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Fat.So?, a truth-telling podcast by Ameya and Pallavi shares the experiences of fat women in India like nothing before. We meet the creators.
Don’t eat that. Look at her running! That gadget will magically reduce your inches. Have you heard of this new diet? We don’t have your size, sorry! Who will marry you? I’m just worried about your health. Fatty.
If this was something you could expect to hear every day, from strangers as well as people you knew and loved, how would you feel? The truth is, I had no idea when I asked myself that question. In fact, even if I have not been intentionally cruel, I’ve thought very little about what the world feels like for fat women.
The Fat.So? podcast by Ameya and Pallavi, a podcast about the experiences of fat women in India changed that completely; so, I knew I had to feature these two talented women as part of the ongoing PodQueens series. (In each interview in this 6-part series, I will be talking to one or more podcasters, on a particular aspect of podcasting. The idea is also to create a kind of ‘wisdom bank’ for anyone in India who’d like to start a podcast today.)
Ameya is a journalist who has done various things in her career including setting up podcasts for the Indian Express and commissioning books at Penguin India; Pallavi is an HR professional with a 17 year long corporate career behind her. Together, they bring incredible energy and truth-telling to the Fat.So? podcast.
In this interview in the PodQueens series, I spoke to them especially on what it means to co-host a podcast, how they work together, and what you should be prepared for, when co-hosting a podcast (or any show) with someone else.
Aparna: First, let’s hear your origin story – how did you both meet and how did everything begin for Fat.So?
Ameya: Tithiya Sharma, who runs Gather Sisters, a community in Delhi, often organizes events on women-only themes. The community she has created is amazing, so when she put up one for fat women, I was like, “I have to go!”
Pallavi was running the session and I feel like we really clicked; like somebody would say something and we both would make eye contact. On some level, it was very instinctive. We were up till some ridiculous time in the morning afterwards, we stayed up chatting and drinking, and then the next day Pallavi asked me to meet for dinner. When we were at dinner, she shared the idea for this podcast, and when I said I would help her, she said, “No, no, come and host it with me!”
It took just that one meeting for you, Pallavi, to think that Ameya is a good person to do this with?
Pallavi: This whole thing about body positivity (and it moved on to being fat acceptance etc.), it just changed my life so much and I had this itch to let it all out and make other people know. When it all started for me, it was not like it is now where there are all these influencers and fashion shows talking about body positivity and fat acceptance. In 2016, Dr Cat Pausé from New Zealand (who is actually one of the few fat academics around) connected with me, because she was doing a show with women across continents about fatphobia and I was like, wow, this is so cool, I need to have more conversations like this. But I was neck deep in work so though the idea was there, it never really took off. So when Tithiya asked me to do a gathering for plus-sized women, I was like yeah!
I was the moderator and I was trying really hard to be very good about making eye contact with everybody, but after a point, with Ameya, it was like – I get her and she gets me!
What Ameya doesn’t remember is that, (because we were quite drunk and high after that party which went on till three a.m.), when I came home, I was so wired that I wrote a note on how we must have these discussions. I knew I had to meet Ameya; not just because I wanted to talk about the podcast but also because we had such a great time, and I wanted to meet her again. So, yea, then we met again, and it really was a split-second decision for me.
Ameya: Three days later we had a meeting, and in half an hour, we decided what are the topics we are going to cover and for how long. Soon we had a podcast plan, and then, we said okay, let’s record a pilot. Tithiya’s friends let us record in their studio for a discount. Another friend of mine offered to help with our social media set up. And it was just like tap, tap, tap, tap… we had an idea and it happened. I have never experienced anything like that!
Coming to how you both work together, do you have very distinct spheres of work or does everyone weigh in on everything?
Ameya: We usually do it on consensus. The only thing that I do that Pallavi doesn’t do is editing the audio. Normally speaking, a podcast producer will do stuff like figure out the structure, content the segment, contact people, manage the social, put out the information – but both of us share the work on all of this.
Pallavi: Ameya is the techie of our operation, but everything else just flows naturally because we agree upon what needs to be done; we divide the work, we also pick up for each other if one person is not being able to do something.
Ameya: We have a season brainstorm where we come up with a theme we want to look at in the season, then we both figure out the structure of the season itself (what we want to discuss in each episode etc.) and for every episode we prepare a flow.
We have a structure document where we both roughly prepare what we want to discuss under that episode so that we make sure we don’t overlap with each other. And when we record, we actually record from there but it’s not a script – we know what we want to say, but the words happen then and there.
Are there cases where you disagree strongly on things, even in terms of how you approach fat acceptance or anything else? How do you deal with that?
Pallavi: Um, we are very different people, and we are both very strong in our opinions, as well you know! At the same time, it is amazing how there is a lot of space we have for each other. So, there are times we have disagreed, but we have agreed to do it a particular way.
