Zarna Garg Masala Podcast - Soul Sutras

Zarna Garg Masala Podcast

Can brown mums be funny?

Zarna Garg US Indian comedian on Masala Podcast looks into camera with her hands folded Indian style
US Indian comedian Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast, Season 4

Zarna Garg is on Masala Podcast & I’m thrilled to interview her. If you haven’t seen Zarna on her Tiktok videos which literally have millions of views, you’re missing out.

Zarna is the funny brown auntie we all wish we had. And she’s on Masala Podcast doling our her Aunty Z wisdom. As Zarna says herself, she’s an Indian immigrant wife, mom, lawyer, screenwriter, producer, stand-up comedian & overbearing Indian auntie. Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast is hilarious, of course. But what struck me most is how she embodies the best bits of being an Indian aunty. You know all those solid practical bits of advice, that no-nonsense chat that we all need. You know that you want this Indian auntie in your corner! I hope you enjoy listening to Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast as much as I did.

On Masala Podcast, Zarna talks about how she became a comedian. Zarna had lost her mom at an early age in life and a way to cope with everything life threw at her was by being funny. Humour was not just a coping mechanism, but also her approach to being integrated into society. Soon enough she was able to make light of any situation and this was the start to her becoming the comedian we know of today. Today Zarna is known for being the funny brown mom, a comedian with over 60 million followers on TikTok, and who can be seen on various comedy shows.

ZARNA GARG ON MASALA PODCAST, TRANSCRIPT

S4, EP 1 – Can brown mums be funny?
Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
We, I think, as brown women don’t realize that we have the permission to laugh. We’ve been trained our whole lives to be serious, to be seen and not heard, and that if jokes are going to be made, the men will make the jokes about women. So, I think that when people see me and for the first time I make light of Indian men, Indian uncle’s, the jokes go the other way. It’s like a little bit of an aha moment because we’ve seen other cultures do it.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
I’m Sangeeta Pillai and this is the Masala Podcast, the Spotify original. This award-winning feminist podcasts for and by South Asian women, is all about cultural taboos, sex, sexuality, periods, mental health, menopause, liberal shame, and many more taboos. Join me around my virtual kitchen table as I talk with some inspiring women from around the world, exploring what it means to be a South Asian feminist today. My guest on this episode is Zarna Garg, if you haven’t seen her Tik Tok videos, which literally have millions of views, you’re missing out.
Zarna is the funny brown auntie we all wish we had. As Zarna herself says, she’s an Indian immigrant wife, mom, lawyer, screenwriter, producer, stand-up comedian and overbearing Indian auntie. She’s hilarious of course. I keep watching those videos and laughing out loud. But what struck me most during our interview is how she embodies the best bits of being an Indian aunty. All those solid, practical bits of advice, that no nonsense chat that we all need. I hope you enjoy listening to that now guys, as much as I did.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
You know, I lost my mom very early in life and there were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of topsy turvy curves that life throws at you, everybody has to deal with them. But I found humour to be one of the weapons that I could use as a way to integrate into society by myself. I was alone a lot. I found it as an easy way to connect with people. Like when people didn’t know what to do with me, making them laugh made it easy. They were always like, let’s include her because she’ll keep everything nice and light, and I did, and I learned that very early in life. So, I’ve been doing some version of comedy my whole life

