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Interview with Shail Mohan

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.

Connect with Shail: Blog, BlogAdda, Twitter

30 Responses to “Interview with Shail Mohan”

  1. suranga date says:

    Blogadda, Honestly, what took you so long ? Really really enjoyed this part and look forard greatly to the next part of Shail’s interview. And why isnt anyone mentioning her amazing photography ?

  2. Bikram says:

    Wow, part 1 down and now waiting for part 2 toooo .. loved the replies to the questions. Seconding the above comment by Suranga MAM, how can you forget the beautiful pictures she has put up putting the likes of me in envy who cant take one decent picture …

  3. Phoenixritu says:

    Yes,this is the Shail we know and love, honest and forthright, and simple

  4. Anu says:

    wow…Firstly Congrats Shailja Jee ….Loved reading your answers over here….Keep Writing….Ya they forgot to mention your Photography skill…and I do agree with Ritu Above…This is Shail we know….Love, Honest, Straight Fwd, Simple and Sweet….

  5. Nisha says:

    Lovely, lovely interview. Looking forward to part 2 now.
    Hope to see/read/talk about photos as well.

  6. Deeps says:

    Shail Shail Shail! What a delight it was to read you! You know, every time an interview was up on Blogadda, I have wished and hoped they would cover you in one of their segments! This was so long overdue..immensely glad that it is here finally!

    So thank You Blogadda for interviewing one of the most fabulous women I have known in the blogosphere! Thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every answer of hers and now cant wait to read the second part! So yes yes yes please, put it up at the earliest! :)

    Congratulations, Shail! Keep writing the way you do! Best wishes always :)

  7. Makk says:

    tussi chha gaye ustad ji :)

  8. Isabel hk says:

    Wonderful Shail , congratulations , just dont change !

  9. First of all, Shail Mohan, Congratulations!!! Long over due, Blogadda, :) :)
    You’ve always been a shining beacon Shail, to everyone, and yes, I mean both women and men, for the forthright views and perspectives, and no-holds-barred opinions! I personally, have always admired you deeply for all that :) And, not just irreverent, and delightfully so, but very very versatile… that is the way I know you!
    Thank you for the “mention” – LOL – though it has been an honour and a singular delight to have contributed in any way I could! Waiting for the next book to come out :)
    Would any publisher have accepted it? They’d be fools not to! When I do “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” later this year with Class X, I’ll direct them your way, for the analogy you gave here :P!
    And Blogadda, thank you so much, for finally getting to us a wonderful blogger’s interview, and a peek into what makes Shail , Shail! Could we have the next part immediately? :D
    WTG, Shail!

  10. vivek says:

    *stands up & claps*
    The interview is truly inspirational.In every blog she brings something new. Just going through this interview ,we could know how simple and different writer she is.As many here mentioning about her photography skills, hope to hear more about that in next part.Eagerly waiting for next part of the interview .wishing all success :-)

  11. Amit says:

    Very thoughtful answers Shail. It was a pleasure reading the interview. :)

  12. Swapan Das says:

    Thanks to BlogAdda for coming up with this interview! Came to know more about her through this interview.

    Shail Mohan – a great person, and her blog “Shail’s Nest” (http://shailsnest.com/) churns out stories, her personal take on issues without any vanity. She voices for women esp. Indian – the Indian society should treat their women as “person” rather then always imposing different rules & bindings for the women esp. home-makers. But yes all these not like any “Activist”, but she delivers her opinion from a lay person’s perspective which touches our heart more. Interesting part is that, she carries the maturity of a lady of her age, could be very serious, but at the same carries the exuberance of a teenage/young girl when it matters. I still remember her exuberance when she was able to accomplish the migration of her blog from the old platform to the new one, and the traffic started re-directing to the new website.

    And she’s writing for quite some time, from the days of Yahoo 360. Best wishes to Shail..may you grow more as a blogger. Happy Blogging Shail! Eagerly awaiting for the 2nd part….

  13. ashreyamom says:

    i was delighted to Shail ‘s in the mail. it feels so nice, when a person whose blog you read everyday is there giving honest replies and entertains with her answers.
    eagerly waiting to read the next part..

  14. kirti says:

    *i bow to thee*. what an interesting and straight from heart interview. Loved reading every word of it and Shail’s take on all the issues she has been speaking so vehemently about.
    can hardly wait to read the next part.

  15. Shail says:

    Thank you people for your response, the lovely words!!!! :) :)
    @Suranga, @Bikram, @Ritu @Anu, @Nisha, @Deeps, @Makk, @Isabel, @Usha, @Vivek, @Amit, @Swapan and @Ashreyamom

  16. Shail says:

    Thanks @Kirti :)

  17. karishma says:

    cant wait for the next part…read this from start to finish and I want more and soooon! Really admire your honesty and guts, Shail..

  18. Bhavia says:

    At last blogadda is honored..
    I’m so delighted to read the interview..keep writing the lovely Shail

  19. Shail says:

    Thanks Karishma and Bhavia :D

  20. Bhagi says:

    Loved the interview, Shail. Waiting for part 2 eagerly. Every word you pen is an echo of my ( and other women’s) thoughts. I love your courage too. Keep churning out these wonderful perceptions. I’m sure it must be making a difference in the lives of many women. All the best!

  21. Shail says:

    Thank you Bhagi :)

  22. lady says:

    Loved this! I am so inspired by women like you…

  23. Shail says:

    Thank you Lady :)

  24. Swathi says:

    you are really one woman to look up to….

  25. Swati says:

    wow, Shail Di, truly madly deeply impressive, you Rock !!

  26. Shail says:

    Thanks Swathi. Good to see you here :)

  27. nadira says:

    Hey this is just fantastic Shail. Your sister Shivaja had told me long ago when we were regularly blogging at RediffIland about your prowess in writing. I’m sorry I haven’t read much, but from what I have you have always come across as someone who will speak her mind without the fear of wondering “what will the others think and say?”. More power to your pen Shail and may more honours come your way.

  28. Punam J R says:

    One of the better interviews I have read – I especially like Shail’s views on eradicating certain systems in our culture (Mourning without adornments, arranged marriages etc) and believe that she has her basics right there. It’s absolutely essential to do away with these systems that pull down a woman’s worth so easily. Well-done, Shail.. it was a pleasure reading you.

  29. Shail says:

    @Nadira Thank you :) Yup, I lack the ‘-ill others-think-and-say’ gene and I am thankful for it :)

    @Punam, Thank you :)

  30. Shail says:

    Ooops, Nadira, that should read ‘I lack the “what-will-others-think-and-say’ gene’ :)

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