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Uncovering Untold History

Apr/07/2024 / by Abhijit Masih

Author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar reveals her inspirations rooted in the pasty

From a corporate career in Bombay to a sabbatical in Singapore, author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar remembers how childhood memories and untold stories started resurfacing. Though she didn’t know it at the time, they formed the start of her writing career—which now spans eight books, including The Long Walk Home and her latest Kashmir, the third and final book in The Partition Trilogy.

“There were these memories I had grown up with, and they started popping up,” she recalls. “I had a kernel of an idea that I wanted to explore. And that was really to do with the stories that I had while growing up in India.”

Reflecting on her unconventional path to becoming a writer, she acknowledges the challenges as an engineer venturing into the world of literature. “I have no training,” she admits, describing the initial struggle of translating her past experiences into compelling stories. The first novel, rooted in her experiences during the period of militancy in Punjab, marked the beginning of her self-taught journey as a writer. “It was a story that I grew up with and my adolescence coincided with the Sikh militancy. It’s a 15-year long period, and I saw it very closely,” she recalls the reason for her debut book The Long Walk Home.

The author’s latest project is a partition trilogy focusing on Lahore, Hyderabad, and Kashmir which she has been researching since she began writing. The inspiration for this trilogy emerges from the author’s childhood town, where untold partition stories intrigued her. “I grew up in a town which had so many partition stories, which I did not find in our history textbooks. Nobody wanted to dredge up memories of a very traumatic time,” she said. “I realized how women’s stories had gone missing in the partition narratives.” The decision to highlight women’s voices, often silent in historical narratives, led her to embark on an oral history project, collecting narratives and weaving them into her storytelling.

Someshwar provides insights into the challenges of writing historical fiction, especially when dealing with political leaders like Nehru and Mountbatten. Rigorous research, accessing archives, and sifting through materials become essential elements in creating an authentic narrative that captivates readers. “There is a tremendous amount of research which needs to happen because I do not want to get anything wrong and whatever goes there has to be verified and ratified by historical sources,” she says. Her approach to blending history, mystery, and contemporary themes, makes historical fiction a compelling educational tool. 

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

The author explores and portrays strong female characters in her narratives, drawing from her own experiences and the assertive women in her household. She highlights the significance of portraying women’s stories in the context of trauma, love, and relationships during historical events. “When I was growing up, I had these very incredibly strong, assertive women in my household and I figured that the true cost of partition was paid by them,” she says.  “I tell the story of common legal relationships, and women are central in those relationships.”

She credits celebrated authors like Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy for introducing her to different narrative styles and expresses admiration for the enduring influence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with his lyrical quality, and Sufi poet Rumi, with his spiritual depth.

Someshwar offers valuable advice for aspiring writers, urging them to question their motivations and emphasizing the dedication required for a writing career. “There is a fair amount of assumed assumptions and glamour around it, which very quickly falls away because the work required for writing is tremendous,” she says. “It is just like any other career where you need the discipline, skill set and dedication. It’ll take several books before a person feels that they have achieved a modicum of writing.” She acknowledges the tough reality of earning a living wage as a writer but encourages those with a genuine passion for storytelling to persevere.


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