“HOW SHOULD girls navigate their way in the India of today?” asked journalist Chander Suta Dogra, who was moderating a session on GenYouth Empowered where writer Anuja Chauhan of The Zoya Factor fame was joined on stage by child actor Aditi Inamdar, who portrayed the world’s youngest Mount Everest climber Poorna Malavath and 24-year-old Matrena Martin, a tribal woman from Nicobar.
A tall order, but Inamdar and Martin impressed the KSLF 2018 audience with their inspiring stories. One talked about her first film role while the other has empowered herself to fight societal challenges all the way to Delhi to land her first job in a field she loves.
“Girls are already smart; we need to get our boys together. We need to look at girls and boys not as that, but as kids, human beings and achievers,” said Chauhan, adding that each achiever’s story had a ripple and contributes to change.
“Girls are weaker than boys: that’s the first thing that comes up. It starts in our houses. Before I get to the bigger hurdles, I want to call out the smaller ones,” said Martin, who has parents and an elder brother living in Port Blair, the Andamans, where her father works for the government.
“I think we all have a Poorna in us and an Everest that we need to climb and conquer. I was so surprised when I met Poorna, wondering how she had achieved such a feat at the age of 13,” said Inamdar. For her, she had to undergo intensive physical training to play Malavath.
Chauhan talked about the ‘Santoor ad complex’ in which a woman portrays multiple roles. “It’s not enough that you’re an amazing tennis player or a mountaineer. Men are under no such pressure, for example, to have poreless skin!” She added that society wanted women to do “three more things” than she was already pursuing and they were not allowed to pick just one. “Life becomes a hyphenation; not a main definition. With the MeToo movement, girls are feeling safer and placing the guilt where it should be,” she further stated.
Dogra talked about how the system treated young women and there were only a few outstanding cases as fleeting moments of achievement. “We have hordes and crowds of so many more women who can do anything,” she said.
Martin said her first approach towards girls back in her hometown was to go out there and explore their potential. “I’ll go back to the islands in a few years. I’ve explored different types of art, studied design, I want to tell children that they can dream,” she added.
For Inamdar, playing Malavath made her more confident and sports oriented. “I wasn’t into sports or knew I’d act. This movie has turned me into a more confident girl and inspired me; it’s given me courage to speak in front of others and now I also play kho kho at the national level,” she gushed.