Published: 18th December 2019
Here's why you should read IIT Madras alumni Rituparna Ghosh's 'Unloved in Love'
Unloved in Love deals with the emotional turmoil students go through while making critical life choices. We speak to debut author Rituparna Ghosh about her experiences
Gen Z today grapples with the decision of what to choose that would be right for their future or career growth. With the advent of the internet that provides them with a plethora of options, they are absolutely spoilt for choice unlike earlier. But for the kids of the 80s and 90s, we had dilemmas of our own to deal with, be it choosing a career for ourselves or merely which college/institution to attend. Rituparna Ghosh (38), a mother herself, who is an IIT Madras alumni, is just like us. But there's one small difference — while some of us are still looking for that clarity in our lives and careers, she is an author now, with her first book having been released at her alma mater earlier this month.
The Indian Institute of Technology Madras released her novel Unloved in Love on December 3, and the story is said to have been inspired by her time on campus. An alumna of the 2005 batch of the Department of Management Studies (DOMS), her novel deals with the emotional turmoil students go through while choosing between relationships and career. The book was published by Readomania, founded by Dipankar Mukherjee, who also happens to be an alumni of the same department. Rituparna did her MBA from IIT-M and graduated in 2005. She went on to work in research and analytics for almost ten years before focusing on other avenues — like writing. She lives in the UK, holds a diploma in novel writing from the London School of Journalism and is also a transformational life coach. We got a chance to interact with the novelist and she has a lot to say — her journey of becoming an author, her days at IIT-M and what's expected of young adults today.
Excerpts from a fruitful conversation:
1. Let's talk about your book first. What story are you trying to tell through it? What's the inspiration?
In my book Unloved in Love, there are three protagonists who are all unloved in certain ways, not just romantically. Their stories begin from the time they get into college and eventually, their journey into the real world. When I began writing it, it was inspired by my life at IIT Madras, work-life balance, what happens when you lose focus and so on. I wouldn't call it autobiographical but then again, a lot of it is inspired by the problems I faced. My attempt through this book is to tell students that it's okay to make mistakes, mess up at times, it's okay to be flawed. At the end of the day, something works out, life doesn't end or stop because of one wrong choice. You can always get back up and move on.
2. Tell me more about your journey as an author. How have you overcame the difficulties in your way?
I was born in the quintessential Bengali household — importance was given to studies and the focus was on scoring better marks. I was a good student no doubt, you can say above average. The choice was already made for us back then — if you scored above 85 per cent in Class 10, then you had to take up Science and nothing less. I used to write back then too, but no one noticed. Right now, there are so many new publishing houses that give opportunities to budding authors, but back in the day, to get published you had to be extremely good at it, well-versed in the language and literature. I was good at Maths and Science so it was the obvious choice for me. I studied Production Engineering (in the introduction you've mentioned she studied Management Studies). Not many women were into production some 15 years ago, in fact, some spaces did not even have restrooms for women. I found it hard to get a job, so the next obvious step was to do an MBA, then get a well-paying corporate job. That's where life took me and I kept at it.
3. So, what changed for you?
I got married and then, in a few years, we wanted to start a family and that's when I took a break from my job. I was struggling with infertility for almost four years and through that struggle, I realised that I should be doing something else. The corporate life didn't give me the kind of joy or satisfaction I wanted. I was actually burnt out. But you are always taught that if you don't get a well-paying job, you can't be independent. That is conditioned in our heads and that's when we chose to do things based on their monetary value. After realising this, I began writing the first draft of the book and finished it in six months. I felt proud and at that point, I thought two books a year is doable. However, after the feedback came, I understood why first drafts are called 'shitty' in a writer's dictionary. I went off to do my diploma at the London School of Journalism following that. The writing process slowed down after that because I realised that it needed a lot more attention and time. And that's how my first book finally came to be!
4. You are also a transformational life coach. How do you help people?
A transformational life coach is someone who helps/guides a person with the help of tools, modules to find a path in life; it can be any aspect of your life. Some struggle with relationships, career, discovering themselves — a life coach helps them figure out what they want exactly. My major clientele is young adults who are just starting a career. What I have seen is that with the rise of social media, people are distracted, their life is not enough and they want everything. I help them understand life beyond Insta stories and how to go about that. I am like a support system, more of a friend, who's not biased.
5. Do you think there's a lot of peer pressure on youngsters to do well? Seeking validation on social media, is it making them more stressed?
In our time, we graduated from college and then decided what to do. You might not enter something that you like but, at that point, the decision was not ours. Whatever came our way, we began working with it. I feel we had a kind of resilience to keep at it. Now, sadly and somewhat fortunately, there's so much exposure that the number of questions young people get asked that they can feel a mid-life crisis gawking at them. On social media, you see someone making videos and earning billions, you see that and you want it. But that doesn't happen for everyone, there's a reason why there are hierarchies and grades assigned to you. The disconnect among today's youngsters is huge, they think if they follow the path that somebody else did, it will get them where these people reached. But each and every individual is different and they need to understand that.
6. What are your future plans?
I am planning on writing more, but steadily. I have already started working on my next book and it will be like a sequel but also a standalone story. To put it logically, I am an interning as a transformational life coach at a centre in the UK and then, I have plans to join the International Coaching Federation, which is like the final degree for becoming a professional life coach. And then I will be ready to practice internationally and start a centre too if I wish.