Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Brigade that Builds Brands: Writer, Novelist & Army wife Puja Mukherjee Khattri on creating a career that sustains you through different phases of life

Hello friends! Meet Puja Mukherjee Khattri, a freelance content writer and self-published novelist, and Army wife, who forged on in life and work with courage and gumption after she lost her Army officer husband on active duty, a few years ago. Puja and I have known each other online for the past many years. I really wanted her to share her story at The Brigade that Builds Brands to inspire ladies, whose husbands are still in service or those who have lost their better halves in the line of duty, to build sustainable careers from wherever they are in life or in the country.

puja mukherjee khattri - writer, novelist, army wife

CB. Please tell us something about yourself – what do you do, where are you based and how long have you been a fauji/military wife.

PMK. Hi Chandana, I am an army daughter and wife. I am a writer and have been writing for the last twenty odd years. The kids and I live in Delhi with my parents. We moved to Delhi after my husband, Lt Col Abhishek Khattri, died on active duty.

CB. Fauji wives make their home in an assortment of obscure places across the country. Our lives are about living in the moment and doing what we can, when we can. Can you share how you stayed creative or found work that satisfied you while moving across the country?

PMK. I truly believe that I am blessed in my choice of profession, because I can work from almost anywhere, as long as I have a computer and an internet connection. I have sent in my articles from the most interesting of locations. I remember standing at the doorway to our temporary accommodation in Sikkim, while it was snowing outside and the bukhari was on inside, waiting for the internet speed to pick up enough to send my email. And that time I used to log onto the internet through my cellphone. When we were moving out or moving into a new accommodation I have worked in middle of stacks of boxes!

Army wife writer & novelist

CB. Puja, how did you steer your work and what you wanted to do further on after you lost your husband? How did you find the gumption to go on and re-invent your career?

PMK. My husband was always very supportive of my work. He’d pitch in any and every way possible, and you know, that is difficult for service officers to do. I was working on a large project when Abhishek died. And I had to call the client to inform him that I’d be taking some time off. About a month later when I began work again, I was stunned to hear that the client held back the project and refused to continue until I was back to work. I think such gestures of generosity and understanding fuel a writer’s desire to give her best to each article.

When I decided to venture into fiction, it was a bit of a gamble, considering the fact that content writing was not just a source of income but immensely satisfying too. I had some doubts but somehow at every step it felt like Abhishek always supported me. Once I was done with the first story, I realized that the characters kind of grew organically, as did the flow in the plot. I think most of us need to take time to sit back, take stock, and decide what makes you happy.

Puja's First Novel in the Urban Crimes series
CB. You’ve self-published your second novel in the Urban Crime series. What has been the process of writing two novels and marketing them on your own?

PMK. Life is too short. Most of us use these words without realizing what we imply. I’ve loved writing my stories, and now two have been published on KDP. I like sharing the stories with readers and hope that word of mouth will get people to recommend the novels to friends and family.  Other than that I use social media and Good Reads to connect with readers. The fact that the book is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited makes it available to a larger audience. (You can find Puja's novels here and here.)

CB. Do you still write non-fiction and if yes, what kind of work do you do apart from your fiction writing?

PMK. Absolutely. Non fiction writing or content writing is bread and butter for most freelance writers. And it is a fun and interesting job. On any given day I work on several articles, the idea is to make each topic as interesting and easy to relate to as possible. I may work on an article on mad honey, followed by one on insurance. Next on the list could be why word puzzles are good for the young and the young at heart, and I may end the working day with a small business marketing article.

Puja's faithful writing companion - Laika
CB. How do you find balance between your work, motherhood and home as a single parent?

PMK. I have a fairly set routine. I prefer to write when the kids are at school. That means I put in about four or five hours of writing. My parents are extremely supportive, and so we balance out household chores amongst us. We have a pretty easy going attitude at home, and humor is an intrinsic part of life. I usually cook in the evenings while the kids deal with homework. We watch at least one television show together. We take our reading time pretty seriously J and go to bed early.

CB. As a creative/entrepreneur + fauji wife, is there something that you cherish very much about being part of the military community? And is there something you feel must/can change for the better?

PMK. Being a part of the military community is something that all of us who have loved ones in the services, cherish. I have found that people are pretty skeptical about women working from home. I have sometimes been questioned about how I can prove that the articles I write are mine, since most freelance projects don’t give the writers credit. However, I’ve also found that people tend to be understanding when you communicate clearly and put down your points. You have to pick your battles with a little tact, and at the same time honor your commitments without running yourself into the ground. 

self-published novel
The second novel in the Urban Crimes series
CB. What tips would you give to fauji wives out there who’d like to pursue a career in your field while living at small and busy bases (many still believe or led to believe that you can either be a fauji wife or a professional, and that’s not true)?

PMK. I think the internet is a blessing for fauji wives. It has brought the virtual world to our fingers and thrown open myriad opportunities. All you need to do is decide is what impassions you, and then chart your course. Writing is a wonderful profession, and you can keep your own hours as you work on projects that challenge you and make you happy. I know women who curate art and crafts and sell them on social media sites. There is virtually no end to the niche professions one can create based on one’s interests and passions.

CB. Would you have any words of advice for fauji wives, who lose their spouses during their service tenure, and aren’t sure how to forge ahead with their own profession?

PMK. I think every life story is different, and the same advice may not work for everyone. From my personal experience, I find that it is important to give oneself time and space. Fauji wives are a special lot, our strength often pushes us to explore possibilities we may not have considered before.

There is a bit of an identity crisis, we are no longer part of the military community, and not quite civilian. But the thing to remember is that there is something that sets fauji wives apart, and that we were never meant to follow tried and tested trails but to create a path of our own.

Thank you, Puja, for coming over to the blog! (Connect with Puja on Instagram at  puja_mkhattri).)

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  1. She is a true hero in real sense..such zeal and such determinaton. Work from home derives a new meaning with woman like Puja. I have seen closely how wonderful nd inspiring she has been. All the best puja and so so proud to read about you and tabk you chandana for covering her journey.

  2. Thank you for showcasing this amazing woman!

  3. Amazing interview..know Pooja since our childhood days...From the little girl I knew, she has evolved as a wonderful mother, daughter, sister, friend, writerand has been very brave in dealing with her situation. Loved reading her book...all the best and God bless!!!

  4. A fabulous interview! Puja is supremely talented. She is a wonderful person and has shown army wives that nothing is impossible.Kudos to all the fantastic work that she has been doing!


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