Today’s member interview is with Shantheri Mallaya (INFP/INFJ).
Journalist, theater person, writer, blogger, now venturing out as an entrepreneur - I am a jack of all trades of sorts, aspiring to be a master of one or none at all :)
Hi Shantheri! It's lovely to interview you. What would you like to be called?
I am known as Shan in family, friends and work circles, so that has kind of stuck on as a name, and I like it that way as well! :)
Okay great, Shan it is! So can we start this interview by finding out where in the world you currently reside? Is this also where you grew up?
I live in Bangalore in India, more popularly known as the IT capital of the country. I was born and raised here, so essentially a Bangalorean, with tinges of Chennai (another city in the South of India as well), where I spent some years of my childhood.
Do you remember what you were like as a child?
Yes, of course I do! I was a talkative, chatty child, who got along fantabulously with the much older folks - people of my grandparents’ age. These folks absolutely found me delightful and we used to have long conversations, though I cannot seem to recall anything in particular :) I recall my cousins playfully pulling my leg saying that I should start an “Oldie Fans Club” :P
I was a dreamy, distracted child with a very sharp memory - I could memorize pages of prose and poetry with ease. I was always the willing accomplice to mischief, but when push came to the shove, and was caught, I strangely didn’t want to be seen as a mischief maker, lol, lest it ruin my carefully constructed “Ms goody two shoes” image in the eyes of parents, and other older relatives in the family - lots of such contradictions.
One of the other contradictions about me that I am now able to recall - I could never somehow stand up to bullying in my formative years, but strangely felt the need to be a mild bully for a brief while.
What was school like for you? And how were your teenage years as a whole?
In my very formative years, I alternated between being a scared quiet kid to a gregarious bright topper - I do believe now, in retrospect, it really depended on the kind of teacher I was aligned with. Some of them brought out the best in me while some others petrified me. This inconsistency found consistency from age 8 onwards into middle school when I got a grip over the competitive academic structure, and its expectations from me - and soon started getting very good grades. I sailed through my academics like a dream.
I realize now that I had different avatars - one of a quiet, studious, but yet ready for some bit of fun person among the teachers and my peers. People looked up to me in school, right through my 10th grade, till I finished school (in India generally people finish school with Grade 10).
However, the other side was this bubbly, smiling extrovert at home and within extended family, where folks couldn’t get enough of my comic, loud, goofy side.
This dual persona continued through my teen years right into college. And I fared well, obnoxiously well in the social sciences, and had a penchant for writing, which everyone around was extremely proud of. I maintained my own journal, a rarity for kids and teens around me.
My brother and I devoured books, I am thinking we were both a librarian’s delight and nightmare - we showed up every single day and whisked away a couple of books that we finished in one day, every single day!
What words, or phrases, would you use to describe your current self?
Introspective, self-analyzing, also analyzing people around me, connecting the dots, looking for patterns, analogies :). A person with far more self realization, than ever before. I can be different people - kind, accessible, funny, serious, distracted, silly, goofy, silent…!
And when did you first realise that you were an introvert? How did this happen?
It’s an interesting question! I had assumed that I am an extrovert for the longest time - till possibly 2014-15. Perhaps, I started suspecting my introversion around this time. But it was in early 2018 I was fully convinced I was an introvert. This was after I took the MBTI test. It totally made sense. I have also visited therapists and alternative healers to get a perspective about myself. The one thing I constantly get to hear about myself, which I am aware of, is - I am extremely introspective, inward looking :)
What's your Myers-Briggs personality type?
Would you freak out if I said I assumed I was an INFJ, and very recently discovered I was an INFP? I still vacillate between the two juxtapositions.
When did you first do the Myers-Briggs test and realise you were an INF personality type?
Early 2018 - a friend shared the test and I did this multiple times.
Has discovering you were an INF impacted you in any way? If so, how?
The realization was quite life changing. It took me a while to process the discovery. So many confusing, unanswered elements of my life events till then became much clearer. It was so liberating.
What qualities do you think you share with other INF’s?
Inward looking, processing moments in detail, seeing through fake people and words in a flash, looking for deep friendships, intuition, taking a very long time to trust people at multiple levels - their integrity being the most cherished quality I often seek.
What were your favourite subjects at school? (If applicable) What did you study at university/college?
Writing, anything to do with literature, history. Outside of my studies, I loved trivia around cinema, I used to dig them deep, like a historian.
But, strangely, I did a Bachelors of Commerce, B.Com, as we call it here. This was due to a family decision - In India, families have a very big say in our academic decisions. While I was pining away for the Arts, my family persuaded me to get into the commerce stream. So, I was an accidental commerce graduate, who then studied to be an Auditor, and dropped out, and changed course, and well, that is another story in itself :)
What are you spending your time on at the moment?
