Raksha Bharadia, a 40-year-old mother of two, has co-authored a number of Chicken Soup volumes with Jack Canfield and Mark Victor and written other self-help books and a novel. A t2 chat with the Calcutta girl now based in Ahmedabad
What got you writing self-help books?
About 12 years back, I attended a “Know yourself” kind of a workshop. And there was this category for “I wish goal” that required you to write out that one goal that you wished could be made true. I had written “to write a book”. From the workshop, I remember, I directly went to Crossword and picked up a notebook and wrote down a line. That line kept growing... and that was pretty much how Me: A Handbook for Life came to be.
But when people think of writing a book, they generally think of fiction...
More than fiction or non-fiction I guess it is about what interests a writer. I was always intrigued by what makes a winner win. I was curious as to why do we do what we do. Why do we hang on? Why do we not look from another’s perspective more often? So, essentially interpersonal relationships and also the relationship with yourself have always intrigued me. And it came out as non-fiction for me.
Chicken Soup for the Soul has been quite a popular brand for the past two decades… how did your journey start with them?
When I penned Me… I thought this was it. But then Chicken Soup got in touch with me and asked me to put this book together. I realised it was of the same genre as my first book as it also dealt with human frailties, with defining moments. It was quite a challenge getting stories, especially since India has an oral tradition, not a written one. I had to convince people to share their world with me and then pen it all down. But while working on my first Chicken Soup, I realised that this was what I wanted to do, this was what I enjoyed — human stories, which did not happen with my first book.
How did your novel All and Nothing happen?
I was in Calcutta, at this club and couple of drinks down. I met this lady who told me they were having some issue in their marriage. She was about 40-45 years. She said, ‘You know, this is not it. We’ve got to find out how to connect more!”
After two hours, the husband said, ‘This is it, this is the best things can be between us.’ The novel started with that one evening when I thought that these are two people in the same marriage, where there are two different corners, and they don’t even know what the other is thinking. So that night I came back and wrote about my heroine, Tina.
You have written Chicken Soup for teens, brides, doctors, armymen... which is your favourite?
I really enjoyed putting together Chicken Soup for Indian Fathers — the various stories, like in Calcutta, the dads are more concerned about their kids, unlike the north, where bringing up the child is completely a woman’s job. What I really enjoyed was how new-age dads are involved with almost every aspect of the child. Again, Armed Forces has some of the best stories.
Your recipe for success?
Writing is a job that happens in layers and my success lies in allowing me those layers, which means having patience. Patience to let the thoughts come, to write the blog, to give myself the time….
Your remedy for a bad day?
I just watch a lot of TV shows. I love Two and a Half Men, Apocalypse, The Walking Dead… the day I cannot write, I don’t even try.
Your Calcutta connect?
I grew up here, my parents still stay here. Only yesterday I had put up my status as “Calcutta means breeze 24x7”. Calcutta means loving moms, and Calcutta means lots and lots of trees.
When the world seems to come crashing down on you and everyone seems like the enemy, maybe you should allow yourself those feelings of vengeance and hatred.
This unconventional advice came from Raksha Bharadia at an afternoon rendezvous organised by the Ladies Study Group at Fortune Select Loudon on July 17, titled Life’s Defining Moments: Chance Upon Your Own.
Exploring the possibility of how one would react when one’s hard work goes down the drain, Raksha said: “Honesty to yourself is important, but before that the buffer period is needed. The point is not to carry the defence mechanism right to your grave.”
“Every year we invite someone to share their thoughts with us, and add some positive value to our lives. Earlier, Naveen Jindal, Tarun Tahiliani, K.P.S. Gill, Tarun Tejpal, Javed Akhtar and Hema Malini have graced our gatherings. Raksha today has given us a lot of food for thought through her innovative mind exercises. They make you think,” said Shubha Kanoria, the president of the Ladies Study Group.
“Raksha has managed to reach out to some corner of my subconscious. I am going to try her mental exercises at home,” said kantha revivalist Shamlu Dudeja.