Books

Kubbra Sait talks about turning a writer with ‘Open Book: Not Quite A Memoir’

Kubbra Sait.

Kubbra Sait. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Though she is not explicit about it, Kubbra Sait seems like an optimist. She chooses to see the spot of light, however tiny that may be, at the end of a tunnel than be gripped by darkness. When I call her to discuss about her ironically titled memoir, Open Book: Not Quite A Memoir (Harper Collins), she is in Udaipur, Rajasthan, nursing a twisted elbow that resulted from from an accident. She is unsure if she should head back home to Mumbai to recover or wait longer. She is guilty for having stalled the shoot. Yet, despite the mishap, she chooses to focus on the “special feeling” of having written a book (which released earlier this week).

“I am excited and happy. I am also feeling nervous about doing something for the first time,” she says, “Few people who have read the book called it honest.”

Even the manner in which this book was conceived reflects a sense of optimism. Kubbra was stuck indoors, like most people , during the pandemic. The people she followed online were either making banana bread or dalgona coffee. “I was happy with Americano. I tried baking the bread. But it wasn’t adding purpose to my life.”

Everything seemed uncertain. “Most people weren’t sure if they were going to make it through the pandemic, right? So, if I had to die, I realised I had a story to tell before that.”

After deciding to write a book, she promptly asked her literary agent for a ghostwriter because she thought that was how all memoirs were written. But her literary agent, who had read some of her autobiographical nuggets on Kommune, an artists’ collective, advised her to write on her own.

“I wrote the first few lines about my teeth. About how don’t have wisdom teeth at all. I don’t even have the roots for them. So, I wrote, ‘Whatever you are going to read in this book are the unwise decisions I took in my life.’ When I sent this to Harper Collins, they were happy.”

Kubbra writes about some of the darkest moments of her life including the bullying she faced in school and being sexually abused by an acquaintance. “But when recalling these incidents was hard, I wrote about something else and returned when I felt more comfortable to write about them. I knew that nobody was forcing me to write. I wanted to tell my story.”

The advice she received from Kommune also helped. “They told me, ‘Don’t ever tell a story when you aren’t over it.’ When you are dealing with the story, you will always have strong emotions attached to it. And, you don’t want your readers to go through the same emotions you are going through. They need to be free to make their decisions of how they feel about your story. So, I remembered that even while writing some of the hardest chapters of the book.”

The excerpt from the book is about the abuse she went through. Kubbra clarifies that, that is not what the entire book is about. “That might give people the feeling that things are doomed forever. But if you read the whole book, you know there is always a chance to turn things around — but that is only possible when you take things into your own hands.”

There aren’t many memoirs of mid-career artistes in India. Those of female artists are rarer. Priyanka Chopra’s Unfinished, which Kubbra liked, is among the handful. “Somehow there is this unwritten rule that you have to write a memoir only when you are about to hit the grave. I don’t believe that. I think I have lived and am living so many different lives within this lifetime and it is worth sharing now. I didn’t write this because I had a point to prove. I just had a story to tell. And, that was a good enough reason.” 


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Printable version | Jul 6, 2022 9:43:14 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/books/kubbra-sait-open-book-memoir/article65584927.ece