Ameya: We both tend to ‘play black’. There is a game theory idea, that in every situation you can play red where you make sure you win, and the other person loses, or you can play black where both of you win but win less. In a healthy relationship you play black more than you play red, and that is what we do.
We have disagreed quite strongly, but I do remember consciously saying, “It’s okay, you don’t have to be 100% on board, just go with what Pallavi wants to do, its fine”. I think underlying it all, we have very similar values in the sense that we both believe very strongly in making space for everybody’s feelings, even if they seem contradictory and we both believe in each other’s love. In the sense, I believe that whatever Pallavi may say right now or whatever I may say right now is not going to change how much she loves me and vice versa.
This is something that Pallavi has taught me by the way, but the idea is that you can really disagree with someone, but they don’t have to be hurt by it necessarily. Generally speaking, we talk very straight so there is no pretense. I always know where I stand and that is one of the most empowering things you can have in any relationship. Hands down!
Pallavi: That’s exactly what I wanted to say, that Ameya makes me feel really safe because she has this ability to say what she has to say and not necessarily in a threatening or accusatory way.
Ameya: For both of us the priority is to fix that problem and then later we can figure out who is at fault and who should’ve done what or not.
I’ve been a hardcore listener right from the first episode. It got me thinking of how your personalities have evolved. It starts off with Ameya being very ranty, and Pallavi comes across as very zen, so you know there is a very nice balance happening. Curiously enough, in the first episode of season two, Ameya is talking about what she has learnt and the ranty self is dialed down a little. So, talk a little bit about what the podcast has done for you both as individuals and as presenters.
Pallavi: I have to admit that Ameya’s rage has been very liberating for me because it has sort of given me permission to rage. I think my whole life, rage has been something I have had to hide or repress, because I wanted to appear like a particular kind of person; I was always trying to be the good fatty. I was always someone who was trying to hide the fact that I’m fat and unhappy about being fat so I always had this foil, an acquired behavior of having to appear a very angelic way, because that made me smaller and more able to fit into the world.
Rage is an emotion I have suppressed for a very, very long time and meeting Ameya and understanding that it is okay to express rage was liberating! I still check myself and I still ask myself, what is it you are really angry about, and my go-to response is not going to be lashing out. At the same time giving myself permission to be angry has helped me tremendously because it has helped me call out behavior of a lot of people in my life and say, sorry I’m not okay with this!
Ameya: It is funny how you started the way you did Pallavi, because I would definitely say that I have never known someone who is as compassionate to themselves; I think of myself as a pretty compassionate person, but I never tried to be a good fatty – I was like you know what, I don’t fit into your mode, well f#ck you. That was always my attitude. Just seeing the example of engaging from a place of compassion, and doing it on an emotional level is something I have learnt from Pallavi. But I don’t think my ranting is going to go anywhere because believe me, especially with the last six months, I have a lot of rage!
Pallavi: Similarly, I don’t think my Zen outlook on life is going anywhere! I love that I have developed so much compassion for myself because with the amount of rejection that I’ve handled my whole life, I hated myself.
In my own head my dialogue was that I’m a defective piece and if anybody is willing to be friends with me or have any sort of relationship with me it is because they’re doing me a big favour. It has taken years of very hard work and continuous effort just to see myself as a human being living a human life, you know, just a real person doing real stuff.
If you had to pass on one learning from working together as co-hosts on a podcast, what would it be?
Ameya: The one thing to make sure if you’re co-hosting a podcast is, you have to be absolutely, comprehensively clear about what your podcast is. Not in the sense of “this is the content”, but what are the values your podcast stands for, what is the direction you want to push your listeners in or you yourself want to go, what is it that you want to achieve here. I may personally think, say if I am doing a mental health podcast, I’m not going to homeopathy because this is not an acceptable answer to me. Now if I have a co-host who believes homeopathy is the cure to mental illness, eventually we’re gonna clash. You have to be absolutely clear about your brand in that sense.
Pallavi: For example, when we sat together as to what it is we want to achieve on this podcast, we said we want to have fun and even if one person has a better life thanks to this podcast, our job is done.
One last question – could each of you could give me a podcast that you think everybody should listen to – one Indian and one which is from elsewhere.
Ameya: I have a personal favourite – I love It so much that I think everyone should listen to the Guilty Feminist, especially women. Thursday Bitches is one I recently discovered and I’m in love with it!
Also, all Indian women should definitely listen to the Women In Labour podcast by comedian Aditi Mittal and filmmaker Kristina McGillivray.
And what about you, Pallavi?
Pallavi: I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts to be honest with you, but I will tell you one podcast I have felt drawn to – it is Unbuttoned – a podcast where one man and two women in Bangalore talk about their own experiences when it comes to dating and different aspects of sex.
As a big fan of this podcast, I hope this interview gets you checking out Fat.So? and truly having your mind boggled. You can find the Fat.So? podcast at all the major podcast platforms you’d normally listen to your favourite podcasts at. You can also follow them at Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
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