My experience at Festivelle, the first women only festival in Mumbai, India
No men were dissed. No bras were burnt.
So what on earth were we women doing at Festivelle 2016, held in Mumbai over this weekend? I’m sure you are curious to know. And I’m eager to share.
Women experience very gender-specific issues, that are never discussed in any event that is open to both men and women. It would be great if they were, but I’m not sure men want in on panels where women discuss motherhood guilt, female orgasms or the havoc wreaked by hormones. Also, it is important to build a friendly space for women to discuss issues with each other in a free flowing manner. The presence of men would alter the dynamics of such discussions.
When it comes to women, there is the need to break free from generations of social conditioning when it comes to career, marriage, motherhood, sex, relationships, and that pretty much affects everything we do, even if only subconsciously. It’s 2016 and women are fighting to be heard, to be given a platform to express themselves without the burden of judgement. ‘Manels’ or men only panels are still the norm in most conferences, which many spirited women I know are fighting to break.
When I first heard of Festivelle on social media from Gul Panag (the actor, pilot, fitness enthusiast and much more), it felt like it was really addressing the need of the hour – for women to come together and find a platform to express themselves without any inhibitions.
I was lucky to attend the festival over the last two days, which were a soulful blend of experience sharing on women-centric issues in the sessions, performances in music and comedy and workshops, in a dreamy ambience facing the Arabian Sea.
Day One of Festivelle 16 kicked off with a session on “Lessons we can learn from Kim Kardashian” with Gul Panag and Miss Malini on the panel, and Kiran Manral as moderator. Both panelists have made incredible use of social media to further their own brand and they were generous in sharing their learnings with the full-house crowd. “Don’t say anything to people on social media or your blog that you wouldn’t say to them on their face.” I shall remember these wise words from Miss Malini.
The second session was called ‘We are our hormones’ chaired by gynaecologist Sheetal Sabarwal and psychotherapist Sonali Gupta, moderated with great spunk by Naiyya Saggi, founder of BabyChakra. Hormones are forever affecting a woman’s life – be it our weight, eating patterns, mood or sex drive and there’s no getting away from them. Each of these aspects were discussed in detail and the importance of being open about our problems, with a partner or friend or a therapist was stressed upon. Being mindful of our triggers and taking control of the effect of hormones on our body rather than letting our hormones control us made for an insightful discussion.
The next session was an interesting one for every woman who is a mom. Motherhood and guilt go hand in hand, and it was heartening to hear from our sisterhood that it is ok to falter, and not be our 100% all the time. “Children get the mom they deserve and they wont want to replace their mom with anyone else” – these words rang so true and felt so reassuring.
I have attended quite a few conferences and ‘unconferences’ and I must say women make the most insightful, sensitive panelists driving their point with a seasoning of humour (and sarcasm, where required).
These sessions were followed by a stand up comedy session by young female stand up Sonali Thakkar. By popular demand (as gathered from social media polls in the run up to the event), Festivelle had also invited a few male performers for comedy and music. Kanan Gill, one of the popular stand up comedians took stage after Sonali and entertained the crowd with his ewww so gross jokes 😛
The last panel of the day was around another interesting topic – Sisterhood: Cheaper than therapy. Friends for over 16 years, Mini Mathur and Maria Goretti shared their experiences on how having a sisterhood helped them tide over the bad days in their life and celebrate the good ones. Having that 4 am female friend to whom you can vent freely without being judged is vital to every woman.
The music performances were timed such that the strumming of the guitars coincided with the sun going down and coloring the sea in various hues of orange, matching the colors of the canopy.
Mali, a young singer-song writer kicked off the evening with her soulful crooning. It was followed by performances by the Ghalat Family band and then Madboymink.
Day 2 had an even more interesting line up of sessions – spanning the spectrum from female orgasms to money management. The first session was full of quotable quotes from the panelists and rip roaring one liners from comedienne and writer, Radhika Vaz. The topic of orgasms lent itself to a whole range of discussions, from sombre to outrageously funny. It was heartening to see a topic that is either spoken about in hush hush terms or is usually taboo, being talked about so unabashedly. If sex and orgasms are taboo, money talk among women is seen as even more crass. So needless to say, that was the next topic, where a panel comprising a financial expert, a divorce lawyer and an editor discussed on whether women must keep a secret (or not so secret) fund to tide them through a time of distress.
There was food, shopping and booze, enough to keep the ladies fed, watered and happy before and after the sessions. That is usually a part of most events, so I am not going to talk too much about it. Plus I’m not a big shopper, so I’m not the best person to write about the shopping scene 🙂
Rather, I want to share with you my learnings from the first women only festival I’ve attended.
- Be yourself. It’s cliched but true. It’s too much of a stress to be someone else, and you lose the blueprint of this original person, you!
- Be kind- in person, in thought and on social media.
- Don’t ever hesitate to speak your mind. But don’t forget to be kind.
- Make it a habit of complimenting one woman everyday. Imagine the happy circle of sisterhood it will create when it gets paid forward.
- Give back. Support and handhold fellow women. We owe to it to each other.
- Cultivate a circle of female friends you can share your ups and downs with. Invest your time and effort into these relationships.
- Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help.
- It’s not wrong for us women to put ourselves first.
It was a wonderfully inspiring time to listen to and meet women from different professions and backgrounds. Festivelle 2016 held in Mumbai on 17 and 18 December was the brain child of Gul Panag and Shruti Seth and this was its first edition. There are plans to make this an annual event and also celebrate Festivelle in Delhi and Bangalore.