eShe Winter 2018

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|1 PERSONAL GROWTH Winter 2018 Vol 2 Issue 11 `150

Swara Bhaskar

The outspoken actor is raising the bar for Bollywood role models

EXPAT EXPERIENCE Artist Deborah Procter and healer Lyn Bishop on weaving tradition

IT’S ONLY LOVE Three crusaders working for LGBTQ rights to live and love with dignity

FESTIVE SWEETS 5 traditional Indian desserts you’ll love to serve and eat!


ON THE COVER: Swara Bhaskar PHOTO CREDIT: House of Pixels


Around the World in Love Travel bloggers Tanya and Soham narrate their love story

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A Song of Courage


It’s Only Love


In the Fast Lane


Speak Out Swara


The Expat Experience


Doula Diary


Open Mic


St. Andrews


Sugar Rush

Singer-songwriter Geetu Hinduja’s journey

Heroes working for LGBTQ rights and dignity

Meet Ritika Jatin Ahuja, COO of Big Boy Toyz

Actor Swara Bhaskar is a new-gen role model

Women taking foreign traditions forward

Neha Misra Mutluru on the life of a doula

Four women tell us what’s on their mind

Recipes for a delicious five-course meal

Five desserts you’ll love this festive season

HAVE YOU VISITED ESHE.IN? Find all eShe features and columns from the beginning of time at Participate in contests, follow the blog and share your views. Every woman has a story. What’s yours? Mentor: Kul Bhushan Editor and Publisher: Aekta Kapoor Marketing and Research: Nyamat Bindra ( Brand Managers: Amrita Nagpal, Pallavi Pratap Malik Contributors: Atikaa Ahluwalia, Kaveri Jain, Kay Newton, Maya Lalchandani, Nidhi Chopra, Reetu Uday Kugaji, Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena, Sonali Sudarshan, Sunita Pandey, Tanya Bhandari

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 To subscribe to the free digital edition, visit NOV-DEC 2018




hose who had suffered in silence are silent no more.Women are raising their voices and calling out sexual harassment at their workplaces. Bollywood – known for its ‘diplomatic’ silences – can no longer sweep its dirty secrets under the carpet, and cover personality Swara Bhaskar (p.24) is leading from the front when it comes to airing strong views. The LGBTQ community, which has found its voice after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377, is also speaking up for the right to live and love with dignity (p.9). Birth activists are speaking up for women’s right to choose the kind of birthing experience they want (p.39), and, in this issue, we hand over an open mic to four women to speak up about anything that’s on their mind (p.40), from #MeToo to partner violence to using humour to deal with a difficult surgery. I found my voice in 2004, along with a Buddhist Aekta Kapoor Editor and Publisher chant that became my anchor over the next several years. I raised my voice against abuse, I shouted to protect my kids, and I growled ferociously when my body, my temple, was threatened. Later, I used my voice to speak for the voiceless, to tell their stories, to call attention to their cause. These days I don’t speak much. I prefer listening. To the voices of women around me. To what is left unsaid. To the whispers in the wind that carry our cultural legacy, our collective memories of secret pleasure and frequent pain. To the messages in the trees and the stars that see our ugly and exquisite realities every day. “Speak from your belly,” they say. Where there is truth, there can be no fear. NOV-DEC 2018



COURAGE From a gallerist to singer-songwriter, from a young mother of three in a joint family to single again, Geetu Hinduja has had a remarkable journey


By Maya Lalchandani

eetu Hinduja talks about being born in the time of “Secular Mumbai”, like it has changed so much, albeit more for some than others. She reminisces about walking past the shores of Marine Drive, with blue skies and invariably safe streets. Coming from a conservative Sindhi background, she was surrounded by conversations on business, not so much music. “The closest I got to music was listening to Vividh Bharati on the radio – a crackling distraction and a sign of those times,” says the 58-year-old songstress, who only got as far as playing the triangle in the school orchestra. It was hip to be cool in the nouveau riche Cuffe Parade of those days, and learning the guitar was part of that cliché. Proficient in studies, Geetu knew the arts would be her calling, and took up admission in Sir JJ School of Art. “Everyone was older than me,” she recalls.

“My grandfather worried I’d run away with a jhola-wala bearded sort.” Despite his fears, Geetu married at 19 into an illustrious business family, and had three daughters before she was 28. She also tried her hand at the family’s real-estate business, but it didn’t quite work out very well. Her guitar and her art came to her rescue in those days. It was, in fact, the right time to be in art. But after a decade of successfully running The Fine Art Company, a gallery that showcased contemporary Indian artists, life took a new turn. Geetu got divorced after 25 years of marriage. The change was hard on her: from a huge mansion, a joint family and many servants, she had to learn to live alone at the age of 43. “I remember the first New Year when I had to tackle the solitude. I locked myself in just to shut out the noise, not necessarily the one outside but in my own being. The journey of self-accepNOV-DEC 2018




Geetu Hinduja

tance from there to who I actually wanted to be took six and a half years,” she shares. Passion for her work saved her life. And friends that became family wove her blanket of comfort. Today, 15 years later, she knows she did the right thing. “As a ritual, I always gave a ‘gift of thought’ to myself every birthday. On my 50th, I decided to put together a band and got a little choir organized for a concert,” she narrates. She had always been a songwriter, so she pulled out all her old songs, put music to the words and her first album was organically born in 1993 titled Dancing Free. Geetu went from strength to strength. Her second album Hope, Faith, Time & Me came out in 2012

and a third, It’s About Time, in 2016. People started taking to her kind of music, such as singing Vedic mantras on a guitar. Somewhere along the way, she pulled back gracefully from The Fine Art Company, putting all her mind and matter into song. Today, the grandmother-songstress moves through life with grace, her greys displaying her wisdom like silver lining on a cloud. “Once, on a trip to the hills of Uttarakhand, a friend told me that bears visited the area,” Geetu reminisces. “If we came across a bear, we would have to just let it embrace us, maybe get ripped apart and then we would die. I have always lived that way: looking fear in the eye. What’s the worst that can happen?”  NOV-DEC 2018


IT’S ONLY With the scrapping of Section 377 that outlawed consensual gay sex, LGBTQ people are coming out with a confident new voice. We feature three individuals and organisations working to ensure dignity in life and love for the gay and trans communities

Photography by Monisha Ajgaonkar

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ven after the positive Supreme Court verdict decriminalizing gay sex, Indian lesbians continue to live in the closet, rues Monisha Ajgaonkar, the 29-yearold Mumbai-based founder of The Photo Diary, a firm that specialises in commercial and wedding photography. “It’s a lot to do with social mores that dictate women’s sexuality,” she muses, while adding that even in a metro like Mumbai, girls are confused and afraid of revealing their sexual identity to their family and society at large. “I have no

hopes of finding a partner in India,” she says with a trace of regret. The LGBTQ activist has put her professional skills to good use, and has taken on various photography and videography projects to bring light to the challenges of the lesbian community in India. One of her projects commissioned by Ogilvy, which informed people how to answer questions related to being lesbian, was featured worldwide and won an award at this year’s DMA Asia ECHO Awards. In another project, she presented NOV-DEC 2018

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a lesbian wedding, playing the role of the ‘groom’ herself (see photo, facing page). “I shoot weddings for a living, and I’d just broken up with my girlfriend, so this shoot had a very personal relevance for me. It’s something I don’t have for myself,” confesses Monisha, adding: “Gay men and transgenders do find portrayal in pop culture from time to time. They have some voice. But lesbians are largely invisible. Many of them are married, and hide this side of themselves from the world.” Which is why one of her photo essays featured a real-life lesbian couple shot at different locations in Mumbai like just another couple in love (lead feature photo and below). Monisha has been “out and

about” by herself since her late teens. She set up her photography firm five years ago shooting weddings all over India besides taking on personal and corporate projects. Her friend Nidhi Shetty is now her business head, and they have a core team of six, with another 30 assistants hired on a contractual basis. It’s not easy to come out openly as gay, admits Monisha. She had to break ties with her folks when they found out her truth from an interview of hers in a newspaper. “Family can sometimes be the greatest obstacle in your coming out. That’s why friends and financial independence are so important,” she emphasizes, adding that the road can be rough. “Have courage.” Facing page: Monisha acting the role of the ‘groom’ in a photo essay. This page: In another series, she shot a real-life lesbian couple in various locations across Mumbai

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L-R: Keshav Suri, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and Jyotsna Suri with Ishaan Sethi, Anubhuti Banerjee, Diogo Vieira da Silva and Maya



he best part about attending a conference to discuss the rights of the LGBTQ community is the fashion. Exciting and enthralling, the variety of looks on display – from elaborate makeup to gender-fluid clothing – are enough to put fashion weeks to shame. If anyone needed convincing that the LGBTQ community has a better sense of style and the expression of it, the Keshav Suri Foundation’s ‘Queer the Pitch’ conference was all the evidence they’d need. On a more serious note, the conference spearheaded by Keshav Suri, the executive director of the

