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June 2019 Vol 3 Issue 5 `150

Dr Vidita Vaidya The circuitry of emotions and the science of happiness

WONDER WOMAN India’s only woman commando trainer Dr Seema Rao FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION ONLY

THE WINNING SMILE Even facial paralysis didn’t stop Hetal Kasliwal from winning a beauty pageant

POWER CHORDS Music director Shibani Kashyap is breaking barriers


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ON THE COVER: Dr Vidita Vaidya PHOTOGRAPHY: Bhavisha Kaku-Shah



Breaking the Sound Barrier


The Sweet Retreat


Radio Saga


The Science of Happiness


Catching ’em Young


What the Puppet Says


Delhi Doodles


The Winning Smile


The Coolest Cocktails

Summertime Gladness Your summer wardrobe forecast: Breezy, light and whimsical

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Singer-music director Shibani Kashyap

4 women who organise spiritual getaways

Archana Kapoor and her Radio Mewat

Meet neuroscientist Dr Vidita Vaidya

Priya Prakash is making kids healthier

Anurupa Roy’s puppets have a message

Ankur Ahuja’s sketches of Dilli-walas

The doctor-beauty queen, Hetal Kasliwal

4 fruity cocktails to cool down summer




n the brilliant 2018 thriller Searching, a teen called Margot loses her mother to cancer and drifts into introversion. Her father, the film’s protagonist, does not realise his daughter needs someone to talk to, and instead lets things go on by default. Until one day, Margot goes missing, and her father realises how hard grief had hit her. Dealing with trauma can change us in grievous ways, but as our cover personality, neuroscientist Dr Vidita Vaidya (p.22) says, it’s what we do after trauma that can change the trajectory of the rest of our lives.Vidita’s research has found that a support system and positive environment can even change the biology of the post-traumatic brain. That’s something that another doctor, Dr Hetal Kasliwal (p.48), would vouch for. Life struck her a cruel blow with post-partum depression followed by facial paralysis, but she bounced back with positive thinking and meditation, and even went on to Aekta Kapoor win a beauty pageant. Another hero in this issue, Editor and Publisher Dr Seema Rao, India’s first and only woman mando trainer (p.40), jumped back from tragedy so many times, many now call her ‘Wonder Woman’. As Epictetus said, it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. How are you reacting to your circumstances?  Editor and Publisher: Aekta Kapoor Business Director: Kaveri Jain Marketing and Research: Nyamat Bindra ( Brand Managers: Amrita Nagpal, Pallavi Pratap Malik Contributors: Kaveri Jain, Kay Newton, Maya Lalchandani, Neha Kirpal, Uttara J Malhotra

Mentor: Kul Bhushan All rights reserved throughout the world. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited. Published by Aekta Kapoor from Coral Content, 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. For queries, write to, or visit JUNE 2019


Personal Growth Workshops


June 8, 2019 | 3 to 7 PM Panchsheel Park, Delhi Entry: Rs 1500 (including 6 fun sessions, snacks and gifts worth Rs 1500 each!)

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Popular musician Shibani Kashyap talks about shattering the glass ceiling in a relatively male-dominated Bollywood music industry


By Neha Kirpal

hibani Kashyap was one of India’s first women guitarists who was noticed playing live music. “I play my guitar in most of my live concerts, which was seen as something quite unique back then,” the acclaimed Bollywood singer and music director says of her early experiences. Though her audiences found this quite odd at first, it became a boon later on, as Shibani “ended up getting lots of guitars, which was the biggest treasure for me!” After Gibson, she is now the brand ambassador for Yamaha guitars in India. “I notice that a lot of female guitar players have come up over the years, and it makes me really happy that I could inspire others,” says Shibani, who has been part of the music industry in India for the past 16 years. We catch up with her about her experiences. You are one of the first female music directors in Bollywood. Is it still difficult for women to break into a largely maledominated industry? I was probably one of the rare female music directors who JUNE 2019

started her career in Bollywood as a director and singer way back in 2003 with the song Sajna aa bhi ja which I composed. I also had two

other songs in the same film, Waisa Bhi Hota Hai 2. I did about 17 more films after that, but I was never really accepted as a music director. I was always termed as a singer or


performer. I had to really fight and shout out loud, “Hey guys, I have also composed this song myself.” Till date, it’s very difficult for me to get that title. Even so, things are getting better. There are other female music directors, such as Jasleen Royal and Sneha Khanwalkar. In fact, I recently sang for a very talented woman music director, Rini Dhar, for a film called Gun Pe Done. So, there are other women in the director’s seat now, but they are very few and it’s still difficult to be recognised. Last year, you were at the India Day parade in New York. Tell us about it. On 18 August, 2018, I represented India in the world’s largest India Day parade. Being Indian, the

feeling of representing your country in another country is the biggest honour. In New York, the way they celebrate Independence Day is mammoth. It makes you feel

“THIS IS THE AGE OF DIGITAL MUSIC AND DIGITAL PLATFORMS THAT ARE GENEROUSLY AVAILABLE FOR ALL OF US” even more proud to be an Indian. I shared the stage with Kamal Haasan, Shruti Haasan and Kailash Kher. It felt wonderful that out of all the singers in India, they selected me to JUNE 2019


be a part of this hugely prestigious ceremony. Tell us about your latest song Chandni Raatein. Chandni Raatein, which released in February, is one of my most favourite songs of Noor Jehan, one of the most iconic singers of Pakistan. Even though it’s a slow song, there’s something very lilting and melodious about it. I always wanted to recreate the song in my own way. It has got a wonderful response, and I perform it at all my live concerts these days. Tell us about the songs that mean a lot to you… I am a woman, I am a girl is an anthem I created in 2013 as a tribute to women. I perform it every Women’s Day. I recently sang the motivational song Hum honge kaamyab for director Lalit Pandit, along with singers such as Akriti Kakkar, Kanika Kapoor, Shaan and others. I have composed and sung a new song called Yeh kaisi bheed hai. It talks about the fear of crowds or agoraphobia. It’s a hopeful song with a message about speaking about and expressing one’s fears. I’m also working on a song against drunk-driving. What do you advise aspiring musicians? Create something original, work on your skills and don’t feel shy or suppressed to express any kind of music you want to. No one needs to stick to a norm or be shackled JUNE 2019

by tradition. If you have anything unique to offer through your music, you should go ahead and do it. This is the age of digital music and

digital platforms that are generously available for all of us. Audiences today are very open-minded. So, just go out there and put out your music. If you want to be a guitarist, singer, music composer, performer, whatever, just do it. Nothing can stop you. 



