Indian Muslim writer Andaleeb Wajid’s new book is part of a time-travel trilogy
Modestly dressed in a pretty headscarf and shalwar kameez, the Bangalore-based writer Andaleeb Wajid smiles as she talks about her short but successful writing career – she has published five books in six years, most of them featuring a Muslim setting and credibly representing the community in India.
Wajid, 36, says she has been writing since she was 10. Her first book, Kite Strings, was released in August 2009 followed by Blinkers Off (August 2011), My Brother’s Wedding (May 2013) and More Than Just Biryani (January 2014). No Time For Goodbyes, released in April this year, is her latest book and the first in the Tamanna Trilogy series, books on time travel targeted at young adults. The other two will be released in September and December this year.
How did you begin writing?
I have been writing stories since I was 10. When I was in Grade 12, I was left very confused about what I would do with my life. There weren’t many options for girls from orthodox Muslim families. Then it occurred to me to take up writing as a career. I was certain that no one would stop me.
Is there a reason why many of your books have been set in a Muslim milieu?
I’m quite amused with the way Muslims are depicted in Bollywood films and on television in India. My stories attempt to show a slice of Muslim life, which is no different from anyone else’s. I wrote More Than Just Biryani only because I strongly felt that the world has labelled us as just biryani-eaters and I wanted them to be aware of the diversity in Muslim cuisine. Kite Strings discusses the issues a young girl from an orthodox Lababin Muslim [a community from Tamil Nadu] family faces. But a large number of non-Muslim fans also reached out to me, saying how much they identified with the character, which proves that some things transcend religious boundaries.
More Than Just Biryani was conceived as a recipe book. What prompted you to turn it into fiction?
My brother and I had thought of writing a culinary memoir but the idea never took off because I realised early that I could never do justice to non-fiction. Instead I wrote about three women and the role food plays in their lives. Nearly every chapter of the book has a recipe, which is woven into the story.
Have you drawn upon your personal experiences to craft stories?
Yes. Like most writers, I started off writing about what I knew best. In Kite Strings, the protagonist Mehnaz is a rebel without a cause and behaves a lot like I did as a teenager. The story is set in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, where as a child I spent several holidays with my grandparents. In More Than Just Biryani, one of the protagonists loses her father. It was the most painful chapter I have ever written.
What else is in the pipeline?
I have one more young-adult novel in my kitty, about a girl whose mother has left the family. Then there’s another about a crochet teacher and the four women who learn this beautiful craft from her and end up baring their lives to her.
• Andaleeb Wajid’s books are available on Amazon