‘Only when you fail can you know what you need to do differently the next time’: Kubbra Sait

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In Open Book (HarperCollins, Rs 399), a candid account of her life of upheavals and how she came to find her feet in the film industry in Mumbai, actor Kubbra Sait writes, “There are always options in life… In our times of specialisation, there is a terrible, terrible stigma attached to being a ‘jack of all trades’. Today, it’s a tag denoting that you are basically rubbish at the many things you’ve tried or attempted. But that is far from the truth… I’ve worked in many places before doing what I do, but it took me many pitstops to recognise the direction in which I was going and growing. This may not be a prescription for everyone, but it also shouldn’t be a strikethrough for those who may be experiencing it right now.”

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Sait knows a thing or two about reinventions. After years of being bullied in school by classmates and teachers for being a misfit, in her teens, Sait would take baby steps towards managing her trauma when a personality development course her mother enrolled her in taught her that her shortcomings notwithstanding, she was “enough”. It would be a turning point for the young girl, who realised that her vocation lay not in conventional careers, but in performance arts.

At 38, she’s been an emcee, marketing personnel, a model, an actor, and, now, “a writer”, too. After bit roles in films such as Ready (2011), and Sultan (2016), it was her breakout performance as Kukoo, a transgender woman, in the first season of Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap’s Sacred Games (2018) that brought her into the limelight and made her aware that she felt most at home when she was performing in front of an audience or on screen.

There had been many failures and write-offs along the way, but Sait thinks the chances of pay-off are much higher when one takes risks. “I’ve realised why I’ve wanted to do something new. It’s because what I was doing as a routine or practice or comfort drove me to boredom. If I am bored, I cannot do it anymore. But every time I’ve tried something new, I haven’t left what I did in the past behind — whether it’s my elocution or my college competitions or anchoring. I have always tried everything and given my 100 per cent to everything that I’ve tried,” she says.

But new things also have a habit of going wrong. Sait says the trick is to know how to rein in one’s expectations. “Because you are giving your 100 per cent doesn’t mean that the result is also going to be 100 per cent. But because you didn’t hit the jackpot the first time doesn’t also mean you don’t go back in and punch again. I think that’s what I like — life is punching us sometimes, but, sometimes, we need to punch it back. It’s about taking our destiny in our hands and moving forward. It really is possible,” she says.

Here are Sait’s five tips on becoming a jack of all trades:

* Try everything, don’t say no.

* Before you find that one thing, be ready for failure. Only when you fail can you know what you need to do differently the next time you try to do it.

* There is a lot of pressure that is put on ourselves because of external validation — how you need to be and what needs to be done. I think it is important to realise that thriving on external validation is going to be something that is going to disappoint you in the long run.

* Spend as much time as you can in nature, because nature evens you out. Nature is the most non-judgemental part of the universe, where you can just be yourself and you get more accepting towards yourself.

* And lastly, if you do want to be a jack of all trades, you need to know that you still have to do one thing at a time. You can’t do all things at the same time because you just do not have the mental capacity to deal with all the fluctuations. So yes, you can do everything, but the more structured, the better. The more planning you put in in all these things that you want to achieve, the more it’s not impossible to be a jack of all trades. In fact, it’s the coolest thing to be.

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