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Alumni News: June 2023 Edition

Welcome to the June edition of Alumni News! Scroll below to check out our latest stories!

Megha Kapoor ‘01: The Fires of Tanam Alkim

In April 2023, Megha Kapoor ‘01 release her debut novel titled, “The Fires of Tanam Alkin”. Targeted at 11 to 14 year-olds it has a strong eco-focus with a mix of adventure, and fantasy!

The Fires of Tanam Alkin by Megha Kapoor

Here's a teeny blurb: Indonesian teenagers Aira and Dain are Guardians who bridge the realms of gods, nature, and people. Their mission is to restore nature from the destruction caused by human greed and the palm oil industry, a near impossible quest.

They must overcome self-doubt and journey across the archipelago, embracing the magic of the forest to stop a catastrophic peat fire. And when a goddess decides that humankind has made its last mistake, Aira and Dain must decide if humanity is even worth fighting for.

We reached out to Megha recently to learn about her journey behind the book:

Tell us about yourself and what are you up to!

I’ve hit midlife! Ha. I’m constantly gaining weight and losing hair. Fun! And I’m busier than ever. Work is nonstop, parenting more so, being a wife, a daughter, a sister leaves a few precious moments a day in which I’ve been trying to figure out who I am, and why I’m here. Writing is part of that process. It satisfies the part of me that wants to do more, but on her own terms. 

Walk us through your writing journey. From the inspiration to the challenges and surprises along the way.

I love fantasy. I adore Indonesia. And I'm terrified of climate change. The first is an escape. The second my home. The third a reality. I guess that’s why they say write what you know. You’ll find all three in my book. My writing journey began with the former two, but it was my fear of climate change that triggered the writing process. That and being mother to a teen who, like all other children, will soon run the world. I needed a way to express my despair, but also my hope. When I began writing, I knew where The Fires of Tanam Alkin started, but not where it would go. A little like life, I suppose. :) The story revealed itself as I researched, wrote, deleted and rewrote. Nature is the main protagonist in my book, not the people. Nature is also the main protagonist in our lives. It is largely unrepresented and voiceless. Until it screams. Then we have to pay attention. 

The biggest challenge with writing is discipline. I targeted two chapters every month, and sometimes, with a full time job, that was hard. I missed plenty of my own deadlines, but I finished in a year, working after hours in the evenings or on weekends. 

I joke about midlife, but the good thing it has given me is headspace. To do more, be more. I was surprised that my writing process both requires this, and in turn creates it. Reading is a little like this too, but reading is ‘consumption’ while writing is ‘creation’. The latter has more deep work benefits :) 

The Fires of Tanam Alkin

The book signs off with a pseudonym, Sadie Noni. Can you share more about that?

I used a pseudonym, Sadie Noni, to separate my author identity from my regular one. I have opinions, feelings, thoughts that I can’t openly express because of my many roles. Sadie can say what she wants when I cannot! It’s really that simple. My pen name is also a homage to my home country, in that it’s an anagram. Because why not :) 

Megha Psuedonym

We’d love to hear about your fond memories and/or teachers during your time at UWCSEA that may have helped shaped your writing.

Memories of Dover come back to motivate and inspire me constantly. When I least expect them, and most need them. For instance, I remember reading Perfume in Grade 11 or 12. To be honest, I remember very little about the story. But I know how it made me feel. Captivated, unsettled, curious. I’m sorry I’ve forgotten my teacher’s name, but I’m so glad he put that book on the syllabus! I also remember my Math teacher (he’s now one of the House Parents at the Dover Boarding House). I remember he somehow had faith in me. And while I didn’t pursue a career in Math (or in writing for that matter), his simple confidence helped me believe in myself. I remember my Physics teacher was the same. She gave me a book about Richard Feynman and said, “Just do your best, the rest will follow”. My TOK teacher taught me to question the norm and Sadie does that constantly. Megha does it when she can! So while UWCSEA feels like a lifetime ago, it’s part of the foundation on which the rest of my life is built. It will always define who I am. 

It’s been over 20 years since you graduated! Any advice to aspiring writers out there from UWCSEA?

Writing is a glorious experience. I recommend it 10/10. In a world full of DMs, posts, emails and text messages, writing is meditative, therapeutic, and almost cathartic. It is Deep Work. Utterly satisfying, and the perfect antidote to the scroll wheel of pushing paper and life admin.  

To all aspiring writers, I suggest simply reading a lot. Read every day. Read on the bus. In bed. Read a bunch of genres. This is how ideas spark. How skill improves. How imagination blooms. And write. Don’t be too hard on yourself, just write. Don’t aim for perfection, just write. Don’t worry that you aren’t good enough, just write. It is as much for you as it is for anyone else :)

Follow Megha @sadienoni_ on Instagram!

Wong Chen ‘88: Appointed Chairman as Malaysia Debt Ventures

Congratulations to Wong, who is also the Member of Parliament for Subang at Parliament of Malaysia! He brings with him more than 22 years of experience as a former corporate lawyer who specialised in information technology law and mergers and acquisitions. Read more about it here.

Wong celebrates his 35th milestone anniversary at Reunion 2023 and we can't wait to welcome him this August!

Wong Chen ‘88

Ananya Sood ‘16: Marrying dance and a Doctorate degree

Ananya recently reached out to us with her latest updates as a recently qualified junior doctor from St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and a professional competitive Bhangra dancer in the UK!

I've just finished my medical degree and have a bit of a story about how I've become a professional award-winning dancer alongside my medical studies! I've done 4 national competitions in London so far with both university, and professional girls and coed teams, alongside choreographing for showcases and classes.

This year I won the "Best Female Dancer" Award in the UK which has been really exciting! I have taught students of various ranges and have choreographed showcases and classes. All this alongside being a medical student.

Ananya is headed as an incoming Academic Foundation Doctor at the Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust, having completed her MBBS from St George's University of London and a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management from the Management Development Institute of Singapore. This Summer she will be chairing a UCL conference as the student representative for the Association of Medical Humanities, and co-captaining a central London-based all girls team for the World Class Bhangra Competition in September.

She would like to inspire other students to create a balance between studying and pursuing their hobbies, and is keen to share some of the challenges encountered as an international medical student during her journey. Feel free to reach out to Ananya via her UWCSEA Connect profile and Linkedin!

Ananya performing on stage
Ananya presentation

Nelson Htoo ‘12: Named Forbes 30 under 30

Congratulations to Nelson and his business partner of Common Abode for being recognised by Forbes 30 under 30: The Arts. By combining their culinary skills, creativity and global experiences in Common Abode – a bespoke F&B brand creating unique recipes and exclusive experiences in Hong Kong was born. Nelson founded his first restaurant, Club Rangoon, in the city's busy Central district in 2020, drawing on his Burmese roots and celebrating the culinary stylings of his mother and grandmother. The recent Alumni gathering in Hong Kong took place in another restaurant owned by him! It is always nice to support alumni in our overseas get-togethers.

Nelson Htoo ‘12 and his business partner

We’d love to hear more exciting updates from you! Simply send us a summary between 100-150 words and an accompanying image (at least 1mb) related to your update via email!