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Shivani Fonseca is my favourite character in Anubhav Sinha’s new movie, Thappad. Played by Dia Mirza, she’s a single mother of a 13-year-old. Since her husband has passed away, several people—including her precocious daughter—encourage her to move on, to find a man. She is a side character, a neighbour with limited screen-time, in an ambitious movie about a housewife’s awakening after her husband slaps her at a party. Though not very effective as a movie, Thappad is packed with a dozen important small messages. I like that the housewife, played by Tapsee Pannu, makes it a point to say she is a “choice housewife"—instantly dissolving the categories of empowered working woman and subjugated homemaker-with-no-agency. She is efficient, intelligent, indispensable and beloved by her husband and his family. She is happy too—until the slap shakes her into seeing things anew. Despite this stinging central story, Shivani Fonseca remains my favourite character because of her quiet admission towards the end of the film. She is happy as she is. She is content and fully realized as a human being despite being a single woman. That, for me, is a bigger shocker for patriarchy than Tapsee Pannu’s brave court trials.

In her story, “Forty-Plus, Single And Loving It", Simran Mangharam, co-founder of the disruptive dating network Floh, chronicles three real-life Shivani Fonsecas.

On the eve of Women’s Day, we have packed this issue of Lounge with stories of varied female triumphs. Women fighting the patriarchy in their own ways, from those in rural Bihar earning their livelihood as bakri ke doctors" to funny girls in Bollywood who are having the last laugh.

There are, of course, costs to not fitting into a mould. As Jwala Gutta—once India’s top-ranked doubles badminton player, and a Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championships medallist—points out, the cost of being outspoken is that “a player of (her) stature doesn’t have a Padma Shri". She has no endorsements till date either but she says, “I can’t keep quiet." Gutta is all set to launch her new sports academy in Hyderabad next month.

Our cover model this week is a triumph in herself. Twenty-one-year-old Anah Shaikh is a hijabi influencer with more than 60,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok each. One of the leading names in the hijab influencer universe in India, she has collaborated with global brands like Daniel Wellington. She “loves her bike" despite a serious bike accident last year that left her with three facial fractures. And you know what? She did her own make-up for the shoot in the 2-hour cab ride from Mumbra to Bandra.

We also cover solo woman travellers, with the spotlight on mothers who get shamed for “leaving their children behind" as if their husbands who co-created those little humans can never handle the responsibility. From conventional package trips to cruises and even self-driving holidays, the good news is that solo women travellers are opting for a variety of travel experiences. “We have witnessed an increase in searches and bookings by women travellers, including mothers, on our platform. With more women becoming financially independent and income levels rising, both domestic and international travel have become very accessible. In this quarter itself, we have witnessed a 78% growth in the number of women travellers wanting to go on driving holidays not just in India but also abroad," says Sunil Gupta, managing director and chief executive officer of car rental company Avis India. See the story “Travelling Mums Equals Happy Families".

Also, don’t let other women, men or famous designers shame you because you cannot manage a sari. “One of fashion’s key jobs should be about giving solutions that suit your current life," says designer Tarun Tahiliani, who celebrates 25 years of making women’s wear easy to wear. “You run around a lot more than your grandmother. The scope of life has increased. You can’t dress the same way as women did 20 years ago. My mother used to change saris thrice a day, which then had to be washed and starched. You can’t do that now," he says in the interview, “Real fashion for the real Indian woman".

Of course, buying one of Tahliani’s pre-stitched, structured drapes might not guarantee instant happiness. But here’s what can: Be like Shivani Fonseca. Be happy in your skin.

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