We post happy couple pictures on social media, but are we really happy?
asks 36-year-old Raksha Bharadia, a homemaker-turned-writer. She is now the founder of a relationship website Bonobology, an interactive platform to rave, rant, discuss and resolve modern-day relationships.
Born in a Marwari family in Kolkata, Raksha studied Political Science at the Loreto college. Not even in her wildest dreams did Raksha think she would be a writer.
Discovering a passion
After marriage, she moved to Ahmedabad and spent five years of her life as a homemaker. The turning point came when Raksha was asked to write down what she wanted to become on a piece of paper at a self-development workshop she was attending.
The five years of staying at home had given me a lot of free time to think and retrospect. I had discovered my interest in human psychology and relationships and wrote ‘Writer'.
This marked the beginning of a successful writing career. Raksha’s first book, ‘Me A handbook for Life’ was about why people are the way they are and what makes a winner different?
I was always intrigued by questions like why are two people different? What makes a winner, win? What goes on within a person who is genuinely happy, and another who is miserable? Of course some people are endowed with favourable life situations and a position, but beyond this, what makes the recipe for a complete and happy life? I decided to find out.
Raksha went about doing in-depth research, and interviewed personalities such as Vikram Chandra, M.F. Hussain, Pandit Jasraj, Mahesh Bhatt, Kiran Bedi, Birju Mahraj and Zohra Sehgal to put the book together. All her hard work paid off when her book got published by Rupa & Co in 2006.
Riding high on the success of her first book - ‘Me A handbook for Life’ - she went on to write her second book - ‘All and Nothing’, which was also published by Rupa & Co in 2010. The book journeys with the five characters with very different personalities pause to contemplate where they are and what they want - 'Nothing' or ‘All’.
Around the same time, she was approached by The Chicken Soup Series to become the editor for the India series. She went on to edit and compile 13 titles for them between 2008-2012. During this stint, Raksha got acquainted with a lot of great writers from all over the country and decided to start ‘Bonobology’ in 2015.
While doing research for my first book, I came across interesting modern day relationships and realised that beneath the simple looking equations lies a lot of complexity. We as a country are changing fast, there is a clash between a lot of factors and I felt the need for an outlet to document everyday stories of relationships.
The online portal is an attempt to help make peace with various aspects of couple relationships through real-life stories, discussions or counselling. It is a non-judgmental space for all kinds of perspectives and approaches to couple relationships as Raksha puts it.
The inspiration behind calling it Bonobology came from Bonobos, a species of ape, whose societies know virtually no conflict. They are also the closest to humans in DNA.
We are trying to provide a space that will allow couples to resolve their conflicts and be more like our closest ape cousins!
The website has personal narrative and columns by relationship experts, sexologists, clinical therapists, marriage therapists and agony aunts. Raksha is also looking at getting a divorce lawyer on board in the days to come. Bonobology also has a Reddit-like discussion for relationships. But what sets it apart from the tonnes of similar content that is available online?
“We are very Indian in our approach to relationships. Of course there are tonnes of listicles on sex, dating and love, but what about the good, bad, ugly of coupledom? We are creating an interactive platform where people can rave, rant, discuss and resolve.”
Bonobology’s core team has nine members including Raksha and is spread around the country. The website has contributors across the country who are paid depending upon the quality of articles and gets about 20-25 articles every day. A completely bootstrapped project, Raksha is currently working on a revenue model and talks with advertisers are on.
For the love of writing
As someone who went from being a homemaker to a writer and now an entrepreneur, Raksha has some solid advice for those wanting to take up writing as a career.
“In India even if you sell 2,000 copies you become a bestseller, and the author ends up getting a rough deal. I feel writing what you love can only be a side job or an augmented income. Writing in India is not still a very lucrative thing to do. What you can do, however, is to polish your abilities to become an editor. The digital world has given the writers a new lease of life and it is now possible to earn a decent sum by writing on various other topics. Things are starting to look exciting.”
Apart from writing her own books, Raksha also wrote screenplay and shortlisted stories for the show ‘Lakhon Main Ek’, which was aired on Star Plus. And as she goes about writing more interesting books and building Bonobology, she cannot stop gushing over that one moment in which she stumbled upon her real passion.
I come a typical marwari family where only a handful venture out of running a business and making money. There has never been a writer in my family for generations and I have set a new example. Now when my family comes to my star-studded book launches, they say, ‘we can earn crores, but never achieve this.’ I am so glad I get to make them proud,