Eloquent Articulation has always welcomed authors and books across genres and today I take it a step further to welcome an award-winning, prolific Hindi Author for a candid heart to heart interview.
I am honoured to welcome the Kusumanjali Award winner Simmi Harshita. She is the author of more than 10 novels and anthologies. Her work has been published in various newspapers, magazines and journals since 1969.
Awarded “Shretsh Katha Sahitya’ by Punjan Language Department in 1997.
Awarded 2006 ‘Sahityakar Samman’ by Hindi Akadami, Delhi.
Awarded ‘Sauhard Samman’ by UttarPradesh Hindi Sansthan in 2006.
Awarded ‘Kusumanajali Sathiya Samman’ for Novel ‘Jaltarang’ in 2013.
Her novel Jaltarang not only won the Kusumanjali Sahitya Samman and as well as lots of fans. With a ‘never say die’ attitude and writing every single day she has no plans of retiring or slowing down as she prepares for the launch of her latest novel.
Please welcome, Simmi Harshita ji to learn more about her work, books, novels, and inspiration in this interview.
- How did you start your writing journey?
Simmi ji – I have been drawn to the written word and loved reading for as long as I can remember. During my childhood, I used to read my course books, stories with poems etc and enjoyed them immensely. In my class 7th, the teacher assigned us to write a diary and get news and posts from the newspaper daily.
In those days the newspaper was not filled with ads but stories, novels, poetry – a lot of good content. Reading the Hindi newspaper made understand and learn about sahitiya. So I began reading, I was so impressed with this activity as I used to enjoy the process and learnt to write through it. It opened a new vista of knowledge for me as I did it for a year and learned the satisfaction of creativity and writing. I continued to write my diary even after all children stopped and the habit continues. Till date, I write a daily journal and feel happy about it.
Just like we reap the harvest with the plough and nurture it with hard work day by day and bit by bit, writing is hard and ardours work like that – slow and steady.
A teacher can be the best guiding force and my teacher recognised the talent and creativity and guided me to this path. Once my teacher told us to write a poem and that was the first time I realised that I could write.
- What were the major obstacles or hindrances you faced during your writing journey and while publishing your novels?
Simmi ji – Obstacles in the journey were similar to any route to success, it never came easily as I struggled and worked for each story. Writing, typing, and sending my work to the publishers and yet it would come back with a thank you note but I did not stop in the face of rejection.
In 1969, my story collection, Apne Apne Dairye was appreciated by a publisher. He told me that it was perfect and wanted to publish it and that is how my journey started. I learnt to use the typewriter since it was a requirement.
Just like the rising sun cannot be stopped by the biggest clouds similarly the focused writer cannot be stopped.
I did face rejection and felt dejected when a story used to be returned but I continued to work on my writing in spite of the tears. I consistently wrote and visited publishers till I finally got my first story collection published.
At that time the letters of appreciation were very important, not like today that you call someone on the mobile and just convey your message. The message and praise just disappear within a couple of hours. Those letters were the most revered mode of communication and very important means of appreciation for authors and publishers.
- How difficult was it to publish the first novel in the era of no blogs, self- publishing, and social marketing?
Simmi ji – The first step was getting my various stories published in print. After I wrote 20 stories and they had been printed in various newspapers and magazines and I got a lot of positive feedback then I felt that I could have a story collection published. I went searching for a publisher at Ansari Road which is still a major publishing hub.
I met an editor of Shri Kant Vyas for Lipi Prakashan and he told me that I should provide him with the file of stories along with the letters of appreciation from the readers. I filed all the papers along with the stories and gave them to the editor and waited for his response. After 2 days I called up the publisher and he informed me that after reading the reviews and opinions of the readers he was impressed and decided to publish them. So I had my first book of short stories published. After that many stories and books kept getting published.
The publisher sold all the copies of the book and there were in-depth book discussions and excellent reviews. He told me that many more story collections will be published but this one will always be special and the publisher gave me five copies of the book, these 5 copies were a keepsake.
- Is it easier for writers today with so many options and self-publishing available?
Simmi ji – An author should only be a writer since writing requires ekagrata or detailed attention, discipline and atam samarpan or self-dedication. I don’t like a writer to be a publisher and promote or sell books since it distracts the writer from his writing and honing their craft. You should have an agent or outsource it to an author’s assistant.
- How many novels have you written till date and which is your favorite?
Simmi ji – I have written 5 novels and many short story collections with various reprints. They are –
5 Published Novels
- Sambandhon Ke Kinare
- Yatna Shivar
- Rang Shalla
- Jaltarang (Kusumanjali Award winner)
- Soon to be published— Panchkone is my latest novel. It is about the people who come to the city looking for work, what they have to endure and how they make their livelihood.
- Kamre Me Band Aabhahas
- Tentees (33) Khaniyiya (Award for ‘Shretsh Katha Sahitya’)
- Banjaran Hawa
- Is Trahah Ki Baatien
- Prem Sambhando Ki Kahaniya
- Simmi Harshita Ki Lambi Kahaniya
- Simmi Harshita Ki Chuni Hui Kahaniya
Sambhando ke Kinre and Yatna Shivar have been translated in Punjabi soon after they were published. I approved and worked on each word of the translation for accurate local, regional, Punjabi words.
- Which is your have a favourite novel and why?
