“My name’s Kubbra, I was called Cobra. My hair was curly, I was called Medusa”, reveals Kubbra Sait on the trauma of being bullied

“I have had a complicated relationship with my mother. Back then I didn’t realise that it was complicated. I have nothing to be ashamed of. This book was my way of making peace with my past” — Kubbra

22/06/2022

Perhaps one of the first Indian actresses to play a transgender (cuckoo in Sacred Games) on screen, the role won Kubbra critical acclaim and accolades. The noted actress is now also a writer. Titled ‘Open Book’, Kubbra Sait’s book of personal essays, her first book as an author spans the actress’ early days in Bengaluru, her battle with bullying, sexual abuse and her journey towards acquiring artistic success and setting benchmarks in the entertainment industry.
In an exclusive chat with Bombay Times, the actress recalled the trauma of being bullied as a child and how her past experiences translated into her book. Excerpts …
What propelled you to write this book and venture into a self reflection mode?
The world looks at you from a very superficial perspective. They assume everything is fine. You are only fine when you acknowledge that you haven’t been fine at some point. That was my fuel behind this memoir. In the book I have written about the very complicated relationship I’ve had with my mother. Back then I didn’t realise that it was complicated. You don’t realise how the simple act of gratitude can become so overbearing sometimes. As a child, when you are put in a situation or surrounded by energies that shame you or shove you in a dark corner, if takes a long time to come out of it. A lot of it is also generational. When you are 8 or 9, you don’t know how to tackle it but l had a support system around me who never made me feel alone. Sometimes that’s all you need. You don’t want to feel alone. Today when I look back, I am grateful.
We don’t mean to reopen open wounds but what happened back then?
My name’s Kubbra, I was called Cobra. My hair was curly, I was called Medusa. I have never allowed anyone to body shame me but I was bullied in school because of the colour of my eyes. Today I will not meet someone on a date 2 if they haven’t already complimented my eyes on date 1 (Laughs). But the same eyes changed me. I didn’t embrace my name for the longest time. I would have changed it long back if I had a choice. Only when I looked into the meaning of the name (Kubbra means ‘the great one’) did I understand the energy that my name was giving me. How can I not make my life worthwhile? All these realisations came to me slowly over a period of time. When I wrote about it, it was liberating. I felt free. When you are young, you don’t realise that you are being bullied. You come out if it, when you grow. I didn’t want to be suppressed.
The bullying also affected your health?
When I was in 4th standard, I told my mom I won’t ever go to school again. She changed my school. Even in the new school, with new teachers, I would wheeze under the staircase. I was diagnosed with asthma. While it was lung related, one of main causes was extreme stress. I was under tremendous stress at 10! My therapist told me not to even go near the school compound.
The book must have been a cathartic and liberating experience. I used to have a fake laugh to be seen and heard. I would be the last one to laugh in a room so that people would notice me and someone pointed that out to me. We don’t realise how much our past memories affect us. I didn’t want these stories to buried inside. I went through highs and lows and wrote it in a non linear way so that anyone can read it from anywhere. I used to be a good essay writer. I used to win a lot of writing competitions and never took it seriously. Writing a memoir has so much fear and stigma attached to it but I didn’t have that. I have nothing to be ashamed of. We don’t have a manual on figuring out yourself. This book was my way of making peace with my past.

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