What Women Don’t Want

Mukta Lad has over 13 years of experience in writing, with a special focus on advertising, marketing and media. She has extensively covered the Indian advertising and marketing communications industry as a trade media journalist and is currently the Assistant Editor at Brand Equity.

In a country that expects marriage and kids to be non-negotiable aspects of a woman’s life, you’ve chosen to go solo and live life on your own terms. What are the questions you get asked in this regard (and that you wish people would stop asking!) and how do you respond to these? 

Me choosing to walk out of my marriage and live independently has been a lot of privilege coming together – the privilege of being financially independent, having a well-paying job, no children, the agency to live by myself and have the lifestyle I want, supportive parents who’ve raised me in a progressive environment, and a now ex-partner who has been nothing but amicable and understanding throughout this process; not once has he tried to be difficult or delay any legalities. 

Any one of these privileges, if missing, would have made my life look completely different. I feel it’s important to acknowledge this at the outset. It’s much easier to chart the course of your own life when you have so much going for you. 

In terms of the questions I get asked, they are mostly a combination of the following and some random advice. I’ve taken the liberty to put together a bit of an advisory: 

“OMG are you okay?”

Yes, relax. I’m getting a divorce, not a death certificate. I understand people’s concern, and that it can get awkward when someone says “Oh, XYZ and I aren’t together anymore” but there’s no need to be this dramatic. 

“Are you happy?”

I genuinely love this question. It’s the perfect way for someone to gauge where someone is at mentally with their separation/divorce/break up and decide further course of conversation. 

“How much alimony are you getting?”

I’m not getting any alimony, thank you. And even if I were, why would I discuss the financial nuances with anyone and everyone? 

“Are you marrying again?”

Perhaps start with ‘have you gotten your divorce yet?’ If I marry right now I’ll also have to serve a prison sentence for having two husbands. Kindly stop springing this question. A person who’s getting out of a marriage or has just gotten out of one might not want to answer questions about returning to the very same institution. If you must know their thoughts on marriage, maybe an ‘Are you open to ever marrying again?’ might be a more sensitive variation. 

“Sign up on dating apps already!”

Finding yourself suddenly single can be disorienting. While some people may want to find a partner immediately, others might want nothing more than casual sex. And some others might just want to be alone for a while as they process the end of a long-term relationship. There’s no saying who’s ready when. Friends and well-wishers should stop pressurising people to date/hook up with people on apps. We know apps exist and we’ll do it when we’re ready.

“Don’t commit quickly!”

To me, this is really bizarre advice. When I met my now partner on a dating app six months ago, we decided to be together exclusively in about 2-3 weeks after we met. Questions from friends ranged from “Why did you commit so soon?” and “Keep swiping nevertheless” to “You should have played the field first for a while!” As if partners are refrigerators you might get a better deal on if you wait for a couple of months. Or is there a Big Billion Sale for boyfriends no one told me about? 

We know people mean well, but it’s also not our burden to think of everyone’s intent behind the unsolicited advice. And no one wants to feel judged – like it’s ‘uncool’ to commit but casual sex is ‘cool’. It’s all cool to whoever’s deciding, just stay out of it! 

What are your thoughts on the depiction of women in advertising today? In what way would you like to see it (the way women are depicted) change? 

I could write a book on this. I have been covering advertising for a while now and there’s so much that needs to change when it comes to depicting women. Having said that, advertising also reflects society and its mindsets, so well, it’s natural it’s not going to become ideal overnight. 

My biggest bone of contention with women’s portrayal in ads is the absolute lack of understanding of the everyday woman. She’s either a sanskaari mummy toiling for the well-being of her husband and children since dawn (wearing a full-sleeved salwar kameez) or she’s straddling a Bullet and going off on long bike rides. There seems to be no relatable in-between for the everyday woman – the one who manages her home, feeds her family but also holds a full-time job and looks after the elderly in her house. As if her routine struggles and rebellions aren’t ‘cool’ enough for TV.

