Sonam K Ahuja believes that she is living her best life right now. It can be exhausting, though. Consider that the fashion-forward actor-entrepreneur lives out of three cities (London, Delhi and Mumbai); manages her own label (Rheson, which she started with her sister Rhea), and works on her husband’s fashion label Bhane; and, of course, acts.
But it is a happy exhaustion. She loves her work, surrounds herself with satsang (good company) and stays away from negativity, Sonam tells Thrive Global India in a freewheeling chat. Edited excerpts:
Thrive Global India: What makes you unafraid? Of living your best life. Of being yourself. Of thriving!
Sonam K Ahuja: The one thing that makes me who I am is being afraid, and not being scared of being afraid. Without fear things don’t seem so real. Also, being unapologetically myself allows me to be confident and free, it’s very exhausting trying to be something you’re not.
TGI: You have an obviously positive energy around you. Have you worked on that, or is that a natural state of mind for you?
SKA: I believe in approaching everything with compassion and as soon as you do that you see everything in a new light and positivity comes through. It’s something that I’ve grown to love about myself.
TGI: How do you stay centred? How do you manage life between Delhi, Mumbai and London?
SKA: I don’t sleep with my phone next to me, it’s always in the other room. I speak to my husband every night before sleeping, and we’ve decided not to talk about anything negative during this time. He’s my best friend.
I really believe in satsang, having the right people and the right company. I don’t like sycophants and ‘yes men’. I love people who challenge me, I love people who ground me. Any person, whether a celebrity or not, will thrive only if they surround themselves with the right people.
Exercise, eating right keeps me centred, I love reading and wouldn’t recommend spending too much time on social media.
TGI: How do you deal with the pressure of being under scrutiny all the time?
SKA: As an actor you’re like an open book, so the only way to deal with it is to look within and to understand yourself. Not to become self-conscious but to grow and to understand and accept what goes on around you.
Also, if it does affect you there’s no harm in talking to someone professionally. I benefited from it a couple of years back. It was a two- to three-month session but it really helped me. And if you can’t, then write a diary, or meditate, dance, anything that helps you get centred.
TGI: What do you think are the unique challenges that young people, particularly girls, face today? You have addressed that so well in your Buzzfeed piece as well as on social media. What is your advice to them?
SKA: I want to tell every young girl that you don’t need validation from outside. The only validation you need is from yourself. There are no beauty standards that have survived over time. The idea of beauty changes over and over again, so you need to set your own standard of beauty and it’s the only thing that matters, not what a magazine tells you, not what an actress is looking like, not what a model is looking like.
I believe health is beauty—being healthy physically, emotionally is beauty. When someone glows because they’re healthy and spiritual, that’s beautiful. If you can jump, play, read, laugh… that’s beautiful to me.
TGI: You are an unabashed proponent of solidarity among women so that they find it easier to speak up and support each other. How important is #sheforshe or the sisterhood for women?
SKA: India is a misogynistic and patriarchal society so here it’s especially important for women to support women, but it shouldn’t be women against men. I will stand up for whoever is right, I am not going to stand up for a woman just because she’s a woman.
I am an unapologetic feminist but above that someone who believes in equality. I don’t condone homophobia, pay disparity, anything that challenges the concept of equality for all. Feminism shouldn’t become toxic. I have got into trouble for saying I was a feminist because that was associated with a stereotype. I love wearing pretty clothes and taking care of myself. It’s all about choice.
TGI: You seem to have an inherent sense of spirituality. How much of it is traditionally drawn from the wonderful reservoir of Indian wisdom?
SKA: I am a practising Hindu but I don’t believe it’s a religion: It’s a philosophy and a way of life that I have adopted. What resonates the most with me is that Hinduism has evolved from other religions and thought processes that people brought to India, it wasn’t dogmatic in any way. I like the idea of Karma, of good and bad. I like the idea that your life is like a bank balance, you will get what you put in. The only rule is to be a good person.
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