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Without even calling it comedy, right?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Who knew white people do this as a job? It never occurred to me that you’re going to get on stage and trash your President and your Prime Minister and all of that. And that’s a job, you can get paid for that. It would never have crossed my mind. I mean, to be really completely honest. Even though I’m an Indian woman living in New York for 25 years, the thought that I could do that never crossed my mind.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
It’s funny, right? Because we never see that. So, then how do you imagine that you can do that? So I completely get that in a different context. So, I guess you’ve gone from the kind of making people laugh all your life and that helping you through tough situations in your life to becoming the funny brown mom. How did that happen? How did that transition happen?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I mean, it was just really natural. My kids used to have friends over all the time, they still do, and those kids always laughed at whatever. I’m always yelling at the kids about their grades, and what they’re eating, and who they’re dating or not dating. No one needs to date in my opinion. So, it was a constant stream of like, wanting to hang out at Indian auntie’s house. Because I made them laugh. Like everything I said, somehow was funny. Even when I tried to be scary. I was funny. I will say no, I’m trying to yell at you guys. Don’t laugh. You see this butcher knife in my hand. You need to be scared. Nothing I did was scary to them. It was mostly all like, oh aunty’s being funny. And it really came every step has been a natural evolution.
You know, when I was thinking of creating my social media profile, I was like, what’s the most literal way in which people know me? They know me as the funny brown mom. And that’s how it started. I mean, at that time, the thought of doing stand-up comedy had not really crossed my mind. I thought I’ll do some funny things on social media, make people laugh on social media. That would be the end of it. But each step led to the next step, which is how we are here today.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
That’s really lovely to hear. Because you know, when you imagine a successful comedian, you imagine someone who’s done the circuit for many years and kind of honed their game and this and that and the other and so this is so heartening to hear that you’ve been doing this all your life at home, then with your kids and then you’ve naturally transitioned to be a successful comedian. That’s really nice. I really like that.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I think so. I don’t know success is what you define it as, but I’m working. I’m definitely a working comedian. I’m professional. I get booked for a lot of gigs, you know, now I’m learning, and I’ve been a businesswoman my whole life. So I approach comedy from a business angle. I’ve never had that ,oh, I just do it for the art. Like, I’m not that person. I was never that person. So even when I’m doing the comedy, I have to think what’s the audience for it? Who’s going to tune in? And in some weird way it helped me navigate this road, I think a little more smoothly because otherwise you can get lost. There’s so many things you can do that if you don’t have a focus, you’re going to be frazzled.
You’re going to have a million pieces in the air. And I naturally had an inclination against that type of life. And I think that helped me and today when I help comedians, they ask me what I think, or my advice, for whatever it’s worth because I don’t know much myself but for whatever it’s worth, I always tell them have some sort of focus like what you want to do, besides just being a comedian. Because there are people who, for example, I know TikTokers who only do TikTok, they do nothing else. And when they go that hard in one avenue they see a lot of success. So you have to know what that is for you. I was lucky that I had a business instinct that guided the way the whole time.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
I’m very curious as a creative person. So how does that business instinct help you as a comedian or as a creative person?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I mean, I’m going to tell you in a very crass way, because it’s going to sound crass in an artistic environment. But I’m very clear my time has a lot of value. I have a limited number of hours in a day, for example. So whatever I allocate my time to, needs to have some sort of revenue generation, at least a path to revenue generation, because otherwise there are 10 million things I could be doing all day, and I don’t have the luxury to do that. I have three kids. In addition to my work, I have a whole life. So I mean, I rarely get to see my kids now because I’ve worked seven nights a week. So even just having that clarity that whatever you’re committing your time to has to have some sort of revenue attached to it. You’ll be surprised how freeing that is because you just say no to everything else that doesn’t fit that space.
And that keeps the space clear for the few projects that are serious projects that want to align with you, and you want to align with, and I think that women are particularly weak in that space. Anything you know, anybody has a charity, anybody’s got something, we want to help everybody, and I want to help everybody but the best way I can help somebody else is by first being successful myself. Otherwise, we’re not helping anybody. I almost feel tough when I have to say no, a lot. And it’s not because I don’t want to help it’s because you’re not going to be helped by me if I’m not successful to begin with. Do you know what I mean? And women get guilted very easily.
