1 -When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
When I was six, I already felt hundreds of years old
because my grandmother told me stories of Mughal emperors, and my father told me stories from The Mahabharat and ancient Indian history.
My grandmother’s library was packed with Victorian novels, poetry, Arabic, Parsee texts, and musical scores. Her books transported me to many worlds. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I began making up stories then, putting on little plays. I still have six books going at one time.
2-How do you schedule your life when you’re writing?
For the first draft of new chapters or a new work, I have to put everything on the back burner and give myself up to it, sometimes even at the cost of sleep, exercise, and health. I lie awake and think and think and sometimes get up and make notes on my phone, which I transfer to my computer in the morning. The only thing that would take me away from it is an emergency. That’s when I’m in the most creative and frenetic state. When editing, I can schedule my days around journalism, keeping an eye on my elderly parents, yoga, reading, running, and time with girlfriends in particular, who keep me sane.
3-What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write my way into my stories. I spend hundreds of words writing superfluous to the story until I discover the kernel of what I want to say.
4-How did you get your book published?
It was a long process full of stops and starts and several drafts. I nearly put the book away in a drawer when a fellow writer urged me to send it to an editor, who passed it on to Peepal Tree publisher Jeremy Poynting.
5-Where did you get your information or idea for your book?
When my grandmother was dying in Trinidad, she still told me stories about a vanished India of the British Raj. I wondered why she ended up alone and penniless despite all her privileges- born a princess into Indian royalty, beauty, and musical talent. I had begun forgetting words in Urdu and Hindi. As an immigrant to Trinidad, I felt the past was being cut away from me. I wrote it to remember the past and understand the present of the glittering islands of Trinidad and Tobago, where my parents moved when I was a child.
The book is about generations of women born into Muslim Indian princely families of Bhopal and Savanur and what happened when my mother broke hundreds of years of tradition and was disinherited for marrying a Hindu army officer. It’s also about how patterns are created in how we treat our daughters and how that damages the people we love. I got most of the material from my own life and family. I was also influenced by Derek Walcott, who commented on my work.
6-What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love running, reading, sitting on trains, yoga, long conversations, books, walks, and hikes. I also adore my friends and family, long, drawn-out dinners that go on all night and end up with someone dancing at a table.
7-What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Nothing is black and white. This story is about family, blind spots, hurting those you love breaking that cycle that world politics has its space, but the biggest action of human experience plays out in the canvas of the hearts of men and women.
In the Trinidad strand of my novel, I spend a weekend with Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, who helps me understand India’s old world and step into the new world of the Caribbean.
The title is a line from a poem by Derek Walcott titled ‘Dark
‘Don’t you know I love you but am hopeless
at fixing the rain? But I am learning slowly
to love the dark days, the steaming hills,
the air with gossiping mosquitoes,
and to sip the medicine of bitterness.
There can be beauty in pain, and colossal joy can come out of immense sadness.
8-Is there anything you would like to confess about as an author?
I am terrified of flying, and all these years would pray I wouldn’t die before I got published
9-As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Surprisingly, both are a writer and a journalist.
10-How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
As a journalist and opinion writer, it’s normal to be criticised. It’s our job as journalists to dig out uncomfortable truths. This prepared me for the negative reviews in the world of publishing. No human being is the same, and it’s healthy to have people disagree with you. If I have generated conversations, that’s often enough for me. So far, the reviewers have been kind, so maybe I’ve had a little cushion for the harsh ones that will undoubtedly come. My mother is a Sufi, and like her, I believe everything negative is sent to us to refine and improve us. When people criticise me, I use it to take a deeper look at myself and hone my craft.
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