In person, Lisa Ray is incandescent. She is compacter than the screen leads one to believe, but filled with a ferociously positive energy that surrounds her. In her eyes, one can see the grit and mellowness of a survivor.

Her memoir, Close to the Bone, just out from Harper Collins is a searingly honest narrative of her life. Written in exquisite detail, Lisa manages to put the lens of time and contemplation on her memories not just to magnify them in order to re-examine them, but also to step back and assess what of these have gone into the making of her.

In a candid conversation with SheThePeople.TV Ideas Editor Kiran Manral, Ray spoke about the process of writing this book, how her career was an accident, how she’s been able to stay within the circle of glamour and yet out of it, and her journey with cancer and how it has changed her.

I like to think of this book as a travelogue, because I have journeyed so much across continents and into myself, and the book does try to reflect that journey, in all its facets.

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“There is a bit of a story to the telling of my story,” she says candidly. The offer for the book came to her after she began a blog chronicling her combat with cancer, called The Yellow Diaries. An intensely private person, it was perhaps the first time she put her life out like that, for public consumption. The blog got attention, it began being read by a global audience, and the offer for the book came along. She did write the book and sent it out to the publisher, and then withdrew it, because as she says, “That was not the book I wanted to write.”

Lisa Ray with SheThePeople.TV Ideas Editor Kiran Manral.

Then she sat on it for a while before deciding that if she wanted to tell her story, it would be from the very beginning because all that went into making her life lead up to her battle with cancer, all of it had its origins somewhere, and so she went right back, to the story of her parents getting together, her growing up in Canada, her battle with eating disorders, being ‘discovered’ by Maureen Wadia and her career in the glamour world, which she has followed an unconventional path with, culminating in her battle with cancer, which she details in all its grimness, with a dispassionate gaze back on what was undoubtedly a terrifying situation to be in at 37.

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I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to choose how visible I wished to be. But when one goes off the radar and comes back again, there’s always that fear, how relevant is one now, has one lost one’s relevance.

In that sense, she considers this book a travelogue. “I like to think of this book as a travelogue, because I have journeyed so much across continents and into myself, and the book does try to reflect that journey, in all its facets.” About the process of writing, she confesses that while writing came easily to her, and she is at heart an observer, structuring the book was what she found difficult. She went over and over, writing and rewriting until she felt satisfied she couldn’t change a thing.

She’s been in mainstream Bollywood movies like Kasoor, done independent movies like Water, and through it all, been able to maintain a bit of mystery about herself. “In our time it was good to be a little mysterious and not all out there. It made people curious about you. Things have changed drastically now. There is just so much scrutiny these days, with this generation of actors. There’s that constant need to be out there all the time and to be seen, and social media adds to this constant visibility. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to choose how visible I wished to be. But when one goes off the radar and comes back again, there’s always that fear, how relevant is one now, has one lost one’s relevance.” These, and other fears, like that of having a deadline to her life, once her cancer was diagnosed, are what she lays bare in this book. Her spiritual practice has helped her, she says. “I can easily deal with fears now. I have learnt to create a distance from fears. We may call some experiences as traumatic and some as exhilarating but all experiences are important. ”

It was this desire to go off the track and keep reinventing herself that kept Lisa constant shifting the goal posts of her career. “I was able to engage with the world in a better way when I went away from it and invested in myself.” And, she adds, the world will wait if you believe in yourself.

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