#RealGirlsRock: In Conversation With The Eloquent Sanjana Chowhan

 

What made you want to dabble in writing erotica?

It was quite accidental really. My Editor and sounding board Trisha approached me because she had read some of my work and thought I’d be a good voice because she felt (rightly so) that there was no urban erotica that was being dished out. Let’s face it, we all want to be mills and boon but all we have is Kamala mills.

(We are one question down and I’m already in splits!)

 

What’s the best part about your job?

Erotica: I didn’t think it would liberate me, but it has. It’s given me a voice and personality that I didn’t know I had (like all my personalities weren’t enough already :p). I am far more observant, more open minded and innovative (especially when people ask me what I do)

Journalism: There’s nothing as rewarding than sharing someone else’s experience or witnessing the inception and unfolding of a good story.

 

If you weren’t this awesome-writer-lady, what would you be?

Bed and breakfast owner of an arts residency in the mountains/beach.
(You know what? I see it!)

 

Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.

I have an old school side ?

 

One thing you would never endorse?

I won’t stop at one…

Yoko height increase, slimming belts and Fairness creams obv!

 

What does being a Real Girl mean to you?

Being true to yourself.

 

Any advice for those who want to become writers/journalists? 

Don’t.

Joking.

Do it. Do it often. It builds character

 

What’s the toughest part of the profession?

It’s mentally and physically exhausting. Something that probably struck a chord with you subconsciously can bite you in the ass when you least expect it, on the job.
Tell me something dumb a reader has said to you…

This is not erotica.
How was it facing the camera when you worked as a broadcast journalist? 

In the newsroom it’s strangely calm because it’s just you and the director’s voices in your head ! I am a fidgety, anxious person so I often think I’m the wrong person for the job because I can’t sit still and not make funny faces.

What keeps you motivated?

My sense of humour ? I cry and whine a lot, but I laugh at everything and look forward too.

 

Someone you look up to?

My mummy and close friends Aviral and Mansi. All ballsy, sassy chics who love the things about me that I hate the most.

 

Describe your personal style in one line.

“it’s not in the wash”

 

What would you tell a young girl who’s not too sure what career path she wants to take?

Do everything ya. But do it well. And don’t ever ever be scared.

 

What’s your idea of unwinding?

It’s illegal. But a run and reading always helps me.

.
What feeds your soul?

Good food against a picturesque setting. Damn it’s got me smiling even now.

 

How addicted are you to social media?

Instagram I can’t live without. Facebook and twitter are meh.

 

What’s your take on feminism?

Equality always. But first, level the playing field.

 

One thing that “growing up” has taught you?

ALWAYS EAT BREAKFAST. It helps combat even anxiety. Trust me.
(I really need to try that one!)

.

Complete the following sentence for me;

www.realgirl.co is —— refreshing.

 

Leave us with a message for women since it’s Women’s Day!

Gosh, hard one.

Be the best version of yourself possible.

 

Thank you so much Sanjana for being unabashedly real and for just being this inimitable brand of awesome. You make a great case for Real Girls everywhere. 🙂

 

(Apart from being someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a long time now, Sanjana is a writer, journalist, and multimedia author. You can find her writing on Juggernaut (download the app) and her @sanuchow on Instagram)

 

*This is the third part in a 3 part series of interviews to commemorate some awesome, badass, inspirational real girls on Women’s Day.

You can read the first part here

You can read the second part here.

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#RealGirlsRock: In Conversation With Boss Lady Neha Sahu

Neha Sahu

Tell us a little about what you do…

So far I’ve been following my heart (without giving up my mind) and I hope it always stays that way, as cliché as it sounds.

As of today, I run a sports education not for profit organisation where we teach children (boys and girls) life skills through football in underprivileged schools across India. It’s called Just For Kicks (www.jfkindia.org).

What made you want to start Just For Kicks?

Letting children do what they love most – play, and learning to become strong, independent and successful both socially and professionally through it. I put together the Just For Kicks model (with my thought partner/ co-founder) while I was a teacher myself, and started with coaching my own football team. Teaching the boys football on the field was a a win-win situation for everyone – kids had a blast, they developed essential life skills (critical thinking, coping with emotion, self awareness), schools realised the importance of sports and learning beyond four walls of the classroom, and parents experienced something new to them – their children succeeding in different ways and earning respect for themselves and their families.

My best stories are  those where children report their life changing experiences from really stressful, adverse life situations (violence, drugs, poverty, self belief and educational struggles) to personal, family and community victories.

This was it – the intersection of my passion, power of sport, love for kids and that urge to change my country’s education system into a holistic one for all types of children (irrespective of gender, race, socio-economic background). Hopefully we churn out some big star players in the future too. Watch out for that!

