Sangeeta Bhargava was born in a remote village in Maharashtra, India and did her graduation from Lucknow. She went on to do an MBA in finance but a few years back she realised that the business world was not for her and decided to go back to her first love – writing. She wrote some short stories and articles before publishing her first book, Letters to my Baby. She now lives in London with her husband, two children, 10,000 books and a temperamental laptop.
Q: Can you tell us about your childhood and where you grow up?
SB: My childhood was spent in the beautiful hills of Uttarakhand in India. I went to a boarding school in Nainital and the holidays were spent in Almora and later Pithoragarh. So I literally played in the lap of nature. We didn’t have any computers, televisions, playstation etc. back then. So on a typical day, you would find my brother and me, trekking towards a temple in the distance or pondering over which mountain to climb the next day. In fact my second novel, called After the Storm, which is going to be released in 2012, is set in Uttarakhand.
Q: How was the transition from India to UK?
SB: I will be honest – it was difficult. I found London cold and unfriendly when I first moved here. And I did feel lonely and isolated for a long time. What I found most difficult to digest was the fact that people seldom smiled in this city. But London seems to be thawing now or perhaps I have changed, because I see a lot of smiles nowadays.
Q: How different is it to grow up here compared to India?
SB: Growing up here – I think children lead a very protected life over here. As a result they retain their innocence for a longer time. Children in India become street smart at a much younger age. What I love about growing up and education in this country is that children are not coerced into learning. There is no pressure on them in the initial years – they are able to enjoy their childhood without having to worry about homework and exams. Education in India is competitive from a very early age. I remember having to carry a truckload of books to school even when I was in nursery. Here my daughter’s lunchbox is heavier than the books she carries to school.
Q: You did your MBA but took up writing, was the decision very difficult?
SB: On the contrary, taking a decision to do an MBA instead of a MA in English Literature was more difficult. You see, even as a kid, I always wanted to be a writer. But writing wasn’t a career option – at least not in those days. So I ended up doing an MBA in finance. I cannot begin to tell you how excruciatingly boring it was to deal with numbers all day long. So a few years back I decided to go back to my first love – writing.
Q: How do you manage between being an author and a mum?
SB: Managing between being an author and mum is not that difficult, especially since I’m able to work from home. I work when the kids are in school and at night after they’ve gone to bed. You need to be well-organised and a little disciplined, that’s all. So I’m a full time author and part-time mom on schooldays and vice versa during the holidays. Also, my husband as well as the rest of my family have been extremely supportive, which makes it so much easier. And I have this network of some of the most amazing friends – in the UK, India, America, Canada, Australia – their relentless support has helped me cope and has made all the difference.
Q: Any message for our readers for following while being a mum?
SB: All I would like to say to other mums is that working and managing kids when they are little can be a tad difficult. So be patient and give yourself a little time. Once the kids start full time school, you will be able to find plenty of opportunities to use your talent, earn money as well as take care of your family. A little discipline, a positive frame of mind and belief in yourself is all it takes.
Finally, if any of you mums out there, need advice or want to have a little chat, you’re most welcome to write to me.
(Sangeeta Bhargava’s debut novel The World Beyond is available in all major bookshops and on Amazon. For more information go to – www.sangeetabhargava.com)