“Patriarchy runs in the whole world because women don’t use their voices when they should” Shama Sikander, a feminist from the core has a special message for the women. She discloses the way how by having a voice of one’s own, women can shatter all the glass ceilings and rise above their limitations. She urges that to achieve anything, it is imperative that we keep looking for our passion, our love, our courage, our dreams, ambition, curiosity, happiness, and mostly for ourselves. Before diving into the journey of the unknown, explore yourself, know your worth, and know what you need over what the world wants. For, the moment you get the essence of your own company and become your own, you begin to live and not merely exist. Shama is also an ardent believer in mediation. Mediation is a practice for your soul in your journey of knowing yourself, fostering changes, and bringing transformation, creating a life you love and discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary. The Voice Of Woman chatted with the very talented and versatile Shama Sikander who opened up about her struggle with depression, woes of being a female producer in a male-dominated industry and how in yoga she found her recluse and discovered the beauty that is within all of us, especially within one’s inner self. What was your inspiration behind your life choices? Your life choices are a combination of all your experiences, conditioning, perceptions, and learnings and how those help you to make certain decisions that can make or break your life. I have derived inspiration from various things to make certain choices. Life taught me to handle everything and inspired me to make choices. I have always been a person who goes with the flow and with time I have only learned the meaning of faith in the universe. With that, I can only say that I left everything to the universe and floated towards wherever it took me and that faith is what made me make those choices. These affirmative thoughts are already buried within you. So I think the universe inspires me to make choices. How did you get your first break? Where do you wish to see yourself in the next 10 years? I was looking for movies and going for various auditions. I had given an audition for Sekhar Kapoor’s film. Sameer Malhotra, my co-star, was friends with the associate director Sameer Sharma and suggested my name. Mr. Khan was looking for a second lead for the film but I was already shortlisted by him for that role. Unfortunately, my grandmother expired during that time so I had to rush to Rajasthan where the cremation ceremony lasted for 40 days. As mobile phones were not popular at that time so I had to call the associate director to let him know about my situation. In the meantime, I was also selected by Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited to work exclusively as their talent. I lost the main lead and was insisted by Sameer Malhotra to start off with the second lead as it was a big banner film. I met Mr. Khan once again and he took me for the second lead role and I got my best break in Prem Again. In the next ten years, I wish to see myself as an extremely successful actress. I also want to direct and produce films and launch a couple of businesses. I see myself as a multi-billionaire and one of the finest entrepreneurs of the country. Someone who cares for people and works for the betterment of society. Do you think mental health problems are real? Can the immense pressure of the industry take a toll on one’s mental health? Yes, I know mental health problems are real because they exist in all of us. Every human being has some kind of mental issue that they are aware or unaware of. Some know but don’t want to accept it and some accept it yet don’t know how to deal with it or share it with other people. I think all of us are facing such challenges right now. Yes, the industry’s pressure can take an extreme toll on one’s mental health. I feel this is the most demanding line in the whole world among all other businesses. This industry takes a lot from you. You are under a magnifying glass of the public eye all the time. The media is continuously judging you for each and every action of yours and that can be very stressful and destroy you if you don’t take care of your mental health and understand the difference between reality and this glamour industry. If you don’t know who you are and stand on your ground and support the true being you can get lost in this whole frenzy of glamour and shimmer. Who was your role model while you were growing up? Whomever I see and get a chance to observe closely is my role model. They are mostly normal people and not big celebrities. When I observe normal people living a normal life and are happy without having any name, fame, power, and love being ordinary, that is very inspiring. I feel that in today’s world when everybody wants to be somebody it is so difficult to be nobody and a lot of people do it with so much simplicity which is extremely inspiring. What is your biggest life lesson that still has a great impact on your life? My biggest life lesson has to be my struggle with depression and bipolar. It changed my life completely from outside and inside. It changed my mind, how I think about things, and deconditioned me in every way. I am learning a lot of things now from a new perspective. In the worldly age, I am almost 39 now, yet I still feel like I am a child learning so many things in a new way which is much wiser, open, and aware. This is what my whole phase of depression and bipolar taught me. It made me more compassionate, open, receiving, surrendering, and grateful. It brought so much depth in me which helps me understand other beings and appreciate life so much more than ever before. Are you a feminist? What is your opinion on feminism? Yes, I am a feminist. My opinion on feminism is equality. We all need to be treated as equals but I don’t support when women try to be like men. We are not men. We are women and we have different powers than men. I am not saying those powers are superior. True feminism is realizing that power, finding that power within you, becoming empowered, and then empowering each other. You really need to empower yourself by realizing and valuing your true potential and stop comparing with another gender. Once we realize another person’s potential, we can learn to respect each other’s qualities. How has your experience in this industry been so far? How difficult was it for you