Once Upon a Pandemic - Interview with Srishti Chaudhary
To escape the mundane reality of this new normal I read something that I should have long ago. Something that took me back to CP to the old coffee house in Delhi, impelled me to watch Rajesh Khanna films, sing to old tunes, and believe in what I’m trying to do with The Feminist Times more than ever. I found a confidant in Indu. And then those who know me, know that I couldn’t be in peace without interacting with the brilliant author of this beautifully powerful, romantic, and a feminist tale- ‘Once upon a curfew’. Presenting to you an exclusive interview with (drumrolls) Srishti Chaudhary with TFT.
(P.S if anyone amongst you hasn’t read it already, go read it NOW)
Q1. Indu, the protagonist in your book is from a girls' college, and according to our research you too are from LSR. Do you believe that having attended an all-girls college influences your thoughts in any way?
Yes definitely- actually I never wanted to go to LSR. When I got in, I cried for weeks. I couldn't imagine spending three years of my uni life in a college just for girls. But being in an all women's space has an impact on you that is hard to measure even years later. The first day of the college, I think the principal was talking about this- how being in a female space strips you off the gendered nature of the world. I'm a co-ed place, maybe it's always the guys who do the 'guy stuff'- things that traditionally men do- lifting heavy things backstage, driving around for logistics, while women would take care of things traditionally expected of them. But in an all girls space, you have to do everything. I think it makes you very independent and I loved that. I loved Virginia Woolf's a room of one's own and that's what you get at a girl's college- independence and the freedom to come into your own. And I tried to imbibe that in Once upon a Curfew.
Q2. Do you perhaps feel that the vilification of the dynamics or the relationship amongst women is quite sexist?
By this question, I assume you mean the way women are shown to be each other's enemies all the time. I would say it's sexist yeah- I don't think girls bring each other down. While for guys, there is the bro code and how they always stick up for each other, for women the perception created is that we always see each other as a threat. That's simply not true. I've been in women-dominated fields all my life and never felt like it. In fact, it's the men who end up being patronizing and high handed. I've had positive, nurturing relationships with female friends and family, and don't understand this.
Q3.The library that Indu opened was only for women; do you personally feel that such affirmative actions are justified when talking about gender equality?
Absolutely. Those who say women's spaces are discriminatory don't understand the nature of discrimination, how it works. Just think of a simple women's metro compartment- women across the city feel that much safer being in this compartment, especially at night, rather than the normal one. As long as this fear exists, these injustices exist, we need affirmative places and actions.
Q4.I clearly remember when Rana was about to kiss Indu and she knew it but still looked up to him and said, ‘you’ve still got to ask mister’. The scene beamed of consent. Would you like to throw light upon the same and your own thought behind that dialogue?
Yeah, I thought it was a great scene as well. Indu is someone who loves being in charge of her own life- she's a super boss, not in the way that she will yell at other people but in the way that nobody better cross the line with her. Most men assume sexual consent, I've seen this personally- it's so much better and more romantic if someone does the simple favor of asking you if they might kiss you (especially the first time), even if it's in a goofy, playful way because then you get a chance to play around with it, to think, to delay or to fully give your approval. Indu at this moment is establishing an important equation in their relationship, and I'm glad you think it's so affirming.
Q5. If we talk about Amita, the character she played can be relatable to most Indian women with the kind of expectations placed upon them. Do you think we might find more Amitas today if we look closely at our society?
Everywhere! Women settle all the time, in accordance with the expectations of society. Some break the rules and get outcaste or worshipped; most don't. Not to say the ones who don't are less strong, but it's important to deliberate and reflect on the nature of these expectations, of how life pans out for so many just because they never got the same chances that men did.
Q6. Very briefly you also touched upon the caste system, when even though Esha was being provided with all resources to study, the mind-sets of those around was not so advanced. Do you feel intersectional feminism holds a great magnitude today and is it needed?
Yes. In fact, I wish I could have explored that storyline more. India is so complex, so no wonder it's feminisms are complex as well. There is no one size fits all, especially the Eurocentric, liberal feminism model that we all see and seek to imitate. We need to study really in-depth about how we can make the lives of Indian women better, and caste, class, religion- everything is such a big factor here.
Q7. So if Indu were to give our readers a message, what would it be?
She would say try, as much as it is in your means, to cast a life that is of your own making, and don't forget to show others the beauty of it. :)
-Srishti Chaudhary Interviewed by Kuhu Srivastava