Dr. FARAH NAQVI is an academician, corporate trainer and HRD consultant associated with many MNCs and institutions in the field of academics, behavioural training, consulting and research. She has worked with premier institutes like IIM Ahmedabad, IBA Bangalore, Centre for Organization Development Hyderabad and ICFAI Hyderabad. She has recently come out with the fictional book “The Light in Blackout”. Currently, she is based in Kuwait with her family, and provides training, advising and consulting services to higher education institutions. In a candid chat with Chirdeep Malhotra, she talks about her latest book, her writing journey, her favourite books and authors, and much more.
Please tell us more about Farah Naqvi as a person.
I was born in a simple and loving family in the city of Allahabad as the youngest of four siblings. My father worked with the Ministry of Food, Govt. of India and my mother was a homemaker. I was always left in awe at the sincere and hardworking attitude of my father and my mother’s selfless, responsible and caring nature. They provided me with a strong foundation, where I learnt to appreciate the importance of human values, the strength of character and self-respect. My favourite past time is to spend time with my family, read good books, write on things close to my heart and contribute my services for progressive events that add meaning to my existence.
Has writing always been a part of your life? Or did you chance upon it later on and then instantly fell in love with it?
Yes, writing was always close to my heart. During my early years in school, my father used to gift beautiful diaries to my siblings and me motivating us to write short stories, poems or any random thoughts.
My formal stint with writing began when I started writing for the school magazine, started participating in literary events in schools and clubs in the city. My mother nurtured the writer in me by listening to my creative creations with interest and appreciation.
When in job, my writing interests drifted to writing research papers, case studies, book reviews that got published in internationally refereed journals. My key research areas during this time were emotional labour, emotional intelligence, gender studies, spirituality and industrial psychology. Though I was working on these themes, being an avid fiction reader, I always harbored a dream of writing my fiction novel. I rekindled and nurtured my creative writing interest by writing for online platforms and newspaper columns. Receiving appreciation and positive feedback for the same, I started working towards writing my debut novel- ‘The light in blackout’. As of now, I find myself completely in love with writing and reading!
Can you tell us more about your book “The Light in Blackout”?
The light in blackout is an inspiring tale of a girl named Alizah, whose near-perfect life is suddenly left shaken by strange shocks and jerks in her body caused by epilepsy. The recurrent seizures transform her from a vivacious and free-spirited girl to someone who is now scared of her present and uncertain of her future. However, Alizah pursues life relentlessly in spite of the struggles and stereotypes attached to her health condition, and makes the reader reflect upon the meaning of life, love, and realizing dreams. The book captures the beautiful childhood days set in the ’90s, genuine ties of friendship and the beauty of unconditional true love, which is hard to find in today’s world.
What type of research went into writing this book?
Writing this book was an arduous yet extremely satisfying experience. I read many books of this genre and explored different styles of storytelling. It helped me a lot! I realized it when I started writing my book, and I found I was using flashback, narrative, dialogue, suspense and other techniques effortlessly. I also researched extensively about epilepsy, its pscyho-social effects on people who live with this condition and their families. Though epilepsy is a very common medical condition where abnormal brain activity causes seizures or loss of awareness, the person also has to deal with the psychological and social implications of it. While writing about the story of Alizah, I tried my best to bring it forth using real-life authentic sources and experiences.
In terms of the complexity of the character and the nuances of the dialogues, the character development of whom was the most difficult in this book?
Since the story of the book is inspired to some extent by true events, the character development of different characters like Alizah, Sahil, Meera and others was not so daunting. However, developing Alizah’s character from her childhood, teenage, adolescence to adult age and capturing the changes in her personality owing to her experiences required a lot of deliberation. Another stimulating yet challenging part was capturing the essence of pure unconditional love between Sahil and Alizah through dialogues. I worked equally hard while carefully etching Meera’s character as an honest, ambitious and resilient personality persisting in the face of adversities.
What are your favourite books? Can you share with our esteemed readers about the genres that you like and your favourite authors?
The list is long, but mostly I like to read fiction. When in school, I grew up reading Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens and others. My interest in reading kept on increasing and every time I got a book, I was in a hurry to finish it asap. Some of my favourite authors are Khalid Hosseini, Paulo Coelho, Arundhati Roy and Amitav Ghosh. I also like to read self-development books to fuel myself from time to time. Some of my best-loved books in this genre are- ‘The last lecture by Randy Pausch, Power of your subconscious mind by Dr Joseph Murphy and Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom’. Apart from this, reading the work of Kahlil Gibran, Rumi, Rabindranath Tagore and Gulzar leaves the reader in me mesmerized.
You have also been involved in research in gender studies. How do you think women can break the glass ceiling in the Indian corporate sector?
I have worked primarily in the education sector and based on my experience I personally felt that there was no one stopping the meritorious women from occupying leadership roles. My research work in gender studies in India indicated that the main cause of lack of women in executive positions was not the glass ceiling but the challenges associated with work-life balance. With the patriarchal mindset that responsibilities of home are the primary domain of women, working women of childbearing and rearing age, loaded with responsibilities are many a times forced to compromise on their career goals especially those with no support system. The glass ceiling is mostly seen in the echelon of a company’s top management, but nothing can stop a woman who is passionate and excellent in her work.
What are your other interests apart from writing?
Apart from writing, I love spending quality time with my family, going for a walk, listening to ghazals, naat and trying my hands at cooking occasionally.
There are many new writers and poets who are aspiring to get their work published. What would you say to them?
Read as much as you can and if you are passionate about a story that you want the world to hear, pick your pen and get started. Remember that there is a responsibility that comes with a pen, so write something worth reading. It is acceptable to make mistakes. Be kind to yourself and your fellow writers, no matter what step of the journey they are on. Allow yourself to experiment without the repercussions of a self-defeating belief. As the saying by Zig Ziglar says– ‘You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.’
Can you share with our readers a motivational quote that keeps you going?
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” J.Rumi. Best wishes and keep Reading!