Hyderabad. You can follow their journey on facebook. com/istriveorg. 

JULY 2018


NATURE The effects of environmental pollution are damaging our children’s brains within days after birth, leaving India with crisis in the making


By Suhela Kapoor, PhD

ndia’s large youth population is termed a demographic dividend and is much flaunted as India’s key arsenal to face a globalized future. But how many of these young people are indeed physically and mentally equipped to take on

the challenges of an empowered democracy is a disturbing question. India has more than 65 million children who fail to reach their developmental potential (out of 200 million in the developing world). Mental, behavioural and neurological JULY 2018




disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or birth defects such as Down syndrome, are on the rise. What explains the high rates of development disorders in India? Is it better diagnostic criteria or population-wide genetic changes? Perhaps both, but the alarming increase has another significant contributor. cientists and researchers working in public health such as myself have long known that the environment is a powerful determinant of children’s health. Heightened susceptibility to respiratory ailments leads to more than 16% deaths. Simply living in a crowded space and being exposed to mould can trigger fatal infections in the young. Diarrhoea deaths, arising as a result of lack of clean drinking water and poor sanitation, are particularly shocking as they are all preventable. Some exposures are particularly toxic to the human brain. Exposure to air pollutants, including to tobacco smoke, affects foetal brain development. Exposure to pesticides may induce Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions later in life. Exposure to lead, as in paints and fuel, is linked with ADHD and intellectual disability. There is no nice way to put it: this ‘chemical brain drain’ portends a pessimistic outlook for India’s future. As part of a TATA Research Fellowship, I have been conducting a landscape study of more than 500


JULY 2018

children living in rural settings to see how indoor air pollution affects a child’s neurological development. The results are dismaying. The children in my study face severe environmental stressors. Use of biomass fuels in traditional cooking stoves in ill-ventilated kitchens; in-door smoking of hookahs; sanitation challenges and exposure to pesticides exacerbate the situation. The conditions are in fact worse in urban settings with much more ambient air pollution, lack of green spaces, sanitation challenges in congested urban slums, along with many other social stressors. So what is the way forward? Of course governmental policies need to be stringently implemented. But most importantly, communities need to actively participate to reduce exposure to toxins. We need to convert our homes into greener spaces, conserve water, cherish the trees, reduce our plastic and chemical usage, and make sure our cultural dogmas don’t come in the way of our progress. It’s now or never. 

Suhela Kapoor, PhD, is a TATA Trusts Fellow at the Centre of Environmental Health, Public Health Foundation of India. She is based in Delhi.




Nandita Das has donned many hats, from actor to filmmaker, but the one that has stayed consistent is the steel-willed activist, unafraid to speak out andita Das had come across the revolutionary writings of Saadat Hasan Manto while she was a student at Delhi University. “I was immediately struck by his simple yet profound narrative,” says the award-winning actor, artist and filmmaker, who did her Master’s in social work and committed herself to a life of a change agent early on. The redoubtable Urdu writer, playwright and author born in British India has made a comeback in Nandita’s life as she releases her second directorial venture Manto. The biopic premiered at Cannes Film Festival after being one of 18 films shortlisted from over 2000 entries in the Un Certain Regard (which translates to ‘a certain glance’) category this May. Manto is especially relevant in the modern Indian context – when the lines between patriotism and nationalism, religion and identity are increasingly being blurred. Cannes 2018 was significant

for Nandita for another reason: it was the first time that 82 female filmmakers, including Nandita, marched together on the red carpet to protest against the inequality and gender gap in cinema and society. But for someone, who – two decades ago in the early stages of her career – had taken on nuanced roles on unmentionable subjects such as same-sex love (Deepa Mehta’s Fire), gang-rape ( Jagmohan Mundhra’s Bawandar), baby harvesting (KNT Sastry’s Kamli) and Naxalism (Govind Nihalani’s Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa), being fearless has become something of a habit. Twice a jury member at Cannes Film Festival, and a recipient of France’s Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Nandita has certainly led an uncommon life. Now, as the first Indian to be inducted into The International Hall of Fame of the International Women’s Forum at Washington DC, she represents the Indian woman’s strength and power to the world. JULY 2018



By Ananya Jain


JULY 2018


As eShe celebrates its first anniversary, Nandita talks to us about her life journey, inspiration, and stories that need to be told. Why did you decide to make a biopic on Manto? What is his relevance today? What drew me to the story of Manto was his free spirit and his courage to stand up against orthodoxies of all kinds. I was struck by his simple yet profound narratives


and the way he captured the people, politics and times he lived in. He was irreverent and had an irrepressible desire to poke a finger in the eye of the establishment. For years, I thought of making a film based on Manto’s short stories, even before I made my directorial debut Firaaq in 2008. But it was only in 2012 that I began reading his essays. The deeper I delved, the more convinced I was about the relevance of Manto in these times. More than 70 years later, we are still grappling with the issues of freedom of expression and struggles of identity. Our identities still lie inextricably linked to caste, class and religion instead of seeing the universality of

human experience. Firaaq won 20 awards and was critically acclaimed. Why did you wait so long before starting work on your second directorial venture? I had no plans of doing any film after Firaaq. In the last 10 years, I have been busy doing many things: I wrote, directed and performed a play called Between the Lines. I was the chairperson of the Children’s Film Society for three years (which I probably took more seriously than I needed to!), I was selected as one of the 16 World Yale Fellows and did several speaking engagements. I also wrote a monthly column for The Week for eight years and of course was busy raising my son. JULY 2018


