Andaleeb Wajid is a Bangalore-based writer. She has written on diverse topics like food, relationships and weddings in a Muslim context. She has spoken about how she wants to challenge the stereotypical representation of Muslim lives through her stories.
Had you always loved books from a young age?
Yes. My parents loved to read and my mom found that giving a book to my brother and I will keep us preoccupied and it will let her read in peace too.
From what age did you start writing? Was it always a dream to be an author?
I started writing when I was ten I think. Mostly these were clones of Enid Blyton books. I didn’t realise this was what I was meant to do though. I loved the idea of being a writer and having a desk to myself and being all important and writerly but only much later, I realised that this was what I had to do in my life.
Did your family and friends support your passion for writing?
Yes, they’ve always supported it. Back in the day when I didn’t have a computer, I would type out my stories for Open Sesame (a children’s supplement by Deccan Herald, for which I used to write a lot) on a typewriter and my father in law would post them for me.
How and when was your first book published?
My first book Kite Strings was published in 2009 but I had started the submission process from 2006 itself. It just didn’t work out with every other publisher rejecting my book. I felt disheartened and disillusioned that maybe this was not meant to be. But I kept trying one more, one more and finally a publisher agreed to publish it. However, in 2012, I took back the rights from them and self published it on Smashwords. It’s available as a free download from my website.
How does it feel to be one of the most recognised and established authors in the country?
Umm… not being modest here but I still have a very long way to go before I can even consider myself recognized and established. Really!
Did you face any challenges being a female writer in India?
No. The challenge was being a new writer back then. Today I feel it’s relatively easier to get published because publishers have websites with submission ids and they are open to accepting submissions by email. Back then, most of them wanted you to send only hard copies! And it was really difficult to know what happened to your manuscript once you sent it off.
When you had your Children, how did your life change, personally and professionally?
I was very young when my first child was born. Not even 21. So, there wasn’t any profession or career actually because my life revolved around him. Of course, I was scribbling away stories in my diary even then and a month after he was born, I won some short story competition that really solidified my intent to become a writer. When my second child was born, things were both easy and tough at the same time. Easy because I knew what to do, and tough because I had two kids to manage. I’m extremely glad for all the support from family members for this. It’s worth its weight in gold. I did panic a little when my first child was born. The fact that my life revolved around him made me feel like it was going to be this way forever. And I wanted a bit of my old life back. But it took a couple of years to realise that it was all a phase.
How do you balance work and home life?
With the support of my family, particularly my mother-in-law who makes it possible for me to do what I want. She’s extremely encouraging and supportive.
Do your Children enjoy reading? And do they especially enjoy your books?
They’re not big on reading unfortunately. I’ve always had to coax them to read. My older boy who is 17 now, takes up fiction and novels to read during exams because I limit his mobile usage. He’s only read the trilogy and none of the other books.
Do you believe passion for books comes naturally to some children or all children need encouragement and guidance to read from a young age?
I think it’s a bit of both. But encouragement should be overall, and not specific. In India, the problem is that parents only want to make sure kids read books that teach them a lesson. Reading should be for enjoyment first.
If you could give any advice to Mothers who are looking to start their own venture, what would it be?
Maintain a good support system, network with people, never think that motherhood is your primary and only ‘job’. Most mothers fall into that trap and find they’ve lost touch with the world at large when their kids grow up and outgrow them.
Finally, please tell us about the overall benefits of reading.
I don’t know how I’d possibly survive without reading. It’s the one avenue that opens my world up to limitless possibilities. I can’t really think of benefits as such but it’s what keeps me going.