Lalit Suri Hospitality Group and one of the petitioners to file an appeal in the Supreme Court to scrap Section 377, also marked the launch of his foundation to empower the LGBTQ community. “The foundation aims to skill people from the community and help them live a life of dignity,” says Keshav, who has won numerous awards for entrepreneurship, hospitality and for being an agent of social change. The conference saw influencers from various fields take the dais, such as acclaimed author Devdutt Pattanaik and noted media personalities Barkha Dutt, Faye NOV-DEC 2018

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D’Souza and Shekhar Gupta. TopLaxmi Narayan Tripathi, author ics of discussion included ‘queering of two books and acharya mahapolitics’ and moving beyond 377. mandaleshwar of the Kinnar Akhada, Other personalities who graced who has represented Asia-Pacific at the event included openly gay and a UN task meeting and at the 20th transgender people Internatonal AIDS from the corpo- “THE FOUNDATION AIMS conference in rate world, such as Melbourne, spoke Ishaan Sethi, CEO TO SKILL PEOPLE FROM about the need to of Delta, India’s THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY recognize the hisfirst homegrown AND HELP THEM LIVE A torical heritage of app that connects the kinnar (transLIFE OF DIGNITY” LGBTQ persons; gender) communiParmesh Shahty in India. ani, head of the Important points award-winning Godrej India Cul- about representation of the gay ture Lab and TED senior fellow; community were raised in the sesand Anubhuti Banerjee, manager sion ‘Queer the Content’, and it was IT customer relationship manage- interesting to see two very talented ment at Tata Steel Limited. (and openly gay) film directors reL-R: Parmesh Shahani, Sangita Reddy, Faye D’Souza, Amita Karadkhedkar and Amit Mahtaney

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14 | LGBTQ


Drag is an internationally accepted performance art

spectfully disagree on the subject. Faraz Arif Ansari, the filmmaker behind Sisak, India’s first silent LGBTQ love story which has won over 50 international film awards, spoke about his as-yet unsuccessful search for a transgender woman to play the lead in his upcoming film Sabr but why it was important that he not give up. On the other side of the debate was National Award-winning director, film editor and screenwriter Apurva Asrani, whose films Satya (1998), Shahid (2013) and Aligarh

(2016) created talking points on vital subjects. He was of the opinion that merit (talent, skill or training) was more important to him while casting an actor – even if the onscreen character was gay or transgender – rather than selecting a gay or transgender person as a token to represent the community. The evening came to an end with drag performances and an act by standup comedian Vasu Primlani on life as a gay woman. An event that brings together rational debate with a passionate expression of selfhood is bound to leave its attendees moved, whether gay or straight. Human rights cannot be ensured by laws alone. It takes a mighty commitment from all sections of society, the community and the economic stakeholders to make sure that the marginalized are skilled, given a voice, and assured of their personal dignity and freedom of expression at workplaces, in public and at home. The Keshav Suri Foundation has taken a noble step towards a more just society. And a more fashionable one.  NOV-DEC 2018

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wo years ago, at 38, Reena Rai reached the lowest point in her life. She and her husband were both out of work, her once-flourishing industrial food catering business had shut down, they had a growing daughter to fend for, and then Reena’s best friend passed away. “Everyone says there is a purpose to life. But if I was to die today, what would have been the purpose of my life? Why did I live at all?” she mused, seeped in the dark despair

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that wracks a seeking spirit before light dawns. That’s when Reena met Vippy. “I’d actually met her a few years earlier, when she was a boy. She got back in touch with me she found out I had lost my best friend. She knew I was depressed.” Vippy could relate. She’d undergone sex-change surgery and had been isolated from her family. She’d contemplated suicide. “No one understood her. So she sought me out.

16 | LGBTQ

Reena (centre) with her contestants from Miss Transqueen; the pageant has been held two years in a row

I had never judged or pitied her,” recalls Reena. It was the beginning of a life-changing friendship. The two of them attended an event for the hijra community organized by an NGO. Sitting in the audience, Reena was struck by the problems the community faced. Their parents would throw them out; they were forced to leave school due to bullying. They were raped or forced into prostitution. “Their lot cannot change unless straight people change their mindsets,” thought Reena. Suddenly she got the answer to her question: “What is the purpose of my life?”

A few months later, she launched India’s first beauty pageant for transwomen, Miss Transqueen. Her idea was met with skepticism. Venues refused to host the event. Sponsors feared tarnishing their image by associating with transgender persons. Politicians advised her to “do something normal”. Reena replied: “They are normal to me.” The greatest pushback came from the transgender community itself; they suspected her motives. Even so, a decent number of participants turned up at the audition. Finally, after much struggle, they got a venue for the final event in Gurgaon. NOV-DEC 2018

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Reena (left) and Vippy, a life-changing friendship that became the trigger for the Miss Transqueen pageant

And so, on August 27, 2018, Reena created history. “We got a huge response; global media picked up the story and it was all over the news,” she narrates. “That’s when inclusion started. People who had turned us away earlier now invited us to their events.” Her big break came when The Lalit group of hotels offered to train and hire her contestants. They even offered their Mumbai property as a venue for Miss Transqueen 2018, an offer Reena lapped up as she wanted to introduce her contestants to the film industry. International beauty pageants invited them to particiNOV-DEC 2018

pate. Reputed companies that were keen to expand their diversity portfolio contacted her for candidates. “The best part is that their parents are calling them back home,” says Reena. “Their main problem is acceptance. Now that they have that, they can focus on achievements.” Reena is launching a sensitization programme in schools called Parivartan, and has already announced her next pageant for transmen. Last month, she celebrated her 40th birthday at home with her beauty queens. “Two years ago, I wondered what my purpose was,” Reena says. “Now I know.” 



Ritika Jatin Ahuja is at the forefront of the luxury car market with Big Boy Toyz, which retails iconic automobile brands from Ferrari to Rolls Royce


itika Jatin Ahuja’s customer base is almost entirely male. And yet, the COO of Big Boy Toyz (BBT) – which retails pre-owned and zero-kilometre luxury automobiles from Mer-

cedes-Benz to Maserati – won’t give up coaxing the wives and daughters of her customers to take more interest in cars. “Research says more and more women worldwide are making or vetoing decisions related NOV-DEC 2018


to a family’s automobile purchase,” says the entrepreneur, who holds a degree in interior design of jets and yachts from the University of the Arts London. “Yet Indian women take the backseat in this matter.” Ritika was passionate about both business and automobiles from a young age. Born as the only child in a business family based in Delhi, she began working at the age of 17 and was a natural ‘decision-maker’. After her graduation from UK and working for a while in Dubai, she returned to India to set up her own venture, Party Like a Millionaire, supplying party goods. Years later, she met Jatin Ahuja. “At our first date, Jatin offered to drop me home, but asked me to drive his car there. I found it strange at the time,” she reminisces. “It was only later that I realised he was taking my driving test!” The couple got married and had a baby girl, Zaara, after which Ritika decided to join hands with Jatin in his new car dealership. “He was always crazy about luxury cars,” she explains. “At one point, he was buying and selling so many Land Cruisers that he outsold the company’s own outlets.” Soon, Jatin realised that buyers often wanted to offload their previously owned luxury cars, and began offering them for resale. And so, BBT came about. The company quickly grew by word of mouth, and they also beNOV-DEC 2018

gan buying new cars in bulk.“We’re able to offer some models for almost 25 percent less than their retail price in the Indian market,” says Ritika, who is the recipient of two entrepreneurship awards. Starting with a showroom in Delhi, BBT

From top: BBT’s imposing store in Gurgaon; Ritika poses in a Mercedes-Benz SUV

expanded to Gurgaon and Mumbai, and now also has its own service centre in Gurgaon. At any time, it stocks up to 100 cars ranging from `50 lakhs to `3.5 crore. It represents over 24 top brands, from Porsche


and Ferrari to BMW, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Rolls Royce. Its stateof-the-art showrooms are a car-lover’s paradise; you can even opt for a free stay in a luxury suite at the Gurgaon store if you’re a customer flying in from another city. With associations for either sale or purchase with eminent personalities ranging from world-renowned cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, to indus-

worked with scent manufacturers in Germany to come up with the Big Boy Toyz Gold Edition perfume to draw in a new aspirational clientele. Other merchandise followed, such as the carbon fiber pen, signature playing cards, jigsaw puzzle, sticker set and the gift pack, which retail from besides Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal. A customer revs up a Lamborghini at the Gurgaon showroom. A

