Author Shailini Sheth Amin- An Impactful Chit Chat

Life gives you the opportunity to taste different flavours of emotions and that too in multiple roles. Life itself is a journey where you meet and greet such interesting and inspirational personas like author Shailini Sheth Amin. Life gave her the chance to witness the shades of human relations in different phases of life.


Playing all roles with due care and respect, Shailini managed to create her own identity which can inspire many like us to take life forward with a purpose. I (Samata) am blessed to get the opportunity to have a chit chat session with this amazing lady.

Hello Shailini Mam, Welcome to this interview session of Indiacafe24. Before we go ahead, we will insist you say something about you, your family, and your school life. 

Thank you for inviting me. I am an architect by profession. I have lived in Mumbai and then in Ahmedabad. I  did my schooling in C N Vidyavihar in Ahmedabad and then I was at CEPT – Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology. I studied architecture and I practiced as an architect for many years. Most of my life I lived in India; in North and South India and then also lived in England.  I have also traveled a bit. I live in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. My children and most of my family are spread across India and in several countries. 

When and how do you think to pen down Fit In, Stand Out, Walk: Stories from a Pushed Away Hill?

As the book says, I too have lived on a pushed away hill. I was abandoned as a child and then I was adopted by this amazing woman and I was primarily brought up by several women.  They were my mothers, fathers, my Gurus, my mentors; most importantly they gave me lots of love and complete acceptance. So, friends who knew me closely have been saying that I should write about my experiences. I was  working all the time, as an architect, as a researcher, I worked in the community and so on.  I never really got around to sitting down and writing more than a few pages at a time.  During Corona I had time to write more and because of that I finally managed to finish the book.

How different or how similar are Shailini and Neelima? Is there any addition that you made to the character of Neelima to give a more realistic view of the subject that you talked about?

Neelima’s story is very closely related to incidents that have happened in my life.  But I was very conscious about one thing. I did not want this book to be a therapy or kind of catharsis for me.  To write in that frame of mind, I thought, would be selfish. I have worked in many ways to deal with my emotions and my feelings well before writing. Neelima as a character stands on her own and she becomes her own person. This I believe makes her story more relatable and gives it a kind of wider spread of wings.

Identity is a very important topic, and almost every one of us strives to get or earn that identity in society. What is your opinion about the concept or subject of Identity?

Yes,  As womb-bearers and by ‘social design’, women have been homemakers. Women’s lives were considered formulaic. They were distinguished by their family identity and status, but their lives revolved around their ‘common roles’ as mother-daughter-sister-wife in the family, and in the community.  Society has been largely inattentive to women’s personal life experiences, and more importantly women themselves have been indifferent about sharing them. In such realities,  the search for an essence of one’s life, devoid of a designated ‘roles’,  provides opportunity to evolve, have self realization and to find deep happiness. 

What I experienced as a woman in my life is that after a certain passage of time, we are no one’s daughter, wife, or even mother… all that stands important is “ WHO AM I”…. I believe we are the ones who make or break our identity, in society – How Far I am correct. plz, correct me If am wrong anywhere.

Very interestingly, a big part of this book’ FIT IN STAND OUT WALK – Stories From a Pushed Away Hill’  is about finding the identity and making and not making the connections. Neelima is very aware of this question and that is a kind of her major struggle in her life. She realizes that she has to find her identity in changing circumstances again and again to survive and be her own person going beyond who she is in that context; mother-daughter-sister-wife.  That is trying to recognise her ‘self’ beyond the circumstances, her role in it and how she is perceived by people around her.

You explored and stayed at various places in your life and how that impacted your thought process to finally pen down this anthology.

Travelling and migration, both are profound experiences. I write about both of them in my book. Traveling gives experiences that would increase on-the ground-awareness and knowledge. Our vision becomes multi-dimensional and inclusive.

`was not easy, even a generation or two ago. Once a person or a family moved, it was difficult to go back or to remain in touch with the old place and people. The migrants felt a big loss of the old, familiar culture and lost support for their community. In the early stages of the move, it was a constant struggle to become a part of the new culture, climate, language, and way of life. They were confronted with isolation and loneliness. They were caught between the loss of their own roots and a struggle to grow new ones. Depending upon the reasons and their own circumstances, some embraced the freedom and challenge of the new, while others felt the loss of the ‘old’ and feared the ‘new’. Some oscillated between a sense of freedom and loss, fear and challenge all jumbled up! In this emotional cauldron and physical as well as mental struggle, people changed and changed the milieu around them for good.

Of course, now with ever connected virtually with many places and people, migration is simpler and less challenging.

Mentioned as memoire, can we also call it your autobiography reflecting some important segments of your life?

Very much so.  I think this book is a celebration of a person’s struggle to remain her own person in spite of many happy, unhappy, sad and challenging times. I relate to that.  Her being ‘present’ in moments of her life with whatever it had to offer, is relatable. The mindset of becoming a survivor and to find a way forward in most circumstances; not falling for blame games and self pity is all I recognise.

Abandonment, and adoption – What’s your opinion on this? Do you believe when an orphan child gets home through an adoption process, that makes his or; her life better and more meaningful?

I have written a chapter about this in the book. When somebody is as fortunate as Neelima that, in spite of being an orphan twice, she had a very good and grounded upbringing. She manages to make something of her life.

 There are a thousand times more orphan children who suffer unimaginable fate due to abandonment, and whose lives were destroyed. Jails and Shelter Homes are full of such people, and so many of them end up living on streets. They are prone to depression, and mental health conditions. They become victims of alcohol, drugs and other addictions. They are seen as persons who are violent, aggressive, irresponsible and destructive, to themselves and to the society. They are kidnapped, trafficked and turned into criminals. They are tortured, drugged, sold as slaves and sex workers. They become invisible, and their voices are muzzled.

How do you feel after holding a copy of your book and after getting such amazing feedback from the readers?

I am truly very satisfied to see how well the book is received. The book connects with so many people. Many  have told me in writing and verbally  that they have similar experiences in their lives, they could relate to the book at an emotional level. And this makes the whole effort worthwhile. Though I have written papers, articles and speeches, this is the first time that I have written a book like this.  In fact, I learned to write a book while I was writing it.  Responses like these are invaluable.

As a reader, what type of books do you love to read?

Most of my reading has been about my subjects of architecture, the environment and sustainability. I do read biographies of people I am curious to know more about. I read history, also about philosophy and spirituality. Or I look for a book on something that is going on in my head and I want to explore! 

Any literary inspiration behind penning Fit In, Stand Out, Walk?

Being an architect and a designer I had kind of a quest for connecting with emotions expressed in different ways and forms like a space, light, colors, textures and olfactory experiences.  I am also aware of the systems that frame all of that with meaning and purpose behind it. All of that processes were in my head. When I started writing a book I wanted to share the experience of living the moment and experience and also of connecting past present and future.  I don’t know the all of this makes sense but this was something that was going on when I was constructing the book in my head

What are your passions in life?

It is said that if you are once an architect, you are always an architect / designer! Study of explorations of any sort and story of finding creative solutions excites me. All art forms and different experiences are my passion.

Can we expect some more books from you in the coming time?

When I wrote this book I wanted more and more people of our culture to read this book; men and women. My first thought is to get this book translated in many Indian languages.  I see this book as a story of finding our passion, finding our vision, to be open to self-search and remain a survivor in whatever circumstances. If this book generates a kind of dialogue it would be worth its while. Let us see what happens next! I am not sure.

Express yourself as Shailini Sheth Amin in One line.

A person who is comfortable in her skin and always holds a glow of joy and hope within herself.