He was watching Rio with his toddler son when I walked in to meet Mohsin at his residence. I was told he avoids “media people” whilst he is in the middle of writing a book. It took a fair bit of persistence and clarifications on my part to convince him that I did not belong to any media existence and worked only for myself.
And as soon as he agreed I visited him in Lahore on a rainy monsoon afternoon. We settled down on a huge lazy sofa and had a brief informal conversation about his inspirations, books, and fame and food selections.
The 41 year old, lawyer by training, left his consultancy job in London only five years ago to become a full time writer. Taking an average of seven years to compile a book he started writing his first novel “Moth Smoke” at age 21.
“My writing couldn’t support me and my family so I had to work” he says with a smile when asked about his law school degree and love of writing.
Spending his childhood in the US, teenage years in Pakistan and back to the US for studies and work, Mohsin recalls these movements with much appreciation. His flair for daydreaming, imagination and travel during those early years became his most important inspiration. And all his books are reflective, to a certain degree, of the stage of life he was at while penning them down.
“I wrote Moth Smoke when I was in New York and Lahore, I was 21 and drew from the experience of an early part of my life. Reluctant Fundamentalist was published when I was 35, and that drew on work experience in the corporate sector in NYC and then moving back from there. How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia was published when I was 41 – reflective of getting older, children growing up and parents growing older” reveals Mohsin.
Coincidentally all his books also have an element of struggle and search for identity clouded by intrigue and mystery.
“I try to give my readers an easy read and yet have a facet of not being quite sure of what is going on, certainly don’t want to rob them of their own interpretation” said Mohsin as he plopped his four year old daughter in his lap.
Talking of his daughter, Mohsin gets his best work done during the morning and lunch hours when she is away at school.
“She is the least likely of my entire family to respect my writing space” he smirks.
When the toddler got pacified with her father’s attention she trotted away and we continued on Mohsin’s stance on fame.
“I prefer to be the person watching the world rather than the person being watched by the world,” says Mohsin, simply and nonchalantly
With his books being translated in 35 different languages Mohsin travels extensively for their launch, or to attend a lecture or literary festival, publicity stints or just to draw inspiration.
“Pakistan does seem a bit isolated sometimes so I get out to get my stimulus”
However, he also believes that a catalyst for any writer can be a simple thing like a cat walking on the street, to his family, to his children, to trees around and to simply living life.
“This amaltas tree on a rainy afternoon is inspiration too” says Mohsin as he looked out of his window at the swaying amaltas tree.
Drawing towards the end of our chat one of my last questions was about food and his Lahori preferences. Surprisingly he admitted not being the typical Lahori foodie and preferred vegetables to meat for his breakfast and lunch meals.
“I decided long ago that I would not eat animals for breakfast or lunch”
Turning into a complete vegetarian during school years, Mohsin has let “animals” come back in his life, but in a very moderate quantity.
Moving from food to contribution to society, Mohsin firmly believes in the freedom of expression. As a writer he expresses himself and respects others’ opinion also.
“I support free expression and I try to conduct myself in such a way that it is expressed properly. I believe in human beings and not man made borders between countries. A just society is what I believe in” endorsed Mohsin
And finally when asked if he was a fundamentalist himself Mohsin said
“There is a certain fundamentalist in all of us, but I have extremely liberal and secular beliefs and would want our country to be like that as well”
Mohsin is currently working on a new novel, which is set in an unnamed city similar to Lahore. I hope we wont have to wait for seven long years to read this one. However, in the mean time here is a simple “non- animal, non-lahori” breakfast that can be eaten at lunchtime also. Sliced avocado with baked beans and a pot of your favorite yogurt - simple and nonchalant :)