L-R: Ritika Ahuja at BBT’s Gurgaon office; with her husband Jatin and three-year-old daughter Zaara

trialists and CEOs, they offer services befitting their customers’ high standards. Every car passes through a checkpoint of 151 tests before resale. BBT offers in-house insurance, servicing, and one-year buy-back. Ritika has also added retail expertise to the business in her own unique way. An avid collector of perfume miniatures since the age of nine (she holds a record for her 563-bottle collection), Ritika

floor above, Ritika is at work with her core team, who head over 120 other employees across India. She has an eye on the brand’s social media – which has a following of over 2 million across platforms – and her responsibilities at home. Her next goal is to set up an outlet in Hyderabad. And, of course, she wants to educate women about luxury automobiles. Cars don’t need to be toys only for big boys.  NOV-DEC 2018


TAMANNA PUNJABI KAPOOR Mumbai-based designer Tamanna Punjabi Kapoor’s autumn-winter collection ‘Noor’ offers brides her signature floral embroidery with a touch of rustic grandeur. A rendition of modern meets tradition, the collection showcases the richness of Indian textiles while reviving vintage vibes. After 10 years in the business, Tamanna understands the needs of modern brides. This latest collection is lightweight and perfect for destination weddings. Shop at:

STYLE UPDATE These two women-led fashion labels are in the news this month NEEDLEDUST Founder of footwear label Needledust, Shirin Mann Sangha is excited about the new autumn-winter collection. “Ranging from a palette of pastels to brights, we have played with 3D embroideries, metallic wires, laser-cut patterns, and high-grade crystals. Each pair is a work of art that involves up to 28 man hours in some styles! Every style speaks of an interesting creative story,” she says. Shop at:

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PUJA BHARGAVA KAMATH Puja Bhargava Kamath’s label Lai offers a new collection in silver inspired by a day spent walking around the bazaars in Old Delhi. Sure to appeal to the memory collectors, the experimenters and culture maven, the collection comprises 23 unique designs of earrings, rings and necklaces. Prices start at `2,500. Shop at:


Jewellery designers showcase collections inspired by travel and history NEETY SINGH Delhi-based jewellery designer Neety Singh draws inspiration from bejewelled Mughal princesses and their beautifully rich, intricate polki, meenakari, kundan and kadau jewellery, but blends it with an urbane sensibility creating eclectic pieces. Her new wedding collection uses precious stones like rubies, emeralds, sapphires along with lesser used citrines, amethysts and peridots to creates heirloom collections worth aspiring to. NOV-DEC 2018


VARNIKA ARORA “This one’s a trip to Spain and back in jewellery,” says Delhi-based designer Varnika Arora of her latest collection, ‘Gaudi’. The legendary Spanish architect’s high-rise spires and columns have been moulded in signature gold metal and offset with geometric malachite, onyx and citrine. You’ll find triangles that lace marbled roofs reimagined in gold and precious stone. Handcrafted in Jaipur with 24-karat gold and sterling silver plating, completed with precious and semi-precious gemstones, the collection is a story in itself.

VINITA MICHAEL Dubai-based Vinita Michael’s new collection ‘A Walk through Venice’ is a celebration of the Italian city. The jewels are inspired by Venetian forms and symbols such as Venetian columns, water fountains and the majestic lion of Venice. “If I were to rename romance, I would call it Venice!”exclaims the award-winning jewellery designer and gemologist, who specializes in both fine gold set with precious gems and sterling silver jewellery. Shop at: NOV-DEC 2018




With her on-screen roles and off-screen outspokenness, Swara Bhaskar is challenging the status quo and raising the bar for Bollywood role models Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photography by House of Pixels


n Anaarkali of Aarah, which released in March 2017, Swara Bhaskar played the role of a stage performer famous in Bihar for her bawdy songs. Based on true-life events, her character Anaarkali’s confident interactions with men undergo a dark transformation when the Vice Chancellor of the local university molests her during a performance, and then uses his clout with the police to malign her and ensure she can’t file a complaint. He taunts her that she is “just a little less than a prostitute”. Determined to restore her self-respect after suffering NOV-DEC 2018

social ignominy and homelessness, Anaarkali exposes the VC’s actions at a gathering of senior police officials, his college students and family. In the film’s climax, she tells him, “Randi ho, randi se thoda kam ho, ya biwi ho, ainda marzi pooch ke haath lagayiyega (Whether prostitute, little less than a prostitute, or wife, ask for consent before you touch).” The vindication in her stance, the shame on the man’s face, and the horror of the audience are gooseflesh-inducing in their prescience: 18 months later, India would erupt in #MeToo, and women would call out sexual


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harassers at their workplaces, sham- she gets her independent attitude ing them in the very society that had from the liberal upbringing her parenabled their predatory behaviour. ents gave both her and her brother, The film added to Swara’s growing Ishaan. The freedom she experilist of awards and accolades for realis- enced from a young age has given tic, ‘bold’ roles other mainstream ac- her the conviction of her beliefs, and tresses would hesitate to touch. That she does not hesitate in voicing them includes playing the single mother of on issues she feels strongly about. a 15-year-old daughter in Nil Battey A student of English literature Sannata (2016), for which she lived from Miranda House in Delhi Uniwith domestic helpers in Agra to versity, Swara pursued her Master’s understand their lives, in sociology at JNU. and a frustrated wife She admitted in an in“IF I CAN BE PART terview that she was in Veere Di Wedding (2018), in which her OF A STORY THAT drawn to Bollywood masturbation scene NEEDS TO BE TOLD, after being fascinated was one of its biggest by Chitrahaar, a TV IF I CAN BE THE talking points. programme featurEven more impresing Bollywood songs, VEHICLE TO TELL sive than her on-screen which was popular talent is her outspo- THAT STORY, THEN I during her childhood. ken off-screen per- FEEL VERY BLESSED” Though she enjoyed sona: Feisty, articulate quite a bit of success and unafraid to speak acting in box-office out, Swara has walked her talk, do- hits such as Tanu Weds Manu (2011) ing things her own way. She’s been and its 2015 sequel, and the Salman hailed for her eloquent interviews Khan-starrer Prem Ratan Dhan Payo in which she slams misogynists, and (2015), it is her offbeat roles that she has been just as hated for her Twitter holds dear to her heart. “In every tirades against the RSS and affiliates, character I seek to play, in every stowho troll her mercilessly. ry I want to be part of, I am basically But Swara makes it elegantly clear: trying to do something new – I am censure only emboldens her further. trying to learn something more as a Daughter of Ira Bhaskar, a profes- performer, as an artiste, to challenge sor of cinema studies at Jawaharlal myself in a new way. And then if I Nehru University (JNU), and Chi- can be part of a story that is imtrapu Uday Bhaskar, a naval com- portant, that needs to be told, if I can modore (now retired) and famed be the vehicle to tell that story, then defence analyst, Swara admits that I feel very blessed. I think that Nil NOV-DEC 2018


L-R: The poster for Anaarkali of Aarah, in which Swara plays a feisty stage performer who is up against a powerful man; Swara’s role in Veere Di Wedding created a huge Twitter storm for its masturbation scene

Battey Sannata, Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali of Aarah have all given me that opportunity, so I feel very happy. I’m counting my career blessings right now!” says the 30-year-old. Swara has been vocal in her support of actor Tanushree Dutta, who accused co-star Nana Patekar of sexual harassment on a film set 10 years ago, sparking off India’s #MeToo movement. “What happened to Tanushree was criminal,” Swara said in an interview to Verve, referring to the way the film’s producers reportedly called up goons from a political party to bash Tanushree’s car and threaten her. Another occasion when Swara spoke her mind was her much-talk-

ed-about open letter to director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, in which she said his film Padmaavat had reduced women to ‘talking vaginas’, a comment that earned her even more hate on social media. Swara explains, “I wrote that letter to Mr Bhansali because I felt very strongly that the film was glorifying [outdated rituals like] sati and jauhar and I didn’t agree with the perspective with which the film showed those acts. Perhaps they did it unwittingly,” she says. The huge controversy over Padmaavat’s release had seen many points of views being flung about. “I was one of the people speaking most vocally for the rights of Mr Bhansali to make the film the way he did, for the NOV-DEC 2018


L-R: In Nil Battey Sannata, Swara played the role of a single mother who works four jobs to raise her 15-yearold daughter, and ends up going to school with her; Swara walking the ramp for label Crow this year

rights of the film to be released in a from a very clean place in my heart.” safe way. I was one of the most vocal This has been a year of miniseries critics of the Karni Sena [a Rajput for Swara – she has shot three web caste organisation that opposed the series for different digital platforms, release of the film]. including It’s Not But I did feel that “I FELT VERY STRONGLY That Simple Season if there is a critique 2 and Rashbhari. from a woman’s THAT PADMAAVAT WAS Soon after Diwali, GLORIFYING SATI AND she will start shootperspective, then that should also be- JAUHAR; I DIDN’T AGREE ing for her next secome part of the ries where she plays conversation. That’s WITH THE PERSPECTIVE” a cop.“But it’s great, really the only reaI love working so son I wrote the I’m always very open letter. It did not originate from happy to go back on set,” she smiles. a place of any vicious intent. I think No doubt her fans look forward to that everyone associated with the seeing her back on screen too.  film, even if they disagreed with my Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena is the letter, recognised that it was coming Executive Editor of Verve NOV-DEC 2018


