In the industry that self-help and healing has become, there’s often emphasis on listening with empathy. But starting a conversation is also an art, an exercise in allowing both sides to express themselves and truly understand. Our cover story this week is on the difficult conversations about sex, desire and consent that are rarely had in a country hesitant to talk openly about these subjects. Talking about sex isn’t just about being crude; discussing pleasure is also a means of understanding consent, patriarchy and gender inclusivity. And for the many who can’t talk face-to-face, social media, with its wide canvas of memes, videos, photographs, illustrations and more, is becoming a tool to start discussions. A small but growing group of medical experts, counsellors and students is joining hands with content creators to use social media and shift mindsets as well as draw the connection between sexual health and mental health. Knowledge of their bodies also empowers women and gender minorities with the vocabulary to seek help for physical ailments or talk about sexual assault or past trauma. They get trolled relentlessly but these influencers are chipping away at the stigma around such conversations.
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There’s another group that’s starting difficult conversations—publishers who are bringing out books for children on subjects that are considered “too hard for children”. They are publishing books on caste, racism, climate change, human rights and more, going beyond the glossy, cheerful picture books of the past, introducing children to the real world and encouraging them to think about equality and inclusion.
Conversations continue through the issue in the form of interviews with writers, musicians and artists—from science writer Hari Pulakkat, who has a new book out on India’s scientists, to the extraordinarily talented Jaaved Jaaferi, who marks 25 years as a comic-actor, to designer Michael Kors, who is marking 40 years in the industry. And one of the stories that’s just an indulgent read this week is a writer’s discovery of a particularly addictive brand of potato chip-biscuits from Bangladesh.
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