Reader’s Corner looks at the contemporary urban Indian woman, through the lens of a Women’s Web reader in each interview.
Shail Mohan is a familiar presence in the blogging world. She declares herself to be “your friendly neighbourhood homemaker” and insists that she is “an incurable romantic at heart.” A woman who boldly takes up issues that concern her and isn’t afraid to voice her opinion on them – she blogs at Shail’s Nest.
Hi Shail! Tell us a little about yourself.
I am… well, me. I don’t really like to define myself in relation to others, as a daughter, wife or mother. So let’s say I am just another human who happens to be a woman. By the way, I love being that woman. I was a teacher for a short spell of one year after completing my post graduation in Economics. But after my marriage, I chose to take care of home and kids. That was a decision consciously made. With my husband in the army and unavailable most times, I wanted to be around for my sons.
What else can I say about myself? I am someone who wanted to be a dancer but never learnt to dance, I am crazy about music, but never had music lessons. Right from childhood I had my nose buried in a book and my head in the clouds. I was painfully shy as a kid. I am an introvert, but literally taught myself to be an extrovert, especially after marrying an Army officer and becoming a part of the armed forces family.
Do you have any life goals for yourself or anything that you think your life must include?
My goal in life so far has been, still is, to live a life true to myself. That is most important for me, to be in touch with myself at all times. Rest everything follows, is how I see it. Other than that, I wanted to make my home a place where the members of my family could be one cohesive unit and yet grow their individual ways, independent of each other. An important goal was to make my sons grow up to be ‘thinking’, ‘feeling’ individuals, not little yes-men tied to their mother’s apron strings. And of course I expect the same courtesy from them, of treating me as an individual in my own right.
I have a personal philosophy: It is not necessary to go out there and do all the big things to feel you have done your share. It starts with you; if you make things happen at your level, your home, your family, to those around you, then you have done more than your share. There are some of us who do things without causing ripples and those others who go out and stamp enough to shake the earth and bring changes on a larger scale. Both sorts have their own place in the scheme of things. So never feel any less because your change is confined to yourself and those around you. That is a big step, a very big step indeed, whose effects spread slowly, but surely.
Travel has been a life-goal for as long as I can remember. I have a lot of places in my list that I absolutely want to see. Spain, Greece, China, Turkey….. I will see them all someday! And of course there is Serengeti too, topping that list.
Believe it or not, I did not have any goals other than the above till the writing bug bit me, that too pretty late in life. Now I have a goal of publishing a collection of my short stories. Who knows, may be more will follow?!
How far along would you say you are in achieving these? What would you love to have/achieve that you don’t yet have?
I can safely say that I have succeeded fairly well in the family front. We are four people (husband and two sons) who are never in each other’s hair at any time, but still pretty close. I feel, we are a fiercely independent foursome and at the same time are totally up-to-date on what’s happening in each other’s life without needing any prodding on anyone’s part.
The collection of short stories is still in its nascent stage, I hope to get it done soon; the intention is already in place, I just need to find the necessary time. As for travel, it is happening, but not as much as or in the directions I wish. That is because of minor health issues which I hope will sort themselves out soon and leave me free to fly.
Is your life today as you imagined it would be 5 years ago? If no, how is it different? Where do you want to be 5 years from now?
Hmm… five years ago? I was “just a homemaker” looking forward to a peaceful ‘retired life’ with my husband, the baby birds having grown wings and flown off the nest. That was the time I had tentatively stepped into the world of blogging, totally unaware of what it had in store for me. Having never envisioned myself in the role of a writer, however minor, I never dreamed I’d be writing blogs for so long, let alone have poetry and short stories in my repertoire. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that five years down the line, I’d have a book of verse (Love, Loss & Aceptance) to my credit, or that I’d be planning on another.
Of course, during those days too, I had views on social issues, gender inequality, women empowerment etc which I rained on my husband and sons whenever I got the opportunity. But, who would have thought I’d find a platform to air those views or there would actually be people reading and responding to them?! The people I knew and interacted with in the past were only those who were either family members, or colleagues and friends of my husband. But now, I have friends of both sexes from all over the world, my own circle, got via my blogging connection. So yeah, that’s another difference in my life from five years back.
Five years from now, I want to be just as surprised with myself as I am now. So I won’t speculate, only anticipate. Perhaps there are more hidden things for me to find about myself?!
Do you believe that being a woman has made a difference to your choices and/your life?
My interests in life and the choices I have made have always been what is generally accepted as womanly, not because they were thrust on me, just that those were (and are) the things to my liking. Art, cooking, making clothes, keeping home, painting… all these interested me. Being a woman obviously did not affect these choices. But yes, being a woman affected other choices like where or how I travelled, what I wore, what I could say and to whom, who I could talk to and when.
Right from childhood I have questioned what I felt to be unfair and earned for myself the name ‘insolent’. Truly speaking it was never insolence. I honestly failed to see justice in what was happening around me and wanted fair answers. But with time, I adopted the tag proudly, as a sort of decoration. Restrictions that came with being a girl child included not being allowed out on my own, even to friends’ places, because I was a girl! I had to fight lots of battles along the way; some I won, most I lost.
Tell us one thing that you like about Women’s Web and one thing you think we could do better!
I like the very fact that something like Women’s Web exists. I also like the fact that it has a space for different points of view, sometimes controversial even. Well, I am hard put to find one thing you could do better. May be I can get back when I find something? Anyway, please go on doing the good work!
*Photo credit: Shail Mohan.
Previous Reader’s Corner Interviews: