Journalist-author Ashwini Devare's memoir Lost at 15, Found at 50 revisits historic political events
After penning down a compilation of short stories – Batik Rain, Ashwini Devare releases her memoir, Lost at 15, Found at 50, in Delhi this month. The 52-year-old journalist turned author, felt in hand with history as she kept on tripping important events in world history. With a novel in mind as her next release, Singapore based Devare, talked about penning down her memories in her latest book. Excerpts:
Q) Why was Batik Rain your first book and not your memoir Lost at 15, Found at 50?
Batik Rain happened at a time when I had several stories and characters swirling in my head. They made their way into six short stories, set in Hyderabad, Pune, Bali, Boston and Washington. I was excited to write fiction. The whole process of creating characters was both challenging as well as thrilling for me. I wasn’t quite ready to pen my memoir five years ago. Though ‘Lost at 15, Found at 50’ was always there in the back of my mind, but it remained a fuzzy idea. I had the material, but I didn’t know quite how to weave it together. Writing a memoir can be very fulfilling, but it is also tricky. I wanted to get it right. My habit of being a hoarder, of storing things came in handy while writing this book. The more I wrote the more I remembered. It gave me insights into my past, to wander through the corridors of history, and recreate forgotten eras.
Q) How big a challenge it was to pen down all your experiences in the limited pages of a book?
To the contrary, having two hundred pages felt like a luxury! Having spent so many years writing for TV news, I got used to editing, to keeping my sentences fairly short and crisp. A large part of the writing process is rewriting and I am pretty good about throwing things out if they don’t work. Good writing is all about being a ruthless editor, and I was very mindful of that, and have tried to do that in this book. My book does cover a vast canvas, from Russia to Singapore, with India in between. I wanted to do justice to all these wonderful settings, make them atmospheric.
Q) Take us through the book.
My book is a coming-of-age story, set against historic political events that played out like a background slide to my life. Every country my diplomat-father was posted to was in the throes of extraordinary changes and I felt like I was hand in hand with history. I was born in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, lived in Sikkim when it wasn’t part of India. I went to school in Burma in the seventies when it was ruled by the military Junta, and to college with American soldiers in Seoul. I saw South Korea go from dictatorship to democracy and host the 88 Olympics, a spectacular show.
Q) Your parents and even sister are published authors. Was there any compulsion to follow their lead?
No compulsion, only pure inspiration! I’m the last one in the family to join the writing bandwagon! My mother is a playwright and a writer. She wrote her first book several years ago. My sister, father and grandfather are published authors as well. Having a family of writers is hugely helpful to bounce ideas around. In fact our friends joke that they don’t need to attend any literary festival, they can just visit our home!
Q) Is the next book coming soon or will there be a break?
There is no time to relax. I have too many things on my mind. The next one will be a fiction again but this time it will not be a short story, rather it will be a full-fledged novel.