If you think you’ve seen the last of women’s webzines, do take a moment to stop by at The Ladies Finger! (Theladiesfinger.com), a sassy new platform that promises “Pop Culture. Health. Sex. Fun. Music. Books. Cinema”.
It’s not the standard fare, though it sounds very much like it. But before long, you have the editors warning you, without much ado, that “We do vaanthi. We like kranti. We write what we want to read.” For those who don’t know, vaanthi means “vomit” and kranti refers to revolution. That’s information enough to make you linger on, and rather gainfully so.
Run by a team of five editors, including journalists Nisha Susan, Gaurav Jain and Jugal Mody, The Ladies Finger! sizzles with an irreverent wit, while retaining an essential seriousness.
One of its ongoing projects, for instance, is to document the “pee stories” of urban women, focusing on the lack of clean and accessible public toilets in Indian cities. At the end of a report by Mody on what the municipal authorities of Mumbai have done to address such crises, a few women share their personal pee stories. One of the best among them is interior designer Suniti Joshi’s account of being forced to stop by at the house of a college friend she had not seen in 10 years just so that she could take a leak. It is an anecdote charged with novelistic possibilities.
There are incisive commentaries on acid attacks on young girls, an excellent essay on the figure of the Malayali nurse in cultural memory, and pithy outbursts, such as 10 ways of not reacting to Jiah Khan’s suicide (the first being not blaming her mother: “As if telling your child repeatedly to love themselves is a guarantee against suicide.”)
An agony aunt—called Iron Maiden—wryly answers questions put to her by people with aliases such as “Wanna-come” and “Condom of solace”. Advice is dispensed on the importance of female orgasm or the proper use of the morning-after pill. In spite of the facetious tone, issues that are taboo in much of Middle India are articulated loud and clear, but with a touch of humour.
The fashion section recommends, among other things, how to steal actor Deepika Padukone’s thunder by flaunting the right kind of lungi. Elsewhere, “Nicotina” brings “an unforgettable female character from the movies” to you every week (“A girl you just can’t miss”). Finally, there is a blog on film-maker Paromita Vohra’s TV series, Connected Hum Tum, among other things.
The Ladies Finger has the eccentric flavour of contemporary avant-garde media-watchers, from the Gawker and Salon to, closer home, Kafila, and is chatty, gossipy, sarcastic and searing. The march of clever sentences may occasionally feel a little tedious—in the opening paragraphs of Mody’s pee report, for instance—but these are minor glitches in a largely engaging enterprise.