If you weren’t this awesome-entrepreneur-lady, what would you be?

Food critic, where I’d get to eat unlimited quantities of all types of food and get paid to talk and write about it.

Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.

I’m pretty sure I fall under the open book category of people, so honestly nothing comes to mind!


One thing you would never endorse?

Unethical Behaviour (and Diets)


What does being a Real Girl mean to you?

Know yourself better than anyone else. Dream. Chase your dreams.

Neha Sahu


What’s the toughest part of the profession?

Scaling up for sustainable impact. We’ve been thinking about million kids from day 1, we’ve been talking about changes in urban as well as rural India and other countries. We are doing everything we can to make that real.

 Tell us something cute one of the kids said to you?!

 Will you be my valentine?

(I’m pausing this interview to deal with my heart which has become a puddle)

Debunk one start up myth for us?

24/7 working day

Starting up does mean working hard. But it also means – setting your goals, working creatively and smartly to achieve them and refreshing as much as possible – in a day/ month/ year and so on.

At the end of the day you’ve got to remain excited, energetic and happy about what you’re doing and innovate at a quick pace without burning out.

At Just For Kicks, we do have compulsory vacations and no laptop days for our crew.


What keeps you motivated?

Change

Seeing is believing. I’m easily bothered by problems and like a true optimist know that there are solutions. You’ve got to put in the effort to realise/create the best one and then run with it. Social problems perturb me the most and keep me going to change them around.

Someone you look up to?

My father. Aarti (teacher/ school owner and mother of a child I taught in a municipal school in Mumbai). Michelle and Barack Obama. Roger Federer.  Didier Drogba. Audrey Hepburn, Indra Nooyi. So many friends.

I love looking upto people and making them role models. I could go on.

Describe your personal style in one line?

Go with the flow; Don’t worry be happy

Neha Sahu

What would you tell a young girl who’s not too sure what career path she wants to take?

Be good and keep enjoying your present life and I’m sure you will figure it out.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Binge watching bad TV shows.

Not getting out of bed for 23 hours.

 How addicted are you to social media?

It’s interesting.

What’s your take on feminism?

I’m more for human rights than focusing exclusively on female rights and advocacy. Unfortunately our world has shaped up in a way that women are usually second. So I stand up, speak up and act up for all the times male is not equal to female but should be.  What I do keep in mind is that both genders have some differences so one will be better and worse at some things. Use that to complement, not contest.

One thing that “growing up” has taught you?

You can get away with most anything if you want to. But do you want to?!?

Complete the following sentence for me;

 www.realgirl.co is ——– an inspirational reality check.

 (That is just the nicest way of putting it! I beam but don’t show it for fear of Neha judging me)

Leave us with a message since it’s Women’s Day!

To the Women – Decide what you want and live it up every single day! Don’t ever give up your right to choose.

To the Men – Get with the above Program.

YAAASSSS QUEEEEN!  Can I just say, my thoughts exactly! Thank you so much for who you are and what you do. You make a great case for Real Girls everywhere.

(Apart from being an inspirational girl boss and dear friend, Neha is the Founder of Just For Kicks www.jfkindia.org. You can follow her @nehasahu on Twitter)

 

*This is the second part in a 3 part series of interviews to commemorate some awesome, badass, inspirational real girls on Women’s Day.

You can read the first part here

You can read the third part here.

 

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#RealGirlsRock: In conversation with Bombay Bellyrina Chitra Jidesh

Real Girls Rock

We are so fascinated and awed at the fact that you’re a professional belly dancer! Tell us a little more about this…

You know how people say that the best things often happen by chance (or is that just me?)? My journey has been one of those cases. I was dragged, near kicking & screaming, to my first belly dance class. A friend and I wanted to join dance classes over one summer — I wanted to join salsa, she voted belly dance. We finally agreed that we would do one level of belly dance, and then move on to salsa. Only I never left.

Something about belly dance just called out to me. It taught me a lot more than how to move my body. Before I knew it, I was learning advanced levels, and got certified to teach.

 

What made you want to start Twitter Gets Fitter?

This too, happened by chance. I woke up on the morning of Nov 15th, 2016, and thought to myself “Just 45 days to NYE, and yet again, every fitness resolution has turned to dust.” And then it occurred to me that I probably wasn’t alone in feeling that way, and let’s face it, we regret failed resolutions only in the weeks before New Year’s. So as a Hail Mary, I tweeted asking if anybody wanted to be my workout buddy, so we could (hopefully) redeem ourselves. In a matter of minutes, I had 15 buddies. In a couple of days, that number hit 70!