I have been used to doing many things simultaneously. Maybe only after 40 films and 20 years of being on the fringes of the film industry, and four years of research and writing that I was equipped, emotionally and creatively, to tell Manto’s story that I felt so needed to be told. Manto’s feminist views were considered offensive in his time – and perhaps still are to some. What did you learn about this side of him during your research? Manto’s view of women was rare in literature of that time. It is one of the most important aspects of his work that has definitely interested me. The women in his stories were complex and richly developed, but he reserved his most nuanced and

sympathetic gaze for sex workers, who were very much on the margins. He turned them from objects of scorn to people with agency; they were often the protagonists of his stories. In his life, too, he was surrounded by women he cared for – his mother, sister, wife and three daughters. He ironed his wife’s sari, made pickle, cleaned the house, read stories to his wife and sister, and was an engaged father. A rarity for South Asian men, even today! Are you an actor, director or activist first? I have always seen my work as a means to an end, my way to respond to the world. I did my Master’s in social work and was happy working in Delhi

L-R: Nandita on the sets with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who plays the titular role in Manto; the film’s poster JULY 2018


bastis with young girls and women. Both acting and direction happened by accident. That said, films have provided me with a creative opportunity to share my concerns and use the platform to have conversations about things that matter. So in the end, film work and social advocacy are not that different for me, just different means for the same end. How has your father’s work impacted you as an artist/filmmaker? I derive a lot of my convictions and courage from my father, Jatin Das. A maverick who never became a part of the art market, was never was driven by money, is bound to be a misfit. My father’s fearlessness and courage to live his truth have given me the strength to make films true to my conscience. Creatively too, my upbringing exposed me

to art and aesthetics from a very young age. I am not a trained actor or director so the home influences, especially from my father, have deeply impacted my choices in life. You joined in a protest against the gender gap at the Cannes Film Festival with 81 other film personalities. What is the situation in India at present? I am delighted to be part of that 5% who have had that honour to walk the red carpet, marching alongside 81 other women, a reminder of the inequality in cinema and society at large, which is shameful on many levels. It is reflective of the historical wrong and bias that is still prevalent in the most modern parts of the world. Some of us hoped the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements would hit Indian shores harder, exposing the open secrets JULY 2018


Cannes Film Festival 2005 jury: Agnès Varda, Nandita Das, Emir Kusturica, Salma Hayek and Toni Morrison


Nandita at Cannes 2018 with 81 other film personalities who protested against gender bias in the industry

of Bollywood and of every other profession where men have misused their power to harass and assault women. Unfortunately, the murmurs have been too low. The few women who did speak out were predictably ostracised. Often, abuse was given the colour of being consensual, silencing the ripples even before they could become a wave. Despite the low murmurs, I hope that we will find a way to be heard. What are your thoughts on the Dark & Beautiful campaign you were part of? I have supported many campaigns, for organ donations, signed petitions against genetically modified crops and to save the RTI from being wrongly amended. Dark & Beautiful is one that tells you to be comfortable in your skin. When I supported this campaign, I didn’t JULY 2018

realize that it would go viral. I was also clueless about it from social media as I am not very active on it. I received a number of mails, from women mostly, sharing their stories of discrimination and feeling validated by this campaign. I believe it is important to speak up and add one’s voice to campaigns for the larger good. After all, we are nothing but a drop in the ocean, but we need every drop to fill it! What has been the best piece of advice you’ve been given? “Don’t look back at what you couldn’t do. Be calm and focus on what you can do.” I tried this while making Manto. It was not only a creative journey, but a spiritual one too. I’m still working on it, but I’m happy to have found a way to be kinder to myself and others. 



Madhu Tandan’s new novel is no ordinary love story; it’s a canvas of absence, abstinence and infidelity along with a thrilling historical plot


adhu Tandan is unlike anyone you’ll ever meet. When she was 20, the psychology and philosophy graduate from Chandigarh University married her love. Six years, a few jobs in the development sector and a psychoanalysis course from Delhi University later,

Madhu Tandan

she left the trappings of Delhi life and moved to an ashram in the hills of Uttarakhand with him. For seven years, they lived a life “shorn of artifice”, a life of discipline and service, before returning to Delhi and realizing they had both changed in fundamental ways. Madhu wrote a book about her experience, Faith and Fire: A Way Within (1998), and then another book, Dreams and Beyond: Finding Your Way in the Dark (2009), after a decade of studying dreams. Last month, she released her first novel Hemis, which is as much about love as the absence of it, and how renunciation is not only essential in a relationship but can even sublimate it. “You have to give up something else in favour of a commitment, and that thing you sacrifice never leaves you. But it can transform you if you let it, if you do it in awareness,” says the 60-year-old, seated in the study of her Delhi home. “Most relationships go downhill because there is no element of giving up anything.” The novel is an enthralling mix of genres: spirituality, romance and historical thriller. It presents three difJULY 2018


ferent relationships, in all of which ‘absence’ is almost a palpable presence. “Sexuality is at the heart of everything we do, and yet is it only about progeny and pleasure? Or is there another paradigm one is missing?” Madhu’s quest took her to the realms of the mystical.

