Shunali Khullar Shroff is the author of the bestselling book Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother that was published in 2015. She has worked variously as a journalist and a communications consultant over the length of a career spanning two decades. Shunali writes for a host of publications such as the Quint, HT Brunch, Daily O and is a regular editorial contributor to theConde Nast Traveller, India. Shunali is also part of the core team that launched India’s largest women’s summit curated by Barkha Dutt called - We the Women. Her next book published by Bloomsbury will be out in May this year. She is a mother to two girls.
What inspires you?
As a writer, reading a well written book inspires me. Very often my children inspire me. One of them will say something and I will start thinking about it right away and then the next thing I know is, I am sitting up late at night, writing about it.
As a parent, I am constantly inspired by my mother who has a capacity to love like nobody else that I know.
How has what you do made an impact on your life?
To be able to write your experiences and share it with others via a book or an article is a rewarding experience. It feels good to hear from a complete stranger that what you have written has resonated with them. On a less serious note, there are many things that move me, and a few things that vex me and writing, like bloodletting, helps me to balance these excess emotions.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced getting to where you are today? How has that shaped you?
Being a writer is a solitary job, you need a sense of discipline to get to work every day. For me, that getting to work means just managing to sit without distractions on my writing desk. This is a big challenge for anybody who works from home, especially when your children are still at the stage where they need you, liked mine do. I wish there was some office space all writers from a certain zip code had to show up at daily and not having enough attendance meant that you would not be allowed to publish a story. I think somebody like me would benefit infinitely from a system like that.
My other problem is that unlike male writers, I do not have the luxury of going away to a writing retreat for a month while my wife tends to my children. This is something that all women writers who have young children feel limited by.
What did you want to be when you grew up? What options seemed open or closed to you, if any?
I was so confused when I was growing up about what I wanted to be. We did not have mentoring like kids do today or even the clarity of mind. I loved reading and hated having to study but there was a time that I was wanted to join the army like my father. In those days women could only join the army as doctors and so I decided to become a doctor. After my 12th I took the combined entrance test and did not get in.
Who is your role model?
It would have to be my father for his brilliance, his sense of humour, his positivity and his compassion.
What in life has brought you the greatest satisfaction?
I think being satisfied is a state of mind and if you cultivate that, you can be satisfied very easily. I am working on that state of mind.
I would say that being a mother has brought me a lot of satisfaction but that cannot be the only thing I suppose. Professionally, I am not satisfied as yet, one never is.
One piece of advice to women everywhere.
Love yourself. Do not be your last priority. Respect your feelings, your dreams, your desires. It is never too late to be anything you want to be.