Deborah on a research trip to Thrissur in 2009 with Argentinean composer Oscar Edelstein to meet chenda artist Peruvanam Kuttan Marar


Women expats share how they have imbibed and are taking forward the traditions of both their birth countries and adoptive ones


By Kay Newton

iving in Mallorca for 30 years as an expat, I became aware of the children’s poem La Balanguera by Joan Alcover i Maspons written in the late 19th century, which was adapted to become

the national anthem of the Balearic Islands in 1996. It is a story about a woman who works as a weaver. Not only does she spin cloth, she also spins and weaves the threads and memories of the local culture: tradiNOV-DEC 2018


tions that will survive her so that the roots should not be forgotten. Women are often seen as the heart of the family, giving hope, relaying tradition to the next generation, and being inspirational role models. Yet as an expat, living in another country, amidst a foreign culture, what type of threads do you weave? This was the question I posed to Deborah Claire Procter, a multimedia artist originally from Wales, UK, now living in Argentina, and Lyn Bishop, an American healer and spiritual coach living in Panama. This is what they had to say. DEBORAH CLAIRE PROCTER I love how the poem evokes for me images about weaving “from traditions and from hopes”. I can imagine that back and forth movement – it is hypnotic. It reminds me of the need to look over our lives again and again.To reposition ourselves.To never stop looking, listening, sensing… this can be from changing perspective radically as I did in 2002 when I began visiting Argentina. My first impulse for change was based on the fact that there is a community in the south of Argentina who moved here from 13,000 kilometres away – from Wales, UK. It may be a minority language yet Welsh is still spoken to some degree. My other fascination with the country was much more intuitive and stemmed NOV-DEC 2018

from childhood. I knew off-by-heart all the lyrics to the musical about the life of Eva Perón – Evita. Eva Perón came from humble beginnings and became the wife of former president of Argentina, Juan Perón, and always urged him to consider the lives of the poor. She is famous for founding schools and libraries but was also hated by some because she shook up the traditional system. In Argentina, a second image that is

Deborah Claire Procter

powerful for me is that of the grandmother. During the time of dictatorship (the 1970s and ’80s), many young activists disappeared. Many were pregnant at the time and so the “grandmothers” search for their lost grandchildren. For many years they have silently marched with their famous headscarves. It is inspiring to think that a grandmother can be an active voice in society and part of


the collective conscience. I think, as women, our creativity is about weaving between hopes and traditions. We don’t have to change everything but we do need to re-evaluate many things. If something needs shaking up, we have the ability to do so. Whether I work as an artist or as a mentor, I am always looking for what is missing, what is needed, and what is being called forward. I strongly believe that we can and must use our imaginations to find a better solution for the world. In effect, we all weave our own traditions and hope; you just have to choose what you want to focus on. LYN BISHOP “Turning her glance to the past, she guards the shades of ancestry and of the new spring” is a line from La Balanguera that resonates deeply with me. It is from our past experiences and history that we can move confidently into each new day, each new opportunity that life so willingly brings us. It wasn’t until I was a grown woman in my 30s that the wanderlust took over me. It was more than the mere desire for travel and adventure, but rather a deeper calling to understand culture and tradition, to know the other, and to experience life from a different perspective. One of the biggest gifts I received from spending several years as a no-

mad is that I learned there are many ways to live a full and rich life.Thinking that my cultural upbringing was “the way” began to be replaced by knowing that it is only “one way”. This gave me a deeper respect for “all ways” of living life to its fullest potential. Having settled in Panama for the past 10 years, I continue to study

Lyn Bishop

with curenderos (healers), indigenous shamans and wise elders in an effort to live more simply and sustainably. Panama is a place that continues to practice ancient traditions while being pulled quickly into modernity. People still look to the plants for their medicine, the soil for their food, and the jungle for their enlightenment. It is also the hub of the Americas, LatNOV-DEC 2018


in America’s financial centre, and is home to the Panama Canal. Finding the balance between conserving our collected wisdom while embracing new ways of being is at the heart of the work I do with my clients. I work with women to own their past with grace and honour. I help them embody their confidence to live their happy, vibrant life in NOV-DEC 2018

the here and now. It’s my mission to help as many women as possible to achieve their best life.


raditions are what we create; they start somewhere, some resonate, others change and grow. What traditions would you like to weave into the future?  Follow the author at



It can’t be easy to direct award-winning videos and shows while living with a painful condition, but Divya Palat does it every day

Divya Palat


ow far can you be comfortable with pain? Actor-director Divya Palat unwittingly found herself on that unenviable quest five years ago, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). It happened to be at the peak of her career. Where does one go from there? As far as Divya is concerned, you

just keep pushing forward. Born into the royal family of Kochi, Divya started acting at the age of three, and did numerous commercials, plays and films before heading to Stanford on scholarship to do a double major in mathematics and drama. “I’ve moved 19 homes in my life,” laughs the award-winning director. “I make friends everywhere.” At 21, Divya set up her own production house, Balancing Act Films, creating commercials, music videos and feature films. Often profiled in young entrepreneurs’ lists, Divya has won awards for Best Director at the New York, Sydney and Melbourne Fringe Festivals as well as Best Show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. When she was 24, she married actor-entrepreneur Aditya Hitkari. A few years ago, he decided to join her in her business. “It’s fabulous to work with him,” admits Divya. “Our relationship is stronger now.” But if life served pleasure, it also served her pain. A whole lot of it. Divya was first hospitalized in 2005 with plaque deposits in her brain. “I was told it was ADEM, a NOV-DEC 2018


brain disorder, but I was to go home and not worry about it,” she recalls. Later, in 2013, while doing an MRI to diagnose her temporary loss of vision, the doctors realised she had a tumour. “It was a wonder that I was even walking around, forget working 12-hour shifts!” she remembers her doctor saying in surprise. It turned out that the tumour and its associated steroids were her body’s defence mechanism to cope with MS. “So I never had any symptoms all those years. The tumour protected me!” she exclaims with awe. Defiant in the face of debilitating

Divya has learnt a thing or two about living with MS: “Don’t listen to others; find your own therapy. Even a cup of coffee can help sometimes.” She refuses to pop excessive pills as the body only gets immune to medication after a while. “I want my body to adapt,” she says firmly. And she’s found successful ways to battle the pain: with humour, ex-

“IT WAS LIKE ELECTRIC SHOCKS IN MY HEAD. THERE’S ONLY SO MUCH PAIN ONE CAN TAKE” disease, Divya launched The Balancing Act Trust, which supports numerous NGO raising funds through theatre and film. She continues to work at a frenetic pace, shooting up to four videos featuring Bollywood stars every week, and has learnt to live with painful attacks, which can last from 30 seconds to three weeks. “Just this September, I had an excruciating attack that went on for days; it was like electric shocks in my head.There’s only so much pain one can take,” she sighs sadly. NOV-DEC 2018

Divya Palat and her husband Aditya Hitkari

ercise, online support groups, the company of friends, the support of her family, and optimism. “We need to see the positive side of life,” she says, cuddling her dog, Magic. Yoga gurus tell you to find comfort in discomfort if you want to progress in your practice. Divya has made a life of it. 




eha Misra Mutluru is an unlikely sort of a professional. An MBA and marketing specialist by training, she worked for 10 years in FMCG before the birth of her kids pulled her in the direction of becoming a certified birth coach. Besides conducting Lamaze childbirth classes for expecting couples, the 36-year-old founder of the consultancy BirthSense is also a doula who hand-holds expecting mothers through labour and birth. We get more details about her work:

Who is a doula? A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and educational support to a birthing mother. The doula’s purpose is to nurture and support their client to have a safe, memorable and satisfying birthing experience. How popular is the concept in India? Birthing women have always been supported by other women from time immemorial. This role has traditionally been played by an elder female relative who understands and NOV-DEC 2018


What does a doula do? Birth doula Neha Misra Mutluru tell us about her work and why a birthing mother’s mental health is vital


has been through childbirth herself. Nowadays, as families have become nuclear and birth has become highly medicalized, this supporting family member has been replaced by a professional doula. Why did you become a doula? After my own experience of having babies, I realized that in spite of having a healthy and happy pregnancy, many women end up with unsatisfactory birth experiences. This may leave them with a feeling of disappointment and regret – either because they had a hard labour or needed a C-section or were not able to breastfeed their baby well. Our medical system is not ‘woman centric’ and tends to be very impersonal. Women during this stage of life need emotional support – someone trustworthy who listens to what they need, can understand their feelings, can help them assimilate the right information and tap into their powerful natural instincts during birth. I wanted to be that person. Tell us about your most challenging case. The most challenging cases are always the ones where the mother carries a hidden fear or memory of a past trauma in her subconscious mind. This manifests as anxiety during birth and often makes birthing harder. I worked with a mom who had a previous miscarriage and was afraid this baby would be harmed too. But I helped her to move from a place of fear and stress to being positive and NOV-DEC 2018

loving. When she did that, her body relaxed, the stress hormones were replaced with oxytocin (hormone of love and labour) and she had a pleasant birth journey. Her baby was received with confidence and love and given the best start to life. How does one find a doula, and what should one look for? Doulas are not hospital employees.

