Being An #ArmyWife Didn't Stop Sutapa From Building Her Own Identity

Last updated 12 Jun 2017 . 7 min read

In an exclusive interview with SHEROES, Sutapa Basu unveils her mystical yet compelling self and takes a road down the memory lane of experiencing life with the multitudes of tastes it offers.

An author, poet, and publishing consultant.  She also dons the hat of an editor and calls herself a compulsive bookworm.

“During a thirty-year-old professional career as a teacher, editor, and publisher, I have travelled the Indian subcontinent, Nepal, and Bhutan. I have visited UK, USA, and Dubai while working as the Editorial Manager, Oxford University Press, India, and Publishing Director, Encyclopædia Britannica, South Asia until 2013 when I decided to focus on writing only.

As a publisher, I have developed and published around 400 books. As of now, I am a freelance editor and counselor to several authors.

I have authored a solo novel called Dangle, co-authored four anthologies, two poetry collections and edited six novels and one non-fiction. I am the author and editor of an English school series of 27 books and a Value Education series for classes 6 to 8.

Recently, my short story was awarded First Prize in the Times of India’s nationwide WriteIndia Contest, under author, Amish Tripathi. I also write stories for children of all ages. My stories, blogs, and poetry can be read on my website

Being an army wife posed certain challenges for my career

As an Army brat, marriage to an army officer seemed a natural transition. I took up this nomadic way of life with eyes wide open. A corporate career, my dream, was not possible if you were hopping all over the country.

So, I took a degree in teaching because schools existed even in the remotest parts of the country.

Fortunately, I was always able to pick up a teaching position wherever we were posted. I made a career of it by honing my skills not just at teaching academics at all levels but training students to publish school magazines, in dramatics, dance and public speaking.

During the 16 years of teaching, I also had an opportunity to administer as a Vice Principal and HOD.

When all I could do was adapt to my circumstances

These were the ways that I adapted myself to circumstances and yet built an identity. It was difficult, especially in the 80s and 90s, when there was no access to Internet. So there was no question of working from home. Even telephonic connectivity was a problem in the border areas where we lived. Still, I would send off my writings to magazines and newspapers by post and was elated when some of them were published.

It was only when I joined the publishing industry, was I really able to satisfy my cravings of wielding some influence in my field of expertise.

My efforts paid off

I am quite proud of the fact that it was during my stint at the Oxford University Press, that English textbooks prescribed in private schools truly implemented the communicative way of multi-skill language teaching so that it benefited school students all over India. Today, the parameters that OUP had set back then have become a trend followed by most educational publishers. Encyclopedia Britannica, South Asia invited me to establish a school education vertical in India that was a first for the company worldwide. It gave me immense satisfaction to see it up and running within two years of my taking over as the Publishing Director in its South Asia branch.

Life as a writer

I have always been writing. At eight years, I would write plays simply because my friends and I wanted to put up plays as a game and we needed scripts. After our games were over, my plays written on scraps of paper would be flying around. My mother picked them up and preserved them. I wrote as a teenager and as I jaunted around the country and abroad with my husband. I am a voracious reader, so I had always aspired to write like my favourite authors and captivate readers as they did.

When I joined the publishing industry, my long commutes to office and back churned up stories and poems that I would key in the moment I reached. Many of the textbooks published by Britannica have my stories and poems.

Calling it quits, to pursue my passion; writing

By 2013, I was finding it difficult to give time to my first love while coping with a rigorous corporate job. So I decided to quit. It was a difficult decision especially to give up the fat compensation and fancy perks. But my husband and children supported me. After that I was writing like crazy; short stories, poems, features, solo novel, children’s fiction, educational series. I launched my website and began posting on FB, Google, and Twitter. I was inundated with requests to edit books and train teachers and authors. My work day begins at 9 am daily and ends at 10 or 11 pm. Sometimes I work even on Sundays. I just ensure that I invest some time into physical exercise because sitting constantly at my laptop can be very sedentary.

Genres that I want to dabble in

I have always loved reading suspense fiction, detective thrillers, psychological thrillers and historical fiction. So those are definitely the genres I would want to explore. Dangle is a psychological thriller. I staunchly believe that one should write the kind of stories that one likes to read.

Who’s a happy writer?

A lot of passion, self-discipline, patience to edit, rewrite, ability to live, breathe and dream the story you are writing and the supreme contentment of seeing your name as author on a book cover. If these are a writer’s reasons to write, it makes for a satisfied writer. If the purpose to write is to find fame and money, then that is a recipe for a disappointed writer.

3 innings of my career

When I began my work life, I was quite content to be a school teacher. But, after 16 years of this, I realized that my personal growth was stagnating. I began looking for other avenues where my teaching experience would be useful but give me more to learn and do.

Fortunately, the publishing industry opened its doors to me. When I joined at a middle management position at OUP, my editorial team knew more about publishing than I did. But my boss, Mr. Ranjan Kaul, the Publishing Director happened to be an excellent guide and within a few months, I was confidently implementing leading publishing trends.

During my 13 years of publishing career, I learnt, assimilated and got opportunities to apply my expertise. It was an extremely productive period of my life. But my writing began to lose out.

Becoming an author and a writer was my third innings at a career. In the last four years, I have been writing quite a great deal and I hope I continue to write as long as my mental faculties allow me to.

Job satisfaction is a reality

Despite not earning a lot of money, I feel so fulfilled each day as I write at my desk; a feature, story, a post, a review, a poem whatever. Over the last thirty-five years of my working life, I have had three careers. Each one has given me gratification, knowledge, opportunities to learn new skills, apply my experience and learning. Of course, there were challenges. How else is one incited to innovate and experiment? Only by trying to find solutions to problems does one learn, isn’t it? So I invite difficulties, they are my training ground, even now. Change must be welcomed not avoided, I believe."

Liked what you read? Well, here's more of Sutapa Basu.

Lola Jutta
An unapologetic writer, budding travel enthusiast and a default optimist! Life is what you make out of it.

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