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TATA Literature Live! 2014 Q&A with Arshia Sattar

By Arshia Sattar

05th October 2015

Arshia Sattar has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. Her translations of the Sanskrit texts Kathasaritsagara (1993) and Valmiki’s Ramayana (1996) have been published by Penguin Books. More recently, Penguin also published her collection of essays on the Ramayana, “Lost Loves: Exploring Rama’s Anguish” (short-listed for the Crossword Non-Fiction Award 2011) and “The Mouse Merchant: Stories of Money from Ancient India.”

Literature Live!: Can you tell us a little about what are you currently teaching, and where?

Arshia Sattar: I’m not teaching at the moment. I’ll start again when I need to test out the ideas for my new book.

LL: What are a few tips that the modern Indian businessman can pick up from your book The Mouse Merchant: Money in Medieval India?

AS: The book’s title is The Mouse Merchant: Money in Ancient India. It’s not a how-to-get-rich book, it’s a collection of stories that explores how people thought about money, how they spent it and how they enjoyed. If you want a tip from the book, let me quote Gurcharan Das from the Introduction: buy low, sell high​

LL: Will you ever write another children’s book again? What do you think it will be about?

AS: Of course I’ll write another children’s book. Why wouldn’t I? They’re short, they’re fun to write, you have to think about where you might want to use ‘big’ words. Compared to the other work I do, this is where I can really use my imagination, rather than being held to a text or a set of ideas. I’m not sure yet what it will be about.

LL: Do you think India suffers from a dearth of writers’ residency programs?
AS: There will never be enough writers’ residency programs, no matter which country you live in. Writing needs to be supported, just like other arts forms.​

Arshia has also written three books for children and reviews books for several Indian publications.