If spending time getting to know yourself, making new friends, and trying out a new destination appeal to you, try a retreat by one of these hostesses


By Kay Newton

t’s vacation time in most parts of the world. Besides spending time with family and friends, more women are now opting to take a break alone. Creating new life experiences – rather than just booking a hotel and sitting by the beach – has become popular. One way to do this is to join a retreat. Retreats come in all shapes and sizes, from large groups to inti-

mate gatherings, five-star luxury to camping, from overnight to weeklong, or even more. One thing they all have in common? You will never be exactly the same person you were before the event. KEZIA LUCKETT As the founder of two worldwide movements, ‘Women of Contribution’ and ‘Pay It Forward’, Kezia JUNE 2019


knows the power of self-transformation. She recently conducted a two-day Legacy Creation retreat, a small intimate affair at a five-star hotel in UK. “I shared with my businesswomen participants how I have created a meaningful legacy in a short period of time. It is all about becoming

Kezia utilised the venue to further the experience. “I chose the Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa as the backdrop for the event. Located on 500 acres of English parkland in the Cotswolds near Bath, it was the perfect place to learn, explore and nurture. Not only were the spa treatments amazing, but the coun-

Facing page: Kezia Luckett. This page (L-R): Lacknam Hotel in the Cotswolds; hot-air balloon ride in Morocco

crystal clear on the ripple effect I wished to see in the world and how to harness collaboration. Now my movements have the potential to impact billions,” says the positive psychologist and author. The system Kezia has created is simple and doable by anyone. “You don’t need to know the ‘how’; you just need to have a bigger vision and put it out there. Sharing this vision then becomes powerful. Meeting like-minded people adds fuel to the fire.” JUNE 2019

tryside is beautiful and the Michelin-starred food was superb.” Kezia, who shuttles between Europe, USA and Australia, also provided her guests with personal goody bags at the end. KAREN KENNABY Karen Kennaby is always on the go, hosting get-togethers. I chatted with the UK-based mentor for women and international speaker after her return from a nine-day trip for women to the Valley of the


Karen Kennaby recently organised a nine-day trip for women to the Valley of the Roses in Morocco

Roses in Morocco. The retreat participants experienced a hot-air balloon ride, camel riding in the Sahara desert, bargain hunting at the souks (markets), beautiful hotels and delicious food. “High in the Atlas Mountains, the Rose Valley produces 4000 tons of wild roses every year in AprilMay. It takes around four tons of fresh petals to make a single litre of rose oil, used in perfume making. It is a complete sensation overload,” Karen informs enthusiastically. Karen describes herself as a travelling woman, both geographically and emotionally. She loves to find the best in all situations and help

others experience it too. She also hosts events in London, Dubai and several other locations throughout the year. “I love connecting other women, helping them to unwind, de-stress and increase their joie de vivre. There is something magical about a group of ladies coming together away from their usual environment. Amazing bonds and friendships are formed, new thought-patterns emerge and, of course, the world becomes a far better place,” she says. Her next retreat is in July to Tuscany. TAMARA ALFEROFF Tamara Alferoff loves running reJUNE 2019


Tamara Alferoff has been hosting retreats for more than 30 years in Greece (above), France and Italy

treats and has been doing so for more than 30 years. Her go-to destination is the Mediterranean: France, Greece and Italy. “I am fortunate to attract people who want to work on themselves at a heartfelt and deep level. It is not only they who have rewards; each time I interact, I too have my cup filled to overflowing,” says the London-based transformative psychotherapist and mentor. Tamara’s power is to help the participants connect to their authenticity. “Whether it is tapping into the dream body, constellation work, psychotherapy, family ancestry, or therapeutic tools, everyone takes JUNE 2019

away skills that they can use.” Serendipity sent Tamara to all the locations. “I fell in love with Lavaldieu, France.The Templar hamlet is the perfect setting for the ‘Heroines Journey’ retreat. The wildflowers, butterflies and birds in June are just stunning.” Her workshop in Greece is the ‘Heroes Journey’ retreat for men and women, with a focus on love, family patterns, relationships, mastery and magic in self and the world. Her retreats in Italy are by invitation only: a secret space for wise, experienced leaders, thinkers and healers to brainstorm, and share their skills.


Clockwise from above: Annu Bala in the Himalayas on the way to Everest Base Camp; with her group of women in Egypt, where they meditated in a pyramid at Giza; Annu has organised over 50 retreats so far

ANNU BALA A former product designer, Annu Bala founded her own venture SoulCentric in 2013, offering retreats in various locations in Asia, South America, Africa and even Antarctica. This year she is hosting an Uncharted World Cruise, which will go to the remotest corners of Earth on an ultra-luxury cruise. “I am an adventure enthusiast by nature,” says Annu, who has been on several treks including Everest Base Camp. Her deep interest in self-exploration through alternative travel guided her to start her own venture. So far, SoulCentric has or-

ganised over 50 retreats, with group sizes ranging from 12 to 50. Besides sightseeing, most of the retreats have a spiritual quotient in them. “In Egypt, we take the group inside the Giza Pyramid for a twohour meditation. In Turkey, we have sessions on Sufism. In Cambodia we visit Angkor Wat on the day of equinox and meditate at sunrise. Machu Picchu is an energy spot so we meditate there individually. Antarctica in itself is a life-changing experience. We play with energy spots, special days and the spiritual significance of the destination,” says the Delhi-based travelpreneur.  JUNE 2019


MASSAGE MAGIC The Revive Aroma Therapy massage at TAF Wellness packs a punch


assages have the ability to calm you or rejuvenate you. But if you’re looking for something more out of your massage – fat burning, muscle toning and a super boost to your circulation system – then try the Revive Aroma Therapy at TAF Wellness centre near Saket, Delhi. The centre is a discreet but wellknown weight-loss destination amongst the who’s who of Delhi. Besides state-of-the-art equipment

The centre is inside Sheesham Courtyard – so named for the sheesham tree at its entrance JUNE 2019

for weight-loss and body firming to go along with nutrition counselling, they have a health-food outlet, gym and yoga centre in the premises. During the Revive Aroma Therapy ( `4500) an expert masseuse gives your body a complete do-over using mandarin and ginger essential oils, which are said to stimulate brain function and relieve stress.The massage includes both stimulating and soothing strokes, the beneficial effects of which stays for days. 





n alumnus of Soka University of America with a degree in social and behavioural sciences, Shaira Chaudhry has made a career out of helping people overcome challenges in their lives by changing their mindset. The Delhibased 30-year-old is trained in healing and consciousness modalities such as Reiki, Access Consciousness, Neuro Linguistic Programming, and Louise Hay’s ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ work. She conducts various workshops for individuals and groups, facilitating people to navigate through work, life and relationships with a possibility mindset, and by learning how to be present to their thoughts, feelings and emotions. We talk to her about her work. Tell us about your work and what kind of clients you usually work with? The essence of what I endeavour to do is facilitate people to get out of a state of functioning from limiting beliefs and behavioural and thought patterns, and start functioning from possibilities instead. I work with a

