Simar Malhotra was born in the Capital city of New Delhi in a Punjabi household. She is currently pursuing her International Baccalaureate Diploma Program from Step by Step International School, Jaipur. Last summer, she attended a course on Shakespeare and creative writing at Yale University, USA. This inspired her to pen her first novel. She also runs an NGO called Parvaah with an aim to generate environmental and ecological consciousness. There Is A Tide is her debut work. Visit her here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, There is a Tide. How did you get the idea for it? What is it about?
My summer course at Yale and coming back to India made me see the difference in lifestyle and culture. I saw the class and the coming together of the oriental and the occidental at close quarters. So I tried to draw out what I saw there. The problems that plague India are all staring right into our faces. It not only bothers me, but I am sure it pains all of you here. The dirty streets, the eve-teasing, the entire “dadagiri-bullying culture”. These pressing issues are very apparent and I wanted to take a stand against them. When I say the pen is mightier than the sword, I actually mean it. And also, at the time, the AAP movement was viral which provided a lot of food for thought. It was like the Indian Renaissance. But then the usual political manifestos took their turn. There is a Tide is about a young girl named Rhea who returns from the U.S. to find her idealistic brother behind bars on account of a murder. The story follows her struggles to prove his innocence, tackle the problems our developing country faces and realize love in the midst of the chaos.
NAW- What drew you to writing?
Honestly, it was all a process. Summer of 2013, I went to Yale University and took a writing class. It was there that truly realized my love for writing. I used to journal always, but what I wrote was subject only to my eyes. In Yale, I wrote for an audience for the first time. The inspiration and motivation I received from my professors and peers was phenomenal. When I got back and flipped through my journal, I realized I could develop a story around it. There wasn’t a single moment of epiphany that made me realize that “Oh I can be a writer” but all those little applauds of appreciation that added up to give me a giant push in that direction. I’m happy to see it turn out like this, but I will always cherish the most the nights I burnt the midnight oil writing; the deadlocks that came in the way and conquering them.
NAW- Tell us about the character of Rhea. How did you develop the character?
Rhea is the typical girl-next-door. She’s kind and loving yet, with stoic determination. She belongs to the youth of today, with an open mind and a vision of change. I wanted my readers to see what Rhea saw. Rhea isn’t me, but somewhat like my mirror, I suppose. She carried my voice. It wasn’t difficult to develop Rhea’s character, honestly. We all have this ideal person we’ve imagined. I simply penned mine down in Rhea.
NAW- How much of the book is drawn from your own life experiences? Did you carry out any research for the book? If yes, how did you go about it?
I would not want to call it an autobiography most certainly. But I do think good writing must touch your heart. And if it is not written with an element of truth then somewhere we will lose the connect. There is a lot of fact in what I wrote. I actually went to Yale. I actually met an influential someone called Abhimanyu although very little of the hearts were involved. And I did observe what was and is happening in India. And of course, around these real-life experiences, I wrote my story.
And yes, A whole lot of research has gone into my book. From general observations of life to formal and informal debates and conversations with people, all constituted to my research. My own experiences at Yale and Varanasi, which I made a short trip to, were crucial pieces of evidence.
NAW- How did you manage to find time for writing given that you are enrolled as a full time student?
I could get all this going because of my school Step By Step at Jaipur, and all my educators who were very supportive. Every time I travelled, they would give me extra classes to cover up. I penned most of the novel while I was living in the hostel. My hostel parents would give me coffee at 3 in the morning, set my alarms and encouraged me whenever I had a writer’s block. The support I’ve received from the school is unthinkable.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
So I run an NGO called Parvaah. Giving back to society has been ingrained in my ethos by my parents and my school. As a part of the IB CAS program, a group of us from school wanted to have a sustainable organization which would work even after we left school. Parvaah was born after a lot of brainstorming with a purpose to help craftsmen and skilled workers to make useful environmentally friendly products and supply them to bigger markets. Along with this, we, at Parvaah aim to evoke ecological consciousness among the people. A lot of my time happily goes into looking into the demographics of Parvaah. I’m also an avid painter. Whenever I get some time to myself, I try to squeeze in a little paint and paper.
NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?
There are so many authors that I admire, that it’s hard to name a few. I guess my current favorites would be Ayn Rand, Jane Austen and Amish Tripathi. Each author has a different style and way of communicating with the reader, so each book offers a new experience. I certainly draw a lot of inspiration from the authors that I read. For instance, it is visible in Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy the research that’s gone into it. I too, try and back my writing with conclusive research and facts.
NAW- What are your career aspirations? Any plans to pen down more books in future?
Certainly! But at the same time, I want to work in the public sector in India, formulate policies and unleash the potential of this country. I don’t want to sound overly patriotic, but I feel a lot can be done here. All of us just need to take that one extra step and I truly believe that we can become the Golden Bird we once were. I guess a dual professional life won’t be too bad.