The Unstereotype Challenge: Kasavu, Coffee and Conversations in the Office Canteen

When Team LF got together for a fun activity to break stereotypes about South India, our own stories of challenging the old order tumbled out.

LF Team

The other day, a set of boxes were delivered to our team at LF, immediately setting off a flurry of activity. The enthusiastic young’uns in the team were the first to unbox, and something about the contents kickstarted conversations. Pretty soon everyone was planning, plotting, posing, tying, rolling, yanking—or sitting back to watch the fun. “Monday,” announced Rahul, our brand manager, with a flourish. “The activity is on Monday.” Whaaaa! 

Let me give you a quick back story. This is the team that lives on the other side of LF—the people who plan, write, shoot, direct, market the shows you all love. Every show, for us, is a conversation starter—one that begins in our meeting rooms and (we hope) turns into a talking point in your drawing rooms. Take our newest show Dakshin Diaries for instance, one that holds a unique lens on the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka—exploring the nuances of life in the southern states, bringing stories that break away from clichés of language, food and culture; speckled with delicious tales of people, places and foods. Stories of indigenous foods and ancient recipes that have survived the centuries; art forms whose provenance lies in the confluence of cultures that thrived here; the nostalgia around stately old homes that once echoed with the sounds of large joint families that occupied them and musical traditions that continue to bathe entire towns in classical hymns. As he explores the nooks and crannies of the south, our host and fellow traveller chef Rakesh Raghunathan takes us on a sensorial journey along the unexplored south.

Also Read: 

#BalanceforBetter: Team LF Celebrates Women’s Day 2019

When such a show comes home—to us in our head office—it pushes us to think out-of-the-box. Here I will pause briefly to reintroduce the box that delivered excitement—nestled inside the Dakshin Diaries surprise box was a Mundu, an Angavastram, and a challenge to ‘break the stereotype’. A kasavu or gold bordered mundu is a garment worn around the waist in Kerala (also known as veshti and lungi in the other states). On the designated day, the team arrived, some had enthusiastically styled the garment with a twist, others stuck to tradition. Some wore the Mundu under a shirt or kurta, others styled it with a sash and heels or fashioned it into a pant-sari. A piece of clothing with an ancient history, loved equally by the young and old, had started a conversation about breaking stereotypes in current times.

Here are some voices from the conversation that flowed after, over cups of coffee, tea and mango juice on a hot summer evening:

Adhishree Murdia, brand and marketing head

My #unstereotype move has been in standing strong beside the person I fell in love with. When my husband wanted to follow his dream and open a restaurant, I kept my day job and worked with him on the weekends. Then came the challenge of balancing as we raised our little son, he would sometimes step into the role of being the mom as his workplace was closer to home. We shared our responsibilities. Through difficult decisions– the closure of our restaurant post de-monetisation and my husband’s rough career patch where I became the bread winner while he showered all his love and time to our son to shape up his future. We’ve lived by our ‘unconventional’ choices, respecting each other’s decisions even as we switched roles and found a model that worked best for our little family—who cast men and women in these roles, really?

Also Read: 

Egg Pancake, Lobster Pickle and More: The Secrets within Sarabhendra Pakasastra

Rahul Banerjee, senior brand manager

We all have a story we are proud of and here is mine that I share with much joy. The product of middle-class families, my wife and I have had to deal with the expectations, benchmarks and stereotypical ideas of marriage in our culture. Getting together was our choice, and not an easy one considering I’m younger to her by 5 years. This raised some eyebrows, just like our other decisions, where I chose to be the 'man at the kitchen' as my world revolves around my kitchen and love for culinary art, with my partner being my biggest critic and connoisseur; and she’s the 'Wo-Man' who runs the house and calls the shots. But life has never been better—we feel blessed to have each other, and know we are true to what we are best at, and to each other.

Priya Sharma, senior manager—film acquisition

When I began working for a small production house, with crazy working hours, a lot of questions were raised. I was the first person in my family to have chosen to work in the media. “Why this line? Why work so late? What about the people, there’s so much gossip around the media!” they said. But I decided to stick to my decision, this is what I wanted to do. It was time to challenge hackneyed ideas and put ones’ foot down. Now I’m doing well and my family has accepted my choices.

Also Read: 

Start your Day Right with this Easy Masala Dosa Recipe

Suchismita Samaddar, associate creative director

Having clarity of thought is considered a great skill. However, some of the best things in my life have come out of deep anxiety and lack of clarity. By the end of third year graduation my entire college was preparing for IAS, IIM, IVY-League colleges etc. Everybody had their futures planned and I was just having panic attacks. I knew I didn’t want to do any of those and the safe choice of doing master’s in literature was not appealing to me. So, I finished college, packed my bags and headed home. Home also is a transient concept for me since I grew up in 7 different states of India and my home has always been where ever my father is posted. Incidentally at that time he was in Bangalore. I thought in the 3 months break I will figure out my next plan of action. Three months came and went, and I was still on ground zero. I thought about taking a break from studying which meant that for the first time in 18 years I wouldn’t go to school. It was scary because it was not typical for an Indian student. Plus when I would resume my education all my friends and batch mates would have moved ahead in life. But I decided to pause and take the leap of faith. My parents weren’t ecstatic, but they supported me, however they didn’t want me to just sit in the house “what will you do this whole year” they asked. That’s when I thought why not performing arts. I decided to pause and pursue arts. I joined Kalaripayattu classes and also Hindustani classical music. In the next three month I had the biggest accident of my life (so far) and had to kiss Kalari goodbye but the classical music stayed. I couldn’t master the dance form but mastering 6 ragas made my year. Eventually I went on to get my masters and made sure I went to my dream college as well, but the break year was my act of breaking a stereotype and embracing uncertainty, over letting fear of perceived consequences dominate my life. And I hold it dear even today.

Must watch: A sneak peek into Dakshin Diaries, the show on a mission to re-introduce south India to the world

The Unstereotype Challenge: Kasavu, Coffee and Conversations in the Office Canteen


Editor’s Pick

Recipes of the Day

Related Stories

To feed your hunger for more


Want more? Click on the tags below for more videos and stories