I’ve seen it like the men don’t think twice. I see the male comedians around me they won’t even think about doing half the things that the women will be like, okay, if you really want to, you know, fine, I’ll do it for free fine, your charity is my charity. No male comedian I know would even go down that road. But the women fall for it every time. So, now I’m particularly sensitive to it because we have to stand up for ourselves and say that if we’re doing this, we need to get paid. And until we do that for ourselves, we’re not going to get paid.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Absolutely. 100% and even in a funny way, this is pure brown mom logic at its best. You know, like if you think about what our moms or grandmothers would say is like, okay, yeah. It sounds crass when you say it but actually that lens that you’ve just put, it makes everything so much clearer.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
And we’ve asked men that. The brown moms have asked their husbands, the men in the family who worked. If you look at a traditional setup, while you were gone all day, how much did you earn? So then we have to hold ourselves to the same standard I think.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
As South Asian women, we’ve been trained to be people pleasers. From the minute we’re born. We’ve been taught to never ask for things. Because if we actually dared to ask, what would people think of us? Would they find us too demanding? This cultural conditioning affects every single area of our lives. We struggle sometimes to ask for what is due to us. Whether that’s asking for a pay raise or for an orgasm. This is something that I still struggle with. Yes, I’ve got a voice now. And I run a strong South Asian feminist network, but asking for what I really need, whether that’s being paid for my time or for my expertise. That’s still very hard for me.
But I’m determined to change this. I’m not going to let my upbringing determine the rest of my life. Something you do really well Zarna, is raise a lot of serious themes or issues within South Asian culture with your comedy. So, all the sketches you do about telling your son who to marry versus who your daughter should marry, the two girls that you’re advising in the cafe. I think what you said is like, oh, you’re getting whatever A’s in your scores, but that’s too much, dumb it down. So, I love that lens of making a joke about something but actually, that’s something really serious within our culture. How do you get to that?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I mean, look, you’ve been part of this culture. Our whole lives we’ve been watching it go down. Now I just put my own humorous spin to it. There is some truth to it. There’s some exaggeration. It’s a little satire, but it’s a little like, let’s all think about this in a different way. So, it comes naturally to me, I don’t even think about it to be really honest.
When I’m sitting with my kids, or whatever, I think of what my elders would have said to me, or what I heard, and I tried to spin it in a more modern way and be like, how can I position this so that the average person looking at my Instagram or my YouTube will be like, oh, this is what you strive to do. Sometimes I get a lot of hate because people think I’m being serious, but that’s part of the game. I take it as a compliment. I’m like, if you really believed what I’m saying, I must be a really good actress.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
What kind of hate do you get?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Just like how regressive is this woman, the usual. It’s not serious. I’m a comedian. I mean, my bio everywhere says I’m a comedian, but people get so caught up in my words when I say things like you’re a girl, dumb yourself down. Those words evoke such strong emotions and people forget that I’m not being serious, I’m just spoofing. But I take it as a compliment because I must be really good.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Have you seen that it’s helped women in any way, like even just seeing someone like you being the aunty, standing in front of people and talking. I’m sure it’s hugely inspirational.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Listen, we, I think , as brown women don’t realize that we have the permission to laugh. We’ve been trained our whole lives to be serious, to be seen and not heard, and that if jokes are going to be made, the men will make the jokes about women. Because brown men traditionally have a slightly more fragile ego if it’s possible, then all men in general. So, I think that when people see me and for the first time I make light of Indian men, Indian uncles, the jokes go the other way. It’s like a little bit of an aha moment because we’ve seen other cultures do it.
Like if you watch Everybody Loves Raymond has a mother-in-law. You know, mother-in-law jokes across different cultures have a Jewish culture, been around for 50/100 years. But why haven’t we done it? It’s because Indian women have not believed that we have a right to laugh at it. Everything is so serious all the time. So, I think that when they watch me for the first time, I get told all the time, its first time they feel like oh, we could laugh at it, too. It’s not a big deal. You know, it’s not that serious. We’re all the same as the Italian mother-in-law, as a Jewish grandmother. We’re all the same people at the end of the day.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Absolutely. And I think a lot of stuff that we’ve experienced as South Asian women, brown women, there’s so much seriousness in our lives, like we have to get married, have to have children, become an engineer, whatever, produce the children, you know, earn certain amount of money. It’s very serious. So I think you have an opportunity, where you’re like, actually we’re doing all of this and actually it’s quite funny to think about it in that way, it is hugely liberating, I think.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I think so. What has all that anxiety gotten us?

