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Patients and pens…

She is a quirky, clever, doctor-turned-novelist who is on the rise to fame. Kelisha Hariparsad (a.k.a. Keli) is a modern-day story teller passionate about the craft of writing and talking about real topics in a ‘non-judgy’ way set in the city she loves.

The proud Umhlanga resident’s love for books started at a young age – before she could even make out what the scribbles were. “My mother tells me I used to take any book I could find and make up a story as I turned the pages because I couldn’t read yet,” laughs 26-year-old Keli.

As she grew up, Keli went on to write short stories and entered competitions, but finally decided to study medicine. Three years ago, though, she was given an opportunity to write a column for The Northglen News. “I couldn’t believe they allowed me the opportunity as I didn’t have any formal qualification in writing. The column was called ‘Medicine Woman’ and was basically the musings of a city girl finding herself in rural Eastern Cape, during my studies.”

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Keli returned to work at Addington Hospital and Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital, but always felt a strong desire to write again. Finally, she decided to swap her stethoscope for her beloved pen and gave herself a real chance in the creative world.

A wise decision, it seems, as her first published book, The Durban Four Hundred, was met with great enthusiasm when it was released at the end of last year. “The adult fiction novel tells the story of seven Durban friends with affluence and influence who are brought together to create a reality TV show.” The book features strong characters like Kiara Maharaj, a new-graduate doctor drowning in the deep end of the public health system, Aryan Soni, who is focused on creating his own generational wealth and Linda Dlamini, who makes her living the new way – through social media.

Other characters include Aishwarya Yadav, a dancer who boldly left her country to pursue a career of meaning, David Doherty, a male fashion designer in an increasingly liberal society and well-to-do twins, Jared and Jason Le Roux, who are harmlessly unaware of their privilege. “The story deals with underlying themes of social media influence, the shift towards passion-driven careers, and a fast-changing world. Being an adult millennial facing the same challenges, I wanted to have a story that touched on these topics without being politically or socially motivated. It is, after all, just a fun read.”

It’s sometimes strange being a part of the ‘millennial’ generation, says Keli. “We’re stuck in the middle of this stressful financial decline and a ridiculous viral app called Tik Tok – so we’re just as confused as anybody else really!”

While she is loving her current path, Keli says she has not completely closed the book on her medical career. “I enjoy the actual work involved in medicine, but the under-resourced, over-saturated hospital environment doesn’t make it a healthy work environment. There’s constant blame, impossible hours, and no tools to get the job done. Writing allows me a more flexible schedule and I can work in any environment I choose – the beach, at home, or a coffee shop. Having said that, it’s much harder to make a career out of writing. The world still sees writing as a hobby, not a job, so there’s a fair amount of challenge in trying to make a living out of this. I suppose I’m grateful that I have both options!”

Three, quick questions with Keli:
1. WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE SPOIL?
You’ll have to promise not to laugh… a good takeout and one of those frivolous Hallmark movies. I’m such an indoor plant!

2. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIFE IN THE CITY OF POISON?
The pace of life here is just perfect and we have such a great sense of community spirit. I don’t believe I would have gotten this far in my writing career if it hadn’t been for all the supportive Durbanites who gave me opportunities to showcase my work along the way.

3. WHICH CHARACTER IN YOUR BOOK IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
I need to be diplomatic about this. I know these characters so well, it’s like they’re all real people! We won’t tell the others I said so, but I like David. He’s a little less of a drama queen compared to the others.

Details: dbnfourhundred.co.za

Text: Elana Wagner | Photo: Centz Photography

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