says. “But once you’ve been to that ‘quiet space’ inside you, you cannot forget it. I may or may not access it when I wish to, but I know it’s there. That place called home.”The ashram life did that for her, she says. Writing is a solitary process, admits Madhu. “After great cogitation on a

L-R: The cover of Madhu's book Hemis (Harper Collins); with her life partner Rajeev in their Delhi home

The new novel’s setting in a Ladakh monastery also hints at Madhu’s own monastic experience three decades ago. “An unraveling took place,” she says, deep in thought as she tries to put in words the spiritual process that can only be felt and not seen, leave alone described. “You can taste the fruit but you can’t own it.The rest of you may not be ready to understand what you’ve experienced so you may spend a long time growing up enough to hold that knowledge,” she JULY 2018

subject, it becomes a mystery and a puzzle,” she says, adding that her husband Rajeev was her fan, critic and mirror in the lonely journey. “Love has been the strongest defining feature of my life; our shared interest was like a third presence in the relationship. But I’ve seen an absence of love in many other people’s lives. So in the book, I made that a part of the evolutionary process. And when you do that, you transform what could have been wounds into worship.” 



Social activist Zahra Rasouli, who works for the rights of women in UK, says gender violence and discrimination is a global phenomenon


By Kaveri Jain

he only sister of four brothers, and raised in a family of Afghan refugees in Iran, Zahra Rasouli’s school teacher father and homemaker mother made sure she had a happy and loving childhood, surrounded by positive female role models. Today, the feminist activist, who works for the rights of vulnerable women and girls in the United Kingdom, is trying to do the same for countless others. Advocating for women’s rights

was always Zahra’s first goal and passion in life. Despite having been brought up in Iran until she was 19, where the current political dispensation has brutally suppressed the personal freedoms of women, she never had to face any discrimination in her own family. “My father and my grandmother – who, despite belonging to an older time, always prioritised gender equality – were the biggest influencers in her life and have inspired me to move forward,” says JULY 2018


the young woman, who has been working in the field of women’s empowerment for a decade. Zahra completed her graduation in political science and her Master’s in gender, development and globalisation from London School of Economics. She worked with the Ministry of Women Affairs in Afghanistan as a civil servant and was a consultant for Afghan Women Business Federation for a short while, which set the tone for her career. She first started working in London in 2012 as a volunteer fundraiser with Womenkind Worldwide and, subsequently, after completing her degree, she worked with Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation for four years, primarily focusing on honour-based violence and forced marriages amongst Middle Eastern and North African women. Today, she spends most of her time helping girls between the ages of 12 to 18. The organisation she works with, Women and Girls Network, tackles gender and gang-based violence and child sexual exploitation, amongst other issues, for women across varied backgrounds. Though all the cases she comes across are extremely shocking and even unimaginable for the rest of us, she is always inspired by the resilience of the young girls and their ability to bounce back and recover. “While most cases are extremely challenging and heartbreaking, the journey of healing is also personally rewarding,” she says. JULY 2018

She recounts an incident when they helped a nine-year-old Afghan girl living in the UK who was being married off and sent to Afghanistan by her own father. Despite living in a seemingly progressive nation, the mindset continues to remains regressive, she says. “The financial or educational background of an individual really doesn’t impact patriarchal values and norms. These are embedded in society. Misogyny

Zahra often gives talks on child sexual exploitation

exists no matter where you go, but in different forms.” She talks about gender violence issues for white women as well and reiterates that rates of women affected by domestic violence in the UK are higher than one expects from a first-world country. “Men still feel that it is okay to treat women as sexual objects,” she avers. While some women who have been helped by


the organisation refuse to stay in the same time, she believes that these touch, as the contact reminds them challenges are worth it, because her of painful and sad times, others – work helps her grow as an individual. specifically younger women – often Zahra strongly believes specome back and even volunteer. cific training regarding women’s While the cause she works for rights and gender equality should brings along an array be included in every of challenges at every “MISOGYNY EXISTS country’s formal edustep, Zahra states that cation system. Her the biggest challenge NO MATTER WHERE biggest desire is to be she faces is protectable to help Afghan YOU GO, BUT IN ing herself from trauwomen fight for ma. “The women I DIFFERENT FORMS.” their rights, back in work with have gone her homeland. Full through so much in of positivity, laughter their lives and so my job can get and a drive to do more, she says she emotionally draining,” she admits. loves life and always likes to “see the To deal with the taxing nature of good in people.” One can hear the her work, she listens to music, meets passion and strength in her voice; she friends and is “kind to herself ”. At is definitely in it for the long run.  JULY 2018


Mriidu Khosla runs Cat Café Studio, where rescued strays interact with patrons



Some eateries offer more than just food. These three restaurants in different parts of India give back to society and the planet in their own unique ways, and provoke you to change your attitude Mriidu had launched Zcyphher in 2010, and began taking in cats soon riidu Khosla rescued after. Her younger sister Charu, a her first cat just a few dentist by qualification, also joined months after moving to her in 2011, and her medical trainMumbai to live by her- ing came in handy when it came to self. The wounded animal lived only rescuing injured animals. six months but the incident sparked The agency grew, and so did the off a lifelong passion for Mriidu, the number of cats. The sisters moved founder of Zcyphher, an advertising to a larger location, and in 2015, and branding agency, who began decided to set up Cat Café Studio, rescuing more felines and bringing a unique concept for Mumbaikars. them into her office. It is a cross between an animal shelA student of electronics engineer- ter and a hangout zone. An indoor ing from Mumbai University and a area – that can seat 40 humans and post-graduate in film studies from currently houses about 25 cats – is New York Institute of Technology, where the healthy felines live, mingle with guests, and are offered for adoption. Another 20 sick animals – such as hit and run cases or amputees – are kept in the clinic to heal before they can be brought outside. For those who don’t want cats on their tables or under their chairs while they have coffee, a separate outdoor area seats 30 more people. The ad agency runs from the first floor, so Mriidu can handle both her enterprises from the same location. “I had changed 11 schools in 12 years in childhood, so I never really had the opportunity to keep pets,” Mriidu explains of why she now has five cats and a dog at home. She admits that cats are an acquired



