Meet Yashodhara Lal — vice-president at Genpact, mother of three kids, a zumba instructor and an author, with not one, but two books out this November! Her newest novel ‘When Love Finds You’ is on pre-order now, while her first children’s book Peanut Has a Plan is also out this month. Yashodhara talks to SheThePeople.TV about her new books, a dramatic turning point that made her decide to embark on a writing career, even as she juggles a corporate career and family life.
1. Tell us about your new book When Love Finds You?
‘When Love Finds You’ was actually written a couple of years ago, even before my third book ‘There’s Something About You’ was drafted. Natasha, the badass boss, and main protagonist of the book was so harsh in the initial draft that I didn’t like her myself! After I dared to send it to the Chief Editor at HarperCollins, Karthika VK, I was surprised to get a response from her which was very positive – she said it was a very important book because of the issues it faces of a woman at work, trying to live life on her own terms. And so I worked on it to get it into its current shape!
2. What was that turning point in your life when you decided to go for it with respect to writing?
Ah, the turning point. So in 2010, I was pregnant with my twin sons and the pregnancy turned out complicated. So much so that when the twins were born, I developed a haematoma that almost killed me and had to be operated upon again 13 days post the C-section. It was the real wake up call and forced me to prioritize what I had been ignoring for years. Near-death experiences are life-changing, you could say. Strange, but I was very lucky to have had one.
3. You are an IIM-Bangalore graduate — tell us how both the management/ corporate life and writing life come together?
So in continuation of my previous answer, I was a very unidimensional work-focused young woman till about 2007 when my daughter was born. But even after she came along, I didn’t start writing. It took me a while post the twins to figure out a balance where both corporate life and a writing career alongside can be made to work – I took a sabbatical and experimented with writing full time, but it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t just about the financials, I felt as if a part of me was just unutilized if I couldn’t lead a team at work. I also wanted to experiment with something apart from marketing upon my return and post a few consulting assignments, I landed this job which is to do with leading Corporate Social Responsibility and Gender Diversity – I’ve been in this role since December and it’s very interesting. Luckily, I’m in a company that celebrates output focus, and offers tremendous flexibility and is genuinely committed to the cause of women in leadership. That helps me live a more integrated life.
4. From chick-lit to being bracketed as a woman writer — what are your thoughts on labels?
I dislike labels. I don’t think of myself as a chick-lit or a rom-com writer, but I do think that publishers expect that from me. I have a childhood memoir in the making, my first book ‘Just Married, Please Excuse’ was a memoir, I’ve written a children’s book as well that’s just out now – ‘Peanut Has a Plan’, coincidentally with ‘When Love Finds You’– I’d really hate to be boxed in, and I think it would be doing myself an injustice. Yes, yes, I’m a marketer and I know all about brand building, but in this particular department, I don’t want to feel stifled.
5. Who are your top three favourite writers?
Gerald Durrell, Bill Bryson and James Herriot. All of whom write about their own experiences with a great degree of humour. That’s the kind of writing I enjoy most too, must have been influenced by them! But of late, I read way more non-fiction than fiction.
6. Any advice for younger women who strive for work-life balance?
Yes – keep experimenting and keep watching your own feelings and keep at it till you get it right. No one’s going to be able to solve this for you, you’ll have to figure it out yourself, and only can judge your feelings and satisfaction with your life. Reflect often, take stock and be willing to change.
7. Lastly, take us through your blog: titled “Woman-in-Progress”?
Poor blog. It gets neglected a lot these days, although I do try to keep things alive. It’s on yashodharalal.com and I blog about writing, my family and other interests. It’s tough to be regular, what with everything that’s going on. I started this so many years ago, in 2006, and strongly credit this as something that helped me to reconnect with writing. It also helped me connect with so many wonderful mommy bloggers. Now we’re mostly on Facebook though, but I do intend to keep this blog going because it’s really fantastic to look back on my earlier posts – it’s a diary that I’ve actually managed to sustain for over eight years or something! I do find it easier to update on Facebook.com/yashodharalal but that’s just me being lazy.