Sangeeta Pillai
Nowhere.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Honestly, what a loss if you don’t enjoy your life at all. The moments that you do have, what a loss. So I feel like yes, you should be serious. Listen, I’m an Indian woman. So I’m not like, oh, I’m not asking my kids to become artists, to be clear, they’re not allowed to be artists. But have fun while you’re doing the math.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
I love that. I really love that. The other thing I wanted to talk to you about was, within our culture as women grow older, we’re supposed to like go away quietly, and like just live for our kids and be ready to die. You know, like, that’s pretty much the trajectory. To see a woman like you kind of stand up. You’re in your 40s, right? And make light, make jokes, have a successful career. You know, be the aunty and be who you are is incredible, I think.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I think that, like you said, we’re expected to just fade into oblivion. And that expectation also comes with this assumption that we’re going to all be able to afford to fade into oblivion, somebody is going to take care of us, our husbands or children or sons or daughters, and that’s not reality today. We have to exist. I mean, part of why I work as hard as I do is because I’m very aware that I have to have my own means in life. I’m not depending on my kids to take care of me, nor do I want to.
That fade away theory existed 100 years ago when you gave birth to 10 kids and then they all took care of you. Who’s living that life today. You know what I mean? And it’s completely outrageous. Especially this topic that you just raised, I’m particularly sensitive to it because this pandemic in the last few years completely wiped mothers out. Moms were the most vulnerable group that got completely destroyed. We lost our jobs. We quit our jobs so we could stay home and take care of our kids. And do you think a single person anywhere is going to step up and help us? No. All the money or especially in America, all the new jobs that got created 90% went to men.
So I am now a very vocal and fierce advocate in that space that women have to stop acting like they’re going to like live on other people’s handouts. This is a big reason why I work as hard as I do. I’m out six or seven nights a week performing somewhere because you have to be unrelenting otherwise, no one’s going to help you. That message has to be clear that moms also need money and moms need to work. And women as they age, the plan cannot be the man will take care of us whether it’s your dad or your husband or your boyfriend or whatever. Who lives that life anymore? And more importantly, who wants to?

