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BW Businessworld

'Writing Non Fiction Drives Me'

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What explains your interest in profiling people who have chosen unconventional careers/paths?
The book is as much about personalities and unconventional careers as it is about self discovery and the quest for inner peace that is innate in all human beings. Like air, water and food, work is essential to our lives. What is it that should define what work we do – our qualifications, societal expectations, monetary reward or what we have natural talent and inclination for. ‘To do what you like is freedom and to like what you do is happiness’. I have tried to provoke thought on these fundamental aspects through these success stories. The 18 people covered in the book paid heed to their inner voice and went ahead and pursued careers that suited their inherent strengths and inclinations regardless of clichéd conventional expectations from them and, in turn, brought meaning and joy in their lives.
How difficult was it to put the book together? What was the kind of research you had to undertake to get it out?
Each of these individuals covered in this book has impeccable educational and professional qualifications from reputed institutes in conventional areas such as engineering, medicine, management, architecture, etc. but has chosen to pursue professions very different from what (s)he had trained for. Also, all of them are the first ones in their families to ever tread such path. So, the research entailed finding such people from across the country. The book has a chef, a wine maker, a cricket commentator, a politician, music enthusiasts, model, actor, innovative educationists, cricketer, fashion designer, author, food critic and someone from non profit, sports management and adventure tour sector as well. I have tried to be as diverse as possible with career choices as well as qualifications. The whole process of putting the book together was challenging but equally enjoyable.
Book Details
My Life My Rules: Stories of 18 Unconventional Careers
By Sonia Golani
Pages: 240
Price: Rs 250
What according to you are some of the most striking personalities among the list of 18? And why?
Both the Rahuls (Akerkar and Ram) for breaking the mould; one changing tracks from academics to culinary arts and the other to music, Harsha for winning many hearts through his inimitable style and profound knowledge of the game, Nalin, Nikhil, Madhavan, Rajeev and Aditi for their youthful enthusiasm, Manohar, Ashish, Ingrid and Praveen for their deep commitment, Srikkanth, Tarun, Amish, Latika, Rashmi and Minal for their conviction and courage in charting out their unique journeys - they are all interesting personalities, striking in their unique way. If I have to pick one, it will be Praveen who overcame the fiercest challenges life threw at him and came up trumps against all odds and is now enabling other disadvantaged children to live with dignity through educating them.
Can you share with us one of the most memorable moments you had while writing this book? Surely, you must have travelled a lot to put this together...
I love meeting people who live with passion irrespective of whether they are in unconventional or conventional jobs. In case of this book, since the people covered were pursuing unconventional professions, the interactions were all the more exciting. In terms of setting for the meeting, the one with Madhavan in his vanity van was something I experienced for the first time. It happened impromptu as I got a call from him in the morning saying he was shooting at Tulip Star, erstwhile Centaur hotel and if I could meet him in the afternoon there. I remember it as a special day for the meeting to happen as it was Ganesh Chaturthi that day. It was a pure delight to meet a person as charming and ebullient as Madhavan on a festive day like that. I travelled to Goa to meet the Chief Minsiter, Manohar Parrikar, met some others when they were visiting Mumbai and while in case of a few, modern technology came handy. 
Tell us a bit about your writing schedules. When and where do you write?
I love my work but I don’t like to be bound by a strict day-to-day schedule. I may devote a few days at a stretch to writing and then the next few days I may be doing something completely different like playing golf, watching films, plays, reading or walking by the beautiful sea just outside my residential complex, sometimes in solitude, at other times with music or my loved ones for company. So, while I like variety when it comes to how I spend my days, when it comes to the place where I like to write, I like complete monotony and do not want to write anywhere else but at my writing desk at home. 
What’s your energy drink?

A hot cup of lemon tea, irrespective of the season!
What's the hardest thing about being a writer?
Writing non fiction drives me and I love to juggle with the challenges that the process may throw at you sometimes, in terms of making a selection of people you want in your book, to tying up meetings with them, choosing what title to give to each story, what to pick and what to leave from the long conversations with each of the individuals and how to structure their stories. However, the effort seems all worthwhile when the book resonates with people and they revert with their lovely comments.
What are you reading now?
I just finished reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I wrote my first book XXCorporate Divas with the same objective what Sheryl’s book is written with -- to inspire more women to have successful corporate careers. The Lean In community on Facebook is a great and highly successful initiative towards encouraging meaningful interactions amongst women worldwide. It will be interesting to see if we can have such meaningful and open interactions in Indian scenario as well. I am currently reading Business Sutra by Devdutt Pattnaik and find his interpretation and narration of mythology and management quite interesting.
Ebooks or paper format?

I prefer the paper format.
So, what’s next?
Continuing with my passion to understand my environment better, my next book is based on Bollywood which incidentally will also commemorate the100 years of Indian cinema.

sanjitha (dot) bw (at) gmail (dot) com