Gurmehar Kaur revisits the personal as political as she publishes her second book, The Young And The Restless. She focuses on the youth of the nation and their ambition by exploring at length the lives of eight young leaders across different ideologies and identities. Here are abstracts from a conversation on leadership, recklessness and restlessness of the youth of India.
‘I don’t know if I’m an activist in the truest sense. Maybe I am, maybe I am not. The label was plastered on me at a very young age. But here is what I have always been: a storyteller. Stories have the power to change the world, and they have changed mine.’
Tell me about the books and people that inspired you growing up?
Maria Yuryevna Sharapova, the Russian tennis player, was one of my key role models growing up and it was because of her that I learned the importance of discipline.
I think the book that hit me the most was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I remember reading it and thinking that these are the kind of stories I would eventually want to grow up and tell. I was also a huge Jane Austen fan, Ruskin Bond fan, and then there is always Arundhati Roy.
What does The Young And The Restless mean to you?
Restlessness and being young go hand in hand because I think restlessness could also mean being aspirational and young Indians today are very aspirational. That is the mood of the nation right now since we comprise more than 60% of the population.
What is at the core of your book?
Hope. In my interactions with other young people of our country, what I encounter the most is hopelessness, whether it’s in terms of lack of jobs, lack of money, lack of educational opportunities, lack of universities or leadership. So what I would want for the people to take back from my book would be faith and hope in the young leaders of today who I have explored at length in my book.
What challenges did you face while writing this book?
Well, writing my first book, Small Acts Of Freedom was very exhausting since there were so many emotions at play, but I think while writing The Young And The Restless my biggest challenge was time management and striking a balance between writing drafts and coping with the academic pressure since I was in my final year of college and I had to take turns between being a writer and a student.
How would you describe your journey?
I think the whole time frame of publishing my first book went in a complete haze as I didn’t know what was happening or what life would have in store for me. But by the time I wrote my second book, I was a little more comfortable in the new author shoes that I was wearing. I think it also came with a lot of social responsibility which was really scary initially but the more amount of work went into The Young And The Restless, the more I wrote, the more I researched, the more comfortable I became with the responsibility that came with.
“There is no substitute for discipline and there is absolutely no substitute for hardwork in life.”
Could you narrate a day in a writer’s life?
I wrote in the cab, I wrote in the middle of my lectures, in my hostel room with my roommate sitting next to me and in my college library. I think I wrote everywhere other than my bed. There is never a glorious, glamorous and an elaborate art to writing, I think one should just be willing to pen down their thoughts to paper or a computer screen.
I think writing gave me a lot of purpose as everyday as I woke up I always had something to do, a conversation to look forward to, some research to do, and I think that purpose in life is very important in life.
What’s next for you?
I think most youth would agree with me when I say that I don’t know what’s next since I just graduated from college, but I am going to Oxford in September to do my masters and I’m really looking forward to that!
Text Priyanshi Jain