KALYANI SAHA CHAWLA, ENTREPRENEUR
At 16 I was this tomboy, which might be difficult to believe now! I was very mischievous at school and my mother was almost always exasperated with me. I played football with the boys and climbed trees and sat there in the afternoons to hide from my mother and avoid homework! But suddenly I discovered boys at 16! And, that was pretty much when my emotional downhill started! (Laughs)
In our days of yore, it was sports, school friends, stealing money from my mother’s purse to have phuchka after school as I got no pocket money as the concept didn’t exist in those days and praying very hard to pass exams, running to Calcutta Club to play tennis and swim and eat the best wafers in the world every afternoon. Reading was the only pastime at home and living in a joint family, my grandparents and great-grandmother were my worlds. They encompassed values and principles and I am who I am because of that. Calcutta in all its glory was the best part of my life.
Like football which I loved so much, my message to my 16-yearold self would be: Keep your focus on the goalpost even if it keeps shifting.
NAYANIKA CHATTERJEE, SUPERMODEL
I would tell myself to be braver. At 16, I was coming out of my shell and had realisations about a lot of things. I kind of grew up at that age. Suddenly life opens up in different ways. There were a lot of insecurities I had about myself, which slowly went away... my whole colour bias, being too tall, not being super confident about myself and if I had been braver faster, I might have been able to do more. It took me a while (laughs) to realise my potential and understand and let go. I was underconfident and I couldn’t understand if people were actually being nice to me, whether they liked me or not. I was not conventional. That kind of thing bothered me a little at that age.
Then I went to college and did a college show. I was like: ‘Why are they asking me?’ There were a lot of questions (in my mind). If I had been a little braver, I would have gone ‘yeah!’ I was sceptical and I waited for things to happen to me rather than going out and getting it. That’s why I said, be brave. I used to think modelling is not for me, looking good is not for me, these clothes are not for me, and these colours are not for me. There were too many preconceived notions because of the conditioning and your experiences in life before that. I would tell my younger self: ‘Don’t worry... ho jayega’.
Sasha and Kaabia Grewal
SASHA GREWAL AND KAABIA GREWAL, ENTREPRENEURS
Sasha: I don’t know if I have something to tell my 16-year-old self because whatever I told my 16-year-old self, I am that today. One thing I would tell my 16-year-old self is that being independent is the most amazing thing and I would have still striven for that when I was 16. There is a sense of freedom that cannot be given to you by anyone in the world. You have to work towards it and be focused. Just being disciplined, more disciplined than how I am and always striving for a sense of independence.
My sister and I were independent right from school. I think there was a determination at that point, which still exists now and there was a lot of focus on the fact that we had to do something for ourselves. That quality to really do our best when it came to studies, sports or arts, was always there. It was important for us to do everything very well. That is still there and that has been the biggest success factor over the years.
Kaabia: I think I was determined at that age and I am very grateful that I was like that. I wouldn’t change anything because that’s what brought us here. When you are 16, it’s one of those founding years for the next chapter of your life. It is important to get clarity at that age. Sasha and I were blessed that we knew what we wanted to do.
SUNEET VARMA, FASHION DESIGNER
I would say exactly what I said to myself then, which is follow your heart, stand on your own two feet and be proud of who you are and work on the gift God has given you and hone that skill. Luckily, I also had family that supported me in that decision, but I would have done that regardless.
I was actually not very good at a lot of things. I was an average student, but I was a very good artist and a brilliant illustrator. I had won every single competition... international ones... I knew I would pursue it but I wasn’t sure whether it’d be fashion or commercial art or painting or sculpting. I was going towards sculpture till my dad who worked in textiles told me that if you sculpt textiles, it becomes clothing, which is when I started to think about fashion, form and drape.