Writing in their blood
She wanted to write since she was three; perhaps that’s not surprising, given that she is the daughter of the legendary Erich Segal, of Love Story fame. But she was in her early thirties before she wrote her first novel, The Innocents, simply because she waited until she had a story that she “simply had to tell”. Her book, won the 2012 Costa First Novel Award, the 2013 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, the 2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the 2013 Betty Trask Award, the 2013 Premio Letterario Edoardo Kihlgren Opera Prima in Milan, the 2013 Harold U. Ribalow Prize, and was long-listed for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction (the Orange Prize); but this was after her father had passed away.
“My father (Erich Segal) never read it, which is one of my biggest sadnesses, but he would have been proud of me. My mother tells me, he knew I would write. It would not be a surprise to him,” says Francesca, who as a child, never knew how famous her father was. “I just knew that he was a writer. He was very much a presence in the house, because he
wrote from home. I sort of watched his working life. I’m so proud of my father. He was my inspiration. I’ve wanted to write, even before I could write. And that must be because I wanted to be like him, as much as anything else. He taught me to be passionate about language and about reading, because those are the building blocks of writing”.
I remember dad as the disciplinarian in the family. If we did badly in school, mum would say, “Get your books signed by dad”. And boy, were we scared of him! But growing up in a Gujarati family, he was the one who encouraged us to try new foods. When we vacationed, he made sure we tried the local cuisine, be it veg or non-veg. He would organise get-togethers with our extended family and buy all the ingredients; the family would chop the veggies together. At these times, he was no longer the scary dad. He passed away on Father’s Day, 18 year’s ago, whilst we were on holiday in South Africa. The night before, while eating spinach soup, he said to me, “This is good, but not as good as yours”. I didn’t make spinach soup for years after that. I owe my exposure to food (and to the world) to him. He would have been proud of my career and my book. But what I’m sure would have made him happy is the person I am. Before he died, he told me that I couldn’t go through life being soft-hearted. He would be proud of the strong woman I have become and the challenges I’ve faced head on in the last two years. The earlier Rushina would have cried her way through, not the new one!
Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal,
Owner of A Perfect Bite
Dad was a man of few words, but was loved by all and known as Papa Jim. He taught me sewing, cooking, carpentry, electrical wiring and much more. By the age of 10, I could not only sew my own clothes, but also repair the sewing machine. I didn’t know then that I would make it big with something he taught me. He passed away when I was 30 years into my business. He was my backbone and would have been proud that I own a bridal studio and get orders not only from Mumbai, but around the world.
Noreen Coelho, Owner of Noreen’s Bridals
I lost my dad when I was 12. He was a creative person, who tried a lot of different things–photography, cooking... Whatever he did, he did well. I’ve picked that up from him. I attempt new things and try to excel in whatever I do. Being the youngest child, with a big age difference between my siblings and me, I was always pampered by him. We would have daddy-daughter dates and he would encourage me to try new things. I loved studying with him and I know today, he would have been proud of my academic achievements and the career I’ve chosen. Finishing my Masters in Psychology and counselling kids was a childhood dream. He would have been happy to see me achieve my goal as well as financially chipping in at home. I would help him with odd jobs around the house; I can fix fan regulators and change tubelights amongst other things. Dad was a journalist for a Konkani newspaper and I’ve inherited his talent for writing poems. He would have been proud! I certainly hope that I’ve lived up to bangaar, his Konkani nickname for me, which means golden child.
I was five-years-old when my father passed away. I don’t have many memories of him. But I do remember his big beard and playing with his moustache. Dad was the heart of the family; he was fun-loving and had a great sense of humour. He always made everyone around laugh. I’m sure my liking for pets comes from him. I have a few memories of my dad accompanying me to swimming class; I stopped swimming after his death. My family tells me that I resemble my dad; I was daddy’s girl. After his death, mom filled his shoes; she is everythingto me—grandfather,grandmother, Santa Claus... If my dad were alive, he would have been proud to see the strong, fearless and independent woman I have become.