Women juggle many acts in the theatre of their life often at the cost of their own health and well-being. To change this narrative and to celebrate women in all their glory, Pursuit of Balance - Nina Kler did a two-day event, “7 Acts of a Woman's Life,” on March 5th and 6th to usher in International Women’s Day 2022.
We at Quint Fit were the media partners, The Healthy Indian project was Health Partner, Dr. KK Aggarwal Heart Care Foundation of India was NGO partner and Manah Wellness which focuses on building emotionally healthier workplaces was the well-being partner.
There were 7 panel discussions led by some of the most influential voices from various spheres, including the social sector, corporate world, startup ecosystem, healthcare, mental health space, the art and film world. This event was for all women and their allies, filled with some of the most provocative, disruptive, unfiltered and progressive conversations of our times!
The event was designed as a theatre with seven acts in order to build a narrative around the various acts that women juggle.
ACT 1: Home & Work Life Balance: Is it Possible?
This panel was moderated by Mental Health Advocate & Founder, Pursuit of Balance Nina Kler. She shared that over the years she has started to give herself permission to take help from people around her, which now allows her to get work done and spend quality time with her daughter instead of always running errands or drop off out of guilt, and that's how she manages to strike a balance.
“There is no shame in tapping into your support system to get help with parenting. One positive impact of the pandemic has been the fact that people are now talking about mental health much more than ever before, quite ironically” This is another leveler she referred to on how workplaces are becoming more sensitive towards mental challenges which in turn foster well-being, as personal and professional lives do affect each other.
Sunita Wazir, Senior Manager, Global Wellbeing, Unilever, spoke about how emotional inclusion is very important. “Work and life had no balance during the pandemic. Life changed for us quickly and we had to adapt easily and quickly. Mental health started getting affected so much. There was no workplace anymore and a big shift happened and as that happened, as an organization we made tools available for people to cope emotionally. Along the way, we encouraged people to foster social interactions.”
Neha Kirpal, Social Entrepreneur, Mental Health Ambassador & Co-founder, InnerHour spoke about how, “When we think about the woman and all the hats they wear, I think it is really very telling and women are often harshest on themselves. Everyone needs love and respect and needs time off. Balance is not a universal phenomenon. Everyone has a different explanation for it. Your formula of balance might seem incomplete to other people but it should feel comfortable to you so that you can structure your life around it. It's about the here and now.”
Diya Kapur Misra, Leadership Advisor, Coach & DEI Champion said that she has always been multidimensional. For her balance is managing those multiple roles that she wants in life.
She also spoke about a lightness of being that she feels today after facing a personal challenge which forced her to reassess her priorities, and today she gets more done with less of the “weight” on her shoulders.
My whole definition of balance has changed over some time. My biggest learning is that trying to achieve balance every day is neither needed nor possible.Diya Kapur Misra, Leadership Advisor, Coach & DEI Champion.
ACT 2: Womanhood - What Defines It
Conversing about women finding their voices and making themselves heard, the second panel featured these amazing women in a freewheeling conversation about what it means to be a woman, also bringing in focus about who & what are the deciding factors of being a woman?
This conversation was moderated by Parthavee Singh, Assistant Editor - Audience Engagement, Quint Fit who herself is very active in the gender conversation and is unafraid to challenge stereotypes.
Jyotsna Kaur Habibullah, Founder, Lucknow Farmer's Market & FICCI FLO, UP talked about how women don’t have to shoulder the weight of the world like Atlas but need a partner who’ll share the load. Further elaborating upon the power of reaching out for help with a positive attitude she mentioned that it helps and women can allow themselves to be helped. Women need to be supportive of other women and once they do this, they need the society’s support to get where they want to be.
Jyotsna Siddharth, Country Director of Gender, Work India, Actor, Artist and Writer gave insights on how women need to introspect and learn more about themselves to know what they want. Also, about how it's important for women to have higher standards and not settle or take nonsense from anyone. She shared astute observations about transwomen, women from different castes and how the diatribe is still quite strong against them.
