Jasmine Khurana is a writer and a spoken word artist. Her words, empowered with a cause are ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and energy’ through which she brings awareness to her audience on various social issues . ‘My six yards are my cape’ and the ‘ women will have it all’ are the unspoken and unsung stories of the ‘ largest work force of this country– the house wives. While Jasmine, glorifies motherhood, as a ‘privilege to bear and raise the next generation’ she beautifully put across their unmatched contribution and says how most of them ‘redefine their goals to accommodate their children’s mile stones’. Before she began to paint her life with words, she was an educationist – professor in Economics. Once she started to live her dreams, many awards and accolades came to her. Orange Flower Award for Humor (2017) at the Women’s Web Digital Summit , REX Karamveer Chakra Award (2019) instituted by I-Congo and United Nations for being a changemaker, to name a few.
Question #1 : Jasmine, in My Six Yards are My Capes you glorify the midlife ‘gains’, with contentment, acceptance, and happiness. A change from the usual midlife crisis stories of self-pity and regrets. What probed you to see things differently?
My forties certainly was a game changer for me and hit me like a tequila shot. Possibly, I got a breather from some roles and responsibilities. I realised that there was a world that had walked in by way of relations and professions. All with their own bagfuls of expectations. And in the middle of this maha-kumbh, at times in trying to stay ashore and at times in attempting to be a superhero’, I was somewhere losing and finding and losing myself. So a big question that stared was if I have managed to save or lost the woman that I was? I think I madly and unapologetically fell in love with my story and myself and there was a seething urge to rekindle and reclaim lots.
Also a realisation that every woman has a powerful story and we need to celebrate each others choices. Save and hold to our bosom what all is building us up and delete, detach from and edit what is running away with chunks of our soul. As a nurturer I need to be happy first to keep those around me happy and I better unshackle myself from the worlds pungent paradigms
‘Giving up on our passions,
Will make us better daughters.
Giving up on our careers,
Will make us better mothers.
Giving up on our inheritances,
Will make us better sisters.
We aren’t giving up on anything!
We are giving up.
Going on guilt trips,
We are putting ourselves,
Higher on our own priority lists. ‘
(From Women Will Have it all’)
I think that awareness is what now spills over in my writings. As Oscar Wilde says, “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”
So I’m too busy romancing life. No time to sulk, keep regrets or allow self-pity to make me feel lesser than what I am. It is not that I don’t feel enraged and disillusioned with a lot of things around. Just that I’ve made humor and satire my modes of expressing and combating it. Lines from ‘Women Will Have It All’ actually answer it better,
‘You know the day I turned 40,
I gifted myself a mantra.
Dear skewed world,
Whatever lemons you will throw at me,
I’ll lovingly catch them,
Dunk them in my celery salted puns.
Juice them up with some fresh literary tomatoes.
And dish them back to you in the form of my tangy writings.
My brands of Bloody Mary!.
My way of staying high on life!
My way of rising like a phoenix with every verse.
You better cultivate a taste for them!
Question #2 : A feminist in love with her femininity, you do not stoke rage or rebellion, instead you urge women to liberate themselves through getting in touch with what is truly feminine. And so, we would love to know more about your views on feminism. When did you realize the need to be a feminist? What caused you to take up such a radically different approach to feminism?
I’m happy I’m identified as a feminist and am very proud of being one. But feminism is not a sudden awareness that dawns on you. Or someone you suddenly decide to be when you get up one fine morning. It’s a way of life. It has to be!
I think it is a sum total of my upbringing and how I have always responded to gender disparities around me.
I’m very happy that my love with my feminity comes across in my writings. Again there is no conscious effort but about how I love living my life. Yes I do celebrate my feminity. I love carrying everything about it on my sleeve . I love what Elizabeth Elliot says ‘To be a woman is not to be a man. If femininity has its limitations. So has masculinity.’
Honestly, I would not let any idea of feminity or masculinity, or the pressure of heralding either or any role I play, tame my inherent playful spirit or curb the instinctive expression of my emotions and my outlook towards life.
Let the world not place us on pedestals from where we are expected to behave in a certain way. And it should be that way for all of us.
Question #3 : You began as an educationist and spent a while as a full-time homemaker. Now, you have made your niche in the social media space as a creative spoken word artist. Was the transition at each turning point of your career smooth? Did such changes happen because of deliberate effort and planning or did you take decisions instinctually?
I will say that in different phases of my life, I planned these changes because my gut instinct was holding me by the collar to attend to them. My instinct has never betrayed my trust.
Whatever I’m involved in life has to have a passionate purpose. I must be head-over-heels in love with pursuing it. Also be able to give it my all. At different stages of life I’ve been blessed that I’ve had some purpose that has driven me madly and passionately and kept me content and brimming over. For example, in my early twenties, my one-point agenda was to be in top five during my graduation and post graduation. Then it was to clear my UGC (University Grants Commission) test (NET).
That was my Ikigai at that point- the most passionate purpose.
