28 February, 2019

#SpecialFeature :: #Interview with Radhika Sachdev, #Author of Second Go

*** Special Feature - February 2019 ***
About the Book:
Penned in real time, from the hospital bed while battling for life, on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone’s 4x2 inch keypad, the only device allowed to the patient in her supersanitized recuperating room, this book follows a hybrid format of medico-psycho thriller, interspersed with SMS chats, transcripts of medical records, and other workings of an addled mind overcome by sickness, yet determined to pull through.

It is a first-hand account of a liver transplant recipient’s journey in India, chronicled from the patient’s perspective in vivid detail as a series of dramatic events unfold in her life, completing the cycle from sickness to health, despair to hope.

It also tells the story of a single mom and breadwinner of the family, her strong bonding with her adoptive daughter, and her family and friends’ support. The author hopes that this book will give courage and direction to other patients whose lives are hanging by a thread, patients awaiting a life-saving cadaveric organ donation.

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Interview with the Author:

Hi Radhika! Please tell us about yourself. What were your aspirations while growing up?
I always wanted to write, not as an author per se, which came later, and quite by chance, not by design, but basically, I always wanted to have a career that had something to do with reading and writing. I guess, writing runs in my blood – it’s a kind of a catharsis. In school, I started doing poetry, and realised there aren’t many takers for it. In college edited the college magazine, and later when The Pioneer launched its local edition from Kanpur, where we were living at that time, I joined them as a cub reporter, the first woman journalist in the sleepy industrial city! Then about eight years ago, while still working for The Indian Express, I started moonlighting, discreetly rolled out my own content house by the name of ‘Write Solutions’, and finally, when we moved to Mumbai, about five years ago, added other services to my content outfit to turn into a full-fledged advertising agency. 
Simultaneously, I was also ghost writing and editing for celebrities in Mumbai. 
I really didn’t know I had a book in me, until my liver transplant happened two years ago, which is how Second Go took birth.

Journalism to writing a book, writing has been a big part of your life. What inspires you to write?
As I mentioned, writing is therapeutic for me. Alone in my super sanitised room for almost four months after the liver transplant, I had all the time in the world to introspect, take stock of my balance life, make a full recovery and think hard about the road ahead. 
Left to my own devises, except for the company of a full-time nurse, in that 10X12 feet room, my Samsung Galaxy phone became my lifeline to the world. I watched all the movies I had missed in cinema halls, read up literature I wanted to dig into; soaked up music with meditation, exercised, prayed, phone called my distant folks…and all things I didn’t normally find time for…and above all carried out business dealings, delegating work and client negotiations – all from my handset!
Second Go was also written in real time from this hand-set. While my sisters were toying with the idea of how much, and which relative or friend to inform about my conditions, they started receiving phone calls from anxious well-wishers as I was running a live news bulletin from my hospital bed; and would make public a new update each day on LinkedIn. 
LinkedIn became my first choice of a publishing platform, and in a way it was good because it kept me distracted from mundane matters, and kept me in touch with encouraging souls. 
It became my window to the world, and I could emote so easily on it, in a manner that was difficult to do with flesh and blood people, howsoever loving.

What is ‘Write Solutions’ all about? 
Just what the name spells out – it’s a boutique content outfit, but over the years we have matured and diversified – into graphic design, market research, web development, video marketing and even app development.
In my dealings with my clients, I found that most were quite happy to farm out more work to an outfit headed and manned by clutch of women (that too happened by chance not by design), who would encourage me to pick up the whole business off the table, as if discreetly suggesting that I outsource and manage that work. Somehow there was more trust in me. I took the cue, and went on adding more services and staff to my outfit. 
The first full-time designer I hired was a woman. She would come and wait for me to assign her work, and since I didn’t have any constant flow, I would get her to make all sorts of marketing collaterals for Write Solutions. 
That first month, she got so bored stiff that before leaving for home, she would remind me, “Maam, please search work for me for tomorrow.” 
Now I have so much work for her, we are thinking of taking another full time designer on board. 
It’s the same with web-development and social media marketing. We are looking for more resources. 

Tell us about Second Go. Was there any particular moment when you decided to get this book published or was it always something in the back of your mind when you started documenting your journey?
As I mentioned, Second Go started as blog series on LinkedIn. It generated a good amount of interest, so from there it started appearing on Times of India and Economic Times blog site. I was still in the hospital and penning from my hospital bed and phone – so there is a very raw feel to the material, which fortunately my Editor in Fingerprint! Publishing Vidya Suri has sought to maintain in the book. 
Later when I was fully recovered, I engaged Suhail Mathur of Book Bakers, to represent me and take it to various publishers, and thus landed this offer from Fingerprint! Publishing. It was never a pre-mediated plan.

How many drafts did it take to reach to the point that the book was ready to be published? How different was the final draft from the first draft?
It’s raw as it can be. How much can one edit on a small keypad of a smart phone. Thankfully, the editor assigned by my publisher also found merit in retaining that ‘real time’ feel of the book, including the chat transcripts with my family and office colleagues. For the sake of authenticity all that flavour has been kept intact, and that’s what makes Second Go more contemporary in feel, style, read, format and treatment.

How have the people in your life (especially those who are featured in the book) reacted to the book?
The response is mixed. Initially, they were unsure, especially my immediate family. It was like I was baring a slice of my life – my intimate health secrets, the most troubling period of my life, my soul bare for public consumption. They were worried that it would make me vulnerable. But since I am a very strong-willed person, and they too know that writing keeps me going, they kind of passively accepted. They were always wary of course on what they might discover in print about each other in the next day’s blog!
When I wield a pen in my hand, I can be brutally honest about myself and also about my circumstances, my situations, my complex choices in life. 

Please share the role played by 3 people (outside your family) in your inspiring journey.  
First and foremost, I am extremely thankfully to the entire liver team at Sahyadri Hospital, Pune, led by Dr. Bipin Vibhute – without their care and competence I would not be alive and talking about my experiences. Secondly, I would like to thank the practitioners of Soka Gakkai wherein total strangers from this incredible Japanese Buddhist movement, would chant and pray for my well-being. 
Last, but in no way the least, my staff and my clients, who kept my business going. 
Even when I was not fully hands-on, but needed to keep the show going. 

What would you say was the most difficult part in getting the book published? 
Surprisingly, I didn’t face much of a difficulty. The idea clicked on LinkedIn, and I landed this book deal fairly easily. With Internet and Social Media as the new mediums for self-publication, authors like me have more control over the outcome now.  If I hadn’t found a publisher, I would have gone on blogging, or done a website, as I already have about the book – www.radhikasachdev.in

If you could pick any famous author to read & review your book who would you pick and why?
If he were alive today, I would’ve loved to have Paul Kalanithi,  Neuro surgeon and Author of When Breath Becomes Air to review Second Go. Paul feels like an ally – a fellow traveller in time, with the same set of gut-wrenching experiences. He would have had empathy. He would perhaps understand my loneliness, and my need to write during the darkest hour of my life. 
That dark phase when the one question that bogs you is – “Why me?” and my sister had a fitting response to that question, “Why not you? What’s so special about you?” 
Perhaps nothing, which is why I like others, have to take the pain with the laughs; good fortune with bad. 

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
You can write only when you begin to feel deep. It could be anything that can trigger off the instinct to get your words on paper.
My late Mom never liked my profile of a professional ghostwriter. “When are you going to write your own book?” she would question. But again, had she known I would like to undergo a liver transplant to be able to write my first book, she would not have so pestered me. 

If the readers can take away only ONE message from the book, what you want them to learn?
Don’t EVER give up on yourself – even at the weakest, darkest moment.

What’s next for you? 
There are two projects in the pipeline.
A. Tentatively titled Everyday Survival Mantras, this also follows a hybrid format of a collection of micro blogs that I write on LinkedIn just to release some steam of the daily pressures of living. I have a feeling – from the response that these micro blogs have been generating – that it would resonate with people, who juggle too many things in their complex lives. The tone is tongue-in-cheek not heavy, and a wee bit self-deprecating, which I’ve discovered is my signature style.
B. Another project brewing within me is a sequel to Second Go. This time, I want to seek permission from the Zonal Organ Transplant Co-Ordination Committee to allow me to retrieve the antecedents of my liver donor, meet his survivors and investigate their role in my story in order to make sense of this #LifeBank tradeoff. 
I think Second Go will remain incomplete without its sequel – “I Go.” 

About the Author:

Radhika Sachdev is an independent journalist who has held senior editorial positions with leading news banners – the Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Financial World, and The Pioneer. Presently, she runs her own advertising outfit, Write Solutions.

Connect with the Author:
Website * Facebook * LinkedIn

Two lucky Indian Residents can win a paperback copy each of Second Go 

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