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Exactly and I think that’s the bigger point like, who wants to fade away into the background? I don’t.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
And we have so much to give and so much to contribute. The thing that I will say is that as an Asian woman, especially with a mission to wait to be invited. And I’ll tell you that that’s not how business works. Business is war, you’ve got to just barrel through. You have something to say. You’ve got to just say it. No one’s going to make space for you. It’s overcrowded space, everybody’s trying to win. So that as a cultural piece, I will say that I’ve learned that I’m just going to have to say it because women in particular will be oh, I don’t know. Like, all that’ I don’t know’ hasn’t gotten us very far.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
So true. And it’s almost like we’re programmed to step back and say, oh, someone else is going to ask me, minimize ourselves.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
And to minimize ourselves. Don’t say anything. Don’t be too loud. Honestly, none of it has helped us or served us well in life. And I’m completely over it. And I’m really lucky that I’m surrounded by really badass women comedians who are over it as well. So they encouraged me, and they give me all kinds of empowerment to barrel through.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
And the mom thing is the other thing is that like, as Asian women, you’re brought up to be the self-sacrificing mother that’s usually seen in film. That’s what we get told that women live with the kids and all of this stuff and it’s cruel.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
If you think about it, the whole ideology behind it is laced with cruelty. To think that a woman should just give up all her own desires, her own ambitions, or own wishes. Why? Because her kids wishes take precedence. It’s completely cruel. No human being should live like that, man or woman or anybody you know. So I am over it. Like honestly, I tell everybody yes, you need to be there for your kids, no doubt, but so does the parent, the other parent. And honestly, I think the kids need to be there for their moms.
My kids helped me so much and I don’t feel bad about it. They should help me; I was there for 16 years taking care of every little detail. My daughter comes to all my shows, she films, these kids are so good with technology. Even if it’s a small gig or a big gig I try to involve my kids because I think that they need to know that we’re all part of the family and that means we all give and take. It cannot just be mom gives and you take. I don’t think that’s right for anybody. So I think that old notion is just cruel. And then to glorify it as if that’s a good thing.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Yes. I’m so glad to hear you say this and it’s so refreshing because around this whole mother thing is also this kind of like, oh but we can’t say that ,oh what will happen? It’s rubbish and to hear you say that is incredible.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I am so over it like I want to live, I want other women to live, I want moms to feel like they have a life that somehow when we chose to become mothers, that meant that was the end of our existence. And I don’t think any one of us sign up for that. So we need to fix that. I believe it needs to be.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
I absolutely agree. And I think women like you are starting to fix it. I think because that’s the conversation. I don’t hear too much. I think a lot of women listening to you on this podcast are going to go like yeah, because it’s something that no one’s talked about.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I think they should all go, “yeah”, and I’m telling you, they can all do something. That’s the beauty of social media. It’s enabled women who are home, who can’t leave for whatever reason, or have all these eccentric skill sets or whatever, there is now a place for them to bring their things to the table. And try to find their tribe and their world and monetize it in some way. It can all be done just from being home. If you’re not comfortable, leave it. The easiest thing we can do. I tell everybody, if you don’t know what to do for yourself, the easiest thing you can do is help other women who are already doing it. That’s a start, follow them, their work, amplify their voices, until you figure out what to do. Because then you know, then this machine keeps moving a little bit faster.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Did you have any fantasies in your life when you were growing up? That were inspiring?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I had a lot of strong women in my life, but they were all strong in that traditional South Asian context. You know, they were strong matriarchs, they ran the household in an efficient way to be really honest, no one broke the mould in that way that I now see women doing. And I do think that social media has had a big role in that. We see each other a lot more because of Instagram, Facebook. Women dominate social media. Suddenly, we’re all like, oh, you could do that in cooking. You could do that with sewing like we didn’t know all these things could be done. So it’s really created this new network. So I’ve always had strong women in my life. They were strong to the extent that there was no money involved. There was no income involved and I’m trying to change that. We need money to live. What are we thinking? I don’t want to have to ask my son, and no one should have to.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
My mother never had her own money. Women didn’t have their own money. This is what I saw as a young girl growing up in a traditional Indian household. Every week, my mother would have to ask my father for money, hands outstretched so she could buy groceries to feed us kids to send us to school. In the world that I grew up in, men had the money and men had the power my mother could never dream of leaving her abusive marriage, because she had no money. What would she do? How would she feed us? For my mother, no money meant staying put and putting up with her husband’s violence. Every single night. No money meant no choice. Talking about South Asian women, you know there’s we’ve all I mean, I certainly have and a lot of women I know have grown up with this immense pressure to find a job, get married, have kids. Do X, be a certain kind of mother, have a certain kind of body. You know, all of us there’s so much pressure. Do you think your comedy helps South Asian women feel less alone in that sense?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I mean, I would hope so. That’s what I’m told. Because I’m a notoriously bad cook. For example, cooking videos, all cooking bloopers. I don’t know how to cook. I mean, I can cook but you know, honestly, I don’t like it. I don’t want to spend my whole day in the kitchen. And I don’t want to spend my week obsessing about ingredients and which store is open and closing is just not my thing. Even though I’m a mom and I love my kids and I love all of that. But like, it’s not my thing. So I do a lot of like stuff in that space. And I get DMs all the time about how liberated women feel when they hear another Indian woman who’s like, I don’t want to cook, eat a peanut butter sandwich. What can I say? Eat a banana. No one died eating a banana. It’s all good. So I try to find things that are traditional weaknesses for our culture in particular. And I try to make light of those. And I hope that that that helps other people, you know, take that pressure off them themselves a little bit, but it comes from a real place like I don’t sit here and strategize. It was part of my life too. And I’m trying to get out of it. And I’m hoping that means getting out of it is going to help other people get out of it.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
