JustLikeYou: Aerospace engineer turned Startup founder Sheta on intimacy in India

JustLikeYou: Aerospace engineer turned Startup founder Sheta on intimacy in India

Aerospace engineer start up founder Andme Sheta Mittal on Indian arranged marriages, turmeric lattes and rape incidences in India harvard sheta mittal and me kama sutra arranged marriage rape rate india self love quote self love meme
Our Just Like You series are interviews with modern 3rd culture kids and what they have learnt about intimacy, sex, relationships and want you to know.

Today we have the honour to talk to Sheta. Sheta was born in India but has lived across 11 cities around the world. As a Harvard graduate, she started her career first in consulting, worked at Nike, founded her own female health startup in India, and is back to consulting again. 

Next to her impressive college and career track, Sheta is also a certified yoga instructor and is all about health and wellness. 

Today we'll talk about the best kept Indian secrets to live a long and prosperous intimate life, whether arranged marriages are underrated and what she learnt about female health and wellness from running her own female wellness business in India.

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Hi Sheta! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

 

Aerospace engineer start up founder Andme Sheta Mittal on Indian arranged marriages, turmeric lattes and rape incidences in India harvard sheta mittal and me kama sutra arranged marriage rape rate india self love quote self love meme

 

I was born and raised in India and lived across 11 cities in India, The US, and China. As a kid, I was interested in math and science and studied to become an aerospace engineer. I realized didn’t want to study so much so I went into consulting: I did that for 3 years in India, flew around a lot and eventually moved to the US for business school and afterwards joined Nike in Portland and Shanghai. 

I came back to India 3 years ago and started my own women’s health company called “AndMe” - we made products for women's health across menstruation and pregnancy and have just sold the company. Now, I’m back at consulting at "Digital Ventures", helping large companies launch businesses and start-ups on their own.

Wow! That is such an impressive career track. Alright, Ice breaker time: How did your first orgasm feel like?

Haha great question! To be very, very honest, I was super nerdy at school. I didn’t know anything and they didn’t teach us. I didn’t even know what sex or orgasms were! When it happened - full disclosure I’ve only have had 1 sexual partner - it was with my husband and an entire new world opened up for me. It felt late to the game though, I was already in my 20s. 

8 #JustLikeYou: Aerospace engineer turned Startup founder Sheta on intimacy in India

Not at all! We’ve had guests who were the same age or even older. Do you think culture played a role in this "late discovery"?

Definitely cultural upbringing was one factor. With my friends in India, that would just not the conversation you’d have. And the girlfriends at engineering school also didn’t talk about it, many didn’t even have boyfriends.

The conversation only started rolling when I gathered a good gang of friends with whom we could discuss these types of topics with.

So you didn't even see it in the media?

No, in movies for example those scenes would be highly scrutinized. If a man would be kissing a woman, it would be hidden behind flowers. We would already feel awkward about TV ads on menstrual pads.

Didn’t Kama Sutra originate in India?

Exactly! There are these villages at world monuments and temples in India that visualize kama sutra scenes. Kama sutra has actually been oversexualized now, it originated as a form of pleasure, to explore and become more aware of your body. 

I think people still practice it indoors, but throughout the years we have just become so private about it that it eventually has become a taboo. You can compare it to yoga and Ayurveda: it originated in India until it got lost, but now these ancient practices are going through a revival again.

What’s one of the best kept secrets in India to maintain a healthy sex life?

In India you’re not supposed to have sex before your marriage, which is considered a good thing. So there is this whole practice the first night where it is critical for the husband to drink turmeric milk. It’s literally cow’s milk mixed with turmeric for the man to superpower his potency and “powers”.

We read that 80-85% of people in India opt for arranged marriages. Do you think those are superior to “love marriages”?

I married from a love marriage, and my brother from an arranged marriage. Love marriages have become such a movement in India opposed to a couple of years ago. 

I think it comes down to expectations: in an arranged marriage you have no expeecations, so all positive things are like “Oh my god, this person is great!”. Whereas with a love marriage you already lived a life before and you have routines and expectations, so it can be a disappointment if you marriage is nothing different than the life you lived before

It is harder to separate in an arranged marriage though: the families are interconnected and expectations come with it. With love marriages you don’t have that problem: it’d be a clean cut.

