A corporate big wig, a former advertising professional, a writer, a mother – Priyadarshini Narendra, an IIM Kolkata and INSEAD passout has worn many hats. ‘You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky‘ is her first attempt at portraying life in the happening world of advertising. So we have her here for a short tete-a-tete.
Aseem: What was that one ‘spark’ which inspired you to pen down “You never know when you will get lucky”?
Priya: Believe it or not, the crucial parts of the story came to me in a dream. I had the same dream three nights in a row and realized that I had to write down the story! The rest of it was just fleshing out the before and after.
Aseem: How has the feedback been so far? Any titbits you would like to share?
Priya: The feedback has been pretty good so far. In fact, what has been surprising and gratifying is the number of guys who have enjoyed the story, given that it is told from the POV of a female protagonist.
Aseem: The book is a complete ‘Bollywood-esque’ rollicking journey. Is advertising really this much fun?
Priya: Advertising is this much and more fun. The thing is that it’s a completely non-hierarchical, irreverent profession. So people are mooh-phat and you find them from all sorts of backgrounds so it’s very diverse. And you’re always racing against crazy deadlines, dealing with creative egos and client egos, so having a sense of humour is essential. As someone once said, It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on :).
Aseem: Kaajal is vivacious, cheerful, sassy and a complete fashionista. How much of it is you? 🙂
Priya: I think Kajal is probably based on me a to a certain extent – many of the crazy incidents, including the skirt-tearing one, actually happened to me. I certainly do enjoy my clothes shopping as well 🙂
Aseem: How has your journey been in the advertising world?
Priya: It’s been a lot of fun as well as sheer hard work. I worked on some great brands and some breakthrough campaigns that really changed the future of the brands so it was a huge learning opportunity. I was lucky to work with a brilliant set of people and many of them are personal friends till date. Even though many people have moved out of advertising, we still remember those days with a lot of fondness and of course, laughter.
Aseem: What do you miss the most about the advertising industry?
Priya: I actually left advertising six years ago and have no plans to go back. But what I continue to miss is the work environment, where regardless of how crazy the deadlines are and of the fact that you’ve been working all night for days in a row, there’s always humour and laughter and a complete irreverence for designation. In fact, in advertising you’re encouraged to state your honest opinion regardless of how junior you are, which is not the case in most corporate professions, and people who pull rank are ragged endlessly. I do miss being able to be mooh-phat and state an honest opinion rather than have to couch it carefully. I miss the crazy people.
Aseem: Haven’t there been any moments when you thought “Oh! I am in the wrong profession”?
Priya: Not the wrong profession but I thought I had outgrown it and wanted to do other things which is why I moved out. Also, I realized after having kids that having very little patience to spare, I should save it for my kids rather than use it up on clients 🙂
Aseem: What’s your take on the kind of books on the Indian literary scene today?
Priya: I think the variety we have today is fabulous. When I was growing up, Indian fiction in English was mostly literary fiction and many of the authors focused on the struggles and travails of ordinary Indians, which I didn’t want to read since I could see it all around me. Today what’s great is that you have many genres of fiction, from literary to contemporary, romance, detective, thriller, mythological, fantasy and so on. It caters to many different types of readers rather than just the affluent urban. And yet, it’s all rooted in India which means an Indian reader can relate to it much more than books about George, Julian and Anne.
Aseem: A passionate writer or a voracious reader. You prefer?
Priya: Both! I have a personal library of over 5000 books at home, but I’m also a passionate writer.
Aseem: Any plans of becoming a full – time writer?
Priya: Not at the moment – I enjoy doing different things, from working at a corporate job to slogging away in my dreamworld of fictional characters.
Aseem: A mother. A career woman. A writer. Tell us your secret of managing it all.
Priya: Being an insomniac helps 🙂 More seriously though, I think it comes down to realizing that you can’t do it all and do it perfectly, so learning the art of letting some things go is key. For instance, our house is pretty messy and I’m ok with it. I’d rather spend that time horsing around with the kids, writing or working than spend ages making everything look just so.
Also, I’m lucky to have found and retained great domestic help, they are my backbone. And finally, the key to balancing everything is realizing that you’re not the only one who gets to work on achieving the balance, your spouse is equally in the trenches with you, so handing off to him or her and then letting them run with it is critical. When I’m traveling, I don’t leave any instructions for my husband, I expect him to take charge and know as much about running the house or managing the kids as I do, so I’m not constantly worried about how it’s getting managed.
Aseem: So which is your next book we can look forward to?
Priya: I don’t know – I always have three or four plots I’m working on and then it’s a question of which one sort of pours itself out the fastest and easiest.
Aseem: Would you like to say anything to your audience?
Priya: I hope you enjoyed the book and more importantly, I hope you always ‘get’ lucky in life!!!
Thanks, Priya for giving us your time. It was great talking to you. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours!