Shaheen Bhatt did all of us a favour when she wrote her tell-all piece for Vogue regarding mental health and the silent killer that is depression. She helped a lot of peeps come to terms with their inner demons and we all know how much the world needs that. Today, she has done a bit more in her bid to ensure that not another life is claimed by the darkness. If you're wondering how, it is her through her book - a thought-provoking memoir that is doing the talking for her. Titled, 'I Have Never Been (Un)Happier' the book somehow manages to talk to you, at least it did to me, and I knew I had to ask.
And I did - about the book, her writing process, her famous family and a lot more than that. But, and surprisingly, I got a lot more than I probed for. Read the excerpts from our conversation here.
When did the idea about the book come about? Did you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, I wanted to be a writer since I was 12 and writing is something I've always done. I was doing a lot of screen writing earlier for my dad and other people. It honestly wasn't my idea at all. I was approached by Penguin which was after I put out a lot of posts on Instagram and based on that they connected with me.
The books talks about your struggle with the inner demons. What gave you that courage to share it with the world?
It is weird that people think it's brave but I don't feel like that. For me it's anyway not like that. I come from a family where we are all very outspoken people. My father has always spoken about things pretty much on his mind. I've been taught since childhood that if there is truth, you talk about it. Once I came to terms with what I was actually living with, it wasn't hard for me to talk about. So it wasn't an act of bravery, it was just this is what I am so it's not brave to talk about yourself.
There is a whole stigma attached to mental health. Did that ever bother you?
It bothered me when I was younger because then I didn't understand what was happening. When you don't know what going around then you think it's going crazy but as soon as you know know and I read about it and went through therapy, I've understood that it is a stigma which is unwarranted and I've come to accept and I know that there is nothing to be ashamed of so there is no reason for me not to talk about it.
Did your father read the first draft of the book? Did he have any inputs for you?
My whole family read the book while it was being drafted. Surprisingly, my father, for the one time in his life had no inputs (laughs). He is usually full of advises. He just hugged me and told me that I've done a really good job.
How supportive was Alia? We all read her letter to you. Was that overwhelming?
Oh ya. I didn't know she was making the video. She is the most supportive person in my life. My entire family has always been supportive. Just that maybe this is the first time have learnt the extent of what I was going through; it is really difficult to get an insight into someone's head. I think it bothered them a little bit that they didn't realise the extent of what I was going through but they've always been supportive which is why I don't like when they apologize to me.
Such an interesting title to the book. How did you come up with it?
There were many different titles that we had come up with. I think this title just in terms of its simplicity and what it sort of conveyed; we stuck with it because it kind of said everything. Because I'm both happy and unhappy and I'm perfectly fine with it.
How was the writing process like? Was it self consuming? Was it cathartic in anyway?
Personally I took a longer time to write it. Six to eight months; given that it's a short book I could have finished it much sooner but because of what I was writing about, it kind of took a toll on me mentally. It was kind of thing where I wrote and I would take a step back from it to gather myself. It took a while for the catharsis to actually sink in because initially it was hard but I think you don't realise how much you can learn about yourself just by looking back and examining your life. I've come out of it with a much greater understanding of who I am.
For the readers, what would you like them to draw from the book?
The fact that if you're suffering and suffering in silence, there is no need to. You should be able to have a conversation about this. My reasoning for writing was also to sort of to lead by example because you can't tell people to talk about things which you're not ready to about yourself. So I think it's one should starting a conversation l, talk to somebody. If people have loved ones who are suffering and going through it and the books helps them understand what they're going through, then you know, fantastic. And I just want people to know that they're not being singled out and this isn't only happening to you. That's what depression does, it makes you feel that you're all alone and nobody else is feeling what you feel. It is always important to build up a community around yourself. A community of people who feel the same way, makes you feel a little less isolated.
Deepika Padukone recently spoke very fondly of you on KWK like how she always connected with you and she finds you really inspiring. Do you guys share a good bonding?
Yeah, we have met a few times. We had spent a long time together at a party and she is one of the nicest person I've ever met in my life. She is really warm and very gracious and I think she's had her own struggles and she's forthcoming about them which is a huge deal. She is really the one who got this entire movement kick-started and because of her that people are even aware that mental illness exists.
What is your take on the MeToo movement which has shaken Bollywood? Do you think it was long coming and it's here to stay?
Oh yeah, hundred percent. Its not just about Bollywood but a world over thing and finally this is a wakening up conversation for women and if it here to stay, then that is good.
What is your favourite go-to book? The one on that's always there at your bed-side?
Harry Potter. Since I was 12, it has been my safe haven.
...And then we spent some time talking about Harry Potter. That's all.
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