Then life happened. Marriage, son, job. For a few years, my job was a passion. That drove me to balance motherhood and professional life every single day. As my son grew there was something that started bubbling me. Something like diminishing marginal happiness setting in as far as my work-life was concerned. Optically, it was giving me all- a very wonderful identity along with promising a fabulous career path. I felt the need to take a break from work and there was a craving not to miss any moment of my son’s growing-up years. This was the biggest decision I took based on my gut instinct. My instinct royally lived up to my trust and I didn’t regret that decision even once during that decade long sabbatical. Perhaps that was my ikigai during that particular phase. And that’s why I root for women being able to make their own choices. Every home has a different dynamic and hence every woman will take her own decisions based on that.
Right now words and verses are my ikigai. I wake up every morning at the disposal of some idea that forces me to pick up the pen or start pounding at the keys. That drives me to steal time from my routine to be able to make out with metaphors, play with punches and string some stanzas. It’s this purpose that drives me today. Who knows tomorrow it could be something else? I’ll welcome it with open arms.
Question #4 : Such oratory skills, such wittiness and wisdom, intelligence, and all-encompassing love, will spring only from nourished roots. We would like to know more about your childhood and the values you imbibed growing up.
I think I owe lots to my upbringing. My father was a lawyer and a farmer. Unfortunately we lost him in 2013. My mother retired as a Principal of a college after having an illustrious career as an English literature lecturer for almost three and a half decades.
I think I inherited the trait of calling ‘a spade a spade’ from my father and my love for literature from my mother. Can blame or credit both of them for the cheekiness and my sense of humour.
There was always access to good books and literature. So that helped a lot in developing that love for literature.
My mother used to write the script of all my debates and declamations in school. Quite possible that’s how I got addicted to the mics. Both my parents were extremely hardworking and nothing came too easy. My parents had their priorities right. Me and my brother got the best education. But for everything- be a bicycle,, a car or that first small black and white television set, we saw a good amount of financial planning going in. Growing up like that helps you value every little big luxury and privilege way more than we would if our whims and fancies are just one tantrum away. Also it helps you remain grounded and have a sense of gratitude always.
I also feel having a partner who is equally strong headed, fair and very forthright has also helped me voice things the way I do. Somewhere it complimented what I had inherited from my parents. Lest I forget raising a child who is now in the last of his teens. As I say in my piece ‘Growing up with Gen Next’
‘If there is one thing that ensures, we become better versions Of our own selves, undoubtedly it is parenting Hence I strongly recommend it. ‘
Question #5 : Most women mortgage or forgo their rights, primarily because they want their children to grow up as well-grounded and emotionally balanced human beings and the domination system (patriarchy) thrives on this. What is your take on this?.
I agree to that part that as parents and as mothers we want our children to grow up as well grounded and emotionally balanced human beings. Every house has a different dynamic. Neither parenting nor growing up comes with a preset manual. Every parent faces different challenges. So in her given circumstances, every women will make her own choice and we must respect that. What the world has to stop doing is to make women feel guilty about any of their choices. Let the world not bucket as into categories- working woman versus homemakers, mothers verses those who choose not to be, younger woman versus older women and then pitch us against each other. Our stories must rise beyond ‘my struggle verses your getting it all on a platter’ because that is how the world very smartly pitches us against each other.
I value and love all my relations and roles. But I will not allow any of those roles as a mother, a daughter , a sister , a wife to emotionally blackmail me to mortgage any of my rights. I’ve said it earlier also that women are put on a pedestal and celebrated as soul mates and emotional anchors till the moment they talk about their rights and shares. Everything beyond that is then projected as a rebellion. Often these expectations to forgo rights come from the people we are closest to. And here’s where women find themselves at a crossroad.
There are situations where we love people but hate mindsets. Fighting mindsets could lead to some love being lost for some time or even forever. 10 or 20 years back, I might not have been able to say this in as many words but today I am very clear. If it comes at the cost of my rights and self respect, I will rather let go and not make an effort to save that relation.
Question #6 : Congratulations Jasmine, your work On the borders of my capital, had us gripped, and it echoes the collective voice of those who bring food to our table. What prompted you to come up with these spoken words?
There are causes that command you to write. Causes that give you wounds deep enough for your pen to start bleeding. This has been one of those. So much from where I belong and the struggle and strife I saw my grandfather and my father go through as farmers has come to the fore. It was an avalanche of emotions and I just had to be true to my roots, my community, my inheritance and my ancestors. Above all to those who bring food to our table. If we donot speak now, our generations will not pardon us for remaining dumb spectators. Somehow when the words started flowing I could not disengage the cause from my personal story and memories of my childhood at my ancestral house and farms. That’s how ‘On the borders of my capital’ came up. Writing it felt like a homecoming. I felt as if I met so many of my loved ones whom I had lost long back while writing this piece. I’ve cried, have broken down for the first time ever while writing something. It was cathartic beyond words. I just hope and pray it helps the cause. It comforts some and discomforts those who really need to be discomforted and jolted as they sit on fascist thrones.