Writers and the Fusion of Cultures

Child_with_red_hair_reading
Child_with_red_hair_reading (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was thinking about the stories we all grow up with. No matter where we spend our childhood, when we move to another part of the world we carry these stories with us and consciously or not, they make their way into the stories we write or tell our children. The folktales we listened to as kids or the stories that Grandfather always told at dinner seep into the world of the characters we create and soon we experience a wonderful fusion of cultures in which the bedtime stories a child might have heard in India merge with the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Thus we create new fairy tales for another generation. Almost every culture has some version of  the knight in shining armour who saves the princess. Or the brave warrior girl who outwits the evil genius. And then there are all the mythologies.  As a child growing up in Germany I devoured the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales. But I also loved the stories that my Bengali father told me and the comic books he bought me from which I learned about Hindu mythology. I grew up in a Muslim home, reading stories about Hindu deities, along with old German folktales. I lost myself in the Arabian Nights and listened to the bedtime stories that my Pakistani mother told me. Fantasy knows no boundaries and stories flow effortlessly across  man-made borders. As writers, we are in a unique position. We can create characters and stories which reflect wonderful aspects of different cultures  and enrich the literature of our times. And never has this been easier than now, when we can  reach such a large audience so quickly and easily. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the stories that created such happy memories of my childhood.

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award
Versatile Blogger Award (Photo credit: It’s Great To Be Home)

First of all I must apologize for being so late with my response. I want to thank Natasha over at http://tashastraveltroves.com  for nominating my blog for this award. Her blog is amazing, so please go and check it out. It’s a great feeling to know that out there in the vast blogosphere there are people who enjoy my ramblings. I’m also thrilled by the fascinating people I have “met” since I started blogging a few months ago.

So, the rules say that I must nominate 15 bloggers so here goes:

http://readfulthingsblog.com/

http://thenovelreviewer.wordpress.com/

http://summer4soul.wordpress.com/

http://ashleymanning.com/

http://thehourofsoftlight.wordpress.com/

http://thereporterandthegirl.com

http://hnsieverding.wordpress.com/

http://shannonathompson.com/

http://elizabethblackbourne.wordpress.com/about/

http://betweenfearandlove.com/

http://5kidswdisabilities.com/

http://hikingphoto.com/

http://weaklyshortstories.wordpress.com/

http://hoppingacrosscultures.wordpress.com/

http://fashionforlunch.wordpress.com/

The Abandoned Palace: Fatehpur Sikri

Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at hi...
Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at his court; Akbar’s vizier wrote a gazetteer on the Mughal realm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, ...
Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, India, built in 1580 Français : Palais impérial à Fatehpur-Sikrî, près d’Âgrâ en Inde, construit en 1580 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On our trip to India two years ago we visited Fatehpur Sikri. A lot of the action in my book takes place in old temples and palaces, so this was a perfect spot for some great inspiration.  The Mughal Emperor Akbar had this palace city built in the late 1570’s when he relocated the capital of his empire from Agra to Fatehpur. The architecture is a dazzling blend of Persian and Hindu styles. The design bears testament to the religious tolerance that Akbar was well known for. While the Mughals were devout Muslims, Akbar chose to educate himself on the tenets of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, as well as Christianity. In the palace he dedicated a large hall, called the Ibadat Khana or Room of Worship. There he invited scholars and leaders of other religions to meet and discuss their faith with the goal of enlightenment and brotherhood. Surprisingly forward thinking for his time, Akbar even invited women to join these weekly gatherings. But he didn’t just stop at gatherings and discussions. Akbar tried to create a new faith which was an amalgamation of all the faiths he had encountered. He called this faith Din-i-Ilahi, Faith of the Divine. Unfortunately for him, the ministers of his court were not quite so open-minded, and prejudices got in the way of his tolerance. Those closest to him began to worry that his open acceptance of the other faiths would pose a threat and political circumstances did not allow the new religion to gain popularity. Sadly, a few years later, Akbar’s court abandoned the palace at Fatehpur Sikri due to a water shortage.Today, the city still stands, nothing more than a ghost town of courtyards and surrounding pavilions. Walking around the complex you can almost hear the echoes of children playing in the gardens while the Emperor’s wives lounged by the pond. Inside the empty palace it is easy to feel the intensity and passion that must have filled the Ibadat Khana when Akbar led the scholarly discussions on the some of the world’s major religions.

