Nadya A.R, author of “Invisible Ties” shares her writing journey. She talks about Pakistan’s publishing industry and gives important pieces of advice to aspiring writers in this exclusive interview with Karvan.org
1. Since when did you start writing?
I think my story as a writer began when I started writing my diary. It was probably in my teens or maybe earlier than that. I wrote to vent out on paper which I couldn’t do so in person. In this diary, I remember writing down all my fears and feelings which I couldn’t disclose to anyone else. I also wrote to vent out all my angst and on other issues that I felt were a part of my narrative. The pen has always empowered me to address the helplessness that I have felt at an individual level and my attempts to enable and channelize change.
2. What inspired you to write your collection of short stories, Broken Souls?
I was in my teens when I wrote Broken Souls. The book addresses pertinent issues in the subcontinent like poverty, gender inequality, migration and other mental health concerns like depression. Also, the main story in Broken Souls is a fictionalized account of the children who work in the carpet weaving industry. Their stories were my anguish and sorrow coming out strongly on paper, in a fictionalized world that existed in my imagination.
3. Tell us about your novel, “Invisible Ties”?
Invisible Ties is the story of a young girl’s journey to find love and her struggle for self-discovery. When I decided to write this story, I was working on my thesis which was related to early childhood attachments and their significance in later life. What defines a secure base for us as children and in our relationships? Suddenly I had this idea of a protagonist ‘Noor’ who had a highly insecure childhood and how that would haunt her as she tried to grapple with reality in the highly volatile and unpredictable world today.
Invisible Ties is a saga of love, loss and displacement, set in Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore and London. It is the story of a woman in her twenties, Noor, and her journey of becoming a person in her own right, able to make her choices and take charge of her life. It highlights the cultural values, the clash and confusion which often arises as one migrates and has to adapt to the norms of your new home. Invisible ties has a historical theme as well, where I have tied up the history of South Asia and also covers the Mughal history, which is a rich common heritage of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Invisible Ties also highlights themes like migration which I feel very strongly about, also culture – how culture is so integral and binds us to an extent. And yet we should not remain bound by it, like the shackles that dictate every single thing. Because culture is ever-evolving, ever-changing and it’s so important to be flexible as human beings. We need to see the beauty of this culture and not become toxic for us because that is extremely important. Our family ties are extremely important, especially in the South Asian culture.
The novel’s title suggests that we are connected to other people in many intangible ways; we may not be aware of these ties but each one of them is meaningful in our lives. The most important shared bond that binds us to each other is our common humanity, which should not be compromised due to surface differences like where we live, or our different faiths and value systems, and so many other issues in our chaotic world today.
4. What is your opinion on Pakistan’s publishing industry? How much does it favor new and aspiring authors to promote their works?
We need more publishers because we need to encourage writers. Publishers are needed for fiction, non-fiction and all different kind of genres like self-help, young adults, etc. We need more publishers who can dabble in different genres. Otherwise, it is very difficult as we have very few options. Very few people have been able to get their work published abroad. If we want to encourage new authors, then we need more publishers.
5. What was the creative process of creating a story and character when you were writing “Invisible Ties”?
I had chosen this theme of South Asia, carefully choosing Malacca and the period which is the post-colonial where Malacca and Singapore were British colonies at one point in time, along with India and Pakistan. I tied it all to different themes and looked at the unique history of all those places. So that was the common thread binding them all, running through the whole story like the Mughal theme and the story of Kohinoor. Noor’s name is Noor, yet she is like Kohinoor. She is displaced and is going to different places- still is confused about where she belongs. Working on all these themes meant they had to be carefully researched.
In my story, Invisible Ties the protagonist Noor is somebody who migrates from Pakistan to Singapore. The rest of the story is about the adoption of a new country with its culture, how to be flexible and learn from everyone. There is a lot of psychotherapy in the story. Noor learns psychotherapy to be more flexible as a human being and to be more accepting of other people. This aspect of the story is perhaps a reflection of my own experiences as a psychotherapist. I have already discussed early attachment and with it, Noor also must deal with her PTSD as well as grappling with the issues she faces with her husband and new life in Singapore. There were some of the themes I was trying to explore through this novel, interweaving them with emotions and relationships. I attempted to share a story of a woman from Pakistan and talk about her trials and tribulations in every form, emotionally, mentally and physically.
Sharing some interesting observations made by readers of Invisible Ties which will give you a glimpse into the creative process behind this story:
Each character is a study in psychoanalysis. Abounding in symbolism, Noor’s green jade mirror with its Chinese dragons is a prominent symbol. It remains her sheet and anchor throughout the novel, the only constant in her fragile fluid life. Flowers, birds and animals particularly woven or painted on the fabrics that she wears are a recurring motif throughout the novel, symbolizing her caged existence and quest for emancipation. Her mother-in-law’s collection of glass menagerie becomes a potent symbol where her husband is symbolized by the white tiger and she by the glass mouse that her mother-in-law gifts her. (Kitaab)
The character of Noor is very simple yet interesting and attractive. She is a mysterious girl with a mirror that she took from her mother’s closet as her only mate in the new world. While the other characters like her parents, husband and friends add layers to the narrative bringing their own eccentricities to the story. Every individual with their own unique back story adds volumes to the narrative, along with twists and turns. They depict the fragility of human relationships exceptionally well and make the reader wonder, what is the price one pays for love. The title being evident as the story talks about the various bonds we share in life with our loved ones. (The Asian Chronicle)
The interplay of emotions and relationships is something that stands out in this book. The characters’ emotions are explored in detail, their trials and tribulations and compromises make for a fascinating read. Perhaps, it’s good that this story has been kept ordinary and hasn’t resorted to unnecessary grandeur. The simplicity is what makes it unique. (New Asian Writing).
6. Your favorite authors and their works from Pakistan and abroad?
There are many whom I admire, so it is going to be tough to choose my favorites. However, I love Charles Dickens, Jane Austen’s body of work and Bronte sisters. From the contemporary writers, I like the work of Aravind Adiga, Alice Sebold, Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy, Markus Zusak and Daniyal Mueenuddin. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Prophet by Khalil Gibran are my all-time favorite classics and books that I have read and re-read.
7. What will be your advice for the aspiring writers from Pakistan?
I believe everybody has a story to tell. For me writing is more than a technique – it is the sheer passion that culminates into a story and because it is coming from an authentic and genuine place, the story becomes powerful. So, my advice would be to just write, do not fear rejection or anything. Do not worry about publishing too much. Be true to your story and your own unique individual journey.
8. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?
I don’t think I am in a position to give a message for the youth of Pakistan; however, you need to fulfill your aspirations and live your dreams. Life is very precious, and life is not perfect. Everyone will encounter failure. So, it is important to develop your will power so that you can balance all the negative voices that you hear. Keep on working hard, be consistent and tell yourself that despite every failure all you are going to do is rise and keep rising.
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