As we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 10 across the globe and extol parental virtues, there’s Tahira Kashyap — writer, filmmaker, breast cancer warrior, mother of two and wife of top Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana — who puts things into perspective during these trying coronavirus times.
The co-writer of the book ‘Cracking The Code: My Journey in Bollywood’, which she penned with Khurrana, chronicles her famous actor-husband’s rise in Bollywood.
These days, she's busy dealing with the trials of distance learning.
“This e-learning is taking my life away from me… I have such newfound respect for teachers now,” declares Kashyap in an exclusive interview over the phone.
Kashyap, who has been publishing a series of personal, short stories called ‘The Lockdown Tales’ on her Instagram account, removes the edge off her words with a hearty laugh and regales us with an anecdote on a particular e-learning misadventure involving her children Virajveer and Varushka, aged 8 and 6.
“The other day, my child started crying suddenly as we were e-learning and was like ‘I really miss my teacher now’… For me, it’s double the trouble as I have two of them and I spent a good chunk of my day teaching them. It’s not easy,” said Kashyap, who has also been a professor.
Her predicament will resonate with an army of mothers who aren’t equipped with patience and emotional heft to teach young minds and are still struggling to crack the e-learning code.
Her let out? Writing short stories that come “straight from her heart”. Her incredibly successful ‘The Lockdown Tales’ series, that she narrates on video, has brought back the tradition of good-old storytelling. There’s an element of stream of consciousness running through her simple tales of humanity in this complex time.
“I wake up really early before everyone else to write my short stories. I let an idea simmer in my head for two days and I let the characters evolve, until they start troubling me and are wanting to transfer from my head to paper.
"Once my house starts waking up and begins brimming with activity, it becomes tough for me to write. So, I try to wake up early and write my short stories,” said Kashyap. She has no editors to look over her work, but was pleasantly surprised to see that many out there were genuinely interested in what she had to say.
“My stories are organic. I write my stories and then place my phone on a tissue box holder, press record and start narrating my stories. It all happens in one go … Writing and reading stories can be an indulgent, therapeutic and relaxing experience for some. I just want to evoke emotions through my stories. I want my stories to touch you emotionally.”
Her lockdown tales are intimate and her characters are relatable as they navigate life with all its bumps and curves.
A love story about a soon-to-be bride from Chandigarh visiting her boyfriend in Delhi and then re-considering their relationship is just one example of the many threads she pulls at.
“My ‘Lockdown Tales’ come from a place of no agenda. There was no urgency or need to please any sponsor … My intention has been very honest. I just wanted to narrate three or four stories, but I saw the love and feedback that I was encouraged to do more,” she said.
Gulf News caught up with Kashyap to find out about her latest pet project. Here’s her take on …
Bringing the glory of storytelling back with ‘Lockdown Tales’:
“My summers used to be with maternal grandparents and I have spent the maximum time with them. They used to read me stories every night before I went to bed. So, I grew up on folk tales and I believe that storytelling requires love and honesty. And it can cut through your robotic way of living.
"In life, you are always running against the clock to tick off all the tasks and activities, but the lockdown has taught you to slow down. I have taken to painting and I have started cooking, something I was terrible at before. I used to make cakes and they were so hard that my kids used to play hopscotch with it. During the lockdown, I felt many stories cooking in my head and they were simmering. This is really coming from a place of a lockdown. My stories stems from real-life experiences.”
Writing short stories and being constrained by time:
“I love writing and stories come naturally to me. It’s difficult to write a story that stays within seven minutes or less. The first story that I had written went above 10 minutes and my husband pointed out that he wasn’t sure if people would enjoy stories that ran into 12 minutes and asked me to downsize it. Usually, people want instant gratification and their attention span is limited.
"Having said that, my story that went up to nine minutes got the maximum love and feedback. Every story demands a certain length and flavour and you have to allow it to play out. Every story demands its own time. I have no hidden agenda while writing. It comes straight from my heart.”
Being productive during social distancing in coronavirus times:
“We are in a privileged situation when compared to a big chunk of the world who are struggling. I wish we were not in such a coronavirus-fuelled lockdown. This period has given me that realisation to step back and return to the world of reading and books. This situation has also brought into focus our basic instincts to survive.
"We may be anxious and stressed, but this period has given us a much-needed perspective on what is truly important in our live. This period has given us awareness. I am functioning on the perspective of adding value to my life and to all those around me. Every day, I wake up with the intention of adding value and I try not to take on any pressure to write that perfect story. I practice Buddhism and I believe in the concept of awareness which helps you to get away from the vortex of negativity.
Whether her love story on the couple about a girl from Chandigarh spending time with her fiance in Delhi is her own life story:
“With every writer, there’s a part of you that is personal that seeps into your stories. Either you have experienced it personally or you have seen it unfurl in close quarters. When it came to this particular story, I was also someone from Chandigarh — just like the character in that short story — who had made an unofficial trip which I hadn’t told my parents to Mumbai to meet him [Ayushmann Khurrana].
"Just like her, we both met at physics tuitions too. And that set me thinking about how our lives would have been if there was a lockdown during that trip. While it’s a situation that every couple would enjoy, it will also make you aware of the differences between you as two people. In every love story, there’s never a constant state of just love, love and love. There’s love and hate in every relationship. The idea was to evoke emotions.”