Today in honour of Indian Independence Day I am joined on my blog by the lovely Malika Gandhi who is here to talk about her wonderful book Freedom of the Monsoon.
Malika Gandhi lives with her husband and two sons in the East Midlands, UK. She is a homemaker and in between caring for her family, she writes her books and dabbles in a little painting too. She loves to experiment with different mediums, such as oils, acrylic and watercolour.
Malika was born in India but moved to London when she was two, where her father was already settled. She travelled with her mother and brother.
Malika has lived in London, studied in Southampton and moved to Leicester after her marriage, which is where her husband and his family live. A girl moves in with her in-laws after marriage, at least for a short time.
Malika loves to watch movies, visits art and history museums and is curious about the universe
Me: Hi Malika, it is great to have you here. Please could you start by giving a brief summary of Freedom of the Monsoon for people who have not had the privilege of reading it.
Freedom of the Monsoon is a story about five individuals who struggle against The Quit India Movement which Mohandas Gandhi had initiated in 1942. We see a lot of books on Indian Independence and about its political leaders. I wanted to bring awareness of the impact from the other side, people who were affected the most: the Indians – natives of India.
The story follows five lives who tell their own story. The book touches on sub-plots such as abuse, sacrifice, love and finding one self.
Me: How did you get the idea for Freedom and how long did it take to complete once you started?
It began as an idea when I was very young – by watching Bollywood movies on the subject of Indian Independence happened to struck a chord. I didn’t actually start to write the book until I was in university – that was my very first draft. After many rejections from agents I stopped writing.
Some years later, with research, encouragement and suggestions from authors and friends, and after my second son was born, I got down to completing the book.
I would say the actual book took me two years to finish from my first draft, which I had left.
Me: Freedom has some strong characters of both genders but who is your favourite and why? My favourite is Pooja because she endures so much yet still comes out well in the end.
I love them all in many ways:
Rakesh, a deep man who loves his family but his country comes first, Dev, a soul who is lost and confused, Pooja, vulnerable yet strong, Amit, caring and loving and Sunil, someone who is amusing but also carefree.
I think my favourite character has to be Amit as he loses so much. His love was deeper than he knew – he was naive and hopeful. I love Pooja as well, for her strong stance in society and for her fearless determination to make the best of a worst situation.
Me: Are there any aspects of the book you found particularly difficult and/or uncomfortable to write about and why? I personally found the scenes with Pooja and Rama difficult to read at times because she was so cruel.
I found the rape scenes difficult to write and perhaps the execution at the beginning of the book.
I personally detest such horrifying details and generally shy away from them, so to write it was not particularly pleasant, but without those scenes and many others of the same disturbance, the story could not be justified.
Me: I know that you came to England at the age of 2 to join your father but did any of your predecessors experience problems at the hands of the British Raj?
None of my predecessors did as far as I or my family can recall. There may have been from my mother’s side – my great grandparents – who lived in India all their lives, but we don’t have actual records, written or spoken.
This is a good question, something which I may look into further.
Me: Freedom is a beautifully crafted story about love, friendship and the resilience of the human spirit through adversity. You chose a very turbulent time of history as your setting yet the book is far from being a history lesson. Was that a conscious decision?
LOL, no, it wasn’t. I meant to bring more of the Quit India movement effects into the book but the characters took over the story! I found Pooja dictating where she wanted to go and I began to write more personal experiences for her such as her rape and abuse scenes.
I took each character and stepped into their shoes and saw the country’s war from their eyes. I saw how they thought and how they would react.
When I write, I become ‘them.’
I didn’t want the book to be a history lesson but an insight into the lives of those people at that time and I hope I have achieved that.
Me: Do you think that the effects of the Partition are still felt in India today and if so how?
Yes, in so many levels. India still has terrorist attacks and even racial attacks. India and Pakistan are still not on good terms, to put it mildly. The Pakistan/India border is protected heavily by its own army soldiers and the people coming and going from India/Pakistan are scrutinised closely for entering the other country.
I read somewhere that an Indian girl married a Pakistani man and moved to Pakistan, taking up a Pakistani passport. Each year she has to line up as other normal Pakistani citizens do, with a form in her hands, to apply for a visa. She is always worried what if she doesn’t get her visa?
I am certain there are many cases like this.
People who have survived the pre-Independence era and post partition have wept that things were much better before and that they wished India was not partitioned in the first place.
Me: Do you think having the surname of one of India’s most prominent historical icons has helped or hindered your writing career? For those of you who do not know Malika she is NOT related to Mahatma Gandhi.
So far I have not had such an experience. Let’s hope not for the future too.
Me: So do you have any more books on the horizon, any current WIPS or anything like that?
I am currently working on another story which is not quite a sequel but a continuation. Taking a minor character, Anjali, from Freedom of the Monsoon, I have brought her to centre stage.
The story begins in 1947, the time of Partition. We see her journey through surviving the attacks, finding love and settling down to come face to face with a threat that changes her life drastically.
I introduce another character whose name is Arianna and she is from the year 2012. We see her life as a university girl who goes to India for a wedding. Arianna is the focus of two men who love her and she has to decide whom she will allow into her heart. Along the way, she discovers things about her family that causes conflict between her and her family as well as finding a dark, hidden secret.
There is a joining between the two characters and somehow, Anjali and Arianna’s lives are connected.
Me: Thanks very much for your time Malika. It’s been a huge privilege to have you here. You can buy Malika’s book in paperback from (link) or download the Kindle version from (Links).
My publisher – FeedARead: paperback:
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