Kusum Choppra


Born in Singapore and bred in Jakarta, I landed in India an impressionable pre-teen; and proceeded to fall in love with India. Contrariness is part of me. Example: I usually read magazines from the last page. Often even conceive stories backwards. In school and college, I topped the table in debates and public speaking, but hardly speak now. Public speaking leaves me weak kneed now. Even in Mastani, her dying monologue was the first piece I actually wrote. Loved reading and writing from the beginning. The start of exams preparation was always collecting books to read after the exams were over. But in college, I studied economics and politics with history because my sister had picked on English and geography. Fate made my choice of subjects perfect for a journalist.

Bahut papad belen hain. Junior editorial assistant at ‘Sunshine’ while in college. Then worked as P A in a bank and an Embassy. Later, ran a gas agency, a news agency and a handicrafts outfit which opened my eyes to India’s wonders and its poor who produce them. At some stage wandered back into journalism, this time real time, covering Gujarat for a clutch of publications. Then Editor at News & Views, with official speech writing, researched articles/news stories from the mundane to those that created ripples. Developed a massive clippings library along the way, scanning through a dozen odd papers and periodicals every day for future references. These made for articles with meat in them, making the clippings library the Mecca of all outstation journalists who poured in during crises.

In the course of the clippings library, I came across so much environmental and medical abuse that I became an ardent conservationist and started exploring alternate medical systems. It began with a working mom’s need for instant remedies, given to me by a Nursing Tutor whose father practiced in the North East. Thus Father Mueller specifics entered my home, my children’s very own first aid kit, a little wooden box with the remedies list taped in and sweet little pills to pop. Doctors only came into the picture much later, if the sweet pills failed to settle the upset tummies, the runny noses, the aching ears or teeth. Progressed to homeopathy, acupressure and reiki, which combined well with the numerology I had learnt from my eldest brother-in-law, Praaji who had been loco parentis at my runaway marriage.

Finally quit journalism for creative writing and a new baby. Perhaps also to salve my older kids who resented “Ma’s always with Pa”. Was it a conscience salve? Initially quitting journalism was a wrench. Where does one let off all that hot air?

Freedom First and Boloji were my pet vents until I immersed myself in my stories, occasionally freaking out on blogs. I started out with short stories, distilling the experiences of a lifetime into short, quickly readable pieces. The short stories progressed from the very short to short and longer and finally a novel. One led to another, my historical novel, followed by NIRBHAYA. with another already brewing.

Years after I started, I joined a women’s writing group called Kalam which opened my eyes to regional literature. Three years down the line, after listening intently to reams of poems in Gujarati, I have actually penned a couple of poems and tried my hand at Hindi too.