Gone are the days when a saree clad woman was seen as a demure housewife. The hero of this edition is my favorite: the bold, beautiful, and powerful Mrs. Anju Maudgal Kadam who is a fabulous entrepreneur and Pinkathon Ambassador from Bangalore. She never hesitates to speak her mind and believes that each one of us is evolving into better individuals and every person makes a difference.
Anju firmly said in the interview ”I think a life lived in grace and with respect is truly charming.!!”Believe it or not, with so much happening in her life she makes sure that she completes her daily task of 10k steps and practices yoga on daily basis. There is just so much to learn from her and I am sure that all of you are going to love this small interaction with Anju, Our Hero of the Pinkathon Community!
Rupali: How does being a Pinkathon Ambassador impact you? What difference have you felt as a person and as a community, as you say you have built a community, how different was the experience?
Anju: I've been an ambassador for now 5-6 years I think, and before me, there are some Stalwarts here in Bangalore, whom we've learned from. There's Aseema, Meenakshi, Giri, Radha, Akash, and these are just a few names that have come into my mind. I don't mean to leave out anyone and they're my friends so I remember this. And this is what I mean by belief—I have known Milind, off-and-on, our paths have crossed in the past, during television also. It's because of Pinkathon I got to know, not the model, not the supermodel, not the celebrity, but a slightly more layered thinking of what he was trying to bring about. And it actually began with Radhika, who was managing coordination at that time, who reached out to me. I had just finished my 100km Oxfam walk in January end that year. She reached out to me and said, 'You make films and stuff, can you do a couple of films for us? I said, of course, I can. I had actually taken a part in Pinkathon a couple of times, Pinkathon was 1-2 years old when I joined it.
I had taken part in the 3 or 5 km run. I firmly believe that on the day of the Pinkathon, it's a celebration of women empowerment. I was like hands down, yes, I'm happy to help in any manner, in any kind of communication. It's not just because of women, it's something very close to my heart. So I did a couple of films for the 'deaf and dumb' that was being streamed. And we decided to interview Milind. And that is when I actually sat down and interviewed Milind. I say this often—my camera never lies. I can pick up very quickly when someone is being earnest or not earnest or someone is faking it. The camera really never lies. I have taught myself to read people through the camera lens. That's my profession, I need to do that. I need to be on the ball and ask questions because that is my forte. That is what I've trained in for 30 years. I really bought into the idea from the man himself. And I became a Pinkathon Ambassador immediately. Ever since, along with lots of people, I have helped to build the brand of Pinkathon. I have worked very closely with Milind, pan-India for messaging, for the Spirit of Pinkathon. I'm always scolding them—'No, this is about women, nobody is allowed to say loose weight.' So I've always been there watching, especially in a community, and you'll agree with me, Rupali, everybody has a say. This is not a company with employees, where they say you can do this, but you can't do this. There are a lot of times people tend to make a mistake about how they say things, or maybe it's perceived differently. So I'm always watching out for that. Is there any discrepancy in our messaging, with the trust of the team. I don't mess around with trust. It's been a joyful journey for me personally because I'm always on the ground and through Pinkathon, I did a three-camera shoot every year, asking people Why are they running?, What is happening? and if I see a guy around I ask Who have you come with? and when they say 'today I've come with my mother, I've got my wife and someone would be with a baby. So I always say, Pinkathon is not only about women, Pinkathon is about change, it's about facilitating that change because we have HeForShe standing there saying 'I've brought my wife at 5 in the morning, she'll finish her run and I'll pick her up and we'll go back. It's such a rain of positivity on that day, and you will have to made of steel to not be touched by that positivity if you are on the ground. It's amazing!! For me on that day, it's not about Milind, not about Pinkathon, it's not. It's about individual stories. You'll hear of a woman saying 'I couldn't move and now I'm doing 3kms.' For her 3kms is like climbing Mount Everest. Or someone else saying that their journey started with 3km and today they are running 21km. Or someone who will say that today I've come here and I've enjoyed so much that I got my mother and sister. Another woman will say I've been doing Pinkathon for 5 years and then I got married and now my mother-in-law and sister-in-law we all come together. I mean it's magic, Rupali!! It's been a beautiful journey. I love it. I love being an ambassador for Pinkathon. I take it very seriously. I'm always looking for conversations on the field. I'm really the kind who will stay on the ground and listen, and it makes me feel that what we are doing is worth it, when I listen to people telling us stories.
