Tag Archives: Ira Mathur

Guest Blog Post: WHY A JOURNALIST WROTE A MEMOIR – ACROSS CONTINENTS by Ira Mathur

In writing this memoir, I combined my two loves, journalism and creative writing.

The journalist’s task is to find the dark corners of the world of injustice and sadness and illuminate them. The bigger job is to be the watchdog of democracies, to ensure there are checks and balances in governance on behalf of the people.

If there is one thing it taught me is that humans are essentially the same. Everyone is looking for a way to survive the dark days of our mortality and the trials of being human, whether they are gangsters who end up getting shot at 20 and buried with gold chains down to their stomachs; or priests who have lived ascetic lives; or indeed, families around the commonwealth navigating the damage of Empire.

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It was with this understanding that I began to write a memoir.

As an immigrant to Tobago, where my parents moved when I was a child, and later to Trinidad, I felt the past was being cut away from me.

My son was born, and I had begun forgetting words in Urdu and Hindi. As an immigrant to Trinidad, I started feeling the past was being cut away from me. I wrote it to remember the past and understand the present of the glittering islands of Trinidad and Tobago, where my parents moved when I was a child. 

As I wrote about my experience as a journalist, somebody who chronicles the events that shape a country, I realised that my past was not unique. My grandmother told me how my ancestor was brought from Uzbekistan to put down the mutiny in India in 1856. As a recruited member of the British Army, he was forced to shoot his fellow Muslims, something he regretted till he died. I began making connections. It was also the story of colonial islands in the new world, where people were stripped of language. The narrative continued with my parents travelling to Trinidad and Tobago, which also has a complicated history of colonisation by the French Spanish and English. That interested me – how the personal can be so political, how the unravelling of one family living under decades of colonialism can echo a crumbling empire.

The overall theme of the crumbling Empire is relevant, especially now; after the death of Queen Elizabeth 11, we can see how similar post-colonial worlds are. The history of brutality was identical. In India, we grew up with stories of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar Puja when General Dyer ordered the British 

Indian Army to open fire on over a thousand unarmed, nonviolent protestors, Churchill’s active role in perpetuating the Bengal famine, or the signs my mother remembers in exclusive clubs that read “No Dogs or Indians” and the sly inroads of the East India Company. In Trinidad, as in much of South America, there is the brutal history of slavery, indentureship and genocide of millions of native Indians. In India from 1765 to 1938. the British got an estimated 45 trillion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods like textiles, rice, iron, and timbre, not to mention jewels from the Raj, which are housed in 

British museums today. Similarly, Caribbean islands like ours were looted for sugar and cocoa. It’s a shared history of exploitation.

 When my grandmother left India to join our family in Trinidad, she told me stories about a vanished India of the British Raj. She told me of generations of women born into Muslim Indian princely families of Bhopal and Savanur. I had to infer the calamity upon her life when my mother broke hundreds of years of tradition and understand why my grandmother disinherited my mother for marrying a Hindu army officer.

There were unanswered questions. I wondered why my grandmother ended up alone and penniless despite all her privileges- born a princess into Indian royalty, beauty, and musical talent. 

As I wrote the story, the puzzle came together. I began to understand how patterns are created in how we treat our daughters and how that damages the people we love. At my grandmother’s funeral, I was aware of how incongruous this was, a woman born in colonial India dying in the new world so far from everything she grew up with and knew. It was a way of bringing tother the old and new worlds and introducing the question of how and why this happened. How did a princess of the Raj die in Trinidad? 

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The colonial idea that subjugation, cruelty and even corporal punishment can be justified for the greater good filtered down to how people in colonies viewed their children.– how neglect, abandonment or abuse is passed on to their daughters and that pattern is continued. 

Migration is also a very personal issue. At the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth, dozens of security guards were of South Asian origin. According to an Indian Ministry of External Affairs report, 32 million Non-Resident Indians live outside India, overseas Indians comprise the world’s largest overseas diaspora, and over 2.4 million Indians migrate overseas yearly. Our family was just one in this ocean of movement. So the themes aren’t heavy, but 

illustrates how politics always becomes personal and affects families.  

When I wrote it, I did not expect it to resonate with so many people across continents. Michael Portillo for Times Radio was moved by the story of Poppet, the child in the book. Anita Rani of Times Radio was moved by the story of migration. The Observer found it was reminiscent of the times of the Raj in India, which has connected India and Britain for generations.

