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Centre for Stories

Indian Ocean Mentoring Project – An Interview with Priyadarshini Chidambaranathan

"I started writing in earnest after I moved to Australia, as a way to make sense of my experiences here."

December 11, 2018

The Indian Ocean Mentoring Project  is an extension of our incredibly successful mentoring program undertaken two years ago for early and emerging writers of African heritage. This second mentoring program is focused on early and emerging writers who are permanent residents or Australian citizens of Indian Ocean heritage living in WA. The Indian Ocean Rim countries are: Bangladesh, Union of Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. In this series of interviews, we uncover the inner worlds of these budding writers, focusing on their connection to the Indian Ocean region, their motivation for writing and the authors that inspire them.

Priya C. writes stories revolving around women, and their experiences with migration. Having grown up in India, right on the East Coast of the Indian Ocean, Priya found herself displaced and lost when she moved to Australia 8 years ago. Writing served as a way for her to connect with others, whilst simultaneously allowing her to process the experience of being uprooted from her homeland, and planted into a new one, with unfamiliar faces and identities.

Priya has a special place in her heart for female authors and her favourites include Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Agozi Ndichie, and Arundhati Roy. She regularly aims to diversify her reading experience by seeking out authors from a range of different cultural backgrounds.

Tell us a little bit about yourself  

I am a mother to two young children with a day job in financial services. I write fiction that focuses on women and the experiences of migration. I have a story published in the recently released collection, ‘Stories from Perth’ and another one to be released  soon.  

What is your connection to the Indian Ocean region? 

I have lived most of my life in India, I grew up in the state of Tamilnadu, which is the southernmost state in India and edges the Indian ocean on its east coast. I moved to Australia about 8 years ago to the other side of the Indian ocean.

When did you get interested in writing or when did you realise you had a passion for writing 

I started writing in earnest after I moved to Australia, as a way to make sense of my experiences here. The move was very difficult for me, tearing myself away from family and established identities and social groups. I was lost and wondering how to start again, without a job, without family and friends. And through writing I found an outlet for my frustrations as well as a way to connect with others.

I started freelancing as a journalist and this forced me to move out of my comfort zone and meet other people. I learned their stories, shared their experiences and grew as a person.

I slowly moved into writing fiction from there, which is incredibly satisfying in many ways but also incredibly hard.

What are you hoping to get out of this mentorship?  

To learn the craft of writing, to understand where I need to focus to become a better writer. I have a wonderful mentor in Michelle Michau-Crawford. She has been very warm and generous with her time and advice. I have learnt so much from her and her experiences as a writer.

Who are some of your favourite writers/books? 

As with most people I know, there are too many to list. But some of the writers I  love include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Shashi Deshpande, Maggie O’Farrell, Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee, Arundhati Roy, Toni Morrison, Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry, Thrity Umrigar, Ernst Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Amy Tan… I could keep going.

I do tend to read more women writers and try to seek out writers from different cultural backgrounds to widen my reading experience.

Photo: Zal Kanga-Parabia

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