R Sethumadhavi graduated in mathematics from Madras University and during her four years of college she stood first in every subject in her class. She was awarded many prizes and certificates of merit. She did her post graduation in Agricultural Statistics from the Indian Agricultural research Institute, New Delhi followed by a post graduate diploma in Agricultural Statistics from the Institute of Agricultural Research Statistics, New Delhi for her thesis on ‘Use of PPS with 3-P sampling procedure’.
R Sethumadhavi has co-authored a book “A handbook on Research Methodology” published by Ramakrishna Vidhyalaya, Coimbatore which was prescribed by Madras University as text book for M.Phil. students. She has also written three booklets “Small Scale Industries-Guidelines to entrepreneurs”, “Essentials of financial management” and “Financial analysis of banks-1980, 1981 and 1982” – all published by Indian Banks’ Association, Bombay. Her research work for her PG diploma was published as a research paper by Sankhya (a journal by Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta).
She started her career as a high school teacher, then became a lecturer teaching under-graduates, post graduates and research scholars. Then she took up a banking career. She joined as an officer directly and after two promotions became a senior manager. Even after joining the bank, she continued teaching in Management colleges as a visiting faculty. She has to her credit more than 30 articles and book reviews in the Economic Times. She wrote regular columns in Fortune India and IBA Bulletin. R Sethumadhavi participated in three Bank Economists’ conferences and presented papers. She was also a visiting faculty to training colleges of banks, conducted workshops for officers at various regional offices of the bank where she worked in foreign exchange. Now she is leading a peaceful, retired life, just reading. Her biography, Moonlight in a Desert, is published by Leadstart publishing.
TBE: Can you tell us a little about your autobiography, ‘Moonlight in a Desert’? What prompted you to write this?
R Sethumadhavi: ‘Moonlight in a desert’ speaks about my journey in life, starting from my education and ending with my retirement. It speaks about the ups and downs in my professional life, the downs, in particular, happening due to no fault of mine. Some of my friends were nagging me to write a book, any book. I chose to write this autobiography for I wanted to tell people about some wrongs done to the right people affecting their career.
TBE: What was your writing process for this book? What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
R Sethumadhavi: I didn’t have to think much while writing this book as it was a straight talk from my heart to the reader.
TBE: During your journey from the idea of this book to the publication, what was the most difficult thing you faced? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
R Sethumadhavi: There was no difficulty in writing this book. In fact it was a single draft from beginning to end and that is why the book is in a simple, conversational style.
TBE: How was your publishing experience?
R Sethumadhavi: Luckily I got very good publisher and the whole process ran very smooth.
TBE: Courage seems a huge theme in your life and in your book, how do you cultivate YOUR courage?
R Sethumadhavi: I believe courage is inborn and the mental strength cannot be cultivated. I faced all the situation very courageously and when I thought I could not (or rather would not) put up with any more injustice I left.
In my own family my nephew doesn’t have this mental strength though he is the most intelligent, most educated in the family with a very good language skill in four languages. After getting two PG degrees in Engineering from USA he returned to India since his guide was unsympathetic and non-cooperative and no good friends. He lost faith in people. He did MBA from India but is not applying for job as he doesn’t trust the world. So I have seen what loss of faith and injustice prevalent in the world can do to a sensitive human being.
TBE: You’re a teacher, a researcher, a senior manager, and now a writer. How do you dance with all these roles in a typical day?
R Sethumadhavi: I used to go for teaching after banking hours twice a week. When I found leisure time, I used to write articles on banking and book reviews. There was no difficulty in doing these things.
TBE: What and who inspires you – could you share some stories with us?
R Sethumadhavi: There is no single person whom I took as role model. My grandma taught me love and my father taught me the value of education. I had good professors like Dr. G.R.Seth in Delhi and good bosses in Dena Bank like Mr. Kurup, M.H. Kothari, KRV. Bhat and KN. Shenai from whom all I could learn a lot.
TBE: What is the message you want to share with the world through your book? (in other words, what do you consider to be your life’s work?)
R Sethumadhavi: My book itself ends with the question whether my life on the whole was a success or a failure. I have left it to the reader to decide and the reader can decide whatever message he/she wants to take from it.
TBE: Often in life, it’s our greatest challenges that make or break us. What do you think is the determining factor between whether we grow by our adversity or are destroyed by it?
R Sethumadhavi: It depends on the individual’s strength and personality whether he/she grows by the adversity or gets destroyed by it. There are both types of people. As far as I am concerned, I simply took it as an experience which did not help me to grow and I didn’t allow it to destroy me.
TBE: What would be the number one piece of advice you’d give to someone who is currently struggling with life?
R Sethumadhavi: I can only tell the person to take it in his stride and that ‘this too will pass’
TBE: We live in what often feels like a crazy and stressed-out world. What do you think the world most needs today?
R Sethumadhavi: The world needs most today honesty, straight forwardness, realisation that material success is not everything. Whatever progress you want to make in life, that should be by your own hard work and not by defeating and destroying someone else.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
R Sethumadhavi: Yes, I have an interesting idea for a fiction to write.