Bonobology Founder, Raksha Bharadia On What Stirs The Souls Of Indian Couples
- IWB Post
- July 4, 2019
I happened to speak to an amazing woman the other day. She is Raksha Bharadia, a writer who had also edited 13 titles of the Chicken Soup series. In pursuit of getting to know more about her, I called her up and we mutually agreed to have a Skype call.
Raksha is also a founder of an online portal for Indian couples, Bonobology. The portal has space for forums, and they also offer access to professional marriage counselors to resolve issues.
I look forward to a soulful dialogue with you. What is your three-ingredient recipe for a soulful conversation?
Well, here’s what you need if you want to have a deep conversation: first, you need to do some research on them and understand them.You need to look at the conversation from a 360-degree point of view, that is, from every aspect. And, finally, you need to approach the conversation with integrity.
Tell us about that one moment when you ‘chickened out’ in your life but won over that fear later?
It was around the same time when I came up with the idea of Bonobology. I was scared that I would be unable to handle it. When you write, you have you and a publication team but when you start a portal you have different teams of marketing, digital media, editing, and writing. I had to even take a break with my family and went to Mount Abu to cool down. When I was back, I knew that I loved the portal too much to let go of it.
What was your self-discovery while working on Chicken Soup series?
It was about five years ago when I was working on one of the titles of the series. I had an argument with my friend, and we never spoke after it for about seven months. When I was penning down an intro for the book, I just came to realise that the argument that I had been holding on to was so petty. I quickly called her up and we reconciled.
Which one fundamental conflict are you working to resolve within yourself?
I was in conflict with myself as a daughter, a wife, a mother and as a person. I have started to come to terms with it.
What is your favorite book for the soul?
Well, I have many! But my favorite authors are Simone De Beauvoir, Milan Kundera, Leo Tolstoy, and Mahasweta Devi.
What is your favorite soup?
*laughs * Chilli Bean soup. Oh, I love it!
Is there any one relationship that inspired Bonobology?
I guess it wasn’t just one relationship that inspired the portal. I was working on a book ‘Chaos’ that spoke about fidelity and sexuality in Indian marriages; I went around interviewing people. We need to understand that our marriages are different from what our parents had. Professor Jyani from The Family Planning Commission told me that only 19% of couples live in joint families now. The 81% that is nuclear families; and those couples don’t have a role model to look up to today. There are various problems every couple faces; and just to understand that, I started the portal.
What relationships do inspire you?
It’s that of one of my friends and her husband. He used to be an average patriarch that couldn’t accept a working wife. He made her leave her job. But now, years down the line, she owns a yoga institute, and he is very supportive of her. I love how their relationship has grown into a loving bond over the years.
How do you think the institution of arranged marriages should evolve now?
I think it is already changing. Unlike earlier, parents are giving more choices to their children. The children now spend a few months to get to know each other and then decide if they want to get married or not.
What is a fair sacrifice in a relationship?
Both spouses have their moments of being the king or the queen. No one’s sacrifice is fair in a relationship. We need to adapt constantly and re-adapt ourselves according to each others’ likes.
What is the most common problem Indian couples come up with on your portal?
Well, even if we live in nuclear families, most of us are still controlled by our in-laws and topics related to that get a lot of hits. Also, we get lots of stories of infidelity and stay-at-home dads.
How did you come around to writing ‘Me: A Handbook for Life’?
I went to a self-development class, and we had to write our wishes on a note. I wrote that I want to write a book. The next day I went and bought myself a notebook and started working on a book. I sent my manuscript to many publications but got rejected by all of them. I then happened to come across a 70-year-old publisher named Mr. Mukherjee and sent my manuscript to him asking what was wrong with it. He sent me a list of mistakes that was probably bigger than the manuscript. *Laughs* So after his feedback, I started working on my book until I was content with it and was approved by some publications. Finally, I went forward with the publishing procedure with Rupa Publications.
Do you follow this handbook now and what would you like to change in it considering it was a decade long since its release?
*laughs* Not completely. If I could change anything, I would have added a chapter on spirituality because of the Indian tradition we have grown up with.
How has your personal handbook for life evolved since then?
I live on three mantras now.
- This too shall pass.
- Rabindranath Tagore’s quote that talks about both evil and good in life – and that good always triumphs.
- Invite criticism.
What’s the best life advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
I met with architect Mr. BV Doshi while I was working on ‘Roots and Wings.’ We were taking a walk in autumn, and we came across a tree without leaves and nests. Just branches. He asked me, ‘do you think its life is over?’ And I said yes. He called me back for a walk a few months later around spring, and we came to the same tree again and this time it was full of life. He told me that a sad moment in our life could look like the end for us. We need to start living life and enjoying it frame by frame.
What is one emotion you always let out?
I find it really hard to keep quiet when I am upset. I need to have gravity to control my responses towards someone I am upset at.
You find goodness boring. How do you make it interesting?
Goodness never exists in a vacuum. No person is completely good. Everyone has grey and white areas and to make it interesting, two people should be willing enough to discuss both of the grey and white areas.
And what bores you to death?
Small talk. I get very bored when there is no personal element in a conversation.
So, I stalked you a bit on your website and noticed that you can relate to Bhagat Singh.
I think the fact that we stand for what we both believe in.
You ask not to be disturbed while taking your much needed one-hour walk. What thoughts do you have on that walk?
My mind is always in a state of chaos, so I try sorting out dilemmas and think how to take things forward. Else, I just listen to songs.
You’ve admitted on your website that you want to take a solo trip to Auroville and have been delaying it for the past few years, How can we prevent procrastinating our dreams?
*laughs* if I knew, I would’ve already visited the place by now. It’s become a huge joke in the family.
What do you think people enjoy hearing the most?
People like it when you dig into their lives and ask them about their passions, likes, and dislikes.
What do you always say yes to?
I don’t always say yes to everything, but I do try to accommodate my kids’ requests.
And what do you always say no to?
Big parties, anything more than five couples is a crowd. And kitty parties. I do not like them at all.
What makes you drunk beyond Laphroaig?
A nice bottle of wine and if you’re talking about a non-alcoholic element, I would say dance but my feet start screaming after a while.
You believe in angels. What do you think they do in their free time?
I believe that angels are very happy souls and live without guilt. I think in their free time they sit and laugh at how seriously we take our lives.
Once I was done with the Skype call, I heaved a sigh of relief. Not because it was over but because, for the first time in my life, I did not have to hang up due to the bad reception. The conversation between us slid like butter. The conversation proved to be truly soulful.
Photo Source: Raksha Bharadia
This article was first published on August 16, 2016.