“Break the pattern. Teach your son he is a human being first” – Saheli Mitra

Posted: January 13, 2023 in Art, Indian Women, Inspiring stories, Men, parenting, Women
Tags: , ,

Apart from the fact that Saheli Mitra is a journalist, writer, entrepreneur, nature lover and a beautiful soul, what I have always liked about her is that she is someone with a mind of her own. She is someone, who doesn’t think twice before challenging social perceptions and norms.

Over the years I have keenly followed Saheli’s writings in newspapers, websites and social media and I have always appreciated her for her in-your-face, bold views and an intrinsic urge to spearhead social change. So when Saheli floated the idea of a book like Mater it came as no surprise to me because this is something that only she can think of.

As Mater, published by Virasat Publications, heads for its grand launch on Sunday, January 15, 2023 at ICCR, I decided to ask Saheli a few questions around the book and she answers me in her inimitable style.

Why did you decide to bring out a book like Mater?

I was toying with the idea for long, since days when I would be often called on the podium at various events to talk on women empowerment. I somewhere felt the general rhetoric about Beti Bachao concept going round in India is somewhere robbing the sons off their rightful place too.

Also I felt if we cannot educate our sons and by education I mean proper upbringing by their mothers, then no daughter, woman, wife, mother can be saved. Women empowerment cannot be forced through, it has to be felt, respected equally by the men as well. It cannot aim at creating a divide between man and woman where a man will even feel frightened to touch a woman affectionately, in the fear that she might complain or raise a hue and cry.

Similarly a man should have enough respect since childhood and learn that both man and woman ultimately are human beings. There is absolutely no divide between them other than their sexuality.

Any particular reason for making the book in a letter format?

We have forgotten how to write letters; be it love letters, or any other. In this tech age we convey our emotions just through emails, WA chats and virtual connect. Hence letters are very important to me. I still love writing a letter or receiving a card. Letters are tools to connect.

A letter written by a mother can even be read years later by the son when the mother is no more. That’s the power a hand-written letter has. Hence I thought of bringing out this letter anthology.

A letter written by a mother can even be read years later by the son when the mother is no more. That’s the power a hand-written letter has.

– Saheli Mitra
The cover of Mater has been designed by Rhiti Chatterjee Bose and the book is conceived and edited by Saheli Mitra

What made you choose these writers to be a part of this anthology?

I floated the idea of this anthology first on my social media handles, as the founder and content head of my Content & Creative company Tales Talks & Walks (TTW). Many responded. Many, who I didn’t know personally, and I also sent the anthology idea to those who I know as well.

We got many letters, but we chose a few, maintaining the variety of letters and not making them similar. For example there is a mother who is fighting Cancer, one who writes to her adopted son, one who writes to her dear son who is no more, one who writes to Godsons and so on.

You end your preface by saying: Let our sons break the shackles of that patriarchy and not just daughters. Please elaborate.

I have already said why I chose sons. To elaborate I would like to take names of men like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Raja Rammohan Roy and many many more who broke those shackles centuries back for the women to survive better. If these men were not there, who would have saved the women of India from Sati, child marriage and so on? Women did not save women, men did. Hence I thought of celebrating men and teaching sons how to be such compassionate, caring, loving souls; a teaching that only a mother can impart.

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Raja Rammohan Roy and many many more broke those shackles centuries back for the women to survive better. If these men were not there, who would have saved the women of India from Sati, child marriage and so on?

Do you think these letters will make a difference in the discourse around patriarchy in India?

We have already sold 100 books in the first one week, even before the launch. I am sure and confident such out-of-the-box ideas can create wonders in their own ways rather than socialites discussing women empowerment from jazzy podiums. And as we all know, words will always survive, even years later, so these letters written from the heart by various mothers will definitely create an impact.

Do you feel modern women are successful in bringing up gender sensitive boys/men?

Not really. Rather I believe women across ages and generations and centuries have raised many of their sons much better than the confused modern woman can. Else stalwarts of yesteryears would not have been born.

In your opinion, what steps can a mother take to ensure her child is strong, sensitive and respectful to the opposite gender?

Breaking the pattern. Teaching a son, he is a human being first and not a ‘son.’

Sometimes working women are turning out to be supermoms while juggling home, work and homework. Do you feel this might lead to unrealistic expectations on the part of a boy who is brought up by a supermom?

Absolutely. Not just the son, the whole family takes advantage of that ‘super woman’ tag. I believe, as I myself had a 21-year full-time journalist job and now a 24-hour daily job of an entrepreneur, running a company like TTW, that a working woman should never be burdened with any expectation. We never burden a father with such expectations, then why a mother?

How did artist Rhiti Chatterjee Bose get involved with this book?

I have admired Rhiti’s work for a long time. Also I wanted a woman to do the cover design. Despite knowing many well-known artistes of Kolkata, I thought of approaching her for the cover and she instantly agreed, sending one of the best paintings possible. I was so so touched.

Do you plan to bring out any other anthology in future?

Everything happens to me suddenly. Nothing is planned. My life is an example of that. If I ever feel the tug to do something, I just do it. Frankly I have no idea, or no commercial purpose to bring out anthologies by taking payment, fees etc. As you know we did not take anything for this book. And thanks to the wonderful Virasat Publications who did the book on a traditional publishing format, quite rare these days. Partha da, Amit Shankar and Rituparna of Virasat are doing a great job in this direction.

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Comments
  1. S Mukherjee says:

    Amrita,
    I would not have got to know about the book ‘ Mater and more so would have perhaps been unaware of the contributions / work of a lady / author / entrepreneur named Saheli, unless you were there.
    When you had asked her to elaborate a certain line from her book Mater “Let our son breaks the shackles ……” I must say that I liked the way she had put forward her point BOLDLY to clarify the same.
    The letter like this by itself a lesson and I must say that anything unconventional and innovative is bound to get archived in Museum of Memories of readers…

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