"Chronicles of an African Mallu: An Interview with Manjusha Sunil"
TM: Tendai Machingaidze MS: Manjusha Sunil
TM: Tell us about yourself, your family, where you are from, where you’ve lived, where you studied, where you work?
MS: I was born in Kerala, India. I spent the first ten years of my life in Nigeria, followed by a brief stay of about 18 months in Lesotho. My family moved to South Africa in 1990. My junior schooling was at Kusaki Primary School in Gboko, Nigeria. I started high school in Lesotho and matriculated from Queenstown Girls High in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. I studied at a few tertiary institutions and obtained my PhD in Biotechnology from the University of the Free State in 2004. I currently work at the Water Research Commission where I am responsible for the Innovations portfolio. My spouse and I reside in Johannesburg.
TM: What inspired you to write Chronicles of an African Mallu?
MS: I have always enjoyed writing. When I was growing up, my study table often had a lot of papers with scribbled thoughts, unfinished essays, and short stories. Authoring a light and entertaining read has been on my to-do-list for a long time. I am known to be very witty with family and friends and the encouragement from them to put my humor to good use also contributed to writing Chronicles of an African Mallu.
TM: Historically, what kind of representation have Indian-African voices been given in literature? How does Chronicles of an African Mallu contribute to contemporary literary conversations in Africa and in India?
MS: I think there has been some representation but not enough. Interestingly Indian and African voices separately have had a prominent stance in literature. Nobel laureates like Rabindranath Tagore and Wole Soyinka, and writers such as R.K. Narayan, Arundhati Roy, Chinua Achebe, Salman Rushdie, Mariama Bâ, Ben Okri, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are prime examples of significant contributors to the literary world.
Chronicles of an African Mallu contributes to contemporary literary conversations in the sense that it speaks to a specific society’s social expectations and other viewpoints, and the strengths and weaknesses of such. The book is based on my experiences of this society as a first generation Indian-African, narrated in a humorous manner.
TM: What are your favorite books? Which authors have influenced you the most?
MS: There are many, but my top favorite books are: Things Fall Apart; A Thousand Splendid Suns; The God of Small Things; The Alchemist; Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions; A Suitable Boy; and Shantaram.
I have been influenced by female writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kiran Desai, Maya Angelou, and Arundhati Roy.
TM: How has your debut book been received so far? Any plans to write other books/stories?
MS: I have had very positive feedback and great reviews thus far from readers of my book. It is exciting and humbling to receive such responses and I am inspired to write again. So yes, a second book is in the pipeline.
Chronicles of an African Mallu is available on a number of platforms including Takealot, Amazon, Pothi, Flipkart, Smashwords, and also at selected Exclusive Books stores in Gauteng, South Africa.