Archive for the ‘Indian Works of Non-Fiction’ Category

Spiritual Parenting by Gopika Kapoor – an interview

Interview: by Susan Abraham

Spiritual Parenting: wisdom (and wit) for raising your child in a stress-free and spiritual environment
by Gopika Kapoor
ISBN: 978-8189988531
Price: Rs.200/-
Format: Paperback

The Asian Writer,

Prerna Malik’s thoughts on Gopika Kapoor


Recently, Gopika Kapoor a writer and communications consultant published a work of non-fiction called Spiritual Parenting with Hay House India.

In her first book, the Mumbai-based author who is married to corporate lawyer and has twins, Vir and Gayatri, talks about the mix of spirituality with common sense practicalities, with which to aid and celebrate a child’s uniqueness and raise him as a compassionate responsible adult.

You may have heard it all before but in truth, this book published only in India at this given time, would easily benefit parents in an international context.

If you like the idea of raising your child in a happy atmosphere and embracing life-altering strategies that gently helps you maouvere your way around with incredible connections and the nurturing of your little one – think distinct ways that recognise a child’s individual personality – than this book could just be for you. Remember that the world has become close to home now and nothing is too far away.  In this respect, feel free to discover more and order a copy from a long list of online booksellers.

Thank you too, to Sherna Khambatta, Kapoor’s literary agent, who so kindly helped me obtain this interview.

Interview

How does motherhood help in your current work as a writer? Has it taught you some lessons along the way which now enhances your writing?


GK: “As clichéd as it sounds, motherhood is probably the most life-altering experience that can happen to a woman. And so the changes that come about a person spill over in all areas of life – personal, professional, spiritual, etc. Personally, becoming a mother has made my writing more real. If I’m writing about something and it doesn’t resonate as true, I scrap it because it makes me feel fake and untrue to myself and whatever I’m working on. It’s also made me more detached from my work, in that I write it and then just send it out into the world without having any expectations from it.”

When do you find time to write with your twins in the picture and how would you go about each day, preparing yourself to write?


GK: “I’ve always maintained that I’m a full-time mom and a part-time writer. So I write when the kids are at school or out at a class or a birthday party. I think a certain amount of discipline is necessary especially when one is working from home, so I make it a point to spend the morning hours at the computer, whether it’s writing a piece or researching an idea or concept for a book. The idea is to sit down and do work, that’s the only way the discipline is maintained. Other than that the only preparation I need to write every morning is a good cup of coffee! Once I’ve got that I’m good to go.”

In retrospect, what would you take back in your work as a writer back to the sphere of raising your children?


GK: “For me, writing Spiritual Parenting has given me a greater appreciation for my kids. Without them there’d be no book. As they grow older, their needs are more and varied, and I think writing the book has given me more competence to deal with them. For instance, recently, my daughter was fussing about something and I decided to approach her not as a parent but as a partner, asking for her cooperation in achieving what had to be done. Not surprisingly, she agreed and we managed to finish up what we were doing without any fuss or tears. This sort of understanding has only come about through the process of writing the book.”

Do you write impulsively as and when time permits or would you hone a straightforward methodical structure to your time?


Like I said, I write in the mornings, but there have been times when I’ve been seized by inspiration and woken up at 3am to write something down.

As an individual what would you aspire to be in your future vision?


GK: “Wow! This is a tough one! I honestly don’t have a future vision. Studying the Vedanta teaches you to live in the present and that what I try to do. Being a mum, you can drive yourself crazy worrying about your own and your kids’ future and I’ve realised that it’s a futile exercise – what’s important is that I do my best for them, for my family, for my society and for myself today. So for today, I try to be a good human being, a more patient mother (a daily challenge, I can assure you!), to write something that can touch a chord somewhere in someone and to make the most of my day.”

Who are your favourite writers? Does any writer currently motivate you?


GK: “There are so many writers whom I love. I read a lot of fiction and my favourites range from Shakespeare to Jane Austen to F. Scott Fitzgerald to more contemporary writers like Amitava Ghosh, Alexander McCall Smith, Khaled Hosseini and Jodi Picoult. Each writer brings their own style to the table, and so I’m so inspired by, for instance, Jodi Picoult clean, bare language, or by the way Amitava Ghosh describes people and situations or Jane Austen’s comedy of manners.”

