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Unabashedly honest and unapologetic, these are the two words that instantly strike you when you hear of author, filmmaker, and screenplay writer Tahira Kashyap Khurrana. She doesn’t mince her words and speaks straight from the heart—and that’s what we love the most about her!
Even as a cancer survivor, she has always served as an inspiration to others. Never has she shied away from sharing all about her struggles, or even speaking of her recovery. Everything Tahira says comes from an ‘honest’ place.
In recent times, she has once again taken the internet by storm, with her latest and fourth book 12 Commandments of Being A Woman. Her ‘new baby’ is all about women and their stories, and as always, has been written in her signature quirky and witty undertone.
Health Shots caught up with Tahira to chat about her latest book, her brush with breast cancer, and her views on feminism.
As someone who has dealt with various forms of storytelling, Tahira feels that there aren’t enough stories being told about women.
“I naturally gravitate towards women and their stories, and I don’t know why and how, but it’s some sort of a deep connection. Whatever screenplay I have written, it’s been easier to flesh out women characters, because more or less, that comes naturally to me. But when it comes to men, I have to think really hard to create characters for them. My life is brimming with so many stories for women and around them,” she shares.
If you’ve been following Tahira’s Instagram posts, you know how quirky and relatable she always has been. And that’s exactly what caught the eye of publisher and co-founder of Juggernaut Books, Chiki Sarkar.
“Chiki came across some of my posts and articles, and reached out to me to collaborate. The first chapter of the book is something that I had shared with her, and she was in splits. And then she asked me if I have more such anecdotes, and I was like “I have many of them”. All of us have anecdotes, from when you’re a kid to your teenage years, and then through your 20s and 30s, and I was somehow churning anecdotes, one after the other,” says Tahira.
That’s when it hit Tahira that it’s all got to do with ‘being a woman’ at different stages of her life. And thus, she named her book ‘12 commandments of being a woman’.
She believes that the world has made “superheroes” out of women, although there’s so much more to each one of us.
“As women, we don’t want that holier than thou image that “baaki koi aur galat ho sakta hai, par ek maa galat nahi ho sakti (anyone can be wrong, but not a mother). I feel something like this adds so much pressure, and to be honest I have not adhered to it, and I have also admitted this in my book, through various incidents. I believe a lot of women will be able to resonate with different experiences in different stages of their life,” adds Tahira.
As women, we are always stressed about the way we look, says Tahira.
“You could be voluptuous as a teenager or a late bloomer, but these things go on in your mind. And I feel that’s something that hasn’t been written or spoken about as much. I remember I was one of the last in my class to probably wear a bra and have my periods, and I have discussed that in my book about how seriously I had taken it and how much it bothered me. I pressured my mom to take me to several doctors, because there was something wrong in my perception. That’s because there are so many things that haven’t been clarified, when you are a kid,” she admits.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Tahira, herself, has battled breast cancer. On being asked about her coping mechanism through that time, she says:
“I feel it’s moment-to-moment determination and that exists in various ways for the rest of our lives. Cancer might not get to someone, as much as a heartbreak does, so I feel it’s all very relative. That doesn’t mean one problem is more severe than the other, just because I feel so.
I feel we face some obstacle or the other throughout our lives, and we always have a choice to make. Whether you are going to align more with the causes that tilt towards the begrudging side of life, or you are going to align towards “this is my situation, let me still add value?”. I feel that’s something you have to decide, and so I chose to have this sort of a perspective.”
She believes there need to be more conversations around mental health, so that people are more aware and don’t think of it as a fancy word for “throwing a tantrum.”
“I feel the pandemic has really escalated problems for those suffering from mental health issues, because there has hardly been any human connectivity, expression and communication. And yes, I battled something too, on the same lines, in the past, but just because I did not take myself to a doctor or didn’t get medical intervention, I am not in the capacity to say it was depression. I had my anxiety attacks, and it’s not a very comfortable feeling. It’s not about being sad, it’s much more than that,” says Tahira.
She also feels that people regard mental and physical wellness as two “separate” areas, when in reality, everything works in unison.
“I have had physical repercussions too because of mental stress and anxiety. For me, my symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome kick in, and I still deal with it. At one point, it was so severe all because I went through stupid fad diets, and I have spoken about that in the book. I feel it is important to have some centre or deep-rooted philosophy that empowers you, which doesn’t make you dependent on that as well,” adds Tahira.
Tahira had earlier written an open letter, speaking about casual sexism she deals with on a daily basis, and also her battle against inherent patriarchy. Although there is a long way to go, she feels “we are on the path to embracing feminism.”
“The good part is we are talking about feminism, there are headlines around it, and that shows development has happened in our society. This is opposed to the time when expression was not an option, and the previous generations suffered. We are suffering too, but at least we are talking. So, I hope when we move on to the next generation, they are the executors, and they don’t see any sort of disparity, so that we can head towards an equal society. I honestly feel social media has also given feminism a lot of momentum, and people have opinions today, which is good,” she adds.
“I think the best part of being a woman is being a woman. They should have their own set of commandments, so it’s not like I have written 12 commandments and they have to be adhered by everyone. I think we all are individuals, and as women, we really need to celebrate our individuality, we should have our own set of rules. Don’t adhere to any rules, have your own set of rules,” says Tahira.