Oxford Bookstore Kolkata ushered in International Women’s Day 2021 with a discussion on #ChoosetoChallenge with women entrepreneurs Amrita Roy Chowdhury, Social Entrepreneur and Disability Activist; Shristi Dhandharia and Vrinda Ganeriwala, Photographers and Co-Founders, V S Studio moderated by Ramanjit Kaur, Internationally Acclaimed Theatre Actor – Director and Founder, The Creative Arts; amidst an enthusiastic and interactive audience.
The in-store session presented by Oxford Bookstore Kolkata marked also the return of the famous gallery events which had been a highlight of the city’s social and cultural calendars pre-lockdown. This was one among the many curated events that will follow, adhering to the MHA health and safety guidelines. Echoing the global International Women’s Day theme #ChoosetoChallenge, the lively conversation touched upon the different stereotypes and challenges that mark gender roles and what does celebrating women’s day mean for these women of substance.
The panellists in the course of the evening deliberated the individual challenges faced by them while trying to establish their work while highlighting the most difficult as well as the most absurd norms that they had chosen to challenge to build up their respective entrepreneurial ventures and careers. Amrita, Vrinda and Shristi further elaborated on the one mind-set and norm that they presently choose to challenge as a pledge for the coming year.
The evening drew to a close with celebrating the amazing feats that women all around the world have achieved in the last one year, from Shaheen Bagh to the #metoo protests, from women leaders shining in the fight against the pandemic to climate activism.
Amrita Roy Chowdhury highlighted the misconceptions associated with Dawn Syndrome. Breaking the barriers of prejudice, she explained her dual work towards spreading awareness about Autism and rehabilitation of children and young adults with special needs. The Founder of Transcendent Knowledge Society, an NGO in Kolkata, she has been instrumental in training specially-abled adults. She has employed several young adults in her one-of-a-kind café Sip-n-Bite opened in collaboration with South Kolkata’s ‘Parashmani’, a parent-run organisation for special children. The café is the only Kolkata –based café, where everything, starting from the kitchen to the finances, is handled by individuals with cognitive disabilities. When the world talks about mental health with much deliberation, she chose to challenge the biased societal norms decades ago giving hope to a community of special individuals and their parents. She believes her work towards spreading awareness is the need of the hour so that individuals, well-wishers, organisations come together to eliminate bias.
Vrinda Ganeriwala and Shristi Dhandharia spoke about the journey of starting their photographic venture- VS Studio with an emerging trend of pre and post-wedding photography in a male-dominated market. They deliberated on the behind-the-scenes of a shoot and what goes into the making of a perfect photograph. Known for their journalistic approach to covering events, during the lockdown they also started a special segment ‘Candour’ where they had a warm tete-a-tete with the famous faces in the wedding industry discussing everything from best lighting for portraits to the most absurd requests that they have come across from couples.
International Award-winning Theatre and Film Actor and Director Ramanjit Kaur, moderated the session while giving insights into her role as the Founder-Director of The Creative Arts, the prestigious Arts Academy in Kolkata. Her works span theatre training and experimental theatre for both children and adults. She had been instrumental in the inception of The Creative Arts Academy last year which provides regular classes on theatre and creative writing.