Place of BirthBhilai
City of residencePune
A chemical engineer from IIT Roorkee, Shilpa Gupta holds a post-graduate degree in management from IIM Ahmedabad. After working as an investment banker for thirteen years in Mumbai, she relocated to Pune in 2007 and quit her corporate career a couple of years later to take care of her two growing boys, Aditya and Ritwik. Apart from mathematics and finance, her interests lie in meditation, writing, painting and travel. She is married to Sriram, her batchmate from IIT Roorkee.
While she has many published financial research papers to her credit, Ananya marks her debut into the world of fiction with Ananya: A Bittersweet Journey.
Fantastic Four – Four of my favourite books
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Why – Booker of bookers and on top of my list!
A complex novel that deals with the development of a country and an individual, simultaneously and beautifully showcasing how their destinies are intertwined.
About the book – Born at the stroke of midnight, at the precise moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is destined from birth to be special. As Saleem’s life takes some unexpected twists and turns, he must learn the ominous consequences of his gift; his every act is mirrored and magnified in the events that shape the newborn nation of India. It is a great gift, and a terrible burden!
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Why – I love this book because it focuses on that gut instinct of right and wrong. It’s a book with so many layers of meaning, that every time I go back over it, I find something new that I assimilate into my own code of ethics. The book is inspiring to say the least.
About the book – Told through the eyes of Scout Finch, you learn about her father Atticus Finch, an attorney who hopelessly strives to prove the innocence of a black man unjustly accused of rape. Atticus is the role model that everyone ought to aspire to be like – respectful, wise, ethical. Despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality, the novel has warmth and humor.
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame – Victor Hugo
Why – The most intense love story (albeit of unrequited love) I have ever read. The dark, brooding and punishing interactions between the complex characters are a mastery of storytelling.
About the book – Frollo’s struggle with Catholicism vs. desire and Esmeralda’s unwillingness to accept a revolting creature for his good heart are only a two examples of what makes this story brilliant. The story is peppered with a few twists, some humor with sarcasm and mockery galore.
The Trial – Franz Kafka
Why – Not an easy book to read by any means, but a book that stays with you forever. Years after having read the book, even today when I think about it I feel a chill run down my spine.
About the book – The opening sentence ‘Someone must have been spreading slander about Josef K., for one morning he was arrested, though he had done nothing wrong’, sets the tone for the rest of the book. ‘The Trial’ is the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. It is chilling in its uncomfortable presentation of a world where people are observed by secret police and suddenly arrested. The book also covers the excesses of modern bureacuacy.
Tell us about your earliest attempts at writing. When, where and from whom did you learn the nittygritties of writing?
I remember writing poems and short stories while in school. Since I grew up in Bhilai, which is a steel township set up in collaboration with erstwhile USSR, the bend in my earlier writing was towards socialism.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
What is one habit / trait of yours that makes you effective / productive as an author?
What is the one thing that you recommend every aspiring author should do?
Tell us something about yourself that very few people know?
Does technology (the Internet, software tools) help you in your writing process? If yes, can you tell us about them?
Yes, it does to an extent. The internet does help in doing research and checking facts. The only software tool I use is spell check. 🙂 However, I believe overdependence on technology may take a bit away from creativity.
Is there any other way in which technology can help you in your work as writer?
Not so much in writing the book, but in marketing yes (promotion on social media etc).
I don’t use any software tools or apps while writing.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others? (include websites, blogs or Twitter profiles, etc).
The biggest influence on my thinking is my spiritual guru, Late Mr SN Goenka. He taught the art of living through the practice of meditation, Vipassana.
Can you tell about what you are currently writing and other works in the pipeline?
I have finished writing my second book. It has a female protagonist and deals with the underbelly of the stock markets.
What do you think about this trend of IIT, IIM, Corporate Career and then writing? How did it happen to you?
Engineer-MBAs have exposure to a wide cross section of disciplines – sciences, engineering, finance, marketing, strategy, consulting, organisation behaviour, human resources, etc. This becomes a potent combination of knowledge and experience that often translates into interesting subject matter cutting across various disciplines.
Additionally there are a couple of other factors, though relatively small but important, that may be driving this phenomenon – i) many professionals with IIT-IIM backgrounds find themselves in high stress corporate jobs. They take to writing as a hobby, as a way to release pent up stress. So writing in a way is cathartic for them. ii) Today, more than ever, a successful writing career needs good marketing strategy, resources and network, something that engineer-MBAs with successful corporate careers behind them may just about have an edge on.
As far as I am concerned, as part of my professional life, I used to write a fair bit – 50-100 pages of financial research every month. Of course, it was more structured and method driven than writing fiction, but nevertheless writing became a habit. Once I quit my corporate career to take care of my two growing boys, my writing moved from non-fiction to fiction.
Do you think that teenage pregnancy is a common problem among urban teenagers, and is on the rise in India?
Not common, but surely witnessing an alarming rise. As part of my research, while writing ‘Ananya: a bittersweet journey’, I had met lots of doctors, gynecologists and psychologists. What I found was that the issue of teenage sex (which may result in various physical and psychological complications – like depression, pregnancy and in some tragic cases even suicide – given the lack or low level of awareness) is definitely on the rise.
As per a recent Times of India report (14th May’15), abortions among teenage girls below the age of 15 in Mumbai have recorded an alarming 67% spike in 2014-15 (185 abortions), and in the 15-19 age group an increase of 47% (1600 abortions) for the same period. These are the statistics for one city and one year alone. However, we have a ‘blinkers on’ approach when it comes to teenage sexuality, and tend to shy from realism.
I think it is time parents recognize the importance of sensitively imparted sexual information to their children. I hope this book, by raising awareness, addresses some of these issues, and contributes in its own small way.
Why are career (working) mothers blamed for omissions in parenting?
This is a very unfortunate but real scenario. The reason for the same could be that traditionally women are associated with the roles of being a house-wife, a stay-at-home mom and a caregiver. This mindset is changing to some extent, but the rate of change is unfortunately very slow.
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PlusMinus’n’More: Thank you Shilpa, for being our guest on F-pages and sharing with us your experiences as a writer.