Meet Maryam Baig

Maryam Baig is a trustee on the board at The Writer’s Garret, and an arts & nonprofit consultant.

Tell us about what you do: 
I am a language and performance artist who works as an actor, translator and writer around the Metroplex. I consult and otherwise support a number of area organizations on subjects related to strategic leadership, development, communications and marketing, etc. I also teach theatre at my alma mater, UT Dallas. I’m currently working on an opera libretto!

An opera libretto is quite a task! Do you write anything else? 
Currently, I’ve been concentrating on a novel, called The Witchy Board, which touches on themes of home, memory and grief in a horror setting. 

What literary material do you read/check in with regularly?
I keep up to date with Urdu language literature, and have a fondness for South Asian authors who write in English. I love translating Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry into English for my own pleasure. Recently, I translated a Punjabi epic poem by Waris Shah, called Heer Ranjha

What excites you about the mission of The Writer’s Garret? 
Curating accessible spaces for all ages, diverse demographics and literary interests. I absolutely love that The Writer’s Garret is warm and welcoming to everyone!

What’s a significant moment in your life when language impacted you and how? 
When I was twelve, during a visit by a barely-Hindi-speaking aunt, we watched a film in Hindi that had no subtitles. I felt very strongly about how she was missing out on the entire experience, and began translating verbatim from the film. My aunt was thrilled, and began asking me to translate for her through the rest of her trip. I discovered that I wanted to translate everything! Not just language but also images, thoughts, ideas, cultures – this idea has remained strong in me since and has intricately shaped my life.

Living writer you’d most like to meet: 
Christopher Pike or Jhumpa Lahiri, but only if we meet accidentally

What’s a book you’ve returned to, and why?
It’s hard to choose just one! A few of Pike’s YA titles, out of nostalgia. Bushra Rehman’s Lugun, which is a super fun frozen moment in Pakistani literature. Lahiri’s short stories for the sheer beauty of her thoughts, and Neil Gaiman’s body of work for sheer beauty of his brain.

A favorite piece of writing: 
Page 1 of Tana French’s In the Woods. Also, these days, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Chund Roz Aur Meri Jaan” (A Few Days More, My Love) constantly recites itself in my brain; here’s a translated excerpt:

My body is jailed, all emotions are shackled,
Every thought is imprisoned, my speech is censored.
Congratulate my effort, I continue to live on –
Life is what but a beggar’s garment upon which
Every moment sews another patch of pain.

You have an hour to read, no interruptions. Set the scene for us:
I’m reading Grady Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls, because I haven’t yet found the time to finish it! It’s an early morn between 4 and 5 am, rain gently misting the windows, with the promise of a long day which is dressed in deep gray clouds. There is a steaming mug of cream tea that never grows cold. A double apple hookah remains fresh. I’m perfectly snug in my favorite navy-hued kimono, not a sound in the house, not a soul in the vicinity. 

What’s on your nightstand to read? 
Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave and Seán O’ Hagan, Scavenger Hunt by Pike, the script of An Education by Nick Hornby, and Interpreter of Maladies by Lahiri.

You’re having a dinner party and you can invite any writer living or dead. Who do you choose and why? 
My accidental friends, Pike and Lahiri, because Lahiri wants Pike to try my deeply satisfying Rogan Josh that I learnt to cook after reading A Temporary Matter. Pike would probably want a glass of milk with the meal. Lahiri and I will jokingly judge him for it.