For Nayanika Mahtani, story-telling is a passion. She is a copywriter by day and a storyteller by night. And, her journey into writing has been quite an exciting one. She once harboured hopes of becoming a theatre actor. However, Nayanika followed the proverbial left side of her brain to IIM Bangalore and became a banker instead. And, eventually landed in copywriting.
If Nayanika’s first book Ambushed narrated the story of Tara, a ten-year-old gadget geek, who goes on an adventure in the Himalayan foothills with her mysterious new friend Satya, her second and latest book The Gory Story of Genghis Khan a.k.a. Don’t Mess with the Mongols is based on Genghis Khan, one of the history’s most feared characters. Nayanika has adopted an engaging and a fun way to present this story to children using interesting trivia, family trees, maps and timelines.
For her, the inspiration to write stories strikes her at the oddest of moments. “My second book was born out of my attempt to introduce my daughters to Asian history,” she shares and adds, “As I sifted through sources, I was fascinated by this poor, exiled boy who grew up to become the world’s greatest conqueror. But was he the vilest of all villains or was he a legendary hero? Genghis Khan captured the territory in my brain — and refused to vacate until I did some finding out.”
The book intends to help the young audience to understand how a poor, cast out nomadic boy from the remote Mongolian steppes grew up to become the world’s greatest conqueror and how his empire, inventions and discoveries shaped the modern world. Quiz Nayanika what is her antidote for writer’s block, she replies, “I sometimes try and work on more than one piece of writing at a time. If I feel my writing is getting stale, I put that piece away for a bit and start on the other.”
And, she believes that everything happens at the right time, even in the case of writing. In her opinion, this should be the mantra of budding writers to prevent rejection from turning into dejection. “I believe that a story will be told only when its time comes. So my mantra is to just wake up, show up and keep writing. Regardless of the outcome,” says the author who would like to have a coffee with Gerald Durrell among the pantheon of writers. “We’d chat under the magnolia tree in his Corfu home over some wine, figs, olives and ice-cold watermelon slices,” smiles Nayanika.
She exhorts the young writers to confront failures and learn from them. “What I learnt quite late in life is to embrace the possibility of failure — it can be very liberating. If you’re afraid of failing, you hold yourself back. Also, as Genghis Khan apparently said, ‘There is no good in anything unless it is finished.’ I would say, let’s keep writing until we reach the end of our stories.”...