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Kubbra Sait: ‘I started writing from a place of getting healed’

A former corporate employee, TV host, model, actor, and now a writer, Kubbra Sait, who's recently published her memoir 'Open Book', talks about the power of hugs, letting Sacred Games' Kukoo live on in people's hearts and hustling to make more money to survive in expensive Mumbai.

March 25, 2023 / 05:26 PM IST
Host-model-actor Kubbra Sait recently published her book, 'Open Book: Not Quite a Memoir' (HarperCollins, 2022).

Host-model-actor Kubbra Sait recently published her book, 'Open Book: Not Quite a Memoir' (HarperCollins, 2022).

“My life is much larger than my career.” Nothing else from Open Book: Not Quite a Memoir (HarperCollins, 2022) by Kubbra Sait could’ve effectively summarised her life (and the book). An ex-Microsoft employee, TV host, model, actress, and now a writer, Sait has donned many hats and immersed herself in everything as effortlessly as she played Kukoo in the popular web-series Sacred Games. In a candid conversation with Moneycontrol, she discusses her memoir, the power of hugs, and more. Edited excerpts:

Open Book: Not Quite a Memoir (HarperCollins, 2022) by Kubbra Sait

Did you purposely want this book to not just be a memoir?

Many people asked me this question: Aren’t you too young to write a memoir? But I don’t know if age is a qualifier to know the kind of experiences life has lent to you to make you the kind of person that you choose to become and also to recognise if you learnt from your failures. But then, I’m not apologetic about my ambition, abortion, or abuse. I think, holistically, today, if anything, I’m far more comfortable in my skin than I ever was. I remember saying this before when I hit the button ‘send’, I felt as if I had taken this metaphorical baggage off my back. And I stand tall, very proud of the journey I’ve lived. I feel like it doesn’t matter what labels we give it; the idea of a story and a journey is to bring people together and to grow as human beings. If anybody can end up taking a leaf from my book and turn their life around, then I guess it’s a win-win situation for them, me, and the publisher.

How difficult was it for you to pen down some deeply personal anecdotes from your life? Did you seek help from your peers and/or editors, or sought therapy to negotiate with the trauma and heal through writing?

All these stories were muddled and jumbled up. Frustration from one thing added to another, and so on, and that made me quite incapable of handling relationships or people. It left me jaded, and realising the same, I went to see a therapist. But I did that primarily to normalise seeing a therapist for my family members. But when I attended these sessions, I was like, oh my god, I’ve so many deeply rooted issues that I’m not dealing with because I’m putting them under the carpet and choosing to put on a brave face and move on. I think, in the long term, it’d have been a big disaster if they hadn’t been handled that way. My therapy sessions truly helped me unravel and compartmentalise the mess. It made me lighter on my feet, from the inside, and I felt I was carrying a little less (baggage) every single day. So, when I started writing, I was doing it from a place of getting healed. And writing the book became a release for all of that. If readers are personally triggered by these stories, I’d say that they may have an unresolved trauma or issue in their life, and it’s a good time to seek help because we all deserve the right to love and be loved.

You’ve noted the power of hugs in this book. But many people are uncomfortable with touch for a variety of reasons. What do you’ve to say about that?

I write about this in the book that my mother said not to even touch anyone, and I think it came from a sense of reservation because I was a girl. But when I moved out of Bangalore to Dubai, I was interacting with people of myriad nationalities, and people did show a sense of affection that way. It was more like: I want to say 'Hi' to you and I want my 'Hi' to be felt. When people started doing that to me, I was a little unnerved then, but that was because I wasn’t comfortable with hugs because of my conditioning. Hugs are incredible. They are the greatest joys. World’s biggest problems can be solved if I hug and say, “Hey, this is where we stand.” Hugs are also a kind of energy exchange. The energy that I bring to the other person who may need it, and by sharing this joy I don’t deplete any energy, in fact, I create more. I am comfortable hugging my cat, maid, driver, or anyone yaar…and if we’re able to connect physically — on a non-sexual level — a warm, fuzzy, caring, and meaningful hug works. Hugs can bring world peace. That’s my firm belief.

Not many girls and women get to overcome and rise above their circumstances, what would you say to them?

For all those who are stuck in a rut and feel like there’s nowhere to go, there’s always a place to go. I wanted to run away from my house when I was 18 years old, I wanted to get married at that age…anything to get away and get rid of the conditioning I was exposed to or was part of. And in a random, confusing way it was a blessing to get the hell out of there, and I took the first flight and ran away. And when I did, I ran in a direction that was unknown to me, so I can’t begin to tell you how uncomfortable it was. But if you’ve to grow and find out the real, actual power that resides in you — this volcanic energy you’re sitting on, you need to go out there and be uncomfortable finding the answers. I urge girls and women who are reading this book to believe that it’s not over until you call it quits. I’ve been able to rise because I’ve failed so many times, and through this book, I wanted to share that idhar aane ke liye itna girna pada yaar (I had to fall many times to reach where I have today). No failure is absolute. Seek the help that you need, stand up for what you believe in, and stand up for who you are. It’s not going to be easy though.

You’ve juggled many careers. How do you see this in contrast with the obsession to master a specific skill set?

When I moved to Bombay, I had no idea how to excel in Bombay, but I used to have these weird visions that I live in Bombay and for some reason, I knew I had to be in Mumbai. And coming here, I kept getting free advice: you’re too old to do this, your hair is too curly, you should try this and that. But then, I thought let me begin first. So, first, I hosted events; second, I started acting in advertisements, and then began working on small films, then web-series, movies, and so on. Step by step, I turned my life around. Now I can say with so much clarity that it’s not about mastering anything, you can only grow if you’re having fun. Also, this city is so expensive. If I keep all my eggs in one basket, then how will I pay my bills? We’ve heard these glorifying stories about having nothing to do and sleeping at stations. I diversified my portfolio as much as possible so that I never have an unhappy meal and sleep in an unsafe place.

You’re immensely loved for your terrific performance in Sacred Games, but you’ve starred in several other series and films — Foundation and Farzi. Do you feel pressured that your other performances are mostly compared to the iconic character of Kukoo?

Recently, I met Arshad Warsi and asked him about people calling him Circuit and how they can’t move beyond that. Toh aage kisko badhna hai, rehne do yaar, logon ke dil main hai (Who wants to move forward? Let it be. Let that [character] reside in their hearts.) And I feel that’s true because if Kukoo wasn’t authentic, then it wouldn’t have struck such a deep chord with people. Because there was so much to Kukoo it was going to garner a much greater audience to its side, and I am happy to see that I have had the majority of the country cheer for this character that it brought me to the limelight. I’m not going to shy away from that. Thanks to that I’m able to do everything. I’m really grateful to Kukoo for being my first big outing as an actor, and it happened with the stalwarts of the industry and a story that I hold so close to my heart. And, in fact, I’m so grateful that it allowed me to become an ally to the LGBT community.

At the risk of irking you by asking 'what’s next', I can’t help but ask you what is cooking next?

All the projects that I am working on now. But I want to enjoy every minute I’m spending here. And I’m very happy to be part of the storytelling process and make more money, which is also on my wish list.

Saurabh Sharma is a freelance journalist who writes on books and gender.
first published: Mar 25, 2023 05:26 pm