In the summer of 2019, when Kashmir valley was locked down for months following the abrogation of Article 370, 24-year-old Nida Noor was prompted to document a parallel (if not a comparable) loss.
By the subsequent COVID-19 lockdown in the valley last year, the young woman from Srinagar’s Nigeen area summed up the two successive lockdowns in her maiden novel ‘Two And A Half’ aimed at reviving the dying Kashmiri folklore and the fading reading habit among the youth.
A Mechanical Engineering graduate by profession, Nida said the novel is inspired by the mythical character of a witch of the traditional Kashmiri folklore who used to entice the natives into offering her a helping hand only to be ensnared and never to return from the labyrinth.
The story revolves around the protagonist Rehmat, who loses her uncle to a tragic fire incident and how a devastated Rehmat makes peace with the loss.
Nida said she started to work on the book during last year’s COVID-19 lockdown and finished it in the six months of the pandemic.
“During the lockdown, I observed my young cousins and family members engrossed in their smartphones in the virtual life when they needed to reflect on the real happenings instead,” Nida recalled while talking to Greater Kashmir.
“It made me sad that the youth, supposed to be the future leaders, were wasting their time in things that would be of no benefit to them or the community at large. So, I decided to author the book and try to bring them back to reality and revive the culture of reading by narrating our traditional tales,” Nida said over the inspiration behind writing the novel.
The 24-year-old said she fears the local Kashmiri youth as a generation “who would have nothing to narrate to their children and the future generations, which in turn, could leave them without the memories of their homeland”.
“And if we have no memories of our homeland, how does it add up?” she wondered.
Nida recalled she loved to hear folktales from her elders in her childhood as it kept her connected with her homeland and its culture.
While cherishing the folktales, Nida said she has been an avid reader too since her childhood thanks to her father.
“My father has been an ‘old school reader’ from the very beginning. I would always see him carrying books wherever he went and that’s how my connection with reading started as a result of which I became a ‘compulsive reader’,” she said.
The debutant novelist further consolidated her reading during the Kashmir lockdown of 2019 following the abrogation of Article 370 in absence of any Internet or telecommunication or even a daily personal contact with relatives and friends.
“The idea of writing a book came to my mind during that period, but before I could write a book, I needed to read more and thus I spent that lockdown in deep reading about our homeland and Islamic literature,” Nida recalled.
During last year’s COVID-19 lockdown, the young woman finally decided to come up with the novel, which could take readers back to their roots, turn them a bit nostalgic and restore the love for homeland in their hearts.
“We have uprooted ourselves by our own hands by always dwelling in the virtual space and tend to get away from the practical world, in this case, our homeland Kashmir and the tales of our ancestors,” Nida said.
The young author said her personal experience in life has played a major role in her writing the book and has been somewhat reflected in the protagonist Rehmat as well.
“It was when my elder sister read the book and told me that I resemble Rehmat in various aspects, did I notice that I have put my experience and my character into the book,” Nida added with a giggle.