Twinkle Khanna: You don't have to take life so seriously
Set to launch a content platform, Twinkle Khanna talks about writing for women and telling them not to take life seriously.
It's easy to talk about Twinkle Khanna's new venture by describing what waiting by her office, part of her home, feels like. There's the clanking of cutlery and hashtags being thrown around like confetti by women in the adjacent room. Even if, in the middle of all this raging energy, you didn't guess that Khanna is about to launch a digital media company, she emerges from the chatter with a t-shirt, yoga pants and a coffee mug. But there isn't a hint of exhaustion on her face. "You're early," she says. I tell her I took the Met Department's advice about the expected thunderstorms and fled home. She laughs it off saying, "but it is better to be early than late."
Either the weather is a good conversation starter or Khanna is terribly good at oozing ease into a conversation with a warm welcome. And in many ways, her demeanour embodies what Tweak India, her digital platform that launches on September 30 aims to be—a bilingual, judgement-free space for women to engage in dialogue on any subject.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
There doesn't seem to be an end to the professions you carve for yourself. You're a film producer, author and columnist among many other things. Would you call yourself a workaholic?
Yeah. It's a bit of problem but that is where I'm happiest. I'm someone who wakes up enthusiastic about work. I'm there probably 15 minutes before anyone else—also because I live very close to the office, unlike others who have to trudge through this flooded city. More than anything else, it's the only way of life I've known. I was 15 when I had my first summer job. Work gives me a sense of security. That, I think is invaluable.
So, did Tweak emanate from this grand vision?
It started with a very simple notion. When I started writing I realised that there were so many other women who were navigating similar things despite us having very diverse financial or social backgrounds. I also felt that there wasn't anyone who wasn't talking down to them or in a pedantic, boring manner.
The reason people resonated with my work was because I was filling that gap in some way; I was giving them some ideas to think about to challenge their circumstances at this given point in time, say menstruation for instance. Now, while I was doing that, I was challenging my own pre-set ideas. Even I would hesitate entering a temple during my periods. If I'm an educated woman, who has written a book about this, done so much research and I am still telling myself that is alright to go, then what about everybody else? The easiest way to tackle this gap would be to do videos, like an Oprah, and I got a lot of offers to do those. But that entails being in front of the camera and I have no interest. I'm also not someone who wants to dress up every day. I've done the bit where you're crying and your eyelashes are coming off and I don't ever want to be in that place. I had the idea [for Tweak] for about 5-6 years and we started working 18 months ago.
What does starting a content platform entail?
On a regular day, it could be numerous things: looking at what kind of stories we are going to write, having a huddled meeting where everybody comes up with ideas, and maybe skimming across the pieces that we are going to upload—luckily I read diagonally. I didn't even know what a CMS was. To navigate that now is challenging but I've always had an enthusiasm for learning. My husband keeps saying that I have a seven-year itch, as people do with their marital relationships, but this is work-wise; I need to do something that I haven't done before.
But there are women-centric platforms that already exist. Weren't you overwhelmed about entering a new space?
There isn't a single one that I can see which covers everything from parenting to food to opinion and tells you how to make your life easier. There are platforms that are telling you how to make your life more complicated. We are also trying to tell you that you don't have to take life so seriously—if you do not use a particular face scrub it's not like you're going to die. But if you want some ideas to challenge the way you're thinking, you have some fodder for thought here... There's also nobody focusing on working women: from asking your boss for a raise to toxic workplaces and guidelines from other women in flourishing careers.
There's a lot of buzz on social media about the contributors [ranging from Malala Yousafzai to Sudha Murty]. How did you go about curation?
We have a three-pronged content generator: an in-house team, freelancers and experts in every field. So it isn't going to be just our opinion. It's going to be text, audio, video and physical events.
How much of your writing will we get to see?
I will be writing four pieces a month. I also have a video series where I'll be interviewing people. I'm going to be overseeing the rest. We have a great team of like-minded people—about 11 of us.
Now, although the platform will maintain your tone of writing, it will also be nonpartisan. But what relevance does that perspective hold when one could say the personal is political?
There is a judgement-free space where you can debate and discuss. When it comes to the personal being political, I think educated people who are aware of the world are political creatures. Your politics can come in various ways—not only in actual politics about parties but in how you choose to live your life. For instance, if you choose to recycle or compost or not is political. So, all of that will come through.
And your workforce comprises primarily women?
Yes. Didn't you hear the chatter! I'll be accused of misandry in that way. We do have one gentleman who right now is feeling very out of place.
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