Nikki Gupta, Marketing & Business Strategist spoke about how, “Women have to start asking for help. We have been reduced to needy when we ask for help and we take too much on ourselves. We have to get rid of strong independent women' from our vocab. No human is strong and independent and neither are women. Working cohesively in a culture that respects & values women as equal is all we want and fight for.”
ACT 3: Wellbeing Secrets - Mind, Body & Soul
All aspects of wellbeing teeter on one main fulcrum according to this very rich conversation moderated by Nina kler, and that is the word “mindfulness”. Whether it’s what you eat or think or how you move, it should be mindful.
Sumaya Dalmia, Fitness and Wellness Expert, Founder, SUMAYA, in her conversation said that Well-being is beyond just aesthetically how you look or how you train, it’s more about your immunity and that immunity is an amalgamation of how you handle stress, how well you eat, how active you're, and much more.
Women wear multiple hats and we know how to juggle them well. Your meal plans have to be practical. Our Indian Thalis are the best, most nutritious. Our ancestors ate perfectly. I don't do calorie counts and I don't recommend calorie counts either. Food is not a calorie it’s nurture.Pooja Makhija, Celebrity Nutritionist, Author & Entrepreneur
Debasmita Sinha, Psychologist and Clinical Director, Manah Wellness spoke about how women often take on more than they can handle. There's always this pressure that we can handle more and this pandemic has accelerated it, is what she highlighted.
“We can try to create habits around work-life blends in small bite-sized bits. We are doing wellness challenges, not especially for women but just generally to take out time for yourself, speak, chat, and be more open.
Just knowing that there are so many other people who are going through the same struggle is very helpful, as you feel connected to a larger community.
ACT 4: Owning Trauma and Pleasure in Relationships
Talking about relationships is incomplete if we don’t consider the traumas that we carry from our past. Conversations around pleasure are unfinished till we own all parts of ourselves.
Nina Kler spoke about how relationships today are akin to revolving doors and how people have become so easily dispensable which makes trauma a given.
Neha Bhat, licensed Art-Focused Sex & Trauma Therapist and Writer talked about the process of healing and how she uses art to form a relationship with her wounds to process them. Her take on online dating, like sexuality, needs to be fun!
There are many reasons to get on these apps, but if each time you find yourself getting too serious with every second connection, you need to calm your nervous system down. These apps are a tool that you need to use very strategically. And if it is not fun, then drop it! Her thoughts on pretty privilege were very interesting and that being pretty doesn’t preclude you from trauma.
Varun Mathur, an artist, Filmmaker, Writer & Director shared some riveting views on how the industrialised society has continuously normalized the way everyone looks at each other as merely objects, essentially dehumanizing them.
Teya, a Fashion Stylist, Blogger, Poet & Performer, shared her journey of dealing with trauma after her past relationship and how she maintained her self-confidence and individuality in the trying times of separating from that toxic partner who had deleted a huge chunk of her archival work once they broke up. One of the most powerful things that she shared was that she realized that she is not defined by the work that she lost.
ACT 5: What Does Parenthood Look Like In the 21st Century
The moderator Chiara Nath, a single mum and a Multi-Disciplinary Designer, based in Norway, led the panel discussion about parenthood in the 21st century. Chiara shared her experience of common guilt among parents, of choosing personal time over shared time with kids or family and how despite this guilt, it is crucial to make time for oneself. Device culture is something that she is trying to figure out as a parent, as these screens can suck one's soul out.
Empathy is one quality she shared that she values most in her daughter & it’s a quality worth nurturing.
Saraswathi Laxman, Founder Lighthouse, Life & Leadership Coach, a professionally trained life coach, talked about how important it is in the formative years of a child to have more time with their parents, which was not possible earlier for working professionals.
But with the evolving scenario, organisations are becoming cognizant of this fact and with the flexible model, things stand to change.
