~~By Kingson Chingakham
Born and brought up in Manipur, this young writer sees writing as a revolution, a movement which can set a legacy — an imperative yet forgotten approach of writing and observing, talking and questioning the existence and the history of the Northeast.
In an interview with Kingson Chingakham, Ch Lady Diana, author of The Mirage of Love and Lovin’ A Hero spoke at length about her experience as a writer and the journey thereof.
Ch Lady Diana graduated from the University of Delhi and is settled now in Delhi. Her book Lovin’a Hero was recently awarded as the Best Manuscript Award at Lit-O- Fest, Mumbai.
1.How was your experience growing up in Manipur? And did Delhi change you for good?
Ans: I was very timid as a child. I have liked having fun and hanging out with my brother and sister and with my cousins. Much of who I am today is because of my school, I studied in Little Flower School and I was surrounded by achievers. I have always aspired to be like them but I remained an average student. The values that were inculcated in me through my society and my school predominantly still thrive with me everywhere I go. Entering Delhi University has dramatically changed me and for good. (laughs) Today, I am a confident woman and I am pretty independent and assertive. Delhi University shaped my dreams and ambitions.
2.How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing books?
Ans: I started writing very early in my childhood. Whenever my dad used to see me study very seriously in my room, he still doesn’t know I was scribbling patches of stories on my notebook. Writing has always been a liberating feeling to me especially because as a child I used to have self-esteem problem. So, I never really knew much about myself or was not confident enough to say anything at all. So, the repressed words found its way out in what I used to write. But I have never been serious about making it my career until a couple of years back. I never thought I would become an author. Writing helps me to pen down my observations about the world we live in, I would like to experiment with genres and use the skill set to reflect on the nature twisted existence we have today in the name of dogmas and norms.
3.In our lives, we all have one book that establishes a deep connection. Which one will be yours? Did it motivate you to grow as an author?
Ans: I would certainly say that my school had equipped me with so many books that by the time I was in the 5th standard, I was influenced by Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, by the poems of William Wordsworth, etc. Then picking up the trait from my school, I had added some more books to my list of reading. I remember reading Wuthering Heights, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, etc. Every book has motivated me to expand my horizon of thinking and writing.
4.You have authored two books – The Mirage Of Love and Lovin’ A Hero. Can you briefly tell us about it? And any take away or message from the two books?
Ans: The two books are quite different in its narrative. The Mirage Of Love, is an observation of the society from the point of view of a woman. It is my first book and it was self-published. It’s full of questions; it’s presented as a paradox and aims to find self-sustenance for the narrator. It’s a feminist tale that talks about the rituals and opinions in the societal set-up that shrouds over the simplistic existence of everyone. The message in the book is – don’t be judgemental and follow your heart.
Lovin’ A Hero is a narrative which takes the form of popular fiction. It is lighter in story, has humour and lots of thought provoking situations. It’s romantic and debatably, a feminist. But, interestingly, here the feminist is not a woman but a man. The publisher of my book is Vishwakarma Publications.
5.Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing? Any writing rituals?
Ans: Managing time is the most challenging part of the day. Besides, a full time job and a consulting job, I also work for my blog-story. My blog is by the name of The Scented Words and one can find the details of my work on it. Also, the blog story is by the name of The Back Benchers’ Society, BBS as I love to call it. The manuscript I am working on is titled The Vanquished Paradise and it is based on the political and social set up of Manipur. It is very very challenging to manage time and I can usually give only two to three hours to write on a daily basis. So, normally I don’t follow any plans because I need to have a story-motivation to write certain chapters. I go by the swing of the day.
6.You have also won the prestigious Best Manuscript Award at Lit-O- Fest, Mumbai. How close is this award to you?
Ans: The journey to publishing my second book ie Lovin’ A Hero has been quite eventful. As I was very new in the publishing industry, I have had my share of failures in approaching the publishers. It was a frustrating experience and I had nearly given up but for the award that I received from the Lit O Fest, Mumbai. I have two people to thank for, Suhail Mathur who has supported my wishes and Smita Parikh, who is the founder of Lit O Fest. Through the award, I got a very supportive publisher who is always in touch with me and supportive towards my ambitions for the book. I would like to make a mention of Vishal Soni, my publisher, and thank him for his continued support to the book.
7.We see very less fiction writers from the North East India. Do you see any reason behind this? How difficult is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?
Ans: I see Northeast India as a very fertile ground for stories. I do agree that we need more writers from the Northeast who will voice for our thoughts and cultures. Unless and until, there is writing…I don’t feel we can make much progress. Writing in itself is a revolution and so many countries and movements have had their movements on the basis of creative writing. So, if we really want to set a legacy, I would want our youngsters to start writing and observe, talk and question what our existence and our history is really like. One need not always stick to the same genre or remain parochial; the added benefit of being a creative writer is that the universe is your home.
8.There is an adage which says ‘An author is also a student in learning’. What did you learn while writing your two books?
Ans: The adage is right in every trickle of its spirit. Once an author, you will remain a student throughout. If you cease to learn and explore, your motivation and muse to write will be gone in no time. I started writing as a form of observation of the society and human behaviour, the more I study people and situations, different circumstances making different sets of people – the more intrigued I am.
9.In North East India, most of the children are not encouraged to read books outside their education curriculum. How will give a message to the people that “bookish knowledge is harmful in the process of yearning knowledge”?
Ans: Mugging up from the book is never a source of true knowledge. If a child is to be educated, he or she can never be educated on the sole basis of information from the classroom books. One needs exposure to different kinds of experiences and reading to be truly an educated self. Between struggling as a middle class family and maintaining the respect in the society, we cling on our education as a prospective source for a good future. Indeed, it’s a struggle. But, now is the time to change our mentality. From being just a job-deserving individual, we need our kids to be enterprising as well because a good education is not only that which gives you a livelihood but it is also that which teaches you how to live. So, our schools need to inculcate more of experiential learning and our parents need to help us build certain life skills and make the kids read books outside of their curriculum.
10.As an author and a reader, I am sure you know the importance of libraries. But the institutes in the north east states are deficit of good libraries. What kind of advice or suggestion do you want to give to solve this issue?
Ans: I think what is really missing is the enthusiasm for books. If as a society, we are enthusiastic about books and what entails from reading them, and then libraries will not be missing. We need to make our libraries function with better more book listings and easier accessibility. Community libraries can also help in transmitting knowledge and enthusiasm for books.
11.What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Ans: Have faith in your work and never give up.
12.What are your future plans? Do you want to venture on non-fiction writing or you will prefer continuing with fictions?
Ans: I have some five projects I am working on. Slowly but patiently, I would like to make efforts to bring them up one by one. I would continue to write on various themes, it would be a challenge to document a non-fiction too. I am surely exploring options.
“If a story is in you, it has got to come out” — William Faulkner
(Kingson Chingakham is a citizen journalist. He is currently pursuing M.A Political Science from University of Delhi)