The last time I interviewed Tara Kaushal, she was in the thick of researching Why Indian Men Rape [she still is]. This activism project spans two books and a documentary. How is Tara planning to pull it off while being a public figure, media consultant and wife? One can’t deny that she is a force of nature. In a decade-and-a-half, Tara has done more than a writer would in her entire career. She was launch editor of BBC GoodHomes Magazine (India) at 24 and went on to work across print, television, web and radio stations.
She has successfully switched from lifestyle journalism to gender journalism and then managed to branch out on her own. That’s why she’s on my list of Lifestyle Design Heroes (a series on men and women successfully leading alternative lifestyles they have designed for themselves. Read about it here). As a writer, I am naturally curious about her writing and thinking process. However, let’s begin with the experiences that shaped her interesting career.
Take us through all the craziness and the things that brought contentment.
Tara: More time on memory lane! Yay!
So, my career has been varied and interesting. Although I’ve always only wanted to write— on gender, sexuality, socio-cultural issues and equal rights, and interview people — I’ve taken a few detours. I don’t mind, really — in hindsight, one realizes that no experience is ever wasted.
First were the ‘survival’ jobs I took when my father was unwell and I had moved to Bombay, in the process of getting divorced at 23 — technical writing at a KPO, ghost writing, etc.
Then, I spent four years as the Launch Editor of BBC GoodHomes Magazine, India. You get offered a job like that when you’re 24 and broke, and you don’t say no. Between when I quit (in 2011) and until earlier this year (2017) when I started Why Indian Men Rape, I resumed writing articles and columns on gender issues, while media consultancy— that I also enjoy — paid the bills.
Freelance media consultancy is very exciting. I’ve worked in different mediums —print, web, radio, TV — across various lifestyle industries, including the World For All animal adoption calendar that I produced and art directed pro-bono for two years (and Sahil photographed it, also pro-bono). Every project is different and I believe I’ve gained a holistic understanding of the Indian media and audiences along the way. These ethnological insights only enhance my writing.
And now I’m finally writing these books.
This career path is a far cry from conventional even in this generation; it would’ve been imaginable for my father, who spent 22 years in the Navy. But many people are forging their own paths, exploring the wonderful opportunities of the knowledge economy, and so am I.
How did you change gear from lifestyle journalism to gender journalism?
Tara: I started out being a writer on gender. It’s what I’ve studied as well — topping my BA Honours in English with a specialisation in feminism from JMC, New Delhi, and completing a Master’s in English from Mumbai University with a focus on gender and post-colonial literature.
Circumstances, both happy (Editor at 24, yeah) and sad (2004-07 were absolute hell), and financial considerations — not to mention the excitement of new challenges — informed the lifestyle parts of my career.
Since 2011, I’ve been writing in the gender space again, even winning a Laadli Media Award for this column in Governance Now.
How much courage did it take to branch off on your own?
In 2009, I’d encouraged my then boyfriend (now husband) Sahil to quit his TV career and pursue a career in his passion, photography. In turn, he encouraged me to freelance and reenter the ‘serious writing’ space when he returned from a year-long course in the United States.
OMG, it was quite the shock. Both of us starting freelance careers at the same time was not a wise decision. Going from an editor’s salary to three bucks a word… ergo, media projects.
[Until 2015, she was art directing high design sets, doing print ads, TVCs and films, as well as conceptual shoots.]
But it’s been totally worth it, balancing out even on the financial front (eventually). It’s been an unusually intense and unpredictable few years, mostly in a good way, alternating between working very hard or partying/travelling as hard.
I say ‘mostly’, because there were long periods of no work or money, and accompanying stress, depression and marital strife. But, as I said, it’s worked out.
What advice would you give writers wanting to diversify into multimedia?
Tara: Multimedia is the now and the future. The various available mediums supplement each other (I use the word in the Derridean sense — addition and substitution), and the lines between web/print/TV are blurring. So I’d say go for it.
Writing a book is an exciting yet scary dream, and you are working on two of them. What is your approach to the manuscript?
Tara: Yes, it is so exciting! I’m in a madly inspired place right now, deeply immersed in the book; barely a thought about anything else strays in (poor husband/family/friends). I’m also sleeping with the bedside light on and pen-paper at hand for the streams of inspired thoughts that prevent me from sleeping even when I try.
Regarding approach, in my research as well as in the structuring of these complex books, I have started with a few hypotheses.
My team and I have embarked on the research phase — aside from studying hundreds of textual sources like books, articles, studies, theories and historical records, we are following several quantitative and qualitative research methodologies to understand and analyse Indian gender norms. We are conducting carefully designed surveys, studies and interviews of a weighted percentage of people across the country. We also have a long list of experts, survivors and perpetrators to interview, and case studies to peruse.
I’d love to write a lot more opinion and conduct many more interviews for publications across the world. I am also working on a couple of longer-format gender and fiction works, apart from these books.
Once this is done, I plan to retreat to seclusion in Australia to write — however long it takes.
I’d love to collaborate on exciting mainstream and offbeat media and art projects, anywhere in the nebulous spaces where writing/ design, branding/ media strategy, activism/ entertainment, photography/ videography, online/offline, left brain/ right brain converge.
As told to Kasmin Fernandes
Still want more? Well, Tara is researching a topic (rape) that a large cross-section of people are in denial of… so the WordPress Daily Prompt of today, deny seems appropriate. For top posts on this topic (in random order), click on the links below:
- Why do Rock Stars hate brown M&Ms?
- Postpartum depression
- Take flight – Momentum of Jo
- Mission WUNITT #Day3 | Every Minute is Important
- Lock the door
- The constant struggle – A Beautiful Mess
- Guilty! Just writing! – Linda’s writing blog
- The voices within – Wells Baum
- Taking Care Of Business – (Part – 5) Verena In Evermont
- The Isle of Glass: Ynys Witrin, Testing and Soothsaying! Deny…
- High time you do away with toxic relationships
- Self denial: Good or bad? – Gym and bear it
- Deny – Gary’s writing corner
- Rape is a hate crime – Karyn’ domain
- The dormhouse (pt 6) – Writing in any genre
- Single guy tried dating online
- Why do we hate ourselves? – What Adam thinks
- It’s coming along
- Not cool to deny responsibility
- Turn your shower into an aromatherapy spa
- Oh Joe? Sadly, won’t see him no more
- A new take on traditional medicine
- Marketplace in Mandalay
- I like pigs!
- Grand spirit – Dronstad
- Eating sugar? No papa
- How to be realistic when challenging yourself
- Wednesday Reflections #27 – Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
- Poor Barcelone – Blognovic
- Boon and bane