Personal development coach and wellness facilitator Shaira Chaudhry on living an authentic, unlimited life

Shaira Chaudhry

wide array of clients who come to me with different kinds of issues ranging from physical ailments to relationship troubles to body image and career-related issues. Have you noticed any common factor amongst them? The common factor underlying almost all of these issues seems to JUNE 2019


be a lack of sense of self-awareness, self-belief and knowing who we really are and what we stand for. Most of the emotions of guilt, fear, anger or regret that we experience stem from making the noise outside more relevant than the voice within. Unfortunately, we happen to do this on an auto-

accountability of our lives and steer it in the direction that we’d like to see it go. It helps us get out of the limiting patterns keeping us stuck, and go beyond to the possibilities that lie at the other end. Do you use any specific techniques? I use different mindfulness techniques to do this and I work

Shaira conducting a talk in Delhi

pilot mode, without being present to our thoughts, feelings and emotions. How do you help those with such issues? What I attempt to do through my work is to facilitate my clients to get back in touch with their most authentic selves and become more conscious of the choices they’re making. It’s empowering to know that we always have a choice and that life isn’t just happening to us. It is an approach that helps us take JUNE 2019

a lot with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and subconscious beliefs to bring more awareness to the ‘problem’ at hand. For my corporate workshops, I’ve created modules around conscious bodies, conscious relationships, work-life balance, women in leadership, and so on, bringing the component of self-awareness and mindfulness to effectively deal with situations at work. Contact:



Led by Archana Kapoor, community radio station Radio Mewat has turned around the lives of the rural Haryana listeners it caters to Text by Neha Kirpal. Photography by Ruhani Kaur


hen the Government of Haryana issued an advisory 11 years ago that it would no longer work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Archana Kapoor and her team of social workers – who had been working towards education and livelihoods in 100 Haryana villages at the time – were devastated. The Delhi-based publisher, filmmaker, author and ac-

tivist had to figure out some other way to continue working with rural communities. Just then, she came across an article that said the Government of India had opened up the community radio sector to NGOs. She applied for a licence, and in September 2010, Radio Mewat was born. Today, it is a National Award-winning community radio initiative that has brought to the JUNE 2019


fore unheard voices of the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of society, and has become a powerful tool for empowerment. It has been featured extensively in both national and international media for its innovative programming, and in journals brought out

munity about their choices, whether it’s to do with consumer rights, financial inclusion, Panchayats, health, education or livelihoods. Over nine years, the struggles have been many. “We were worried about acceptance by a community that was inward-looking and

A year-long program on women’s health and nutrition helped change the health graph of the community

by UNICEF and UNESCO. In a place like Mewat where only 10 per cent of households own a TV, the radio still has relevance – and anyone with just a feature phone can access Radio Mewat for free. “If you ask people whether they listen to the radio, most of them say no. But if you ask them whether they listen to Radio Mewat, they will say yes,” smiles Archana, whose goal is to educate the comJUNE 2019

resisted outsiders and the media. What many of us take for granted – access to schools, quality education, potable water, well-equipped hospitals – are all a struggle for this community,” explains Archana. Further, policy guidelines were so constrictive that a lot of content that had a direct connect with the people and their lives could not be broadcast. “Mewat is a troubled place. In the past few years, we


Radio Mewat helped revive the lost cultural and oral tradition of Mirasis who recite the Mahabharata

have seen incidents of double murder and gang-rape, the lynching of Pehlu Khan and Junaid Khan, who was a student at a madrasa in Mewat, and Rakbar Khan. Despite being a community radio, we could not broadcast anything about these incidents,” says Archana. In fact, when some of the community members – who also do programmes in Radio Mewat – participated in a protest, the radio station faced flak on their behalf. “The District Collector called me up and threatened to pull down our antenna and throw the computers out if we did not prevent our boys from protesting. When I told him that they were members of this

community, living in a democracy and have the right to do dharnas or protests, I was told that no one knew them before they came to Radio Mewat!” Archana shares. In an attempt to be inclusive, her team also faced challenges in getting women on board. “Women were willing to work with the NGO but not the radio,” recalls Archana. The first ‘Meo’ woman reporter, as they are called, was timid and hesitant for a long time before she could go on air independently. She was constantly pressured by her parents not to work, as she was still unmarried in her 20s. She had to wake up at 4 am, complete household chores and then JUNE 2019


travel 23 km to reach office by 9 am, and later go home and cook. She would have to face snide remarks from her family and even her colleagues that no one would marry her because her voice was known to all. In Mewat, young women can be seen but not heard. With Archana’s help, the young reporter went on to host a health and nutrition show for women, and within three years felt empowered enough to even stand for Panchayat

ency in governance has increased. We launched a consumer helpline and registered 48 cases with consumer courts. Panchayats have been made more accountable about releasing MNREGA funds. For the first time in the history of Mewat, Gram Sabhas were held. This happened only after a sustained intervention through the community radio station,” avers Archana. The station also offers a free tuition space every afternoon for

Broadcasting for 17 hours a day, Radio Mewat continues to inspire the community it caters to

elections. Today she is a role model for many. Seventeen years on, Radio Mewat continues to inspire the community it caters to. They use it as a platform to share their concerns, stories and achievements, to learn from each other and to be heard. Repeated demands from the community and airing of grievances have forced even the local authorities to provide answers. “TransparJUNE 2019

students of classes sixth to tenth, and has been working for financial inclusion by interventions to help people open bank accounts. Plans are afoot to turn Radio Mewat into a hub of education, culture and entertainment. “It is a difficult climb, but we have managed to accomplish many of our objectives that seemed impossible when we started out,” reasons Archana. Radio still rules. 



THE SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS Neuroscientist Dr Vidita Vaidya is studying the circuitry of emotions to help future generations fight psychological disorders

Text by Aekta Kapoor. Photography by Bhavisha Kaku-Shah


hat makes you vulnerable? What makes you resilient? These are some of the questions that neuroscientist Vidita Vaidya has lived with for almost two decades. Professor at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Vidita’s lab has been studying the effect of emotions and trauma on the brain, seeking to understand how the nervous system protects it, and how we can protect future

generations from psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety. Highly relevant at a time when mental illness is on the rise,Vidita’s work is poised to have a farreaching global impact and could change the way societies around the world raise children, help people deal with trauma and stress, and aid pharmaceutical companies design better psychiatric medications.