Neha Misra Mutluru

They are hired by the parents to serve the birthing mother and work in collaboration with the hospital team. You must meet and interview your doula well in advance so that you get to know her and see if you feel comfortable in her presence.The doula makes at least one prenatal visit to talk about your birth preferences and discuss unexpected scenarios.


How far does a birthing mother’s mental health affect her baby’s wellbeing? A woman’s experience of pregnancy, birth and post-partum can make her feel loved and empowered, or inflict lasting damage and emotional trauma that impacts her health at many levels. Childbearing has a deep personal and cultural significance for a woman and her family. If a preg-

and requires a huge commitment on your part.You will need to be on call 24x7 and accompany the mother throughout labour, which often lasts for many hours. Besides, you will need to be emotionally invested in your work so that you can connect with the mother at a deeper level as she rides through this life-changing experience. Having said that, the

Neha with her two daughters

nant mother is chronically stressed or troubled, her stress hormones can significantly impact the health and development of the baby. Post-partum depression is very common and often goes unacknowledged. What is your advice to anyone who wants to take this up as a career? Being a doula is very demanding

feeling of fulfillment from doula work is incomparable. This is a career where your commitment has a direct and significant impact on lives of families and society at large. So, if this is what drives you and you are a person who is empathetic and caring in nature, then this is a wonderful life choice.  NOV-DEC 2018


INSTA-BIRTH These Instagram pages share powerful stories of pregnancy and birthing EMPOWERED BIRTH PROJECT Empowered Birth Project is an online initiative to remind birthing people of their power, facilitate healing through storytelling, and share information and education. Founded by Katie Vigos, a nurse and mother of three in USA, the Instagram page, which has close to 4 lakh followers, had petitioned the social-media platform to allow uncensored birth images. They won.

BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR Birth Without Fear was launched by January Harshe, a mother of six, as a simple passion to let women know they have choices in childbirth. It then evolved to become an inspiration and support to women and their families through their birthing journeys. She also now runs a blog with extensive information for mothers-to-be and has written a book on the subject. With 2.5 lakh followers, the Instagram page is a platform for sharing birthing stories, such as this photo of a home birth, which was liked over 20,000 times.

FREE BIRTH SOCIETY Emilee, a doula specialising in home births, and Yolande, a mom of seven, both promote ‘free births’, or births in natural environments with just loved ones for assistance. With 21,000 followers, their Instagram page offers community support and stories of free births. NOV-DEC 2018



We ask four women from around the world to take the stage and tell us what they’re thinking of at present, and what they’d like to share. Sonali Sudarshan from Delhi is puzzling over an overlooked aspect of #MeToo. Nidhi Chopra from Singapore is tired of being tired all the time. Atikaa Ahluwalia from Bengaluru shares a powerful tale of breaking out of a deadly cycle of domestic violence. And Sunita Pandey from Lucknow is trying to view her gallbladder-removal operation with a pinch of salt.

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WHAT I DON’T GET ABOUT #METOO By Sonali Sudarshan, Delhi


nough has been said in India’s watershed moments of #MeToo. In many ways, for many women who have quietly managed to handle so many patriarchal and sexist moments across our professional lives, it feels like a moment of vindication. Many offices have had women applauding in quiet glee, and Facebook and Twitter have seen a not-so-quiet glee as well. However, my column this month addresses an even more fundamental problem among Indian men: besides the fact that they are the main reason for #MeToo, there is something else that seriously boggles my mind. Why do Indian men think of themselves as objects of desire in the first place? While Indian women have gone on to win global beauty pageant titles, and accolades for their glamour and appeal, I can’t for the life of me recall even one Indian man doing the same. If I made 10 Indian men stand pitted against 10 Indian women, one would be lucky to find one presentable, well-groomed Indian man among them. And I NOV-DEC 2018


am not even going to get into things like personal hygiene, grammar, table manners and general intelligence. The fact is that most Indian men can at no point be seen as objects of desire. Then why do most of them assume that they are? This is a question that boggles my mind as I have read the countless horrific enHOW DOES A 65-YEAR- counters many Indian women have had with such weirdos. Yes, once upon a time, OLD EDITOR JUSTIFY Indian men were a good catch, mostly ASKING A 25-YEAR-OLD because there were fewer jobs for Indian GIRL OUT FOR A DRINK? women. They needed the financial support and marriage was usually the only HAS HE LOOKED IN THE escape from the maternal home and sociMIRROR LATELY? ety’s taunts. Now all that is changing, so are Indian men still a good catch? Would an average, well-educated, fairly presentable Indian woman not want a man with a similar profile? Would she not baulk at an unmaintained body and unseemly bodily sounds in bed? Would she not cringe every time he laughed like a hyena at a social gathering, where her friends were present? How does a 65-year-old editor of a newspaper justify askNOV-DEC 2018


ing a 25-year-old girl out for a drink? Has he looked in the mirror lately? Or is he so blind in his self-assessment that he does not realize that maybe he is now pitching out of his league? Does the 50-something fat uncle at the Diwali card party who leers at the 30-something lady realize that she may be unable to see his Casanova image underneath his paunch and badly dyed hair? Does his own wife feel any desire for him anymore or is she there because leaving him is too much of a bother? re only women the ones who are constantly self-critical? We bring our daughters up to make themselves pleasant and amiable to members of the opposite sex but we never try to understand that women need some stimulation for desire too. Female desire has been swept under the table by patriarchy, but if a man is not going to bring social recognition and financial support to the table (and frankly why should he anyway), then he has to start bringing something else. Did any of those men pawing and molesting and sneaking up to their female colleagues, friends and associates wonder, “Hang on... does she even like me?” And, I’m wondering, if this little question had actually sprung up in the minds of these self-entitled, so-called lofty beings, would they still have carried on their nefarious intentions? Desire and attraction are very grey areas, and most of us women understand the nuances of the same. Our whole being is strummed to tune into the other person and try to become what he likes. It’s only age and confidence that allow you to take a call on what you may also like. Maybe it’s high time that men realized women are as much ruled by ‘desire’ as men are, and not unwitting objects of unwanted attention from undesirable creatures. Then, Indian men, maybe #You- Sonali Sudarshan is a public-relations professional Too will finally realize what we have who also likes to dabble in writing as she has an silently suffered for so many years. opinion on everything.


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By Nidhi Chopra, Singapore


am tired. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said this to myself. I began saying it in my late 20s. At the time, I was working in the non-profit sector in Delhi. My first job was that of a resident psychologist at a halfway home for people suffering with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But it often seemed to me that the residents of the house were far saner than all of us staff put together! It took me four years to realize I was burning out. Then I joined a YWCA project for children affected with HIV/AIDS. I spent my days in sex-worker and rag-picker communities in the outskirts of Delhi and Haryana. Soon enough, I found myself exhausted, overweight and constantly broke. I showed up for drinks with college-mates in shapeless clothes with a pencil in my hair and dirt under my nails. I was tired AF: tired of trying to be independent, wondering how to secure myself financially on a laughable salary. By the time the 30s rolled in, the exhaustion became mental in nature. I was tired of trying to manage relationships – old and new. Of trying to understand new dynamics of in-laws, being a new mother to kids just 19 months apart, being a ‘good’ daughter and daughter-in law, and an effective homemaker. Constantly struggling with the baby weight, the hair fall and the breast-feeding. It took its toll. I’m in my 40s now, living in Singapore, working with my husband in his fast-growing digital business that I knew nothing of five years ago. It started as “just helping out for a bit” to becoming my full-time day job along with my other full-time day and night job of being a parent to my eightand 10-year-old girls. I feel I’ve come full circle.Yes, I am still tired. But, I am also tired of telling myself that I am tired! I’ve realized that being tired can mean so many different things depending on where you are in your life. On the surface, it can mean that you’re ready to throw in the towel, give up and lay down your guns. Or it can mean the opposite. That you are tired of giving up and giving in. That you’re ready to fight back or shed unwanted layers. NOV-DEC 2018


