Shikha Kumar is an IT manager and an accidental author. Living to Mahatma Gandhi’s saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” she decided to write the kind of books she wants to read. Her debut novel, He Fixed the Match, She fixed Him is expected to be adapted as a motion picture by Emenox, producers of a small-budget feature film in 2015. Shikha writes occasionally for DailyO (India Today), my TOI-Blog, and Right Nailed. She is also also a relationship expert with BollywoodShaadis.Com
Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Shikha. What one word defines you best and why?
Shikha Kumar: Passionate. Because I think my passion is my obsession and driving force. It’s the core of everything I do. If it doesn’t drive me enough, I’m not pursuing it; and if it does, there’s no stopping.
Vinita Kinra: What draws you to the magical world of writing and what does the art of weaving words do for you on a personal level?
Shikha Kumar: The storyteller in me felt very accomplished when my first book reached the stands. I think my decision to take up writing was born out of determination to take my stories to the world. At a personal level too, I’m pretty witty and a chatterbox, so what people liked most about my book is truly a reflection of me.
Vinita Kinra: What sparked off the idea for your book, He Fixed the Match, She Fixed Him?
Shikha Kumar: Many things, including the question, “Are relationships truly that complicated as we see them, or do they become what we make them?” And, “Is it always too late and too much work to mend things?” My story is all about romance in everyday life and how little efforts in little things can bring happiness beyond comparison.
Vinita Kinra: How much of your books are autobiographical where characters reflect your personal experiences?
Shikha Kumar: My book is fiction, yet characters and situations are very easy to relate to. Not autobiographical, yet not too detached from me. If I’m creating a character, then certainly I’m putting at least an ounce of myself in it. Figments of imagination are carved out of the author’s personality, after all.
Vinita Kinra: Did you have a support group like family, friends or colleagues who believed in your passion for writing?
Shikha Kumar: Everyone around me had been super excited about the book. Most of all, my husband, who has been a tremendous support throughout.
Vinita Kinra: Does the journey of seeing an idea develop and flourish into a full-fledged book teach you something about yourself or make you a better person in any way?
Shikha Kumar: A definite yes. I think the biggest thing the book has taken away from me is judging people. I kind of have a soft-heartedness like never before towards others. I give away benefits of doubt more graciously than before. And for me personally, I feel stronger as a person for successfully seeing my thought transcending into a full-fledged book.
Vinita Kinra: Which is the one character from your book that you enjoyed creating the most and why?
Shikha Kumar: Undoubtedly my male protagonist, Kunal. Though the book shows Shreya as more iron-willed, but I guess I truly enjoyed creating Kunal more; giving him mischievous and flirtatious flavors has been the most thrilling part. People love Shreya more, but I think it has to be credited to how Kunal was framed.
Vinita Kinra: How important is the commercial side of writing and promoting your books as opposed to the sheer joy of the creative art of expression?
Shikha Kumar: It’s a ruthless world of marketing. Writing a good book is not good enough anymore, sadly. With the number of books coming out in the market and few established going so unreasonably out of the way to promote their books, it becomes very important for authors to set a budget for book publicity.
Vinita Kinra: In your personal context, is writing about escaping the reality or embracing it?
Shikha Kumar: For me, it’s escaping. I’m an IT professional, and the world is full of technical challenges, timelines, project meetings, etc. For me, writing is a creative break that takes me away from my humdrum life into a certain fantasy world.
Vinita Kinra: If you could summon the genie, which author from the past or present would you like to become and why?
Shikha Kumar: To be very honest, I haven’t read many authors. But yes, if given a chance I would want to meet Shakespeare and learn to get even more imaginative.
Vinita Kinra: Writing is a craft that requires extended periods of alone time for creative juices to flow. How do you combat this isolation?
Shikha Kumar: I wrote most of my book in India in the backseat of my car in traffic jams. I’m not a loner, and I rather cringe being lonely. I write about 30 minutes daily and up to 2 hours on weekend nights. It might sound unusual for an author, but I can write while sitting next to my 5-year-old watching cartoon network.
As the clock struck 10, Ridhima escorted Shreya to Kunal’s room on the first floor. She helped Shreya to sit comfortably on the bed, and drew all the curtains of the room.
“Well, I’ll just ask Bhai to come over,” Ridhima teased.
Shreya kept looking down, not saying anything. Ridhima laughed and left the room.
Shreya then raised her head to look around the room. It was very spacious and painted in light green.
She heard footsteps coming up the stairs. She felt shy and quickly pulled her dupatta down to cover her eyes.
The sound of footsteps grew louder. Shreya could feel Kunal approaching. The footsteps stopped near the door and then Shreya heard the sound of a latch. She was nervous and excited at the same time, her heart beating fast and her face flushing pink. The footsteps came closer, and finally halted as he sat right in front of her.
He held the edges of Shreya’s dupatta between his fingers, and very delicately raised it. Shreya however continued to look down. He then placed his index finger on Shreya’s chin and lifted
it up. Shreya raised her eyes shyly to have a look at her groom. And as she did, her pink tinged face turned crimson and the expression of shyness changed to horror. Shreya screamed, “WHAT
THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?” She got up from the bed, extremely agitated. “I beg you, please
leave immediately. What is wrong with you? Who the hell are you?” He too stood up from the bed, looking right into her eyes. “See, you really need to leave. My husband could be here any
moment. I’ve already had much pain and trouble because of you; I beg you not to repeat it.” Shreya was almost pleading.
He, however continued gazing at Shreya. She realised that her words had had no effect on him. She ran towards the bedroom door, opened the latch and
rushed down the stairs. Ridhima and Anuradha were still sitting in the living room.
They were shocked to see Shreya hurrying down. They stood up to know what the matter was. Shreya was breathing very fast, and ran straight into Anuradha’s arms for comfort. Anuradha stroked her back. A minute later, he had also come down. Shreya was pointing to him, still stammering out of shock. Anuradha looked at him and asked, “What’s the matter, Kunal? What did you say which was so frightening to Shreya?”
Ridhima added, “What’s wrong, guys? It’s your first night, what kind of fireworks is this?”
“Trust me! I just showed my face.”
Shreya’s heart almost missed a beat. The voice was Kunal’s. But the face…!
Shreya, however, unconsciously did point to him, and looked at Ridhima, “Kunal?” she stammered.
Ridhima jokingly answered, “Why, Bhabhi? Is he not Kunal? Were you expecting some other Kunal?”
Anuradha held Ridhima’s hand and laughed too. “Shreya, what happened, dear?” Shreya stood gaping. And then she somehow managed to gain some strength, “Nothing, Mom, I was just hoping I could get a medicine for a headache?”
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.