Authors

On the write side

Lots of stories to tell Nandhika Nambi  

On her 11th birthday, Nandhika Nambi got a gift that was close to her heart. Her father had found a story written by her on his laptop and decided to surprise his daughter with a published copy. “He had to take the self-publishing route, of course,” laughs Nambi, now a third year student in medical college.

Sally’s World set her foot firmly on the path of writing. “Being presented with the book was an eye-opener — that something I wrote could be published. Though I’ve been writing pretty much since I first learnt to form sentences. We lived in the UK when I was a child and we were encouraged to write a lot. It wasn’t just me; all my friends wrote too.” When her family returned to India, the eight-year-old continued to write. “My first ever piece was a poem that my father still has taped to the wall,” she smiles.

Her second book, One Good Turn, was also self-published when she was just 13, again thanks to her father. From then to now — when her third book, Unbroken, has been published by Duckbill — it’s been a long break. “Not really,” she says. “I’ve been writing but doing other things too. Much of the book was written in the six-month gap between finishing school and joining medical college. Not that I did anything with it for some time. Around a couple of years ago, I sent it out to all the publishers in India that I could find. My parents didn’t know about it. I got 2-3 rejections before Duckbill took it.”

The book, which is about a young girl coming to terms with her disability, has a remarkably realistic portrait of family dynamics. Was it drawn from her personal experience? Nambi laughs, “I went with something familiar. I have two sisters and we do fight a lot but I don’t know anything about having a brother. I just portrayed a variant of the sibling relationships.”

On the write side

Unbroken’s protagonist, Akriti, is not a very likeable one. Confined to a wheelchair as a result of an accident, Akriti is mad with the world and doesn’t care about who knows it. Her brother, Ranjith, has taken Gandhi’s maxim ‘Be the change you want to be’ to heart. Point out that the difference between the two is quite extreme and Nambi says, “I feel that if she hadn’t had the accident and let that get to her, it wouldn’t have been so obvious. For Ranjith’s character, I wanted someone a bit more innocent, who hasn’t faced much trouble. But I didn’t think it would be so obvious when I was writing it.”

Ask if any of her characters are drawn from people she knows and you get a firm negative. “I don’t even use the names of people I know,” she shrugs. “Too much confusion and scope for trouble.” But her family has been very supportive of her work, “even though they are not big readers.” However, her biggest compliment so far has been from a senior at her school. “She gave me a letter written in, as I distinctly remember, a different colour gel pen for each paragraph. It was filled with what she liked about the book and also some criticism. I’ll always remember this because it was so nice to see that someone outside of the circle of people who were sort of obliged to had actually read the book and was generous enough to give me feedback on it.”

Apart from her books, she’s a normal youngster who always had something going. “I didn’t miss out on any aspect of a fun childhood.” Apart from learning Bharatanatyam (she had her arangetram a few years ago), she plays the piano (ABRSM grade 6) , the recorder (ABRSM grade 5) and the drums (Trinity grade 1). Her quirk is “being fanatic about stationary and organising things.”

Finally, what’s next? She’s got another two years to go to finish medical college but “I hope to make time for both that and my writing. I have two or three ideas that I am working on but nothing is ready as yet.” She would also like to write about her years in college but “only after I’ve passed out,” she adds hurriedly. “I am sure you can understand why.”

Process of writing

How: Always been on the computer. I can’t write stories long hand. But, for poems, it’s always pen and paper

When: Any time. I write whenever I feel like it; sometimes it’ll be for hours. Or I may not write for months. It all depends on whether I have something to write

Where: I would prefer to be alone in my room but I can write anywhere. I don’t get distracted easily. If I do, then I just quit and put it aside for later

Book love

Favourite books: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett; The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger; Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; The Declaration by Gemma Malley

Favourite authors: I loved Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton when growing up and now I can read anything by Jeffrey Archer and Agatha Christie

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 5:36:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/in-conversation-with-author-nandhika-nambi/article18304746.ece

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