If you grew up with curly hair, which is not only difficult to maintain but impossible to comb through, you'll relate to this story by Divya Anand. A passionate reader and an occasional writer, Divya never thought of boasting the title of an author. But with a little encouragement from her husband, she is now two books old. Her recent book I Hate my Curly Hair captures her journey accepting the mess her hair is. In a fun chat with Local Samosa, Divya Anand reveals her love for travelling (fun fact: she has been travelling since she was two), her relationship with her curly hair, her husband's quest of eating bizarre food and more.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? What inspired you to become an author?
I’m a product manager by day who writes at night and on weekends. I’m a big reader - there are very few genres I don’t read. I can be found reading while I walk, eat, and while doing a myriad of other things. While I’ve had blogs sporadically over the years, I always claimed that I wouldn’t be an author. As I observed my husband’s quest to eat bizarre foods from around the world, I realized it would make an amazing book. Since he wouldn’t write it himself, I had to step in. I also credit him for constantly pushing me to write. He was able to spot the author hiding within even before I acknowledged it, so he’s been my inspiration in more ways than one.
Your latest book, I Hate my Curly Hair, is more poetic and illustration based. Very different compared to your previous book. Any reason for going with this style of writing?
I actually wrote ‘I Hate My Curly Hair’ before ‘Dare Eat That’, at a picture book writing workshop in mid-2017. I came up with the idea of creating a curly-haired, spunky protagonist. Because I hadn’t come across one while I was growing up. When I started writing the story, it just flowed in verse. It wasn’t really a conscious choice. And once the first draft was written in verse I couldn’t think of this story in any other way.
How has your relationship with your curly hair been during your childhood? Has it changed much?
Just like the Curly Girl in the book, I hated my hair as a child. I wished I had the silky straight hair I saw on TV. And spent countless hours trying to experiment with ways to straighten my hair. Somewhere along the way, as I grew up, I gradually got more comfortable with it. I learned that curly hair needs to be cared for differently than straight hair. And started following the Curly Girl method. The day I stopped combing my hair was the day I fell in love with it!
Your previous book, Dare Eat That, has been popular with the readers. What made you pen down your experience of food exploration?
My husband, Vivek, was experimenting with food even before we met. He’s a bit of a science nerd. And so he began cataloguing the species he ate in the form of a food chart that was classified into phylum, class, order, species, and so on. This chart became a talking point amongst all our friends. They soon began asking us to show them the latest additions to the chart whenever we met. I realized there was something interesting in this concept. I wrote a blog post about one of our food trips to Bangkok. That was the first time I experimented with writing about it. And when I saw the interest the post generated, I wrote the first draft of the manuscript.
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What’s your favourite Indian local cuisine you explored?
I think the most interesting would be the delicacies you find during Ramadan at iftaar. We go to Mosque Road every year and the variety is amazing. Vivek’s tried camel, bater and more on these food walks. Unlike my husband, I’m a very unadventurous eater. So my personal favourite is thin, crispy dosas accompanied by my mother’s homemade thakkali thokku (tomato chutney).
You seem to be an avid traveller. When did your travel journey start? What are some of the places from India that are in your bucket list?
By the time I was a teenager, I’d already seen the sunrise at Angkor Wat, the ruins of Pompeii, been to Hong Kong Disneyland, and marvelled at the Terracotta Warriors at Xian. My father, an avid traveller used to plan our trips from Doha where we lived to India in such a way that we stopped over at a different place en-route every time. With parents who were brave enough to take a two-year-old to Athens (with a porta-potty in tow!), it’s no wonder that I developed a love for travel.
Back then, we travelled everywhere with a rice cooker and our first stop in any place would be the convenience store to buy a carton of yogurt so we could have our staple, thayir saadam (curd rice). Not much has changed from then to now when it comes to how I travel, except, of course, the addition of wet markets, food streets, and bizarre food!
Within India, we’ve been wanting to go on a trip to the North East for a few years now. I’ve also wanted to attend the Kochi Biennale, but haven’t managed to make it yet.
Which Indian city has your heart? And what do you like the most about it?
As a teenager, I always thought that Bangalore would be the best place in India to live in. I used to visit to meet one of my best friends, and it had perfect weather and all the lakes and lush green patches. Now, however, I realize that I gave away my heart all those years ago to the city I spent my teens in - Coimbatore. It’s where I grew up, met some of my best friends, had some of my craziest teenage adventures. I would argue that it has the best weather, and of course, it’s an added advantage to be so close to Ooty and Coonoor! While I’ve never lived there, Pune is another city that I really like, mostly because it reminds me of Coimbatore.
What are some of your favourite local spots to visit in Bangalore?
I love browsing through bookstores, so Church Street is one of my favourite areas, with Blossoms and Bookworm. I also love Lightroom Bookstore in Frazer Town for their exceptional collection of children’s books. Atta Galatta in Koramangala is another favourite, especially for the performances that happen there. I enjoy attending the ‘Oota from your Thotta’ events that happen around the city. My favourite restaurants are CTR, Burma Burma (for the bubble tea and Burmese tea leaf salad), Chinita and Toast & Tonic.
How does Divya Anand spend her time when not writing or busy with work?
I enjoy doodling. I read a lot, and sometimes review what I read. And lastly, I practice anti-gravity yoga. In fact, some of my best creative ideas have come to me while I’ve been hanging upside down or practicing shavasana in a hammock!
Any plans for the next book?
I have a few ideas that I’m working on - a romantic comedy for adults, and some children's books on topics that are close to my heart.