It’s important to identify what kind of tired you are. One kind wants you to simply curl up and sleep it off, and the other kind gears you up for bigger, more important fights. or instance, I’m tired of people who lack empathy, who don’t care about other human beings or the environment. When I was younger, I would try to work my way around such people, giving them exactly one eye-roll and moving on. But, being a mother has taught me that my kids will eventually grow up to be who I can be. I have begun to lead by example. I have accepted that I cannot change others. I can only change my own reactions to them. Instead of avoidance or annoyance, I try to employ my own empathy in such situations. It’s not easy all the time, but I am not too tired to try and do it better! I’ve begun to take a similar approach to my tiredness with 21st-century consumerism. More clothes, more bags, more makeup, more food! It’s such a waste. Instead I’ve adopted and teach my children an alternative sense of achievement of “more”– more charity, more sharing, more understanding, more regard for the environment and more of ‘the less’. I also had a pet peeve with pseudo-religious people who project their own beliefs upon others. Who consider themselves superior just because they were born into a particular religion or path. But I’ve realized now that the only truth about Truth is that it is all-encompassing. I have given up my exhaustion with these people. I have accepted them to be yet another manifestation (albeit an annoying one!) of that all-encompassing Truth. As I’m growing older, I’m learning not to take my tiredness too seriously. Life will always give you lemons.And you don’t always have to make lemonade. An ice-cold pitcher of lemon tea spiked with beautiful Mongolian vodka never hurt anybody! So, nowadays, instead of mourning, Nidhi Chopra is an in-the-closet (or toilet) writer ‘I am tired”, I simply ask myself.“Am based in Singapore, mother of two, wife of one, friend to many. I tired yet?” 


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By Atikaa Ahluwalia, Bengaluru

was attacked by a man I was in a significant relationship with. Pushed, called names, thrown on the ground, kicked, different things on different days. In all my life before that, I never imagined myself as someone who could be physically abused. I mean, I’m educated, outspoken and independent. I travel the world and read Vogue magazine. Stuff like this just couldn’t happen to me. Right? Wrong. It started with the shouting and the pushing.Then

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came the things (including the breakfast I’d just made) that would be sent flying across the room. My cell phone would be taken away. Messages from my family erased before I could see them. I found myself on the floor one day, my tail bone hurting because I had just been kicked. In that one moment on the floor I remember thinking – is this what they call physical abuse? No, no, no. This can’t be that. Even though I had an ominous feeling that something was incredibly wrong, I told myself it’s going to be okay tomorrow. It never really did. One day, I decided that I was leaving. That’s when I was held in a chokehold against the wall and told to “try and leave now”. The funny thing is, I still didn’t. I stayed another 90 days. After all, I ‘loved’ THE DAY I DECIDED TO him. And believed that he ‘loved’ me in his own twisted way too. LEAVE, I WAS HELD IN A Until the day I left, I had no physical evCHOKEHOLD AGAINST idence of this abuse at all. I never spoke THE WALL AND TOLD TO about what was happening to anyone. I felt shame in the fact that someone I had cho“TRY AND LEAVE NOW” sen for myself was doing this to me.That I was failing miserably at this ‘milestone relationship’ in my life. Contrary to popular belief, not all bouts of physical violence lead to marks, bruises or any tell-tale signs. I did reach out to my abuser’s family several times. I got the age-old “he is like this only” and “you must have somehow triggered him” in various permutations and combinations. Mostly I got silence. So after eight months, I did what I could do. I left. And I took him to court. I decided to use the truth and nothing but the truth to present my case, even if it meant the legal process took four years. I had evidence and he knew I did. I still do. The legal environment is unpleasant to say the least: court dates are months apart, judges do not turn up, and the routine line of defense against a woman is character assassination. Photo copies of articles featuring me in Vogue magazine as a brand/business owner were presented in court to argue that I was of loose character because I worked in ‘feshun’. I was also advised to tie my then long, wavy hair up and not to wear my spectacles to court because they made me NOV-DEC 2018


look ‘too smart’ which would hinder my case as an abuse survivor. I’m guessing common perception dictates that it could only have happened to you if you came across as a meek, cowering personality with a shaky voice, shivering hands and a general demeanor of defeat. I am far from any of those things and yet this happened to me. It’s an uncomfortable truth but I implore you to open your eyes to the possibility of the truth that abuse is ingrained in our species. ur intent behind the case was to seek help from the system to ensure some form of justice. If people like me who have the means to use the system don’t, we have no right to expect change in society. Most people advised that I cut my losses, salvaged what’s left of my life and walk away. But letting him get away scot-free without any consequence whatsoever would make me a part of the problem, and that didn’t sit well with me. It would encourage him to abuse the next girl, and the next one, and even though most people would say that’s not my problem, you know what? It is. This has been one of the best decisions of our lives and I stand here today, empowered and not silenced. I want to share my experience with others so it could serve a greater purpose than my individual understanding of it. I waited years to feel ready. But the unabashed, consistent sense of entitlement in the men accused in the #MeToo accounts and sheer number of horror stories out there made me realise the compounding cost of our collective silence. I felt a compelling urge to say something. And I couldn’t waste a second longer. It’s been many years since all of this, and my life has long moved on to a very beautiful phase. This is not my ‘coming out’ story – it’s simply something I felt the need to share for you at this time in the world. It is time for all of us to question what we say, how we act, and who we are Atikaa Ahluwalia, 35, is brand head and partner at in every sphere of our lives, starting Eina Ahluwalia. She’s all set to launch totemhope. com, on inspiring real-life stories and survival tools. from our homes. 


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By Sunita Pandey, Lucknow



t’s just too soon. I lost my father just a month ago. It’s all a blur. The months of chemo, then that last nine-day vigil in the hospital, the ceremonies, the visitors. I haven’t even cried properly yet. And the very idea of a hospital is anathema for me. I know my gallstone needs to be removed but does it have to be so soon? Loving cousins tell me how brave I am, how composed. I am not. I am scared. I want to keep away from hospitals. NOV-DEC 2018


The husband and I have already had one long dramatic spat, that too in front of the children.The husband throws his phone on the floor. I too want to throw mine (at him) but the reasonable part of my mind reminds me this is the only one I have, and it has all my contacts. All this drama is but a manifestation of my fears. My hope is that the Delhi surgeon will dismiss the Lucknow ultrasound and say there is nothing wrong with you, ma’am. You’ve probably been eating too many pakodis and it’s just gas rumbling around your I DECLARE I WANT TO middle. Alas, that is not so. I am admitted to the SPEW OUT A STRING OF hospital.The operation to remove my gall- ABUSES. THE DAUGHTERbladder is scheduled the morning after. IN-LAW IS GENTLY That evening I sit staring out of the hospiENCOURAGING. tal window. I remember the last few days at home. How I would look out my bedroom window at the garden, wallowing in self pity, my loss, my stone, my worries, what a lousy life I had. Now looking out at this green stretch, how I long for that chair at home, that view, even that ‘lousy life’. The next morning, I want the operation to be done and over with. I am bored now. I declare I want to spew out a string of abuses: the F-word many times and then MANY Hindi equivalents. The daughter-in-law is gently encouraging. She is all for catharsis. The husband finds a more comfortable seat to enjoy the spectacle better. Then I look at the son. He has this pained expression on his face. I see him preparing to cover his ears and lose heart. “But I need some drama, son,” I wail. Meanwhile the daughter too arrives and we all discuss other ideas to reduce boredom. A team of attendants wheel in the stretcher. Instant confusion. The husband gets preoccupied with hauling out his Bhagwanji statues and Hanuman Chalisa so I can seek their blessings. I am busy yelling instructions to the daughter that she should keep the lemon pickle sent by nani in the sun. She in turn yells to ask why am I acting as if I am not coming back? I mull over matters a bit and realise I wouldn’t like these to be my last words handed over for posterity, anyway: NOV-DEC 2018


“Achar ko dhoop dikha dena.” I don’t even make pickle, for god’s sake. My surgeon is the head of the bariatric surgery unit too. The daughter-in-law has been reading how he is in the Guinness Book of Records for removing a huge amount of fat from a teenager. “Ma, why don’t you ask him to remove a couple of kilos while he is removing the gallbladder,” she suggests. The idea of “buy one get one free” rather entrances me. I spend the rest of the trip down to the OT trying to compose my request so it won’t be shot down. In the OT, the head of the anaesthesia team Dr D arrives to ask if I am comfortable. I tell him that after my last surgery my throat had felt sore for hours. He reassures me. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I feel, and convey my daughterin-law’s wishes for my fat reduction to him. I hear muffled laughter in the background. Dr D very seriously turns down my request: “Not possible, ma’am.That needs a separate kind of preparation.” Over the mask, I can see his eyes gleaming with mirth. Ah well, I tried. I wriggle more comfortably on the bed and then I am out. aking up in the recovery room is so much easier than my last surgery. There he is, Dr D. “Would you like something to drink? Tea, coffee?” he asks. What? Really?! We are having a little tea party in the recovery room now? The last time I had to beg the sister to moisten my lips. She was so scared I’d throw up that she was really stingy with it. Ohh, that was what drug addicts must feel... the craving for a fix. But now I have carte blanche to drink what I want. What a blessing! And suddenly I have an epiphany. That is what life is all about, isn’t it? Counting your blessings. One more obstacle that has been thrown on your path. One more obstacle that Sunita Pandey, 54, is a homemaker, a post-graduate He / She has chosen to remove.Yup, in modern history, and avid NGO volunteer. She has for the moment, I am all sorted.  immense faith in the essential goodness of humans.


