In the Spotlight – Vidhi Tamboli

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

This World Mental Health Day, we have Vidhi Tamboli in the spotlight. She’s a counselor and the founder of The Mood Space, an online counselling platform offering mental health therapy to South Asians across the world.

Tell us about your journey – what inspired you to start The Mood Space

The journey started when I and my colleague, Rhea, moved to Virginia to do our undergraduate studies together. Moving to a new country, away from home, was a challenging experience. In those instances, we felt that there was a lack of support in terms of being able to talk about our emotions. Having grown up in a typical Indian family, where there was a stigma around mental health,  we weren’t taught how to express our feelings. I later went on to pursue my Masters in Counseling Psychology from Columbia university. During my time in the US, I witnessed how people openly talk about their mental health. We wanted to bring mental health awareness in India, to demystify the stigma around therapy. This gave birth to The Mood Space in 2019. 

How does your venture help meet mental health needs of South Asians globally? 

We’re tackling the lack of awareness and building awareness through relatable content that everyone can understand. We use our platform to create communities, to create a familiar space where people can come and feel comfortable. We share recovery stories to not only motivate the ones telling them but also for others to see and understand that they are not alone. Through The Mood Space, we’re creating a larger impact for South Asians across the world, making therapy more accessible to them while matching them to a therapist who understands their specific needs. 

What are some of the challenges you faced in your career as a mental health professional and how did you overcome them? 

Starting a company in a space that’s highly stigmatised comes with a fair amount of challenges. Be it accessing people, to talk to them about something that they may not feel comfortable about or making them aware about the resources available, was a challenging experience. However, we tackled every challenge in our journey by taking one step at a time and creating solutions that make therapy more accessible to everyone. 

What are some of the misconceptions around mental health that should end? 

I think mental health, as a term, has been really misunderstood. Using terms like ‘ you’re crazy or ‘this is insane to someone taking therapy are traditional stereotypes of mental health illness that have been used widely around the country. Second is, thinking mental health illnesses are rare, which is not true. Every household, especially after the pandemic, is experiencing some level of stress, anxiety or relationship concerns. Another misconception is thinking that people with mental health illness can’t function well in a community. According to me, tackling this lack of understanding and creating awareness that mental health therapy is beneficial to everyone, is important, and that’s what we’re doing through The Mood Space

How does Social Media help you in building awareness about mental health? 

It’s a great platform to build awareness about mental health. There are some amazing pages where therapists talk about different areas of life. There are pages like The Mood Space where we post information and stories about mental health warriors who are battling with daily concerns but at the same time finding hope in the smallest of things that they do. Even when the pandemic hit and people were finding it difficult to express themselves, social media was the place that helped us to connect to them, to help them realise that they are not alone. 

What are some tips people should follow to mindfully consume Social Media? 

Social Media comes with a lot of positive aspects as well as with some negativity. One suggestion that I would like to give is, pick and choose who you’re following. For example, if you follow news or media channels that constantly throw information at you or influencers who make you feel insecure about how you look or feel,  you can become anxious. Long hours of scrolling, comparing yourself to others on social media creates a lot of pressure. Having said that, there are also many pages on social media that help you gain information and alleviate your stress. So, being able to draw that line and understanding how you’re consuming social media is important. 

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

There are many accounts that are doing good work, However, I think people should make a personal choice about the kind of content that works best for them. For example, I follow  Satvic Movement that can be useful for people to understand health better and connect to mother nature. Another account is Good Vibes that many love to follow. 

Since many people are working from home now, what advice would you give them to stay mentally well and healthy? 

  • Focus on nutrition 
  • Focus on your hydration levels
  • Find your focus in the present. When you find yourself overthinking about the past or your future, bring yourself in the moment. 
  • Develop self-care practices depending on what you like, be it reading, working out, playing a musical instrument, etc. 

Where can people get in touch with you?

Website: www.themoodspace.com 

Instagram: The Mood Space 

Facebook: The Mood Space

In the Spotlight – Sahil Makhija

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 Sahil Makhija, a musician and the frontman of Demonic Resurrection, a Mumbai-based Blackened Death Metal collective. Read more to know his journey.

Tell us about your journey – when did you first get introduced to metal music?

I got introduced to heavy metal during school. I think my first brush with the genre was in the 6th grade. A friend made me listen to Iron Maiden’s self-titled album on his walkman. I distinctly remember being blown away by the song Running Free and my brain could not wrap itself around the song ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ but I totally enjoyed it. However, that was a one off incident and I deviated to more commercial music before being drawn back into the genre around the 9th grade. I was given a bunch of Metallica and Iron Maiden CD’s and cassettes to listen to and I remember I thought it was ‘too heavy’ at the time but something about it stuck with me and I dived deeper and deeper into the music. Pretty soon I was listening to bands that my school friends, who introduced me to metal, found too heavy. 