The only child of well-known medical doctors – both still active in their domains – Vidita was immersed in the world of science from the day she was born. After completing her graduation in Life-science and biochemistry from St Xavier’s in Mumbai, she headed to Yale University to do her Master’s and PhD in neuroscience.

research institute for mathematics and science, as an independent researcher. Armed with seven-year funding from the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity based in London where she was a senior fellow, she set up her own lab in Mumbai when she was just 29. With a focus on molecular psychiatry and studying the circuitry of emotion in the brain, the bottomline for her research was: “Why does stress enhance psychological disorders in the brain, and what protects the brain from the negative effects of stress?” What she found was that critical stressors in early life have a profound effect on the organism’s entire life: “Trauma itself is shortlived but its effects are lifelong.” By studying how the Vidita with her brain responds to traumatgrandparents as a child ic events helps not only in understanding the roots of There, she met Ajit, the man who mental illness in later age, but also would be her husband – he was do- why certain people develop resiling his MBA at Carnegie Mellon ience to stress as they grow older. at the time. After a year in Stock“For instance, abuse, separation of holm’s Karolinska Institute, Vidita parents, the loss of a parent in childjoined the University of Oxford to hood can be a risk factor for mental do her second post-doc and “finally illness but there are also other prolived in the same city as Ajit”. foundly protective factors – such as After eight years of living out- support, care and acceptance – that side India, the couple returned to can help mitigate the effects. Trautheir beloved motherland where ma alters the brain, yes, but what Vidita joined TIFR, India’s premier you do after trauma can dramatically JUNE 2019


alter the trajectory of your life,” says Vidita, who is a fellow at the Indian National Science Academy. With the WHO predicting psychiatric disorders to be a major global burden by 2020 – depression, which is currently ranked fourth among the 10 leading causes of the global burden of disease, will have jumped to second place by then – Vidita’s studies will translate to better treatments and even better psychiatric medications in the future. The inadequacy of such drugs at present is disappointing for Vidita. “There is a design flaw in current anti-depressants. One out of three patients doesn’t even respond to treatment. And the others respond JUNE 2019

after a long period,” she rues. “We need to speed up the process.” In 2010, Vidita’s team did in fact develop ways to help speed up the healing process in animals and, two years later, she won the National Bio-science Award, one of the highest Indian biology awards. This was followed by the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in 2015. Last month, Vidita and her TIFR team published a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences with the results of a study that found an unusual function for serotonin. “We found that serotonin reduces reactive oxygen species, thus providing neuroprotection against cellular


Vidita (in blue) with her parents, her (late) husband, daughter and in-laws

stress,” Vidita was quoted as saying in The Hindu. She explains that while one’s gender – or even lifestyle disorders like Type 2 diabetes – may be in one’s genetic blueprint, “your interaction with the environment is constantly working on your brain and has a greater impact on your life.” Sadly, Vidita got first-hand experience of dealing with trauma when her husband Ajit passed away in October last year, just short of his 49th birthday, leaving her and her 14-year-old daughter bereft. “We lost him too young; I had to face that,” she says stoically, crediting him for being an equal partner in marriage and parenting. “I was

lucky and blessed to have a spouse who shared the load of all household and childcare responsibilities and was the greatest cheerleader in my career, but many women scientists may not have that kind of support at home.” Nearly 45 percent of entry-level PhD scholars in India are girls, says Vidita, but there’s a gradual attrition after that, until they are a small minority at the top. “That’s because the system doesn’t offer sustained support for women. There is undue burden on them,” she regrets. With her invaluable research and by standing up for other women in the field, Vidita is setting the stage for change in more ways than one.  JUNE 2019




Having won her own childhood battle with weight, Priya Prakash founded India’s first health monitoring service for school children By Uttara J Malhotra


he was a young girl bodyshamed to the brink of breakdown. For Priya Prakash, growing up with a fairly plump body was no child’s play. “It wreaked havoc on my personality and psychology, and left me alienated, longing for friends,” JUNE 2019

shares the vivacious 27-year-old, who turned her fight with unhealthy eating habits into a lifelong mission to impart health education to children in schools. Today, her innovative startup HealthSetGO offers comprehensive health services to Indian private


HealthSetGo is a professionally managed social enterprise, where doctors conduct regular checkups

schools at a nominal annual charge. Manned by a team of 25, it is present in over 200 schools in 77 cities across India, where it rolls out a full set of healthcare services for growing children. Most of these are privately run schools. Priya is also one of 21 finalists of the 2019 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative, an award that recognises and celebrates young women achievers who are making a contributive difference to society through their entrepreneurial journeys. s an adolescent, Priya never imagined her erratic lifestyle would become a major point of concern for her overall well-being. “My entire joint family was fond of


food, and the youngsters often indulged in binge eating,” she shares. The desire to find self and joy became more evident once Priya moved away from competitive Delhi schools to Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, founded by Krishnamurthi Foundation of India. “Here, I could find perspective to my inner turmoil. I had a desire to introspect,” shares Priya. In the words of the school’s founder J. Krishnamurti, inward and outward development of a child is what will create a rounded citizen. Taking inspiration from this thought, Priya finished her highschool education at Rishi Valley and decided to start her own venture. JUNE 2019


Every child’s data is accessible to the parent through an app on their device and can be accessed at any time

The turning point came about when Priya joined a gym while in college, and met an instructor who trained her to use her weight to her advantage. She went on to become a weightlifter and won the silver medal at the Delhi State weightlifting championship in 2017. By this time, her venture HealthSetGo was already catching momentum. “Most parents ignore the general health checkup routines of their child once he or she turns six. Today, children are dealing with stress disorders, early onset of Vitamin D3/B12 deficiencies, thyroid, weak cornea and eye issues, calcium deficiency… the list can go on. With our initiative, we do preventive inJUNE 2019

tervention, making the parent aware in real time,” explains Priya. But the journey was an uphill task, “owing to the fact that most schools are preoccupied with academic performance, and consistent health monitoring takes a backseat.” Priya began speaking to one school principal at a time, until she had reached hundreds of them. HealthSetGo’s online platform stores every child’s health data, providing smart analytics and insights to enhance communication between schools and parents. Priya is now rolling out a training kit offering instructional videos, manuals and 32 weeks of workouts to 30,000 students in 1,000 pre-schools. 