I did a story recently for Women’s Day, where one advertising veteran I quoted said, “The worshipping of a woman’s many roops is a burden she carries. You can make lots of cute ads about lazy fathers but never an ad about a forgetful mom.” I think this sums this up very well. That it’s always nice to see women doing virtuous things on screen as far as possible. If she’s doing ‘rebellious’ things – the other end of this stereotype, it’s to make a statement, of course. And don’t forget to show she has coloured hair, tattoos, multiple piercings, a bike, a drum kit, and an electric guitar to complete the look.

Leveling the Playing Field

Surabhi Date is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and the former captain of the India Women’s Rugby team. She has led the India Rugby team at the 16th Asian Games (Guangzhou), and at other prestigious tournaments like the Singapore Sevens and the Borneo Sevens. She has also represented Auckland Rugby for two seasons. She currently offers speed, strength and power training for elite and sub-elite tennis players preparing for national and international competitions.

As a professional sportsperson, what are some of the questions you’ve been asked that you think a male athlete would never be asked? How do you respond to these?

“How long will you play for? I was a mother already at 23! When do you plan to settle down?”

Good for you. I captained the India rugby team when I was already 19. I continued playing for the country till I was 23, played rugby for Auckland at 24 and now I am busy training athletes to win medals at the Olympics. Reckon my plans of when and where and how to settle down are clearly different than yours.

“You have such big thighs. Are you doing anything about them?” (They basically mean reducing!)

Yes, I squat a 100 kilos and sprint at 6.6 meters per second. I can probably save you when you’re in trouble. But I probably won’t. Joking. Maybe not! 😏 


“Playing sport especially when you’re on your period must be hard, no? Do you take days off on during such times?”

Have you ever heard of a world champion draw out of competition when she was on her period? What will you do when a female person from your circle wants to make a career in sport, or is already facing the same problem? Will you teach them to back off when things get hard (every month for her entire sports career), or will you help them to deal with it and get stronger?


“This is such a rough game for a woman. Why do you even play this game? Why didn’t you choose a gentler game?”

Because rugby chose me. I never went out of my way to get into the game. I was meant to be here. It just happened to me. FYI I did try other sports like football, athletics and tennis. I really wanted to make it big in tennis.  But somehow life just kept bringing me back to rugby, effortlessly.

Because I’m the most alive when I’m on the field. And I would do whatever it takes to feel alive again and again. I’d rather live a fearless life and enjoy it with all my heart than live it with the fear of being hurt and end up staying in a cocoon. Injuries are a part of every athlete’s life, every sport, every gender. Sport has and continues to shape my life in a better and more meaningful way, every day. All these scars I have were important for my growth and I am extremely proud of them. Also, when I turn 50 years old, I never want to say, “When I was young and able, I had a lot of opportunities to play, but I chose my job instead.” I don’t want to regret. Sporting career is short. I want to live it fully with no regret. Asking a sportsperson why they play is such a ridiculous question.

What has kept you going on tough days? What advice would you give aspiring female athletes?

My main pillars to keep me going on my tough days are discipline, self-belief, a good support system and developing endurance. 

Discipline
Nothing unique about what I say here. It is quite known that discipline is much more impactful than motivation. It is a constant choice between choosing what you want now, and what you want the most. You will get uncomfortable and you will get used to it over time and you will do what is supposed to be done every damn day, no matter what. That is discipline.

Unbelievable faith in myself and my dreams
Self-belief is perhaps the most important aspect in an athlete’s life. When the going gets tough, my belief gives me hope and this hope keeps me going.  However bad it gets, there has to be something that you could do that’ll push you at least an inch closer to your goal. That push will only come when you have hope, which brings us back to— how much do you actually believe in yourself?

A good support system
No matter how strong you are, your family, mentors, friends are your pillars so don’t feel shy to reach out for help. Winning medals and in general succeeding in life is a team game. Although you are at the coalface, you win because of your support system. So, making sure you have your emergency dials and pin cushions and advisors ready is paramount.

Confessions of a Mompreneur

Raising kids, much like running a company, is all about finding creative solutions. And who better to demonstrate this than our in-house boss mom, Aditi Mokashi? Read on to find out how she manages to bring her A game to all her commitments, be it at work or at home.

