Interview with Author Richa Tilokani

  1. Could you tell us about your book, “The teachings of Bhagavad Gita” released on 15 April 2021?

Well, as the name suggests, the book introduces the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita to the first- time readers and also to those readers who had attempted to read it earlier but gave up due to its perceived complexity, language barrier etc.

I have attempted to translate it simply, to showcase the Gita’s treasure trove of wisdom in a clear and easy to-understand manner.

I hope anyone who reads it will be able to use its simple tools and tips to imbibe its core message, which encourages us to be the best version of ourselves and to live life to the fullest.

2. What prompted you to write this book?

Most translations of the Gita are written by great saints and spiritual experts, so many people are wary of picking them up as they think they will be too complex, not relatable, too long or too abstract.

I felt that I could approach it in a way a lay person would understand, as I had the unique advantage of being one myself. I thought I could reach more people in this way and also dispel many myths and misconceptions around it like it is only for the older generation, etc. No, it is relevant and useful to everyone and anyone who wants to live a meaningful, productive life.

We, the smartphone generation, are grappling with so many problems including COVID-19, so anything which can help us manage ourselves better seems to be the need of the hour. (Of course, we were not living in a pandemic when I started writing it.) 

Plus, a woman’s view point on the sacred book was also missing, so I tried to incorporate that as well.

3. How did you undertake the research for this book?

I feel like I have been preparing to write this book my entire life. I was taught the Gita from a young age by my granddad, who was an eminent scholar and prolific author. He and my mother were blessed to have learnt its essence from their Guru.

Growing up, as a family, we attended a lot of Gita and spiritual classes, talks and lectures. I was always making notes trying to understand more about it and a few years back, I felt that if I organised them better, not only me but many others, too, could benefit from it.

For additional research, I read a lot of books on it, searched online and had long discussions with my mother who explained the concepts in detail and shared literature on it. My sister and dad have also supported me in my research.

Even after so many years, I still learn something new from it, every time I reread it. So the most important point is to approach it as a humble student, with gratitude and a devoted outlook. I tried to do that and it made my journey a little less daunting.

Pic of author Richa Tilokani

4. Could you tell us about your publishing journey during the pandemic?

Well, I got a lot of “no’s” when I started out. Publishers said they had already covered the topic, wondered whether it was really necessary or it did not seem to fit their plan.  It’s a tough time for the publishing industry, so the path ahead was not clear initially.

I was, however, not overly worried because I was ready to self- publish. I was not going to let the pandemic stop me, after taking so much from us already.

So, I decided to try one more time and sent the manuscript to Hay House India and to my delight, they were willing to publish it. I am very grateful to them for all their help and cannot thank them enough. The team is very supportive, kind and patient and this is very encouraging to a first-time writer like me. 

5. Could you tell us about your educational background? Has it helped in your writing?

I did my graduation in Commerce from Ethiraj College in Chennai then went to Mumbai to do MBA in marketing from SP Jain.

Writing after MBA is a cliché now after so many similar stories, but if the heart wants to write, write it shall.

I think my MBA background helped me to a great extent- in the sense that we are taught to think about the bigger picture, go deeper into the details and look at innovative ways of analysing any paradigm.

I have tried to apply what I learned- thinking critically, analysing, researching, structuring the learning, editing, examining alternatives and re-learning at every stage.

Learning the art of Marketing was a pleasure and as you may know, it is all about communicating with and delighting the customer. So, it came handy when I decided to write- my aim was to make the content easy to read, relevant and understandable so that my readers could benefit from it. (Especially since the topic is so deep, layered and vast.) From making PowerPoints on the art of management to writing a book on the art of self- empowerment, it has been a rewarding journey indeed!

I believe that whether as a student at a business school or as a student of life, if we can learn the importance of the three types of work- hard work, homework and team work- we can achieve so much more.

6. Do you have lessons to share from your own writing journey?

I have been writing for a long time now. Be it marketing communication, press releases, poems, ad films, columns or books, I love writing them all. So, my key takeaway is if you are passionate about something, just keep at it. Keep honing your skill, don’t give up; try to write every day. All good things take time and yes, even writers block fades away. Even if it may take months or years. (Just kidding! Or not.) Have faith and read a lot – that always helps

7.Name some of your favourite reads?

I love reading Charles Dickens, Deepak Chopra, Amar Chitra Katha, John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Robin Cook, JK Rowling, Danielle Steel, Sophie Kinsella, Mills and Boon etc. There are just so many books I have enjoyed- both fiction and non-fiction. Earlier, I would read more fiction but now I like to read content that inspires me -like I am Malala, Stephen Hawking, the Ishavashya Upanishad, Rumi’s sayings etc

8. Name some of your favourite literary characters.

My favourite character is Sherlock Holmes because he is brilliant, bold and he can solve any problem. That seems like a much-needed skill today, I suppose. But he should have been written as a woman character- that would have made him even more interesting.

9. What are the lessons you would like to share for writers during the pandemic?

To my fellow writers, I want to say just hang in there. It’s a difficult time and everybody is suffering in varying degrees. The losses are heart-breaking but we have no other choice. Let’s just take care of our loved ones, stay safe and wait it out.
Writing is such a solitary exercise, so we miss meeting people, going to new places, experiencing new things- that’s where we get the energy to keep going.

But we are in no position to complain because so many others have it worse than us. Let’s do what we can to help others and also take care of ourselves. Write, exercise, smile more, dance, read or take a break- it’s not the time to put pressure on yourself.

10. Which is one book (other than your own) that you would recommend to bibliophiles?

It is difficult to recommend one because there are so many wonderful books out there. I would recommend a genre- motivating, inspiring books, because they are very positive, interesting to read, and they have a lot of tips which we can implement in our lives. And that’s great if we can benefit from the wisdom of our fellow beings. Perhaps we can avoid making the mistakes they made and simply make new ones- seems like a win-win proposition to me.   

Categories: Interview, writing

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