What are some of your favourite books?


GK: “Again so many. I read The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger a while ago and I was stunned by how beautifully she’d woven the concept of time traveling into a love story. My favourite books change the more I read. I do have some classic favourites including To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth and the Lord of the Ring series by Tolkein.”

What are you reading now and if so, what made you pick up this book?


GK: “I just finished a book called December by Elizabeth Winthrop. It’s about an 11-year-old girl who suddenly decides not to talk, and the effect this has on her family. It’s well-written and the author has managed to capture and maintain the tension throughout the book. I usually read the excerpt at the back of a book before I pick it up to read, and also the first paragraph – if it sounds interesting, chances are it’ll be a good book. Usually I’m write but sometimes I’ve just had to give up on a book if it drags too much.”

Could you describe your  your writing work-space?


GK: “My writing space is far from the ideal writing space of any writer! I work on a desktop computer as I tend to prefer the large and stationery screen to a laptop. The room I write in is situated near the kitchen so I can hear the hiss and whistle of the pressure cooker and the ringing of the telephone in the background. Strangely enough, when I’m involved in writing, none of these bother me. Around the monitor are various books that I would need to refer to – study texts from the Chinmaya Mission, books on yoga and a file in which I store clippings from newspapers and magazines that would aid my research and writing. These however jostle for space with my kids’ Dora the Explorer CD-ROMs and any other toys they might have left around – as I write this, I can see the broken blade of a helicopter, a sketch book and a mirror from a Cinderella set. All part of the pleasures of being a writing mom!”

With another title on Spiritual Parenting to be released this year, what are you currently writing?


GK: “I’ve finished a book on Spiritual Pregnancy, which is being edited and is expected to be out later this year. Currently, I am working on a fun, light-hearted book on how to spiritually go about a wo/man hunt! This is targeted at anyone in search of a soul mate from a teenager to a 60 year old. It includes ways to attract the right person into your life and how to find your spiritual soul mate.”

Would you place a greater emphasis and importance on your life as a writer today than when you first started out with your first book and if so, how do you view yourself today in the seriousness of being a writer as compared to when you first started out.


GK: “The writing and publication of Spiritual Parenting has been a true spiritual exercise for me. I’ve always felt that this was a book that came through me, not to me. It’s as though I was the conduit, the medium through which it arrived. I have consciously tried to detach from the book and any praise/criticism that it has attracted. So yes, on the one hand I do feel proud when the book is praised but on the other hand how can one feel the pride when it was never yours.

“For me, my priority is still my kids. Writing is something I do, something that I have to do; it’s almost a compulsion. By gaining recognition, it hasn’t added or taken away from the process of writing or the way my writing is perceived. So in that sense, nothing has changed.”

What would you tell mothers who want to start out on a writing career mid-way in their lives and if they have to triumph over busy family commitments and the time it takes to raise children etc? How best would you suggest they find their way out to search their thoughts and pen their stories?


GK: “I honestly don’t think it makes any difference when you start writing – you could be six or sixteen or sixty. What does make a difference is how much faith you have in what you have to say and in yourself as a writer. When I was getting one reject letter after another from publishers, my husband even suggested that we self-publish but I was convinced that someone out there would believe in this book as much as I did and I held on.

“It also depends on how badly you want to write. I lived, breathed, ate, drank the book. I truly believe that this book was meant to happen, and so I wrote whenever I got the time. As you can imagine, with twins it was quite hard to manage writing but I really, really wanted to share my experiences and all that I had learned and so I managed to write the book.

What are the few tangible things you consider to be a celebration of life?


GK: “Hot water baths, head massages, carrot cake, new shoes (I’m a shoe addict!), my morning cup of coffee turned out just right, a good power yoga session.”

What are the few intangible things you consider to be a celebration of life?


GK: “Sunday morning cuddles with my family, watching my son totally immersed in his drumming lesson, reading a new story to the kids and watching their expressions, night-time chats with my daughter when she tells me all her secrets, end-of-the-day catch up sessions with my husband, writing something and feel true satisfaction about it.”