And there is a real honesty to all your comedy. And I’ve always wondered like, oh, I wonder if Zarna thinks about these things before she records it or it’s just happening. It feels like it’s just happening.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I’ll tell you that’s the beauty and danger of social media. When you overthink something, it doesn’t work. The reason I have multiple not one, two, I have at least 10 videos that are over 5/10 million views each. The reason that happens is because it’s truly straight out of the hard real moments. I’ve tried, I’ve sat there and scripted like I should say this and then you should say this, and I should say this. I guarantee you those videos don’t even have 5000 views, and then some video where my luggage was like overboard and I’m stressed out and the whole thing is exploring at the airport. Because once again I tried to get my five extra pounds in for free. You know which every immigrant mom that I know of can attest to, but that moment was 100% genuine and real and for that reason it Bob. I don’t know how people know it’s real. I couldn’t tell you how. When I posted sometimes I’m embarrassed because it’s my worst looking moments. I’m actually traveling with three kids. I’m hot and sweaty. We’ve been in an airplane for hours. I was stuck in an airport, whatever. And yet, those are the moments that pop because people know people do know that’s true people. Absolutely. So now I’ve learned not to overthink it. Like if I’m feeling something in the moment. I created and I let it go and I let the people decide I mean, I’ve seen other creators create very artistic, beautiful pieces. And they do well too. I just don’t know how they do it. Like I’m not able to.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
I think your thing is very much what you’re doing which is shooting life as it happens and kind of pointing to the things that we were saying or within the culture I know these things exist and I’ve experienced them. And I’m just going to riff and just shoot, and I think it’s that raw, homemade quality to your work is what is really, really amazing about it, because we’ve all seen it. You know, we’ve all grown up with it.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I think so and I mean I hope, like some videos I put out, I look so bad. I can’t even believe I’m putting it out. And then it goes viral. I don’t get it. Have they not seen how bad I look? And no one seems to care. I think I was so caught up in whatever was happening you know like how to make pasta or like, how Indian people make Chai. I mean, yeah, I don’t know. Now I’ve become more relaxed. I shoot it the way it comes to my mind. And you know, if somebody doesn’t like it, it’s easy enough to unfollow.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
I think one of my favourite of your videos that I’ve seen is the Valentine’s Day One. I loved it. I watched it so many times. I sent it to so many friends. Because it’s in a nub of how we are with romance in our culture. You know, that whole thing of like, you take out all the sexy lingerie from the bag and you’re leaving the tag so you can return it the next day. And the other thing where you say, oh you reduce the mortgage or whatever it was like 5%, like oh my god, you I love you so much. You know? I just thought it was so brilliant because it is so true to who we are like that’s how we are.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I mean, I think so like. I don’t know any Indian woman who’s, I’m sure they’re out there because you know, once this podcast dropped, you will have 10,000 people saying I love red bras. Generally, it doesn’t seem to be a very Indian way to live like I don’t know. Am I crazy? It felt right to me. I was like what would get me excited. My mortgage payment went down. I would be very excited.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Absolutely love that. Tell me a little bit about how your family are within the kind of work you create, your husband, your kids. How do they kind of form part of this?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Listen, they I mean, this whole life is a revelation to all of us. It was not really fully expected. But they’ve been saying I’m funny my whole life, you know? So there’s been something about this that makes sense, but then also doesn’t make sense because the scale at which it’s going now, but they’re very supportive and my husband knows that I was home all these years taking care of him, the kids, he is the most supportive. He’s like you do what you want to do, what you need to do. Its enough years spent. He’s very emotionally mature, and I’m sure I had a hand in that, by the way not my mother-in-law. Now she’s going to be like, yeah, I raised that. No, that was living with me for all these years that did that. And I think my kids have a lot of empathy for the fact that mom put her dreams on hold, her job on hold. I was a working lawyer before I had kids and I loved that life.