JULY 2018


Charu Khosla, 32, is a dentist by training. She joined Mriidu’s venture early on, and handles the sick bay

taste and Indians don’t really appreciate the concept of rescuing stray felines. “But once you spend time with them, they kind of grow on you. They make good companions,” vouches the 35-year-old. Mriidu wants to promote local Indian breeds of cats and encourages people to adopt them. She has used her design skills and marketing experience to brand the café in a creative way to attract more animal lovers and even those who had never considered adopting stray cats before. Their Facebook page is full of cute pictures of cats with captions detailing their personalities.They also create videos from time to time. “Both JULY 2018

businesses are correlated in a sense,” says Mriidu. “The agency background helped me conceptualize the Cat Café Studio, and the walkin patrons at the café often convert into new clients for the agency.” It’s a win-win situation. The sister have had a silent understanding all these years about helping cats: if they come across an injured stray, they will take it in, no questions asked. After healing them, they introduce them to the café and put them up for adoption. “It’s taking some time but the café is making a difference in society,” Mriidu avers. “People are gradually realizing how super cool cats are.” 


of Goodness’, which Minu keeps outside the restaurant stocked with hile working at leftovers, for the poor and hungry to Citibank’s MG Road take for free. office in Kochi, Minu Vivacious and generous by nature, Pauline noticed that Minu was brought up in a typieateries for office-goers in the area cal middle-class Malayali Christian didn’t offer single-portion meals. family. Her father worked at Cochin “They’d offer full chicken curry, for Port, and her mother – who looks instance, but that’s too much for a startlingly young even today, and single person who had just stepped whom Minu calls her ‘Santoor out of office for a quick lunch,” says mom’ referencing an old soap adverMinu, who quit her bank job after tisement – as a teacher trainer. Minu four years and set up Pappadavada started working at 17 and was hired in the same area, offering `55 plated by Citibank soon after graduation. meals with just enough servings of Two major events happened in 2013: curry and rice for one person. she married her Hindu boyfriend, A few years later, her restaurant Amal, and started her own restaurant was famous not just for its innovative catering to office-goers. concept, but also for another unlikeThough tiny in size, the restauly reason: its refrigerator called ‘Tree rant quickly became a favourite of its patrons. But the coming of the Kochi Metro meant that she had to shut down and move to another location. She choose a 1000 sq feet spot in Kaloor with “proper seating and air conditioning”. She continued to offer plated meals, now at `70, and her restaurant once again became popular with office-goers from nearby buildings. But keeping pre-cooked food ready for any amount of guests at any time meant that Minu ended up with a lot of leftovers at the end of the day – the food was fresh and edible but could not possibly be used at the restaurant the next day. It was a lesson she’d learnt while at MG Road. “We serve a fixed amount of food on plantain leaves – rice and



JULY 2018


From top: Malayali actor Joju George inaugurating the fridge; with her husband Amal and son Milan; giving a talk on entrepreneurship JULY 2018

four curries. But many people leave behind a sizeable amount on their plates,” she says. Minu just didn’t have the heart to throw away all that good food. So, while inaugurating her Kaloor outlet, she set up a fridge outside and decided to keep leftovers in it for the poor to take away for free. Malayali actor Joju George was invited to inaugurate it. The ‘Tree of Goodness’ concept was a hit from day one. Whatever Minu kept in the fridge was eagerly picked up, and her restaurant became the go-to spot for the hungry. “People ask me, why is your fridge empty? Because the food is gone in just half an hour after we keep it!” Not only the beggars and street children, even struggling college students or underpaid office-goers sometimes come by at night and take away a packet or two. “It doesn’t matter to me who eats the food, as long as it isn’t wasted,” shrugs Minu, who is very active on social media, where she frequently posts pictures of her family and especially her son, Milan, who will be four this year. The concept soon caught on in other parts of Kerala and the 30-year-old was invited to inaugurate a fridge at another restaurant in Thalassery. A church in Kochi also replicated the idea. Pappadavada is frequently featured in the media and her 15 employees are proud of their workplace. Just goes to show that giving is, in fact, a great way to make a living. 


respectively, and serve vegetarian food. The women work a variety his is a café that will over- of jobs, from the front-desk to the whelm not only your taste kitchen. Apart from them, there are buds, but your heart as well. 15 other members running these The joint effort of a team lively cafés. Another extraordinary of social entrepreneurs along with thing about the café is their “Pay As acid-attack victim and dynamic You Please” policy. While Lucknow activist Laxmi Dixit’s NGO, Chhanv has fixed rates, the menu in Agra Foundation, Sheroes Hangout was doesn’t mention prices. Guests are set up in Agra with the aim to gen- welcome to pay as they see fit. erate employment for victims of acid Initially, the founding members attack. The restaurant now has two of the ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ campaign, outlets in Uttar Pradesh, the state including Laxmi and journalist known for the highest number of turned activist Alok Dixit, toyed with acid attacks in the past decade, with the idea of using acid-attack survivor 80 percent victims being women. Rupa’s talent of tailoring to set up a Most of these women were attacked boutique. But soon after, they met by violent domestic partners or men mother-daughter duo Geeta and whose advances they had spurned. Neetu, who were living in abysmal The cafés in Agra and Lucknow socio-economic conditions in Agra. employ eight and 12 such survivors, “It was vital to raise their standard



L-R: A photo taken by Instagram user @travulls at Sheroes Hangout; leaving encouraging words for the girls JULY 2018


of living at the earliest, but stitching can’t be taught in a day,” explains spokesperson Abhay Singh. And that is how the idea of a café was born, driven by the sole motive of ease of employability. With various kinds of roles on offer, they wouldn’t have to turn away any survivor who turned up at their door. Besides salaries, the café also takes care of its employees’ medical and commuting expenses, and provides accommodation, if needed, near the café itself. The café enables the organisation to raise awareness about the issue of acid attacks and sensitise people to the plight of victims who are left disfigured and disabled for life. Some of the victims are married, or have children, and perhaps, when you visit the café, you’ll see their tiny tots jumping around. Sheroes (she + heroes) are exactly what these women are. As one of them tell us, working here is not just a source of income for them. Having lived through immense personal tragedy, the job has taught them valuable social skills, dealing with people from all parts of the world (they even had Miss Universe visit them from UK), and helped them build confidence and self-worth. Their work is equally important for society: it forces us to question traditional notions of beauty, while putting a firm spotlight on the problem of patriarchy and gender violence especially in the Hindi belt of India where acid attacks are highest. Since the compensation provided JULY 2018

From top: The Agra café has a “Pay As You Please” policy; acid-attack victims with guests at the café

by the government to victims of acid attack is meagre, the organisation welcomes donations to help rehabilitate survivors. Other campaigns run by Chhanv include “Donate a Face” and the Sheroes calendar. You can find more information on their website Follow updates on events being held in the café on their Facebook page @SheroesHangout.  By Sakshi Agarwal




Workspaces don’t have to be rigidly defined by glass windows, cookie-cutter cubicles or ‘corporate’ formality. These womenled teams do great work even in informal settings, with open spaces, plants and maybe even a mother around for company


Founder, Swordfish Integrated Marketing WHAT ARE THEY: An award-winning branding, marketing and events agency WHERE THEY WORK: Out of Simran’s mom’s garage in Hyderabad


hen Simran Maini set out on the path to entrepreneurship, it was her dad who came to her mind. An industrial-safety expert working with the Government of India’s Department of Atomic Energy in Hyderabad, he always had high expectations of Simran and – though she was a highly creative kid in many ways – she always managed to dash his academic hopes for her. After working for 16 years in the corporate world – mostly in the telecom sector – when Simran launched her own creative branding agency Swordfish in 2011, she finally made

him sit up and pay attention to her work. Even if it was for an unexpected reason: she'd set up her office in the garage of her parents’ 40-yearold home in Secunderabad. “He was most welcoming,” she recalls. Ever since he passed away three years ago, Simran has been keeping her mom company. At least during working hours. It wasn’t just an emotional decision. For a team that would go on to win awards in design and branding, the idea made perfect business sense. The garage and open areas put together offered enough space for a team of 15, which is all that Simran JULY 2018


Simran’s mom’s garage has a capacity for 15 people. The location, set in Secunderabad, is also close to where most employees live.

JULY 2018

Simran and her mom have lunch together on most days. The arrangement suits both as Simran’s dad passed away and her mom lives alone.


ď °Simran at her desk. She has been in the profession for 23 years, for the past seven of which she has been running her own company.

ď ąThe team often gathers in the lawn in the evenings for a cup of tea on pleasant days or to brainstorm for new ideas in a fresh setting

JULY 2018


needed. The firm addresses the marketing requirements of brands, from creative design, advertising, website and mobile design, digital marketing, to even PR and handling events. Their very first project seven years

and have tea or just brainstorm,” says Simran, who completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship Programme in 2013-14. A six-month global initiative that fosters economic growth among woman entrepreneurs, it was held at ISB, Hyderabad. It’s not like Swordfish didn’t try other options. A few years ago, they moved to a more professional 2000 sq ft space in an office building, and stayed there for two years. But then, they decided to move back to the garage as they didn’t really need a larger office, and besides, most of the team lived closer to Simran’s mom’s house.“We’re a small company doing big work,” smiles Simran.They don’t need that much space, she says, just the right vibes to do creative work. And there’s plenty here. With Simran's brother in the US, where he lives with his American wife, her mom lives alone. She and Simran have lunch together every day – a wonderful way to bond with one's parent given today’s hectic urban lifestyles. Simran’s own house is just two minutes away, where she With husband Vikas, daughter Tishya and son Pujit lives with her husband of 21 years ago was a 15-day sailing champi- (“We were actually dating since I onship held at the 455-year-old was 13; he took up radiology so that Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad. he could tell my dad he’s a doctor There has been no looking back. when he asked for my hand in marSome of Simran’s teammates have riage”). They have two children, an been with her from inception, and 18-year-old daughter who studies in perhaps the informal workplace and Bengaluru and a 16-year-old son. its brick-house vibe has something Ever the quirky, creative profesto do with it. “We hang around in sional, Simran is certainly at home the lawn when the weather is good, at work. JULY 2018



Co-founder, Chrome Pictures WHAT ARE THEY: Award-winning ad production house, one of India's top three WHERE THEY WORK: In a uniquely designed soul-soothing space in Mumbai


orn in Delhi, and having worked in the capital before she moved to Mumbai, Aleya Sen was used to the idea of open spaces and green surroundings. “I wanted to replicate that in Mumbai in my own capacity so my office space had to be open, positive and welcoming,” says the renowned ad filmmaker and the co-founder of the award-winning film production firm, Chrome Pictures. Aleya’s parents set a high bar for Aleya to follow. Her father was the

vice president executive creative director of JWT, and her mother served as a member of the Ministry of Industrial Foreign Trade. As a child, Aleya was trained in classical music and Odissi dance. She graduated in fine arts from Delhi College of Art, and then followed her calling in advertising. Over a decade later, she had made some of India’s most memorable television commercials and campaigns for some of the biggest brands, from Godrej to Kaun Banega

JULY 2018


ď °The reception area offers a view of the open-plan workspace, giving a glimpse into the workings of the office. This encourages a sense of transparency.

JULY 2018

ď ąThe 'Chrome Tree' symbolizes the growth of the brand. The office is designed with natural materials to encourage the well-being and health of its staff.


ď °The office features one-on-one meeting areas with green touches. Designed to occupy just two people, these can also be used as breakaway zones.

ď ąAleya sitting with her laptop in one of the sit-out areas in the office. She leans towards organic products, a zero-plastic lifestyle and mindful living.

JULY 2018


Crorepati to McDonalds. In 2004, Aleya, along with Amit Sharma and Hemant Bhandari, established Chrome Pictures, a production house that now also makes music videos and has ventured into a fulllength Bollywood feature film (it is

setting up the firm’s new office in Andheri. Designed by Santosh Barmola of Straight Line Designs, Aleya was sure she wanted the workplace to be as environment-friendly as possible. “Our nature of work is such that, at shoots, all kind of wastage happens by default, and it’s our responsibility to control it as much as possible. We’ve made it a policy to plant trees at every outdoor shoot. At office, our initiative has always been to recycle and to go paperless as much possible. We have a no-littering policy at shoots; if that means installing a litter box every 10 feet, then so be it.” Aleya was also sure she wanted plenty of fresh air and daylight at her workplace. “Since our nature of work isn’t time-bound, it tends to have ill-effects on our health so our work atmosphere makes a lot of difference,” she says, adding that no junk food or aerated beverages are served in the office. The standard snack menu at shoots is fresh salads, fruits, nuts, and fresh juices. Yoga classes are conducted daily in the office for the 60-odd employees. “A happy, healthy unit will not only result in reinforcing professional The office has touches of bright colours rewards but it also provides a secure scheduled for release later this year). haven for its staff members, encourThey have won several awards along aging them to live longer, happithe way, including at Cannes, New er and fuller lives,” says Aleya. She York Film Festival, and International hopes that the re-designed interiors Film Festival of India. of the office space will encourage Aleya, who is also the co-found- “free flowing creativity, productivier of the NGO Phool Versha ty, unity, camaraderie and encourage Foundation, was instrumental in better and healthier lifestyles.”  JULY 2018



Co-founder and Creative Director, Nicobar WHAT ARE THEY: Modern Indian fashion and lifestyle retail brand WHERE THEY WORK: In Simran’s family-owned farmhouse in Delhi’s outskirts


er mother is the founder of the luxury retail chain Good Earth, which is headquartered at the family’s farmhouse in Sultanpur Estate, Mehrauli in Delhi. And so, the idea of a workplace was always slightly different for Simran Lal: it represented something earthy, rooted in nature and the Indian aesthetic, and yet high on luxury and quality. After completing her Master’s in the art history from the University

of Bangalore, Simran studied product development and merchandising from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She joined her mother Anita Lal’s business as CEO, helping to streamline Good Earth’s merchandising and supply chain, and expanding it to 10 Good Earth stores around India, with retail partnerships in Turkey and China. Many years after marriage and having had two sons, Simran along with her husband Raul Rai, launched a JULY 2018


There’s a distinct tropical resort vibe at the Nicobar office. Trees and plants abound, and gardeners and graphic designers share workspace.

JULY 2018

With its multi-cultural young employee base, the workstations have a ‘coffee shop’ appearance. The mismatched chair upholstery adds a quirky feel.


new fashion and lifestyle range in 2016. They called it Nicobar, giving it a modern Indian, minimalistic resort vibe. The workplace is at the same location as Good Earth’s Delhi headquarters, Tulsi Farms. It is a large spacious, two-storey building

