Categorized | Feature, Interviews

Mahtab Narsimhan: From corporate world to fantasy

Posted on 24 July 2013 by admin

‘The key is, believing in your story…’

“I love Canadian readers because they are always open to new experiences, ideas and worlds.”

DIVYA KAELEY

Author Mahtab Narsimhan was born in Mumbai, her home for 25 years. After working in the Middle East (Bahrain, Dubai and Oman) for a couple of years, she immigrated to Canada in 1997. Mahtab dabbled in the corporate field for some time before she started writing in January 2004. Her debut and award-winning book ‘The Third Eye’ was published after four years, twenty rewrites and numerous rejections. Her novel ‘The Tiffin’ has been nominated for The Snow Willow Awards 2013.

In conversation with Generation Next, the writer shares her ideas about life, churning fantasy stories and her constant pursuit for that undying spark.

1.      You worked in the Middle East (Bahrain, Dubai and Oman) before immigrating to Canada in 1997. Why did you come to Canada?

To make a better life us. There are many more opportunities in the West and the quality of life is a lot better. When my husband and I considered moving west, Canada had always been the first choice, never the US. The fact that my sister moved here a couple of years before we did, helped tremendously. I have to say, though, I could easily do without the winters!

2.      You climbed the corporate ladder in “leaps and bounds”, and as you say, getting better at what you did with each passing year, “but searching, always searching, for that ‘spark’ “. Are you still involved in the corporate world? 

 No, thankfully I am not! I currently assist my husband in an IT Security business we own and I continue spinning stories in my spare time.

 3.      How would you describe your journey as a writer? How easy was it to get into the world of writing? 

It was a steep learning curve with many moments of anguish and soul-searching. But I learned a lot about persistence and not giving up; qualities which helped me tremendously on my journey to being a published author.

When my debut novel, ‘The Third Eye’, won an award, it definitely helped me get noticed. It’s now a lot easier for me to approach Canadian publishers with a win under my belt. But each novel is different and I have to go through rejection each time before it finds a good home. The key, again, is believing in your story deeply enough to keep going.

4.      Some of your books have a distinct Indian taste – how would you describe the response of the Canadian readers to them?

 I love Canadian readers because they are always open to new experiences, ideas and worlds. The fact that my debut novel, ‘The Third Eye’, won the Silver Birch Fiction Award in 2009 (a reading program organized by the Ontario Library Association) is testament to this.

After the Tara Trilogy was completed, I wrote ‘The Tiffin’, a story about a boy searching for family and featuring the ubiquitous dabbawallas of Mumbai. Not only has this book been nominated by OLA for the Red Maple Fiction Award 2013, but it has also been nominated for the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Awards.

 5.      How easy/difficult was it to settle in Canada as a newcomer? Did you go through a culture shock?

 I’d like to refer to a non-fiction essay I wrote in an anthology called ‘Piece by Piece, Stories About Fitting into Canada’, published by Penguin Canada, March 2010, which details my journey about fitting in.

 I was lucky enough to get a job within two weeks of landing in Canada in 1997 but I had to work really hard to succeed. I did my CHRP designation on my own dime and with no help from my employer, while working full-time. All I will say to new comers is that:

 You can make it anywhere in the world as long as you have the will to succeed. No one can give you that will and, if you have it, no one can take it away.

 6.      How often do you visit India? How do you look at the country now?

 As my immediate family is here, and the ones who are not prefer to visit in summer, I have not had the opportunity to go back to India often.

I did go back in 2011 to get some footage on the dabbawallas and visit my school. It was a poignant and memorable experience!

 7.      Tell us something about your future projects.

 One of them is a humorous story about a boy from North America visiting Mumbai. We always read books of people from other cultures/countries experiencing culture shock when they come to the West, so, I thought I’d turn the tables and have someone from North America go to India and have him experience a tough time fitting in! I love this story and hope it finds a good home.

 The other is a science-fiction novel set fifty years in the future. It’s still a work in progress so I’d rather not say any more.

 8.      Where all, besides India and your experiences, do you get your writerly ideas from?

 Reading a lot, experiencing new things and eavesdropping on people’s conversations. All rich sources of ideas!

My son is a great fount of ideas, too. Since I’m writing for kids and teens, just talking to them and observing them can also give me excellent ideas.

 9.      Your vision for future

That’s an interesting question and one I’ll answer in my futuristic book which I am writing. Ironically, it’s a look at the future of the world given our current power crisis and exploding population. I think life is going to get a lot tougher for us and for our kids in the next little while and we will have to come up with innovative and collaborative ways on a global scale, to survive.

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