Anita Rani: I wrote my memoir for 'those who can't speak'

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Anita Rani is proud to have been on 'Strictly', but admits she would love to have won. (Getty Images)
Anita Rani (Getty Images)

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Anita Rani has spoken about the importance of writing her autobiography for the women of her mother's generation who 'can't speak for themselves'.

The Countryfile and Woman's Hour presenter spoke to Kate Thornton on White Wine Question Time about writing the book during lockdown and the impact it has had on her and her family.

She told Thornton: "Every culture of every family is different. But as a general rule, and I think this is across cultures, my dad had two younger brothers, and they both left home and married, they both married white women, and nobody batted an eyelid. 

WATCH: Anita Rani on writing about her childhood, competing in Strictly, clinching Woman's Hour and channeling Kate Bush

"But my aunties and the women, it's like, if you step out of line, if you do anything other than what we tell you to do, then you are bringing great shame on the family. 

"So you carry the burden as women as being the pride and the shame of the family. And nothing is ever talked about. Everything is a taboo. So I had to call all the s*** out because if you don't, then nothing changes. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: British TV presenter Anita Rani, wearing a limited-edition t-shirt created in collaboration with Charlie Mackesy featuring his beloved characters, the Boy and the Mole alongside the poignant slogan, Love Wins on April 20, 2020 in London, England. The t-shirt goes on sale for £15 and is available online at comicrelief.com/love-wins, with every pound going to charities on the front line of the coronavirus fight.  (Photo by Anita Rani - Comic Relief via Getty Images)
Anita Rani wearing a charity t-shirt (Photo by Anita Rani - Comic Relief via Getty Images)

"Nothing changes. And it's almost like I felt: 'Why have I been told that I can't say any of this stuff? Why am I, this liberated woman who's worked hard to get to where I am, I still feel the burden of this shame?' It's horrendous."

Her parents have not yet read the full book, but after the book had been previewed in a Sunday supplement, Rani spoke to her mother about her reaction. 

Read more: Anita Rani speculates she would have made 'Strictly' final 'if I didn't have a brown face'

She said: "I phoned my mum and she was in tears. She was crying and saying: 'I'm just so sorry.' 

"I'd had a conversation with my mum. I talked to my mum throughout writing the book saying that I'm going to go there. 

Saved by a Stranger, presented by Anita Rani (Blink Films/Toby Trackman)
Saved by a Stranger, presented by Anita Rani (Blink Films/Toby Trackman)

"I'm going to say things, I'm going to talk about things and she said: 'I want you to get it off your chest. And I want you to say what I got wrong because I didn't know any better.' 

"And then she said: 'I want you to speak for me because I was never able to. Because as a generation there's so many of us who can't speak for ourselves, so be our voice.' 

"And she was in floods of tears. And then I felt really bad. I thought: 'Oh God, this is just a magazine interview what's she's gonna do [when she reads the whole book]?'"

Listen to the full episode and hear Anita Rani talk about how she met her husband, what music means to her, and the importance of calling out racism

The presenter, who appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2015, talked to Thornton about what made her write The Right Sort Of Girl when she did.

She said: "I made a programme about my family history. I got to make my Who Do You Think You Are, which is such an amazing thing to have happened. 

"And I heard stories about women in my family, what happened to them during the partition of India, what happened to women generally. And it really connected with something deep inside me, you know that I come from this long line of women who are incredibly powerful and like warriors, but also had no choice or say about anything in their lives. 

"And it really got triggered me and got me thinking about my upbringing, then the pandemic happens. So we're all being insular, we've all gone internal. More of us are sitting around thinking about our lives. And I get the opportunity to write a memoir. 

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"And it's like therapy. All I can say is it just felt like this stuff had to come out of me. And I'm writing it for my 16-year-old self. I'm writing it to explain about my experience, obviously, but like the migrant experience, and what it means to be a South Asian woman growing up in two cultures, and how you do have to shape shift and bend. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: Anita Rani attends Pride Of Britain Awards 2019 at The Grosvenor House Hotel on October 28, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Anita Rani attends the Pride Of Britain Awards 2019 at The Grosvenor House Hotel in October 2019. Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

"And think about everybody else, and the pressures that are put on us from within our own families. And then when we step out of the front door... Speak or explode, I use the pressure cooker [comparison], because every Indian mother has a bloody pressure cooker. And they're terrifying. And when they go they go! 

"Already I'm getting people messaging me to say on Instagram to say, you know, well done for speaking our truth."

Buy it: The Right Sort of Girl by Anita Rani | £11.59 Was £16.99) from Amazon

WATCH: Anita Rani opens up about overcoming her experiences of self harm

Anyone affected by the issues raised in this story can read more get support on the Mind website.

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