Ever since childhood, she has been maintaining a diary. Recording not just the musing of the day gone by, but how it touched or untouched her. She says the record-keeping over several years gave the confidence that her writing could be out in the world.
“Of course, there were apprehensions initially, but the reception of the previous and latest books have ascertained that now I do not think twice before calling myself a writer,” smiles Chandigarh-based Hindi author Shailja Kaushal whose second Hindi book ‘Paanch Ke Sikkey Tatha Anya Kahaniyan’ was adjudged the ‘Best Book of Year’ 2021 by Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi in January. In fact, her debut collection of short stories ‘Vaastav Mein’ also received the ‘Best Book of the Year Award’ – 2015 from the same body.
Stressing that most of her stories are derived from lived experience, the writer, who in 2019 was invited to address a gathering at the Indology Department, Sofia University in Bulgaria on ‘Stories of Shailja Kaushal and their characters’ stresses that since childhood, she has been a keen observer of social, cultural and varied aspects of human relationships and their intricacies.
“The same has subconsciously influenced my thought process and writing. Whatever I write revolves around these dimensions. My latest collection of stories is the outcome of some soul-stirring and intensely impactful episodes.” Like, one of her stories ‘Mrs. Lobo Special’ derives inspiration from the special bond that she shared with her grandmother. “The central theme of this particular story is based on the exceptional culinary skills that the grandmother passes on to her granddaughter,” she adds.
Lamenting that not many publishers in the Hindi ecosystem encourage and give a break to young and new writers, Kaushal says it is extremely tough to break into and get a foothold in the existing publishing ecosystem. “One needs financial backing or own assets to convince a publisher,” she says.
Planning to explore the theme of travel in her next work, Kaushal says, “I am working on constructing a plot or stories based on my travels across diverse countries. It could either be a travelogue or fiction based on my travels.”
For her, writing is a way to exhale. It is also a medium to speak her mind through the characters she creates. “Sometimes, our creations manage to convey much more than we can,” she concludes.
(Sukant Deepak can be reached at email@example.com)