She believes she is different and Irreverent is in her middle name. No doctor has found a way to remove the romance from her heart. She believes in questioning anything and everything, but there is a change in plan today. We are going to ask her about anything and everything today. Presenting to you an interview with Shail Irreverent Mohan, your friendly neighborhood homemaker. We speak about her life, her nest, her blogging friends and lots lots more. Are you ready?
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
The When: Circa 2006.
The Why: At home, I am known to hold forth passionately on topics that I feel strongly about in an almost Ancient Mariner-sque manner. My audience consists of either one, or all of the three Martians under my command (read whoever is available). One day, after listening to yet one more of my impassioned speeches, my First Born said that I’d probably enjoy discussions with like-minded people and hence to join some groups on the Internet. I jumped at the idea. But very soon I was complaining indignantly, that most of the groups had nothing but truckloads of junk mail and members who had the audacity to want to be ‘fraands’ with me. That’s when he came up with the bright idea that I start a blog. I have not looked back ever since.
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
Mine is a personal blog. I write about anything under the sun that catches my fancy, or even beyond the sun, if my imagination takes flight. I started off tentatively writing about things around me, the falling rain, the breadfruit tree behind my house, the messy room of my kids, what the dog did, the cats that charmed me into being their slave…. I don’t know how it came about, but soon I realised my blogs had a tongue-in-cheek quality to it. I had somehow become a writer of humorous blogs, when my intention had been to rain fire and brimstone (just being cheeky) on social ills, gender inequality, sexual harassment and such. The L & M, kids, dogs and cats ended up the ones who got (and still get) star billing in most of my posts instead.
Of course, I do write about social issues as well. But my take is not scholarly, does not have statistics or links to reports and stuff. It is as a rule written laced with humor-driven sarcasm and strictly from the point of view of a lay person, a homemaker. In fact the tag line of my first blog, at the now extinct Yahoo 360 had been, ‘from a homemaker’s point of view’.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
Occasionally you will find me tearing my hair out, because I am dissatisfied with the way what I am writing is turning out, as compared to the well-defined form it already has in my head. By the way, are you in the habit of playing Sudoku? Don’t worry; I am not going off-topic here. Let me explain. I myself am a huge Sudoku fan. When I reach what looks like a dead-end while solving a puzzle, I just get up and walk away, involve myself in other things. When I get back to the puzzle later on, I am able to solve it quite easily. I adopt a similar strategy when I find things are not going the way I want while writing. I come back to it after some time, take a fresh look and sail on smoothly.
Q: I am just your ordinary next-door homemaker – This you said in your very first blog post at Shail’s Nest. Do you think you have changed over the years?
Hmm… not really. I am still the ordinary next-door homemaker to this day. You will find me doing the same old things around my house that I used to do earlier and enjoying it, same as before. But then, even on the day I wrote this on my post, when I was just a homemaker and nothing more (now I am a writer/blogger as well), I did have ‘not so ordinary’ thoughts tucked away in the recesses of my mind. It is just that I rarely expressed them, except to my Martians. Now I have dared to put my thoughts out in public, for inspection by strangers. Ummm… so yes, in that sense you can say I have changed.
Q: Tell us something about your book Love, Loss and Acceptance. What was the inspiration behind this book? Who were your biggest supporters through this writing journey?
Hmm… This is my very first book and dedicated to my Muse. It is a print-on-demand (POD) book, self published via pothi.com. I felt self publication was the right thing for me, as I was free to do things my way. I got to choose the layout, the fonts, the cover, what goes where, in what order and thankfully no one to tell me “It cannot be done this way and/or it has to be that way.” Suits the independent me to perfection, not to mention how easy it has been on my time and pocket as well. I had a fellow blogger and friend Usha Pisharody, write an intro for me. Do you think a regular publisher would have agreed to this unconventional stance of mine? I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of freedom while making this book.
As for the journey, there really wasn’t one so to speak, for the book as such. The contents of the book were written over time in these past couple of years, with no thought of a future book in mind. Prompted by friends and well wishers, I finally woke myself up from my slumber and thought, ‘yeah, why not a book of verse?’ I asked a couple of friends for ideas on how I could categorize the poems. One of them spent considerable time and effort to go through it all and come up with a detailed chart, categorizing the poems in the different colors of the rainbow. Imagine that! But in the end, I chose my own way to do it.