I mean, who wouldn’t? Right? You get up, you get dressed, you’re with other adults, you’re doing meaningful work. And then suddenly, we got hit with like, oh my god like this kid. How are we going to raise this kid by ourselves in New York? With no family around like the reality is so different from what you imagine you’re signing up for. And I think my kids have a lot of empathy for the fact that I was there for so many years and they are enjoying the ride also. They are loving learning. Everything is like, oh my god, this is how this works. This is how this was. And I think that also it’s a gender imbalance thing. I have two boys. I want them to learn that it’s totally fine to help the woman. We need to do that too. As moms, I can say enough moms have put their sons on a pedestal in our culture. So even to change that, like they need to learn that yes, you’re going to carry mom’s bags and that’s okay.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Absolutely. I’ve seen so much of that growing.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Somehow we were all trained like no, they can’t do anything as if they’re so fragile, like a Faberge egg. You know, you’re going to do it and honestly, they love it. You know, what the biggest revelation has been? I do a lot of live shows. Mother-in-law, I make fun of Indian men and uncles. The biggest revelation I’ve had is how much the men enjoy it. Because it turns out that they’re not as precious as we believe them to be, or we’ve been told that they are. We’ve been told that they are. They laugh the loudest . My husband laughs the loudest at the jokes I make about his mother. It’s not a big deal. He’s a very smart man. His mother, my mother-in-law is a very intelligent woman. Everybody involved knows it’s a joke. And now when I think about it, I’m like, what a shame we haven’t done this before.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Absolutely. I think we’ve been so caught up in this story. We’ve been told that boys must be like, these girls must be like this. And we’ve forgotten I think, like you rightly say that it doesn’t serve the men either. I think it really doesn’t like who wants to be that?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Exactly. They do want the women in their lives to be happy, productive, fulfilled in different ways. So that if anything has been the biggest revelation for me, I used to think in the beginning of my comedy journey that a few moms will come and watch my show, if I’m lucky, but the number of men that show up, I’m constantly blown away. The more I poke at them, the more they seem to enjoy it.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Growing up, I learned that men are more important than women. And I saw this at every mealtime where men would eat first. I remember having to serve food to my male relatives who were visiting. It still makes my blood boil. The male relatives would sit at the table expectantly waiting for the food to be served to him. The women would serve his meal he would eat sometimes leaving a mess on the dining table. Once he’d eaten, he’d just get up and leave the room off to watch TV or talk to people. Never once would he offer to even pick up his plate the women of the house, me included were expected to clean up after him picking up his dirty clothes. Because that was considered a woman’s job. It used to make me so mad and still does even today. What about non-South Asian audiences, do they get the jokes?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
100% It turns out that we’re all the same, surprise. It’s just like a slightly different shade of pink or red. It’s all the same. I made my biggest breakout joke on TikTok, was I’ve never said I love you to my husband. We don’t do that, right Indian people. We don’t go around saying I love you all day long. Of course we don’t do that. When I put that joke up. I could not believe how many people from different parts of the world said we don’t do it either. African countries we don’t do it either, South American countries we don’t do it either.
It almost became in my mind; is I love you just an American thing? Is it just a European thing? What is it? So I kind of dug into that space a lot more now. It’s been one of the big spaces that unites all the various different cultures, but we’re all the same. Like if you’re a parent, you’re a parent, it doesn’t matter what culture. And all moms feel the same way about raising kids. And so there’s a lot of common ground and I’ve only discovered that as I’ve gone along in the comedy journey.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
You’ve had huge success from where I stand. And you might say actually, success depends, you know, we can have that conversation, but I think it’s incredible what you’ve done. And it’s incredible what you’ve done from the lens that you’ve done it in, you know, like an Indian mom, Auntie Z a brown, you know like, all of those and I think huge, huge amount of respect for that. Because I think you’ve created a point of view that didn’t exist before in that space, I think, how do you balance all of this? How do you balance doing seven nights a week?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Balls are falling all the time, dropping stuff all the time. And the way to balance it is to accept that things will go wrong. And it is what it is, you know, again, another thing I don’t see the men beating themselves up over and over. They don’t you know my husband has worked like insane hours for his whole career. I never saw him feel bad about missing a parent meeting or this or that. Somehow women take everything to be life and death. So true and much more chill about it. I’m like, Yeah, I didn’t make it. I mean, I don’t know what to say. I’m trying to live I’m trying to work. I’m doing the best I can. And the balance is a myth. In my opinion. I think the bigger solution is acceptance. So accepting that things are going to go wrong. You’re going to forget stuff, and that’s okay. As long as you keep moving forward. I’m simplifying. I can’t afford to be complicated in my life. We don’t have the means to make roti, subzi, dal, chawal every night.
Honestly, no one needs to eat all of that every night. My daughter will tell you; no one needs to eat so much. So, in some ways, the simplicity has also helped. We live with very simple agenda and plans and that’s how I’m able to do anything. Otherwise I would still be stuck in the kitchen like any number of millions of brown women who feel like they have to. At breakfast they’re planning lunch, at lunch they’re planning dinner. You have to bring yourself out of it and be like, just eat a banana. Nobody died from eating a Banana.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Absolutely hear you. I see this in my own extended family and some of the conversations. So what did you make for breakfast? What did you make for lunch and I’m like, porridge or whatever. And then you can see them looking at you like what?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I understand because they’ve been raised to believe that their self-worth is tied to that breakfast. So you have to kind of disconnect to move forward. You know, like what you make for breakfast is not an indication of your worth as a human being. But I understand I mean, listen, this has been around in our culture for so long that it’s going to take time to get out of it. It’s not going to happen overnight. But I stepped out of it though. You know when you hate cooking as much as I do.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
I reckon this whole being a comedian thing is just so you don’t have to cook.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
Just so I have to be with my kids. I found the one place on earth where kids aren’t actually allowed. I was like perfect. I’ll take that job.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Zarna, I’m sure you’ve got like a million amazing things coming up. Do you want to tell us a little bit about whatever gigs or things you’ve got coming up?