What’s the story behind your stage name Demonstealer?

As I explored deeper and deeper within the world of heavy metal, I fell in love with black metal. Bands like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth, Old Man’s Child, Behemoth, Emperor and so on and so forth. In this genre, everyone seemed to have a stage name, and that concept really resonated with me. I loved the idea of a different persona on stage and having that kind of larger than life image. While most of the black metal musicians got their names from norse mythology or books like Lord Of The Rings, my 16-year-old brain wasn’t as well read. So after much thought and deliberation and realizing my love for demons and all things fantasy, I thought of Demonstealer and Demonslayer. The latter was too cheesy, so I went with Demonstealer

A guitarist, a vocalist and a drummer – you don many hats. Which aspect of your musicianship do you think describes you the best?

 I think I would best describe myself as a songwriter. Lyrics and music, I put that together to express myself through music. I’ve always looked at instruments as a means to an end. The end being the song. I never wanted to be the best guitarist or drummer or singer. I wanted to write music that resonated with people, that people wanted to listen to, that I wanted to listen to. For me, it was always the bigger picture. I started out as a vocalist so that would be my primary instrument so to speak, but I think now I enjoy playing the drums the most.

Tell us a little about your most memorable performance to date. 

I think just from an experience point of view it would be Inferno Festival in 2010, which was Demonic Resurrection’s first international performance. After 10 years of bursting onto the scene, we finally made it not just to the international stage but to the festival we used to dream about. It was really a dream come true moment. Of course, we have plenty of shows which are memorable for not so nice reasons like getting stuff thrown at us or being heckled and so on and so forth. But Inferno 2010 was a dream come true. 

Headbanger’s Kitchen has become quite popular over the years. How did this thought of bringing food and music strike you? 

The show is actually ‘accidentally popular’. I started it because I just started to get inspired by watching cooking videos on Youtube, and I was already posting and kind of writing out recipes on Facebook for fun. So when DR shot our first music video, I asked the director Srinivas if he would help me film my recipes. He said he would, but he felt just a recipe was boring and we should do something more exciting and that’s how we came up with the original concept of the show which was me cooking a dish inspired by a band who I would interview on the show and then they would taste the food I made. I did this for almost 4 years but the channel didn’t see any success and I felt it was best to devote my energy to making more music. However, I still enjoyed cooking so I started shooting videos on my own in my kitchen as and when I felt inspired. In December 2015, I got started on the Keto diet and seeing that I was making pizza out of cauliflower, my mind was blown so I filmed those recipes and that’s where the channel found success. I was one of the first channels doing Keto recipes, and it was just being in the right place at the right time. Next thing you know the channel has blown up from 5k subs to 10k in a few months and within a year I was nearly 100k. It was never planned or ever dreamt of even, it just happened. 

If you had to bring one artiste to the Headbanger’s Kitchen, who would it be and why? 

I’ve had the pleasure to interview some real legends on the older format of the show, and meet some of my heroes as well. I would love to have Nergal and the rest of Behemoth on the show. I’d love to make them like a whole roast pig or a leg of lamb or something quite meaty. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring musician, especially a metalhead? 

Keep your day job and play music on the side as a hobby. 

How do you like to spend your free time? 

I spend time with my wife watching shows or movies. Sometimes I take a nap but honestly, I don’t have much of a life outside of food and music. Like if I’m not working on either of those, I don’t know what to do with myself. 

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

Some of the music accounts I like following are Metal Drummers United, Metal Drummer Nerdz and other extreme metal drumming accounts. I also follow all my favourite bands and musicians. When it comes to food, once again, I follow many accounts that I barely remember the name of, but they post lots of food porn. It’s just eye candy. 

Where can people get in touch with you?

People can find me and my various projects on almost every single social media platform. Depending on what you use, search for Headbanger’s Kitchen, Demonic Resurrection or Demonstealer. These are the 3 profiles I handle. 

In the Spotlight – Pooja Sharma

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 Pooja Sharma, a celebrated dancer and choreographer. She’s an accomplished Bollywood and belly dancer, who talks about her early training, her inspiration and exploring the world through dance. Read on to know her story.

Tell us about your journey; how did you get introduced to dance? 

