Book Within

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A little girl and her father met an accident and she knew many months later that he did not survive. Fighting depression and pursuing engineering, the grown-up wrote a book, reports Suhail A Shah

It was pitch dark outside and the ambulance snaked through the treacherous Jammu-Srinagar Highway, surrounded by the mighty Pir-Panchal mountain range.

Inside, Insha, then 12, lay on one of the two stretchers, her head bandaged and body all bruised up. Despite the pain, the only thing she was concerned about was that her father would be worried about her well being. She kept assuring him, in the dark as he lay on the stretcher next to hers.

“I will be fine. You don’t need to worry,” she kept saying to her father. Only, her father did not listen to her. He had been dead for a couple of hours then.

Eight years later, in 2018, as engineering student Insha Khawaja’s maiden book has hit the stands – she misses her father the most. “He would have been a proud man,” she says, “but it was not to be.”

Her book titled, Finding the Lost You. Discovering the hidden gems…, is a non-fiction and a collection of essays and poems, which she says is an attempt to motivate the “hopeless”.

Insha, 20, is a third-year engineering student at Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST), who always wanted to be a writer.

The circumstances did not allow her to do what she wanted but she has valiantly fought depression, lack of support from the family and the scarcity of finances to get her book published.

Today, her book is available on all leading e-commerce websites in India and will hit the stands soon.

That night in 2010, Insha and her father Muhammad Ashraf Khawaja, a businessman from Bijbehara in Anantnag district-were returning home from Jammu when they met an accident in Ramban. Insha regained consciousness at a hospital. She was told her father was fine and they were being referred to Srinagar for treatment.

While the family mourned Ashraf’s death, Insha battled it out at a Srinagar hospital. She came to know about her father’s death after about two months and straightaway fell into depression. “It was anti-depressant medication that kept me going on for a while. But then I started writing again. I started to rediscover my only love since childhood, writing,” she told Kashmir Life.

Insha, an avid reader, who also scribbled snippets, often wanted to study literature and become a professional writer.

Her father’s demise, however, tossed some responsibilities at Insha, being the eldest among three siblings. And when her mother, Mehmood-un-Nisa, insisted that she study science, instead, Insha did not have the heart to go against her mother’s wishes.

But she did not give up on her dream as well. For a while, Insha became a blogger and kept pouring her heart over the internet. “Writing gave me some solace and as I kept writing I stopped taking medication for my depression. I have been clean now for around three years,” she said.

For many, with exposure and guidance, taking the next logical step would have been easier. But for Insha, it was a difficult one. She came to know about “self-publishing” through a friend but then she needed to shell out a substantial amount of money mainly for editing, which she did not have.

“I have not told anyone in the family, that I was writing,” she said, adding it was another hurdle to her cause.

Finally, Insha mustered the courage and confided in a relative who taught English at a government college. “He was an uncle in relation and kind enough to edit my book for free,” she says, “The next hurdle was the publishing cost and I saved it from my own pocket money.”

Her book has been published by Notion Press, Chennai-which also holds the distribution rights for the book. Insha’s mother came to know about the book only after it was published and is as ecstatic about it as Insha. “I am happy for her. I want her to do well,” Nisa said.

Insha, on the other hand, wants her struggle and “success” to be recognized, at least by her family, and hopes that children are allowed to study or do whatever they feel they will excel in. “Apart from that, I want my book to touch people even if they are few; only words have the power to heal us,” she says.

Insha concludes her 67-page book with this: And you are here to take a step for yourself, so do not feel reluctant, take a step and go find the place where you actually belong.

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