8 #JustLikeYou: Aerospace engineer turned Startup founder Sheta on intimacy in India

 

Eden: I think what you said earlier was super interesting about expectations.Movies and Bollywood shows, portray love as the best thing ever. You meet the right person and you’ll be happy forever. It’s a crazy thing to teach that to young kids. There’s more to life than just your love life: it’s having friends, your job, your hobbies, and exploring the world! So many things that bring happiness! Expectations and rosy pictures that are set in movies make it so much harder for real-life relationships.   (All nod in agreement)

 

So you gave us a peek at the Indian romantic life and we know you lived around 11 cities. What has your impression been on relationships and dating in those cities?

 

In India you would only meet your soul mate through your broader friend group: you go to your friend's and hang out there, you check out each other families and then you potentially date. You don’t actively go out to date: it’s partially our culture and partially for safety reasons. Safety is a real concern in India, we are not allowed to just go out and have dinner with strange men.

In the US though, you go out every Friday night and go for date nights. Girls are super proactive in being in charge of their lives and meeting different kinds of people to figure out who and what they like.

 

8 #JustLikeYou: Aerospace engineer turned Startup founder Sheta on intimacy in India

Is it that dangerous in India to go out as a woman alone?

Yes, I would say a few cities and in the majority of the North in India, there’s a high amount of risk to be raped if you stay out late and go back home alone. If you’re with someone it’s fine, but if you’re alone at night during the weekend it can get dangerous. The incidence of rape rates are high.

What do you think is the main cause of this high rape rate in India?

Men feel they can just do it. They feel like they can do this because they have more power than the women. After all, the man goes out to earn money. They have a very dominant role in the sense that they need to take care of the family and money mainly comes in through them. Women are supposed to stay home and take care of the family.

 Another thing I would say is literacy deficiency: Households are not aware of these types of situations and what the basic constructs are. They just learn by what they see around them.

Was this one of the reasons for you to start your female health startup? 

Well, I came from Nike and health and fitness played a big role in my life. I’ve always been interested in health and wellness and when I came across other women in my life and also looked at my history, I just discovered that there are so many unsolved problems and questions when it comes to female health.

PCOS, for instance, one in five women has this problem and we don’t have a real solution for it! We don’t know enough about it and the solutions that are prescribed today are outdated. From menstruation to pregnancy to menopause, everything is unique and each woman will encounter her own challenges. That’s why we set up our company.

8 #JustLikeYou: Aerospace engineer turned Startup founder Sheta on intimacy in India

What’s been a challenge with your company?

Customers don’t shop for female health products in physical stores, they feel ashamed about it. The customers won’t ask the sales reps for the products, and educating sales reps about menstruations is awkward too. So it’s still taboo to the extent that you don’t shop for female health products physical in stores.

 

What do you think we can do to make others feel more comfortable talking about these types of topics? In the end we know that it all benefits our physical and mental health.

 It’s been a journey for me as well. But I think we could view sexual consumption the same as food consumption: you need to try out different types of food to learn what you like and to evolve in taste and experiences.

we need to realize that being sexually active goes beyond doing the physical deed but that you are active to learn more about your own and the other person’s body. To understand touch and intimacy. You need to do it to know yourself.

8 #JustLikeYou: Aerospace engineer turned Startup founder Sheta on intimacy in India

What is one piece of advice that you would all girls and women out there to know?

I think every woman should sit down once a quarter and think and plan for their mental, physical, skin, hair, all body health. Just like the yearly tests you get for your internal health, you should do that for your overall health, and that includes hair/skin/sexual health.

 If you are not feeling excited or energized, I think those are good indications for you to fix either your diet, your lifestyle or your relationships with people

8 #JustLikeYou: Aerospace engineer turned Startup founder Sheta on intimacy in India

What is your favourite self-love quote?

I’m reading a lot of philosophy lately. All of us are constituted in such different ways: my brain is not the same as yours, your body is not the same as mine. What I bring to the table is different to what other people will.

So know that about yourself. You might feel like an impostor sometimes, or not feel enough, but just realize that everyone’s unique in their ways. You’re special! 

And meditate, if that helps. Masturbate if that helps. Find yourself!

Want more Sheta wisdom? Find her on Instagram @Shetamittal

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