A meeting being held in the 'conference room'

called ‘Treehouse’ because it is surrounded by tall trees that have been on the property for decades. Parts of the building have been deliberately left unfinished to give it a startup feel, and large windows allow for an abundance of natural light. It is an undivided workspace; there are no

cubicles and everyone essentially sits in the same large hall. The ‘conference room' is essentially a shed with a sunroof, and pots and plants abound all over the workspace. It also doubles up as a display area for visitors. Over 100 employees – mostly young and female – work from this location; they have coffee breaks on benches in the open air with birds chattering away in the trees above them, and wear comfortable walking shoes to get around the expansive property. There’s also a photo studio within the property – the brand focuses on beautiful visuals and a strong social-media presence – and models, makeup artists and photographers can be seen strolling about at all times. Simran’s own personality has had a lot to do with developing this relaxed, global culture and informal work environment. Work-focused, amiable but somewhat publicity-shy, her workplace reflects the sort of person she is, and the kind of brand she has built. Nicobar has nine brick-andmortar stores in seven cities, and one more is coming up soon. They do a substantial amount of retail online, offering fashion apparel, home furnishings, décor, tableware, and travel accessories targeted at millennials and globetrotters. “At Nicobar, we’re creating a modern Indian way of living, dressing and looking at the world,” goes the label’s ethos. It’s not so hard to do that when the people behind the brand are living it themselves.  JULY 2018


ď °The workplace decor is as global and minimalistic as the Nicobar label itself. The office is built on two levels, with no individual cubicles.

JULY 2018

ď ąThe main Nicobar office is built on Tulsi Farms, in Mehrauli, Delhi. The property belongs to Simran's family, and the Good Earth head office is close by.


A WORLD OF FLAVOURS Bringing together her love for food and travel, Simi Kohli shares three delicious recipes from her popular Asian restaurant, Shibuya


By Anupam Dabral

imi Kohli’s earliest encounters with food happened in her talented mother’s kitchen. However, the founder of the

Simi Kohli

very popular Shibuya restaurant in Delhi credits her father for pushing her to understand gastronomy better. “He would make us try different cuisines, introduce new ingredients and never once complain if we didn’t get a certain dish right. Instead, he’d appreciate the effort!” she says. Born in Mumbai, Simi spent her

adolescent years in Tehran. She later moved to Delhi to study and settled here after marriage. Her restaurant in the lush locales of Greater Kailash II is a one-stop destination for anyone who wants to explore pan-Asian cuisine, and especially Japanese. Not just that, but every small detail, from the food to the buzzing atmosphere, has a punch of global flavour. Her Instagram page is proof of her love for travelling: Be it trailing the spice route across Sri Lanka or discovering the gastronomical wonders of scenic Chinese provinces, Simi has found inspiration in all the corners of the world. Married to a travel aficionado, Simi says, “Travel truly is the best form of education.” With Shibuya, Simi is combining her passion for food and travel with photography. Food for her is nothing less than art and she thrives on the limitless possibilities that come with it. Her belief is not just about creating sumptuous recipes, but also presenting them in an appetizing way. Here, she shares three recipes from her restaurant. Try them out! JULY 2018

MANGO DRAGON FRUIT SMOOTHIE Ingredients (serves 1): 1 cup Greek yoghurt 1 tbsp honey 1 frozen chopped mango (preferably Alphonso) 1/2 frozen banana 1/2 dragon fruit 1 tsp chia seeds JULY 2018

Instructions: 1. In a glass, place slices of dragon fruit on the inside wall of the glass. 2. Prepare a skewer of the dragon fruit for garnish and set aside. 3. Add the yoghurt, mango, banana, chia

seeds, honey and 1/4 dragon fruit in a blender and blend well. Pulse it a couple of times before you pour it into the glass you prepared earlier. 4. Garnish with the skewer and sprinkle some chia seeds on top.


ASIAN MANGO SALAD Ingredients (serves 2-4 people): 2 cup grated raw mango 1/2 cup iceberg lettuce, finely julienned 1/2 cup purple cabbage, finely julienned 1/3 cup peanuts, roasted and coarsely crushed Handful of mint leaves, washed and stemmed Handful of basil leaves, washed and stemmed Handful of lemon balm leaves, washed and stemmed Handful of coriander leaves, washed and

stemmed 1/3 cup shallots, finely julienned and dehydrated or deep fried and left to air dry For the dressing: 3 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped 4 tbsp light soya sauce 4 tbsp peanut / sesame oil 5 tbsp lime juice 2 tbsp coconut / palm sugar 4 tbsp fish sauce Instructions: 1. Put all the dressing

ingredients in one bowl and whisk them together. 2. Then add all the salad ingredients other than the shallots and peanuts. 3. Use washed hands to mix them well so that everything is coated with the dressing. 4. Place the salad on a salad platter and top it with the shallots and peanuts. 5. Ornament with a few edible flowers (optional). 6. Serve it immediately and enjoy your salad! JULY 2018


SOYA HONEY GLAZED VEGETABLES Ingredients (serves 2-3 people): 6-8 asparagus, trimmed 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes 250 gm green beans, trimmed and snapped in half 1 small head broccoli Handful of peas 6-8 green onions, trimmed 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled 4 dry red chillies 4 star anise 4 tbsp sesame oil 3 tbsp honey (I used Pioneer Honey’s

JULY 2018

Kashmiri Ginger) 4 tbsp soya sauce Juice of 1 lemon Salt and pepper to taste Instructions: 1. In a wok, heat the sesame oil and add the dry red chillies, star anise and garlic. 2. Sauté for a few minutes. Once you can smell the aroma, add the vegetables – green beans, asparagus, broccoli, green onions – and stir fry them on high

flame for 4-6 minutes. Make sure to toss them frequently. 3. Once they are almost done and slightly caramelised, add the cherry tomatoes and peas, and toss for a couple of minutes more along with honey and soya sauce. 4. Finish the dish with the lemon juice and test for the flavour at this point; adjust with the salt and pepper. 5. Serve hot.