The funny part was that I kept what I was doing a secret from everyone, including my own family. Yup, Fort Knox could learn a few things from moi on keeping things locked up. Lol. Once the manuscript was ready, I sought Usha Pisharody’s help to give it a once over for errors. My Second Born, who is an artist, had promised to design the cover. So I let him into my secret too. He gave me valuable inputs on the look of the interior of the book. Then, when I needed help with getting print-outs, applying for the ISBN etc., I finally brought the L & M into the picture. “What? And you tell me now!” You bet I was pleased on hearing that. The general opinion is that I cannot keep any secrets from him and sigh, the general opinion is right to a great extent. You must have guessed by now who my support is, yes the L & M. I just have to tell him what is needed; he won’t rest, will go out of his way and make sure it gets done.
Q: We have read some amazing poems on your primary blog and also in Words in Verse. Were you inclined towards poetry earlier as well, or was this interest cultivated with the initiation of the blog? Who are your favorite poets?
I have written a humorous take on how I happened to get started on verse. May be unbeknownst, there had been a closet poet lurking inside me all along, who only revealed herself with the initiation of the blog. But… I am afraid the last part of your above question makes me hang my head in shame. Other than what poetry I have done in school/college as part of the curriculum, I have not read any famous poets. Oh my God, the shame of admitting to that! Shocking as it may seem, I am not in the habit of reading poetry. Hence I am unable to answer your query as to who my favourite poets are. Quite recently I happened to read a couple of poems by Kamala Surayya and found her writings awesome, really spoke to me. I’d like to read more of her. So perhaps I can quote just that solitary name, Kamala Surayya?
Of course, I do have intentions to rectify this lapse of mine and start reading famous and not so famous poets from now on. Okay I agree, that’s me trying to save face. •
Q: The security of women in India has been a question of debate since a long time now. Everyone more or less knows what triggers this issue – chief one being the mentality of certain people in the country (including women). What necessary measures, according to you, should be taken, to control this mayhem?
I don’t know how qualified I am to answer this one. However, I can give you a lay person’s view. I am assuming of course that by security you mean the sexual harassment women face?
Bringing up children with the right attitude and values is the first step according to me. Sounds simple, isn’t it? But if you notice, I used the word ‘children’. Our whole system is geared towards bringing up, teaching and controlling ONLY girl children. That must change. I figured things out when I was still a chit of a girl, that boys must be held responsible for their actions, so that girls could have a life as well. I simply don’t understand why that is so difficult for the society consisting of adults, to understand or implement. I have never heard any mother or father admonish a boy for standing here or looking there when there are girls in the vicinity. But a girl gets shouted at if a boy so much as looks at her. She is held responsible for the misdemeanour of boys. What a truckload of nonsense is that?
The other thing I strongly recommend is mingling of the sexes. This will go a long way in demystifying the sexes to each other. It will also give them the ability to see each other as ‘people’.
These above are of course things to be worked upon right from childhood. As for what can be done now: Create awareness? Women are NOT objects, they are people too. A woman’s body is hers and her space cannot be violated citing “provocation” as reason. The onus of controlling “provocation” rests unquestionably with the one provoked. Anyone crossing the line and violating a woman’s space has to be punished severely. Society, as one, should show disapproval for such behaviour instead of trying to find excuses for the violence against women. As for those women who oppress other women for the scraps of power that they get in return, they should be shunned by society too and should face the music in the form of punishment. No excuses.
Q: However much upfront you are and tell the people the truth, and nothing but the truth, you still end up being disbelieved – This you said in a post of 2011. Apart from the situation discussed in this post, which are the other scenarios when you have felt that all your efforts at frankness has been taken by people with a liberal dose of salt?
I find that most people by nature take what others say with a pinch of salt if not disbelieving them outright. A sad state of affairs and shows a deeper malady of our society, apart from being an irritant to people like me, who do mean what they say.
Let me tell you of a minor incident. This happened years back. My younger son was still a baby, which meant that I attended only those parties in the Army Mess where children were allowed to be present. At one such party, one of the ladies complimented me on my long and lustrous hair and asked me what I did to make it look so. The truth was that I did nothing; I just did not have the time with a school going older son and a baby to take care of. All that I got time to do between chores was to dash into the bathroom when the baby was napping, have a quick shower and dash right back before he could wake up. So I told her the truth. The lady did not believe me. No amount of protestations on my part that it was the truth convinced her. In fact, she turned to the one sitting next to her and said, in my hearing too, “Of course that’s a lie. She does not want us to know.”
