Twinkle Khanna: People said I am weird. Now, The same people call that weirdness wisdom
She’s known for her self-deprecating humour. The wife of a glamorous actor, born to superstar parents, Twinkle Khanna has worked hard to keep herself as normal as it gets, and yet have a voice that’s distinctly hers. Here are excerpts from an interactive session with her on Sunday, the concluding evening of Times LitFest 2016:
STARTING OUT YOUNG
I have been reading since childhood. Malavika Sangghvi (the anchor of the session) had once called me to say, ‘I know your father (Rajesh Khanna) very well. He calls me late at night.’ I thought maybe now, she will tell me that she is the love of his life and I have a stepbrother. However, she went on to say that she and dad discussed books. My father was very fond of reading. It was something we did at our home. I don’t think it fits the way people think Bollywood works, but that’s who we are. By the time I was in my teens, I was reading science fiction. I had this maternal uncle who had cartons of books. It’s important to read because you have to fill your head with words. It’s like buying a juicer grinder and switching it on, with nothing in it. You need to put something in it, only then will something worthwhile come out of it. It’s the same with words and writing.
FROM WEIRDO TO WISE WOMAN
Earlier, people said that I am weird. Now, the same people call that weirdness wisdom. I am wondering if those people are actually weird. I wrote half a book at the age of 18, and also had a collection of morbid poems. For many years after that, I didn’t even write a diary entry. I thought I’d write when I turn 60, but a friend moved jobs and the opportunity to be a columnist came by. That is how it all began.
My father believed in astrology. His astrologer had predicted that his daughter would become a writer someday. My father would nag me, but I didn’t write a word till he passed away. I wish he could see me now.
They’re actually happy that I am writing all this instead of saying it to them at parties. That’s what I used to do earlier. They feel saved.
I was born into the limelight. So, my biggest achievement, which I worked hard for, is to stay normal. I remember joining a boarding school in the sixth grade — I was lazy, complacent and fat. Suddenly, I realised that I had to fend for myself. That’s when I discovered this drive within myself. For the first time, I ranked first in class, which was a miracle in itself. However, it didn’t matter to my family. In class 10, I scored 97 per cent in maths, but when I told my mother (Dimple Kapadia) that, her comment was, ‘You weigh 97 kilos, lose some weight’. I then realised that we are a different family where such achievements aren’t appreciated.
When women talk about feminism, people nod. In my latest book, there’s a male character who goes on to make cheap sanitary pads and a machine for manufacturing them. We treat things as very sacred or attach lots of myths to it, which put women at a disadvantage. There is a temple near my house which bears a board, ‘Menstruating women not allowed’. I mean, these are bodily functions. Such thoughts need to be dispelled. People feel feminists are aggressive, men-hating women with a little moustache. I think it’s got a bad reputation because when feminism came into being, we were facing so much opposition that we had to be strident and aggressive. It’s not the case anymore. Today, it’s about gender equality, not neutrality. Anyone who doesn’t agree would be a bit of an idiot.
Akshay (Kumar) doesn’t read, so he’s a bad role model for bookshops. I’m well-read and smart, but he’s smart despite not reading. He’s street-smart. He is much better with numbers than me. His understanding of business and people is much more evolved. He’s confident in his skin. Ultimately, there is no definition for smartness, it’s just the ability to do what you want to do really well.