“The past is always in a discordant love with the present. And it is upto us to unleash its secrets, and learn from it, not repeat it..”
Becoming Assiya is the story of a misplaced Syrian refugee and her trial with a past of Blood, wounds, War, Doubt and Hatred and the troublesome Hope of a better tomorrow. The woman’s journey encompasses through the landscape of Wartime Syria, through her mother’s journal and the rebuilding of a Post War identity for a land washed with blood, and what it meant to be alive, stuck in the middle with No Identity. Identity and Struggle, two complex concepts intermingle in this book and intersect at a common point, that of finding yourself.
Simran Keshwani, 20, is a Final Year literature student at the Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi and the Founder of a start-up, Born Of a Million Thoughts, that deals in on-ground Social Activism. She plans on changing the world, one word at a time, for words are mirrors and swords.
1. Tell us something about your story. What made you decide to write this? Is it based on real life events?
Becoming Assiya is a part of me that refused to accept that the Word couldn’t be put to use when it came to a collective change – a paradigm shift. I am still an amateur, a mere learner on a long journey and everyday I grow and learn.
Of what I’ve seen, mankind borders on risks between complete destruction and desolation and the roadmap between the two only permits for a thin exit – that Of understanding each other’s differences, making room for each others’ faults and tolerating one another.What’s happened in Syria is deplorable. We’ve shed tears for an outgoing President of a country that systematically decapitated another.
To say anything further would be sheer injustice for Syria has seen much worse than Words can capture at their wildest horizon.
2. Did you work to an outline or plot or did you prefer to see where an idea takes you?
My book follows Stream of Consciousness wherein plots mull into one another, like memory. I don’t know what inspired me. I was always a very unhappy kid inside. Perhaps too sensitive. I used to observe a lot. Writing was the only love I knew – it genuinely made me happy. Very often, when I now harp back onto the journals I used to maintain as a kid, I find traces of disjunct memory breaks and a conscious effort to recall back a moment that had been lost by virtue of the pen.
3. Out of the protagonists you’ve mentioned in your novel,which one do you feel you relate to the most?
The pigeons. Majority of action revolves around them. Syria, or Sham, has an old tradition of calling the pigeons using woeful/heartfelt ballads, drawing upon one’s inner feelings at the point of time. Feeding pigeons was an integral part of civilian life in Syria, before war broke it down. Some people are still trying to find their peace and companionship among these birds, and what these little messengers have seen, is beyond words. Perhaps that is why they can’t speak. The pain is far too great to express. They’ve numbed out.
4. Your plot has an underlying violence. What was your thought process behind this?
There’s violence in the air we breathe and the water we breathe and the land we take for granted is crematorium to so many unforeseen violent deaths. I think, human life is marred by violence. It is an inescapable truth, and our lives are ruined trying to run from it. I have stopped trying to run from post to panel trying to abhor it, and that is what Becoming Assiya is about – a journey through the demons we talk less of.
5. Tell us about the cover and how does it relate to your plot.
The cover is indeed riveting. It was designed by a close friend and colleague Devika Gupta, and her firm, Design Castle. I had briefed to her that I’m going to “market” a book about an identity crisis. At no point did she know it was by me, until very late. I think I kept personal ties aside. She knew what she had to do, being a thorough professional.
6. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Every Word is a secret, screaming out to the Reader to unravel itself. There’s tons of meaning a reader can drive home from one Word, forget one book or one line. I think the onus to answer that lies on the reader.
7. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That one should really not expect anything. Writing, like I’ve always stressed, is a strange magical realm that nobody’s been able to grasp on first glance. It is only after years of practise and learning that we get somewhere close to the Truths of Life. Harness experiences, and they hone you into a Writer. You do not have to sit down and expect and put unnecessary pressure on your Being. If the idea is meant to strike, it comes. If not, it could be between your two lips, and it wouldn’t come to you.
Strange alchemy of the words!
8. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think, though I’m very young to answer that, we live in a world where originality is increasingly compromised and bludgeoned to death for more put ons. Do not be a sell out or a media gimmick. Even if your writing is tough to grasp, stay true to it. If it comes from the heart, the audience will grasp it someday. Success takes time, do not rush. Don’t look for shortcuts.
9. As a new author, what kind of advice would you give to other writers just starting out?
I’m a learner myself. Trust your gut, keep going! Keep learning.
10. How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I’m very active on Facebook – www.fb.me/becomingassiya and on Instagram under the name @becomingassiya. I think for starters like myself, the world is your oyester and to take it on, you need to build media visibility and connect directly with your audience. Just search Simrann Keshwanii (the extra N and I on my name is a long and interesting story, some other day perhaps..) over Facebook and shoot me a message to speak to me 🙂