It was never planned. It just happened. Even today, I often just sit back and wonder how it all came together. I’m admittedly still reeling from what it’s turned into 🙂

(TwitterGetsFitter is India’s first online fitness buddy system which has garnered a lot of attention lately – both by people online and by brands)

 

If you weren’t this awesome-dancer-lady, what would you be?

I honestly have no idea! My career-graph (if you can call it that) has been varied — I’ve been a fashion designer, a pageant trainer, a celebrity’s agent, a baker, a social media manager, a writer, marketing head at a venture capital firm — yes, ‘varied’ would be the word. I imagine if dance hadn’t happened, it would still be as colourful a ride.

Real Girls Rock

Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.

I’m painfully shy. Most people don’t believe me when I say it, but it’s true. Meeting new people is torture for me, and it takes me a long time to really calm down and get comfortable.
One thing you would never endorse?

Fairness creams, and quick-fix weight loss solutions. I cannot stand how the media messes with our heads, telling us everyday that we aren’t good enough.

What does being a Real Girl mean to you?

It means accepting who I am, the way I am. It means nagging my TwitterGetsFitter group to do their planks and their crunches, but also cheering them on when they eat some cake. It means knowing that I make mistakes, and knowing that that’s okay. It means having a bad hair day, a bad skin day, or just a ‘bad day’ day, and knowing it isn’t the end of the world.

What’s the toughest part of your profession?

Fighting prejudices and negative body images. Prejudices, because our country still views belly dance as being synonymous to stripping (or worse!). And almost every student that signs up for my class asks me whether they’re too fat or too thin to belly dance. It’s been 8 years, and that hasn’t changed, and it breaks my heart.

Tell us about a moment that you made you feel like it’s all worth it…

There have been a few, and for that I’m grateful. The ones that have really stuck with me are when women tell me that through dance and/or fitness, I have helped them battle their depression and feel better about themselves. I won’t lie, I teared up when a woman first told me that (okay fine, I outright bawled my eyes out!)

Debunk one fitness myth for us?

That you need to live on kale and quinoa to get fit. You need a balanced diet, and one that suits your own genetic makeup. It’s far healthier to eat the way your grandparents ate, and that’s a rule of thumb I try to follow. So I add ghee to my food, I eat rice twice a day (because Mallu) and I eat plenty of fish and coconut (also because Mallu). And it works for me! People from different parts of the country will benefit most from eating the food that their regions are known for. As a Malayali, eating rotis does not work for me, contrary to popular opinion that rice is the enemy.
What keeps you motivated?

The people around me. My students, my TwitterGetsFitter tribe, and my husband. They never let me give up, and they’re there for me when I’m having a bad time.

Real Girls Rock

Someone you look up to?

I admire Priyanka Chopra for always reinventing herself, Angelina Jolie for being such an incredible humanitarian, and Meryl Streep because well, Meryl Streep! I want to be Meryl Streep when I grow up, and Betty White when I grow old.

Describe your personal style in one line.

Comfortable, bordering on lazy. Despite having a background in fashion, I’m horrible at “dressing up”. Even my hair is strictly wash-and-go.

What would you tell a young girl who’s not too sure what career path she wants to take?

Don’t be afraid to try different things. Society will try to convince you that you need to pick one career and stick with that the rest of your life. I’m living proof that that’s not true. And trust me, I’m happier for having experienced so many different things!

What’s your idea of unwinding?

Lazing on the beach with a glass of Port Wine, some good music, and hopefully a dog.

What feeds your soul?

Being able to do new things.

How addicted are you to social media?

More than I’d like to admit. But in my defence, Instagram has a LOT of puppies!
One thing that “growing up” has taught you?

That we’re breaking our children by teaching them that there are boundaries to how they can/should live. Yes, an education is important. No, your 10th-grade mark sheet isn’t what decides the rest of your life. Yes, you need to be financially independent. No, that doesn’t mean selling your soul and killing yourself at a job you hate.
Complete the following sentence for me; (I insist because I’m vain and I know you’re too nice to refuse)

 www.realgirl.co is —————— a place you can relate to. It isn’t all shiny and perfect and filtered. And that’s what makes it beautiful!

Leave us with a message since it’s Women’s Day!

I know it’s cliché, but let’s try to celebrate women everyday. And men, too! We’re all such magnificent badasses, it feels a waste not to celebrate that every chance we get.

 

Can we get an Amen?! Keep slaying girl, you make a great case for Real Girls everywhere! More power to you. 🙂

 

Image Courtesy: The Cheesecake Project

Featured Image: Madhu Menon

 

(Apart from being an awesome human, Chitra is a belly dance instructor and the Founder of the very popular Twitter Gets Fitter movement. You can follow Chitra @BombayBellyrina on Twitter)

 

*This is the first part in a 3 part series of interviews to commemorate some awesome, badass, inspirational real girls on Women’s Day. 

