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Exclusive interview of author of ‘Kashmir & Me’

Renu Mittal is an author whose debut novel on the Valley has been published by Patridge. The book ‘Kashmir & Me’ is based on her journey to Kashmir in 2014 when flood had brought untold tragedy on people and tourists. Besides being an author, Renu, who resides in Paschim Vihar, runs a coaching institute guiding students to crack TOEFL and IELTS. Master’s in Commerce, BA English Honours, she is currently pursuing MA English. In a freewheeling interview with OT.COM, Renu talks about her book and her stay in the Valley. Excerpts:

Could you tell us a bit about your book ‘Kashmir & Me’?
It is a true story of flood tragedy in Kashmir on September 2, 2014 faced by lakhs of locals and tourists.

We had also gone to the same magnificent land for holidays but due to sudden break out of flood, entire valley got stranded and all had to face innumerable problems to survive.

In this book I have tried to paint a true portrait of the miseries the entire lot had to undergo.

How did you deal with this catastrophic flood?
When we had lost even the faintest ray of hope of staying alive and had accepted our inevitable death, suddenly the Army boats appeared as saviours and made the evacuation process possible. It was the Army people who risked their lives for us. It was the result of the resolute efforts of JK Police, soldiers of our three esteemed forces, CH2 Hotel staff, locals and our Muslim brothers in saving so many people from the claws of death.

When did the idea of writing this book strike you?
The seeds of the book cropped up into my mind when one mid-night I found us entrapped in the vicious jaws of flood in hotel CH2 with no way out to escape.

It reminded me of the same tragedy of Anne Frank, who also wrote her book, ‘The diary of a young girl’ when her family was hiding in an annex from Hitler. That moment, I decided if we would survive then surly jot down all my eerie experiences.

This is your debut novel. What are your feelings?
The feeling is just inexplicable. Kashmir & Me is my third baby holding which gives me an uncanny feeling and a sense of utter solace.

Which influences have inspired you, with regard to your writing style and your book itself?
My father’s literary aspirations have always been my inspiration which incessantly encouraged me to scribble since my school days. Tragic Time has also been the best teacher for me.

Your characters, despite being in horrible situations, often lighten the situation with dark humour. Do you think this is an important aspect for a successful book?
What I opine, reading should always be an enjoyable experience for all ages irrespective of the genre of the book. Without humour, readers start losing interest as nobody wants to read only gloomy tales. So purposefully I’ve added light moments like describing rickety bus, giggling over Aarav and Parth’s madcap comedy to glue up readers.

You also look at wider themes of female identity and writing. What was it that drew you to this?
After studying English literature keenly, I realised how much females around the globe had to struggle to get freedom of writing. Even till 18th century they were not allowed to pen down their thoughts freely.

renu

But now when the time has turned for good, this kind of talent must not be nipped. That’s why I’ve added many instances to show their crucial sufferings more at flood time like of women delivering babies, during menstruation, malfunctioning of their clothes, trousers getting torn, difficulty in finding a proper washroom and many other related issues.

What message would you like to convey to your readers?
I would say, “Adversity of time can never be predicted.”

There is no escape from it. One has to face that phase willingly or unwillingly. Panic only worsens the situations but having heart to work harder and keeping faith in the Almighty would not only ease the path but also make you achieve the desired destination.

What are your messages for the new authors?
My dear new authors, “Writing a book is not a cake walk.” It demands countless sleep deprived nights and extreme devotion to the storyline. Every passing hour would depress you more making you believe that it can’t be done. But if you accept the challenge and overcome all hurdles, you will certainly cherish the most aspired words… “The book is written by YOU.”

And you will forget all torture and trauma.

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