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LANDMARK MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG Have an overnight staycation priced from HKD 4,500 at this iconic five-star hotel in Hong Kong. You get 24 hours in a Joyce Wang-designed L600 signature series room, buffet breakfast for two, dining or spa credit, and a complimentary upgrade to Sanctuary Suite at The Oriental Spa, if available.


City, beach or mountain, here are three luxury destinations for December SILVERSANDS, GRENADA The beautiful, unspoilt Spice Isle in the Caribbean sees the opening of a new resort Silversands on December 1, 2018. Palatial rooms, including five beachfront villas, impeccable service, and the pristine beach... sounds like heaven?

SUVRETTA, ST MORITZ Now 100 years old, Suvretta House has drawn thousands for its outstanding location, the breathtaking view of the Upper Engadin, and the warm hospitality. Go skiing or ice-curling with a private instructor this winter. NOV-DEC 2018


KEEPER OF PAST AND PRESENT With its seaside charm, ancient ruins and picture-perfect buildings, St Andrews in Scotland is a treat for culture lovers and golf junkies Text and photos by Kaveri Jain



he town of St Andrews is a historical jewel of Scotland and now it also is home to my most precious jewel: my 18-year-old daughter. She is a fresher at the University of St Andrews. Visiting this beautiful seaside town on the east coast of Scotland has been one of the most memorable experiences for me. It was a bittersweet experience, of course. Bitter as I drop my firstborn to college; sweet as she starts off her new life in this quaint little town. The train journey from London

to Leuchars didn’t seem so long, the picturesque towns cities and villages of Scotland stole my heart. Then came the very first glimpse of the North Sea, silvery golden sparkling sands, boisterous waves and the prepossessing Scottish sunset, the perfect start for our journey. St Andrews was once the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland and its religious traditions can be traced back to the sixth century.Today it is most popular as a university town housing one of the oldest universities of the world and a golfer’s paradise.

 The University of St Andrews was founded between 1410 and 1413. It is home to magnificent architecture, including the incredible late Gothic St Salvator’s Chapel.

 St Andrews was always known as a fishing town. St Andrews Pier and its accompanying harbour are steeped in tradition. Viewing the never-ending sea from the pier is a mesmerizing experience.

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ď ą This town has a population of just 18,000, out of which a large number are students. As it was peak season, we could not find a hotel in the centre of town; if we had, we would have missed the

delight of staying at a beautiful farm in Elderburn, a few miles from the city centre. ď ° There, we were greeted with the beautiful sight of tall handsome horses and chubby cows grazing in the fields nearby.

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ď ° The working harbour at Shorehead fascinates visitors who enjoy watching the lobsters being landed. One can rent out a room, spend a day out fishing, or just walk about and enjoy the breeze.

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ď ą The castle of St Andrews has been witness to many faces of royalty, war and religious ceremonies. It has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. These ruins above Castle Sands Beach are a must-visit.


ď ° St Andrews Cathedral dates back to 1158 CE and was once the headquarters of the Scottish Medieval Catholic Church. This marvel of architecture took over a century to build and was the largest place

of worship in Scotland. At 33 metres high, St Rule’s Tower in the cathedral boasts of breathtaking views. Pilgrims who travelled on foot to St Andrews in the medieval age must have been absolutely awed! NOV-DEC 2018


 The small size of St Andrews makes it visitor-friendly; everything is within reach and the town centre is just about 1.5 km across. The town’s motto is “While I breathe, I hope”.

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 All true golfers wish to play in this city at least once in their lifetime. The first written record of golf in St Andrews dates back to the 15th century. The iconic Old Course has hosted 29 Open Championships. 



Love brought this young couple together from two different parts of India, and propelled them to move countries, to travel and grow together


By Tanya Bhandari

n life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with – Charles M Schulz Timeless thoughts and ideas are forced upon us from a very early age. On what we should do and what we shouldn’t. What is right

and what is wrong. And even after we feel like we are going in a certain direction, life always surprises us with something we could never even imagine. Our story is very similar to that. We were two very regular kids NOV-DEC 2018


who grew up in different parts of the country. Soham Pandit grew up in Mumbai and I grew up all over India, as being a defence officer’s kid comes with that package. I changed schools from the beautiful hills of Ooty in South India to city life in New Delhi. Soham and I grew up imagining that we had it all figured out. Two ordinary children: one of whom was found on the football field and the other on a basketball court skipping classes. I decided to pursue hotel management for my undergraduate degree and ranked pretty well in the entrance exam. Coincidentally, Soham took the same path. I studied in Delhi and he studied in Mumbai.

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During placements, both of us were shortlisted amongst 17 students from across India to join a management training program with a fivestar hotel chain. That is where we met for the first time. By the end of the program, we had been transferred to several cities across India for training. We didn’t speak much to each other initially but when we did, we realised how similar we were and how we enjoyed the same things. By the end of the training program, he asked me out and after being in denial and torturing the poor guy for months, I said yes! So we requested our manager to be posted together in the same city


and the only opportunity open for two people to be in the same hotel was in Chennai. We took a leap of faith and packed our bags for this new adventure! And to celebrate our graduation, we decided to take our very first trip together to Sri Lanka! And thus, began our journey. e were on the path to conventional success working as


We decided that we wanted to study more and explore more. See what we’re made of. And so we started researching for the best Universities. After months of research and planning, both of us were accepted into the same university in Australia with a scholarship. We had used this break to also learn photography, which both of us were al-

managers in our respective fields. Soham was one of the restaurant managers in the hotel and I was a duty manager in front office. For the next year and a half, we travelled across India for work and also four countries overseas. Then, we decided to take the next logical step: quit our jobs! Duh!

ways passionate about. To celebrate our admission and our two-year dating anniversary, we booked a two-week trip to Bali.We went out for a drive in Uluwatu to this beautiful cliff with stunning views as the sun was setting. Soham asked me to follow him to a beautiful secluded spot. As I was soaking it NOV-DEC 2018


all in, I turned around and there he was, on one knee. I couldn’t believe it for a second. My reaction was literally, “Really? No, you’re joking!” But, of course, I accepted his proposal. We watched the sunset over there and spent the evening grateful for each other everything we were able to experience together. Just before leaving for Australia,

for both of us since it combines our love for travel and photography. We always post the rawest moments of our day and try to keep it as real as possible. It’s a large platform and I think people get very caught up by numbers. But I believe that if you stay true to your passion and showcase the real stuff behind the scenes, people relate to you more. I

we had a formal engagement party in Mumbai with only our closest friends and family. It was a fun day! Now we are here in Gold Coast, studying, working, managing our Instagram page @Stateof_Fernweh and blog, travelling and just figuring life out together one day at a time. Instagram is a creative outlet

enjoy sharing our everyday shenanigans because I have found some extremely supportive and brilliant people on this platform. “As soon as I saw you, I knew that it was going to be an adventure of a lifetime.” I agree, Winnie the Pooh.You are very wise. 

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SUGAR RUSH The festive season is upon us and there’s no better way to bring together families and communities than over dessert. Here are 5 delectable recipes


By Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji

urpurab falls on November 23 this year, so I thought I should begin this article with my recipe of karah prashad. It should not be treated as a dessert, as it is an offering to the Almighty. (No wonder it’s divine!) The reason I’ve selected these specific sweets is that they can prepared a day or several days in advance, so that you can focus on your loved ones when the festivals come around. These recipes also reduce food wastage, as leftovers can be refreshed as a new dessert.

Punjabi panjiri can be stored for three months in an air-tight glass jar and six months if refrigerated. If there is leftover sitaphal rabri, you may pour it in kulfi moulds, freeze, and eat whenever desired. Gajrela stays absolutely fantastic for a week if refrigerated. Shahi tukda can be prepared one day in advance provided the rabri is poured one hour before it is served. Paan and quinoa pudding is not only a dessert but a mouth freshener and aids in digestion after a heavy festive meal. It can be refrigerated for two days.

