No matter which continent you are in, as a woman, things are decidedly different. A small peak in the lives of talented women brings it all to the fore. Men are held accountable to different standards. A high profile working dad is rarely asked about work-life balance. Men become eligible at 50, while women inch towards invisibility. No one cares about the age and marital status of a male media figure, but almost everyone jumps on the woman. The internet is particularly skewed in being nasty and hostile towards women. Yet, I strongly believe that as we move towards a more equal Internet, things will improve. As more women share their own narrative, things will change.
Documenting the lives of talented women
A few years ago, Ashwati and I talked about doing a piece or two on urban Indian women in their 30s. We now had a generation where independence was expected and not frowned upon. This needs celebration. It ended up in the long list of ideas in one of my notebooks. All this changed last week on my whirlwind 5 day tour of India, when I met Dida Handu. A young independent woman, living by herself is still a rarity, even in urban India.
Men aside, women themselves judge other women when they don’t seem to follow the stereotypical paths expected of them. I’m lucky to have several friends who rise above this unnecessary social pressure and stand up for what they believe in. My meeting with Dida enthralled me. She is an automatic addition to my list of talented, inspiring women.
Who is Dida?
Dida is a YouTube star who carves out fantastically realistic portrayals of a woman with two kids. What makes it amazing is that, she’s nothing like this character and doesn’t share the same life experiences. I’ve always thought writing from another person’s perspective is hard. But to write, enact and bring that character to life, all singlehandedly is extraordinary talent. Not all YouTube stars get into household conversations across generations. My ten year old niece had memorized some of her lines and my mom and I often discuss her craft.
It does help that Dida’s character speaks in everyday Kashmiri which is slowly vanishing from the world. For a small community in conflict, it isn’t shocking. Most people rarely learn the language formally, thus making it harder to retain. Dida doesn’t just contribute to the language itself, but also allows the viewer to get insights into everyday lives. I’m particularly excited by her feminist outlook on things. Her monologue on her terrible mother-in-law was extremely nuanced and said so much more than just relating a small lunch time story.
As we spoke, we shared our mutual appreciation for the language, and the general observations around the culture we grew up with. Few people connect with us on a level that makes us reflect on our own lives. I was thrilled that she turned out to be one such person. Our conversation made me yearn for India. Just like her videos satiate my Kashmiri cravings in far away Michigan.
She gives me so much hope about the stories we create for forever. In the only language my heart understands, Dida offers words. She reminds me of everything I have forgotten but instinctively remember. Dida makes my nostalgia feel better.
*Note to self: Add to list of things I love about the Internet. Make a list on how I’ll change the world*