Simmi ji – My favourite book has to be Jaltarang since it is a dream come true for me. Even though the readers loved Yatna Shivir the most since it has a lot of hold on the story. Jaltarang has given me lots of satisfaction as a writer as well as recognition from readers and the writing fraternity. Readers, fans and critics praised this work immensely. Jaltarang is a great achievement for me since it was my dream to write it in my lifetime – it was my wish which I completed after retirement as I dedicated all my time for Jaltarang. It has had so many critical reviews that there was not a single critic left to review it. It has given me acceptance and acknowledgement from readers and critics alike and Jaltarang also won the award for Kususmanjali Sahitya Samman.
- Why do you use a pen name and not your real name? Would you like your fans and readers to know your real name and profession?
Simmi ji – All humans no matter from where they have a bias for religion, caste, creed, and language. I did not want my religion or mother tongue to come in the way of my writing or for people to ask me that if I am a Punjabi, would I be able to write properly in Hindi. It leads to the dilution of the depth and strength of my writing.
My real name, my religion and my mother tongue should not be relevant to my writing skill. My writing should not be diluted or weakened due to my name or religion. During that time anyone could harm me so Simmi Harshita essentially means the same but gives me freedom to write as I choose. Religion plays an important role in our country and people do not give recognition being biased against writers who are not native speakers of a language. There are a lot of preconceived notions partiality and judgement by the readers and critics leading to the devaluation and prejudice against the writer. This bias is faced by many of us from different regions especially authors from South India who in spite of their immense talent are never accepted in the mainstream.
I did not want to be tagged with any label so I chose my pen name. I was called Simmi by my family and Harshita is taken from Harsimran so it was a perfect pen name. I met my publisher who read my 1st story and published it, he told me and gave me a new name and said your original name would get you established and recognition in 20 years but this pen name will give recognition and fulfil your wishes within 2 years.
I have dedicated my whole life to achieve what I wanted, to my books, writing is my religion and work is worship for me. My name is Simmi Harshita and I am a Hindi writer by profession – this is what I wanted to be known as.
- Which writers have inspired you with their work and writings, who are your favourite authors?
Simmi ji – Whatever books, Newspapers, magazines I could lay my hands on I read them. Creating depth in my writing is my style and I do not follow any writer but I only work hard. I just wanted to write and kept writing as words keep coming when I write. Even when I was a student it was hard work and originality as my support.
“Write, edit and hard work to reach the depth of words”
Hard work and more hard work and just to rewrite and retype is the key for good writing.
- How long do you take to write a novel? Do you write daily and have a fixed time to write?
Simmi ji – Writing a novel takes five years but Jaltarang took almost 7 years to complete. In the age where people look for instant answers and quick solutions, time is needed to hone and craft your novel. Hurriedly written words don’t have the insight of different angles, viewpoints and details of the story.
- What hurdles did you face from fellow authors or publishers in your writing journey?
Simmi ji – There is no writer who created hurdles in my way. Giving preference or being partial or not to give importance to a specific person is a natural tendency and all humans do that. I do not give any importance to it. Need is to keep working hard. Partiality and groups are there and I faced them as well. Writers did not affect me but my publishers troubled me more with printing problems. One publisher did not return my story nor publish it.
Once I visited Vani Prakashan Stall at the Book Fair as I wanted them to publish my stories and I approached their editor. He was keen and took my file and told me he would get back to me, I waited for 6 months and then called him. His tone was changed and he said that we will not be able to publish the book as they had stopped publishing short story collections.
Any publisher will not stop publishing stories since they sell the most. I told him to keep the file so he could publish my anthology when they started publishing short stories again. He refused and I was so disappointed and sad that it brought tears to my eyes. Even today, I feel the pain I felt that day. The publisher did not publish my book since I did not belong to his group or camp of authors. So politics also does play a major role in getting your work published.
When I reached home with my file from the publisher, a famous and critically acclaimed writer Chandrakanta had come looking for me to my home with her new book. I told her about my stories and she immediately called National Publishing House. They told me to send the file and after going through it, they agreed to publish them. The story collection was Banjaran Hawa. It was sold out and had two reprints. The publisher was so happy with the book that he also published my novel. The books got rave reviews and were a hot topic of discussion. People called me and wrote to me that they were so enamoured by the book and became my fans.
- Does an author ever retire?
Simmi ji – Writing and writer are synonyms. A true writer keeps on writing till the end, writing is their life, and they never retire. I wrote my dream novel, Jaltarang quite late. Now I am writing another, my fifth novel. I pray to god that he gives me health, strength, and support to complete it. You keep writing and that is life’s reality. Retirement has no meaning for a writer – till the writer has the urge to write, he will keep writing. A writer keeps active since new ideas and thoughts keep coming.
I have never bothered about my mood or time – all time is my writing time. The love and dedication for my writing keep me going and with god’s blessing, I hope to keep writing.
- Have you ever faced writer’s block? How do you overcome it?
Simmi ji – I write the first draft and then I think and rewrite it many times and keep improving the script to check all the angles of the story. This is the stage of rewrites, editing is the last stage. There are so many drafts to hone all angles and scenarios in the story that there is no second thought left. I become empty after the novel is completed. I have nothing more to give to the story and my creation. Even if I read the story again after many years I have nothing to change or add to the story. Nothing is amiss or left out of the story.
Thank you for your heartfelt and wise words.
It is an honour for the blog to host you. Keep writing.