Author Interview

Dr Shilpa Aroskar

Interview with the author of UBUNTU - I AM BECAUSE WE ARE: Parables of the United Human Spirit

DR. SHILPA AROSKAR is a paediatrician by profession and a writer by passion. She is currently Head, Department of Paediatrics and Neonatology, Reliance Hospital, Navi Mumbai. Gifted with the human touch, she has always gone beyond being a clinical professional to devoting her efforts towards being a force for good. Whether as President of the Indian Association of Paediatrics, Navi Mumbai, or working with less privileged communities, her focus has been to create sustainable impact.

An avid reader, she first took to writing as a stress buster. It soon became a passion. Her book, Parents Guide to Child Care is considered the Bible of Indian parenting. Her second book, YOLO: You Only Live Once drew inspiration from her rich professional-life experiences. In her trademark style, she makes her readers laugh, ponder and wonder at the commonalites and mysteries of life.

Married to an ophthalmologist, and mother of two, Shilpa lives in Navi Mumbai. She loves to travel, seeing the world as an exciting adventure book to be savoured. Her other interests include painting and music.

 

TBE: Can you share with us something about your latest book, “Ubuntu”, that isn’t in the blurb?

UBUNTU - I AM BECAUSE WE ARE- Parables of the United Human Spirit by Dr Shilpa AroskarDr Shilpa Aroskar: Ubuntu parables are based on real life events of the pandemic from my experiences and observation as a front line warrior. It talks about the struggles of the rich and poor, the boredom of lockdown, the untold stories of many like domestic helpers, senior citizens, school children, hoteliers, hair stylist who survived and sailed this unprecedented storm with resilience but kept hope afloat.

However I did not want it to be another sad saga on pandemic so it’s penned in my trademark style of humour and wit and also with a dose of wisdom. Every story starts with a quote to ponder upon. It also unmasks myriads of human emotions and behaviour in turbulent times of greed, fear, despair, loneliness as well as kindness, compassion, sacrifice, love. A subaltern perspective to the dark times reminding us all that every sunset is an opportunity to reset.

 

TBE: Please talk to us a little about the title, ‘Ubuntu – I Am Because We Are’. Why did you choose it and what does it mean to you?

Dr Shilpa Aroskar: It took us a while to get an apt title for the book. In the beginning we titled it Covidocles or when life gives you lemons make lemonade. However none were befitting the content. And then suddenly the word Ubuntu dawned upon me. Ubuntu is an ancient African word which means humanity to others. It also means I am because we are. Our existence on this planet is interdependent and this we have learnt in the last two years in the pandemic.

The entire ecosystem on our planet has a symbiotic survival. Also humans are social species and we felt like caged birds during the lockdown social distancing. Only when we come together, live in harmony, be humane and be compassionate to all we can triumph this crisis. It is what the ancient Hindu scriptures term Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. So the title befits the content.

 

TBE: Your book deals with a very sensitive subject matter exploring the daily life in the pandemic with a little humorous tone. What made you want to write this particular book? How did the idea for ‘Ubuntu’ spark?

Dr Shilpa Aroskar: The concept of Ubuntu Parables were conceived in my mind during the first month of pandemic. It was a bolt from the blue crisis for all but a nightmare for health care workers and doctors. Overnight we were dressed up like robots, lost human touch with patients, witnessed too many deaths, grief, sorrow, fear, loneliness in eyes of patients and people around us.

Most of these stories were created in my mind while working in ICUs, OR, wards or standing in long queues to buy groceries. Never in my entire life have I felt such a strong urge to use my writing for a greater good for the readers of the world. I had to weave these stories to bring back cheer and laughter into the lives of people and unlock small joys. Embracing the trials of life with grit and gratitude gets you through them.

 

TBE: This work is at times funny. What role does humor play in your writing process? Is it something you try to interject or does it just emerge?

Dr Shilpa Aroskar: Humour is my trademark which has become a brand now. However it’s inbuilt in my minds operating system or CPU. Be it in the hospital or day to day situations at home I have a natural tendency to see people, situations and things in a funny and puny way. And it certainly helps me get through life with ease especially with my patients like an escape valve from the pressures of life.

Humour is the pole that adds balance to steps as you walk the tightrope of life is what I believe. However while penning Ubuntu it was a daunting task to balance the right dose of humour as well as preserve the sensitivity of the subject.

 

TBE: What do you find to be the biggest struggle for contemporary times? What unique challenges, difficulties, or joys do you find during the lockdown?

Dr Shilpa Aroskar: Biggest struggle I feel in contemporary times is from “surviving” in last two years to now “thriving” in next two years be it professionally or personal life. Acceptance of what has happened and finding ways to rebuild, reform and remerge. Personally as doctors the challenges were umpteen. Every day when I returned home from covid ICU there was always a fear and guilt if I might infect my family members. But it also gave me a new perspective towards life, patients and my family.

Importantly that health is our biggest wealth so we must spare time for our own physical and mental fitness. Lockdown made me rediscover small joys of life, less is new more, new skills like painting, baking, spending and bonding more with my family and most importantly an attitude of gratitude and carpe diem- live the moment.

 

TBE: What’s one thing that you learned from your research for this book that you think everyone should know?

Dr Shilpa Aroskar: It’s about people. Everyone has a story to tell. But in the humdrum of life’s daily ratatouille we seldom take time to hear out others but busy telling about our own selves. Also judging and criticising comes so easily to us and appreciating and praising someone seems so difficult. As a doctor I realised how less we were prepared in terms of infrastructure and man power at hospitals to cope with such health crisis. I strongly feel that our government should invest more in health sector because  God resides more in hospitals then in temples.

 

TBE: How was your publishing experience with Leadstart?

Dr Shilpa Aroskar: A book is a dream that an author holds in hand. I had already published YOLO with Leadstart and since then there has been a camaraderie and comfort level with the entire team. So I was happy to publish Ubuntu with them. And the experience has been absolutely gratifying and wonderful. Malini Nair who trusted my script and has been a part of the whole process to the final product.

Chandralekha Maitra my brilliant editor who magically works on the script with her expertise most importantly balancing the humour and the sensitivity of the content. Lots of praises have poured in for the colourful and upbeat book cover which is designed by Chinmayee. Bhavika and the marketing team worked relentlessly pre and post release and Ananya for constantly being there day and night with me in of the making. I can say that it was conceived by me but was nurtured and delivered (and in nine months) by Leadstart.

 

TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

Dr Shilpa Aroskar: Currently I am enjoying the success of Ubuntu. I do continue writing my humour blogs- Slice of my life. There will be definitely next book or books in the pipeline. I am also contemplating screenplay writing something based on doctors life drawing inspiration from my rich repertoire of experiences. But be it book, blog or OTT series you will definitely find hope and humour in my work because to me success is not the numbers of copies sold but the number of lives I could touch and change with my work. Because at the end of my life when I stand before God, I hope I will be able to say I used everything you gave me.

 

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