Tell us about your journey— what inspired you to start your own business? 

I have always admired people who have successfully built brands and been able to sustain them over time. I loved the idea of being able to build and create a brand by myself. This itch of starting something of my own along with my love for food, led to me starting a small eatery called Eatout At Wadala, along with my two brothers. We had had a lot of fun setting it up, it was the most I had ever enjoyed while being at work. 

After trying my hand at the food business, I returned to a job for almost 3 years. The business bug was still very much alive, but this time I wanted to be very sure about what it needs to be. I had to ask myself the right questions before I committed to anything. While evaluating various options, I realised that I had enjoyed the creative branding and marketing aspect of setting up my business more than anything. I also wanted to put my 8 years of advertising experience and creative skills to use. I had also just become a mother, and I wanted the freedom to work on my own terms. Thankfully, at the very same time, Mitali was having similar thoughts and wanted flexibility when it came to working. One day, over a cup of coffee, while discussing probable possibilities of various things Mitali and I could do as a business, somewhere Postcard Media was born. 

What are the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a mompreneur? 

I have a ‘let’s wing it’ sort of an attitude with both work and motherhood. I try to find creative solutions to whatever the two roles throw at me: Client asking for new services? Offer them a solution and figure out how to deliver! Child not eating veggies? Turn it into pasta somehow! 

The process teaches you most things, that’s the exciting part of being a mompreneurthe constant evolution. The challenging part is sticking to your commitments. Once you have promised you cannot back out, you have to deliver. (Fun experiment – Try promising a 4-year-old TV time and then denying it).

What has the experience of working from home during the pandemic been like? (How many times have your Zoom calls been video bombed by your kids?! :p) 

The real challenge of the pandemic has been to get her to sit and do her online classes! It’s heartbreaking to watch these kids being denied school and the outdoors which were such an integral part of their childhood. Apart from that, the pandemic has weirdly worked out for us. I have got to spend a lot of time with my daughter which was not the case when I had to go to work every day. Ruhvi is also a very understanding child, she knows Mumma has her work and is more than accommodating when it comes to giving me my space. There are several times she walks in to see what the whole Zoom fuss is all about, but I do not mind it at all. She sees how boring it is and leaves on her own. 

How do you like to spend your me-time? (If you get any of it at all!)   

Thanks to the solid support system I have at home, me-time is an actual possibility. I love cooking and experimenting with new cuisines in the kitchen. A good power nap really helps me focus on things. I love watching a good show or connecting with friends whenever I get the time. Managing a daily walk or some exercise and finding a perfect podcast to listen to is also something I enjoy. 

I have a ‘let’s wing it’ sort of an attitude with both work and motherhood. I try to find creative solutions to whatever the two roles throw at me.

What are some #MommyProblems that you can most relate to or experience the most? 

I really don’t know what all problems go under the #MommyProblems umbrella. We generally face normal parental problems at home: 

  • How to hide the ice cream or chocolate from the child?
  • What to do when you accidentally swear in front of your child and they catch onto it?
  • How to make a place for the unending kids’ stuff in the house?
  • How to invent a new code language so that the kids don’t understand what you are saying?
  • How to drink your coffee before it goes cold?

If you had to ask your daughter to describe your job, what do you think she’d say? (We’ll ask you about your son in a couple of years!) 

Quoting her verbatim: “I think you write letters to your friends on the laptop and sometimes take photos!” 

If you could give your kids just one piece of advice, what would it be?  

I would tell them to never be afraid of making mistakes and re-starting again. If I wouldn’t have learnt from my mistakes with Eatout and dared to trust myself again, Postcard Media wouldn’t have happened.

I wish the kids came with a how-to manual! I wish I knew that in the end, everything works out.

Which are your favourite kids’ and parenting brands on Social Media? 

There are so many amazing brands on Social Media these days. I try to find brands that help me with keeping the kids busy. Some of them whose products and advice I genuinely use and follow are: 

Amma Today – She is a Montessori teacher with some very organic and simple ideas to create a Montessori conducive environment at home. 

