Snow White, Elsa, Jasmine, Moana, Rapunzel…. The list of Disney princesses is endless.
“But, why is there no Disney Princess from India?”
This innocent question posed by 4-year-old Sahana Prasanna to her mother, Aishwarya Rajan Babu, has led to a movement of sorts!
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How it all started
Speaking to The Better India, Aishwarya says, “One day, Sahana was reading a Disney princess book, and she asked me why there were none from India. Her question got me thinking about the beauty and strength that Indian women possess. I wanted an answer, and be a voice for my daughter, so I raised a petition to Disney through Change org.
When asked how else she is trying to bring this to Disney’s attention, she smiles, and says, “I am hoping that with these articles and social media posts we can create enough of a buzz to grab their attention.”
Going a step further
Not content with the petition, Aishwarya, who is the founder and moderator of an online community called The Mommy Series, which has more than 6000 members from 45 countries, started a unique campaign.
“I decided to conduct a contest, which I called ‘Princess of Hearts’. For this, I invited entries from the members of the community and urged them to share a real or imaginary story about who they see as an Indian princess,” she explains.
The contest had three rounds—the story was the first, followed by a princess speech with empowering words, and the final round was one where these princesses got to showcase their talent.
Speaking about the response, Aishwarya says, “We received entries from Indian mothers residing all over the globe. Some of them were also in regional languages, so we took the time to translate them. If I can say so myself, this was a big hit. Even mothers who initially were sceptical started sending in their entries later on.”
What kind of stories were sent in?
Aishwarya says that the most heartening part of it all were the kind of stories that she got to read. “In these stories, there were everyday princesses, princesses with disabilities and even transgender princesses. Each one of them, whether real or imaginary, touched our souls and were worthy enough to be made into books and movies.”
Aishwarya mentions that the winning entry was a simple yet profound and meaningful story, that narrated the transformative journey of a princess where she unleashes her most authentic self to face life come what may, and becomes an everyday Indian warrior princess. The varying emotions and imperfections of the character made her very relatable.
Meet the judges
In order to look at the entries and find the genuinely impactful ones, Aishwarya managed to get together a very accomplished team of judges.
a) Maharani Radhika Raje: A heritage conservationist, textile revivalist and author.
b) Rani Shobhal Singh: A social activist, who founded the Surya Uday NGO which supports women from tribal society.
c) Elavenil Valarivan: An ace shooter from Tamil Nadu, who won the 10m Air Rifle gold at Rio ISSF World Cup. “Interestingly there was a mom who sent in a story about her as a part of the contest,” quips Aishwarya.
d) Anita Andrews-Hutchinson: The director of multiple schools in Chicago.
e) Meher Nisha: A member of the online community. “We chose to have a mother who has gone through varying hard times and yet puts a smile on her face to keep going come what may,” explains Aishwarya.
f) Jeevitha G – A mother and an entrepreneur who has her clothing line.
Commenting on one of the stories sent in by Shakthi Pinky, judge Anita Andrews-Hutchinson said, “A story for all girls: That they are powerful and impactful if given the opportunity. And sometimes they need to TAKE the opportunity when none are presented.”
“I appreciated that the message wasn’t just for girls, but society as a whole. The hand-drawn dual image was wonderful as well.”
“For me, this contest was a breath of fresh air amidst the daily routine. It gave wings to my dreams—my dream princess, helped me jog my thoughts and brought shape to my imagination,” says Keerthana Prabhakaran, a participant.
Yet another contestant, Mythili Karthick, expressed her happiness at being able to participate in a contest after she became a mother.
Sri Vidya KM bagged the first prize, while Ranjini Anand and Sakthi Pinky got the second and the third prize respectively.
In conclusion, Aishwarya says, “These stories have become Sahana’s bedtime stories. Through them, she has learnt so much about strength, courage, beauty or discrimination by colour or gender, education, hardship, adoption, self-defence, and so much more. Every story has a moral to teach.”
Aishwarya intends to make this contest an annual affair and is working towards ensuring that Disney hears her plea and includes an Indian princess in their family soon.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)