What we learned from Kangana Ranaut and Barkha Dutt at Shobhaa De’s book launch
When three powerful and fiesty women take the stage, you better pay attention
This high-profile book launch was eagerly anticipated — no-holds barred writer Shobhaa De joined by the non-conformist Barkha Dutt and the feisty Kangana Ranaut. And yet, the conversation was not so much about the book 70 & To Hell With It (which is Shobhaa’s 21st and encapsulates her life journey to 70) as it was about issues that women deal with — and have battled — throughout their lives.
Like whether the passing of time really changes anything. At what age do you really let go? At what point in life do you stop being afraid of setting your own path?
Shobhaa, clearly revelling in the freedom of being 70, spoke of how at her age, there was nothing to lose anymore. And how after a lifetime of being a granite rock for her family in her roles as mother, daughter and wife, she felt like she could let her guard down and be herself. “It’s beautiful to have your weaknesses.. And after a while, it’s about liberating yourself from yourself.”
Kangana was adamant that we have to change our thinking for the future. “It’s my right to choose when I want to talk about my experiences,” she said, adding, “What’s important is that I do talk about them. Because the only way we’ll see change is if there’s awareness of what’s happening around us.”
“Right now, the most wanted thing in the country is my apology, which you’ll never get!” she said with a laugh, the audience completely on her side. “You got to have the conviction that your stand will be respected. If not now, then in the long term.” To which Barkha added, “It takes courage not to care about being disliked.”
Barkha Dutt and Kangana Ranaut at Shobhaa De’s book launch
While it was great to hear stories about women with indomitable spirits who broke cultural and societal barriers to forge their own path, I was taken aback at Shobhaa’s answer to Barkha’s question, “What would you tell your daughter today if she said she didn’t want to get married and just wanted to have lots of sex?” At first, the author elaborated about the importance of having responsible sex, until she finally just admitted, “I’m not that liberal yet.”
Personal opinion and expression aside — it didn’t answer Barkha’s question about societal conditioning and putting people in boxes. So have things really changed in the last 40 years? Especially when we see survivors of sexual harassment today being trolled, sued, shamed and accused of inviting unwarranted behaviour? Employers are now adding possible sexual harassment claims to the long list of reasons they should avoid hiring women.
While Shobhaa was of the view that an Indian Harvey Weinstein scandal was unlikely as no one would speak up, Kangana was confident of change. “No one harasses me anymore because they know I’m capable of saying anything anywhere,” she responded cheekily, no hint at all of any of the painful experiences she has had to deal with to get where she has at the ripe old age of 30.
To which Shobhaa responded, “You need to live a lot to die well.”
Kangana Ranaut at Shobhaa De’s book launch