Dance comes very naturally to me. I grew up in a family which encouraged me to dance. Television was my only source to watch and learn dancing. When I was in 6th grade I got my first opportunity to dance on stage. That’s when I realised my passion for dance, which has only kept growing ever since. Over the years, I performed every chance I got. During my college life, I decided to start training professionally and joined a few classes. It was a life-changing decision for me because I got the opportunity to understand the technicalities of Dance. After a few years of training in different styles, I got introduced to belly dancing and fell in love with it instantly. I was smitten by the ease at which a Belly Dancer moves and wanted to dive right into learning it.

I started taking lessons on belly dancing in the year 2010 and the journey still continues with the same amount of passion. Bollywood and contemporary also remain very close to my heart because I believe dance understands no boundaries and being versatile is my biggest strength. It not only allows me to move with a sense of freedom but also opens up my mind to infinite possibilities in the world of creativity. 

Share the story of your most memorable performance. 

I miss stage performances. Although social media has become our platform today, performing on stage has always been a special experience. Every performance I’ve given on the stage has been a memorable one for me. 

As a dancer and choreographer, what excites you the most about the digital medium? 

Being inspired constantly, watching people’s art on digital platforms, looking at creators and their lifestyle, new ideas and concepts, all this excites me a lot. Even an amateur dancer can teach you new things. I get my students and clients from social media, and they keep me inspired in different ways.  

Who is that one artist you can’t wait to work with? 

I think there are so many if you ask me. There were different phases in life where different people inspired me. So, it’s difficult to pick a person. From my friends to even a stranger, anyone can be an inspiration for me. My inspiration keeps changing and is different for different reasons. So, it’s difficult to pick a person. 

If you had to pick just one dance form to do all your life, which one would it be? 

I just want to dance. I want the freedom that doesn’t ask me to pick just one dance form. I like to lead a life without restricting myself to one dance form. I have always been creating fusions with my choreography so that I do not have to stick to any one form and restrict my expression.   

What kind of brands do you like to collaborate with, as a Social Media influencer? What are some of your considerations when a brand approaches you? 

I like brands, big or small, that are respectful with their approach. If I love the cause behind the brand, I’ll collaborate out of my love for dance. Transparency and kindness are also important factors for me to be able to say yes for a brand collaboration. 

Name the top 3 things on your bucket list.
I do not have many, but there’s this one thing I’ve always wanted to do.

Travel, dance and teach. I’ve been trying to do it for years now. Keep moving to different places, keep dancing and find myself in that journey. Hopefully, I’ll embark on this journey soon.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? 

Nothing. Let it happen the way it has and have no regrets. I would say, I’m grateful for how I have evolved to become what I am today.

Where can people get in touch with you? 

Instagram

YouTube 

Gmail

I teach Belly Dance, Bollywood and Creative movement for kids. Available for one on one sessions as well, currently online via Zoom (Due to the pandemic)

In the Spotlight – Suchi Vora

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 we have Suchi Vora, an architect, interior designer and the force behind SVAC- a young design studio with a unique aesthetic. Suchi shares with us her perspective on blending creativity and pragmatism through her design practice to build spaces responsibility. Read on to know her story.

Tell us about your journey – what inspired you to become an architect? 

Interestingly, I’ve always known I wanted to be an architect. I grew up thinking I wanted to work in a profession with a positive impact. Having a creative push growing up, I also needed a strong practical aspect. At that time, I thought architecture was the most interesting and sensible combination. 

How would you describe your venture, SVAC? 

We are a young design workshop. We are young, we are experimental, we are a design practice that operates at the intersection of architecture, landscape, urbanism and art. We think of design as a research vehicle to pose and respond to complex, urgent questions in the built environment, engaging in the wider context and also the climate of a project– social, ecological, or political. What you build needs to be relevant for a long time, and I cannot escape responsibility for what I design.

What do you love the most about your job? 

I love that each project is completely different. Every client is unique and with personalities and ideas that define a project in the most unique way. Design is all about people. I love that I can see the world with a new set of eyes with each client and to be able to tell their story with my perspective of design.  

What is the biggest challenge of running your own architectural firm and how do you try to overcome it? 

I was quite worried about being able to have the right design culture for my firm, but I think I have been able to build a space for our workshop where the culture we are looking for automatically thrives.

What’s your dream project? (It could be one you’ve already worked on, or something that you would love to get the opportunity to design)

Hopefully, a new solution in materiality or planning that can be applicable to more than just one project; something that has a positive. climatic impact.

Which city, would you say, has the best architecture in the world? 

I am certain that there are several. Picking one would be unfair since this is like picking out a city for the best food in the world. Having said that, Barcelona is close to my heart. 

In the last few years, what are some of the most exciting trends or changes that you’ve experienced in your industry? 

I think, live architecture. Live facade essentially is one of the coolest trends that is here to stay.

