Shehzeen Rehman: The Desi Wonder Woman
She was living the life in the corporate world with a high-paying position and over seven years, she’d travelled the world, gained fantastic perks and was truly a desi superwoman.
Shehzeen Rehman fell into the world of blogging by accident — an accident that grew into a superblog, called, The Desi Wonder Woman, that attracted hundreds of thousands of readers each month, including South Asian moms like me. She says the pull of writing was more fulfilling than anything she’d ever done professionally.
“I’m at a completely 180 degree flip from what I got myself a formal education and training in: I’m a computer science grad who worked in corporate organization and then ended up doing full-time blogging. But I’ve been writing since as far back as I can remember: from being a regular contributor in kids’ magazines to the terrible teenage poems that so many of us write and that should never see the light of day; I’ve always enjoyed it. But I never imagined doing it professionally and it’s actually a (really nice) surprise for me to be here.”
Her voice caught the attention of readers and the blog took shape.
“I kept writing pieces very organically until my readership turned sizeable enough to take it up full-time. My inspiration has always been anyone who’s kind, compassionate, self-assured as a person – regardless of gender – those are the kind of people who inspire my posts as well as the ones I write for.”
So Why DesiWonderwoman?
“When I started out, I was writing stories about inspirational women and their small and big wins in life, and I felt that there was no better name to describe the kind of narrative I was putting out there.” This narrative came from her own life.
Growing up Shehzeen says, it was just everyday life that defined her interpretation of being South Asian.
“Close-knit family getting into each other’s business (you know), delicious, greasy homemade food, chai in the evenings, large weddings, James-Bond-level undercover dating, cricket.”
The ‘wonderwoman’ in her has family roots, she says.
“I’ve always looked up to my father, and over the years my husband, for these same badass ideals.”
Since starting her blog, the Desi Wonder Woman just under three years ago, she watched as her writing came together and international readers followed. Her writing ranged from personal opinion posts to those on home decor and each time she was surprised what readers resonated with.
“The most popular has been my bedroom makeover that I obviously loved myself but never expected to get such a ridiculously high number of hits for,” said Rehman. “It got some major love from my regular readers and was also posted across various third party sites so it’s been the most popular. I’ve noticed that some of my older posts can make me cringe because I’ve grown since then and I want to change a bunch of things in them now but the bedroom makeover I still personally love, in every way.”
She also frequently features in her words, ‘kick ass’ women.
“My first ever post was a really inspiring story of a female musician and her challenges in making it in a primarily male-dominated profession,” said Rehman. “I just wanted to have a forum to highlight someone with a kickass attitude in life and connect that drive with more people and that’s what I begun with.”
With 200,000 visits to the site every month, Shehzeen thrives on sharing her personal experiences with her readers from a desi perspective. She says she’s always humbled when so many readers get intimately engaged with her posts and leave comments.
“The one that went the most crazy with comments was a piece on ‘how to be the in-laws’ that I wrote from the perspective of the guy’s side of the family (recently having my brother get married and becoming a sister-in-law from that side for the first time),” explains Rehman. “I wrote it with a genuine drive to put something purposeful out there that would help me and change at least one mind. I expected the usual feedback on it but it went everywhere. I was naturally happy that so many people appreciated the thoughts in there but it was also interesting to see super polar views that help you see some of this stuff goes back to years of social conditioning and cultural habituation and how regular dialogue is important to educate people on things like these that are actually fundamentals but seen as a luxury or a favor (for the girl).”
If you ask her about gender equality and what it means to be a South Asian woman today, Shehzeen doesn’t hold back. She is proud of her family’s beliefs in raising an empowered daughter and says how you’re raised at home makes all the difference.
I was raised in a very gender-equal household. My parents were always very hands-off when it came to our decision making yet very tuned in to support whatever we wanted to do. My father in particular was very empowering and it was such a critical part of our upbringing that it’s impossible to pinpoint one moment that stands out, because that was the life that I knew; there was no other way.
“I remember when accepting a surprise job offer, in another city where I would have had to live alone and which was virtually unheard of in our part of the world, I said yes without any hesitation. Not for a fleeting second did the thought even cross my mind if my parents would have a problem with it, it was all about my decision. My parents never preached and everything I know and believe in today is mostly from just living that life in my parents home and unconsciously adopting those standards. Which is why I feel I chose my husband as well because he’s one of the most balanced men I know in terms of gender equality (from bigger concepts like pursuing whatever career I want to smaller ones like splitting house chores on an everyday basis)and I know it’s primarily because of having grown up with such a strong example in my father.”
What does a desi Wonder woman’s writing space look like?
“Because I do this full-time now, I absolutely require a dedicated writing space,” said Rehman. “So I’ve set up a tiny home office in my apartment; It’s a small space in one corner of my living area. I have large windows at my place so I work surrounded in lots of natural light which is a total score. Even though I’ve kept the stuff in my office to a bare minimum, I’ve added lots of color to everything so it’s a happy and bright space to work in and where I can feel pumped to create content on an everyday basis.”
As her superblog continues to provide inspiration for other desi wonderwomen out there, she says she will continue to stay true to the mission that has made her resonate with readers in the first place.
“I don’t chase likes/followers, I don’t have ambitions to take over the world and I don’t stay up-to-date on the latest trends/happenings/events. I write from the heart and as long as I can connect with enough like-minded people and make someone’s day (while making enough money to pay for the groceries), I’m relevant.”
You can follow Shehzeen’s journey at:
follow her on twitter at @ ShehzeenRehman
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