KARAH PRASHAD Ingredients: 1 cup whole-wheat flour (coarse) 1 cup desi ghee 1 cup sugar (or as desired) 3 cups hot water Instructions: 1. Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed nonstick kadhai. Add the whole-wheat flour; cook stirring continuously till the flour turns golden and you get the aroma of roasted whole wheat flour. 2. Once the ghee oozes out, add NOV-DEC 2018

the sugar. Let it dissolve, do not caramelize it, else it will end up with a burnt flavour. 3. Add hot water. Stir very carefully. 4. Continue to stir, so that no lumps are formed. The karah will absorb water and continue to thicken quickly. 5. When it is semi thick. Switch off the flame. Serve it hot or warm. Chef Tips: The karah tends to get thicker as it cools. So add water accordingly.


SITAPHAL RABRI Ingredients (for the rabri): 5 cups full cream milk ½ cup sugar (or as desired) 15 gm pistachio nuts, lightly roasted and chopped or slivered 15 gm almonds, lightly roasted and slivered For the flavouring: 1¼ cup sitaphal (custard apple) pulp ¼ tsp green cardamom powder For the garnishing: ½ gm saffron, broiled / steeped in lukewarm milk 15 gm pistachio nuts, lightly roasted and chopped / slivered 15 gm almonds, lightly roasted and slivered 1 tsp rose petals, dried and edible Instructions: 1. In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, add milk; bring to a boil. 2. Add the sugar and cardamom powder and simmer over low flame. Do not stir too often, as a layer of cream should form over it. 3. After the layer is formed, keep pushing it away from the sides towards the center with the help of a wooden spatula. 4. Keep stirring the milk below it gently to avoid scorching or burning. Repeat the process till 1/3rd of the volume of milk is left. The wider the vessel and the richer the milk, the

faster it will thicken. 5. When done, the colour changes to a beige-cream or off white, and the cream that was pushed aside collects in layers. Add the chopped nuts. Remove from the flame. 6. Let it cool. Add the custard apple pulp, and mix well. 7. Transfer to a serving dish, or ideally clay pots. Refrigerate to chill for at least three hours. 8. Serve chilled, garnished with broiled or steeped saffron, almonds and pistachio nuts. Chef tips: 1. You may use silver leaf to top this dessert to make it more attractive, but remember to apply it before you garnish the dessert. Do not apply silver leaf if this dessert is prepared for the Navratri fast. 2. Make sure that the milk does not burn; it is next to impossible to rectify the burnt milk. 3. You may add a few drops of kewra essence (natural screw-pine essence) or rose water when the rabri is done.

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PUNJABI PANJIRI Ingredients: 1 cup whole wheat flour ¼ cup semolina, dry roasted 6 tbsp desi ghee ¼ tsp carom seeds (ajwain), lightly roasted A pinch of dry ginger powder (sonth) ¼ tsp green cardamom powder A pinch of fenugreek seed powder ¼ tsp fennel seed powder ¼ tbsp lotus seeds (makhana) fried and coarsely ground ¼ cup raw cane sugar powder (desi khand) ¼ tbsp almonds, fried 16 cashew nuts, fried ¼ tbsp mixed melon seeds (charmagaz seeds), fried 15 gm charoli (chironji), fried Instructions: 1. In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, dry roast the whole wheat flour till it gets a nutty aroma (approximately 10 to 12 minutes). 2. Add the ghee, cook till it is well combined on a slow flame. Add the semolina. 3. Stir with a spatula. You will see the beautiful brown colour of the flour and semolina. Do not overcook. Cook for another five to six minutes only till the raw aroma of the flour disappears. 4. Add the powdered dry ginger, green cardamom, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, carom seeds and coarsely ground lotus seeds. NOV-DEC 2018

5. Add the fried almonds, cashew nuts, charoli and mixed melon seeds. Mix well. 6. Switch off the flame and let it get a little cooler. Then add the powdered sugar and mix till well combined. 7. Cool the panjiri completely. 8. Store in a sterilized and dry air-tight glass jar. It may be consumed as and when required. The shelf life of panjiri is three months at room temperature and six months if refrigerated. Chef tips: 1. You may add lightly roasted desiccated coconut to the panjiri. 2. You may add dried dates (chuara) or coarsely ground pistachio nuts and raisins. 3. Usually edible gum (gondh) is roasted in clarified butter till it puffs and is added, but I have prepared panjiri without adding it.


SHAHI TUKDA Ingredients: 8 slices of bread with crust removed (usually cut into triangles) 60 gm ghee to fry the bread 150 ml mildly sweetened warm milk or sugar syrup or as required for dipping the fried bread For the rabri: 5 cups full cream milk ½ cup sugar 10 gm pistachio nuts, blanched, peeled and chopped 10 gm almonds, blanched, peeled and chopped For the flavoring: Ÿ tsp green cardamom powder For the garnishing: 1 sheet silver leaf 1 gm saffron, broiled 15 gm raisins 10 gm pistachio nuts, blanched, peeled and slivered 10 gm almonds, blanched, peeled and slivered 8 rose petals, dried and edible Instructions (for the rabri): 1. In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, add milk; bring to a boil. 2. Add the sugar and cardamom powder and simmer over low flame. Do not stir too often, as a layer of cream should form over it. 3. After the layer is formed, keep

pushing it away from the sides towards the centre with the help of a wooden spatula. 4. Keep stirring the milk below it gently to avoid scorching or burning. Repeat the process till 1/3rd of the volume of milk is left. The wider the vessel and the richer the milk, the faster it will thicken. 5. When done, the colour changes to a beige-cream or off white, and the cream that was pushed aside collects in layers. Add the chopped nuts. 6. Remove from the flame. Let it cool, and transfer to a glass bowl. Refrigerate to chill for at least an hour. For the shahi tukda: 1. With the help of a cookie cutter, cut the bread slices into neat shapes (usually triangles but I prefer round). 2. Shallow fry in clarified butter. Place on an absorbent paper to remove excess ghee (clarified butter). 3. Before serving, dip the fried bread in sugar syrup or mildly sweetened warm milk for five to eight minutes. 4. Place on the serving plate, pour the rabri over the fried bread. 5. Serve chilled, garnished with broiled saffron (optional), silver leaf, raisins, slivered pistachio nuts, almonds and rose petals. Chef tips: You may use brown bread or multigrain bread if you prefer. NOV-DEC 2018


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PAAN AND QUINOA PUDDING Ingredients: ¼ cup quinoa 4 cups coconut milk, unsweetened ½ tsp cinnamon powder A pinch of salt For the paan mixture puree: 12 Maghai paan (betel) leaves, dark green ¼ tbsp gulkand 1 tsp mint coated fennel seeds 1 tsp desiccated coconut ½ tsp cardamom powder 1 tbsp coconut milk Water as required For the garnish: 1 tsp almonds, lightly toasted ½ tsp rose petals, dried and edible Instructions (for the paan mixture): 1. Rinse the betel leaves in water and chop roughly. 2. Make a smooth paste of the betel leaves with very little water. 3. Blend all ingredients together including the betel leaves paste, till absolutely smooth. Make sure that there are no paan bits floating. For the pudding: 1. Wash and drain quinoa thoroughly in a fine mesh. 2. In a deep heavy bottomed nonstick pan, pour the coconut milk, and add the drained quinoa and cinnamon powder. Bring to a boil. NOV-DEC 2018

3. Simmer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. 4. Add a pinch of salt. Mix. Let it simmer for another five minutes. Mix well. Switch off the flame. Ensure that the pudding is thick and the quinoa has absorbed enough milk to be cooked through and is tender. 5. Add paan mixture puree. Mix well. Pour the pudding into bowls or shot glasses and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 6. Enjoy this delectable and healthy pudding garnished with lightly toasted almonds and edible dried rose petals. Chef tips: 1. Soothe your stomach with this paan and quinoa pudding after a heavy meal. 2. You may serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Reetu Uday Kugaji is a chef, culinary expert, food blogger, mentor, author, and a hospitality and food consultant with 20+ years of experience.


Making the Move



y Sindhi mum and Punjabi dad met at work, and I was born and raised in the City of Dreams, Mumbai, as an only child. I aspired to do my MBA and become independent. I first met my husband when I was in class 12. He had come from Dehradun to attend his cousin’s wedding in Mumbai; she was my best friend. We only met thrice before we decided to tie the knot. I was 22 years old and had just completed my MBA when we got married. I wanted to pursue a career, and my husband’s family was very supportive about it. And so I made the big move, something I could never have imagined as a youngster: shifting base to Dehradun. It wasn’t easy initially as I came from a fast-paced big city. But I made it work. I enrolled for a PhD out of my city and travelled regularly for research. By then, I was also pregnant. My in-laws supported me a lot. Later, my parents also decided to move to Dehradun – for the love of their grandson. At 20 in Mumbai, I was self-centered about my life goals. Now, at 40 in Dehradun, I have learnt to appreciate my life and value my relations. I may have left behind the City of Dreams, but I’ve gained so many more beautiful moments to cherish in real life. There is no regret.  NOV-DEC 2018


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