Birthday Special: 73 Questions With Shahana Yasmin

Not really but no less!

Continue Watching turned ONE on July 15, but the celebrations continue! In today’s special issue of our newsletter, Kashika interviews Shahana on why she wanted to start this newsletter and what the last one year has meant to her. Kashika has been interviewing people for a living for almost a decade, but this is her favourite interview because it’s with her favourite subject. Of course, it helps that the subject agreed to an email interview, wrote her answers in perfect grammar, and didn’t make her wait for four hours for a 368-word piece (looking at you, Vidya Balan!). Read the entire interview below:

Kashika: I can’t believe I’ve never asked you this before, but why did you want to start a newsletter with me? You already had a personal one, you’re a fab writer so you don’t need a co-author. Why not just do it alone?

Shahana: This is not difficult at all. While you and I first bonded over our love for YA fiction and Tumblr humour, it was when I learnt you’d also been screaming “WHO IS A?” since 2010 that I realised I’d met the person I’d been looking for. No, I know this sounds dramatic, but this has always been something I’ve looked for—someone to discuss TV and books and memes obsessively with me, whether good or bad. Other friends might say, “Hey, we did too!” but literally no one else matched my level of obsession.

And we may have started with Pretty Little Liars, but we moved on to other TV shows, and the intense discussions over details both minor and major didn’t stop. And the reason our conversations were and continue to be so interesting, is because you and I don’t always agree and often look at the same things very differently, which makes the conversation so rich; this is what I really wanted to bring to the newsletter. A space for TV lovers who get to see multiple points of view so everyone finds something to relate to.

And co-writing The Handmaid’s Tale piece at Vagabomb together was a fun experience (even though we were writing about really horrific things), so I thought working together won’t be a problem.

Why I didn’t do it by myself is also simple. I struggle with discipline and I thought being accountable to my co-writer will force me to stick to deadlines and have some shame. Lol.

Kashika: We’ve been doing this for one year now, what about the last year in terms of writing Continue Watching surprised you or frustrated you or delighted you?

Shahana: What frustrates me is the knowledge that while deadlines terrify me, I am also spectacularly good at ignoring them. It’s called duality, and I have it. To be serious though, I wish I had more time to watch more TV, think about it, and then write about it. A fulltime job really eats into that, ugh.

I am delighted and surprised by the fact that we’ve been doing this for a year, and even though we sometimes start calls with “I have no ideas, you? No? Okay great, what a disaster,” we still end the call with good, solid ideas. I also love how optimistic we get writing every issue, promising that we’ll stick to our deadlines, and then just don’t.

Kashika: You went through an unimaginable tragedy earlier this year when you lost your father. I was beyond touched that you chose to write about it in the newsletter and let me edit that piece for you. Were you at all hesitant to write it or did you always know that the newsletter would factor into how you were processing your grief?

Shahana: I knew that I would probably end up writing about it, someday. I just wasn’t sure when that would be, and when I did, if it would be any good. I’m glad I did, though. It helped process and face things that I was otherwise straight up ignoring or just not dealing with.

Kashika: Recently, we found the first document you and I had ever written about what to do with this newsletter and we couldn’t stop laughing at our short and long-term goals. But, tell me, what is your vision currently for our newsletter?

Shahana: Our long-term goals are pretty ambitious, as they should be. And listen, we hit our short-term goals, so who’s to say the long-term goals can’t come true?

I’m manifesting simple things for us right now, like our subscribers increasing and us getting better and better with each issue. Simple things are good, I don’t know if the universe can take any more right now.

Kashika: Do you watch TV differently now that you know HAVE TO write about it twice a month?

Shahana: Not really, I was watching a LOT of television earlier, and I continue to do so. I hate being left out of “popular discourse” so I do end up watching what everyone is talking about, even if it’s not something I would’ve watched of my own volition. That said, I’m aiming to watch more Indian television now.

Kashika: If your personality were a mishmash of four TV characters, which ones would they be and why?

Shahana: This question sent me into an existential crisis, because all of me is built of characters I’ve read and watched, so who am I really? So, in exchange for answering this question, here’s a meme that explains how this made me feel.

Kashika: Is there a show you keep wanting to write about in Continue Watching but haven’t had a chance to do so yet?

Shahana: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s a hilarious show, but at the same time, so clever. Severely underrated. I urge everyone to watch this. It’s a show about a group of people who are literally The Worst™, and they make no efforts to change. Here, watch them compose the greatest song of all time.

Now watch the show, because you’ve got to be curious about who The Nightman is and what the hell they’re composing this for, and why one of them is wearing a silver jumpsuit.

Kashika: Will we continue to write about our BTS obsession in the newsletter?

Shahana: Yes. (Editor’s note: This GIF, chosen by Shahana, is an attack.)

Kashika: What is the one comment or question or email we’ve gotten about the newsletter that has stayed with you?

Shahana: I think it was after the issue we did on grief that a friend texted to say that the issue made her feel a little less alone in her sadness. I wish it hadn’t been about that issue, but as long as someone feels less lonely, I’m happy.

Kashika: What has been your favourite issue we’ve written so far, and talk to me about some of your favourite essays.

Shahana: My absolute favourite issue is probably the fictional boyfriend issue, simply because I enjoyed writing it so much. Even though I struggled with trying to come up with 15 men and then had to listen to you laugh at me because I had to put in Nathan Scott, it was still such a joy to spend some time thinking about attractive men. I love how happy this issue was, especially since the previous issue had been a really heavy one.

I also loved the I May Destroy You (what a good show) issue and the Shitty TV Men issue, because we essentially wrote about the same things, but had two very different ways of looking at that same thing.

And one of my favourite essays is the one you did on It’s Okay To Not Be Okay. That essay is the reason I started watching Korean dramas, and this here is my favourite bit in the essay:

“Another thing I took away from the show is, who are you when you are not surrounded by people? When I’m not a daughter, a sister, a friend, a colleague, do I have an identity? Am I a writer, am I a person, am I a woman? I am whatever I choose to be, because I belong to myself. Moon Gang-tae belongs to Moon Gang-tae, the younger son spits at his mother in a fight where she’s saying that he has to always be around to take care of his brother. Moon Sang-tae belongs to Moon Sang-tae, the older brother screams at his younger brother when the latter won’t let them move in with Mun-young. And, finally, in the last episode, Sang-tae tells his brother, “Moon Gang-tae belongs to Moon Gang-tae. You belong to yourself and I belong to myself,” when he’s telling him that he will leave their trip midway to go back to work, but that Gang-tae doesn’t have to accompany him because he needs to live his own life.”

Kashika: Finally, how do you think the next one year of writing the newsletter will go for us?

Shahana: First of all, I just read through all my answers and I laughed at how pompous I sound. The number of times I’ve said ‘I’ is making me cringe extremely hard. (Editor’s note: It’s an interview about you??????)

To your question, I think the next year will be mostly the same, but better. We’ve figured out how to do this, we just need to get better at meeting deadlines. And we can, because we’re older and wiser. Lol.

We hope you enjoyed reading this issue as much as we loved writing it. Please write to us if you have any feedback. We look forward to your emails, comments, tweets, and DMs with requests, criticism, recommendations, and anything else that you want to tell us. You can also follow us on Instagram here. And if you haven’t already, do subscribe!