Did any particular reason spur this book at this time?
My mother and I were doing coffee at Barista when she went to a little bookshop that was in the same space, and returned with a book on Gulzar’s life by his daughter. When I opened it, she had inscribed it with the words, “Promise me you will write a book on me someday.” I have been writing as far as I can think back, but doing this book has been very satisfying. It’s been the best thing I could do as a daughter — to write an engaging and interesting book about her amazing journey. I hope this book will have a huge inspirational effect on women and all those who ‘dare to dream’.
What according to your mother defined style — and how much of it do you think has passed on to you?
My mother is the personification of individual style. In this book, I have described her at the age of 19 appearing at a family wedding in a skin-hugging gold dress that flared out like a mermaid, carrying a net veil on her shoulders. It was an adaptation of a French evening gown that passed off as a gharara in traditional Lucknow. That first sign of her personal style in her teens said it all.
Her style does not follow any fashion trends; it follows her moods and her almost playful and whimsical inventiveness that is the hallmark of a trendsetter.
My mother and I are as different as two women can be. Even though I am constantly told that we look alike and have the same mane of hair, which we both leave open, I think the similarity ends there. My style is calmer, less eventful, quieter. I like to differentiate between the time of day and the occasion. I like a lot of white linen and lace for the day, but for evenings it’s fairly glitzy.
Looking back, are there moments which come to mind that remind you of how she impacted your life?
There were many moments when this amazing lady, my mum, impacted my life. I remember the day she lost her father; a man she worshipped — she stole herself to go ahead with her commitment to address the wives of the Commonwealth heads of states who were visiting India at the time.
As a young visionary, what was the ‘X’ factor that separated Shahnaz Husain from the rest?
She was a born fighter. She did not accept any situation as her inevitable destiny. In fact, her complete disbelief in the concept of kismet made her what she is today. To quote her: “I don’t believe in destiny. You are what you will yourself to be.” Also, she always believed she was a winner, and somehow, when you have that faith in yourself it is easier to go past the winning post.
Flame: The story of my mother Shahnaz Husain; Nelofar Currimbhoy; Hachette India; R295. Available at leading bookstores