Book Extract : Fit In, Stand Out, Walk: Stories from a Pushed Away Hill by Shailini Sheth Amin

Coming from her own journey as an orphaned child in Mumbai to an award-winning sustainability warrior Fit In, Stand Out, Walk: Stories from a Pushed Away Hill by Shailini Sheth Amin is a collection of heartfelt stories told through Neelima’s eyes taking through her life’s ups and downs and striving to find her footing in a world that’s always changing. From nothing to inherit and no one to inherit from, these stories share the grit and conviction of women to build their own legacy and pass on more than the material wealth.

In this anthology, her tale inspires all, even those facing their toughest moments, leaving a lasting impact on the power of relationships, love, and grief. With a unique and fresh perspective and a personal voice, Fit In, Stand Out, Walk is perhaps a meaningful contribution to women’s storytelling literature which delves into topics such as identity, isolation, and survival, crafting a rich narrative that spans across generations and geographical boundaries.



“How do you balance your family and children’s responsibilities along with working full time?” This is the question most commonly asked to a working woman, but a question never asked to a man. Is it a fair question to ask?

As womb-bearers and by social design’, women have been homemakers. The home and family responsibilities have been ours, and we cannot deny this history. Women’s lives were considered formulaic. Women 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 histories, and more importantly, women themselves have been indifferent about sharing them. This is probably why we find that women seldom document facets of their own lives the way many men have done. If at all, stories of prominent and distinctive women are written mostly by others.

Men write their own stories; these are mainly about their work, their thoughts and opinions, and about their public lives. Their personal lives are described selectively, if at all. They do not need to do this because men can hold two distinct identities: public and personal. The comfort-cushion of the family is a given, and thus perhaps it does not even merit equal attention and description.

Women’s lives and their stories, even when they have a professional identity and are active in the community, are closely entwined with their families, children, and people close to them. In most situations, the families and people around her play a significant role in making or breaking her. Anything said by a woman about herself, whether positive or negative, would directly impact her personal life and the place she holds with the people around her. A positive, courageous, and successful portrayal could be perceived as being credit-taking, selfish, bragging, egoistic, and sometimes ‘bitchy’. Portraying herself as misunderstood, mistreated, or as a victim could lead to her being perceived as sympathy-seeking, incapable, weak, and demeaning. Our society is unfair to women, expressing both these sides and the underlying nuances in between. I meet intelligent and wise women who believe in saying nothing. They stay non-vocal, do not take a side, or publicly stand for anything slightly controversial. Of course, of late, things are changing a little. Women do sometimes talk about depression, abuse in the system, and unfair treatment meted out to them.

All this said, this is a story about me and my family, if one can call it a ‘family’! My family was different, though very much grounded. It is fair to say that I have started my life from a hill that was pushed a little away from the others. From this little, distant hill, I managed to view life from another angle; my views were a bit divergent, and they made me see the pathways that others may not have seen or walked upon. I want to tell this story, as seen from this different hill.

As a woman, my work, life events, and people in my life all together make up this complex mosaic. I am unable to separate any of it without losing the glue that held it together. On the other hand, when has the story of my life been entirely my own? I do not have sole ownership of my thoughts, my viewpoint, and my nature. So much is ‘inherited’ from known and unknown sources. Life is largely a reflection of who and what I came across and how I responded to this. Like a mirror, my life has reflected movement, light, darkness, shades, and shadows. My mirror is certainly not spotless. It is sometimes dark and sometimes tinted with various hues; sometimes reflective or non-reflective; sometimes hazy, smudged, and sometimes cracked.

The interactions and the dynamic as well as difficult choices I made are many times because of the role models I had, old and young. Women younger to me, perhaps, would do the same. The life I lived is in front of them here. I believe that the time has come for me to tell my story. This is my truth, narrated in my way. I have tried not to ‘edit’ it too much. Of course, it will be wonderful if some of you see value in it, enjoy it, get to ‘know me’, and, in the process, know a bit about yourself too. I hope that’my’ story may also sometimes become ‘our’ story.

(Extracted with due permission from author, publisher)

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