to be able to make your own identity? My experience in the industry has been extremely difficult in the beginning. I was a newcomer with no prior knowledge of the industry and proper grooming. I was zero and from that, reaching where I am today, I really want to tap my back and thank all including my friends, family, and colleagues who had helped me did not judge me, and empowered me to overcome those difficult times. My struggles only made me more kind, accepting, and understanding. I try to understand all those bullies who derive pleasure by bullying people in the industry. People who trouble others are troubled too. Earlier it used to bother me a lot how people could bully me or devalue me. Now I am very understanding of what, how, and where I come from. Once you know these the bullies can no longer affect you. Somehow they can sense that power within you. People have been nice to me when I started to realize that. I was never somebody who can suppress. I think physically I carry that aura but still, I was vulnerable as an outsider. I was new and unaware of many things. Also, I was poor and poverty is a very bad place to be. When you are poor a lot of people think that they can take you for a ride for even one-time food on your plate. This industry has been very difficult but it made me who I am today, made me stronger and gave me courage. It was very difficult for me to make my identity but I have been very lucky and blessed to be able to find good people in the industry who gave me a chance for my talent and not for anything else, who pushed me to make me reach my destination. It also has a lot to do with my own hard work, persistence, and not giving up. They always supported me. My family stood by me and we have stayed together for which I could survive. Does gender bias exist in the entertainment industry? I don’t know if I was not given work for being a woman. But I have seen gender bias works. I think I faced it as a producer. A lot of men don’t want to associate with you because you are a woman. They will talk to you about anything but work and it surprises as whenever I went to people for collaboration they looked at me in a weird way and never helped me. It was like a very subconscious no from them which I could clearly perceive from their behavior. Men share this bro code so I have faced this as a producer not as an actor as of now. You are an inspiration to many. How do you intend to motivate women to follow their dream? I motivate everybody to find themselves first. Once you find yourself, only then you get the power to fight for your dream because then you would know your worth and what you deserve. You realize that you are enough and you deserve your dream to come true. I motivate everybody to meditate, to go within to look for yourself, and to find the true you. You will find what you truly want to do. Until then you are only doing what the world expects you to do which pushes you towards mental illnesses and sadness. You don’t accept your own being, the true you, and until you do that you will never be able to pursue anything wholeheartedly in your life so please find yourself first. You must understand your worth and then you can follow your dreams without any fear, shame, or guilt. You know what you deserve and what others think is not the truth. From where do you get that immense confidence about you? I get my confidence in me. It comes from all the meditation that I do. I keep introspecting and asking myself about my own behavior, my actions. My subconscious mind is always awake and trying to figure out if I am staying true to myself. This is where I get all the courage from. Once I figure out I am doing the right things, it gives me confidence about my battle. I am the lawyer, in my court, and also the culprit and the judge. How important it is to stay fit in this particular industry you are in? It is important to stay fit and healthy everywhere. In this industry, a lot of people judge you based on your fitness level. This is sad but it is the harsh reality. People here judge you on the basis of how thin or fat you are and not on the basis of fitness. Their perception of fat is so ridiculous that if you put on a little weight they call you fat. In the west, they call it thick and not fat. People here need to understand that because that is also sexy. You should feel sexy and be fit. You can do any activity in your life without any physical problems. What would you want to advise your younger self? There are so many things that I would want to advise. My life at present is very peaceful, content yet very desiring. I have desires that I never had before. I have more clarity about my life. I feel that my future self did go to my younger self and guided me to follow this path hence I am here. Why do you think it is important for a woman to have a voice of her own? I think everybody should have a voice of their own. You have a voice and a brain so you must use it for the right cause. You can’t be quiet when you have been wronged. Patriarchy runs in the whole world because women don’t use their voices when they should. This is because they don’t realize their worth all their life. Either they have been suppressed or pushed down in every way possible through movies, news, and whatnot. Men have been given more important jobs than women. The years of conditioning that women undergo, is what make them vulnerable. Consequently, they lose their voices. Women need to understand that they are worthy and they do not need to become a superwoman to exercise their voice. Every woman will speak against injustice when they feel they are worthy of much more. It is only then you can get a sense of a voice of your own and shatter those stereotypes or what inhibits you. Any special message you want to convey to the readers of The Voice of Woman? The special message that I want to share with the readers of The Voice Of Woman is to find your value and the real you. Once you find that you will never let anybody treat you lowly or take advantage of you. The day I realized that I am worthy of the best of the best, I never went to anything smaller than that and pushed away everything that brought me down. So spend all your time and energy in finding yourself. Men don’t have patience but women do so meditate. The more you meditate the more you become conscious, get rid of your insecurities, and become the person that you are meant to be. Take a step forward and you can conquer the world, my lady.