Valley & the Faded Souls

  • ZIA SHAKIR
  • Publish Date: Sep 17 2018 3:06AM
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  • Updated Date: Sep 17 2018 3:15AM
Valley & the Faded SoulsRepresentational Pic

Izna Nawchoo, 32, a Kashmiri woman hailing from Budgam district, narrates an extraordinary family tale in her first novel ‘Valley & the Faded Souls.’

An Architect/ Urban Designer by profession, she has an intricate interest in looking at cities and towns. She likes to see how they develop from nothing into livable cities.

Izna Nawchoo, is presently in America, has independently published her first novel, in which she mentions ‘the war walks uninvited into the house when one of the family members goes missing.’ She has written tale of a struggle in finding the disappeared, a tale of a new face of war.

In an exclusive chat with the Kashmir Ink, Izna excitedly tells about her first published novel, “Firstly I would like to thank my family and my friends for all their support and patience as I wrote my first novel. My grandfather was a writer. He wrote Na’ats and poems. I grew up watching him write. As a child, I wrote stories in broken English. As I grew up, I memorized chemical reactions from chemistry books by creating anecdotes. I have had stories hovering in my head all the time. This time I took those to pen and paper and it turned into a novel. Valley and The Faded Souls scenes are composed of scratch-imaginations,” recounts Izna.

“I had been going back and forth when it came to writing. I had been working on it, past few years. Just put it aside every time. But I knew I will write and finish it, when and how wasn't decided. It took its own path,” says Izna. 

Izna while explaining about her first novel says, “Valley & the Faded Souls is a story about a lost son of a middle-class family. The family is called the Rubaika family. The story narrates the children growing up. The story is set from the time period of 1995 to 2010. The family's struggle to find their disappeared son. The story walks through the valley of Kashmir. River Jhelum is the central spine. The story is set half on the river and in the main city.”

When asked why she has only imagined and written conflict stories in her first ever book, Izna answers, “Yes, the story is all fiction but based on some real-life incidents. However, I believe that no matter where a Kashmiri goes or lives, the story of war follows and stays with us. I like how you used the word CONFLICT, the story narrates the family folktale. It's a middle-class family and there is a difference how each class of Kashmiris looks at war. Kashmir's conflict has a different impact on every individual, especially people who grow up there. The story narrates a lot of social and cultural norms that become part of the bigger picture of war.” 

“Our valley had produced wonderful female artists and writers like Haba Khatoon. My mother is a writer, she writes Kashmiri songs. There are many Kashmiri girls writing and working on Kashmir conflict. If you ask me to look at it, gender-based, female contribution looks way higher. No, I don't think to be a girl or a guy makes any difference. What matters is how far one is willing to go. At the same time, I have seen boys do wonderful work amidst conflict.”

“It doesn't stand true only for female writers. I know that Kashmiris over all hesitate to express themselves. I know many Kashmiris who have wonderful stories to share, even better than Valley & the Faded Souls. I don't see the death of female writers definitely. Telling the tale of oppression is itself very conflicting; it’s one of the most challenging things to do. As you see when one goes through an abuse of any kind, a victim usually becomes silent. So if I compare how much women are doing while living in Kashmir, it’s a lot. And we aren't far from where we should be,” she replies avidly. 

The author follows and reads a prolific writer Khaled Hosseini in war based fiction; Nicholas Sparks, A Walk to Remember in fiction romance. And she likes to read a lot of biographies. The last she read was Benazir Bhutto, Daughter of Destiny.

“It took me two and a half years and if I put together the time I put it aside, then 3 years. My family has been really supportive, not just my parents and siblings, but even extended family. It needs a lot of patience to do a job, but it takes even more for someone else to wait for you to finish that job. I have been really lucky, Alhamdulillah. In Valley & the Faded Souls, I walk you through valley's architecture. Kashmir's architecture is my focal point in the book. And I know it will stay with me forever. There is Srinagar city, and there is Spain in the story,” says Izna.

While recalling her favorite anecdote during writing her first novel, she mirthfully recalls, “At the time of writing, I was trying not to read as much of other authors. Typically, one tends to pick up the style or language. So it's not a good idea to read other authors at the time of writing, especially fiction. As I said, the story is based on some real-life incidents. The childhood of protagonist, Shareef, and his sister Zahra, is a lot of my childhood. The time Shareef disappears the first time, the setting in the Hamam (the living room) is all from the real experience of living at my parent's house in Kashmir. So, yes, strange memory was going back to the childhood. I literally re-lived the time while writing it, especially my times with my grandfather. He has been a huge influence in my life. The novel is dedicated to him.” 

Her favourite part of the book is when Shareef goes to Pakistan. It's in Jhelum, the houseboat meanders toward the east of the valley.

Izna has chosen an online publisher of her first novel, Create Space, a part of Amazon. On being asked about the platform, she says, “I have got started with Create Space, a self-publishing platform. The royalties are more. There is flexibility if any of the traditional publishers like my work and at some point are ready to publish, I can still do that. However, Create Space gives me an absolute control over everything, from cover design to edits. It’s very simple, write and publish. Create Space is part of Amazon. And as you must know Amazon is changing everything from grocery stores to publishing world. Editors have opened up their own offices; the ones who were working for corporate publishers as 9 to 5 jobs. Graphic designers work independently as well. There is a lot of options and flexibility.”

“I shall be more than happy to help the younger generation of Kashmir to publish their work and get them acquainted with how they can move forward with their ideas, especially if they are interested in writing fiction. However, I am not yet there. I know I am going to write for rest of my life. I also know that I have a lot to learn, as it’s said learning never stops. I have just started.”

“I think it’s very important to believe in you. My message is whatever you are thriving to achieve, if you believe in it, it will happen. Valley & The Faded Souls is out, you can order your copies and there is a very sleek gap between writing and good-writing, if someone wants to write good, the first thing to do is to recognize your shortcomings. Find a way to overcome them. Do a lot of reading. Read your draft, again and again, 1000 times. The shortcomings will come in your face every time, even after publishing. Anything that's worth it is never going to be easy. So be prepared to face failures,” she concludes.