A couple’s home-building journey becomes an apt metaphor for their marriage By Kay Newton


e were young and in love, newly married and the world was an exciting place. I was originally from the UK and hubby from South Africa, yet we chose to make Mallorca, Spain, our home. Our firstborn was learning to crawl and

his parents were about to embark on a mammoth project – to restore an old farmhouse (a Finca in Inca). We had invited our closest friends to come and visit our recently bought treasure, to enjoy an inaugural Sunday BBQ to celebrate with us and savour the future possibilities JULY 2018


this home would offer. It was the quietest and quickest BBQ we were ever to hold in our married life. Our friends and family thought we were totally mad. How could we possibly turn this wreck into a family home? Could we not see it was a folly, a mistake something we would live to regret? Our friends dispersed shaking their heads and many were never seen again.

er person, understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and then how you function as a team. Working as a team can really help you take actions you may not have considered if you were single. Our relationship is very much like the house we reformed. The home we saw in our vision would require an exchange of energy from each other to keep us motivat-

My grandmother used to say, “A problem shared is a problem halved,” and I have never forgotten. Both my grandparents and my parents had long-term relationships and I am no different, 26 years married so far! There is something special about sharing your life with anoth-

ed through the years of hard work to follow. I knew nothing about building; luckily that was my husband’s profession. Yet, I had confidence and trust that he could deliver and I understood what we could achieve. Many a night we sat with the plans of the house and small cut-

JULY 2018


outs representing the bigger items of furniture. How could we change the layout of the building in order to get three bedrooms upstairs? What if we put the kitchen in this way and swimming pool that way? Restoring the house helped us learn to communicate and respect each other’s ideas, vital skills to keep

the situation of the entrance. This was decided for us when a drunk neighbour passed one night and demolished part of the old wall. Life includes compromises, and sometimes sacrifices; we could be angry over the hole in the wall or use it as the gift it was and create a new entrance to the land. It is the way we

a relationship healthy. It also taught us a lot about hard work, commitment, and patience. We also learned how to dare and support each other to achieve and succeed in anything we set our minds to. When you are confident in your relationship, the world is yours to conquer. Some of the house-building decisions were made for us, for example,

deal with the situation that defines who we really are. Other decisions were born from basic necessity, for example, leaving hubby to cope with the removal and replacement of the roof whilst I travelled to the UK and my parents’ home of safety, with both our children, one just a few weeks old. We learned pretty early on in JULY 2018


The first 3 new subscribers for the 12-month subscription get a 2N/3D stay for two at a health resort in God’s Own Country! Hurry!

Fill up this form and send it along with your cheque or demand draft in the name of ‘Coral Content’ to: Coral Content, C3/1 Ground Floor, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi 110057, India.* Tick*:  6 months @ Rs 900

 12 months @ Rs 1800

Name: ___________________________________________________________ Address: __________________________________________________________ City: ____________________________________

Pin Code: ______________

Mobile: ____________________ Email:_________________________________ *For Indian residents only. You can also place orders at JULY 2018


our relationship that time apart is just as important as time together. Maintaining healthy boundaries and some autonomy avoids an unhealthy co-dependence. A good relationship is a lot like two lengths of elastic: you are tied to each other and yet you need to have space to go off in your own directions, to come back,

taking new actions. When a goal is achieved, you must celebrate, simple. We certainly celebrated the final building of our home with a large BBQ and pool party. One friend said,“I thought you were totally mad 10 years ago when you bought this house, yet now I can see the vision you had, it was huge and beyond my

regroup and then expand some more. When you have confidence in each other, you can help each other grow. If necessary, you can pull the other along for a time until they find their feet again. There is a constant exchange of energy and lots and lots of love. There is another fundamental step many people fail to follow when

comprehension. Congratulations for going on even when others didn’t believe in you.” This is a great lesson for everything we do in life. Just last month we’ve sold our family home and are ready to move on to new pastures, to re-use our skills learned so many years ago and build again. What are you going to make possible?  JULY 2018


JULY 2018


The Master Calls RASHMA BHUSHAN, 74, DELHI


t was 1973 and I had just boarded a six-hour flight from Nairobi to Bombay by myself, having left behind four small children, a busy husband, and a mother-in-law whose skeptical voice accompanied me: “Stop this talk. You have a family. This path isn’t for someone who has responsibilities.” But I was in love, a kind I had never experienced before. I was 29. Its pull was irresistible. He was called Bhagwan (later Osho) and I had read his books for the first time a few months earlier. That’s when the junoon (madness) began, destined to pull my entire family into the vortex of a seeker’s journey. For all six hours of the flight, I was ‘talking’ to him. What would I write to my mother-in-law after meeting him? What should I ask him? What does divinity look like in human form? The thoughts bubbled in my head, the agony and the ecstasy of reaching closer and closer to him nearly left me in tears. Half a day later, I arrived at his doorstep. I was led to his room, where he sat alone in a corner. As I approached him with tears in my eyes, he said lovingly, “So you have come, Rashma. Have you come alone?” I fell crying at his feet. “What was all that you were talking to me in the flight?” It has been 45 years. The devotion is still alive. And it has encased my family too in its fold.  JULY 2018