Let me start with the story of my life.
When I was 2, I wanted to be an astronaut.
When I was 4, I wanted to be a doctor.
When I was 8, I wanted to be a teacher.
When I was 12, I wanted to be a writer.
But when I was 16, I was sitting with a bunch of bright students in an IIT-JEE coaching class. While these students were going to make their parents and the country proud, I had no idea where my life was going to take me.
Now, let’s take a pause, you might wonder – What went wrong?
I wanted to be an astronaut because the stars would fascinate me.
I wanted to be a doctor because it was the ‘in’ thing to do back in time.
I wanted to be a teacher because my mom is a teacher and I’d love the fact that she added value to others and got immense love and respect in return.
However, I wanted to be a writer because I did not have any specific reason. I just loved writing and words came naturally to me. When I was 12, I wrote a poem, a day before the math exam as it rained heavily. Everyone appreciated my capacity to translate emotions into words. It also got picked by a local English Newspaper.
The joy of being published was immense.
But, in the days following the results of my board exams, my dad – who has a thing for maths, and my relatives who were all becoming engineers, lured me into the perks of becoming a high-salaried employee and my dream took a backseat.
‘Royalties don’t pay the bills,’ they would say.
I went on to pursue a course in Computer Science and Technology. After engineering, I had two options. I could either go for the job I had secured at the campus placement or pursue an MBA and double the numbers of my current offer letter.
I chose the latter. Also, it allowed me to buy some time and delay the decision of following my dream. Post-MBA, I realized my aspiration of doubling the digits of my first offer letter. I patted myself on the back.
I moved to Mumbai, the city of dreams like a million others, only to see my dream of becoming an author shatter into a million pieces like glass. Three months into the job, I started to feel depressed, demotivated, dejected about life. So much so, that on one of the many sleepless nights that I survived, I wanted to die. I started questioning things around me, within me! An existential crisis is rare at a young age. To me, it happened when I was just 23. I had started my corporate career after MBA, with all the enthusiasm as everybody else does. I looked into the mirror and told myself, that from now on, no matter what the world says, I will become an author. I would write my first book.
It was a regular day at the office. I went up to my boss and asked him, ‘What is it that excites you?’
‘What keeps you going every day?’
And, then, I recall, he told me, ‘I want to buy a luxury car next.’ I mean there is absolutely nothing wrong with his answer. But at that very moment, I realised that I did not have answers to the questions I had asked him.
I told myself, there has to be more to life, more than owning these material possessions. Something that makes you want to wake up from the bed and say that, ‘Hey! This is something I am passionate about.’
‘This is something I am going to create.’
‘This is something that can move people, touch their lives, create an impact in society.’
A few days later, after having spent sleepless nights in a row, I packed a rucksack, with bare essentials, and left Mumbai, in search of my true self. My husband Kushal was then-boyfriend working on his startup. He encouraged me to quit the rat race and work passionately for my long lost dream of becoming a published author. I still feel blessed to have a mentor like him.
This was the year 2016.
After quitting my corporate career and devoid of its perks, I worked as a freelancer in the domain of marketing by the day and travelled extensively from the savings I could manage. I hit the open road. I travelled from the Himalayas to the Andamans. I even tagged along with a bunch of friends who had to be there for a startup event in Barcelona. Yeah, I can get desperate at times! Especially when it comes to travel. I had no idea where life was going to take me next. But I was just enjoying the ride. I met people on the open road – artists, entrepreneurs, saints, visionaries, who inspired me to the core and gave a new direction to my life.
Meanwhile, I discovered myself, my true self. Somebody who likes to talk to people, random people. Somebody who wants to listen to their stories. Somebody who wants to tell stories, share stories. I felt a sense of belonging to the world. I believe that only travel and exploration can do such magic to someone. When we move out of our routine lives, break out of our comfort zone, we become capable of things we had never thought we could be capable of.
I started to pursue my long lost dream of becoming a storyteller, with conviction, without fear, or doubts. I would travel and write. Travel more. Write more. I wanted to write a story that has an impact, that helps me channelise the energy of the youth, that inspires them to take a stand and do things their heart desires to.
During this time, I also realized that we fight two kinds of battles in India. The first one is with ourselves, and if we can win that, the next is with society. Everybody I met around asked me the same question – ‘Hey! So you quit your job? Congratulations! Passion? How do you pay the bills? Is writing even a career? Is speaking even a career? Not everybody becomes as successful as Chetan Bhagat. Hundreds of books hit the market every day. It is a very tough path. The chances of failure are super high.’
To which I found an answer. I would tell them, ‘it’s a lot more rewarding to fail at something you always dreamt of rather than failing every day at being yourself in the first place.’
My mom, one of my biggest supporters till date tells me, that don’t listen to anyone, just listen to your heart, you will live with yourself till the day you die, nobody else would. Meanwhile, I also realised that travel was my inspiration. When society judged me, new places, new people, new experiences embraced me.
I conceived the idea of my first book On The Open Road while sitting in Starbucks Cybercity Gurgaon. I would work from there on my book for long hours with a free Wi-Fi facility in exchange for one of the cheapest cups of coffee on their menu – a short classic cappuccino.
My characters are just one of us, trying hard to lead the lives they wish to. Their journey is more about breaking free from the old routine lives to be able to embrace the new. The emotional journey that one has to take, to be able to live their dreams.
In 2017, after completing the first draft, I wrote to various leading publishers. I finished my novel only to realise that getting published is the only thing to do now. I felt as if I had tasted victory. And defeated every opponent that I had met on the way. When I started writing out to publishers I never really heard back from any. And that’s what happens to any less known aspiring author in India.
Dejected and clueless, I participated in Amazon Kindle’s Pen to Publish competition and my first book released as an ebook. But, unfortunately, life is not always a fairytale ride. I could not secure the first place but my book was in the notable mentions list. I was overwhelmed by the rave reviews my book garnered and it encouraged me to write my second book – You Only Live Once!
On the other hand, I realised I had made a big mistake not taking up enough freelance assignments and my bank balance was nearing a zero. Another mistake that I made was, I presumed, literally presumed that my family would not support me with my unconventional life choice and therefore never told them what I was really up to. People who love you, people who care for you, are really important. When you decide to take the plunge, make sure they are a part of the journey. When I opened up to my family they helped me jeer through the emotional and financial crisis, especially my dad. My brother Swapnil still helps me navigate writers’ blocks!
In 2018, I started a coffee table book venture with my friend but we later had to shut it down as the Indian companies were not ready to spend on coffee table books and felt that the product was an unnecessary luxury. This failure put my financial life on a ventilator. Post this debacle, I took every freelance opportunity that came my way to make ends meet. I accepted every failure that came my way as a challenge and strived hard to become a better version of me every day. I learnt from the mistakes I had made and moved on.
In 2019, I made my TV debut as I hosted the series ‘Kar Ke Dikhayenge.’ I was approached by one of my mentors, Amit Singhal, who felt that I could pull off the role with ease as I am talented at speaking effortlessly. The entire TV Series broadcasted every week on Hindi Khabar Channel, Jio Network and Talentopedia platform.
Through these years, I decided not to give up on my dream of becoming a successful author and persevered to build a vibrant community of readers & followers on social media that I address as #SCFamily. I regularly interacted with my community and discussed my books, ideas, travel, life, dreams, startups, love and much more. One of my readers, Vivek, eventually came onboard and became my manager. He helped me streamline a lot of my marketing and operational efforts.
In 2020, I self-published my second book ‘You Only Live Once’ and sold a record 13,000+ copies on my own despite the pandemic making the book one of the highest selling self-published titles in India. I believe in the power of community and feel that my readers and supporters have been the warriors in helping spread the word of mouth for my books. My readers, mostly Indian millennials searching for the meaning of life, relate to what the characters from my books go through and feel thoroughly motivated to take the plunge after reading my stories. The book sustained in the coveted top 100 Amazon Bestsellers list for many months. It’s a huge feat for me because I am a one-man army with a big dream in my eyes.
I credit the overnight success of my second book to the years of consistent hard work and learning from every failure that came my way after quitting my corporate career. I campaigned on my own for three years – travelled to every corner of India for speaking at various schools and colleges, built a social media presence, packed and dispatched books to customers, and spent sleepless nights in a row. My father-in-law helped me with managing book operations as I turned my home into a warehouse post marriage in 2019.
I was soon chased by multiple publishers. All this while my problem was not having a publisher to back my vision, now it was to choose the right partner. Finally, I hired an agent who helped me close a three-book deal with Penguin Random House India. My editor Roshini Dadlani, publisher Milee Ashwarya, and Sales Head Vijesh Kumar backed my content and worked on a strict timeline despite the Christmas-NewYear holidays.
Finally, I had an offer letter that made me cry tears of happiness unlike all the previous job offers. 2021 has begun on a promising note and my bestselling book ‘You Only Live Once’ as published by ‘Penguin Random House’ is live for pre-orders on Amazon.
In the end, everything that does not work out sums up to the things that do. The idea is to never give up, never give up on your dreams. I truly believe that each one of us, no matter where we come from, has that one idea that holds the potential to touch a million lives. I want to publish many more titles and possibly get my books adapted into movies.
Now I know, clearer than ever, the purpose of my life is to inspire people by sharing life-changing stories.
I sign my books by saying, ‘MAKE A MOVE,’ which ideally means two things:
1. Move from where you are, travel as much as you can, nothing can empower you more than the knowledge that you will get on the open road.
2. Move in life, from wherever you are, move from a relationship that doesn’t comfort you, quit the job you can’t stand a single day, don’t pursue the subject you don’t want to.
Three magical words – Make a move.
Link to buy my book – amzn.to/38X0LEF
I love to connect with my readers. Talk to me on:
To stay updated on book releases, events, book tours, speaker engagements, storytelling workshops, readers’ meet and greet, press releases and blog posts, subscribe at www.stutichangle.com.