The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 | Fifty-plus is just the beginning, say ‘Not Your Aunty’ podcast hosts Kiran Manral and Shunali Shroff

The journalists-turned-podcast talk about the need to reclaim their space as women in an increasingly youth-obsessed world

Updated - January 18, 2024 03:21 pm IST

Published - January 18, 2024 01:57 pm IST

Catch Shunali Shroff (left) and Kiran Manral at The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 in Chennai on January 26-27.

Catch Shunali Shroff (left) and Kiran Manral at The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 in Chennai on January 26-27.

Authors and journalists Kiran Manral and Shunali Shroff are not your average 50-year-olds, and are definitely not ready to hang up their boots. In their podcast, Not Your Aunty, they discuss everything from the Ozempic craze to climate change to Bollywood’s bestie, Orry. Ahead of The Hindu Lit Fest 2024, where both are speakers, the podcast hosts talk about the need to reclaim their space as women in an increasingly youth-obsessed world. Edited excerpts:

How did the ‘Not Your Aunty’ podcast begin?

Shunali Shroff: One day, Kiran and I were catching up over coffee and lamenting about middle-age and the state of the world and hot flashes and how motherhood is overrated. And then we said, let’s do a podcast and see if people will be interested in it.

Kiran Manral: We did wonder if anyone would really want to listen to two middle-aged women talking about these things. But surprise, surprise — people are listening. That’s been a pleasant shock to both of us.

Who are your listeners?

KM: We thought it would be women in our demographic, but you know, it’s also young women. I was at a literature festival in early December, and there were young girls coming up to me and saying that they love the podcast. I was in shock. How is this podcast resonating with that demographic? But no complaints, of course!

SS: You know, there’s a devoted listener who is a friend of mine. Very cerebral, very bright — he’s a very senior art consultant and runs an ad agency. He says to me the other day, when I told him that it had been a year since we spoke, that he feels like he talks to us every week! Because he listens to the podcast. He said, ‘Doesn’t it drop every Thursday?’ I was baffled, because he’s 37, and I thought, my god, a 37-year-old is hooked to our podcast. So I asked him why, and he said, the chemistry works for him because we are both such different people. The other thing he said was that we say a lot of things in the podcast that many people are thinking but not saying.

So much about the podcast, not least the name, is about where older women find themselves in society...

SS: There’s no better country to feel middle-aged in than India because it happens so swiftly. We have no problem with growing older, but I think that when you reach a certain age you realise that the time you have between now and when you become completely invisible, there’s very little of it left. And that is a complaint most women have.

It’s a reminder that though you feel young, and you are not ageing that quickly mentally either, from a marketing point-of-view, you are no longer relevant. The TG is now 20- to 32-year-olds. The whole world is focused only on this critical mass of really young people.

Is the podcast a way to reclaim your space and voice?

KM: We didn’t actually talk about that, but I’m sure it was at the back of our minds. You have to remember that both of us have been kind of forerunners in the digital space. We were early mommy bloggers back when blogging wasn’t even a thing. We know the space, even though we might not be making Instagram Reels. We have a very definite social presence. So, to dismiss us just because we’ve crossed a certain age bracket is to dismiss the host of life experiences that we bring to the table. So I think yes, this is intended to claim our space not just in the social media arena, but the world at large — to say we’re here, we’re not going away and we’re still very relevant.

Having been friends for so long, how is it working together?

KM: We started our careers together back at The Asian Age. So there is this familiarity with each other. There is a tacit understanding between the two of us as to where we step and where we don’t. And I know that Shunali will say the things that I would hesitate to say. I think I weigh my words because I’ve been on Twitter since 2014 and we know how things have turned out. So I’ve learned to err on the side of caution.

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