Abbas Kazerooni, the Iranian-born best selling author of children’s books On Two Feet and Wings and The Boy With Two Lives, while participating in a virtual session of The Universe Writes, said, “One of the themes of both my books are that human beings are more good than they are bad. But for the random acts of kindness by complete strangers, I would not be sitting where I am today. Learning English also enabled me to do things and become what I am today.”
Author Abbas Kazerooni at the live session of The Universe Writes hosted by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in association with Shree Cement and Siyahi
The latest series of The Universe Writes connected writer, actor, lawyer, producer Abbas Kazerooni with a group of avid literary enthusiasts from India through an engrossing session introduced by Mita Kapur of Siyahi and moderated by author-screenwriter, Venita Coelho. The Universe Writes is a literary initiative of Prabha Khaitan Foundation, in association with Shree Cement and Siyahi, which virtually connects non-Indian International writers with a select Indian audience with an abiding interest in quality literature.
Abbas Kazerooni’s life has been a roller-coaster ride. Currently, a very successful lawyer and author of children’s books, the formative years of his life were full of trials and tribulations. Born in Iran at the cusp of the Iranian Revolution in 1978, Kazerooni’s father, just before his eighth birthday, sent him off to Istanbul with the idea of going to England. But his mother was stopped at the airport and “….. I had to put myself on a plane to Istanbul to meet a relative who was allegedly going to look after me,” Kazerooni recalled. His relative deserted him at the airport and spent four months in Istanbul working out a few jobs and trying to get a UK visa to go to England to live with a relative.
“That whole journey was a kind of surreal experience. Now that I look back to those days as an adult, it was some miracle that I got a visa to go to England just through the graciousness and kindness of so many different strangers that came into my life,” he said.
“I went to England thinking all my troubles were over but the guardian and the relative I had ended up being not such a nice individual and I was kind of abused. I stayed in a deserted house leading a dual life. I had a scholarship to go to a boarding school with the most prestigious and richest children of England and during the holidays working in a kitchen at nights since it was illegal for a child to work. My dual life continued till high school, I was living rough by the night and going to a public school by day,”
Eventually he was taken in by another relative who was much kinder and tried to adopt him. “I had to go to the high court in London and that was the genesis of the whole legal thing in my head. I went to University in England, I got my master’s and went to an acting school. After three or four years of acting professionally I took the LSAT and went to the United States and became a lawyer and started my own law firm,” he said.
Initially Kazerooni did not intend to write books for the children. “I could not do justice writing about my life from an adult’s perspective. My memories are from the perspective of a child because I lived through that. When you are a child everything seems so much bigger, faster, enormous, everything is exaggerated because you are a child. I tell a micro story in a macro world,” he said.
Kazerooni grew up watching videos of Bollywood films that were smuggled into Iran where films and TV shows were banned. “My favourite was Amitabh Bachchan. When I watched Sholay it changed my life,” he fondly recalled.
Responding to Venita Coelho’s question – What does writing give you that acting doesn’t?
Kazerooni said, “These are two different art forms. As a writer, you are the puppeteer – you set the rules and terms. As an actor, the writer and director sets the terms for you, your job is purely that of a messenger. When I am writing I miss acting and when I am acting I miss writing.”
The Universe Writes online series took off with author Alan Friedman in April 2020. Since then, the series has hosted authors Diana R Chambers, Kelly Dorji, Graeme Simsion, Lucy Hawking, Marcus du Sautoy, Ashok Ferrey, David Goulson, Mohammed Tufael Chowdhury, Nancy Springer and Sharlene Teo.