Bangalore is a very vibrant running community, men and women. I think Pinkathon has done very well in Bangalore for that one reason. Of course, the weather is very beautiful, the year-through, you can run. Pinkathon has grown from 2200 to over 12000. That's amazing!! It's been a wonderful journey. I've gotten so many people into Pinkathon. So many Ambassadors have got in to Pinkathon after me. We have a great time
Rupali: I guess when you believe in something and give it your all, you feel like you need to explore and need others to explore it too. I've seen your pictures with those amazing sarees that you worn. Tell me something more about it. How did you fall in love with sarees? and what is it that drew you to being draped in a saree most of the time?
Anju: My journey goes back to, of course when we were little, we wore mummy's sarees or wearing a dupatta and playing house-house and stuff like that. But as a very young journalist, I was 22 on television and learning the ropes as we went. It was a very nascent medium. I used to be a little nervous, like who's who?. In business, we were talking to the head of companies, from Tata to Aditya Birla at that time. I used to report in the stock exchange so there was always something to learn and I felt that the saree gave me a lot of gravitas, gave me a little bit of confidence just to sit in front of these people and speak to them. Within a few years, I became a bureau chief, a very young one and I was not only handling editing for Bombay but also for the rest of the country. I think after about 2-3 years, I used to go into rooms a little more confident and the saree became my confidant. I used to wear saree often, even to work. In fact, if I used to wear saree, people used to ask 'Aaj kiske saath interview hai?' When you are editing you are sitting in nothing much than Pjs and big jumpers. But if I'm wearing a saree they'll say who is it, is it a special interview today? And I'll be like 'Yeah man, I can't… and that's why I'm wearing a saree today.'
Rupali: Tell me a little more about storytelling. Has it got anything to do with your medium of expression as a journalist for 30 years? Does that have anything to do with you choosing something like this?
Anju: Good question, never thought of how I began storytelling. For sure reportage that I did, and I did that for 30 years in Bombay before I moved to Bangalore and started my own company here. I'll answer that question in retrospect because I don't know how I began or what but when I think back, I really feel that we are the stories that we live, all human beings, we are all a story. If we can tell our stories as honestly as possible, then that's the only way to connect, to connect with people.
Then there are commonalities and they can be dangerous. So when you tell your stories, you find, you attract people who sort of believe in you, or find a bit of themselves in you. The bigger the positive wave you can create, the bigger ripple you can create, the faster you bring change. I really really believe we are all stories and we meet so many stories, each one of us. It's fascinating to me to put the pieces of the puzzles together. You know, I've designed all the homes that I've lived in and my husband says what should come here and this. I look at the big picture. I can't look at 'yeh hoga phir yeh hoga' and I am able to do that. I think it also comes from writing stories, writing scripts, and breaking it down to see how the reader, the viewer, the listener will make sense of anything that is happening in my head, and am I being able to communicate that to you. I am able to see the small pieces and am able to make a big picture out of it. And I think that is what telling a story is. I enjoy fitting the pieces of a puzzle together.
Rupali: What does Anju get excited with? What does Anju like the most? A little bit more about Anju.
Anju: I get excited with learning. My cornerstone will read 'Student for life.' I truly believe that one should never ever stop learning and I kept that going for myself. I learn every day. I learn from people, I learn from things, I learn from experiences, I learn from what I do right, and what I do wrong. I get very excited about learning new things, but I also get bored very quickly, so I need to get engaged enough. So it's a bit of a dichotomy. Learning takes a little bit of patience and you need to sit down and deep dive and I'm happy to deep dive. But I always say this, when I go out and shoot, the story is already done in my head, then sitting down the next day and doing it and then sending it out is a sort of process. It can't be easy to me. The moment I shoot, I know where it is good or bad.
