A dream re­alised

Young writer Natassha Shievanie aims to put Nepalese girls through school with her first book.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - By DI­NESH KU­MAR MA­GANATHAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

TO say that she’s the next big thing in the lit­er­ary world would be stretch­ing it too far. But make no mis­take: she is al­ready on the path to great­ness. True, it may take the next decade or so, but her foot is al­ready firmly planted on the right path.

Her first book, a se­ries of short sto­ries fea­tur­ing way­ward wiz­ards, mis­chievous elves and witty an­i­mals, has al­ready been pub­lished and her sec­ond book, writ­ten in the for­mat of a di­ary, is in the pipe­line. Of course, like any other au­thor, her de­sire is to share her creation with the world so her sto­ries can be mar­velled at and talked about – but Natassha Shievanie also has an­other de­sire, and a noble one at that: To help fund the ed­u­ca­tion of Nepalese girls through the sales of her book, Wizard Willy & The Lonely Heart And Other Mag­i­cal Tales. And she’s just 11 years old!

Natassha shared in a re­cent in­ter­view that when she learned about the plight of Nepalese girls from her par­ents, she took it upon her­self to rise to their aid.

“My par­ents have been to Nepal and they told me that the girls there don’t have a chance to go to school, they don’t have a chance to get an ed­u­ca­tion. So, as a girl who goes to school, I re­alised how lucky I am and I felt very sad about these girls and wanted to help them,” Natassha says.

The Year Five stu­dent has ex­am­ined the is­sue thor­oughly, telling us knowl­edge­ably that ed­u­cat­ing girls can em­power them im­mensely and pre­vent fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from liv­ing in the ubiq­ui­tous poverty that so many Nepalese are ac­cus­tomed to.

“There are a lot of il­lit­er­ate mothers, and mothers play an im­por­tant role in bring­ing up their chil­dren. Mothers who can’t read and write will af­fect their chil­dren badly be­cause they may grow up to be il­lit­er­ate as well,” Natassha opines.

The ar­dent fan of works by chil­dren’s au­thors such as Enid Bly­ton and Dame Jac­que­line Wil­son started writ­ing when she was just six years old and hasn’t stopped since. In the open­ing note of her book, Natassha quips, “On oc­ca­sion, I have been barred from writ­ing be­cause I spent too much time at it and my stud­ies were af­fected.”

But the child writer kept her abil­i­ties a se­cret from her par­ents and at first re­sorted to pen­ning her tales on scraps of paper.

“I started to think up sto­ries in my mind and started writ­ing them on bits of paper. But I never told my par­ents. But when I was nine, my par­ents found out and my dad told me to write books and let the world know my sto­ries,” she says.

Say­ing that writ­ing brings her sat­is­fac­tion and joy, Natassha ex­plains that when­ever she writes, she gets lost in her own fan­tasy world, that in fact, it is very easy for any­one to lose them­selves in a land filled with wiz­ards, kings and princesses, an­i­mals and goblins.

The first of the eight short sto­ries in Wizard Willy & The Lonely Heart tells about a good wizard who be­comes evil as his pow­ers grow and he be­gins mis­us­ing his abil­i­ties. When he meets his come­up­pance, a les­son about ar­ro­gance is con­veyed.

In­deed, all eight sto­ries are peo­pled with colour­ful and in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters and each imag­i­na­tive tale is full of wonder. This writer’s favourite story is the one fea­tur­ing the fa­mous Sang Kan­cil (mousedeer) in a story called King Of The Jun­gle in which the clever mousedeer re­veals the hyp­o­crit­i­cal croc­o­dile’s true colours.

The lit­tle an­i­mal’s wit and in­ge­nu­ity is al­ways daz­zling to read about – and Natassha has added an­other facet to the di­a­mond that is the mousedeer in Malaysian cul­ture.

Natassha says that if it wasn’t for the en­cour­age­ment her par­ents gave her, her book would not have ma­te­ri­alised so she calls on all par­ents to do the same with their chil­dren.

“Par­ents should ex­plain to their kids about the im­por­tance of do­ing what they like,” she says.

Her father, Roy Sel­varaj, who was pre­sent at the in­ter­view, echoes her sen­ti­ments, say­ing that, “Par­ents play a very cru­cial role in rais­ing their kids and they have to be in­ter­ested in what their kids are do­ing, de­spite the busy­ness of life.

“They need to ob­serve and de­velop a very good re­la­tion­ship with their kids, and find out where the child’s tal­ent lies. They

Full sup­port: Natassha Shievanie says that if it wasn’t for the en­cour­age­ment her par­ents gave her, her book would not have ma­te­ri­alised – so she calls on all par­ents to en­cour­age their chil­dren’s dreams and sup­port their tal­ents.

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