Fast Versus Fearless Fashion Fashion consultant and ex-Vogue stylist Aradhana Baruah talks about the cost of fast fashion, and her appeal to Indian celebrities


ustainability is a buzzword in Indian fashion these days and, if you ask fashion consultant Aradhana Baruah, the demand from buyers is forcing designers towards more sustainable processes and production. “The consumer is very conscious nowadays,” says the former Vogue India stylist, adding that sustainability itself is a balancing act: “It focuses on

meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs too.” With the advent of mass-produced ‘fast fashion’ in Indian cities, however, consumers often find themselves having to choose between trendiness and sustainability. “Fast fashion costs the buyer less, but damages the environment more,” Aradhana JUNE 2019


Facing page: Aradhana Baruah giving a talk at eShe’s Shine Your Light in Sue Mue, Green Park, Delhi; this page (L-R): Aradhana at an event; a model styled by Aradhana in Vogue magazine

informs. She would know: having worked in the Indian fashion media for over a decade, she has seen and researched its darker side too: sweat shops, child labour and horror stories like the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 that left thousands dead in a garment factory in Dhaka. “Living a sustainable life is a holistic exercise,” she says. “It’s a journey dotted with incremental improvements. It requires us to consider all aspects of how we choose to live – from our habits at home to the kinds of products we buy and businesses we choose to support.” Her advice to fashion shoppers? “Don’t be a fast-fashion victim. Only buy clothes that you really JUNE 2019

like or need. Revisit your mother’s and grandmother’s closets. Having a big budget isn’t necessary for being fashionable; you need creativity and style for that. Re-style and reuse your garments.” As a celebrity stylist, Aradhana is also privy to the quirks and compulsions of the glamour industry. “Indian celebrities prefer to play it safe,” she rues, comparing them to international movie stars who are more experimental. “I wish they would support homegrown brands both in India and on international platforms. They shouldn’t be afraid to take risks with clothes, and even hair and makeup.” For what is style if not a statement? 


SUMMERTIME GLADNESS Your summer wardrobe forecast: Breezy, light and whimsical

RIDHI MEHRA For her SS19 collection, designer Ridhi Mehra immersed herself in poetry and art of all things spring – from blooming flowers to fragrances and romantic couplets. The collection celebrates oldworld influences while retaining the designer’s contemporary and signature style. IndoPersian prints and regal navrattan gemstones have been used on breezy international fabrics.

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MAHIMA MAHAJAN ‘With Serena’ by Mahima Mahajan gives an ethereal, lightweight touch to occasion dressing. From cut-outs at the waist to crosscrossing ribbons at the neckline, interesting details give each look a novel edge. Summery digital prints come together with floral motifs in zardosi, sequins, pearl embroidery and mukaish.

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FLIRTATIOUS A new swimwear collection by Flirtatious is sure to get you feeling playful yet fierce this season. Their new eclectic looks combine print, colour and embellishment in various ways. With vibrant fluorescent colours, prints and sequins, the collection gives a maximalistic edge to resortwear, and is an apt choice for the trendy beachbum.

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Founder of the Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust, Anurupa Roy is using the silence of puppets to speak out against injustices in society By Neha Kirpal


nurupa Roy began playing with puppets when she was nine years old, when her parents bought her a puppet for the first time. Today, as a well-known puppeteer, puppet designer and director, she is recognised as a major creative force in Indian puppet theatre. She is the founder and managing trustee

of the Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust, a puppet theatre group based in Delhi since 1998. We speak to her about her unconventional career. What were your earliest influences? When I was around 10, I saw Dadi Pudumjee’s show called Circus at the Shriram Centre and Ranjana Pandey’s puppet show at the Crafts JUNE 2019


Museum in Delhi. The impact was strong. In my school, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, we had puppet classes every week. So, my interest began early and only intensified. In college, I did a lot of puppetry. Post college, it became an obvious choice. Was it difficult to choose a relatively lesser known career path? It is difficult only as long as one makes it difficult. I was fortunate to have the support of my parents. But it was a near-empty space. There were no training possibilities. Of course, I was laughed at or even pitied but I think if you answer your true calling, what people think and say sort of evaporates. Did you face any particular challenges in your profession as a woman? Fortunately, puppetry, at least in Delhi, is not a boys’ club. When I look at the theatre world at large, gender inequalities are still so stark. Women directors are mostly dismissed as whimsical or indulging in a hobby. As a puppeteer, it has not been a struggle governed by gender but form. It will take years before puppet theatre is taken seriously as an art form. This is my struggle. Tell us about some of the contemporary issues that Katkatha highlights. Katkatha has always looked at the unsaid in the said, the unknown in the known. We practise a nonmainstream art form and our narratives are of the non-mainstream. If we present the Mahabharata, we JUNE 2019

choose to tell the lesser known back story of the characters. I don’t believe that the arts exist to raise issues. I believe that artists live in the real world but see something in it that others don’t see or don’t want to see. The contemporary issues we have chosen to talk about in Katkatha are those that affect us – war, war-mongering, violence,

the environment and human greed, gender and sexuality being some of them. We raise questions. I don’t believe it is my job to give answers. What have you learnt out of pursuing a living in puppetry? For every good day, there are 100 difficult days of struggle. The only reason one sticks on is because of the love of it. 


YOU DON’T MESS WITH THIS WOMAN India’s first and only woman commando trainer Dr Seema Rao teaches Indians soldiers and civilians how to fight so that we can keep the peace


n episode of sexual harassment on a public road in her late teens (once called ‘eve-teasing’) triggered Seema Rao to toughen up and learn to defend herself through martial art. She went on to achieve a black belt in Taekwondo and Krav Maga, and 8th degree black belt in military martial arts. She’s also the world’s highest qualified woman instructor in Bruce Lee’s art of Jeet Kune Do, and is a combat shooting instructor. She has been training the Special Forces of India for almost two decades without compensation, and is a pioneer in close-quarter battle.

It’s safe to say: no one dares to mess with this woman now. Seema’s is a remarkable story of persistence and strength. As the Buddhist parable goes, the higher the rocks in its path, the greater the wave. Having spent her childhood in Mumbai being fearful and timid, Seema grew up to be a brave adult, who confronted each fear head-on and overcame it. “When you know you will live just once – and that life can get over in just a blink of an eye – then you are able to see danger and dangerous situations in a detached fashion,” says the 50-year-old in retrospect. JUNE 2019


Dr Seema Rao has been training the Special Forces of India for almost two decades without compensation

“You realise that every moment is precious, and you struggle to make the most of it.You take all adversity in your stride.” Married when she was just 18, Seema’s is also a story of a very special man and life partner, Major Deepak Rao, who encouraged her every step of the way, being her stepping stone and support. He’s the person who pushed her to complete her martial arts and combat training; to study alternative medicine, immunology and leadership from international universities; and to learn fire-fighting, jungle survival, mountaineering and scuba deepsea diving. “My husband and I have a very JUNE 2019

philosophical approach to life, actually,” says Seema on the phone from her training academy in Mumbai, where their daughter Komal – who is also a martial-arts expert – handles the administration and assists Seema in conducting combat classes. “In all the difficult moments of life, we have been together. Our friends in the Forces call us the ideal ‘buddy pair’ – two soldiers who are completely in sync in all functions, with harmony in mindset and total trust in the other.” She goes on: “You can be a strong and resilient person by nature, but if you have someone’s support during the lowest points in your life, there is nothing like it.”


