Writer Lavanya Malhotra spills all about her journey as writer, aspiring doc and everything in between.
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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Lavanya Malhotra. I started off studying Medicine at the University of Cambridge but switched careers, and am now a Financial auditor at KPMG Dubai, which is perfectly logical, I know. I published my first book last year, Diary of a Cambridge Loafer. It’s a light hearted romance featuring an Indian girl studying Medicine at Cambridge. I can’t remember how I dreamt that up. Thanks for interviewing me, by the way- I’m excited!
What is your story? Tell us about your newspaper column and your first book.
My book details the first year of college in the pressure cooker atmosphere of Cambridge. The protagonist falls in love and experiences all the weird and wonderful quirks of Cambridge, the punting and angry professors and elaborate five course formal dinners. There’s plenty of Bacchic debauchery if that helps convince you to buy it. It was a personal goal to write a novel before turning 21. I wrote it while working full time and studying for Chartered accountancy exams, which left me pressed for time and had to resort to writing most of it on my phone at odd times, like on the metro going to office.
I started writing a weekly column for the UAE newspaper The National when I was 14. It was called Teen life and later Uni life, I did it for 5 years. I got to interview cool people like the Jonas brothers. I always say that to everyone- “I got to interview cool people like the Jonas brothers”- but actually it was just one cool person, Nick Jonas, and I don’t know how cool that is when you’re no longer fifteen. I’ve also blogged for the BMJ.
Who was your hero/ heroine growing up?
I didn’t have any heroes as such but Enid Blyton shaped my childhood. In retrospect, she had her shortcomings like sexism, but when I was little I wished and wished that I had such a fertile imagination. The things she dreamt up seemed incredible to a child from smoggy Delhi. Talking squirrels, the magic faraway tree, parents who let their kids go weeks without any maths practice. Seriously- how did the Famous Five get away with roaming the country without supervision?
Another celebrity I admired was Alan Menken.
Why is important in your opinion for women to support other women?
Empathy for what we all have to go through should be reason enough. Throughout history women have been relegated to the kitchens, objectified and faced horrific treatment. We’ve been passed over for promotions and denied basic human rights. And despite all this we still manage to produce brilliant specimens like JK Rowling and Richmal Crompton, Ada Lovelace and Lucy Kellaway and Mindy Kaling. If we support each other we’ll reap synergistic benefits in the battle for equality.
It won’t end with women supporting women, though: it is vital men get involved. They’re the ones responsible for committing more than 99 percent of crimes against women. It’s their responsibility not to. Because the majority of CEOs and policy makers are men, men are well placed to close the wage gap and implement laws that protect women’s rights. But we’ve learnt not to have great expectations from them, which means we’ll have to become CEOs and policy makers ourselves. That won’t happen if existing figures in power don’t make a conscious effort to overcome their ingrained biases and are absolutely fair with opportunities and rewards when due.
A lot of men are feminists, which is great- much love to you guys- but clearly not enough of them: if one of the most developed nations in the world voted to elect a misogynist as President, what does it say about the mentality of a large proportion of the population?
What three pieces of advice would you give other younger women?
Learn basic accounting and finance, no matter what your job is.
Nepotism is rife everywhere so try to make friends with rich, influential people.
If you’re from a third world country and plan to give birth, strategize where you’ll travel to do so. If your child gets an advantageous passport from the outset it’ll save an enormous amount of trouble, money and time later.
Where are you from? Can you give some recommendations of things to do for our ladies travellers visiting your hometown.
I’m from Delhi but grew up in Dubai. In Delhi, try the samosas from the stall near Bank of Baroda in Connaught Place. In Dubai, shop because there’s no VAT yet. Students- Try to wangle a fortnight’s internship at the five star Atlantis hotel, you’ll get to snorkel with sharks and handle stingrays and eels for free.
That’s all from Lavanya. Any questions? Leave it in the comment box below! Can’t get enough of us? Follow for daily updates!
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