Do you work hard to promote your book Spiritual Parenting? If so, what is expected of you in this current time that the book has been received so well and how would you measure these demands against balancing time with your children?


GK: “Spiritual Parenting was launched at the Crossword Bookstore in Mumbai on 28 March, 2009. We had a huge crowd, over 200 people who turned up for the launch, including leading doctors, writers and educationists. Before the launch, my agent Sherna Khambatta outdid herself to generate publicity for the event. Since then, I’ve done talks at school across Mumbai and one in Dubai at the Dubai International Academy, which were very well received. I’m fortunate to have an extremely supportive husband and in-laws who have pitched in to help with the kids when I’ve been busy with the launch and other promotions, so it’s been relatively easy.”

Is there a subject you haven’t touched on but yearn to write about in later life? If so, please tell us a little more about this.


“I would love to write fiction but I feel that to write it, one needs to have a really strong story to tell. One comes across so much fiction writing that is so bad, and I often wonder how on earth it gets published and who reads it. I have a personal benchmark; to me Amitava Ghosh is the best writer to emulate when writing fiction. He tells the most interesting stories with fascinating, well fleshed-out characters, written in colorful yet tight language. I really feel that if I were to write fiction I would have to pass the Amitava test for myself, else it wouldn’t be worth my or anyone else’s while. Hopefully one day, I’ll find a story to tell.”

What do you feel is the greatest gift a writer can give her children?


GK: “When one writes about one’s children, one gives them and the relationship one has with them immortality. Years down the line, when I am no more, my kids will have the words I’ve written about them and the relationship I’ve shared with them to read over and remember.”

What do you feel is the greatest gift your children, husband and home currently bring to your craft as a writer?


GK: “Since I write primarily about my relationship with my family, what it has done is give my writing tenderness and compassion. Sometimes, as corny as it sounds, when I’m writing about my kids, I can actually feel a lump in my throat thinking just how much I love them. This feeling naturally translates into my writing.”

What are your favourite pastimes?


GK: “Not surprisingly, I’m a compulsive reader. I have to have at least two books by my bed because for me, there’s nothing as depressing as not having anything to read. I do power yoga, which I love even though I agonize while I’m doing a particularly painful asana. I also attend two study groups under the aegis of the Chinmaya Mission, where we study different spiritual texts and discuss them. These are times that are sacrosanct and everyone knows that I won’t miss my class for anything.

“I love traveling, especially with my kids. When I’m with them, showing them something new, I feel as though I’m seeing it anew myself.”

How do you approach the writing of your drafts and other writing processes the moment you sit down to write?


GK: “I usually have an idea of what I’m going to write before I sit down to actually write it, including how I will begin, phrase sentences, etc. once I start, I go with the flow, unless I feel it needs something that needs to be researched in which case I would refer to the Internet or a book. I re-read the entire chapter and then usually send it to my agent Sherna, who then mails me back with her comments. I consider her changes, if any and then decide where to slot the chapter within the entire book.

“Once I’ve written the entire book, Sherna and I go over it at least two or three times, reading it as a whole, before we meet to decide the ordering of the chapters, changing headings, etc., before we send it to the publisher.”

Do you write in longhand or straight onto the computer?


GK: “Straight on the computer. I’m a victim of the digital age; I can’t think if I have to write longhand!”

If there are days a mother who wants to write feels defeated and plans to give up because of family stress etc, what would you say to this mother knowing she really wants to write?


GK: “As mums, we’ve all felt bogged down by family, work, household stuff, and more so by the social obligations one is required to fulfill. In spite of this, if you want to write, nothing or no one can stop you. Try and get the support of your spouse by explaining to them just how badly you want this, and I’m sure they’ll help with the kids, etc. I firmly believe (and I’ve seen it happen with this book) that when you want something with all your heart and soul, the Universe conspires to make it happen. Also, write whenever you can – when your kids are sleeping, reading, playing by themselves. Even 20 minutes in front of the computer, writing or researching helps. Kids tire out at the end of the day and once they’re asleep, the night is yours to write away. Sacrificing a few extra hours of sleep is alright if it will help you fulfill your dream. But more than anything believe in yourself, your ability to write and in the power of your dream to publish your book. As the artist Modigliani once said, “Your only real duty is to save your dream.” – suzan abraham