I hardly go to book launch events as they’re too late in the day for me to be there but when this invitation landed in my inbox, I decided to give it a chance. And that is how I came to be at the book launch of Happy Birthday! and other stories by Meghna Pant. The author has previously written and been appreciated for her book, One and a Half Wife.
The surprise of the day was (which I already knew because you know how thoroughly I research authors before going to an event) that it was Meghna Pant’s Birthday and it was so fitting as her book is named Happy Birthday.
The book was unveiled by author, actor, marketing and management guru, Suhel Seth who also went on to read one of the stories from the book, ‘The Gola Master’. His flawless and brilliant voiceover of the story lent itself to a mesmerizing listening experience. The story itself was stark, bare and real in its essence and made one ponder over it.
50% of the proceeds from the book will go to Safar Trust, a Mumbai-based NGO that helps slum children and trafficked girls lead financially stable lives and a video was shown to that effect. It was very touching indeed.
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Author Meghna Pant who is in the process of writing her third book, ‘Son of Gods’ talked about her writing process and how this short stories’ book almost flowed out of her spontaneously unlike her first one where she edited and re-edited. She said it was almost like asking a mother to choose her favorite child when she was asked about her favorite story from the book. Nevertheless, she said she really liked ‘Clip and Cane’ which is about a blind person. She further added it was difficult for her to write it, to get into the mindframe of a blind person and thus the story stands out for her. She also likes another story ‘Lemon and Chilli’ which got published earlier and spreads over a spectrum of emotions.
When asked about her writing process, she talked about her crazy imagination and how from one line or one character, she ends up building a novel around it.
When asked how much of her work is autobiographical, she answered with, ‘I hate navel gazing. I want to explore dimensions that I have not yet experienced. Most of the stories are from the perspective of old, retired gentlemen’. She went on to elaborate how she never even knew her grandfather but she is still able to anticipate their fears, and needs. She further added that via her stories she experiences something that may happen to her in the future.
Regarding how her stories come together in a single collection, she said that unlike being woven with a central theme, all her stories are disparate and each story is an individual master in that sense.
About her next work, she mentioned working on a sexual and adult theme which of course, gathered a lot of interest from the audience.
A self-proclaimed crazy writer, she talked about being possessed by writing. She talked about how she was a business writer and having a MBA in finance, she wasn’t supposed to be a writer but now writing has taken over her.
When asked the short story writers who influenced her, she mentioned Premchand whose ‘Kafan‘ she adored. She also mentioned liking Alice Munro, O’ Henry‘s story endings, Paul Theroux, Franz Kaffka, Michael Cunningham’s ‘White Angel’ which was beautifully written and Preeta Samarasan.
Praised and grilled for churning out a book a year, we can now expect more books from Meghna Pant as she says she is now unemployed since 2 weeks which means she’ll have more time to write. So buckle up your seat belts and wait for her next book after you’re done reading this one because I’m sure that’s coming right up. ;)
Happy Birthday & Other Stories
Happy Birthday! (Random House, India) is a beautifully written, compelling and emotionally intelligent collection of short stories by award-winning novelist Meghna Pant. These finely nuanced stories provide a rare glimpse into the complex and mysterious inner lives of human beings.
A dedicated friend undertakes one last labour of love for a childless woman. Nadia – married into money – finds herself facing uncomfortable truths about her comfortably numb marriage. A Mumbai slum-girl dreams of speaking words valuable enough to be translated into English. An American tourist seeking nirvana sets off a sudden chain of events when his bag is stolen, and destiny plays her hand. A retired civil servant of modest means struggles to support his snooty foreign-returned daughter.
Meghna Pant’s knife – sharp stories are compelling, emotionally intelligent and provide a rare glimpse into the strange workings of the human heart. They evade neat categorization and
are the perfect read for all curious spirits.
“These are stories with a large heart and a keen eye, deeply aware of the complex, sometimes uncomfortable realities of India, its many layers. Meghna Pant knows how to create characters that will surprise and move you.”
– Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
“Deft, merciless and expertly-tuned parables for the new Indian century.”
– Jeet Thayil
“Meghna Pant pierces one’s heart with the reality and depth of her stories, wrapping up her tales with unanticipated yet undeniable flourish. Exceptionally thought-provoking narratives that manage to be provocative and inspirational in the very same breath.”
– Ashwin Sanghi
“These intimate stories juxtapose a range and register of aerial and emotional perspectives, with craft, delicacy and an intensely human sensibility.”
– Namita Gokhale
About Meghna Pant
Meghna Pant is an author and financial journalist. One & A Half Wife—Meghna’s debut novel—was published in 2012 to critical and commercial acclaim. It went into multiple reprints, won the Muse India’s Young Writer Award, and was shortlisted for several other awards, including the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Meghna’s short stories have been published in over a dozen global literary magazines, including Avatar Review, Wasafari, Eclectica and QLRS. An economics graduate with an MBA in finance, Meghna has worked as a TV anchor for Times Now, NDTV Profit and Bloomberg-UTV. A nomad at heart, she has lived in Delhi, Singapore, Zurich, Dubai and New York City. She is currently based in Mumbai. Meghna will be donating fifty per cent of the proceeds from Happy Birthday! to Safar Trust, a Mumbai-based NGO that helps slum children and trafficked girls lead financially stable lives. Happy Birthday! is Meghna’s first published collection of short stories.
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