Are you enjoying true independence, as a citizen, a woman, a professional?
True independence would be about not being careful about what I say about things which affect me in the country. Right now, as I am speaking to you, I am choosing my words carefully because I don’t want to say something that will get me into trouble. The basic freedom to eat what I want, which I don’t have, to marry – or not marry – the person I want, regardless of his age, his religion… So, I guess in so many ways we are truly not independent. Do you think hundred times before you put a joke on WhatsApp? Do you want to vent about what is happening in our city, write it and then delete it because you think it will get you into trouble? I think we all do.
I am a little more independent than most people because I am not answerable to anybody, I am financially independent, I have had a liberal upbringing, so the thinking was always broad-minded. I travel when I want, I also have a liberal minded husband. But still, are we truly free? I think we are sort of regressing. True freedom will only come when we all turn liberal and non-judgemental. When I was growing up it was far more tolerant. My husband is constantly asked on Twitter, are your children Hindu or Muslim? But he has a good answer: They are whatever the next festival is going to be!
On a more positive note, what about India instils a sense of pride in you?
India is a lot better than many countries across the world. There is pride in our family bonding that is very rarely seen in many other countries. The values of family and being together, looking after your parents, parents looking after you regardless of how old you become, the family bond that continues… It’s not like when you are 18, you are told to get out of the house. This quality is found across all sections; it has something to do with our ‘Indianness’.
Another thing I find heartening is our ability to know that we can make things happen. Everything is not ‘lakeer ka fakeer’ (conservative) which I find in many countries where people are quite anal about things. We can take a problem and sort it out quite practically. This is a great Indian trait; we are street-smart, practical. Even a housewife will know how to make Rs.500 go a long way – and do it without making a big fuss about it. We just go about our way and get things done.
Also, when we have so many problems in our city, from floods to blasts, the resilience of our people is commendable.
What were the key moments in your own life when you broke barriers and claimed your freedom?
There have been so many moments, from wanting to make a movie in an age when not many women were given the chance, to making it my way and not succumbing to the so-called boxes that people put women directors in. From getting flak for that, to acceptance…
Also not falling into the trap of the pressure of having to get married by a certain age. Women sometimes pressurise themselves, thinking ‘I’m nearing 30, I must get married because everyone else gets married at that age’. I got married at 40, because till then I didn’t feel the need to get married, and I hadn’t found a person I wanted to marry. When I found him, he was 8 years younger than me, he was not from my religion – and none of it mattered to me.
Also, the way Shirish and I bring up our kids… they celebrate every festival, they know about everything but if there is a box that asks for religion, we leave it blank because I don’t think that’s something a child needs to answer and why is it even important? I would put ‘human’ but it’s a bit corny!
Evidently, you simply owned your freedom…
I would not say I fought for my freedom when I was younger because my circumstances at home were such that we were given all the freedom, which made me more responsible than if I was denied it. I don’t think I had to actively take a stand and say I wouldn’t do something; I would just do things the way I wanted to.
Self-conviction seems to be the key!
The biggest roadblock is thinking what other people will say. I genuinely give a s*** what people will think because people don’t live with me in my house. And I know how much I think about other people! Maybe we will sit and chat with our friends about something for five minutes but then you get on with your own life. That’s exactly how much others would be thinking about my life. In that way, I’m not self-obsessed to think that everybody is thinking about me! You should go and do exactly what makes you happy.