How do you like to spend your free time? 

I try to spend a lot of time learning new adventure sports every chance we get to be out of town. I’m learning paragliding at the moment, and let’s not forget sleeping. I love sleeping.

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

Throw a party. I think I will host a gig at our studio, I’ve been wanting to do it for a while.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Check us out on Instagram or Facebook, or just drop by our office for chai. We are always looking for interesting conversations on our katta. [email protected] 

In the Spotlight – Ashwin Bapat

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 we have Ashwin Bapat, a lover of football, movies and all things music! A professional santoor player, Ashwin lets us in on his musical journey, as he talks about his origin as a musician, his aspirations and his experience of teaching the craft.

Tell us about your journey – how did you get into music? 

My mom’s side of the family is into classical music so I was naturally drawn to it right from the time I was born. I formally started learning the tabla at the age of 5 and I learnt it for 13 years. When I was 12 years old I heard the Santoor for the first time and instantly fell in love with the sound of the instrument, but I started learning it at the age of 18.

Where do you draw creative inspiration from? 

My inspiration comes from basic things in nature or whatever emotions you experience in life. I’m not a very emotionally expressive person so my music is generally an outlet for whatever I’m feeling. It also originates from spirituality so most of my inspiration comes from turning inward rather than from any external things. 

Describe the experience of performing for All India Radio as a child artiste.

 I think I must’ve been around 8 or 9 years old when I auditioned for the All India Radio. At that age, everything was just fun and games so I never took it that seriously. Luckily I got selected after which I performed a few times. The whole world of studios and recordings was very new for me. Till then I had only performed live on stage so I remember being fascinated by the whole process. Funnily enough, I never actually heard any of my recitals when they were aired because I was either at school or something. 

Share the story behind your most memorable performance. What made it special?

I would say I have 2 equally memorable performances, one was at the age of 12 or so when I performed in front of tabla maestros like Pt. Suresh Talwalkar Ji, Pt. Vijay Ghate, Satyajit Talwalkar and many more. The other one would be when I performed at the Suburban Music Festival in Mumbai. This one was extremely memorable because it’s a very illustrious festival for around 75 years and the greatest legends of Indian classical music have performed on that stage. So just to be associated with that was an extremely proud and memorable moment.

Who’s the one artist you’d love to collaborate with and why?

If I ever get a chance, it would be the biggest honour to perform with Ustad Zakir Hussain. It’s every musician’s dream to one day get a chance to share the stage with him, so I guess it would be my greatest wish to come true if I get that opportunity.

What do you think the future of Indian classical music looks like? 

The future of Indian classical music is very bright. As any music or art form does, even Indian classical music is evolving as it always has across centuries. But currently, more and more young people are getting drawn to it. They’re learning it or at least listening to it and respecting it. And there’s a huge number of extremely talented young artists in vocal and instrumental music as well as dance. So I think Indian classical music has a very bright future and is in very good hands. 

What has been the biggest challenge of having to teach music online during the pandemic? 

It’s been extremely difficult. Most of my online students are between the age of 4 – 12. In a face to face class, I can physically explain the hand positions and movements and if required even adjust their hand positions by actually holding their hand. So firstly, it’s very hard to hold their attention online for an entire hour and also to explain various hand positions through a screen. Also many times with the lag and other network issues, it’s very hard to get your message across. It’s very hard because if their hands get used to some wrong technique it’s much harder to unlearn and change that in the future. So it’s been tough but we’ve all learnt to get around that. 

How do you like to spend your free time?

I’m a massive football fan, so I love to watch and study various aspects of the game and almost every other sport as well. I read quite a bit. I listen to a lot of various types of music, which is extremely important for the growth of a musician. And I love watching movies and all the various new shows available today. I never have a problem with spending time actually, in fact on most days I think days should be longer.

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

Get on stage! Can’t wait to feel the energy and adrenaline rush of being in front of a crowd. It’s a feeling I relish. No doubt there are nerves involved but it’s the kind I love. So definitely waiting for concerts to start as soon as possible.

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

Instagram and Facebook. Most people reach me for concerts as well on these two platforms.

In the Spotlight – Saksham Kulkarni

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 Saksham Kulkarni, a young Marathi actor best recognised for his roles in Pak Pak Pakaak and De Dhakka, among others. Read on to know his story.

Tell us about your journey— what inspired you to get into acting? 

