Shaken by the events of 2008 Amarnath land row agitation, 17-year old Towfeeq Wani decided to pen down his newly found consciousness of his native land. The Graveyard, his first novel, is about to hit the stands, Ruwa Shah reports.
It was during the intervening night of 25th and 26th July 2012, when Towfeeq Wani started weaving plot for a fictitious story about a Kashmiri boy named Sahil.
He had no idea that Sahil would end up becoming protagonist of his first novel, The Graveyard. But three days after he had drafted the rough plot, he left for Aligarh to pursue higher studies in Arts.
Once in Aligarh, he could not get Sahil off his mind. He kept thinking about his protagonist at all times, at all places. “I used to sit alone on my hostel’s terrace or in the university stadium and think about my story,” remembers Towfeeq.
During one such sojourns, probably in September 2012, Towfeeq remembers taking his laptop along and writing down what was bothering his mind since he first sketched Sahil.
Towfeeq Wani, a native of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district became the youngest novelist of Kashmir at the age of 17 when he got his first book, The Graveyard published by Power Publishers, Kolkata.
The book mainly focuses on Kashmir, and the life of young boys who witnessed the uprising of years 2008, 2009 and 201 0.
Like other kids of his age who are born long after armed militancy erupted in Kashmir, Towfeeq was unaware of Kashmir issue and its unique history. “It was during 2008 (Amarnath land row) agitation that helped me understand and see Kashmir differently,” said Towfeeq.
In 2008, Towfeeq was studying in 10th standard at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalya (JNV), Baramulla. He was disturbed by what he saw during the months long protests which left scores of young men dead in police and CRPF firing. But writing about his experiences never crossed his mind. “I was too young to think about writing a book at that time,” said Towfeeq.
Later in September 2012, on the onset of autumn in Kashmir, Wani drafted the book. He narrated all the events he had witnessed so far in his life. He completed his book in March 2013. “Since I could not contribute by pelting stones, I found my pen as a medium of resistance against the oppression,” says Towfeeq innocently.
Despite being in Aligarh, Towfeeq kept thinking about those boys who were protesting in Kashmir. “I was even criticised, there were a handful of people who thought I am writing just another novel,” he said.
Protagonist: ‘Sahil’, a teenager who drags the narrative throughout the novel, lives with his half widow mother, a younger sister and grandfather. Towfeeq penned down all his raw ideas and plots which he later compiled in 70,000 words taking up 264-pages.
Towfeeq says it was his passion for writing that prompted him to write about the life of a Kashmiri boy in the background of “2008 uprising”. “It was a completely different experience. I had to try my best to make myself feel like I’m in Kashmir so that the best of the feelings come out in words,” he said.
Being far away from Kashmir, Towfeeq portrayed the three main aspects of Kashmir in his book viz-a-viz beauty, culture and conflict. “I showcased the relationship between a son and a mother, a brother and a sister, a grandchild and grandfather in my book,” he said.
Born in an educated family, Towfeeq’s parents supported his passion for writing throughout. His father Abdullah Wani is a lecturer and mother Shagufta Wani, a teacher.
“The plot wasn’t nice in the beginning, but it evolved out to be fantastic as I wrote, re-wrote, thought, edited and kept on thinking again and again,” he said with satisfaction.
But when you ask him how old you are; Towfeeq gets angry. He does not want people to judge his writing on the basis of his age. “Age shouldn’t be a barrier. I don’t want people to say, You are seventeen and you write well. I just want them to say, You write well,” feels Towfeeq.
He learnt to write by reading as many novels as possible. He loves to read authors like Khaled Hosseini, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.
He considers Basharat Peer, the author of Curfewed Night as his inspiration. Though Towseef is interested in Journalism, he wants to study law as well.
“It was after I met Basharat Sir, that I developed interest in Journalism,” the young novelist admits.