According to his main publisher Arsenal Pulp Press:

Ashok Mathur was born in Bhopal, India, and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1962 when he was one year old. Journalism school followed high school, and by 1981 Ashok was working as a photojournalist with small Alberta dailies and freelancing for magazines and wire services. "I was interested in how the visual image told a story," he says.

In 1985 Ashok returned to school, completing bachelor and master of arts degrees at the University of Calgary, after which he started teaching at the University and the Alberta College of Art. "It was then that I became involved in community activism," he recalls. Ashok sat on the board of the New Gallery, an artist-run centre, and joined the editorial board of the literary magazine absinthe.

"All the while I was fascinated by the process of literature and publishing," remembers Ashok. So he and co-founder Nicole Markotic started disOrientation chapbooks with the intent "to publish relatively unheard voices in a chapbook format."

Ashok also became active in Minquon Panchayat, an activist artist collective comprised of First Nations artists and artists of colour that addressed racism in the arts on a national level.

In 2009, he was employed as the Director of the Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia.

He is the author of the poetry book Loveruage: a dance in three parts, published by Wolsak and Wynn, and novels published by Arsenal Pulp Press.

Following his Once Upon an Elephant and The Short, Happy Life of Harry Kumar, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, A Little Distillery in Nowgong (Arsenal Pulp 2009) is a fantastical historical novel, narrated by a child yet to be born, traces the lives of three generations of a Parsi family in India from the late 1800s to present day. The narrative follows the family from the intricacies of village life in the jungles of central India to the complications of urban life in turbulent pre- and post-independence struggles to contemporary diasporic realities in the United Kingdom and North America. The novel begins in 1899 with the birth of a boy named Jamshed to a rural Parsi family in central India. As he comes of age, Jamshed feels he is faced with the choice between spirituality and materiality: he has the opportunity to train to become a Parsi priest, or may follow family connections to a business opportunity as a distillery manager. Jamshed, who will become the family patriarch as a result of his choice, quickly becomes obsessed with the question of free will, and he passes on this obsession to his descendants. His preoccupations, however, are complicated by frequent, often disturbing, visitations by his as-yet-unborn grandchildren, who may or may not come into existence based on the choices he makes. After much soul-searching (and fantastical communications), Jamshed decides to take on the management of the distillery where he discovers the almost-magical properties of its main product, a much sought-after rum called Asha. This curious liquor becomes a leit-motif, reappearing in various forms and incarnations throughout the generations of the family.

BOOKS:

Loveruage: a dance in three parts (Wolsak and Wynn)
Once Upon an Elephant (Arsenal Pulp)
The Short, Happy Life of Harry Kumar (Arsenal Pulp)
A Little Distillery in Nowgong (Arsenal Pulp 2009) 9781551522586

[BCBW 2009]