Today is a day to be marked, in bold, for I have just got lucky! An opportunity to interview the cause for my existence at Ghumakkar, isn’t that a luck, by chance? It definitely is!
She was my mentor when I started off at Ghumakkar. She had been patient enough to answer my silliest questions, taking me through a journey that has created a position where I stand today. I couldn’t have asked for more but for this opportunity to showcase her here, in this Edition of our Ghumakkar Interview Series. To get more lucid, folks, I have Vibha Malhotra (yes, our fondest ex-Editor at Ghumakkar) who will spill the beans about herself and her recently published book. I will not hold you back more. Here are things as they unfolded themselves.
Ghumakkar: Welcome back Vibha! We are thrilled to have you here!
Vibha: Thank you! So am I !
Ghumakkar: Well, our opening question is an intro, typically. But for someone who is an old time Ghumakkar herself, I can ask this, maybe – Tell us about yourself, from a perspective we haven’t known before.
Vibha: Would love to! Born and brought up in Delhi, I barely knew the world outside the city before I started working. I only had a handful of friends, and was an introvert. I was that kid who would silently observe the world around and then write my observations in my journal. I maintained the journal for 7 years. I started writing poetry when I was 7 years old! Some things I hadn’t revealed before, I think!
Ghumakkar: We are glad we are capturing it! So, did the writing bug bite you when you were just 7 ?
Vibha: Well, you could say that. But at that stage, I wanted to become several things – a detective, an astronaut, an astronomer, a zoologist to name a few. I was an imaginative child and would do a lot of role play. When I was in my detective phase, I created a fingerprint recording equipment using charcoal and sellotape and put together a crime solving kit that consisted of a pair of binoculars, magnifying lens, and yes, pair of sunglasses, hat, and black coat. I would then go to imaginary crime scenes for investigations. This was all solo stuff, but it was fun.
Vibha: My interests and passions oscillated from sports to sketching to painting to playing music. Even today I do a bit of all of this. I did my schooling in science, studying Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Math in my 12th. I did my graduation in English Literature. I hold two master degrees – Master in Computer Application and Master in Creative Writing. Professionally, I have worked as a Software Engineer with Adobe (my current employer) and Fidelity and have worked as an Editor with Penguin Random House.
Despite the zig-zag path, there is one common thread throughout my life so far and it is my interest in the written word. Be it reading or writing, words have always been my friends. I am an avid reader and have managed to read more than 100 books every year since 2012. Even when I am not working on a big writing or editing project, I am always writing in some form or the other. In addition, I am aso interested in languages and know basic French and Japanese.
Ghumakkar: Well, that explains your proficiency and flair in writing! No questions about it unanswered now!
Vibha: I am humbled, thank you !
Ghumakkar: From what we just learnt from you, you have been into writing since your school days. Did you really pursue it from then or was it a latent skill waiting to bloom in a congenial environment?
Vibha: Honestly speaking, I don’t think that my writing skills have bloomed yet. I am yet to come out with that one book that I have been wanting to write for a really long time. It is a difficult subject and I have started and scrapped it several times. I just cannot figure out the appropriate point of view, voice, or beginning. Apart from this, there is also a half-written young adult fiction that I want to finish writing this year. Only when I have published either of these two books, will I allow myself to think that I have made some progress as a writer.
Coming to your question of whether I pursued writing from my childhood. Yes, I have always been writing. As mentioned earlier, I started at the age of 7 and never really stopped. I published several poems in my school and college magazines. However, I started making serious efforts to get my work published only after I completed my Master in Creative Writing in 2011. My first published work was a travel article in the Times of India about Gaiety Theatre in Shimla. Since then I have published poems, book reviews, and opinion pieces at several places. I owe much of it to my friend and husband, Vijay Kumar Sharma, who has always pushed me to aim for and achieve bigger things in life. It is on his insistence that I started approaching publishers. He believes in me more than I believe in myself.
Ghumakkar: It is appreciable to see the push coming from your husband!
Vibha: You bet! He has been by my side whenever I have yearned for that push :)
Vibha: Well, I have always considered myself as a writer, even when I was just writing for myself. About becoming a professional writer, one day I suddenly knew that I want to pursue a full-time Master in Creative Writing. I never had any second thoughts about it. I started applying to various universities in the UK and never doubted that I will get through. Soon enough, offers started pouring in. I accepted the offer from Newcastle University and resigned from my job at Adobe. I spent my life’s savings on the course and the stay in Newcastle, and the thought that I might not succeed never once crossed my mind. It wasn’t because I was super-confident of my skills as a writer, it was just that some part of me knew that I am going to be alright. The Cosmos has always been at my side, even in the most dire circumstances. And I knew that it wasn’t going to abandon me.
Ghumakkar: And did the Cosmos favour you after the Masters degree from Newcastle?
Vibha: Yes, they did! The years that followed the Master degree were the most formative for me. From an introvert, I became an extrovert. From not having many friends, I started making friends wherever I went. I discovered a new warmth in human relationships. I embraced my quirks and silliness. I accepted my strengths and weaknesses. My confidence grew leaps and bounds and I was finally ready to put myself at stake for things that I believed in. I was in this frame of mind when the offer to co-write a motivational book came my way. I loved the idea and immediately signed up for it. The result was my first book as an author – Know Your Worth, which I co-authored with Mr. N.K. Sondhi.
Ghumakkar: It looks like a life-changing episode in life. Before talking more about your book, tell us, what more fruits you reaped after the “Master” degree?
Vibha: A lot, infact. I have edited more than 20 international books, translated one book, and published ~10 poems and ~7 book reviews and interviews in Indian and International Literary Journals. All this happened without much conscious thought or extensive planning. I think at times you just need to open yourself to the positive energies around you, and things start happening. I believe in letting life lead me in whatever direction it chooses to. I just act upon its nudges and hints.
Ghumakkar: Coming back to your book “Know your worth“. Please provide some insight into it.
Vibha: the book is designed to be motivational for everyone. While writing the anecdotes, we aimed for a healthy mix of panchatantra-like morality tales and everyday instances from software industry, publication, banking, start-ups etc. The book is a practical guide on how to shape your future and be successful in your initiatives, simply by not giving up on yourself.
Apart from this, I wish to share another interesting detail. The book is a conscious effort to bring about indirect and subtle changes in the society. Alert readers will probably be able to figure out what we, the authors, are trying to do. Here’s a clue – read the anecdotes carefully. If I say anything else, I will be giving out the answer itself. I will leave it up to the readers to figure it out by themselves.
Ghumakkar: There goes the detective in you giving clues! Haha. We cannot wait to grab a copy soon!
Vibha: I will be happy if you do that! Thank you.
Ghumakkar: One last thing before we call it a day. We wish to see more from you – which will be first , a post on Ghumakkar, a new book or another creative venture?
Vibha: It has been really long since I have posted anything on Ghumakkar. I blame it on nothing else but my laziness. You will definitely see a post in the near future. That much I can promise as writing it is in my hands and I hope that the editorial team at Ghumakkar will accept my story. A book? I sure hope so. Would request the Ghumakkar family to wish me luck.
Ghumakkar: We hope all of that and more comes your way and our way too! Many thanks for your time Vibha. We wish you all the luck for any venture that you step into.
Vibha: Thank you Ghumakkar team for the warmth and support. Wish you all luck too!
Well, my day is done! A one-on-one with a person who I look upto for her skills and confidence can only make my day gleeful and glowing. While I cherish this epic day over a cuppa, you have a fabulous day and a spectacular month of August.
Until next time, be good, stay happy and live life – king-size!