Pavan is a writer and musician based in London. She has completed her first novel, Staring into Darkness Sipping Tea. Her piece, “Mum”, can be found in EPOCH Issue 02: Aftermath, available to purchase here.
Name: Pavan Bhullar
Title of piece in Epoch Press issue #2 ‘Aftermath’: Mum
What books did you grow up reading?
One of the first books I remember reading was The Yellow Book of Bible Stories, which I found on a table at a friend’s house. It was very disappointing. Each parable started well and ended with the exact same boring moral, the subtext overt: God is watching. There was no surprise, no wonder; nothing true to life. The stories were so predictable, I was stunned the writer had thought I wouldn’t notice. It was the worst book I’d ever read and I never wanted to read anything like it again.
I found the picture book On the Way Home by Jill Murphy riveting, mostly for the Indian girl whom Claire, the protagonist, bumped into. The details of Amarjit – the glossy hair restrained in her plait, the books in her arms – were authentic, and yet the interaction between the two girls felt contrived. In Real Life, the inner worlds of those children were vastly different to the page. Like Paul, the little black boy who appeared later on, Amarjit’s presence was functional – merely demonstrating we exist – and this was obvious to me. But I loved the author for including her. I loved the precision with which her illustrations re-birthed my home city of London, and I loved her other books.
Around the age of seven, a cruel aristocrat and cult leader who’d groomed my family dumped a bunch of Roald Dahl books on me. They were a game changer. A fellow cult “disciple” owned a copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, which I read at least once a year until my twenties, and often seek comfort in now.
Judy Blume, Anne Fine, Rosa Guy, Anne Frank, Katherine Paterson, Cynthia D. Grant, Mildred D. Taylor and J.D. Salinger had a profound influence on me, but it was seeing reams of classics hurled into a box at a friend’s house that a bridge to another world emerged. These books were probably heading to a charity shop but, to my child eyes, the box was a bin and the act of “throwing” them in, violent. I rescued Austen, Chaucer and Dostoevsky, whose novel Crime and Punishment I read ‘til the pages were falling out and the cover was wrecked, and most significantly, Bhabani Bhattacharya, whose novel So Many Hungers! I kept on a shelf for years and years, compelled by the title etched in red hardback, captured by its potency, almost frightened of parting its pages, and utterly blown away when finally I did. That such a talented, important writer is unknown to the world has been a poignant lesson to me.
In my first year of high school, Miss-Dimbleby-the-drama-teacher took us for English and gave us Romeo & Juliet. What a great thing she did (I don’t think it was on the curriculum). O trespass sweetly urged, give me my sin again… for years I read that play like a fantasy for horny teenagers, it was thrilling. We read Jane Eyre in year nine – another page turner I couldn’t keep my hands off, baffled by my English teacher’s insistence that we “…only [had] to read the first fifty pages because the exam questions [would focus on] Jane’s childhood.” (I read the whole thing). Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye was a revelation during A Level. I read it carefully and quickly, slowly and effortlessly, again and again, removed from myself and everything, not because I had to find out what happened next but because being inside Elaine – the protagonist’s – life was satisfying and easy. Vivid descriptions of time and space; forest floors and ravines; the cruel, secret world of children; the smell and hue of leaves. I enjoyed the way it made me think, and the way it didn’t.
What is the most challenging aspect of your creative process?
Submission. The non-creative part.
What does your writing space look like?
A lot of writing happens internally, and my head is a messy place. But my physical environment is tidy and clean.
Who is your biggest artistic supporter?
Ed Handyside at Myrmidon Press, whom I met through a literary consultancy, has been great. And the author Laura Pearson, a Copy Cat from years past, has been unspeakably supportive, too.
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