‘IN­JUS­TICE THE IM­PULSE FOR MY STO­RIES’

Delhi young­ster Si­mar Mal­ho­tra’s re­cent novel is a global drama that deals with sev­eral is­sues

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Henna Rakheja

Writ­ers of­ten find in­spi­ra­tion from what they see around them. And that’s ex­actly what trig­gered a 16-year-old from South Delhi to start writ­ing her first book called There is a Tide — a geopo­lit­i­cal drama about re­volv­ing around a young girl (2014). The writer, Si­mar Mal­ho­tra, who is 21 now, re­cently re­leased her se­cond book, Tides Don’t Cross.“For usu­ally all of my sto­ries, the im­pulse is some sort of in­jus­tice — sex­ism, cor­rup­tion, re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance — which was also the case for TDC. I was al­ways in­ter­ested in the di­vide be­tween Hin­dus and Mus­lims,” says Si­mar. “As a per­son from a well-ed­u­cated, glob­alised house­hold, this has to change. But that doesn’t re­ally hap­pen, even to­day — I’m sent to study in the US, but it is made sure that I don’t live in a house that be­longs to Mus­lims. So, those sen­ti­ments were the seed,” she shares, adding that her book also deals with Is­lam­o­pho­bia and the mod­ern woman.

The plot re­volves around three cen­tral char­ac­ters. Delv­ing into the story, Si­mar says, “For me, per­son­ally, it is the story of Mri­nalini. If some­one asks me to choose — in the grand scheme of things — its Mri­nalini’s story, but it wouldn’t ex­ist if the other two char­ac­ters [Ayaan and Ruk­mani] weren’t there.”

A stu­dent at the Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity in the US, Si­mar had based the plot of her first novel in Delhi. How­ever, her se­cond is set in Gu­ru­gram, and Si­mar ex­plains, “One of the char­ac­ters lives in an apart­ment com­plex. You have stereo­types about where peo­ple come from. I wanted to place this char­ac­ter and his wife in Gu­ru­gram [be­cause] it’s more be­liev­able to place a char­ac­ter liv­ing in a res­i­den­tial com­plex in Gu­ru­gram than in Delhi.”

To­wards the lat­ter half of the book, the ac­tion shifts to Paris. And it is re­mark­able how the au­thor has shifted from In­dian words such as pa­neer and buaji to those from the French lan­guage and cul­ture, for in­stance the ref­er­ence to the Mau­pas­sant short story, Boule de Suif. “Had I writ­ten ‘Oo ya she’s eat­ing cot­tage cheese’, it wouldn’t have made sense. Most of my read­ers are go­ing to be In­dian and I even have sen­tences in French. It’s about where is the story tak­ing place in that mo­ment… I haven’t tried to force any­thing,” she sums up.

I was al­ways in­ter­ested in the Hindu­Mus­lim di­vide, and I felt ed­u­ca­tion can fix it. As a per­son [from an] ed­u­cated house­hold [I feel] this has to change.

SI­MAR MAL­HO­TRA AU­THOR

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