As a writer there is nothing more inspiring than a place filled with so much  history and intrigue. Every room seems filled with secrets and stories just come alive as you walk in the footsteps of so many who made and changed the circumstances of their time.

Editing: Off To A Good Start

WAIITIN
WAIITIN (Photo credit: khalid Albaih)

My editor sent back the first twelve chapters of my manuscript and I must say that the feedback was very helpful. It’s as if we share a brain except he knows just how to organize the thoughts and I’m still all over the place. It was incredible reading his comments and realizing that he picked up on all the issues I was having and suggested ways to make them better. Am I lucky or what?

Now I am looking at massive rewrites, but that’s better than not knowing whether my concerns are valid or just the product of self-doubt. There was an interesting thing about his feedback when I received the second batch of chapters. I noticed that he gives compliment sandwiches. He’ll say something positive, then point out things he didn’t like and end on a positive note. Interesting…I wonder if that’s something all editors do or if my editor is just really nice.

Valentine’s Day and Romance

Dinner
Dinner (Photo credit: Paul Watson)

Valentine’s Day is upon us and it got me thinking about what romance means to us as we get older. When we’re younger, romance is all about grand gestures, jewellary and flowers. Several years of marriage, a mortgage and a couple of children later, many couples are content with dinner and a movie on Valentine’s Day, while someone watches the babies. Some might say that it sounds like they’re settling, that the spark is gone, but is it really? I think it all comes down to what romance means to each of us. Doing the dishes when your spouse has had a stressful day or getting the kids to bed early so that you can spend quality time together can be much more romantic than flowers and chocolate once a year. I think romance redefines itself as we go through different stages in our lives. It is nice that there is a special day dedicated to love, but I think that true romance is in the little kindnesses you show each other every day.

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

Ashley Manning nominated me for this award and I would like to say a big thank you to him. You can find him at ashleymanning.com.

According to the rules I now have to state eleven random facts about me, so here goes:

1. I was born in Germany.

2. I am fluent in five languages.

3. Growing up, I had an assortment of pets: five dogs, six pairs of homing pigeons, a hamster,  two mynah birds, two rabbits, two baby ducklings and a cat that thought it owned me.

4. I love to dance.

5. I finally worked up the courage to sing in front of people, so now I am a huge fan of Karaoke.

6. I have lived in five different countries on three continents.

7. I love sushi.

8. I love watching Merlin with my family.

9. I love dogs.

10. I’ve always wanted to be tall.

11. I would love to travel back in time, but I also want to know what the future will be like.

Now for the questions from Ashley :

  • What is your favourite book?  There are so many, but my favourite one a few years ago was The Time Traveler’s Wife.
  • What is the worst book you’ve ever read? I really can’t think of one that would qualify as the worst.
  • Do you think Crash Bandicoot is awesome? Had to google this one. I don’t play video games, so I have no opinion on this one.
  • What is your favourite genre? Fantasy Romance at the moment, but I also love anything historical.
  • Do you have any hobbies? Karaoke.
  • Do you like Poetry? Not really.
  • PS3 or Xbox? Neither.
  • Do you still buy CDs? No.
  • Which is better –  A purple dog with an apple on it’s head or a cow with a giraffe’s neck? Since my favourite colour is purple, I have to go with the dog.
  • Have you, or do you want to read Uylsses and why? Haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list. Why? Because it is one of those books that should be read.
  • Do you find it as hard to write 11 random questions? I’m about to find out.

Now the questions for my nominations:

1. Why did you start blogging?

2. If you could come back as anyone else, who would it be and why?

3. Who did you most want to be like as a child?

4. Who is your favourite character from a book?

5. What do you like to write about?

6. What country would you most like to visit?

7. What kind of music do you enjoy the most?

8. Do you like the feeling of holding a book in your hands or do you prefer e-readers?

9. During which part of the day are you most productive?

10. If you could have any superpower, which would it be?

11. How did you feel when you were nominated for this award?

And here are my nominations:

http://readfulthingsblog.com/

http://wordsformwindows.com/

http://elizabethblackbourne.wordpress.com/

http://nolanparker.wordpress.com

http://onthegofreelancer.wordpress.com/

http://moolta.wordpress.com/

http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/

http://sophiebowns.wordpress.com/

http://blue88book.wordpress.com/

http://cruisingthroughmylife.wordpress.com/

http://www.happybeinghealthy.com/

http://www.happybeinghealthy.com/

Thank you so much for reading.

