REBEL WITH A CAUSE
Harper's Bazaar India|March 2021
Parliamentarian Mahua Moitra is unapologetic, unafraid, and here to make her voice heard. Bazaar gets to know the woman everybody is talking about...
NANDINI BHALLA
It is a sunny day in February, and the Bazaar team and I are gathered on the lawn of parliamentarian Mahua Moitra’s Delhi home. A three-month-old Rottweiler puppy named Henry—the newest addition to Mahua’s life—has the crew enthralled, and we ooh and aah as he chases a falling leaf and nibbles at our shoes. “Be careful, he’ll damage the equipment wires!” Mahua calls out from the dining room, where the make-up team is working their magic. And it’s a good thing she noticed, because little Henry has discovered a chewing toy in the camera wire, which is then rescued from a terrible catastrophe.

In under 24 hours, Mahua will leave for West Bengal to begin a strenuous, eight-phased battle for the upcoming Assembly Elections. For now, however, she is surveying the saris—her preferred choice of attire—laid out on the bed, by the Bazaar fashion team. She needs neither recommendations nor guidance. “I will wear this,” she states, pointing to a grey Payal Khandwala sari set, “and that one is nice!” (a green, floral Kshitij Jalori sari).

And then, in the very next breath, “Okay, let’s start shooting in five minutes!”

As promised, Mahua is with us in a few minutes, looking striking in a crisp, expertly draped sari. There is an electric energy to her, an urgency of sorts, and the camera and her quickly become friends. She drapes her pallu over the arm of the chair, and gazes confidently into the lens, her lips pursed and the slightest smile at the corners of her mouth. “Very strong!” the photographer exclaims.

The crew breaks for lunch and, over pizza, we discover that underneath Mahua’s no-nonsense demeanour also resides genuine warmth...and a quick sense of humour. “What’s the latest Bollywood gossip?” she asks us, and then jokingly quizzes the photographer, “Who is the most beautiful woman you have photographed?”. He hesitates for a moment. “Now you will feel obliged to take my name,” the parlimentarian laughs.

The Bazaar cover shoot is effortless, and we wrap up in under five hours. Mahua sprints across the lawn to change her outfit...Henry has a vet appointment scheduled at 6 p.m., and the staff is instructed to carry him to the car, toys in tow.

Meanwhile, the member of parliament and I hop into my car, where we spend the next 45 minutes closely tailing her driver through Delhi’s traffic while discussing Mahua’s life, vision, and how speaking up for what she believes in, is “in her DNA”.

Most would describe the All India Trinamool Congress’ first-time MP Mahua Moitra as a fierce, fearless woman, owing to her impassioned maiden speech in the Lok Sabha, titled 7 Signs of Fascism. So rousing was her address, that several hailed it as the ‘speech of the year’, and the parliamentarian quickly emerged as an icon of sorts. Within minutes, her fiery declamation was shared and reshared on Whatsapp groups and social media feeds, and dozens of ‘Mahua Moitra fan pages’ sprung up on Twitter and Instagram..

Now, surrounded by the sounds of office-hour traffic, I ask what she was feeling while delivering that famous speech. “You know, a lot of people say, ‘You speak so passionately’ or ‘You sound so angry’, but these are real emotions that I am experiencing...they come from my heart,” she says. “I speak what I’m thinking, and I speak what I’m feeling. If I’m angry, that must come out. If I’m frustrated, that has to come out, too. I don’t apologise for how I sound, even though some might say my address would have been more impactful had it not been so aggressive. But then it wouldn’t have been me...”

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