Lipika Bhushan was leading the marketing function for one of the largest publishers in the country. Life had other plans. She decided to follow her own calling and created a successful organization while parenting a toddler. We caught up with her to understand what worked for her and how!
Tell us a little bit about your early life. If you had to pick up one definitive experience that shaped you to be the woman you are today, what would that be?
Well my dad was a bureaucrat and while like most children of government officers, we grew up in a much protected environment still he understood the need for his children to have a mind of their own, speak out and be fearless. That’s how we were groomed. Another common thing among children of civil servants is a huge focus on studies especially on doing well in mathematics and science. I love mathematics and problem solving. My father also had a big appetite for reading and love for languages (all, not just English) and to ensure we pick the habit he always ensured that I was surrounded with books. His love for literature being a science student was what I feel has had a trickle-down effect. He continues to be, much after he’s gone, the constant source of inspiration to excel in the task entrusted.
My mother is a vocalist and into yoga so focus and discipline is something I acquire naturally from her. She is a woman of great mental strength and has the ability to take risks. I am a trained Bharatanatyam dancer so have had a creatively rich environment full of writing, music and dance at home to grow up in and now I try to provide the same to my children.
My stay in Mumbai during my MBA and work, taught me a lot about professionalism and dedication.
My journey as a tom boyish kid trying to seek attention to taking pride in who I am and being comfortable in my skin, is a culmination of overall experiences and challenges life has thrown at me. More than gender I focus on being a good human being who has her heart and mind at the right place.
Marketing is a fairly challenging and time consuming function, how did you balance work life while you were leading the department for a large publisher?
To be frank it was mostly work until I got married. I married quite late as per the Indian middle class standard so for the longest part of my life it was all about career. Its only post marriage the question of work life balance arises, I guess J and I’m glad to have a partner who helps me manage it better.
On a serious note, given the kind of hours and commitment our jobs in marketing that are more about relationship management and PR make it tough on people to manage both work and home well but quite like one grows into a job, one grows into managing both work and life as well. After being in the Industry for almost 15 years, I guess learning to prioritize and to manage time is what helps strike a perfect balance.
Nurturing a good team to depend upon is also of utmost importance.
You gave up your corporate job to set up on your own because you wanted to devote more time to parenting. How has that worked for you?
Yes, I wanted to give time to my child. Didn’t quite like the idea of leaving them on house help. My dad was also suffering from a terminal disease around then and I wanted to spend time with him as well. So home took priority but it didn’t mean I needed to give up my work completely. I was carrying my baby and at the same time, carrying the idea of the gap my expertise could fill in the industry and that’s how MarketMyBook was born 6 months after my daughter’s birth.
The sheer hormonal changes a woman goes through post-partum, I feel can make her do something really significant about her life. It was the most healing transition from being a full time employee to being a full time mom and a part time entrepreneur. Many may not agree but women are a rock when it comes to mental strength, they just need to find it and channelize it.
It’s one of the best decisions I feel, I took. Now I have two and I am glad I am able to give them time.
Multitasking takes a huge toll on self care as far as women are concerned because the primary responsibility of parenting falls on them. What do you do to maintain your physical and mental health?
This I agree and for the longest time I didn’t bother to make time for self-care but after my second one turned 18 months I realized I must do something about ‘me’. When you are in your 20s and early 30s I guess, youth takes care of it all but as you age, you realize you must give yourself time.
Self-care should go notches up your priority list as you age. I realized it a bit late but now I make time for work out. Earlier it was aerobics and Zumba but now its yoga and brisk walks. I’ve realized that learning to breathe well is hugely important. It improves metabolism and health, both mental and physical.
I write poetry. That’s my outlet to anything that bothers me mentally. It’s very calming. In good times, travelling helps. We take off almost every month either for a weekend trip or every few months for a week or 10 days. It’s relaxing, refreshing and fun.
Covid has introduced the concept of a new normal with both increased work and family time. What is your advise to parents trying to adjust to this new reality?
Keep Calm and Stay at It. Most importantly make some ‘me time’
Can you share a few anecdotes with us of how your work has brought you joy in the midst of chaos?
In these uncertain times I’m glad we haven’t had a single day not having enough work at hand. We started out several initiatives during these times, one of them being Between The Lines, a YouTube space for writers to talk about not just their books but their lives. Being productive in adverse situations, having work, being able to pay salaries and cover costs even during lockdown for a small firm like ours, brings satisfaction.
Knowing that you give in more than 100% to what you do and that your writers and publishers you are working with are happy, brings joy.
What is your parenting philosophy?
It’s the children not parents competing. Remember you are there to guide on techniques and share your experiences with them but you cannot run the race for them. Each child is gifted with unique set of abilities, nurture those instead of forcing an all-rounder out of them.
How do you deal with the challenge of reduced outdoor activity and increasing screen time for kids?
We have installed timers for TV/Net hours post their classes that automatically go offline after the stipulated hours. This forces them to stay off screen. Once they are off screen they themselves device ways to remain active. Scaling the outdoor games to fit into indoors is another innovation we implemented. So they continue with basketball, hopscotch, swinging bars, skipping ropes. Mandala paintings on flower pots, pine cones etc helps them utilize hours without screen.
What are the three books every woman should read?
It’s tough to restrict it to 3 books but I would say genres every woman must include books from in her reading list is history/politics, thrillers and children.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Reading in the loo. One of the most peaceful places to read in.