Womendiaries is humbled to interview award-winning Celebrity Author,Meghna Pant. (This is a back dated interview on the occasion of launch of her book, Happy Birthday!)
Meghna Pant: a bestselling award-winning author, how does it feel?
Humbling and exhlirating.
Please tell us about your new book, Happy Birthday. What is it about?
Happy Birthday! is a collection of short stories that are steeped in reality, that empty space where the individual and society intersect. They have been called ‘provocative and inspirational’ by Ashwin Sanghi, ‘deft and merciless’ by Jeet Thayil and ‘surprising and moving’ by Chitra Banerjee. The reviews from both critics and readers have been overwhelmingly positive and I am so happy that people are loving the collection.
What was your inspiration behind writing ‘Happy Birthday!’?
Short stories to me are like an explosion of truth, snippets that take you into another life world in a brief mad moment of revelation and clarity. I love this art form more than any other not just for this experience of it but also its production, as each short story requires an investment of a few months versus a novel that you need to invest a few years of your life into. Between 2008-10 I wrote many stories, thirteen of which found life in ‘Happy Birthday!
While reading your books, all the characters come alive. How do you manage that?
We human beings often say things that we’re expected to speak about and do things that we think we’re supposed to do; hence we end up living life on auto-pilot. I like to unearth the truth behind the stories we make up about ourselves and write about the things we experience without talking about them, the things we convey without speaking. This, I think, makes my characters vivid, real and easy to identify with.
Why do you think your book “One & A Half Wife” and Happy Birthday!’ clicked with readers?
I write from a place of purity and honesty, and that finds an echo in the minds and hearts of many people. By capturing the society we live in, by describing this absurd, cruel yet beautiful world for exactly what it is, a connection with the reader is immediately established.
Who and what is/are your inspiration/s in your writing pursuit?
I struggle only with my own aspirations to grow and evolve as an individual; as long as each story I write, it makes me understand the truth of life a little bit better, my pursuit is fulfilled.
It is always said about youngsters that they are turning away from reading. What is your opinion about the notion?
The aspirational values imbued in the youth means that they prefer taking outward journeys i.e. journeys that take them away from who they are, in the form of branded clothes, international travel and EMIs, rather than seek the journey within them. They rather spend a hundred rupees on a burger than on a book.
I don’t necessarily criticise that because everyone has their own path to cross and I’m sure that once the cosmetic aspects of this life they’ve chosen dulls, the youth will evolve and seek books that elevate and enlighten them. Like everything in life, it’s a matter of time.
What is the greatest compliment that you’ve received so far?
For ‘One & A Half Wife’ the general response was that people found the story warm, the characters finely etched and they couldn’t put the book down even for an IPL match. For ‘Happy Birthday!’ the response has been that the stories are thought-provoking and written with delicate and rare human sensibility. The best critical feedback though was from an esteemed reviewer who said that I will be leaving a stamp on Indian fiction.
Other than writing, what do you enjoy the most?
I love walking the streets in search of stories and I’m very often that slightly mad lady heard talking to herself.
Who is your favourite writer?
My mind just pixilated as I have several favourite authors. Since we’re talking short stories, Alice Munro is my Goddess, and I love the work of Premchand, Marquez, Cunnigham, Adiga, Atwood and Shamsie.
Any tips for our amateurs writers on womendiaires?
Write what you’d like to read, fearlessly.