Dr Seema Rao has trained over 20,000 soldiers from Indian Armed Forces, police and paramilitary

There have been plenty of low points in Seema’s life, not the least because of the difficult path she chose. As she says, she has broken practically every bone in her body. Once, she fell from a height of 50 feet and suffered vertebral fracture. Another time, during a grappling bout with a fellow soldier, she lost her focus and balance after hearing the news of her father’s sudden demise. It led her to fall on her head, causing severe injury with loss of memory for months. She credits her family for being there for her throughout. For her work as India’s first woman commando trainer who has so far trained over 20,000 soldiers from Indian armed forces, paramilitary and police, Seema has received three Army Chief Citations. She is also winner of the World Peace Award, and earlier this year, won the coveted Nari Shakti Puruskar, the highest civilian award for women. “Each award means a lot – they are all about appreciation of one’s work. But to be honest, receiving the Nari Shakti award from the President of India is something I hold very dear to my heart. My achievements would be incomplete without this award,” says Seema. Passionate about inspiring women, Seema is a TEDx speaker who gives frequent talks on fighting to the finish. She has authored several books, including the world’s first JUNE 2019


Dr Seema Rao with the then Chief of Army Staff VK Singh; she has received three Army Chief Citations

encyclopedia of close combat operations, and used her life’s earnings to gift 1000 copies of the book to the Home Ministry and Indian Army. She gave copies of her book Commando Manual of Unarmed Combat to FBI and Interpol libraries. Interestingly, Seema’s husband once clandestinely enrolled her for a beauty pageant when she was in her late 30s. “It showed me a different colour of life,” Seema laughs in recall. The contestants underwent training in a five-star hotel over several days. “We had a good time. I met women from many different walks of life,” says Seema, who flexed her biceps during her ramp walk to loud cheers, and won the JUNE 2019

runners-up position. “Women don’t know their own self-worth,” says Seema. “Over generations, women have been brainwashed into believing they are not capable. But they have to be made aware of their qualities.” As feminist role model, she feels a sense of responsibility towards fellow women. “My story inspires them. It’s a story of strife, frustration, glory – all the stages of life,” she says, recounting a talk she gave at the National Women’s Parliament in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh, to tens of thousands of women. “My core is close-quarter battle training. But my passion is women’s empowerment,” she signs off. 

44 | ART

DELHI DOODLES Ankur Ahuja is capturing the essence of Delhi with unselfconscious drawings of its people

Classic pose for, “Auto kab aayega?” (When will I get an auto-rickshaw?) JUNE 2019

ART | 45


hat do you think of when you think of cities? Its history, monuments, modern structures? Well, Ankur Ahuja thinks of its people, and more specifically, people in public spaces. The 45-year-old cinematographer, who shuttles between Delhi and Mumbai, has been documenting Delhi’s neighbourhoods at a ‘micro-level’ as a pet project on her Instagram account @papersingh. “Delhi has such a diverse population that is so vibrant and visual. Although there is a plenitude of stories and characters wherever you look, they often come alive in Delhi’s abundant parks,” says Ankur. There’s one near Ankur’s house that she has been visiting for the past 15 years. “I started collating images of people and moments from my walks. In India, with our predilection for public living, there

are stories everywhere.” Along with the drawings, Ankur adds interesting captions in her Instagram posts, capturing not only the form but the essence of her subjects as well. “I take a lot of pictures on my phone, sometimes specifically to capture a pose or a pattern. Sometimes I commit details to memory. Often I combine two separate events and that becomes a story,” she explains. Ankur likes to look for playfulness in situations: “And I never have to go seeking it. It’s there in small things,” she says. “Spaces evolve around the habits of its community,” she comments, quoting Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese sculptor and landscape architect famous for his dialogue on playground design: “You find that the city becomes a place for endless exploration, of endless opportunity for changing play.” Devotional songs in the park: Keeping the faith

First date... first kiss... first white hair JUNE 2019

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“Honeymoon in Switzerland. Back in time for the mango season.”

Delivery boy summer essentials: earphones, chewing gum / paan masala, drop-crotch pants, slip-on shoes in red. I’d add sunglasses. Safety first, fashion later. JUNE 2019

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Summer tip #240: Sliced cucumber doused in lemon will save you from a sunstroke.

Bhaiya thoda teekha, meethi chutney kam, khatti chutney zyaada (Brother, make it hot, less of sweet chutney, more of spicy chutney) – same recipe for gol-gappas and gossip.

“Turns our Mother of Dragons is Aunt of the King of the North... so lame right?“ Gossip in the shadow of the Wall. JUNE 2019


THE WINNING SMILE Facial paralysis put a dent in Dr Hetal Kasliwal’s ability to smile fully, but she went ahead and won a beauty pageant nonetheless

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eauty was a sensitive subject for Hetal Kasliwal, a homeopathic paediatrician from Nasik, and mother of two. Married into a family of fair-skinned, light-eyed folks, she had already been acutely aware of her ‘wheatish’ complexion, but to make matters worse, she developed facial paralysis after the birth of her first child. And so, when she was crowned Mrs West India in a beauty contest organised by Diva Pageants earlier this year, it felt like vindication. And yet, because it came after years of personal growth and selfactualisation, it also felt like home. Born to a father in a government

job and a homemaker mother, Hetal was raised in Mumbai and parts of Gujarat along with her two siblings. Drawn to children from a young age, she took up homeopathy with a specialisation in paediatrics. Besides healing them, she also motivated thousands of them through talks and seminars. “If you want to change the country, you have to start with the kids. They are our future,” says the amiable Hetal, who now has an eight-year old daughter Prisha and four-year-old son Reyansh. Hetal met her husband, Dr Parag Kasliwal, during her college years in Mumbai. Moving to Ozar, a tiny town of just 50,000 people,

Hetal after winning the Mrs West India crown along with the organisers Anjana and Karl Mascarenhas JUNE 2019


after marriage naturally came with a massive culture shock. “I had prepared myself mentally but the transformation required of me was just too great,” she recalls. Understandably, a medical postgraduate student from a metropolis

Hetal with her daughter (far left) and son (below)

cannot easily adjust to being a sariclad homemaker in small town overnight. Her confidence and selfesteem took a massive hit. In an effort to rebuild her life, Hetal set up her own clinic in Nasik. A few years later, however, having her first baby landed her straight

into post-partum depression. “My immunity became low,” she says. Her husband was also struggling with his own new business at the time, and the stress from multiple directions took a toll on Hetal. That’s when facial paralysis struck and Hetal lost control over one side of her face. Unable to face the pressure – and snide remarks from patients who said, “What kind of a doctor cannot heal herself?” – Hetal shut down her clinic and went into a cocoon of sadness and self-flagellation. Gradually, hope and light pulled her out of her emotional hell. She began reading books like The Secret and Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. “That helped me become more positive and embrace all that I have,” says the 37-year-old. “It took two or three years for me to come out of my ‘victim-mode’ and to take charge of my life. I began meditating, learnt to forgive, and developed an attitude of gratitude.” By the time her son was born, Hetal was back to being her optimistic self. A chance comment about Hetal’s complexion by her daughter, who was four years old then, triggered a new line of thought: “My daughter – like me and most women in India – had internalised the notion that gorachitta skin (fair complexion) is the epitome of beauty,” Hetal recalls. “I decided to change my daughter’s JUNE 2019


