HOW DID MEGHNA PANT CONCEIVE HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND OTHER STORIES?
It was turning out to be one of those days. My hands were frozen from New York’s biting cold. I was late to catch my train from Penn Station. The plastic bag carrying my lunch had ripped, right in the middle of a mall. As I mulled over how best to salvage the situation, someone put a hand on my shoulder. I turned and saw an old Indian lady with hair like moonlight smiling at me. She held out a plastic bag. When I hugged her
in gratitude, she insisted on introducing me to a group of her “mall rat friends” other elderly Indians who were sitting on a bench outside the JC Penney store. They gathered around me, curious about this girl living alone in Manhattan, trying to be a writer. “Why aren’t you at home with your grandchildren?” I asked them in return. The quiet in their smiles,
their long excuses, revealed that they were not welcome at home.
That day I missed my train, but found a story: ‘Lemon & Chili’. It became my first short story to be published by an American literary magazine. And subsequently, part of ‘Happy Birthday and other stories’. This was 2008 and I spend the next three years furiously writing more short stories. From the vantage point of those old eyes and the unsaid things etched wearily on those wrinkles, I shone the light on the dark corners of our lives that we keep hidden. I went on a journey, living vicariously through other people’s experiences, gathering scraps from overheard conversations and giving free flight to my mind’s imagination. It
was like taking pages out of a book that people didn’t want to open. Meghna Pant is an Indian novelist and financial journalist. Born in
Shimla, Meghna spent her childhood in Delhi, her teenage years in Mumbai, and most of her twenties in the cities of Zurich, Singapore,
Dubai and New York. After completing an undergraduate degree in Economics and Statistics from St. Xavier College, Mumbai, Meghna won a scholarship for a MBA in Finance at Nanyang Business School, Singapore, and a Masters in International Management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. After her MBA, Meghna moved on from a job in corporate finance to become a business journalist. She began her career as a TV anchor with Arnab Goswami at Times Now, and went on to work for NDTV Profit in Mumbai and Bloomberg-UTV in New York City, where she reported from the New York Stock Exchange. She has met and interviewed President Obama, Mukesh Ambani, Sir Richard Branson, Hillary Clinton, Ratan Tata and Shah Rukh Khan, among others. Meghna is the author of One & A Half Wife (May 2012, Westland Books) and Happy Birthday! (July 2013, Random House).