You can read the second part here.

You can read the third part here.

 

 

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#RealGirlsRock: The One Where I Interviewed Shikha Talsania

If you don’t know who Shikha Talsania is yet, let me know if you’re paying any rent to live under that rock. She’s the powerhouse of talent you’ve probably caught in a play, or the girl you recognize from Wake Up Sid (she plays Ranbir Kapoor’s best friend in it). To me, she’s an old friend and an absolute joy to know in real life. She’s also the person who will cringe at cliché descriptions like the ones I’ve used above.

 

Real Girl Interviews Shikha Talsania

Courtesy: movies.buzzintown.com

 

To me, Shikha epitomizes the spirit of Real Girl and I had to get her on board for a quick and speedy interview.  This took no persuasion and that reminded me just why I thought about interviewing her in the first place. The girl has talent running through her veins and not a single air to show for it. She’s every bit the girl next door – that is until you see her perform and feel belittled by her sheer persona. Or catch her championing the cause of body positivity and keepin’ it real in Elle *frickin* Magazine! Or when she bags a mainstream Bollywood film alongside Sonam Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. You know, super casual, no biggie.

 

Real Girl Interviews Shikha Talsania

Courtesy: elle.in

Excerpts:

 

Real Girl: Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.

Shikha: I could, but, then I’d have to kill you.

Did I mention she was blessed in the humour department?!

 

Real Girl: One thing you would never endorse?

Shikha: Fairness creams

YAAAASSSS QUEEN!

 

Real Girl: What does being a Real Girl mean to you?

Shikha: Being true to yourself.

Told you she was the perfect fit, didn’t I?

Real Girl Interviews Shikha Talsania

Real Girl: One piece of advice you’d like to give anyone who wants to become an actor?

Shikha: Stay strong. Work hard. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Make friends.

You heard it here first, kids!
Real Girl: Toughest part of your profession?

Shikha: Shelf life and stability.

 

Real Girl: What keeps you motivated?

Shikha: My want to do more, see more, feel more, see more!

*Feeling inspired*

 

Real Girl: Someone you look up to?

Shikha: My family, friends, colleagues. So many people and traits to look up to, I can’t pick one.

 

Real Girl: Describe your personal style in one line?

Shikha: Comfortable

Same girl, same!

 

Real Girl: What would you tell a young girl who’s not too sure what career path she wants to take?

Shikha: Try it all, you’ll eventually figure out what you want to do and what you don’t.

That’s some solid advice if you ask us!

 

Real Girl: Tell us one major thing college taught you?

Shikha: Not to be afraid of anything new.

(Only asked her this question because I met her in college and was super curious about what she’d say!) *Insert Sly Face Here*

 

Real Girl: What’s the biggest compliment you’ve received so far?

Shikha: I don’t know, each one of them is huge for me! 🙂

Looks like someone’s ODing on the Humble Pills again!

Real Girl Interviews Shikha Talsania

Courtesy: elle.in

 

Real Girl:  What’s your idea of unwinding?

Shikha: Depends. I use my dog as a pillow and watch TV omeet my friends oclean and reorganize the house.

 

Real Girl:  Can you pick between theatre and cinema?

Shikha: No.

(Haha, that was…honest. I could have cut this out, but wanted you guys to know this side of her too!)

 

Real Girl:  What’s your take on feminism?

Shikha: People really need to educate themselves about feminism. Most views are half baked and misinformed.

SO.MUCH.TRUTH

 

Real Girl:  I believe in happenstance. Do you?

Shikha: Hahahahaha, I sure do! 

 

Real Girl:  One thing that “growing up” has taught you?

Shikha: Ugh, the clichéd – nothing is under your control and take nothing for granted and things will keep getting more expensive and your body will speak to you more as you get older and children will call you aunty when you park your car close the playground and shop keepers will call you bhabhi and at every family function you’ll be asked when are you getting married etc etc etc. You get the drift.

Its taught me to relax and not to give into existential angst 😀

Hahahahahha! Really couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

 

Real Girl:  Complete the following sentence for me;
www.realgirl.co is ….

Shikha: fantastically mindblastingly brilliant!

 

Guys; Shikha is smart, and funny, and talented, and wise and I think you should believe her when she says that even though I pressurized her and she really did kinda have to answer this way. #JustSaying

 

Real Girl Interviews Shikha Talsania

 

Hope you enjoyed this interview – I know I did! If you want to see more of Shikha you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter and watch out for her in Veere Di Wedding, releasing in 2017. You can also catch her in theatre productions around the country.

 

 

 

 

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