Raksha Bharadia was working on a book called ‘Chaos’ that dealt with companionship, fidelity and sexuality in Indian marriages. She went around interviewing people and met psychiatrists, marriage therapists, sexologists, divorce lawyers and people in their individual capacities. And saw that the couple relationship is undergoing a huge flux. Migration leading to nuclear families, effects of globalization through social media satellite tv etc, women education and empowerment and many more are changing the way men and women interact with each other not just outside the bedroom but inside as well.
During research for that book, she understood that the modern day marriages are different from what our parents had. Moreover, while talking to Professor Jani from The Family Planning Commission, she came to know that only 19% of couples live in joint families now. The 81% that is nuclear families; and those couples don’t have a role model to look up to in today’s time. Anytime if one partner is attracted to someone else other than their spouse, they begin moral policing themselves. She realized that the couples need to figure how to divide responsibilities and the book offered a one way platform only. That’s when she felt that this subject needed a two way interaction and started Bonobology in 2015 to get everyday issues of the everyday couple in urban India.
Bonobology offers a safe and non-judgemental space for urban Indians to share absolutely anything and everything to do with romantic relationships and feature real-life stories and interviews dealing with different aspects in the lifecycle of relationships.
“We get about 20 stories a day and many queries for our counsellors and a hoard of blogs. In one way Bonobology is documenting couple relationships”, says Raksha.
“I grew up in Calcutta (and no can’t call it Kolkata still) and loved the quaint city, gorging on cakes of the famous cafe Flury’s and going for long walks around innumerable lakes. The Bongs always topped academics and we had to be okay with getting ranked within the first five. You couldn’t wear something striking and not get elbowed or eve-teased. And then I moved to Ahmedabad, where no one gave a second glance and I remember asking my hubby if I had become unattractive!”, Raksha recounts.
She graduated from Loreto College, Calcutta University in B.A with History, Political Science and Economics.
On her successful writing journey
Raksha has authored ‘Me A handbook for Life’, ‘Roots and Wings A handbook for Parents’ and ‘All and Nothing’ published by Rupa & Co. She has also edited 13 titles of the famous Chicken soup for the Indian soul series with Jack Canfield and Mark Victor for Westland and worked with Star Plus for the show ‘Lakhon Main Ek’.
Her latest book Ten on Ten depicts the stories of cancer survivors who have lived for 10 years or more.
When asked about whether she always wanted to be a writer, she says, “Nope! I just wanted to chill, have kitty parties and be a helicopter mommy! Did not work out well for myself, kids, hubby or my social life too! Discovered writing and Rupa agreed to publish my first book. And hence here I am.”
She further adds, “I think writing for me is basically trying to understand how life works for me. So when I was struggling with own self (though the battle is still on) I wrote Me- a Handbook for life where I questioned achievers on how they managed to stay afloat in their worst phases. And then when I had kids and got contradicting advice on parenting, Roots and Wings surfaced. And post that All and Nothing. Now I am obsessed with man-woman relationships hence Bonobology! Of course I put a few Chicken soup titles together and that taught me a lot too.
All of us are a store-house of stories…only that many of us can’t put words to paper. There is nothing more enlivening than meeting someone who has bared his/her soul via an experience. Being a writer gives me this means, and I am grateful for that.“
Rabindranath Tagore, Simone de Beauvoir, Kiran Nagarkar, Milan Kundera, Hanif Kureishi and Jean-Paul Sartre are her favorite authors.
Challenges while starting up
Raksha talks about the challenges she had to face while starting her venture.
“While people want to read our stuff, it is not a very shareable kind of content. Because we talk about cheating, issues in the bedroom, conflicts with in-laws etc. For a website to go viral the content has to be shared. That was one issue. We are doing light content along with serious ones…
Another was to convince people to actually come to us with their stories. No one wants to talk about their personal stuff. Also, it is human nature to showcase what is best and happy (to the world) and hide what does not work. But now we get about 20 stories in our in box everyday. We allowed people to change names to protect privacy and used pen names. We have somewhat overcome this challenge. “, she says.
So many. A book that is my soul, written around poker has still not found a publisher. And I refuse to self publish. What have I learnt from it? That I would still write another book like that because I am proud of it. It is okay to do things once in a while which may not have an reward value.
Vision for Bonobology
She wants Bonobology to be the one stop website for any happy, sad, challenging, celebratory time in a couple’s life or someone who is in the dating space or one who has been divorced and is not single!
“Here people can share stories under their name or as anonymous, people can meet like-minded others, people can seek counselling, can advice others from what they learnt. We need to learn from each others relationship experiences. I am hoping Bonobology will offer that space!“, says Raksha.
I love this quote from Milan Kundera,
“It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, convictions, faith, history. Human life — and herein lies its secret — takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch.”
This is what I understand about life too!
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