My family has always been an art lover. So while growing up, I was exposed to many good films, listened to eminent singers, and watched good plays. And I was totally fascinated. Since childhood, my family always encouraged me to take part in various extracurricular activities such as elocution competitions, fancy dress competitions, and I used to love it on stage. There was no stage fright. So we figured if I feel confident on stage, how about giving auditions for the camera. I gave a couple of auditions and got my first acting part when I was in 4th grade. My family always supported and encouraged me to improve my acting techniques. I attended many theatre and film workshops which helped me a lot. 

 Describe the experience of working on your debut film, Pak Pak Pakaak. 

It was truly amazing. I was 12 years old back then. More than 300 kids had auditioned for the part. The makers liked my audition so much that I was finalised instantly. The director, Gautam Joglekar, encouraged me to give my best in every scene. He gave me good insights while we were developing the character of Chikhloo which helped me a lot. Working with Nana Patekar taught me a lot of things. Many scenes were improvised on the set. It helped me to improve my improvisation skill. Also, since we were shooting on film, I got to know the production side as well. We used to rehearse a shot many times until we thought it was ready to be captured. I still remember Nana kaka and Gautam dada telling me, ‘Keep on rehearsing until you think it is good enough.’ Everyone on set truly believed that we were making something unique and which will be cherished many years down the line. 

Share your most memorable ‘Behind the scenes’ story from a film/series you were a part of. 

The scene in Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho where Bharat Jadhav accidentally hits me with a bat; was pretty late in the night when we started shooting that scene. Everyone was really tired and sleepy but we knew that this scene was the most important part of the film. Mahesh Manjrekar called Bharat kaka and me and told us that this is the room where we will be filming the scene. He told us that he wanted the scene in one shot to maintain the intensity. He told us to improvise the whole scene, and the camera was to be placed according to our improvisation. It was an amazing experience for me to improvise with Bharat kaka and Mahesh kaka. I feel blessed that I could work with such experienced directors and actors at a very young age. It has always kept me motivated to improve my craft. 

If you had to choose between films or theatre, which one would it be and why?

This is a tough one. But I would say theatre. I love the adrenaline rush when the 3rd bell rings. The reaction of the audience is instant. You get so much energy. Overall the process of setting a play has always fascinated me. You can explore so many things. I did a play Mirad- A Boy From Bosnia, in which I had to play 11 characters. We started rehearsing 2-3 months before we performed for an audience. We worked on every character minutely. How a character would walk, talk, sit, etc. And when I finally performed on stage the feeling of satisfaction was just great. 

Who’s the one director you want to work with and why? 

There are so many I look up to, who really inspire me. To pick one of them, I would say Christopher Nolan. I am really in awe of his storytelling. All of his films are unique in their own way. He is so passionate about his work that I remember in an interview, he had mentioned that many producers had rejected his debut film Following, so he paid from his salary and made the film anyway. It took him a year to complete it. But he never gave up. 

Which actor (male or female) would you consider as your ultimate inspiration?

Daniel Day-Lewis. He is a legend. The detail he brings to each character he plays is amazing. He manages to reach the depth of the character flawlessly. In the film Gangs of New York, it was his idea to have an eagle in the eye. He is truly an ultimate inspiration. 

If your life were to be made into a web series/biopic, what would it be called?

I feel I have to work a lot, learn a lot, explore a lot and achieve a lot. After that people can decide whether my life could be an inspiration for others to be made into a biopic. But for fun, let’s say ‘Saksham- The Capable.’

What are the top three things on your bucket list? 

  • Direct a film
  • Do a film in any language other than Hindi and Marathi
  • Learn to dance properly😂😂

What’s that one piece of advice you would like to give to people who are looking to get into acting professionally? 

Glamour is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of hard work needs to be put in. It’s not as easy as it looks. 

Where can people get in touch with you?

I am not that social a person, but you can get in touch with me on Instagram.

In the Spotlight – Rajasi Kulkarni Diwakar

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 Rajasi Kulkarni Diwakar, the founder of Bleed Red Go Green and a core team member of Green the red, talking about her journey as a menstrual health educator. Read on to know her story.

Tell us about your journey. What inspired you to start your venture Bleed Red Go Green?

BRGG is a collective of like-minded people who want to work in remote areas of India as well as urban areas. Both areas need education when it comes to menstrual and reproductive health. I have been a Menstrual and Reproductive Health educator for 7+ years. I am already a core group member of PAN India collective Green the Red. My journey into this started when I moved to Chhattisgarh for a fellowship in 2013. I was designated to work with the residential school of Dantewada, and that changed me a lot in good ways. My journey towards minimalism and menstrual health education began there. Since no one picks our garbage in rural areas, it is either in our backyard or buried or burnt. This moved me. And the lack of awareness about my own body led me to become what I am today.

How does your initiative help create menstrual health awareness in rural areas? 

We turned 2 in April and we are growing. So far we got to work with some volunteers, NGOs, adolescents from tribal areas, especially of Chhattisgarh and some parts of Odisha. We got to interact with teachers and understand their perspective. Before the pandemic, we used to visit schools, villages, and slums for awareness sessions and since the pandemic, we started doing this online and people all around India started joining our webinars. We have also done sessions to empower people to make their own reusable cloth pads. Recently, we helped set up a cloth pad making unit in the slums of Mumbai.

What are some environment-friendly menstrual hygiene habits that people should practise?

We have been using cloth as a menstrual hygiene product for decades. It’s the most sustainable option since it’s available at home, you don’t have to go to the market or purchase anything.  It’s made of cotton, it will decompose in soil when buried/composted. However, not everyone is comfortable with that since cloth is being marketed as dirty and discomforting by multinational companies to sell their disposable products. Today, modern options like cloth pads, menstrual cups, period panties, etc. are available. They are not only eco-friendly but comfortable and convenient, too. They are reusable for many years, thus saving money, the environment and your body from rashes and harmful chemicals.

What are some of the misconceptions about menstrual health that should end?

There are plenty, but I will talk about the basic ones – the foundation. Firstly, we should stop telling children to hide their naked bodies soon after the bath. Body-shaming starts there. We keep everything under wraps and don’t let logical, scientific information about our own bodies flow. We shun the questions or discussions about our bodies as private and something ridiculous. This needs to stop from a young age. This is the reason why menstruators don’t know that they have 3 different openings down there and they don’t pee and menstruate from the same place. There are really illogical, unscientific beliefs and unrealistic expectations about the structure and composition of the body which leads to unnecessary fears about using internal menstrual products and even sexual intercourse.

What are the challenges you face running this collective, and how do you try and overcome them?

Right now, most of the team is based in different parts of Chhattisgarh and some of us are in other places. So that is one challenge. Meeting digitally has its own pros and cons. We all have different energy levels and skill sets, yet everyone brings diversity and richness to it.

The practice of menstrual segregation is still prevalent across many Indian households, with menstruators being made to follow customs that may be completely unscientific. What are some of the strangest social taboos you’ve come across in this regard, and how do you counter them?

We have heard that women can’t bathe, touch water or plants, because they are ‘impure’. Segregation is something that some people actually look forward to while some people don’t like to be held. Menstrual segregation is a ‘leave policy’ that everyone is raving about currently, but it’s dipped in misogyny, patriarchy and unscientific beliefs and lack of choice.

In our approach, we do not criticise these practices, instead, we enable participants to think critically about the taboos. Scientific information is the biggest tool to empower people with correct information about their own bodies and how they work. It slowly but certainly changes their perspectives and provides them with the means to decide what is best for them. We consistently speak about this and include other family members; not just menstruators to change the scenario.

You are a strong proponent of menstrual cups. In your experience, what are the most common concerns women face in switching to menstrual cups (or most common reasons for women wanting to, but being hesitant to switch to menstrual cups)? How do you address these?

I promote all reusable options and give people a choice to decide what works best for them. Women have fears about using menstrual cups. They think it may get lost or stuck inside. Some of them have hygiene concerns. We suggest simple, correct techniques to use these products solve also answer the concerns they have. It has a learning curve.

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

Ecofemme, Thebloodyfeminist, EmbodyworkLA, Frangipanji and Rangeen Khidki.

How has Social Media helped you in building your brand and connecting with people?

Social Media has helped me meet many like-minded people. We have so many supporters.  It also helped people know what we do and approach us for awareness sessions and small projects. It has also led to many great collaborations and a chance to speak for a second time at a TEDx event (feeling shy to share this).

Where can people get in touch with you?

[email protected] is an email address to contact BRGG. We also have our Instagram handle and Facebook page.

In the Spotlight – Yashvi Dhal

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 Yashvi Dhal, the founder of Mad Batter, spilling the beans on her tryst with baking and the triumphs and travails of running a business. Read on to know her story.

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

I’ve baked my entire life and it wasn’t something I was always spectacular at, but I loved it. I love the idea that the same staple ingredients can turn into drastically different flavours and textures.  Turning it into the business that it is today happened by accident. I love to bake what I love to eat. And I love Cheesecake! I found myself drawing a blank one night when I was looking to get a slice of a classic New York Style cheesecake, so I took it upon myself to make my age-old family recipe. The leftovers were then sent across to friends and family. That’s how Mad Batter started.

How has Social Media helped you in building your brand and connecting with your audience?