Authors and Editors

Edit Ruthlessly
Edit Ruthlessly (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

I recently decided to hire a freelance editor for my manuscript, so that I could get started on my revisions. The process was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I simply went to the Canadian Editors Association website and looked for listings that mentioned YA fiction and sent off requests for estimates. A few days later I found someone that seemed to be a good fit and we got started immediately. I was mostly worried whether the editor would understand exactly where I was coming from. In the numerous emails we exchanged, I tried to explain what it was that I most needed his help on. When I first started looking online, I learned quite a few things. There is quite a confusing array of editing services available and some of them overlap. In addition, they can be quite expensive. So if you don’t do your research and fail to ask the right questions, you may end up paying for a service you didn’t really need. In the end you have to be clear about what it is that you need from the editor and make sure that they know it as well, so that there is no room for misunderstanding. If you’re lucky you will find somebody who gets your writing and will help make it the best it can be.

Emotional Baggage: Carrying the Weight into Adulthood

I read an article today and it made me think about this: how much of our experiences as teenagers do we drag around with us through our adult lives? People who are bullied, emotionally and physically, often carry their scars well into adulthood. Some build a social network as adults so they feel supported, while others shy away from people they perceive to be part of a clique. How many of the choices we make as grown-ups are the result of emotional baggage from our high school years?We experience some of the most crucial turning points in our lives only after high school. Marriage, childbirth and career choice all play a major role in the kind of person we become. So, the big question is: are we doomed to be haunted by our teen angst forever or can we reinvent ourselves?

Childhood Revisited

gol gappa!
gol gappa! (Photo credit: jasleen_kaur)

A couple of years ago we visited India with our daughters. For them it was the first time. For us it had been too many years. It’s funny how things that you took for granted acquire a sense of adventure when you do it with your children for the first time. When we were young it was common to buy snacks from the roadside vendors and eat it right there. One of my favourites was pani puri or gol gappa as it is called in some parts. This basically consists of crisp, hollow, deep-fried balls of dough that are filled with a spicy potato mixture. You get a few of these on a plate. Then you add spicy tamarind water and a chutney made with coriander, green chilies and mint. When you pop these in your mouth and bite down, there is the most delicious explosion of flavours. I have to say, that although I have enjoyed food from many cuisines, there is nothing quite like that initial burst of tartness, sweetness and spice that you experience when you eat pani puri. And it’s just not the same when you make it at home.

India Trip, Week 2-33
India Trip, Week 2-33 (Photo credit: The.Rohit)

There’s something about standing in a crowd with your friends, waiting as the vendor fills your plate and hands it to you. In Mumbai we took our daughters to try it, thinking that they might find it strange, but they absolutely loved it. Of course,  the “street vendor” we went to was actually an air-conditioned shop, although this particular one also had a man doling out the stuff from behind a cart on the lower level. And I must admit, they tasted better from the cart than they did when we ordered them and ate at our table. So, do our fond childhood memories actually enhance the taste of a favourite food when we eat it again after many years?

Girl Power

When I decided to write a book, I knew that the protagonist had to be a girl. She would be a strong, kick-ass sort of a girl. No standing on the sidelines and watching with big eyes as her man saved the world. No, she was going to save the world herself.I wanted to base my story on the mythology of India, because it is so rich and fascinating. And I knew that I wanted to write for young adults, because they are  at an important juncture in their lives. Not that my book is going to impart any great pearls of wisdom. On the contrary, it is pure fantasy. But I happen to believe that when you allow yourself to indulge in fantasy, you can discover a lot about who you truly are and what will make you happy. Plus it’s just really cool to write about a girl who has the powers of a goddess and can kick a demon’s ass.