‘You must always write with your reader in mind.’ This was one of the first pieces of advice that I received when I began my writing career. Honestly, I found this extremely hard to do because more often than not, I couldn’t picture my ideal reader. Slowly, this advice changed to ‘Write for yourself.’ While that seemed easier, it didn’t necessarily fulfil the reality of the situation, meaning, writing for myself didn’t translate into sales of whatever I wrote. As time went on, though, there were a few things I understood which made writing far more pleasant and lucrative, namely, writing was a transfer of emotions, the ability to keep a subtle journal and collecting gibberish.
After a long drawn battle with the biggest catastrophe in our living memory, global humanity is finally getting to see some quintessential ray of light at the end of the treacherous tunnel in the form of COVID-19 vaccines, currently being rolled out to all parts of the globe. A ‘COVID-19 free world’ is still some distance away as we continue our march there, slowly but surely.
Is it possible to read several books at once? Aneeta Sundararaj finds out.
My first memory of LIGHT
I do not recall,
But my ‘daak naam’ seemed to have
a luminous circle around it.
I guess it pays to choose to come
into the world on days like Diwali.
When I realized that I am actually called LIGHT
I kind of laughed out loud … yeah right!
Light on my feet I am certainly not.
And light as a … feather(?) …no, don’t even go there.
My latest novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets was shortlisted for two categories in the Book Award 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. When I reflected on the journey that this book has taken, I acknowledged the enormous influence of one of my all-time favourite books, Joseph Anton: A Memoir (ISBN 9780224093972 – hardcover) by Salman Rushdie. Written in the third person, the memoir is an account of Rushdie’s life during the fatwa that was issued as a reaction to criticism and a widespread controversy over his novel The Satanic Verses (1988). Rushdie used “Joseph Anton” as a pseudonym while in hiding.
Recently, I accepted an invitation to speak to members of a Readers Club at a school. The topic I was given was to explain the importance of reading and a book that had an impact on me. It seemed easy enough until I found it difficult. In the end, I decided to put myself in these students’ shoes, which meant going back in time and trying to figure out the novel I’d read in school that had had a huge impact on my life. The novel I eventually chose was Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
It was recently reported that the Indian Medical Association called on the health minister, himself a doctor (Dr. Harsh Vardhan), to provide evidence that Ayurveda and yoga are effective in treating the coronavirus.1 This has been the source of ongoing, and sometimes contentious, discourse. The story of Asha (not her real name) illustrates this point.
A few months ago, I received an email informing me about an award called the Book Award 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. Within the text of the email was an invitation to submit a publication of my choice to be considered for the award. I thought it was a hoax and wrote back to ask if this was really true. Lo and behold, it was! So began the process of submitting The Age of Smiling Secrets for consideration by the experts. I was very grateful for the support from family, friends, the readers of this webiste and also subscribers to my newsletter. As it stands, my novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets, is now on the shortlist (2 categories) for this award. Unfortunately, like many other events this year, the ceremony to announce the winners of these awards has had to be postponed several times because of the pandemic. Instead of wallowing in this malaise of sorts, I decided to take the opportunity to get to know those behind this award. I wrote to the National Library with a request to interview its Director-General. I am mighty pleased that the Director-General consented to this request. Without further ado, I have much pleasure in introducing you to Maizan Ismail.