Ask yourself "What would Neenaji do?"
Neena Gupta is the life coach we need but may not deserve
Cinderella had a fairy godmother, Sanju from Shaka Laka Boom Boom had his magic pencil, Dorothy had the yellow brick road, and Simran has yellow sarson ke khet. What we wouldn’t give to have a pocket navigator pointing us in the right direction. Google Maps for adulting.
Especially since the last year has successfully managed to suck the positivity out of everyone. Including forever cheerful Pammi aunty, whose specialty was laughing at the most unfortunate of moments – “Hahaha, koi nai beta, agli baar pass ho jaoge.”
Whatever might be causing this collective despair – another planetary retrograde, being trapped with the family, or the entire world waking up on the wrong side of the bed for two years straight – it seems to have spared one person. Neena Gupta.
She’s the only person on our Instagram feeds, who has refused to let the lockdown rain on her parade. What’s kept her going is her “Koi baat nai, dheere dheere, ho jayega” attitude. Even when she’s doubled up like a pretzel, trying to ace a yoga asana, she asks hopefully “How far is my hand from my thigh?” The disappointing response – “Very far” – doesn’t deter her. “Koi baat nai, dheere dheere, ho jayega.”
These are the words we need in times of frustration, when we just can’t manage to make soft rotis even after months of toiling in the kitchen, or when WFH seems to be getting harder by the day.
It’s also how she turns her inconveniences into opportunities to learn. “Mere wala bhool jao,” she says, urging her Instagram followers to break away from being dependant on certain products or brands to fulfil their needs. “To make my shampoo last longer, I added water to it. I did the same with my hand wash. I only use my favourite moisturiser once in two days to make it last longer, and otherwise use the brand available locally,” she explains.
Neena Gupta has cracked the code to remaining grounded when you’re being stripped off of all sense of familiarity and normalcy.
With her reassuring aura and roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done approach to life, she reminds us of another special lady we rely on when sailing through malicious waters. Mom.
Just like your mothership, Neena Gupta is diligent with her ‘good morning’ posts, refers to us as “modern zamaane ke log“, and is afraid to embarrass her daughter by what she posts on Instagram, but does it anyway. Never taking herself too seriously, she shows us how to live in the moment and of course, on our own terms.
Which is why Neenaji is the life coach we need, but definitely don’t deserve. When we find ourselves stuck or overcome with frustration, we ask ourselves: WWND – what would Neenaji do?
Scroll down for some WWND solutions to the problems you’ve been facing during this seemingly never-ending lockdown.
What would Neena Gupta do?
“I want my house to look like my Pinterest board but it’s just impossible. WWND?”
“Jab tak kapde naa sukh rahein ho, washing machine na khadi ho, aur kahin taulia na sukh raha ho, woh ghar, ghar nahin lagta,” says Neenaji.
Raise your hand if you’ve shovelled freshly laundered clothes into your closet to shield surprise guests from the truth.
We’re all guilty of trying to make our homes appear perfect — especially if they have an audience. But as Neenaji reminds us, it’s these lived-in nuances, the imperfections and the hints of chaos that turn a house, into a home. The reminders that a real person lives and breathes in the space are what give it life.
Who could ever feel welcome in a home that looks like a museum anyway?
Listen to Neenaji, embrace the messiness and focus on the imperfect elements that make a house feel like home.
“No one realises how much I do around the house. How do I get my kids and husband to show some appreciation?”
“I have noticed that homemakers, and women, who cook for their family, rarely cook what they like. It’s always something that someone else wants – kids, husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister, brother,” says Neenaji. “We deserve to cook what we like to eat, sometimes, at least,” she adds.
“Khaane mein kya bana hai?” could be the first step in showing appreciation towards the most important person in your life – you.
“Self-love is not just a state of feeling good. It is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. When we act in ways that expand self-love in us, we are better equipped to accept our weaknesses and our strengths,” explains clinical psychologist Deborah Khoshaba. Self-love also reduces our need to explain ourselves, increasing our self-esteem and reducing our desire for external validation.
Cooking what you enjoy may seem like insignificant, but it’s a major first step for homemakers who consistently put others’ needs before their own.
“Rajma chawal is the closest I’ve come to true love. But after I eat it, I’m always scared I’ll accidentally let one rip in public. Help?”
Men can belch, fart and burp, sit with their legs wide apart but women have been schooled on etiquette for as long as women have existed, from being told to sit with their knees locked tightly together to delicately covering up a burp as a cough.
But why should sexist rules govern flatulence? Neenaji says “Aisa lagta hai ki sirf aadmiyon ko hi adhikaar hai (Seems like only men have the right to do that).”
In an article titled ‘Etiquette has always been used to control women’, author Rajvi Desai quotes an essay in The Journal Of Modern History to conclude that when it came to men, “society often excused poor manners if they were talented or hard-working, but for women, manners often constituted the entirety of their identity and self-worth, making failing at etiquette inexcusable.”
Shrugging off this outdated girdle, Neena Gupta is all for normalising women dropping fart bombs as and when they please. Especially during lockdown, when our only source of entertainment and pleasure came deep fried, and coated in besan.
This may appear to be about farts, but let’s clear the air, it’s all about letting go of the societal notions dumped on the fairer sex.
“Is it too late now to say sorry?”
This video is not too profound, it’s just a video of Neenaji apologising for mispronouncing a word.
What does catch your attention though, is the humility and grace with which she acknowledges and rectifies her mistake.
The art of apologising can often be challenging. But take a cue from Gupta, and just rip the band-aid off.
“When we don’t apologise, it creates so much waste: wasted connections, wasted opportunities to be close to people, and wasted energy in resentment, counterattack, and continuously justifying our own behaviour,” explains psychologist Molly Howes, author of A Good Apology: Four Steps to Make Things Right.
“How do I let out all the hatred I have towards my boss without getting fired?”
“Take two minutes at some point during the day, and lock yourself up in the bathroom. And blurt out all the profanities you’ve ever heard. Make sure no one can hear you outside, but at the same time, don’t dial down on the passion,” suggests Neenaji. This nuska can also be prescribed for, and works equally well when you’ve been locked indoors with your family for an indefinite amount of time.
Also, if you have access to a sound-proof room, we suggest you make full use of it, and let out a loud primal scream to rid yourself of stress. No, seriously, it’s scientifically proven.
“Will ‘Log kya kahenge?‘ always remain an unwanted plus one in my life?”
Every night before we go to bed, we review the day in our heads. And squirm at everything we could’ve done differently.
Neenaji’s solution to this is to stop taking yourself so seriously. And she practices what she preaches.
She is a show-off activist. So much so that she has a series of Instagram videos titled Ma main reh na sakun (Mom, I can’t contain it any longer). In these videos, she is seen showing off a brand new t-shirt that came in the mail, her beautiful backdrops, and doing that with no shame or remorse.
On the flip side, you will also find her giving you the ultimate life lesson in jugaad – if it gets too hot, just cut the legs off an old pair of jeans instead of buying an expensive new pair. Can’t find your regular brand of hair colour? Use what’s available and slap it on with a paint brush instead of the usual paraphernalia.
As Gupta seamlessly transitions between celebrating her indulgences, and being nifty, you find it impossible to label her with any pre-conceived notions. And even if you tried, she wouldn’t let that stop her from enjoying herself anyway.