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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

‘A Kiss in Kashmir’ an invitation to believe in second chances: Author Monica Saigal (Bhide)

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‘Second chances’ are something we have all longed for, at least once, in our lives. This very ‘second chance’ is the theme of author Monica Saigal (Bhide)’s latest novel- ‘A Kiss in Kashmir: A Timeless Tale of Love’. The novel’s story revolves around the protagonists, Sharmila and George, and how the former crosses paths with the latter, only to realise the universe’s plan for Sharmila, one of second chances and unexpected love.

Set in the magnificent backdrop of Kashmir, the novel walks us through lush valleys, snow-draped mountains, clear lakes, and ancient shrines; and in the midst of it all, a fragile romance quietly blossoms, gently guiding the protagonists’ hearts to a future neither dared to dream of.

Monica Saigal (Bhide) is an engineer-turned-an award-winning author, accomplished literary coach, and educator, with more than 15 years of experience. Born in New Delhi, raised in the Middle East, and now residing outside Washington, D.C., she currently serves as a corporate storyteller for one of the world’s leading professional services companies. Her prolific portfolio, enriched by the many places she calls home, channels a distinctly cosmopolitan worldview.

To get a detailed insight into Monica’s journey from being an engineer to an author; her latest release, ‘A Kiss in Kashmir: A Timeless Tale of Love’, and more, Sonakshi Datta of GoaChronicle put up a few questions for the author.

‘A Kiss in Kashmir’ an invitation to believe in second chances: Author Monica Saigal (Bhide) -

How will you describe your transitional journey from being an engineer to becoming an author?

From the circuit boards of engineering, to the narrative arcs of writing, my journey was basically a leap of faith! My pivot began with an unconventional exercise: writing my own obituary in the wake of a friend’s sudden passing. It was a stark reflection on life’s fleeting nature, and what legacy I wished to leave behind. This was not about dissatisfaction with my tech career—where I was well-compensated but overworked, and creatively stifled—it was more about aligning my profession with my passion.

Prompted by the obituary exercise, I revisited a childhood dream I had shelved in favor of a ‘real job’, as per the traditional Indian immigrant family playbook. I realized that the stories I wanted to tell, the impact I wished to have, could not be engineered; they had to be written. So, I traded my engineering hat for a writer’s quill, focusing on stories that mattered, teaching writing seminars across the globe, and ultimately, crafting over twelve books and hundreds of articles.

My journey from engineering to writing was not just a career change; it was a homecoming to my true self, proving that it is never too late to rewrite your story and chase your dreams.

‘Food writing’ is a novel concept. How did you know that this unique field was your calling?

Discovering my path to ‘food writing’ felt less like a choice and more like a convergence of my passions. While my palate relished the diverse flavors food offered, it was the narratives behind each dish that truly captured my heart.

The kitchen, for me, became a place of revelation—a space where chefs, akin to storytellers, shared their heritage, creativity, and dreams through their culinary creations. Engaging with these artisans, each encounter was a lesson in history, a moment of connection, and a chance to preserve and tell their stories. This realization that food was merely the medium through which larger, more universal stories of humanity could be told, affirmed my calling.

What all, according to you, needs to go into the writing of a novel which can strike a chord among its readers?

My focus, when I write, is on developing characters that are as real as the person next to you—flawed, complex, and beautifully human. Their journeys, marked by personal evolution and moments of clarity, are the heartbeats of my stories. It is in the nuances of their emotions and the texture of their experiences that readers find reflections of their own lives, making the narrative not just a story to be read but an experience to be felt.

I think for a novel to strike a chord with the reader, it needs to illuminate the extraordinary within the ordinary, find the universal in the individual, and remind us that every soul’s journey, no matter how singular, echoes a collective narrative of human resilience and transformation.

What was your inspiration behind writing, ‘A Kiss in Kashmir: A Timeless Tale of Love’?

I think it was a rebellion of sorts, since our society often confines love to the realm of youth, as though the embers of passion cool with the passage of years. This story is deeply personal to me, inspired by the courageous souls who dare to love again, to reopen their hearts despite past scars. ‘A Kiss in Kashmir’ champions the idea that love’s embrace is boundless, welcoming us at any stage of life.

What makes your new release a ‘must-read’?

‘A Kiss in Kashmir’ is not just a book; it is an invitation to believe in second chances at love, especially for those of us who have collected a few more years and stories along the way. This novel celebrates the sweet, unexpected romances that bloom later in life, proving that the heart knows no age when it comes to falling in love again.

Imagine the breathtaking valleys of Kashmir, where the air is as crisp as the lingering tension between our protagonists- Sharmila and George- two souls rediscovering love and laughter amidst the snow-capped mountains. It is a tale sprinkled with the spice of adventure, the warmth of companionship, and the irresistible charm of finding that one person who makes your heart sing a little louder, even if you thought the concert was over.

‘A Kiss in Kashmir’ echoes the nostalgia of old-fashioned Bollywood love stories set against the mesmerizing backdrop of the Valley.

So, why is ‘A Kiss in Kashmir’ a must-read? Because it wraps the thrill of a late-in-life romance with the magic of Kashmir, offering a story that is as rejuvenating as the first snowfall of the season. It is a reminder that love, much like the timeless beauty of Kashmir, only grows more profound with time. Pack your bags (and maybe a few tissues), and get ready for a journey that promises love, laughter, and a testament to the enduring power of second chances!

Sonakshi Datta
Sonakshi Datta
Journalist who wants to cover the truth which others look the other way from.

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