Another time, a friend’s husband asked me where the First Born had attended classes for his GRE test. I told him the truth (as usual), that he had done his preparation on his own. The man gave me a disbelieving look and said mockingly, “Come on now. I am looking for some place to enrol my daughter. Tell me where he attended classes!” I reiterated that my son had indeed not attended any coaching class. “Aha! You don’t want to tell us! So you make up stories!” he declared leaving me speechless. His wife, who knew me well, intervened on my behalf and chided him, “Of course she is telling the truth. Why should she lie to us?” Indeed why would I? But the look he gave me remained one of disbelief.
People still don’t believe me when I tell them that I don’t mind my sons marrying outside religion or community or whatever. They don’t believe when I say that I am all for them finding their own partners, that it is up to them whether they even want to marry or not, that I don’t believe marriage is a pre-requisite in life for either boys or girls, that I don’t mind if they have live-in relationships, that I wouldn’t mind at all if I never became a grandmother. The worst is when people who have been reading your blog suggest all friendly-like, that you surely are not ALL what you project yourself to be (in my blog) and must have a secret self tucked away. Like hell I have! And if I do have one, why would I tell such morons anyway? Beats me why they don’t get that.
Q: The things that have been practiced for eons is not good enough reason for me that they be considered sacred and followed to the letter – This is what your about me informs us. Can you name a few practices that you have questioned, or feel should be completely abandoned?
Once when a famous political leader passed away, his wife had stood for election in his constituency. “Look at her walking around with bindi on her forehead soon after her husband’s demise. Can’t she sit at home like a wife should?” That was my mother watching the lady on TV. I asked her whether the husband would have sat at home mourning his wife if things had been the other way round. I hope I made a dent in her thinking that day, though I am not too sure about it. I still see widows around me doing away with adornments, not allowed to take part in auspicious events and my blood boils. Admittedly, there have been changes in society’s attitude towards widows. But this crap about they being unlucky should be scoured off the minds of a considerably large section of the population.
Marry and stay married, no premarital sex, no living together without marriage, a wife has to always be subservient to the husband and his needs, a woman’s worth is the sacrifices she makes, a woman belongs to her husband’s home and has to stay there once married, cover your head to show respect, don’t call your husband by his name, wear your mangalsutra at all times, once married wear only sari, yada yada yada….
Hmm…. something I’d do away with? For one, the joint family system. I feel couples who start life MUST compulsorily stay on their own for at least a few years. Besides, I am sure older couples value their privacy too but have been brainwashed into not accepting it. For another, arranged marriages. It is high time this senseless system is done away with. It is not and should NOT be the parents’ job to make decisions regarding partners for their children. Their life, their decisions, their mistakes from which they learn, and move on to become better persons. After a certain age, the parents’ role in their children’s life is mostly of moral support. That’s what I believe and practice.
Q: Every homemaker is a working woman too. True that! To add one more point to your very valid post – there are many people who even think that if a woman is not going to work ever, then she doesn’t even need to study too much, or pursue a good degree, because it will be wasting a seat in the university. What is your take on that? What is your advice to such people?
I wrote a blog on this very topic when I had begun blogging. A young girl had in her blog, blasted all those educated homemakers sitting at home, wasting their education. They had deprived some deserving candidate of a seat, was her stance. Education/degree is not just for getting a job. It is for acquiring knowledge, expanding your personal horizons too. A deserving candidate can be said to lose a seat when people switch streams too. But do we hear any outcry about that? We don’t hear any objection when a qualified doctor decides to sit for the civil service examination. We don’t hear anything when an engineer takes up singing as his career. But a woman who chooses to be a homemaker is supposed to have wasted a seat, stolen it from someone more deserving. Nonsense. Education can never be a waste, ever. It always stands you in good stead in life. If not for earning a living, it definitely aids you in other ways. It lets you enjoy literature, allows you to understand what’s happening around you, take part intelligently in conversations, teach your children et al. Besides, without education wouldn’t homemakers be easily manipulated and controlled by others? How will they be able to make informed choices? There is no two ways about it. Education is a MUST for the homemakers, for everyone for that matter.
This is not over yet! Yes. Shail has still lots to say and since the rains have started, we thought of taking a pakora break and come back next week to continue this interview. What say? Should we do it earlier? Let us know. Till then you can also ask Shail about her views on Joint Family, Women in India, Parenting and lots more. Till next week, sayonara.