International Women's Day 2017: Tune in to Chuski Pop, a feminist podcast by two desi girls

Editor's note: This is among a series of stories we're publishing in the run-up to International Women's Day in 2017

Lena Dunham and girls.
Queen Beyonce's reign of power.
Masturbation on Valentine's Day as an Indian Woman.

This is the world of Chuski Pop, a podcast set up by two Indian women living abroad.

The creators — Sweety and Pappu — describe themselves as "two desi girls riding the fourth wave of feminism in our salwar kameez and golden heels, while flipping the bird to uncles and aunties."

If you are looking for a podcast (or anything on the internet really) that truly embodies desi feminism, then this is it. We had a chance to catch up with Pappu, and this is what she had to say about Chuski Pop:

Tell us a little bit about yourself and Sweety.

Chuski Pop is the sum of two parts. Pappu is the Yin to Sweety’s Yang. We would describe ourselves as woke desi feminists. I work as a copywriter by day and Sweety is a kickass concept artist and illustrator. Both of us grew up in the Middle East. Both of us have childhood memories of travelling to India for vacations. The longest time I’ve spent here is three years when I worked on my Bachelor's degree in Mumbai.

Why did you choose the name Chuski Pop for the podcast?

The name was Sweety's idea. The other contenders were such gems as 'Kiss my Chuddies' and 'Wheatish is the way to go'. Chuski is an ice lolly. Sweet, sour, tangy and ice cold. An innocuous sweet, but in the hands of a precocious Lolita it turns into something dangerous and suggestive — all because in our primarily patriarchal society any phallic-shaped fruit or food can mean only one thing. I imagine myself and Sweety as precocious Lolitas sucking hard at our kalla-khatta and kachi-kairi flavoured golas, giving zero f**ks but plenty of death stares to tharki uncles.

The chuski pop girl

The Chuski Pop girl

The Chuski Pop girl is Sweety’s creation. She is smart, sexy and intelligent – all the hallmarks of a 'nasty woman'. A woman who knows her mind and will speak it.

Why this air of anonymity, you  don't seem really keen to use your real names or put up a photo or two of yourselves on the website? 

I currently live in the Middle East. When we started this podcast, I did not want to get into trouble over something I say, also I hadn't really told my family about this pet project. It was Sweety's idea that we use nicknames. 'Pappu' is a name my friends have given me. I didn't really think much of it then.

While recording our podcasts we do end up revealing a lot about ourselves. A lot of our topical discussions would be accompanied by personal anecdotes. While our anecdotes may be unique and personal, I feel that the things we talk about are relatable to most desi girls.

So, I think it’s immaterial what I look like or what my real name is. If you listen to us, you pretty much get a clear picture of us.

What is the inspiration behind the podcast?

The podcast was Sweety’s brainchild. When Sweety moved to Vancouver three years ago, she found herself feeling intensely homesick and lonely during the first few months. While art was her constant companion she also needed a project which would help her channel her boundless energy into something more meaningful and less solitary. While she enjoyed listening to podcasts while she drew and painted, she also craved for content that she could relate to.

Being in a foreign land does that to you, you seek out familiarity – in films, music, people, food and so on… Also, being at the precipice of your adulthood i.e. your late 20s gives you a unique perspective. As you look back at your 20s, your mistakes and learnings become apparent as you. If you are of a certain disposition you may even find yourself being a mentor to other young girls. While there are many white female 'voices of the generation' (hello, Lena Dunham), there are few desi female voices in pop culture. But such lofty aspirations were not the driving force for the creation of this podcast. Sweety simply wanted to create content that she would listen to, where she could talk about desi pop culture and brown girl issues that she identified with. The fact that other desi girls would also identify and connect with it was incidental.

I always say that if Chuski Pop is our child then Sweety is the mother and I am the father. The art you see on our website is by Sweety and she also does the amazing sound editing you hear on your episodes (so our proverbial 'child' has got its mother's looks). This podcast is 70 percent her and 30 percent me. Nevertheless, this podcast is a celebration of female friendship.

chuski pop1

What is your idea of feminism?

As a child I was questioning social mores and codes before I became aware of the word 'feminist'. We grew up surrounded by really strong female role models – our mums, aunts... Our mothers were both career women and domestic goddesses. The men always seemed to rely on the women in my family. Yet, the women rarely got the credit they deserved. There rarely was an equal balance of power and responsibility. My first introduction to feminism was through the term 'bra burning feminist' in my sociology class. This I understood later was actually not feminism. Feminism is different from misandry. Feminism is a movement that strives for equality in social, economic and political areas of life, among both men and women. Misandry, on the other hand is contempt and dislike of men. The feminist movement is more about recognising the imbalance women are at the receiving end of — in the workplace, in distribution of domestic duties, the moral policing — and working towards closing that gap.

What about your brand of desi feminism?

We are currently witnessing the fourth wave of feminism. However, it is important to understand that the fight is not the same for all women. Us desi feminists have struggles different compared to say a white feminist. The kind of discrimination we feel is not only because of gender, but also compounded by our culture and our race. It is for this reason that it is important to draw attention to the term 'intersectional feminism'. Yes, we do identify as feminist, but more so with the struggles of South-Asian desi women, thus desi feminist it is.

And what about feminism here in this subcontinent?

I think we are both progressing and regressing at the same time. Desi women are more woke than ever and are refusing to be doormats anymore. Unfortunately it's regressing because desi men are more fu**ed up than ever before. And it's this clash and conflict that is making it so hard for feminism to be in the forefront.

chuski pop 2

How do you create the art that we see on your website?

Much of the pop art that Sweety creates on our Instagram is from the Bollywood movies from the '70s, 80s and 90s. The stellar sound bytes are from movies from this time. But I don’t think we are nostalgic sentimentalists. We do know that movies from those times had strong misogynist and sexist undertones. It was a weird time where it was okay for movies to have extended graphic rape scenes, but kissing and showing normal affection was done behind a rose bush.

A lot of the sound bytes from these movies are included just to show the stark juxtaposition of what the popular idea of a ‘sanskari bahu/beti’ was at that time and now. It sets a contrasting tone from the rest of our podcast. However, this era of films had some gems — Rekha as the fabulous dom queen in Madam X is one of them.

How do you decide the theme of the podcast?

We plan our topic a month in advance. Since we started having a theme for our episode, we decided to alternate our episodes this year. Every month, we have one news and pop culture episode — where we discuss women-centric stories with a good chunk of pop culture and gossip (after all, It was our shared guilty pleasure for tabloid gossip that connected me and Sweety). The themed episode is usually decided by either of us — it could be a topic either of us are passionate about (like the financial independence one) or have a viewpoint to share about (like our recent magic of makeup episode). Or it is born out of a personal struggle (like the dating or arranged marriage one).

Artwork is courtesy Chuski Pop. You can catch their podcasts here.


Published Date: Mar 05, 2017 09:38 am | Updated Date: Mar 07, 2017 05:05 pm