Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan wears many hats. She is an award-winning children’s author whose works have been published in India and the United States. She is also a poet, a translator, an editor and a voice-over artist. As a former non-profit development professional, she worked tirelessly to advocate and raise funds for the disabled. Her voice-over work has involved documentaries, educational programmes, journalistic initiatives and audio books. Prabha Khaitan Foundation recently invited Srinivasan to An Author’s Afternoon to discuss her book: The Extraordinary, Ordinary Life of Lily Tharoor, and to celebrate mothers and their contribution to our lives. Srinivasan was in conversation with Nilisha Agarwal, Ehsaas Woman of Kolkata. Both Srinivasan and Agarwal were introduced to the audience by Esha Dutta, Ehsaas Woman of Kolkata.
Good Innings was the result of Srinivasan reconnecting with her life experiences, childhood memories and her relationship with her mother, Lily Tharoor. Through this book, she seeks to inspire readers to reconnect with these aspects of their own lives. “Kolkata’s charm had influenced both my mother and her children,” said Srinivasan. ‘This is the reason I believe the book will connect with readers from the city.”
“My mother had asked her granddaughter Ragini to write a story about her,” Srinivasan revealed. “But when I told her about my book, she asked me what she had done that warranted the writing of a book! I had never intended to write this story with the goal of pitching it to a publisher. It took some convincing by a commissioning editor, who told me he wanted me to write a book about my mother because he had heard that she renewed her driving licence at the age of 82 and may have seen pictures of her in the newspaper climbing atop campaign vehicles! In his words, ‘this is definitely somebody who is extraordinary, and I know a lot of people who would like to hear her story’. This book was worth writing because it may spark conversations and inspire the young generation to think differently.”
The author wrote the book like a collection of stories instead of a traditional biography. She begins most chapters in the first person in order to connect with the reader; thereafter, the storytelling transitions to a third-person narrative. “Did writing the book take a lot of time? What effect did it have on you?” wondered Agarwal. “The writing did not take more than a few months, the real work lay in the thinking and the putting together of a timeline for all the stories I have heard over the years,” responded Srinivasan. “Essentially, it is my telling of my mother’s story, and my telling has been informed by my years growing up and my conversations with her. I feel a lot closer to my mother, even though we are thousands of miles apart. Writing the book felt like having conversations with her every moment.”
Lily Tharoor is a valiant woman who braved all odds and managed to raise her children with dignity. Good Innings tells the story of a pragmatic, confident and courageous woman and all that she did to manage the difficult times in her life. Srinivasan, whom many may remember as having been the first ‘Amul baby’, spoke about the fame that came along with that distinction. “Before his illness, my father Chandran Tharoor’s position as an advertising executive and the advertising manager of The Statesman certainly helped my family live a charmed life. Besides, fame is bound to follow if one is being shot by Shyam Benegal!” she quipped.
The author revealed that Kolkata is still her favourite city; she reminisced about her childhood there, from her school days in Loreto House to her time with friends and the warmth of Kolkata’s people. “The old-world charm and grace are what make Kolkata special for me,” she said. “Kochi, however, also holds a special place in my heart. We loved going back to Kerala as we cherished the idea of a large family. It allowed us to remain in touch with our roots. There are stories of us going to the movies on bullock carts!” Srinivasan also shared the valuable lessons that have had a deep impact on her life. “My mother is my greatest inspiration. Her ability to pick herself up after encountering any adverse situation has been the biggest lesson for my siblings and me. As a famous basketball coach once said, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” She also revealed that she believes in spirituality and embracing change. “Change is great. It is an opportunity to discover new things, new people, new places, and to enjoy the differences. We saw it as a challenge, and we embraced it. I am not a regular temple goer. Spirituality should be in one’s heart. It should be in one’s actions and viewpoints on life.” As a conclusion to the deeply engaging session, Srinivasan read an excerpt from her book and interacted with the audience