In a world where fashion labels and trends are constantly forcing women to doubt their self-image, a college professor from Ahmedabad is promoting body positivity and inspiring women through her social media venture.
It’s the time when you are travelling back home after a long day of work. Cramped up in the confined space of public transport, you whip your mobile phone out of your pocket, your companion for the next half hour. Soon you are immersed in a world of friends, fun, and frolic—a world of smart phones and 3G connections that now rest in our palms. It is in this time and space that you encounter Falguni’s Fashion Fundas.
It’s a social media space where Falguni, the protagonist of this story, gives one tips and advice about what to wear for what occasion, and posts some snapshots of her own fashion for the day, some really stellar and often ethnic designs—all the while spreading a lot of body positivity.
Back in the physical world, Falguni agrees to meet up one day. It is a breakfast meeting, and she has arrived before time. There she sits, ravishing in a peacock combination of blue and green, and beautiful laser-cut earrings. Cheerful forever, she is quick to console, “Don’t worry, I have this bad habit of reaching before time.” It’s just to make you feel better, but you are instantly at ease. As the yummy South Indian breakfast arrives, she raves about her love for food. What better place to talk about food than Ahmedabad.
A professor at the prestigious MICA (earlier known as Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad), Falguni talks about why she thought of this online venture.
“When appraised by conventional and standard notions of beauty, one is often not kind to oneself. Through Falguni’s Fashion Funda, what I would like is for people to be comfortable in their own skin and, moreover, be kind to yourself,” she simply states. “My fashion tip is always that—fashion comes from within, it is an extension of yourself. Fashion is not always expensive. It is about body positivity and looking beautiful in what you are comfortable.”
Falguni, who has been teaching in MICA for 12 years, started Falguni’s Fashion Funda at the insistence of her students, who already hailed her as “a local fashion icon”. Now she is a popular social media figure. Everything from the clothes she wears to work to what she recently wore on a holiday gets numerous likes. “Recently, on a holiday in Prague, I wore frocks. This was my first time, and I had discovered some international vendors who designed them with amazing cuts and detail. It is not often that one finds plus-size western wear in India,” she remarks. So high is her popularity and fan following that she often endorses her students’ creations on her social media page.
In our media-frenzied surroundings, where notions of beauty dominate – how tall one should be, what skin tone, what size, and so on – being plus-size conventionally attracts a lot of advice, from diet tips to fitness regimens.
Women (mostly) chase these notions, instead of pursing health and self-confidence in one’s own body. How has it been for Falguni?
“I have always been someone on the healthier side. Having always been a scholarly and academic person, these ideas have never been my priority. I have always liked to dress up. Gujarat is a place with so many textile and accessory options,” says this two-time topper at the University. “However, when it was time to get married, and in an arranged marriage set-up, these social prejudices about gender and body were evident.”
Eventually lucky in marriage and love, Falguni is heavily critical of the traditional system where women and men have to have certain pre-qualifying criteria to be sought after in the marriage market. A shift in perspective is needed, and Falguni credits her profession with giving her that space. She says, “I have often questioned what the role of a teacher is. Is it just limited to class, course work, and marks? I don’t believe so. The true role of a teacher is to build perspectives.”
Having grown up in Rajkot and begun her teaching career there, she goes on to talk about how being in MICA and Ahmedabad has been fulfilling for her. “In 2004, I moved to Ahmedabad. A lot of my personal development I would credit to MICA. This vibrant inter-cultural space is where I learnt to let go of a lot of my personal prejudices. Ahmedabad is an open, cosmopolitan, and accepting city, perhaps owing to the fact that it’s an education hub attracting people from all over the country, with institutions like IIM, NID, CEPT, and PDPU to name a few.”
“Being a part of MICA, I get to meet a lot of motivated youth of our country, as well as some exciting peers,” she adds. This kind of engagement and exposure is essential, especially since this top B-school generates numerous media professionals every year. Soon, they go forth in their lives and operate in an industry that churns out the media content that surrounds us, that subtly shapes ideas and values for millions.
In times when people are questioning the social responsibility of the media, the concepts and perspectives the institution instills can go a long way.
The teacher in this context is not just someone who can talk about a McLuhan text, but also someone who can be a role model. Effectively, Falguni is a role model. It’s difficult to conclude your little morning rendezvous with her, talking about Ahmedabad.
Falguni explains an interesting tradition, “Vatki Vyavahar, for me, symbolises the ethos of Ahmedabad, or for that matter, a Gujarati neighbourhood. ‘Vatki’ means a bowl. Often, you make something delicious at home, you give a bowl of the delicacy to the neighbour. The bowl comes back after a few days with a delicacy that the neighbour has prepared. This simple act of sharing fosters a spirit of comradeship. In fact, we have a saying that goes, ‘Pehle sago padosi.’” Falguni explains it means, “Your neighbour is your ‘first’ relative.” A perfect representative sentiment of Ahmedabad and its people.
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