Meet Monisha Bharadwaj, prolific Indian writer and daughter of journalist Vimla Patil

Monisha Bharadwaj was born to write - literally. The daughter of Vimla Patil, one of India's best known journalists, she was introduced to writing very, very early. "My mother edited Femina (India's leading women-related magazine) for 30 years. I grew up in her office with the smell of printing ink," she remembers.

Bharadwaj was in Dubai recently to officially launch her latest book, The Indian Luck Book, being released in the region by Motivate Publishing. This is her fifth book in six years. "I began writing when I was very young. At 15, I did a column on teenage interests and problems for the Evening News.

Later I took my diploma in journalism from the London School of Journalism and continued free-lancing. I also co-authored two books with my mother, The Prestige Festival Cookbook and The Exotic Curries of the Orient. For a while I did other things. For the last six years I have concentrated on writing," she says.

Does being Vimla Patil's daughter add any pressure? "Not at all. Both of us acknowledge our writing styles are very different. Not better or worse, just different. There's also the question of time. I'm writing 30 years after my mother began to write.

We live in different worlds and are writing about different worlds. I also write for a different readership. My mother wrote for Indians, either Indians who lived in India or Indians who lived abroad. She wrote for the Indian mind. I write for international readers, my publishers are in London," she details.

Being Patil's daughter was actually a huge advantage, she discloses. "I got the best exposure possible. I've met incredible people. My mother would be interviewing eminent persons and I would be around. I remember my mother interviewing Pandit Ravi Shankar (the sitar legend). When they finished, he asked me where I was going. I said I was going to college. So he dropped me to college in a taxi!

"Famous politicians, leaders, professionals, artists would come home. I didn't think it was unique or awesome, it was a part of our lives. I learnt a lot from them. I learnt to pursue excellence and I have my mother to thank for it."

Different subjects

She continues the pursuit through her writing. Bharadwaj's five books, as the titles suggest, are on very different subjects: Inside India, Indian Beauty Secrets, Great Diamonds of India, The Indian Pantry (shortlisted for the Food Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award, it has been renamed The Indian Kitchen in it second edition) and The Indian Luck Book. But all the books have a single theme: India.

"My interest is India. The Indian culture, the Indian way of life. I focus on why we do certain things in a certain way," she explains. Her readership is international. "The world is very interested in India. When I was living earlier in the UK the shops were full of swedes and cabbages and cauliflowers. Suddenly the shops were flooded with imli (tamarind) and jaggery.

So I wrote The Indian Pantry, telling the Western reader what can be done with Indian ingredients. "It's not just food. The world is also very interested in Indian furniture, fabrics and artifacts. Indian beauty products lead the back to basics revolution. So what I write is of interest to everyone."

Her ideal reader, Bharadwaj says, is someone very much like her own self. "Someone who loves India, who is curious about India. I believe India is so varied that no one can ever learn everything about it. The ideal reader is also someone who respects book, loves books. Someone who reads a book in two or three days, reads some others for a month, and then comes back to the book again."

"People today tend to go to the Internet to look for answers rather than open an encyclopaedia or a history book. I find that troubling," she says. Bharadwaj herself prefers to use technology sparingly. "I write by longhand on sheets of paper. I think as my hand moves, I enjoy the pleasure of forming the letters. I edit on the computer, but I don't think I will ever write on it. The pleasure will go, it will become too technical," she emphasises.

She writes at night, after her son Arrush (six) and daughter Saayli (four) have gone to bed. It takes her around six months to write a book. She does her research by reading texts, speaking to experts and laypersons. She then filters that knowledge through her own experience and awareness.

Positive energy

The Indian Luck Book, for instance, sees luck not as superstition but as positive energy. "I am not writing the book to promote superstition or blind faith. Ideally, luck should bring goodness into your life and the lives of those around you," she points out.

Written clearly and simply, the book focusses on topics such as luck tools, health, family, love, money, career and happiness. "It is almost nine books in one," laughs Bharadwaj, underlining the guide deals with several traditional Indian practices of bettering luck such as gemmology, numerology, vastu shastra, palmistry, use of colours, metals and symbols, etc .

Her next book will be written out of her own experience. "I travelled to Kailash mountains and the Mansarovar lake in the Himalayas. There was just snow and water. But I felt an incredible oneness with a higher power. This experience simply has to be shared," she says, clearly longing to start writing.