With International Women’s Day around the corner, we spoke with children’s author and an editor, Shruthi Rao has been writing for over 10 years now. Her works include 8 books for children, along with several short stories, many of which have won multiple awards. Some of her best selling books include Susie Will Not Speak, Manya Learns to Roar, 20 Indians who changed the world, 10 Indian Women who were the First to do What They Did, to name a few.
Originally from Bangalore, she’s settled in San Francisco since 2015. She has also written many essays on travel, science, culture, and parenting, which have been published internationally. Rao has also worked with NGOs to develop content for children.
An avid “reader, science maniac and information junkie” in her own words, Rao spoke with EducationWorld on the occasion of Women’s Day on the challenges she’s overcome and liberties she’s enjoyed being a woman.
What inspired you to become an author? What are the challenges you faced as you navigated this career?
Most people who love to read, dream of writing. That is how it began for me too.
At the beginning of my writing career, I had two major challenges – one, I had a small child to look after, so it was not easy to carve out time from my day to write. I usually wrote when she slept. I could cook and clean when she was awake – I could engage her, talk to her, and involve her in my chores, so I preferred doing all that when she was up. But writing was impossible with an active, talkative child, so I had to do that when she went to bed. But sometimes, I was so tired that I fell asleep along with her and lost precious writing time! After she started school, I had more time to write. So, you could say that my career also grew along with my child.
The other great challenge was to get my work published, of course. It has become slightly easier now. Only slightly.
As a woman, what are the challenges you faced while growing up/the liberties you enjoyed as a woman?
I was fortunate to grow up in a family that did not place any restrictions on me in terms of what to wear, what to study, how to behave, what sport to play, whom I could go out with, and so on. As I grew older and moved out of home to study and for work, I placed certain limitations on myself for my own safety – no solitary after-dinner walks, for instance.
How do you balance between your personal and professional lives?
I write every day from 9 to 3, with breaks in between. After my daughter gets home, I spend time with her, cook, write some more if possible. After dinner, I hang out with family unless I am behind on a deadline, in which case I write into the night. I usually don’t write much on weekends. Thanks to a partner who takes on equal (and sometimes more) responsibility for managing the house, I have sufficient time and mind space to write.
What according to you is feminism? As a woman, where do you think we are lagging behind? And how can we address them?
Feminism is to acknowledge that there are gender-based problems in the world, to speak up for those who are discriminated against, and to work together to fix these issues.
We are lagging behind in every field you can think of. Take the example of what is considered the pinnacle of innovation and technology and development – the space programme. NASA initially cancelled its all-women spacewalk because of a lack of women-sized spacesuits. This is evidence that we still live in a world designed for men. If this can happen at that level, clearly we still have a long way to go.
We need to address it with a concerted effort – the first step would be to say that yes, these are problems, and we need to solve them. A good step forward would be to make sure women involve themselves in decision-making processes everywhere.
What are your future projects in the pipeline?
A STEM-based non-fiction book for children is in the pipeline. Meanwhile, I have started working on some more books – some fiction, one non-fiction.
Your message for women on Women’s Day?
Use your voice. For yourself, and for those who are not able to use theirs.International, News