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
I am actually taking off a national tour in America. I’m going to be in Colorado Springs in Arlington, Virginia and Chicago, Arkansas, and I’m hoping to come to England. I can’t wait to be there. I have a lot of people who’ve reached out to me and said come to England, but I’m doing a lot in the US now nationally, and of course all my social media is always being updated. So I invite all your listeners to join, and I like to support back, I try my best to be there for whoever I can. And that’s the news for now. I mean, we keep moving.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
We keep moving and wow my god, Zarna you’re actually a powerhouse. Thank you so much for being in the Masala podcast. It’s been such a joy.

Zarna Garg on Masala Podcast
No, thank you so much for having me. You’re such a calming sweet presence. I wish you all the best. And I wish all the women especially who are listening and who are feeling stuck. That the only way to be unstuck is to push your way out. No one’s going to do it for you. So you have to find a way, however tiny that door is. You need to stick your finger in and start pushing the door open for yourself.

Sangeeta Pillai on Masala Podcast
Thank you for listening to the Masala Podcast, a Spotify original. Masala Podcast is part of my platform, Soul Sutras. What’s that all about? Soul Sutras is a network for South Asian women. A safe space to tell our story, to hear inspiring South Asian women challenging patriarchy, a space to be exactly the people we want to be and still feel like we belong in our culture, and our community. And ultimately, a space where we feel less alone. I’d love to hear from you. So do get in touch via email at soulsutras.co.uk or go to my website, soulsutras.co.uk. I’m also on Twitter, and Instagram. Just look for Soul Sutras. Masala podcast was created and presented by me Sangeeta Pillai produced, by Anushka Tate, opening music by Sonny Robertson.

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