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About the Author

Ira Mathur is the author of Love The Dark Days – a Peepal Tree published a memoir on the emotional ruins of Empire on three generations of women set in Trinidad, St Lucia, India and the U.K., bookended with a weekend with Derek Walcott. Love The Dark Days was selected as a UK Guardian Best Book of the Year 2022 ( Memoir and Biography)

Mathur is an Indian-born Trinidadian multimedia journalist and columnist with a body of writing that includes over 800 columns over 20 years. (www.irasroom.org) She was longlisted for the 2021 Bath Novel Award for Touching Dr Simone. (Out in 2023)

Mathur studied creative writing in London with The University of East Anglia/Guardian & the Faber Academy with Gillian Slovo, Maggie Gee, and James Scudamore. In 2019 Mathur was longlisted for the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize. She holds degrees in literature, law and journalism. 

Purchase on Amazon U.K.: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Dark-Days-Ira-Mathur/dp/1845235355#detailBullets_feature_div

Purchase on Amazon U.S.: https://amzn.to/3YaoVmH

Love The Dark Days by Ira Mathur Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A woman who has been stuck in a vicious cycle of trauma as her grandmother lashes out after the loss of her former life finds herself fighting to let go of the past and reinvent herself in author Ira Mathur’s “Love The Dark Days”.

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The Synopsis

From award-winning journalist Ira Mathur, Love The Dark Days is about accrued intergenerational damage between mothers and daughters in post-colonial worlds.

Set in India, England, Trinidad and St Lucia, Love The Dark Days follows the story of the life of Dolly, of mixed Hindu Muslim parentage in post-colonial India. Dolly, whose privileged family has colluded with the brutality of the British Rule in India, lives with her grandmother, who feels a raging loss at the fading old world. With it, her privilege. Dolly absorbs her grandmothers’ rage, becoming a living memorial of all the pain and injustice the imperious Burrimummy repeatedly hauls back from her past to tell and retell to Dolly. Just as Dolly is constantly pulled into the old wounds, so is the reader. The story is crafted so the reader viscerally experiences how trauma loops around, coming back and back through generations to warp the future.

That damage of unbelonging is repeated when her family migrates to Trinidad, where, in her darkest hour, she meets Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, who encourages her when she visits him in St Lucia over a weekend to leave the past behind and reinvent herself. Before she can do this Dolly must re-enter the past one last time.

Can Dolly find the courage to examine each broken shard of her shattered family and reassemble it into a new shape in a new world? It is raw, unflinching, but not without threads of humour and perceived absurdity; Love the Dark Days is an intricate tapestry with Dolly’s story at its heart. 

The Review

This was such a well-written and captivating memoir and biography. The balance the author found in the generational stories of her family, including her grandmother and mother, with her own experiences was so impactful and thought-provoking. The rich imagery the author conjured up through her writing really brought readers into the lives of these very different yet connected women through the generations of this family. 

The heart of the author’s story was true in the intricate details of her life experiences and the multi-cultural journey she undertook in her life, as well as the deep look into how Colonialism impacted both her family and the generations that came before. The history of Colonialism is so rarely discussed in detail within nations such as The United States outside of an advanced history course, and so learning of the experiences that came with Colonialism and getting to see it through both her mother’s family’s side and her father’s point of view was fascinating. Yet it was the intimate, heartfelt moments that the author shared of her own life and experiences that really made the deepest impact, even in the opening pages as she confronts a loss of proportionate significance. 

The Verdict

Heartfelt, captivating, and engaging, author Ira Mathur’s “Love The Dark Days” is a must-read memoir and nonfiction book. The rich cultural dynamics both within her family and her own life were so passionately written about and felt in the journey the reader was led on, and the emotional and mental struggles the author and her multi-generational family underwent, including this cycle of trauma, were both tragic in its delivery and yet hopeful in the author’s achievements and experiences in the modern day. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Ira Mathur is an Indian-born Trinidadian award winning multimedia journalist with degrees in Literature, Law and Journalism. www.irasroom.org .She is currently the Trinidad Guardian’s longest-running columnist , and has freelanced for The Guardian (UK) and the BBC.

IN 2021 Mathur was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award for her unpublished novel ”Touching Dr Simone.”

In 2019 Mathur was longlisted for the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize. An excerpt of her memoir is anthologized in Thicker Than Water, (Peekash Press, 2018).

In 2018 she shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize, the Lorian Hemmingway (short story) and Small Axe Literary Competition.

Mathur gained diplomas in creative writing at the University of East Anglia/Guardian with James Scudamore & Gillian Slovo and Maggie Gee at the Faber Academy. ( 2015/2016)

https://www.irasroom.org/