Draw with Rob – A YouTube channel to teach simple drawing to kids 

The Mom’s Co, Shumee toys, Making wildpaper, Tulika booksMasilo – these brands have some really nice products. 

What’s the one thing you wish you knew before becoming a parent? 

I wish the kids came with a how-to manual! I wish I knew that in the end, everything works out. I wish someone told me to not fret and enjoy their littleness. I was a puddle of worry for a long time after Ruhvi was born. So, this time around, with Ayaan, I am consciously making an effort to relax and enjoy the baby phase as well. 

Share a picture of a special/ unforgettable/ unique memory of your kid(s) and tell us the story behind it.

The most precious memory for me will always be when my daughter came to the hospital to meet her new baby brother. Ruhvi was asleep when Ayaan was born and woke up to the news in the morning. She was super excited to visit the hospital the next day. It was very emotional for me to see them meet for the first time and it will always remain as one of my best memories.

In the Spotlight- Gaurav Ogale

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week is Gaurav Ogale, a visual chronicler and diarist who lends his creative vision to cultural, academic and commercial projects with equal ease and expertise. Gaurav’s keen understanding of sensitive nuances is reflected through his acclaimed work. Read on to know his story.

Tell us about your journey – what drove you to become an artist? 

I was extremely observant as a child. So I always had a lot of stories to tell and not necessarily how they unfolded in reality but how I interpreted them. These stories often and most naturally came out visually. I don’t think my aspirations were to be an artist per se, but I would say it was always to be a visual storyteller of sorts.

As a visual artist, where do you draw inspiration from? 

Everyday instances, anecdotes and objects intrigue me. Nostalgia plays a big role in my work, I think my mind is like a repository of memories and they often keep coming into the narratives I create – then however irrelevant they might be.

What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on so far? 

The time I spent in Advertising Design was probably the most challenging, also because one had to keep creating stories, keep dreaming, and make people believe in what you are saying. There was something surreal about creating scenarios and worlds out of one’s sheer imagination. And the other project would definitely be my most recent Words and Visuals anthology since it involved collaborating with creators from distinct genres and aesthetics.

Tell us about your audiovisual project – how did the idea come about? What has the experience of collaborating with such illustrious artistes been like? 

The idea was parked somewhere in my mind for a long time. The idea of creating visual snippets, more like blink and miss films. I believe that in times when all of us are endlessly scrolling through different digital platforms, we are not able to grasp so much in one glimpse. This series was born out of that idea of telling a story through visuals and shorter narratives like spoken word, haikus or simply thoughts. While I was curating the collaborations, the approach was also to collaborate with creators who have various dimensions to their creative practice. You pick any one artist from the series and you will see that they have so much more to themselves and their craft and persona beyond what is known to the world. And that was interesting to me.

The experience was the most rewarding in my journey so far as a visual chronicler. Also because each collaborator was open to experimentation and most of them were trying out certain formats for the very first time. So it really was special.

Who’s the one creator or artist you would love to collaborate with and why? 

Arundhati Roy. I don’t know what exactly we would create, or which of her work I would like to interpret visually but there’s something that tells me that we have to create something someday. Also, her aesthetics show in her writing across genres – novels, essays, and films.

How do you like to spend your free time? 

I like to wander around. Maybe cook or daydream.

What’s the story behind your Instagram handle, patranimacchi?

It’s more the other way round now, a lot of people don’t know my real name. Patranimacchi because I like how reticent the spices in a patra-ni-macchi are. It’s a quintessential Parsi preparation as you know, it’s coy, it’s layered and when you eat it, it slowly reveals its true essence.

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media and why? 

On Instagram, I like handles that give you the space to get lost and wander and explore their minds. They could be chefs, artists, potters, filmmakers, storytellers or even just people who have a lot to say about everyday things. 

What’s the first thing you want to do once this pandemic is over?

I want to swim, I want to cycle all around without wearing a mask. And I want to get lost in the most crowded streets of my Bombay.

Where can people get in touch with you or see your work? 

Instagram: @patranimacchi