Girls Going Global by Lily-Wai Edwards
Whilst still keeping age-old traditions unscathed, the women of Mumbai have created change in their self-expression. The ever-evolving, diverse and chaotic city encompasses a world of culture, religion, tradition, and generations all on its own. As I try to find my own way in this city that is unlike any other I turned to 4 women who know it like the back of their hand. They not only know the city, but they know who they are as people, in a city that really never sleeps.
As women, we go through phases of self- exploration, self-consciousness, and self- discovery. We’re constantly changing, both externally and internally. Throw in centuries of tradition and societal and cultural influences, self-expression might become a little more difficult. As I roam the streets I observe as women walk past in anything from traditional, full saris to skinny jeans and crop tops. Both equally stylish, the diversity intrigued me.
Who: Minali Gaba
Where: Mumbai, Maharashtra.
What: Business Owner
I had a chance to sit down Minali Gaba, a Mumbaikar who is revolutionising food with her keto brownies, skinny pizza, and vegan cheese. Her cafe “Farmers Cafe”, located in Bandra West is a business that has been five years in the making and has had immense success since it opened just four months ago. After exiting the fashion industry, Minali chased the dream of healthy, organic and local food, and has since been published in magazines such as Vogue and Elle for her healthy, unique creations. Having lived her whole life in Mumbai and owning a cafe that promotes health and self-love, I thought who better to ask about female self-expression!
What sets the beauty/fashion standard for women in India apart from other countries?
MG: The traditional simplicity. While we do follow international trends, the pieces that were around 100 years ago are still worn by millions today. In a place like London, a trend such as peplum will be in, and then six months later it’ll be out. Here in India, we always have our classics that never go out of style. If I buy a sari today, my daughter’s daughter can come and wear it. Women wake up in the morning and drape their sari every day, wear those full sari to the office and work all day in them! We have Indian weddings and Diwali, which is unique to India and that everyone dresses up a certain way for.
Are women in India encouraged to express themselves?
MG: Today, yes. Women in Mumbai stand up for themselves and feel free to wear and do what they want. In rural villages, that might not be the case. Those areas are often very male dominant and the women work all day, from dusk till dawn. In those places, there is no such thing as 9-5 jobs. Luckily in Mumbai, women are making a place for themselves. Husbands no longer have dominance and arranged marriages are a concept of the past.
Did any factors such as religion, culture or society have an influence on how or to what degree you expressed yourself?
MG: My upbringing was very liberal and I had and still have complete freedom to believe in what I want. I guess it would have been different for my mum, she had restrictions, had an arranged marriage at 18 and lived in a joint family. In Mumbai, it’s very liberal but even in Delhi, it’s different.
Did social media play (if any) a positive or negative role in your self-expression?
MG: Positive, very positive. Especially after opening the cafe, every time I post I feel very positively supported. I think if you work hard and stay true, no media will ever do you wrong.
Why do you think it’s important that girls learn to express themselves?
MB: I think that we live in a generation in which every human, whether male or female, should have a right to express them. Men have always been expressing, and now here in Mumbai, women are too.
Relative to the topic, what is the best piece of advice that someone has ever given you?
MG: Be patient and work hard for what you want, and you will achieve your dreams. It was my dream to open a cafe for 5 years, and I followed that advice and here I am. I never thought this dream would come true.
Describe your self-expression in one word.