Eleven-year-old Sammamish resident Meher Munshi spent her time during the COVID-19 lockdown doing something incredibly productive within the confines of her home. She started writing as a hobby, and this year, wrote her first memoir, Cheese Chilli Toast.
After drafting the book in eight days during a trip to India, she handed off the book to Wings Publications, a publishing house located in Pune, India, that mainly helps new authors get published. They prepared and formatted the book for release over the next three weeks. Munshi held a book launch event on Feb. 27 in the city of Jammu.
Munshi, who is a Cascade Ridge Elementary School student, has always been an avid reader. She enjoys fiction, particularly when there is magic involved. Munshi’s favorite series include Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series, as well as J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter.
“Reading was my favorite subject,” said Munshi. “I wasn’t really interested in writing.”
However, when her school shut down due to the pandemic in March 2020, Munshi started writing to stave off her boredom. She quickly fell in love with it.
To Munshi, writing is “the best way to express yourself and get your words out.”
Munshi said that she likes writing about herself since people tend to “be more interested in those little instances that seem quite normal when you put them on paper.”
Her memoir, Cheese Chilli Toast, does just that. The book features a collection of 10 seemingly random moments that come together to form a whole. The chapters are united by a common theme of how Munshi overcame hardship with the help of friends and family.
Munshi said she picked Cheese Chilli Toast as the title because of what the dish represents.
“They are three different things that come together to make one,” she said, explaining that the randomness of these ingredients correlates with how each chapter provides random glimpses of her life up to age 11.
Munshi paints clear images of characters and settings through her descriptive language. She adds short interjections explaining the slang and Hindi words she uses throughout the book to make sure no reader gets lost.
In the first two chapters, she recounts how she dealt with disrespectful opponents and her feelings after losing her fencing and recreational basketball matches. A common theme that runs through these chapters is Munshi’s struggle with low self-confidence, especially due to competitors who, in Munshi’s eyes, are extremely talented.
Munshi’s description of her physical and mental state during games is portrayed in a manner most can relate to. She describes her emotions, and the emotions of others, with an awareness beyond what one would expect of her age.
“My mom calls me an old soul because of that,” Munshi said.
While most of her stories take place during elementary school, she ends with a story of how she got locked in the bathroom for 30 minutes at a gymnastics camp when she was 3. Her classmate ignored her request to hold the door open, and she could not open it herself. After a friend rescued her 30 minutes later, she came back to the classroom and received a warning from the teacher for using the bathroom for too long. This incident left a deep impression on her.
She follows with a reflection as an 11-year-old, bringing readers back to the present. She notes that even though she is still a child, she has learned lessons that will stay with her forever. In particular, she emphasizes the importance of caring for others and concludes the memoir with a few words of gratitude for her readers.
Munshi said she was overwhelmed with happiness after finishing her book.
“It was a very tiring but exhilarating process,” she said.
She hopes that her readers, particularly fellow students, see her book as an encouragement to write.
“There are so many kids in my class who are far better at writing than me,” Munshi said. “I just hope a lot of kids realize they can write even if they aren’t the best at it.”
Learn more about Meher Munshi’s memoir, Cheese Chilli Toast, here.