Q & A
The Girl in Room 105 is about a boy’s quest to unlove his ex-girlfriend and find meaning in his otherwise mundane life.
What does the book hope to achieve?
It hopes to discuss the importance of ‘unloving’, something that is probably as important as loving someone. Sometimes, we just have to learn to let go, move on and find meaning in life. It also hopes to shed light on contemporary India, whether it is the Kashmir issue, the prejudices Indians carry or the state of Indian media.
Why did you write this book?
I have written several books, a lot of which have been love stories. I don’t think enough has been written about the dark side of love – the stage when love ends – and how difficult it can be to move on. I wanted to write about this, but in a fun way.
I also felt the need to do something different in terms of genre, both for myself and my readers.
The Girl in Room 105 is my attempt at some sort of a thriller genre, even though it is difficult to put my books in any one category. I wanted to do a gripping thriller, which moves fast and has a lot of humour as well, and The Girl in 105 hopes to tick all those boxes.
Have you had to ‘unlove’ as well?
Is there anyone in this world who hasn’t had to do that? When love ends, a residue remains in us. Sometimes we may be angry at the other person, even hate them. All that still shows connection and involvement at an emotional level. As they say, the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. To reach that stage of indifference takes a long time and it is then that the ‘unlove’ happens. So yes, I have had my share of heartbreak and lack of closure too, and that perhaps has inspired Keshav’s love for Zara in The Girl in Room 105.
What is the Kashmir angle in the story? Is it a Kashmir book?
The Kashmir issue is a complex one and something our country has grappled with ever since Independence. Even though I have done research and written several columns on Kashmir, by no means am I a Kashmir expert. Hence, I have not attempted to solve the Kashmir problem or claimed to have understood it better than others.
However, I do feel the Indian youth at large is not very aware of what is happening in Kashmir, and what life is like for the ordinary people who live there. We only see breaking news about some incident, or some complex expert takes on it. I felt that setting the story against the backdrop of that state may show people the Kashmir of today, and maybe create an awareness of the issues.
Hence, The Girl in Room 105 is not a Kashmir book in that sense. It is a book set in Kashmir, and Kashmir forms an important part of it.
What is your take on the Kashmir issue?
Like I said in the previous question, I can’t claim to be an expert on Kashmir nor do I have all the solutions. I think the situation is complex, and all sides are doing some things right and some things wrong. And while that doesn’t help in solving a problem, I think what needs to happen is a lot more communication from both sides. We need to bring Kashmir into the mainstream, and particularly talk to the youth there and figure out the best way forward.
How is writing a thriller different from writing a love story?
There’s a lot of difference. Even though all my books are fast-paced and action-oriented, in a thriller, things have to move even faster. Also, everything needs to be really precise, each moment has to add up and make sense. In one way, with a thriller, every reader becomes an editor, and we have to be extra careful in the editing process to ensure everything fits just right.
The climax of thrillers is also really important – it has to have the right amount of tension and surprise for the reader. Doing all this was a lot of fun in The Girl in Room 105.
Keshav’s Hindu. Zara’s Muslim. Is there a Hindu-Muslim angle too in the book?
I don’t want to reveal too much, but all I would say is yes, there might be something, but not how you expect it. For more, read the book!