Shobha Tharoor-Srinivasan’s latest book, Good Innings: The Extraordinary, Ordinary Life of Lily Tharoor, encapsulates a unique tribute to her mother, and as she described, “to all the mothers and us as mothers”. Back in her favourite city Kolkata, Tharoor-Srinivasan held centre stage at Prabha Khaitan Foundation’s latest session of its signature literary event, An Author’s Afternoon. Organised at Taj Bengal, in association with Shree Cement Limited, with My Kolkata as digital partner. special guests and invitees were treated to cherished insights into the workings and the vision that went into the creation of this book.
The afternoon began with an opening address by Esha Gupta, Ehsaas Woman of Kolkata, who said, “This book is special, as it’s a salute to the extraordinary spirit of an exceptional lady, who has always taught her children to think out of the box and reach their potential. It is about Lily Tharoor – mother to stalwarts Shashi Tharoor, Shobha Tharoor-Srinivasan and Smita Tharoor.”
Thereafter, the stage was handed over to Tharoor-Srinivasan, who has excelled as a children’s book author, poet, translator, editor and model, alongside her interviewer Nimisha Agarwal, founder at Brand Fashion.
Tharoor-Srinivasan in conversation with Nimisha Agarwal
‘It’s a tribute to all you women’
“This story is definitely a tribute to my mother, but it’s not just that. It’s a tribute to all you women, your mothers, our mothers, our grandmothers, our sisters who hold up our part of the sky,” remarked Tharoor-Srinivasan. She hoped that her book would “inspire you or encourage you to have your own conversations – about your past, your future, your traditions. The purpose of this book was to make those connections in more ways than one.”
Tharoor-Srinivasan reads an excerpt from ‘Good Innings’
Asked to explain how she got to writing this tribute to her mother, Tharoor-Srinivasan stated that this was a book that she was planning to write on her “Ammama” so that the future generations would know about Lily Tharoor and what she had done in life. “She had renewed her driving licence at the age of 82, and I’ve seen pictures of her climbing on top of campaign vehicles. She’s extraordinary, and I know lots of people would like to hear her story,” recalled Tharoor-Srinivasan, echoing the words of her publisher, who had been “exceptionally persistent” in encouraging her to write the book.
Tharoor-Srinivasan signing copies of her book
‘I speak in the first half of every chapter, as if in my mother’s voice’
Speaking about the format of her book, Tharoor-Srinivasan explained that “every chapter begins with an aphorism or a quotation, which informs the chapter. The other literary device that I’ve used is that I speak in the first half of every chapter, as if in my mother’s voice. It’s neither her exact words nor is it the way she actually speaks, but it separates the omniscient narrator from the third person narrator.”
Elaborating on how her mother could juggle all the caps that she had donned in her life, Tharoor-Srinivasan mentioned the many perks that the Indian family enjoys as a result of its support structure. Responding to a query on the pressure of reaching up to her mother’s expectations, Tharoor-Srinivasan stated that it was very difficult to get her “approval”, which is best summed up in a phrase that Shashi Tharoor had used on her in his writings. His words, “to her divine discontent”, pointed to the fact that it was “discontentment that pushed her to do more things”.
Tharoor-Srinivasan being felicitated by Shamlu Dudeja
Being the first Amul baby
Tharoor-Srinivasan also regaled the listeners with the story of how she had been the first Amul baby when she was only 10-months old, and how Shyam Benegal, then a mere photographer, had taken her pictures. Returning to the topic of her mother, Tharoor-Srinivasan mentioned how she was an assertive woman, gripped by a feminist streak that made her determined to face her insecurities and push her children to be more active without wasting time. My mother enjoyed an “incredible capability to pick herself up from any situation. She was the most practical person that I’ve known and she never stayed down for any length of time. Whenever the situation demanded it, she rose to the occasion and did what needed to be done.”
The afternoon concluded on a special note with Tharoor-Srinivasan being felicitated by the 84-year-old Shamlu Dudeja, who presented her with a traditional dokra as a memento.