Writing comes naturally
By publishing the novel If I Never Went Home, Ingrid Persaud has given tangible expression to her belief that “everyone has at least one book in them”.
The former academic and artist turned author cannot point to any specific inspiration for writing the novel, and insists it is not autobiographical, but in it she has managed to give expression to influences and experiences from exposure to life in Boston and her native Trinidad.
“It’s the first novel so obviously I draw on my own experience. There are amalgamations of people I have met,” Ingrid said following the recent Barbados launch attended by about 200 guests.
A woman who has had diverse careers, Ingrid said, “I have been writing for a very long time throughout my disparate careers. I think writing is the common theme, so writing a novel is a natural progression.”
She was born in San Fernando, Trinidad, went to England to study and ended up remaining in Britain for 25 years, graduating with a law degree.
“I studied law and ended up becoming an academic,” she declared as her husband, international economist Avinash Persaud and their dapperly dressed twin sons Anish and Ishan sit close by, supporting the family matriarch.
Initially she found her niche in the world of academia, becoming a lecturer in international law at Kings College London, and later taught public international law at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy in Boston. It is that experience living in Boston that she translated into the narrative about the life of one of the book’s characters, Bea, an immigrant in Boston who, with the other character, ten-year-old Trinidadian Thea, “navigate devastating losses, illness and betrayal in their quest to belong.”
After many years abroad the family chose to settle in Barbados, Avinash’s birthplace. His father, Guyanese development economist Professor Bishnodat Persaud, was a recipient of the Companion of Honour of Barbados in this year’s Independence honours.
The author said she grew up in San Fernando, a “very conservative, small society . . . . At that time a really small town and not the metropolis the southern Trinidad town has become”. She asserts the comparison between London and Barbados “is unfair in many ways, because Barbados cannot possibly offer the same cultural output or variety of activities, but it offers a lifestyle which is incredibly rich”.
“Our children sail, they are very safe where they do their sailing, they run around playing football in the backyard. It is a very good life for a family.”
Her husband nodded in agreement, while the boys just into their teens engaged in friendly teasing banter with each other, stopped immediately by their mother with a stern but gentle “boys!”
“I went to Naparima Girls’ High School founded by Presbyterian missionaries where very much, the emphasis is on discipline.”
In jest her husband retorted, “Joy isn’t very much part of the curriculum” and, throwing her “Avi” a smile, Ingrid shot back, “At the time I may not have appreciated it but it has stood me in good stead through my life. I am [very] disciplined.”
She attaches the same kind of discipline to her work as author. “I treat my writing like a job. I am at my desk at 6 a.m. every day. I don’t waver.”
She continued, “I find my creativity where I can really focus” and each day sees her writing no less than 800 words that will form part of another chapter.
“Since I have been here I have worked as a visual artist and in recent times I have been tucked away in small room writing. I have been writing for a very long time throughout my disparate careers. I think writing is the common theme, so writing a novel is a natural progression in many ways. I started with a short story of a family disruption and it really grew from there.”
The roles of author, wife and mother are no juggling act for the clearly well-disciplined Ingrid.
As she explained, “Being a mother I think is the most important task that I have as a human being and family life is very, very important.”
For her, twin boys “are a blessing and a challenge”.
“They are 13 now and we are going through those teenage years. We have some family routines that are easier now. We have breakfast together every day and we have dinner together every day. I rarely accept evening invitations. I figure there will be enough time when they are older.
“My career as a writer facilitates being a hands-on mum. We share the school runs. I do the mornings, my husband does the afternoons.”
Being married to Avinash whom she has known since age 18 and with whom she grew up, Ingrid has learnt how to accommodate the couple’s changing careers over the years. After all, “I have grown up with him” she reasoned.
Their lives have always been busy and according to her, “There have been times in our marriage when I have been the one travelling more and he has accommodated and now he is the breadwinner and he is having to do a lot of travel and being away, but we manage”.
But between this couple there is no mistaking their role as parents, nor are the lines blurred on responsibility to family.
“Even though my husband travels a lot, when he is here, at six o clock we meet as a family, we have a meal, and we plan the evening homework.”
She claims a simple life. For recreation “I write and I read”.
Many avid readers are turning to the Kindle through which she has already sold “quite a few” of her books, and she is planning to make it available to the blind in Braille, free of cost because Ingrid believes storytelling will never go out of fashion.
“The format perhaps” she suggested, but added, “storytelling is fundamental to human beings, we understand the world through our stories.”
She is hoping to get started on the second novel early in the new year and not wanting to give much away, would only say it will be around the theme of different types of endurance.
In the meantime she continues to write an animated funny blog “Notes From A Small Rock”, which looks at all aspects of living in Barbados through the eyes of an expatriate coming back here to live.
“It was because of the joy I found in writing that I knew I wanted to write more and longer,” Ingrid said.