Indian writer-filmmaker Tahira Kashyap’s fifth and latest book, 7 Sins of Being A Mother is out and she has not shied away from any detail in her journey of motherhood.
After hopping careers for a few years, Kashyap settled for her passion – storytelling – only a few years ago. She has since written books such as The 12 Commandments of Being A Woman. She has also made critically acclaimed short films including Toffee, Pinni and Quaranteen Crush. Next up, she has her debut feature film Sharmajee Ki Beti slated for release soon.
The filmmaker is the wife of popular Indian actor Ayushmann Khurrana and believes in making space for herself. In her new book, Kashyap talks about taboo subjects such as sexual desire of women. She also opens up on how her husband, unknowingly, played a role in her guilt trips during early motherhood.
Given the set-up that she lives in, even immediate family may not cheer her endeavours. The filmmaker-writer says she is yet to show the book to her mom or mother-in-law. “They are going to hit the roof when they read it. I am going to be disowned soon. I will be kicked out of the house. The book is very blasphemous and very intimate. It is about how women are put into stereotypes and how they think each woman is a prototype of others. The box and the mould becomes smaller when you become a mom and you are expected to be this holier-than-thou person. My book does not offer any tips or any kind of expert help for moms. It is just my journey which was pretty sinful.”
Talking about the desires of women is not normal in Indian set-ups. Things become tougher if you are talking about sexual desires, more so if you want to talk about sexual desires of mothers. However, Kashyap wants to break the stereotypes and open up conversations. “The fact is that you do not just stop having sex when you become a mother. You may want to, because as a mother your priorities are different. But, you will not stop sleeping on the same bed as your partner. Sadly, it (expectation of lack of sexual desire in women after having babies) is not just something that comes from our age-old family traditions it is also something that my doctor told me.
Kashyap goes on to elaborate and says, “The doctor expected us to maintain distance, and not have ‘relations’ which I could not understand for the longest time. What does relation mean? He is my husband, I am his wife that is our relationship! But, she kept harping ‘relations, relations’. Then I understood that she was talking about sex. I asked her if there was anything wrong with me biologically or physically. She said I was, adding that it was ‘just good to have holy and pious thoughts during pregnancy’. I was shocked this was coming from a doctor. With my book, I want to address these things.”
She also says that she was “not always born to be a mother”, adding that she was just 28 when she had her first child. “Honestly speaking, it was a role that I learnt along the way. It is expected that you have gamut of emotions and you embrace and fall in love with your child instantly. My instant reaction was ‘get this thing out of me’. I mean, I had had 12 hours of excruciating labour that ended with a cesarean. The doctor was waiting with my baby and I could see two sets of eyes judging me, one was my baby and the doctor’s. Both of them staring at me and I just could not bring myself to open my arms and embrace my son and smother him with my kisses. I was just amused and the maximum I could do was wriggle my nose against his. Then I told the doctor that take him to his family and the doctor was shocked. If that is a sin, it is but my love for my child grew over time. It was just not love at first sight.”
Kashyap says that her new book is not just meant for moms. “Not just moms, women in general. If you are a woman or identify as one, you are subjected to so many expectations in the patriarchal set-up that we are in.”
“I am obsessed with women, you are right. I feel very less has been told about them and the little amount that has been told is very stereotypical. I want to say we are equally heroic, interesting dark and villainous. I will continue telling stories i would love to tell stories of men too but somehow I gravitate to talk about women and their liberation,” she says as she wraps up.
(The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)