Vikram Aditya Bhatia, a zealous fitpreneur with over 35 years of experience in health and fitness expressed how a lot of people with kids in the age group of 18-25 years have had surprising revelations with their kids over the lockdown. The period of lockdown has overthrown their expectations of who their child is and they’ve either become very close and comfortable with each other or have become extremely repulsive to each other. Either way, they’ve come closer to understanding the reality of their relationship. He personally has developed a far closer bond with his daughter, as pre-pandemic he divided his time between two countries and saw his wife and daughter for less than 6 months a year. Being a full-time daddy now, it’s a change that he cherishes.
Vaishali Sood, Health Editor, The Quint & Editor, Quint Fit, shared how the pandemic has been a rewarding time for her as a parent because she got to witness her little girls blossoming over the last two years so closely. She also expresses her concerns about kids adjusting back into the social setup of a school and how it will be a challenge after an extended period in isolation. Mental health is a topic she is very concerned about, as life is ambling back to normalcy for children and parents alike.
ACT 6: Gift of the Gab - The Art of Storytelling.
We are living in a creator's economy hence content/ storytelling is king/ queen!
Seema Anand, Mythologist, Storyteller, Author and Kama Sutra Expert spoke with event curator Nina Kler about how people consume content differently on social media.
The stereotype that nothing meaningful can be conveyed in 30 seconds does not hold anymore is what she shared. It's true that you cannot explain right in 30 seconds, but you can build curiosity and lead your viewers to come and listen to your longer stuff. So you need to grab their attention with one sentence and push them towards something else.
She explained the art of how through body language you can invite people in to listen to what you’re saying. She advises people to start narration with a personal story because you know your personal story better and so you're going to be able to tell it more easily.
She says that you can't be subtle about your point, you have to say it out loud. It's really important that you plant your feet very firmly on the ground; it changes your posture and brings balance. It’s like how in yoga and taichi when you move from one thing to the other it's all about balance, so if you are not focusing, if you haven't planted your foot firmly on the ground, you are going to topple over. Similarly if your body is unbalanced your words will not come out right.
She shared her own story of how storytelling came in this “dilli di kuddi living in phoren” started talking about sex.
One of the most pivotal moments of her life came when she allowed herself “permission to desire” what she wanted even if that meant a massage or a meal of her own choice sans guilt!
That was her message to people about exploring their sexuality too, that they must allow themselves pleasure.
At 60 she’s unlike your stereotypical mother or grandmother, she’s a revolutionary. And like she shared with Nina Kler, that it’s not easy changing narratives and there will always be push back but it’s important to be the voice for the voiceless and to keep sharing stories that matter!
ACT 7: Women's Health - Anatomy & More
“The clitoris is not just the little nub you see on the outside, it can be as large as the size of your palm on the inside!” Many more facts on the female anatomy were shared and myths were busted by renowned content creator Dr. Cuterus (Oxford trained doctor, gynaecologist in training- Tanaya Narendra) on this panel on Women’s Anatomy and Health moderated by Nina Kler!
Dr. Prateek Makwana, Embryologist & Content Creator, highlighted how fertility is affected as you age and that the best time to “freeze” your eggs is actually between your late twenties and early thirties! Apparently, there are a finite number of eggs women are born with. The healthier ones are when you are younger. As women age, the chances of abnormalities with the child or pregnancy go up.
Cancer survivor and cardiac anesthesiologist Dr. Laxmi Sukumaran shared her journey with cancer and on the importance of self-breast examination and mammograms even in one's thirties! Laxmi was lucky to stumble upon her breast cancer during a routine check-up a friend insisted on; she is still on medication.
Cancer and fertility is a relatively new conversation, so amazing that she highlighted that too.
Menopause is not a monster and the Importance of realizing the physiology behind it is priceless. “It’s just puberty 2.0,’ according to Dr. Tanaya Narendra.