“And their stories would suddenly be much more powerful than the story I triggered their thought with. So that's how I started speaking to women and collecting these stories.
And the whole idea behind it, which seems to be working so far, is that you can deny opinions, you can question studies, but you cannot deny real experiences of real people.”
That is Mahima Vashisht, the incredibly talented writer of the 'Womaning in India' newsletter. (You haven't subscribed yet? Off you go and sign yourself up pronto!).
In my podcast, all my guests have taught me a lot about the craft of storytelling.
But it’s rare to come across a guest who - apart from storytelling - has also taught me how to be a better person.
Mahima Vashisht is one such guest.
I was introduced to Mahima’s writing through Anustup Nayak on Twitter. And I was quite blown away by her work.
In the 'Womaning in India' newsletter, Mahima shares stories about everyday issues faced by women. Issues like discrimination at the workplace, mental load at home, unequal sharing of domestic chores, under-representation at leadership levels across fields…and so on. And while these stories are backed by research and stats, Mahima’s main tool is her collection of stories.
Real stories shared by real people. Stories that are told with honesty, engagement, empathy, relatability… and generous amounts of humour. (One of Mahima’s superpowers is her ability to take crappy 1990s Bollywood movie references and extract comedy gold from them!)
So, two things that make Mahima a special storyteller for me:
1. Her choice of topic: Mahima writes about gender issues - a topic that impacts all of us, but has limited options in terms of engaging storytelling for those who want to know more. For the world to become a better place, a more equitable place, it is critical that these stories are shared widely, especially with men.
2. Her approach in sharing them: There’s a lot to learn from Mahima’s storytelling process. She takes incidents shared by her network of friends and adds her narrative abilities and her own brand of humour to convert these into highly readable stories.
In addition to her take on the craft of storytelling, Mahima also offers some perspective on the gender rights movement and why, despite all the gloom, there’s reason to be optimistic for the future.
It’s a must-listen conversation - especially for men!
The Womaning in India Substack newsletter
Womaning in India on
- Mahima's LinkedIn profile
This podcast was hosted by me, Ravishankar Iyer. Audio editing by Kartik Rajan. Transcript editing by Amisha Jha and all-round support by Sanket Aalegaonkar.