What else excites me? Hmmm..? I'm also very excited to see what my children will be in the next 10 years. I have two kids—a 19-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter. When I say son and daughter, I'm exasperating to see where this new generation is going. This new generation has, and I'm talking about our social maneuver which is a maneuver of privilege, I want to see what they are going to do with that privilege. I'm always urging my children to do something better and bigger than what their obvious education is giving them. And I think they are capable of changing the world because we didn't have the privileges that they have, that we've managed to give them, sometimes over-compensated really. So, I'm just waiting to see what this generation will do. With this COVID time, I think that things have turned on its head for everyone, even I haven't lived through a pandemic before. I see this in kids, in my son, he's in London right now, he went there to do product designing, and he's like 'How do they teach product design online? Like how? ‘ Todha sa thik hai but otherwise… It’s a little tactile, you need to figure out things.
I’m very excited to see now, in the near future what these kids are going to do, including mine. I’m super excited to see a post-Covid world and am waiting to see how the world will be after Covid. I think it may surprise us and I hope it surprises us in a changed and good manner. Of course, we will learn lessons and we will all forget quickly also but I hope some lessons are long-lasting. I’m always doing projects Rupali. I first say yes and then I figure out how to do things. I’m not that kind of person to think twice.
If someone says you want to do this with me I’ll say yes. I’m always doing a dozen things at the same time and I don’t see it as a burden.
Rupali: This interview is basically because I truly felt that you are the hero of the Pinkathon. So how would you sum it when you say I am the hero because _?’
Anju: I think there is a hero in all of us. We are all capable of being heroes. We just have to find what we want. It takes clarity, strength, perseverance, resilience, patience, sometimes mind over matter, physical and mental strength also, you have to be in the right place. I have strived to find the balance in my life, it is my goal now.
People always said what do you want to do next? I say whatever I want to do I want to be happy and balanced. When I say happy, not ha-ha happy, you can’t be ha-ha happy all the time. But whatever happens, you are able to enjoy the journey.
Am I a hero or not? I don’t know. Sometimes I feel invincible and some days I feel very vulnerable. For everyone who says that the little that I’ve done inspires them, I always say surround them yourself with as many positive people as you can.
I have that, I have amazing friends that I learn from. A little bit of magic rubs off on you too. So I’m no hero, I’m just living my life as honestly as I possibly can. I’m a big champion for women, for change, for children. I’m not a male basher. I have some amazing men in my life and I really believe that the opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy, it’s equality. And I hope that together men and women create a better world, and it starts with us, it starts with each one of us.
So I would say I am confident, I know what I want and I know how to get it gracefully, and if I don’t get it, I am able to accept it with as much grace.
Did that make any sense?
Rupali: It did, of course, it made sense. It makes sense that grace is in everything. As long as there is grace…
Anju: You have to be graceful yaar. I don’t like rodanapana (crankiness), I don’t like rondus.
I always tell people I’m not coming to your pity party, I’m sorry. And everybody is allowed a pity party for one day, then they have to get up and move. Look around you yaar, how much we have.
We throw a pity party for ourselves… look at the suffering, I mean we have no right to be unhappy. And I understand that everyone is struggling with mental health, especially at this time. But it also boards to why we are where we are, of course, you can’t help it. But what have we done to ourselves, we’ve made our self so alone in our whole world that it’s affecting us so much, that we are not comfortable to be with ourselves. That should tell us that we need to build some resilience, and maybe some self-love and some self-care where we are comfortable.
This is not a prescriptive thing, where I’m saying everybody who does this is going to be fine. Mental health is a big challenge in so many ways. There are people who say we are bored, you know what, it’s a privilege to be bored also, ho jao tum bore, it’s okay. Khane ko hai, sone ko hai, peene ko hai, pehne ko hai, toh zip it.
Rupali: Upar ek roof hai who badi baat hai!!
Rupali: So thank you. It was lovely chatting with you!
Anju: Lovely chatting with you too. Take good care of yourself. Be well!
Rupali: It’s a journey we’ve both taken forward in different ways but the goal is the same. It’s women empowerment.