Zarin Virji’s Gopal’s Gully is an ode to friendship. The author shares her journey as a writer on Lumiere Wise Wednesday. A creative writing graduate from the University of Sheffield, Zarin is passionate about teaching and writing. Her core profession is that of teacher, teacher trainer, and Principal of The Universal School, Tardeo – an IGCSE school. As a part of the core team of ‘Education Today Society Tomorrow’ – initiatives of the change program,
Zarin expresses herself through her writing. From 1996 to 2006, she edited the journal, Classroom, a safe space for all matters related to education. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in the Research Scholar, Route 57, and The Best Asian Short Stories (2018). Gopal’s Gully, published by Penguin Random House India, describes Mumbai’s small neighborhoods’ raw, exuberant life with vigor, zest, and humour. Her writing is as much about expressing spontaneous feelings as it is about grappling with the socio-economic realities of our times.
How it began
As a single introverted child, Zarin found solace in books and that it provided a safe moment for this young reader to escape from daily life. ‘Initiatives of Change,’ a global movement of being the change one wants to see in the world, shaped her as a young girl. Zarin studied English literature at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. She is grateful to the teachers there who inspired her. Soon, Zarin got into teaching. She continued writing related to education. Over the years, she barely got any time and mind space to pen down her creative writing. Her close friend from St. Xavier’s College, Sunita, encouraged her to explore and sign up for a creative writing course. Zarin found a perfect course to meet her aspirations at the University of Sheffield.
Life as an Educator
Zarin spends most of her time with school children, which helps her stay hopeful and optimistic. In the post-pandemic era, there is a shift in learning. Children are more independent self-learners, glued to their devices, Social interactions have reduced. Zarin wants greater interpersonal exchanges between children in the classroom. Zarin’s protagonist, Gopal, a 13-year-old migrant to Mumbai is a teaching assistant to a tuition teacher. He learns as he teaches. In her book, Gopal, a sensitive young boy befriends the unlikely motley neighborhood and his aspirations take shape. The book is about the rough and tumble of a childhood unfolding. Lighthearted and playful, yet deep, the author offers a view into the mind space of two early teens.
The Inspiration Behind Gopal’s Gully
Once, while traveling, Zarin came across a Squatters Colony, a locality in Malad, Mumbai. She noticed a ladder resting against a wall separating the road and the railway track. Her curiosity landed her peeping closely until she saw huts alongside those railway tracks. She wondered, what if a young boy is living there? How will his adventures unfold? What about his world? And with these thoughts, the central character, Gopal, came into being. Gopal began speaking to Zarin, thus fueling her imagination, and her hope to meet Gopal someday kept her motivated to write the book. Sayani Basu from Duckbill read a few excerpts and told Zarin that she would publish the book if she wrote it. From 2012 to 2020, the story developed into the book we now know.