Monika Pant is a writer from India and has had her short stories and poems published in several anthologies around the world. An English teacher for over 15 years, she also writes course books in English Grammar and literature for students. Her real life snippets are published in the ‘Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul’ series and a short story written by her was long listed for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She lives in Lucknow with her poet husband, and is currently in the process of writing a couple of historical novels.
Ananya Dhawan: Why did you decide to write ‘Caught in the Winds’?
Monika Pant: This is a novel that was within me, as I belong to a generation which saw the change in society owing to the influence of the Internet and the vast influence of media, due to which people are caught in the flux and are blown about like leaves in the winds of change. I experienced situations that compelled me to think making me aware of the conflicts within individuals. My novel is my attempt to record some of these conflicts and notions.
AD: Briefly describe the character of the female protagonist Shayoni.
MP: Shayoni is a girl with dreams, and has her own way in trying to make them come true. I have tried to create a character that is real – with weaknesses and strengths, but with a mind of her own.
AD: In context with your book, to what extent, do you think, can dysfunctional parents consciously or unconsciously affect a child and what should be done on the parents’ part to avoid unwanted consequences?
MP: Dysfunctional parents have an adverse effect on the children they bring up. Period. If people cannot be well-adjusted individuals, they cannot bring up well-adjusted children, and there is nothing they can do about it, but they can and should try to get help, medical or otherwise, as their responsibility as parents should become their first priority and they cannot be enmeshed in their own problems forever. They need to have that maturity.
AD: Do you relate yourself to any particular character in the story?
MP: Personally, no, but to the extent that as I have created them, they are figments of my imagination. In the preface I have mentioned that “they are not me, but I am they, every time and all the time.” They have lives of their own, they have grown on their own, they attain a life and make their own choices as they live and breathe. I merely gave birth to them.
AD: Are there some elements of truth in the story or is it entirely a work of fiction?
MP: It is entirely fictitious.
AD: What made you choose this particular title?
MP: The two winds represent the two ways of life – one traditional, the other new. My characters are caught in them. The title was taken from the poem written by my daughter, which can be read at the beginning of the novel.
AD: What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
MP: The biggest learning experience is the fantastic editing that has been done during the publishing process. I have learnt that one cannot self-edit. Moreover, it allows you to see how the readers would take the novel, because a writer writes from his perspective. He may be very true to his art, but he needs to see what would interest the reader.
AD: How have your personal struggles in life led you to the person you are today?
MP: All personal struggles in life and the way we respond to them shape us as individuals. Beyond that, I am a writer; I also can see my struggles and those of others in a larger context, from a bird’s-eye view.
AD: Do you have any other books on the horizon?
MP: A collection of short stories and a memoir.
AD: Any words of wisdom for unpublished authors.
MP: Believe in your writing, do not ape other writers or themes of other novels and never try to get instant fame, for that has a short shelf life.
Favourite cuisine – Italian
Favourite Hollywood movie – A Beautiful Mind
If you could be successful in another profession, what would it be? I have already been a very successful teacher, now I just want to write.
If you could be any person in history, who would it be? Joan of Arc
What color describes you best? Blue
Ananya is an avid reader and writes poetry and stories in her spare time, which reflects her deep fascination for Literature. She has a cheerful disposition, believes in living each moment to the fullest and shows keen interest in the sensitive side of life.