I’m really excited to be able to interview author Chitra Ramaswami as part of her “But First Rumi Book Tour”. “But First Rumi” is a delightful memoir by Chitra Ramaswami. Rumi is a beautiful stray Omani street cat who took a liking to Chitra and trusted Chitra to help him and in return Rumi helped Chitra. This book is more than a tale of a cat being rescued – the memoir explores how love and trust between cats and people can develop, how attitudes towards street cats develop, and how love develops. The book is written in such a refreshingly honest way and I loved reading the escapades of Rumi & co. I really enjoyed chatting to Chitra about all things cats …. But, before that, here is the official resumé of the book:
When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world.
What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance?
Print Length: 158 Pages
Hi! I’m Chitra – author of the memoir “But First, Rumi” . I was born and brought up in the Middle East to Indian parents and now live in New Jersey. I’ve worked in healthcare as a physician and a health educator and now I’ve turned author. This is my first time publishing and excited to see what this experience brings my way.
Who or what inspired you to write your memoir, “But First, Rumi!”?
I believe the answer lies in my book title 🙂 My cat Rumi inspired me to share our journey with the world. As someone who’s written most of her life, I believe every story has its own predestined time – from when it gets penned down to when it is on its way to its readers where it finally comes to fruition.
Your book highlighted the life of an Omani Mau/street cat, and your growing love of Rumi. I found the book interesting as well as entertaining. I thought how different were the attitudes towards cats, stray cats in particular, in Oman compared with the UK/ USA. Why do you think the Omani street cats are regarded with such suspicion?
Firstly, thank you for reading our story and am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, attitudes towards stray cats are different in Oman as compared to say a Western country. But what makes it interesting is that Oman is home to people from all over the world added to its own descendants and this varied demographic may hold the reasons that have led to the current state of the Omani stray cats. We have collectively failed our felines. I believe suspicion towards anything generally arises from a certain lack of awareness or unfamiliarity or a previous negative experience. And yes, this is only a part of the problem as I explain in the book. Another common issue is abandonment either due to misjudgment of what caring for a cat entails or when people leave for their home countries and haven’t planned well for the transition. Ofcourse, COVID-19 has added additional financial strains to the process as well.
Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?
The process of writing the book was enjoyable. I also had a great editor and we worked well together. What amused me the most was the amount of work that went into publishing a book outside of actually writing the book! The time and effort needed to get your book in front of your readers has been eye opening. I’ve learnt a lot over the past few months. Maybe I should write about it haha!
What do you enjoy most about having a cat? What did you find most daunting at first?
I’ve come to realize over time that my energy is quite similar to a cat’s. I remember watching a documentary that talked about how cats and humans are actually more alike evolutionarily as compared to say dogs and humans. So it’s not surprising to me that I’m able to just be myself around them rather effortlessly. However, before my experience with Rumi, I was rather wary of cats and didn’t really know what to make of them. I maintain that I didn’t give them a fair chance and went with the popular notion that dogs were more expressive and loving as companion animals.
Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations?
Funnily, I never thought of writing as a career even though I always wrote. But moving forward, I’ve decided to share my works with the world. I’m curious by nature – always have been, which in turn has led me to pursue many paths. So be it working with people with various ailments, or teaching or riding horses or ice climbing…. the list is diverse. I’m not really a one aspiration person and am eager to see where my life takes me next.
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
Yes, I’ve loved to read since forever. Favorite genres – Biographies, memoirs, short stories. I’m not into fiction much but am on board with Haruki Murakami’s magical realism. It’s bewitching almost. Love Khaled Hosseini’s works. In poetry – Works of Rumi, Tabrizi, Gibran to name a few. There’s always more than one story that‘s being told in a book and one of them is about the author themselves, their roots, convictions, motivations – it all comes through. So I tend to consciously seek out authors from various backgrounds for this experience. I find it as good or even better than travel.
Nothing beats the feel of an actual book but I’m a recent Kindle convert – saves space, easy to bookmark, or look up anything I need to, can even read on my Kindle app on my phone etc
Is “But First Rumi” available to purchase worldwide?
Yes worldwide – Both ebook and paperback. It’s also available in a bookstore in Oman and managed to sell out and has just been restocked!
Will there be more tales about Rumi in the future?
Definitely 🙂 There may be a second book in the works as we speak!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Hmmm. Depends on the season. I’m a sucker for knee length boots in the winter – I never grew out of my Michael Korrs Preston boots with the golden buckle – love those tiny touches! I also love my riding boots from Dover’s. If I’m going out for dinner or tea I love getting dressed up – A-line skirt and top or a Pakistani embroidered suit( we call it shalwar Kameez), and peep toed heels but overtime I find myself settling for pointed flats – Zara and Rothys always have a lovely line of those. These days, I’m always in my adidas and pumas – thanks to COVID! Not complaining though – I always manage to find something to fall in love with!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Zara, Kate Spade, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Image…the list goes on also love custom shirts I design myself. Etsy’s also a very interesting place – be it for custom clothes, accessories etc
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I’ve been looking into vegan fashion lately. It’s a fascinating world and I’m still exploring it. Love the Dharma Store – fun tees and they have vegan phone grips too! I also have my eye on the Catalina tote from lo and sons – super functional and love the shoe compartment at the bottom. So yes, I won’t be surprised if my fashion choices will be completely different five years down the line. I’m learning and growing every day.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Website: https://cramaswami.com/Instagram: @rumionamission2017
My thanks goes to Chitra for agreeing to be interviewed, for inviting me to join in her book tour and for a copy of her delightful memoir.
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chitra Ramaswami