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Sagarika Chakraborty's interview by Bookchums

Post by: Kabita Sonowal


Sagarika Chakraborty dons several hats. She cooks, writes, researches on gender studies, has practiced corporate law and recently completed an MBA from the Indian Business School at Hyderabad. In this interview, she discusses her childhood, her interests, her writings, and her passions straight from the heart. A Calendar too Crowded is her first book.


- Tell us about your childhood. Tell us about the places in which you’ve lived.

I had a typical middle class Indian childhood. However, being two sisters in a joint family, we never really knew what “girls should do and shouldn’t” and thus had it our way often. My sister was more of the docile, book worm type, while when it came to me I was the scrapped knee, broken bone kid. My parents believed in innovative learning, because routine bored me – thus I was mostly educated through games. So I learnt my tables through the cricket score board, divisibility through car number plates and yes discovering new words through billboards. I was a good student throughout my school life, however my Dad always told me to keep an eye to be an all rounder and not merely a topper. Thus, I was encouraged to learn art, quiz, debate and dance. I have been a national level debater, a state level quizzer and a trained creative artist for 13 years.
I was born in Kolkata and bundled of to Jammu and Kashmir when I was twenty days old. After an initial few years there my family moved to Jamshedpur. Just when I was about to fall in love with Litti and Satu, they decided to revisit roots and thus Kolkata it was. Majority of my school days life was based out of Kolkata. After school I decided to pursue law and thus National Law University, Jodhpur it was for five years. I had a corporate lawyer stint for 3 years with India’s largest private bank in Mumbai before deciding to pursue management at Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Armed with a brand new management degree am now again off to my favorite place – Mumbai!


- Your academic and career profile is versatile. It’s interesting and inspiring to several others who would like to delve into several fields of interest.

Thank you! I’m indeed flattered. However, let me tell you those around me will tell you that it is very frustrating to live with a person like me. I just can’t sit idle or “chill” as they say. If I don’t work or research for a day a tremendous amount of guilt seeps in that I am wasting my life. I like my platter full and truly believe that I have just one life to make it large.
I delve in a lot of things and to the surprise to many I find time for all things I want to do. I write, I blog, I cook, I do freelance research, I have a full time job, I go for random walks and runs, I teach kids, and yes much to the disgust of my BFF I find time to even watch Hindi soaps on television. Where there’s passion, work doesn’t seem mundane and life makes space for you!


- What triggered you to write a women-centric book? You’ve woven several characters and stories. How did all of it emerge?

I have been actively involved in gender studies and issues pertaining to emerging economies like India. Given into writing research papers since law school days, I have framed models and researched on a plethora of topics which have found reference by World Bank, UNESCO, Indian Government, Australian Government and UK media to name a few.

Research paper writing involves interacting with a lot of people and being inspired by their stories. During the course of my 8 years of research work I met a lot of women and noted their stories. Thus, while the policy researcher in me weaved in statistics and other mundane details to make a report, the thinker in me wondered if I am doing enough. Do the reports make sense to the common man? Will those who actually make up the society ever read my research findings? All this made me decide to show the society mirror through the way it shall affect them the most – by telling stories.

Almost all stories have a personal connect and are powerful in their own way in my mind. The story of a young widow is about a girl I met at a Teej festival once and then just received an SMS when her husband passed away at 25 at the border that her life was over. The story of a young kid of a prostitute whom I tried to educate and pull into the mainstream but failed. The domestic violence tales I head at camps and trips in Rajasthan, they all emerge as voices in my book, nameless but! The deal is I know the face behind each voice, their names too, however I want the readers to connect to a face that they think the voices suit and thus remember the person and question if all was well with her?


- What are you passionate about in life?

I am passionate about almost everything around me. My mother taught me one thing very early – be it be spreading a bed sheet or writing a paper, do it in a way that there’s no scope for people pointing out errors. However, don’t attempt it half heartedly and waste your time. Thus, whatever I do I make sure it is the best I can.

I am passionate about make a difference to the very society I live in. I think I have had enough clicking tongues over the ill acts around us over a cup of tea and then forgetting everything mainly because we think we are too small a fish in the pond and secondly the priority of earning money and getting ahead in the corporate ladder. We forget that if the social stand is not strong, no corporate can actually flourish. We make the society and we should own up to it – it starts with picking up litter on the roads, to making attempts to educate a child and not let her work at your house. It starts with doing things that helps you sleep with a smile on your face.


- What is your inspiration?

People around me! I am a keen observer of people and people and their mindsets intrigue me. I draw inspiration from all those who affect my life. However, given that I often take too much on my platter and feel like screaming ok I quit, I draw inspiration from the lady who gave me life, brought up a difficult kid yet never said quits. I draw inspiration from my grandmother’s words that somewhere change has to begin and let it begin from me. I thrive to make a difference to the Indian landscape where there are opportunities but no interest and thus that is what inspires me to do more.


- What motivates you?

I love challenges. I had a few troubled years in school owing to migraines and was told that I didn’t have it in me to go further in my career. I took it up to be where I am today. Similarly the very fact that my generation leaves the country saying there’s a comfortable life better off somewhere motivates me to prove them wrong. The passion of nation building motivates me to dream and work and make space for 48 hours in my own 24!

And to tell you the truth I am blessed with a man in my life, who might not agree with whatever I do, but will stand by me, watching over and giving me the push to go for my dreams when I doubt if it is worth it.

When you have seen adversities in life at a young age in any form, you learn to realize how precious life is and how short it is to actually make a difference to the society which makes you up.


- Tell us about your interests and hobbies.

I love cooking and I wish to be a Le Cordon Bleu certified chef ready to open her café by the time I decide to retire.

I loving dancing, love goofy drives however you wouldn’t find me doing all that often – because I am a recluse who only opens up to a select few. I hold my friend circle very close and have been often tagged weird for that.

I love designing cakes and have designed a lot of them for family and friends. I love love love kids and thus love telling them stories, teaching them or even playing hide and seek with them. On a weekend you’ll usually find me at a not so known location hanging out with local kids or at my favorite wine deli curled up with a book. 


-  Going forward, what genre of literature are you working on?

I am right now working on a non-fiction book dealing with laws that exist around us. Research is on for the next fiction book too. I will always stick to my activism genre and do sarcastic or emotional takes on different topics close to my heart - Careful, however not to sound too preachy and repetitive.

Love stories and MBA school genre stories are not for me. Light fiction read is not for me too.


- Any word of advice to aspiring authors.

Know where your heart lies before you pick up the pen. Do not wish to be in the “herd “of the books that sell and don’t try too hard to stand out either. Also, never fall for those who say “it just happened and I never planned to be an author” – nothing in life happens till you take charge and decide to make it happen.

Be open to criticism however be toughened by it and not depressed. Hold your fans closer but your critics closer, it will keep you rooted. Lastly, dream big you've just got one life to live!


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