Neha Sharma, an avid reader and debut author, was always drowned in books since her childhood, and loved using it as an escape route from monotony from time to time. Hailing from Bangalore, the garden city of India and born in New Delhi, she; being a defence kid, has travelled nearly the whole of India. Holding Master’s degree in HR and International Business, she moved to Norway in 2010 after her wedding. She weaves stories and writes snippets in her blog about women’s strength and empowerment, but only when her three-year old daughter allows her to do so. In a candid conversation with Chirdeep Malhotra, she talks about her book “Wedding Pickle”, her Norwegian experiences, her blog and the importance of indigenous literatures.
Writers are an interesting, creative and enigmatic lot, but it is their writing journey that is even more interesting and inspiring. Can you enlighten us about your writing journey?
It all started one day on a snowy Norwegian winter; I had had enough of Netflix and had a pen and paper lying beside me, so I thought of writing about the winters in Norway. I thought I would write just a paragraph when I ended up writing a few pages on it; I quite didn’t know where the thoughts came from but they just kept flowing. That’s when I realized I could pen down my thoughts in a way I never imagined. So, I started to write short stories. I loved writing them as I could then slip into my world of imagination where anything was possible, where I could give life to characters and put forward topics I wanted to talk about. Writing puts me into a world I love being in.
Can you give a brief overview of your book “Wedding Pickle”?
Wedding Pickle is a modern-day romance set in India. It talks about a woman in today’s world. It speaks of her trials and tribulations of facing an arranged marriage. This book is about her journey from being a single independent woman who is stubborn to the point that she resents marriage as she feels it comes in between her freedom and free thinking. It speaks of a series of emotions a woman goes through during this phase. It talks about women from different walks of life and their take on marriage in today’s world.
Avni’s character in the book seems quite interesting. Is there a biographical tinge to her character or are there some elements or instances in the book that have been derived from your own life?
There was a time in my life where all of us were going through this stage of getting married. My friends, cousins, acquaintances, colleagues. We all had our own set of fears, reluctance and inhibitions towards marriage. I thought why not write about it. This is something most of us have gone through or will go through at one point. So yes, Avni is a bit of me, I too had an arranged marriage, so I went through the same fears she did; she is also a bit of a lot of other people going through the same journey that I have come across. In short, she is like any other next-door girl and her instances are taken from what’s happened to a lot of people; but of course there is a tinge of imagination also that went in.
The author blurb mentions that you are an avid reader. Which are your favorite genres? Our readers will love to know about your favorite authors and books.
Yes, I am an avid reader. I don’t have a specific genre in mind. I have liked books from different genres; I just pick up books that interest me. There are so many favourites; I could list a few of them out- Little women by Louisa May Alcott; The Kite runner and A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini; Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden; Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (though it took me forever to complete it); and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. Last but not the least, I have been in love with the Harry Potter series since I was in 7th grade; it’s hard to get over a love that old and they still remain undoubtedly the only books that take me right back to my childhood.
You have been living in Norway since 2010. Can you share with our readers a little sneak peek into your life in Norway? From an Indian’s perspective, are there any interesting or humorous anecdotes you experienced there that you would like to share?
It’s been 8 long years now, but yes when I initially came to Norway, it was a bit of a shock. I came in the middle of winters; it was -250 C then. I had never experienced anyplace below +50 C. It was cold, streets were empty and there was no noise. Coming from a place where seeing people all around and living with noise of different kinds becomes a part of your everyday life, it was tough to get acquainted; now of course I love the peace, calm and the quiet.
Norway is of course very different from India on many facets. I had once called someone for dinner; they were at my doorway at 5 pm when I was still deciding what to make. Yes, they have dinner that early and are very punctual, if they mean 5, they would be there at 5. I have caught onto that habit and it is difficult to break it even when I am in India. Now, when I’m in India, I end up at party venues before the hosts and the weddings before the bride and groom. Coming to weddings, unlike Indian weddings, it’s a very small and private affair. Sometimes, even though you are either the bride or groom’s first family, it doesn’t guarantee you a wedding invitation.
Since you’re an author presently based in Norway, the talk will definitely foray into Scandinavian writing. Scandinavian noir is one such genre which is getting famous worldwide. Zee’s Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 also had a session on it. Do you read Scandinavian literature? Can you share your first contact with this literature?
Yes, I have heard a lot about the Scandinavian noir going places, especially The Snowman; it’s on my reading list. However, personally crime is not my favorite genre. So I will be honest in saying that I haven’t read much of Scandinavian noir.
Taking this discussion forward, what role do you think indigenous literature has in promoting interests or highlighting issues of a specific region or people?
I think indigenous literature is very important, something that should be preserved and promoted as this literature through its poems and stories talks about an era in its truest sense. I was always intrigued about world history as a child, some of it helps you go back to a time or place and tell you exactly what took place; help you live their culture. It takes you to a place you have never been to and talk to people and their perspectives of doing what they did and why they did; it opens up a whole new context in the way we see the world. It does play a big role.
You are also an avid blogger. Can you tell us more about your blog and the themes you write about in it?
Yes, I have a blog called inkedemotions.com. I forayed into blogging by writing short stories and started it about two years ago. It talks of the strength of women from different walks of life. I want to speak about these unsung heroes and talk about their courage, indomitable will and their never dying spirit.
What are your other interests apart from writing?
I am a trained classical singer, hence I love singing. Other great stress busters for me are swimming and cooking.
Are there any new literary projects in the pipeline?
Yes, there are. I am working on my next book, sketching out the characters. I wouldn’t want to reveal much about it at the moment. I do have a mini poetic series on “Birth of a Meera” on my Instagram. You can follow me at @novelistneha.
Can you share some inspiring advice for budding authors?
When it comes to writing, you have to be a dreamer first. Plan your story, chalk every character out, let them talk to you and imagine each scene taking place in front of your eyes. Let your imagination run wild and free, don’t restrict your thoughts, and let them weave stories for you. Write what your heart approves and not what you feel is the trend. Create your own style of writing and be the best in it, instead of trying to follow someone else’s. And yes, always keep reading.
Written by Chirdeep Malhotra