The way I look at it is, the ability to create content, communicate and engage with your audience is the most personal through social media. I have built Mad Batter and connected with its core audience almost entirely through Instagram and Facebook. These platforms have essentially allowed me to reach the right people, and cater to them with the right content and communication. It has allowed me to build a long-term customer base and some great friends as well.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced during the pandemic? How have you tried to deal with it?

Challenges came at us in 2 forms: logistical and a change in customer preferences.

  • Logistical challenges in times like this were bound to happen, but just thinking about the number of cakes that I almost thought won’t be delivered in one piece makes me shudder. However, third party services are stepping up their game and with a few minor changes in my packaging and advancements with delivery logistics, we’ve been able to handle most of these concerns.
  • The bigger shift for me was the change in customer preferences. Parties were now smaller, birthdays were not as grand and people wanted to order everything on the menu, but smaller. For a brand that only does big cheesecakes and abstract cakes, this was a challenge. After months of trial, we officially launched petite cheesecakes. These addressed all the preferential changes that our customers were looking for. Currently, we send out more petite cheesecakes than any other cake.

If there’s one bake that best describes your journey, what would it be and why?

It would have to be a Burnt Basque Cheesecake. I had to put in the hours and things didn’t always look good, but it’s just like the inside of a burnt basque right now– smooth.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Makeup! I am a makeup artist and I feel like one passion drives the other. A lot of my planning with my abstract cakes takes learnings from my time as a makeup artist – colour theory, textures, everything!

If you could binge on one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A classic NY Style Cheesecake or a Traditional Tiramisu!

If the Mad Batter were to host a ‘Mad Tea Party’ (once this pandemic is in the past, of course!) what would be on the menu and who would be invited?

We’ll have a large spread of our Petites (all 14 flavours, so there’s something for everyone) and definitely some Banana Bread and Cinnamon Streusel! I’d like to have my first ‘Mad Tea Party’ with my loyal customers. For someone to trust me for their special occasions has always been an honour to me. For the second party, I’d call my friends and family from across the globe so they can finally taste what they’ve had to hear about for years.

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

I like to find accounts that truly inspire me to work on my technique and think differently. I also love following accounts that teach me a thing or two about business and how to do it right.

Since people are in lockdown now, could you share one easy-to-bake recipe for everyone to try at home?

The easiest recipe for a quick cheesecake – no crust, intentionally burnt.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Instagram – to see what’s on the menu, enquire and also find out what we’re up to in the kitchen daily.

Whatsapp to place orders or book a consultation for our abstract cakes.

In the Spotlight- Virali Parekh

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 we have Virali Parekh, an ace choreographer, dance educator and performing artist. She speaks about the nuances of the art, her experience of working with leading choreographers and reinventing ways to connect with the audience during these challenging times. Read to know her story.

Tell us about your journey; how did you get introduced to dance? 

I think I was born into dancing. It was as natural as taking the first steps as a baby for me, so I can’t truly say how I got introduced to it. However, professional dance training came to me very late at the age of 20. As a child, I trained in Bharatnatyam, but after 10th grade, I was discouraged from dancing entirely. Studies took over and only after graduation did, I find my way into professional training at The Danceworx Performing Arts Company, and later I moved to Broadway Dance Center, New York, for further training. I got back in 2016, and since then I have been a part of the choreography teams for several reality shows, music videos, Bollywood songs, etc. along with setting up an online/offline training module with my team.

How would you describe your venture, Dance With Vira

In 2020, our industry took a massive hit and while we locked ourselves up, I knew something had to be done to lift each other’s spirits. I danced in my little room and wondered if I could somehow connect to people to share this energy with. Online platforms did exactly that for us. “Dance with Vira” is an online program that was aimed to motivate people to keep dancing and training at home. When you visit our website, you’d notice that it says, “Move to nurture yourself.” This was a very specific goal-driven program aimed to help people get themselves up during these tough times, using dance/movement as a medium. Initially, it was very tough for me to help or teach through a screen and not be there to correct the body form or structure of the student, but in time, we adapted, and it has been a blessing for me in every way after that. My team and I have bonded with people across cities and countries and managed to share our smiles and anxiety through screens. It has been a beautiful experience so far. I aim to continue this program in the coming months, making it bigger and better in every way possible. For more information, please visit www.dancewithvira.com 

What inspires you as an artiste? 

Inspiration for me ranges from day to day activities like cooking, cleaning, etc. to travelling and sitting on a beach alone listening to the ocean waves. It can come from a life experience, a pet, a stranger, someone’s artwork, a friend’s success story, but majorly inspiration to move specifically comes from music for me. 

Share a story behind your most memorable performance. 

It’s definitely going to be the Global citizen festival, 2015, held at Central Park, New York City. Backstage was not like any regular show backstage. We were in celebrity tents as we watched people like Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Obama, Usher, Malala, etc. in action on stage and prepping backstage too. It was once in a lifetime kind of a stage for me to perform on as I witnessed more than 20,000 people in front of me and I’ll always cherish that moment of rush and excitement. It was overwhelming to dance to an Indian song and watch the crowd go mad about it there. I’ll truly never forget it and I hope I get to travel and dance more and more.

If you could pursue only one dance form for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why? 

Jazz funk for life! It requires the discipline of Jazz training but also has this space to incorporate elements of street styles which makes it super fun, unique and relatable to me.

Who’s the one artiste you can’t wait to collaborate with? 

Ummm…. Beyonce! (always aim high :p)

As a choreographer, what’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

Last year, I got an opportunity to be a part of the choreography teams of one of the leading choreographers of the Bollywood Industry, Vaibhavi Merchant. So far, that has been the most exciting project for me to learn from and work on. It’s a Holi song for an upcoming movie with Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chillar. The sheer grandeur of the set, the amount of hard work of every member there, 3 continuous shoot days in extreme heat with colours flying all over and more than 600 people in the song, it was truly the most exciting and challenging shoot for me so far. Most of my excitement, of course, comes from the fact that I got to observe how she thinks and works on movement. It opened my mind up back then.

Name the top 3 things on your bucket list. 

Travel to the Maldives before it sinks, lol

Play lead in a HUGE commercial music video at least once in my life

To have my own space for artists to meet, jam and create all kinds of art, music, dance, drama, etc

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

I am not a hardcore follower of one particular account, but for dance, I follow Erica Klein, Jojo Gomez and Rukmini Vijayakumar. They have some brilliant work showcased out there and in some ways, it becomes a learning tool for me.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Instagram handle: @virali_parekh

Or 

www.dancewithvira.com 

[email protected]

In the Spotlight- Mansi Shah

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 we have Mansi Shah, a nature lover by heart who chose to make a difference. With her venture GiftGreen, Mansi turned her passion into a career, creating eco-friendly, low waste products to encourage a greener way of living. Read to know her story.

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

I am a person who loves being outdoors. Having spent a lot of time in a boarding school, I have stayed amidst nature for some years. While finishing my master’s and then working for a short period of time, I started realising that I can’t just love nature and admire it, I have to do something for it by working on it full time. My mother was a great inspiration. The way she grew plants at home with so much love and would gift them on special occasions to friends and family and live a low-waste lifestyle was what inspired me to do this seriously. That’s when GiftGreen came into action.

What’s the story behind your venture, GiftGreen?

GiftGreen was started to make alternatives for festivals. We don’t realise the damage we do to nature while we enjoy our festivals. We first started with selling plants in terracotta pots with personalised messages on birthdays and anniversaries. I started making soil and seed modaks for Ganpati at home. During Independence day, I worked on plantable paper to make the Indian flag which had a motto “Don’t throw me, Grow me.” We then slowly had a team of 3-4 people making rangolis for Diwali which can be grown into plants. After 4.5 years, we have a range of personal care items, low waste lifestyle items for anyone looking for alternatives.

What role does Social Media play in helping you build your brand and reach your audience? 

Social Media has played an important role. Before making our Instagram and Facebook page, it was only through word of mouth that GiftGreen was known.  But social media helped us reach a wider range of audience and age groups.

What is your favourite eco-friendly product? 

Okay, That’s a tough one! My favourite would be soil and seed modaks as it holds a very sentimental value and works as a great gift. Any eco-friendly item which is reusable (steel straws, cutlery, tote bags, bamboo brushes) and doesn’t harm nature is my favourite. 

Tell us about your most memorable DIY project/workshop.

My first workshop was the most memorable one. It was on the basics of gardening, I thought nobody would attend such a workshop, but I ended up teaching 5 children and a few adults who were so enthusiastic and the youngest participant was only 4 years old.

If your life was a book or a movie, what would it be called? 

Life Lessons from a Plant 😉 

How do you like to spend your free time?

I am usually gardening in my free time. I make sure I learn new things like embroidery, DIY crafts, new recipes, etc. Dying clothes with natural colours is my new free time hobby.

What are the top three things on your bucket list? 

1. I wish to grow as many plants and trees as I can, wherever I can.

2. Travel to all the national parks, sanctuaries, and forests.

3. Spend more time with people around the country trying to spread awareness about our environment.

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

The zero waste farmer (Manju Kumar) and worm rani (Vaani Murthy) are 2 accounts I really get inspired by.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Email Address: [email protected]