perception of beauty.” Though Hetal had heard of Diva Pageants, it took her two years and a lot of courage to register herself for Mrs West India this February. Tentatively, she introduced herself at the audition saying, “There are no chains that can bind you unless you are willing to wear them.” She told the organisers – Anjana and Karl Mascarenhas – about the challenge of facial paralysis, and her hesitation in meeting new people because of it. Anjana said she had goosebumps listening to Hetal speak. “You must win this crown,” she told Hetal, “and you must become the face of facial paralysis.” Along with the other finalists, Hetal went through three days of grooming and training in Pune. She made friends, learnt how to apply makeup (“Imagine a homeopath being able to apply perfect foundation! That is my biggest achievement!” she chuckles), and how to style herself to perfection. When she won, her first emotion was not just delight for herself but disappointment for her new friends. She credits the pageant organisers for giving an authentic platform for older married women to develop inner strength and to overcome their identity crisis. “I can teach my daughter: beauty is about your confidence and what you feel about yourself,” says Hetal. JUNE 2019

She now dresses up every time she steps out of the house. Unlike her old habit of staying makeupfree, she wears lipstick and grooms herself before heading to her clinic. Her entire demeanour is changed. “Because of my facial paralysis, I

Hetal and her husband, Dr Parag Kasliwal

never smiled fully earlier. Today, I don’t care if my smile is lopsided – I still go ahead and give it all I’ve got. If I hadn’t participated, I wouldn’t have reached this point,” says Hetal. She proudly points at her paralyzed face and adds, “I am a beauty queen. And this is my smile.” 


“BEING LOUD OR BESHARAM IS THE ONLY WAY WE WILL SURVIVE” In her new part memoir-part manual Besharam, author Priya Alika Elias breaks down taboos around dating, love and sex


By Neha Kirpal

Did any of the experiences you faced or heard about while living abroad find place in the book? My experience of racism abroad was, unfortunately, one of the big contributing factors to my book. I realised that brown girls aren’t told to love ourselves. I got so many letters from girls who thought they were ugly, or who thought they How did you come up with the idea for were inferior somehow to white the book? girls. This broke my heart. I saw So many of my favourite authors so many instances of Indian girls – are American, and it struck me whether here or abroad – shrinking that there was no real equivalent themselves for the purpose of for brown girls – no advice or making other people comfortable. mentorship. I tried to address that Does your book address stereotypes of gap as best I could with Besharam being “good” Indian women? (which translates to ‘unashamed’). I talk about things in my book that awyer and writer Priya Alika Elias’ latest book Besharam (Penguin, 2019) is a kind of survival guide for young, modern Indian women. A popular Twitter celebrity, Priya was one of Paper magazine’s ‘Amazing Women to Follow on the Internet’. We talk to her about her new book.

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good Indian girls shouldn’t admit to: having an eating disorder, mental illness, premarital sex. I have tried to show through example that there’s nothing shameful or wrong about any of these things. I don’t want women to be silenced – our voices matter, and being loud or besharam is the only way we will survive. Please share your favourite anecdote. I will never forget the time I sat with one of my best friends. We were drinking, we had both been unlucky in love, and she said,“When you’re in love, it’s not the heart that suffers, it’s the liver. Hai na?” It was such a small, simple moment but it is very precious to me that we can both find humour in our JUNE 2019

heartbreaks. When you’re suffering immeasurably, you can always turn to a dear female friend and find comfort. I wish that every woman had such strong female friendships. How does the book work as a manual for Indian women today? I’m not trying to provide a onesize-fits-all manual for Indian women; we aren’t a monolith. But I do want us all to learn to be more fearless and individualist. Many women don’t feel free to be themselves – they behave one way with their parents and another way with other people. I hope some of the things I talk about in the book will encourage women to lead less of a double life. 


Quest for Rights

Decades ago, Mala Pal coined the UN slogan ‘women’s rights are human rights’ but that was only one of her contributions to the feminist cause


t was 1984 and Mala Pal was in a conference with representatives to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) in Geneva. A meeting of the Sub Commission of Human Rights (now UNHCR) was in progress. Mala, an Indian mother of three and a representative of All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), was inwardly seething about women’s issues being treated as less important than other pressing matters in the world.

When she got a chance to speak, the dynamic middle-aged Mala burst out: “Women in my country and across the world continue to be treated as second-class citizens and are denied fundamental rights. Why should this be a ‘minority’ issue? Women’s rights are human rights.” The Senegalese ambassador near her thumped the table in approval, and the audience around the table broke into delighted applause. Weeks later, Mala’s spontaneous outburst was adopted by the UN as JUNE 2019


one of its official slogans. It became a political-feminist phrase in 1995 when Hillary Clinton, then the First Lady of USA, used it in a speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. It was a time before the Internet, however, so Mala herself remained anonymous. Today, the 87-year-old, who returned to live in New Delhi after 50 years abroad when her husband passed away, looks back

with India’s Ministry of Health. While in Geneva, Mala began volunteering as a representative of the AIWC and was made a permanent representative to UN’s ECOSOC. She was later elected vice president to the Congress of Non Governmental Organisations. She has battled for various issues in the UN: from the rights of the girl child to environment, housing, ageing, and even to reinstate ‘spiritual-

L-R: Mala and Dr Rajindar Pal; with a UN delegate; Mala (second from left) in a Finnish newspaper in 1982

with nostalgia at those eventful and meaningful years of her life. The youngest of six siblings, Mala was born in Lahore in 1932. Her father was in the Indian Civil Service and the children had a privileged childhood until Partition turned their life upside down. At 18, she married Dr Rajindar Pal, a well-known malariologist. The couple lived in Canada, the US and finally in Switzerland, where her husband worked at WHO along JUNE 2019

ity’ in the WHO Constitution. She was part of the 115-year-old International Alliance of Women, travelling at her own cost to ensure that Indian women were represented at international platforms. Today, Mala lives near her daughter, enjoying the company of her grandkids. She continues to work towards educating the girl child. “Education is everything,” she says, her dignified, larger-than-life persona speaking of a life well lived. 



COCKTAILS Four refreshing alcoholic beverages made with delicious fruits to keep you cool this month Text and recipes by Kaveri Jain Photography by Aadi Jain

TWISTED MANHATTAN Ingredients (for 1): 30 ml Monkey Shoulder Whiskey 10 ml Dry Vermouth 20 ml Sweet Vermouth A dash of orange bitters Mandarin slices for garnish Instructions: Add the whiskey and both vermouths to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir and strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with bitters and garnish with a Mandarin slice. JUNE 2019


WATERMELON MOJITO Ingredients (for 1): Few mint leaves 1 tsp lime juice 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup 100 gm seedless watermelon JUNE 2019

A few watermelon balls for garnish 60 ml Bacardi rum Instructions: In a shaker, muddle the mint, lime juice,

honey and watermelon. Add rum and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with watermelon balls and mint leaves.


