When Tanzila Khan and her friends would watch Hillary Duff in the show Lizzie McGuire, they yearned for her adventure-filled life. The next best thing, figured Tanzila, who has had to use a wheelchair all her life, was to create stories full of adventures.
Tanzila, now 22, started writing when she was 16. Her first novella A Story of Mexico was published by Topical in 2008. She kept at it and Ilqa Publications has just backed her latest foray into young adult fiction: The Perfect Situation — Sweet Sixteen. And even though Tanzila was initially inspired by Lizzie McGuire, she realised that she had to write something closer to home as the cultural divide between Lizzie’s lifestyle and life here in Pakistan was too great. The Perfect Situation seeks to bridge that gap and inspire teenagers here to live fulfilling and entertaining lives.
The book is set in Lahore where Tanzila grew up. Javayria Khan or ‘Jay’ is approaching her 16th birthday. In an attempt to be the perfect teenager, Jay attempts to take charge of her life and get everything right down to a T. She strives to be the embodiment of perfection for the sake of her future, all the while strongly believing that the habits and values you pick up at this juncture in your life remain with you forever. She eats healthy and studies hard. Needless to say, everything does not go according to plan.
Young readers will enjoy The Perfect Situation for encapsulating and giving voice to their lives. Tanzila makes you feel the heat in the school canteen and smell the crisp, freshly ironed uniform. You hear the playground ruckus during break and can see in your mind’s eye the “pastry-cheeked” principal.
Tanzila denies that Javayria’s character is autobiographical and only accedes that the fictional teenager might be a “better version” of her. In real life, however, self-improvement appears to be one of Tanzila’s prime motivations. She is the brains behind Creative Alley, a production house that nurtures and promotes Pakistani talent through various forms of art and community work. She is also an activist for education with projects such as ‘I Wish Knowledge,’ affiliated with Global Changemakers (British Council). She has taken an interest in The Ramp Movement that works to improve spatial accessibility for people with limited mobility. She also has to her credit an online counseling facility for Pakistani youth called the Angel Network.
Remember this story?
Two decades ago
11-year-old Nayantara Noorani became the author of children’s fiction
Twenty-three years ago there was terrible excitement among young readers in Pakistan with the publication of A Dream Come True. For the first time, someone their age had written a book and it had been published by none other than the giant Ferozsons.
That 11-year-old, Nayantara Noorani, may today be an analyst who only prefers to conjure stories for her children or give guest lectures on writing children’s literature in the US and Pakistan, but for those who read her back in 1990, that story lives on forever.
The story of how a seventh grader came to write a book is as fantastical as the work itself. Ferozsons had approached Nayantara’s mother, a school teacher, to write a children’s book in English. She politely declined, having never done that kind of writing but an ebullient Nayantara took on the project.
The first chapter was handwritten and eagerly presented to her father. It eventually landed in the hands of Gul Afshan of Ferozsons whose young daughter read it and declared that she wanted to know more.
Nayantara aka Nayna and her sister were voracious readers of Enid Blyton. It is no wonder then, that her book was inspired by the original demigod of children’s fantasy. Nayna had, however, never been to a circus but she still doggedly pursued the story of a girl named Sarah who runs away with one. She befriends another girl her age and is adopted by her parents.
The Noorani family played a part in helping Nayna, whether it was typing on the newly purchased PC, or proof-reading ten pages each. An ‘h’ was added to Sarah’s name and Nayna had to accept the pet dog Bobo’s death in an accident and not from a poisonous bone, which she was told didn’t exist. Otherwise, the story was hardly edited.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, June 16th, 2013.