Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time, a little girl was born in Hong Kong, and when her friends asked her where she was from, she replied with what her parents told her to say: “I come from a place in India that isn’t in India anymore.”
Now, this little girl was born at a very magical time, when there were no such things as mobile phones, ipads, or video games, which meant she spent her days dreaming, playing with her guinea pigs, roller skating, and eating mangoes! Her big sister loved to read books, but she didn’t. She thought looking at books was boring but at night, before bed, her sister would tell her about the stories she read and the little girl loved to listen, even though they were about children from countries far away and there was nobody like her that she could relate to. So, instead of reading, the little girl spent her time writing.
She kept a not-so-secret diary and wrote long traditional letters to family and friends but the thing she loved to write most, was poems. And her best poetry was always written on public transport. She would glide along on the Star Ferry and write about the interesting people she saw; she would trundle along on a Hong Kong tram and write about all the interesting sounds and smells. And one day, she was sitting on the top deck of a moving double-decker bus as it snaked its way up to the Peak, and she wrote a poem about her feelings. That poem won her first prize in a poetry competition in school!
As luck would have it, she happened to have a fabulous English and Drama teacher at school, so it wasn’t too long before she started enjoying reading too!
In fact, one of her best friends growing up was Enid Blyton. She invited the little girl to The Enchanted Wood, introduced her to The Famous Five, and held her hand as she experienced boarding school life at Malory Towers. Books gave the little girl a door into a magical world where she could see, smell, hear, taste, and feel different cultures and imagine what it was like to walk in the shoes of a person she had never met. The little girl loved all her adventures but wondered if she would ever find a book about a person like her.
After being so inspired by her teacher, who gave her the confidence to be both an actress on the stage and a writer on the page, the little girl decided to become a teacher, herself. And while she was in the South of England learning how to be a teacher, she discovered other things as well, like how to juggle, and become a DJ on University Radio and she even entered another poetry competition and won free tickets to Paris!
Soon after, the not-so-little girl returned to Hong Kong, taught English and Drama in a wonderful school, met a very nice man and married him, had three extraordinary children, and continued to enter all kinds of writing competitions that won her free movie tickets, hampers full of chocolate and even a kindle!
Now if you haven’t guessed already, the little girl in this story, is ME! And believe me, I never thought I would write a book, but inspiration struck the day my then 8-year-old daughter asked me a homework question – why do people migrate? I remembered what I’d said to everyone as a little girl and told my daughter about the 1947 Partition of India, and how my parents and grandparents were involved in the biggest mass migration in world history. We went to the library to find a picture book about the Partition, but when we got there, we couldn't find one. My little girl accused me of making it up. That broke my heart. So, I decided to write the book that we couldn’t find… a book that wasn’t just about a person like me, but my actual family history for all the world to read, so they could step into my culture and community and walk in the shoes of my courageous and resilient ancestors…
So, the moral of the story is… teachers are simply wonderful and reading and writing are two of the best things you can do! The third, is entering competitions. :)