Bina Shah, author of several best-selling books, talks to Blush about her inspirations and pursuits.
1. When did you decide that you wanted to become a writer? Who or what inspired you to work in your field?
I had some amazing teachers in junior high and high school who started telling me I should be a writer because they liked how I wrote. At the same time, I read Anne Frank’s diary and was very influenced by her too. Later, I took writing classes in college and enjoyed them, so it seemed a logical choice to continue with writing throughout my life.
2. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Rather than single out any one accomplishment, I’m proud of having built a good balance between my work and my personal life. My relationships with family and friends are vital to supporting my work and my work helps me to be a better friend and family member.
3. How do you think you have evolved as a writer with every book that you have written?
As you go through life, you mature and so that is reflected in every book that comes along. Your experiences, travel, friendships, spiritual and emotional and intellectual growth continues to inform your writing, so it’s a continuous process, and hopefully if you grow as a person your books become better and better.
4. What do you regret most so far in life?
No regrets whatsoever! I believe that everything happens for a reason, corny as it sounds, so I look back and evaluate even the difficulties and failures from a positive viewpoint.
5. What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“Trust in God but tie your camel”
6. If you wanted to create an environment where motivation would thrive, what would you do?
I would create an environment where there was no violence or weapons of any kind. I would not allow any discrimination against any race, ethnic group or nationality. I would not allow discrimination against women. I would encourage intellectualism and spirituality over materialism and power. This is the environment in which the most personal and intellectual growth can occur, in my opinion.
7. Name five books you think everyone should read.
I don’t think I can answer this question. Everyone’s five books are going to be different — why should I impose my choice on everyone else!
8. If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
At the moment, I’m very dedicated to making people understand the importance of not taking away equal rights from women. As a committed feminist, I want people to accept that women and men are equal in every way. They have the same rights and responsibilities to society; I’m saying this with full awareness of the fact that only women bear children, but women’s biological functions do not render them any less able in terms of intellect, emotions, capacity for work, or leadership skills. And there is a dire need in Pakistan right now for this to be recognized. The Muslim world is far behind the rest of the world because they discourage women from working and participating fully in society at all levels. The sooner we realize this and change it, the quicker we will rejoin the path to development and progress that the rest of the world has been on for the last century.
9. Do you feel there are challenges in being a working woman in Pakistan? If yes, how?
It’s hard to be accepted as a working woman both by your own family – which always has conservative members who feel a woman’s place is in the home – and by other men in the workplace who resent the presence of women in an environment they want to be male-only. There’s always pressure on a working woman and making her feel like she’s doing the wrong thing by coming out of the home to earn money. Women are made to feel that they are working just on a whim and will leave it at any time for a frivolous reason. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Women who work do so out of economic necessity and only leave under great duress to do so. If better conditions for working mothers existed, most women would return to their workplaces after having children.