A whole bunch of things - I just moved out of a full time role that defined my career in the last few years. It has served me well, but I had to move on - it had run its course.
I am trying to get my short story to be accepted in publications, working on my next book (very early stages, ideating), have partnered with a very close friend to start a new venture, have filled out an application for a weekend certification course in basic counselling, am decluttering and cleaning up my house, getting my documents and certificates in order - pufffff!
Was there a moment in your life when you made a drastic change?
Whenever I have switched career paths, those have been my drastic change moments.
Do you have a preferred creative/artistic outlet? Can you tell us a bit about this?
I have always been fascinated by the stage, but got an opportunity to take to theater only since 2012 - I act in different format plays - that is a big creative outlet for me, and has been for some years now. I mostly do English plays. I also work in Indian language acts too. Theater keeps me sane, so to say.
Would you describe yourself as a 'highly sensitive person', or an empath?
Both, I guess, I am a highly sensitive person and an empath.
What does being 'successful' look like to you?
Creating impact, contributing to society, being visible, not particularly, in terms of money, but in voice.
What about 'happiness'... what does that look like to you? Do you have any ‘ingredients’ for this?
I have created a happy bubble that defines my peace of mind and happiness- it is work in progress, but gives me a starting point. So, as a part of this process, I guess, over time, I have weeded out and filtered out a lot of unwanted people and things - I am only friends with people I can fully trust. For the rest, people are acquaintances to me. I do not watch things that increase fear and anxiety - horror and gore on tele. I do not read anything that I know, can spoil my day. So, these are some of the things I do to preserve my world. No, I am not unrealistic, or unaware, am just trying to keep my filters on to believe that is well in this world.
Do you like to plan things, or are you more of a go-with-the-flow type of person?
Both - there are days when I am superbly organized with my checklists in place, checking off all the boxes - and there are days when I couldn’t care less or plan more.
What does your 'perfect Sunday' look like?
A good morning walk, strong coffee, a good Netflix binge, unhurried lunch, quiet and peace, an evening walk and a coffee date, all by myself.
Is there anything you've read, watch or listened to recently, that you've loved?
I like the blogs on medium - very insightful, especially about the ones that focus on self improvement and writing.
And how about favourite blogs or podcasts?
Nothing that I stalk or follow rigorously - but, I go onto forums like Quora and blogs on Medium quite often - ones on books, films, writing, relationships, MBTI personality analysis. Podcasts, I have taken to very recently, so am still in the “will listen to anything” phase.
How about favourite movies or TV shows? Anything you've seen recently that you'd recommend?
I was watching “The Spy” on Netflix, was quite gripping, and this Israeli series, “Fauda”. Checking a whole assortment of shows right now, mostly movies, fluff as I call it - keeping my mind light. I have a lot of all-time faves that I do not mind sitting through all over again, “Friends”, being one of them. There is a lot of Indian content I watch too.
If you could go back in time and meet "you" back in 2010, is there any advice that you'd give this younger self?
Oh yes, tons of it - haha! I didn’t know many of my strengths. I knew of course, i was talented, but the person I am today is so different - it has been way too long a journey since. Some things remain unchanged though.
So, I would tell my younger self - you are good, realize you are a great, amazing bundle of energy, warmth, empathy. Stop brooding and taking on the blame for things you haven’t done. Negotiate better. Don’t waste time overthinking (I still overthink, so that is okay! :)). Trust your intuition - it is SPOT ON, and stop wasting time on unproductive situations, walk away. Channelize your anger and disappointment better.
If you could share one or two pieces of advice with other INFs, what would they be?
A lot of my working on myself is work-in-progress, but I would just tell other INFs - use your intuition and self awareness for yourselves, just as much as you would do it for others. These qualities are super strengths and have to help you grow, better you lift others up. This is a battle I wage with myself, and am getting better at channelizing my energies for myself.
What does 'self-care' mean for you? How do you practise it?
When I feel troubled or feel the need to recharge, I go off to sleep, or take long walks, or google for inspiration (videos, podcasts, music). I even watch fluff on Netflix, or hit the multiplexes to catch something. There was a time I watched a lot of plays, to just forget my routine. I have a problem with writing when I need to recharge - I am wondering if I need to address that, if at all :)
Do you have a favourite quote?
I keep seeing a lot of these awesome quotes on the Internet. Some of them come to haunt you, inspire you.
Perhaps, very recently, I was thinking deeply about Rumi’s quote, “It's your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”
And finally, where can others find and connect with you online?
This has been really enjoyable Shantheri, thank you for taking part.
Shantheri + Jas
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