Disha Chhabra, 35, is a product manager at Google, Bengaluru. Her day job involves a lot of document writing, meeting several cross functional stake-holders and driving consensus on various issues.
Chhabra’s love for books comes from a cousin who was very fond of reading. Though she used to write poetry while she was in school, it was really at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, that Chhabra started writing regularly and even had blog. Even then, she had no plans to write a book till she got fascinated by some of her batchmates who had left behind well settled career paths to pursue higher education. “One common challenge for each of them was to balance professional ambitions with personal responsibilities. I found this fascinating and decided to write a book about some of these struggles,” she says. This collection of short stories, My Beloved’s MBA Plans, was published by Srishti Publishers in 2013, right after her graduation. Finding a publisher was not an easy task though.
Chhabra, who has published three books, has never really stuck to a particular genre while writing. She has written a romantic non-fiction, a non-fiction self help in the area of disability as well as a corporate satire. However, the underlying theme of all her books is real life inspirations. Her second book, Because Life Is A Gift, which happens to be her favourite of the three, deals with disability through the eyes of some inspirational people. It was published in 2014 by her previous publisher. Her third book Corporate Avatars, published in 2017 by Jaico, is a humorous take on the different kinds of people we meet everyday at our workplaces and how can we deal with each of these 40 plus personality types.
Day job vs writing
Chhabra is clear that she has no plans of taking up writing as a profession and would rather pursue it as a passion. She believes to bring out the best in her writing, it cannot be a profession from which she earns her bread and butter. “Writing is a non-negotiable trait in my job. My role demands a lot of professional writing everyday. Be it simple emails to peers to three year plans for executive presentations, 70% of my workday is writing, so being a writer actually helps,” she says. “I also write a lot of professional articles on LinkedIn and Medium, in an attempt to share my knowledge with those who want to be product managers,” she adds.
She does not have a set time of the day when she writes. “I generally do not even push myself to write. But there are days when an idea, a subject gives me a lot of food for thought. And that is when the writer in me cannot wait any longer,” she says.
Kindle vs paper
Chhabra prefers books to a Kindle. She tried reading on a Kindle but says nothing beats the physical books. Lately, she has been getting hooked to audio books. She listens to these while working out.
A writer’s challenges
Crossing the barrier of the first 25 pages has always been the hardest barrier for her. While she loves to write, she feels strained with the process of marketing and selling her books. “I wish there was a well-oiled system to take care of everything else and leave the writer alone with the pen,” she says.
Reading right now
Chhabra just finished reading Never Lost Again by Bill Kilday, one of the founding members of Keyhole, which was acquired by Google. Kilday gives behind the scenes glimpses to how Google Maps—which revolutionized the world— came in to being. The book , she says, is about imagination, and implementation. She is currently reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Patrick Egan. “It is a great reflection of how the human mind creates biases without meaning to, what are its implications and how can one be conscious of these biases and work towards a more informed decision making,” she says.
Most favoured author
Ayn Rand is a favourite from childhood days and continues to be one. “She revolutionized my thought process through her stories and strong characters. Howard Roark, from The Fountainhead stayed with me even after decades,” she says.
Author at Work is a series that follows the lives of part-time writers who hold a corporate day job.