Luckily, in 1994, she landed a job as copywriter with advertising agency Locus in Coimbatore. In 2005, when she was looking for something more challenging, she was asked to write the life story of Maruthapushpam Ammal of Samathur, the oldest living zamindarini in the region then.
“That was a transforming experience. Spending so much time in a village and listening to someone so elderly was a blessing. The rural milieu fostered creativity in me. Then on, my poetry had a distinct Indian perspective,” she says. The book is a work-in-progress.
Then, Southern India Mills Association (SIMA) offered Shobhana a chance to compile a book on the textile mills in South India, to commemorate 75 years of SIMA. “When I took up the opportunity, I did not know the difference between hank yarn and cone yarn. But, it was a learning experience. The lack of previous knowledge helped me approach it from a new perspective. And, interacting with the great minds there enriched me. We must all tap into their wisdom.”
While writing, she tries to focus on the good things. “There's so much of negativity around. Every one has a dark spot. Why focus on that and take away from the huge body of their work?” she asks. “Coimbatore has given me so many opportunities to feel humbled,” says the writer, speaking about her book on Coimbatore.
“The panel had access to the best minds but they chose me. When we took it up, we never realised how huge it was going to be. It took us six months of non-stop research and writing. The book changed my view of Coimbatore. I'd always loved the city; the love was just enhanced.”
Her next project was celebrating 100 years of Lakshmi Mills. The book, printed on recycled paper, is ready for release. Now, Shobhana is writing the biography of an eminent educationist in the region.
“This city allows you to identify your strengths and grow. It is small, so any good word spreads fast, but with one bad move, your reputation is sealed too.”
At any stage, did she think she would immerse herself in research thus? “No, but I've always been very fond of history, thanks to my history sir, Nithya Cherian Mathai, who still teaches at Lawrence, Lovedale.”
Shobhana continues to work as an advertisement consultant. “Coimbatore is a niche market. People are discreet and don't like to flaunt their work. Advertisers need to understand that,” she says.
Next up, Shobhana, who also dabbles with storytelling for children, is to start a group, ‘Patchwork Quilt', with a friend, Shoba Rajiv. “We plan to teach all forms of art to the underprivileged, and open up their mind and hearts.”
For all that she does, Shobhana is a home bird. “My husband Kumar, my kids Laya and Shreyas, my mom, my mother-in-law, they've all had to put up with my erratic schedules. I try to make up on Sundays, my baking day. Cakes, cookies… the works. It helps that I love to cook.”
Coimbatore: The Emerging Indian Cosmopolis
In association with Shankar Vanavarayar, Akila Shanmugam, Shantini V. Choudhry and photographer Stalin Ramesh
SIMA: A Journey Through 75 Years
Shobhana scripted and compiled the book. The chief editor was Vijay Venkataswamy, past chairman of SIMA, and the editorial board comprised Dr. K. Selvaraj and A. Ramkrishna
Lakshmi: An Inspiring Legacy
This people-focussed book traces the history of the mill and what has helped make it an enduring legacy
This city allows you to identify your strengths and grow. It is small, so any good word spreads fast, but with one bad move, your reputation is sealed too.”