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I was born in India but when I was five I started speaking fluent Russian, because my father took us to Moscow where he was working in the post-independence Indian mission to Russia. I spent long periods in England and being trundled around Europe by my adventurous parents, but went to a staid convent school in New Delhi.  My two younger brothers and I had a very happy childhood reading, swimming, cycling and playing tennis and cricket. My father was a prominent newspaper editor  and our house was always full of interesting literary artistic and political guests. But I found Delhi claustrophobic and left for the United States  soon after  my first degree.

I always loved words  and wrote my first story (which won an international prize) when I was  11; my first article (a melancholy and atmospheric piece) was published when I was 16. Until the age of 12 I adored Enid Blyton; other favourites authors were Richmal Crompton, Noel Streatfeild, Walter de la Mare, Kenneth Grahame, A.A. Milne, E. Nesbitt, Louisa May Alcott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Then I got into the classics- Dickens and Kipling- and anything  else  I could get my hands on (I think I read every Edgar Wallace in the library). My father’s had a wonderfully succinct style and his observations of people and events set a great example .

I went to the universities of Delhi, London and did a post-graduate year in a tiny hippie college in Vermont. I  taught children and adults, and have been an editor.  My first book Dadijan’s Carrot Halvah (Hamish Hamilton 1986) was written in answer to a challenge and  since then I have had over 30 books published. Oxford has been my home for most of my adult life, with long periods spent  in Nigeria (where my daughter Priya was born), Vienna and the French Pyrenees.