She's all kinds of magic

Updated: Aug 11, 2019, 08:15 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

With her new book, 23-year-old writer Megha Rao wants to introduce her readers to a world where reality meets imagination

She's all kinds of magic
Megha Rao

Writer Megha Rao was just 18 when she got a lesson on how tough life can be. A bunch of kids at her college in Chennai had made Rao a prime target of their bullying, and would lurk around her classes waiting to hurl insults at her and spout vile lines such as "why does she wear so much make-up?" or "why can't she just die?" It was then that the young author, who had already published two young adult books for Penguin, decided to start writing poetry on Facebook. "My poetry was a reflection of my anger, and I wanted these people to read it, so that I could tell them that I wasn't broken. They may have not read it, but I got a steady audience that did start reading it." People started sharing her poems, followed her on Instagram, and even wrote her mails, proving that her poems were helping them survive. "I changed as a writer after that experience. And even though I was barely saving myself, people would write to me saying 'you saved me'. It was intense. I think if you write something private and personal in a relatable way, it becomes universal," says the 23-year-old, who now lives in Mumbai, and works at Terribly Tiny Tales as content lead for its app.

On Instagram, Rao's writings are raw, and always manage to make the reader sit up and take notice with their imagery and honesty. She also intersperses it with her art and sketches, that are keeping with her surreal aesthetic—one that she says is the product of her obsession with Frida Kahlo. "I am an ardent worshipper of Kahlo, and I realised with magic realism I could bridge the gap between reality and imagination without going insane."

It's this realisation that has led to her writing her third book, Music To Flame Lilies (Tara Press), which is magic realism all the way. The story revolves around Noor, who goes back to the village of Herga in Karnataka, after her best friend commits suicide, to find some answers. What she finds is black magic, and stories of ghosts and demons. "I went to Herga once, where my cousins stay, and it's still steeped in superstition, but in such a beautiful way. They have a temple for ghosts. I was told ghost stories like they were real stories. I didn't always believe them, but I was curious. Then my dad told me that grandfather used to practice the black arts, and I was intrigued. They don't mean black magic in a bad way but—many magicians cured disease as well. So I started researching. This was something I wanted to talk about—my own history and heritage, but in a magical way," says the young author, inspired by Slyvia Plath and Arundhati Roy, but mostly by Kahlo. For now, Rao wants her many fans to read her book, and open their minds. "They should know that the world is not black or white, but grey." Amen.

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