Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan speaks on her book "Good Innings" with Frontlist Media
on Mar 06, 2023
Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan is a children’s author, poet, editor, and voice-over talent. She is also a former non-profit development professional who spent two decades as an advocate and fundraiser for persons with disabilities. Shobha has recorded voice-work for documentaries, educational programs, journalistic initiatives, and audiobooks. She has published children’s books in India and the United States, including Native American Folktales, (DC/Mango Books), the award-winning Indi-Alphabet (Mango and Marigold), and Prince With a Paintbrush: The Story of Raja Ravi Varma, (Red Panda/Westland), How Many Lines in a Limerick? (Clear Fork Publishing), It’s Time to Rhyme, (Aleph) and Parvati the Elephant’s Very Important Day, (Harper Collins).
Shobha’s work has been anthologized by Tulika Books, Solstice, and Skipping Stones. Her Essays and reviews have been published in India Currents, Bizworld, and Scroll.
Frontlist: This is the first time you’ve written something distinctive from Children's Literature. How did you stumble upon this hybrid genre? What do you want to say in this context?
Shobha Tharoor: That’s true. This is my first full book for adults. But I have written articles and essays before. When the publisher approached me with an interest in a memoir, I turned down the offer. But, as the publisher was persistent, I decided that I would do it differently. I’ve come up with a creative approach to telling a life story. This hybrid genre of memoir and self-help in both first person and third person allowed me to share my mother’s story and “voice” without ventriloquizing her. I was also able to maintain an accurate timeline of her life in order to showcase how life’s experiences allowed her to strengthen and shine. My mother has inspired us all with her indefatigable spirit- that is part of her legacy- and this format allowed me to showcase those teachable moments.
Frontlist: Every child has an inherent quality that they get from their parents. What qualities have you inherited from your mother?
Shobha Tharoor: I’m pragmatic about ups and downs in life. And I don’t let the “down” destroy my equilibrium.
Frontlist: How has the digital world impacted the life of Lily Tharoor? Please share any glimpses from the book.
Shobha Tharoor: As I’ve said in Good Innings, my mother is connected to family and friends on her smartphone, and to the world on her computer. There’s often a collective minor panic if she cannot connect to WIFI as she’s far better at responding to texts than picking up the phone when it rings. She is online regularly, and What’s app messages are frequently forwarded. I used to Skype her to wish her Good Morning everyday but these days she prefers to sit out and drink her morning tea so we chat on the phone.
Her access to the digital world has given her the opportunity to watch informative and interesting videos on YouTube and share some of that with family without leaving the house. She is able to text daily with children, grandchildren, and siblings on WhatsApp family groups, mark milestones, and enjoy photos of events that she could not attend. And she has learned the convenience of following her favourite shows and news channels by logging in on a computer in any part of the world.
Frontlist: As we all know, your journey with this book is indescribable. How did Shashi Tharoor assist you to give the final touch to the remarkable life of Lily Tharoor?
Shobha Tharoor: Thank you. I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my mother’s life, and cherish the experience of writing this book. This was a project that the publisher commissioned me, specifically, to complete. My brother has so many demands each day. I did not seek his assistance. The only assistance my brother gave was verifying some dates and details that I had questions about, and expressing his appreciation of my efforts. I wanted to give him the opportunity to express his thoughts as well in this special tribute to our mother, and so I asked him to write a prologue. Of course, his words always embellish every book.
Frontlist: The 'Good Innings’ book provides more inspiring lessons through the life events of Lily Tharoor and illustrates three genres: Biography, Non-fiction, and Self Help collectively. How did the idea strike you to write in this format?
Shobha Tharoor: My children’s writing has been quite diverse as well. I’ve written narrative picture books in rhyming couplets, penned a prose biography that has two distinct narrative threads, written a Poetry Reader (for Kids of All Ages) that includes poems on the craft of poetry, and my next book will be a collection of short stories. The thread common to all my books is a hope they will not only inform and entertain, but be long lasting in their themes, and something that readers will turn to time and again. This hybrid genre of biography and self-help in both first person and third person allowed me to share my mother’s story and “voice” without ventriloquizing her, though the reflections are mine and pieced together from stories I’ve heard either directly from her or from others. With this creative format I was able to maintain an accurate timeline of her life and showcase teachable moments about how she inspired at different periods in her life.
Frontlist: Since most members of the Tharoor family have a knack for writing and reading, can we call the Tharoors a Bookish Family?
Shobha Tharoor: A bookish family? Sure, if you mean we are all surrounded by books and are regular readers. Reading and expressing in some form or another is something we all do. And we have, in every generation, been blessed by that interest.
Frontlist: What is the greatest advice your mother gave you that you'd like to pass on to your daughter?
Shobha Tharoor: Like my mother, I am a great believer in not waiting to do what I desire to advance a purpose. There is wisdom to fulfilling tasks in a timely manner. Like her I feel that time is precious and should not be squandered. That does not mean that we can’t rest or relax but be mindful of how swiftly time passes. My children have definitely been reminded of this thinking over the years.
Frontlist: What life lessons can today’s generation learn from Lily Tharoor’s extraordinary and energetic life?
Shobha Tharoor: Those challenges can be surmounted. That one can dream and aspire at every age. That we all have something to give to the world. That we can all strive for good innings!