GIN AND TONIC Ingredients (for 1): 60 ml Bombay Sapphire Gin 90 ml tonic water 5 blueberries Sliced mandarins Instructions: Pour the gin into a glass filled 3/4th with ice. Throw in the berries and a mandarin wheel into the glass. Top up with tonic water.


DIRTY MARTINI Ingredients (for 1): 60 ml Vodka 15 ml Dry Vermouth 10 ml olive brine Olives and lemon zest to garnish Instructions: Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with olives and lemon zest.

60 | EVENT

SHINE YOUR LIGHT x SUE MUE Here’s what went on at eShe’s Shine Your Light held at Sue Mue, Delhi Photography by Nabina Chakraborty


hine Your Light is a series of personal-growth workshops for women, organised by eShe magazine. The agenda is to learn, discuss, dance, introspect, network and eat! The third edition was held on May 11, 2019, at bespoke fashion studio Sue Mue in Green Park, Delhi, which saw a packed house with 42 women in attendance.

On the agenda were movement and art therapy, meditation, motivation, fashion and food! Facilitators included yoga and meditation instructor Ruchi Thaker, wellness coach Shaira Chaudhry, and style consultant Aradhana Baruah. eShe’s next events are slated for June in Delhi, July in Mumbai and September in Bengaluru. Visit the website for details. JUNE 2019

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Clockwise from left: The women behind Sue Mue, (L-R) Mohita Gujral, Narinder Mohan and Parina Gujral; Aekta Kapoor gives a talk; Sheela Nirula, Niharica Rai and Aradhana Baruah pay attention; Shruti Dimri and Parvinder Ahluwalia have a chat

L-R: eShe’s Kaveri Jain at the registration in a Sue Mue ensemble; Ruchi Thaker and Shaira Chaudhry JUNE 2019

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Clockwise from top left: Dominique Chorosz and Sangeeta Chaddha smile for the camera; Aradhana Baruah demonstrates a point during her talk; Ritu Sikri, Tarini Nirula and Ekta Jain pay rapt attention; emcee Nyamat Bindra introduces the speakers; Shefali Batra gets playful with Sangeeta Chaddha

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Clockwise from top: Gayatri Kapoor, Indra Bhat and Suman Chaudhry form a line; the oldest participant, 85-year-old Dr Gujral, and Juhi Dhawan; Neera Suri, Namrata Durgan, Surbhi Jain, Rashma Bhushan and Niharika Suri display their art; each participant got a goodie bag full of gifts sponsored by Sue Mue, Mizu Soaps, Laiqa, Baked by Ratna Saluja, and eShe magazine, of course!


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64 | BOOKS

LATEST IN FICTION Here are our top picks of the month


Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton, `699) Those who have read Ali Smith’s earlier classic How to Be Both would have been mesmerised by her ability to weave a masterful story without familiar forms, a sense of floating through a stranger’s mind’s eye, and then being forever changed by the experience. In Spring – the third part of a quartet of novels including Winter and Autumn – the Inverness-born author is somewhat more direct in her critique of the world’s current immigration issues, the Brexit crisis, racism and discrimination against refugees, even if the narrative continues to feel other-worldly.

Celestial Bodies

Jokha Alharthi (Simon & Schuster, `499) A coming-of-age story of a family in Oman, Jokha Alharthi’s Man Booker 2019 prize-winning novel Celestial Bodies (translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth) narrates the destinies of three sisters whose lives take varied twists and turns. Given their constraints in having to conform to old-world suppressive traditions in a new world flush with petrol dollars, the story moves from one character to another, drawing up a riveting landscape where slavery, patriarchy and Bedouin customs cast long shadows on a country stepping up to a globalised future. JUNE 2019


The Woman in the Mirror By Aekta Kapoor



t was the day before my 45th birthday and this growing older business wasn’t going too well. Though I’d been boldly letting my hair grey over the past one year, a candid video of me taken by a friend showed a bunch of white only on one side. Totally tacky. So I spent an entire evening trying out a new way of tying my hair so that the greys were less noticeable. I took 360o photos, enlisting the husband to take the one from the back. I had also become rounder than usual and my favourite kurtas weren’t fitting me anymore. So I had signed up for a week’s trial at a chain of workout studios, which had left me with aches and pains all over. And being surrounded by younger and fitter people had left me even more acutely embarrassed about my own age and weight. And so, on the day before my 45th birthday, I was in a state of much personal insecurity and existential panic when I told my young, pretty yoga teacher: “I am going through a phase of self-transformation. I want to change my hair, my body, myself… How should I look? Who should I be next?” She looked at me like I was missing the whole point.“You just have

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to be more of yourself,” she said. Her answer stirred me. Then, minutes later, I got this message from Osho via WhatsApp: “The first lesson: Love yourself as you are because existence loves you as you are. That does not mean you have to remain the same forever. In fact, this is the first step of transformation: if you love yourself, you will be able to grow quicker, faster.” And then, unbidden, unexpectedly – like all major epiphanies – the tears came. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and realised I was not seeking personal transformation out of self-love, but self-hate. Despite the quiet contentment and peace I had earned after years of personal struggle, spiritual practice and divine grace, I had also bought into social parameters of beauty that placed youth, slimness and homogeneity above wellness, inner radiance and diversity. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I told the woman in the mirror: “I love and accept myself exactly the way I am.” I said it over and over and over, Disguising the greys with blow-dry but something was wrong. It didn’t feel true. I saw an old fat woman with a silly crying face looking back at me. I did not love her at all. She cried even more. Then a voice in my head suggested I chant another mantra to reach her: “I love myself the way God loves me.” For some reason, this fit better. Gradually, the woman in the mirror stopped crying, and I began to see her through God’s eyes. I saw the loves, griefs and pleasures her body had been through; those ample hips that had borne so much; those streaks of grey marking the spot that multitasked between her missions, responsibilities and passions; the rounded shoulders that had carried so many burdens. God loved her just the same – every cell of her chubby body and her dark circles and her grey hair.That’s why she was the way she was. And who am I to reject God’s will? Happy 45th birthday, I said to the woman in the mirror the next morning. I bow to the light in thee.  JUNE 2019


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Profile for eShe

eShe June 2019  

On the cover is neuroscientist Dr Vidita Vaidya who is researching resilience, and inside are wonder-women who are embodying it in real life...

eShe June 2019  

On the cover is neuroscientist Dr Vidita Vaidya who is researching resilience, and inside are wonder-women who are embodying it in real life...