Born to a family where poetry and scholarship is routine way of growth, Touyiba bint Javaid is Kashmir’s youngest author, reports Aaqib Hyder
More than a year had passed since 12-year-old Touyiba binti Javaid handed over the manuscript of her book to her father for publication. Her father, Javaid Ahmad, a doctor, had submitted it to J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in 2018. “Why is it taking so much time? We better self publish it,” the impatient Touyiba complained to her father.
Her long wait ended in May, when the book Luna Spark and the future telling clock was published after rigorous editing and reviewing at the academy. With the publishing of her book, the debutant Touyiba, a resident of Dadsara (Tral), has become Kashmir’s youngest author. Formerly, Rubayata Umeed from Baramulla was the youngest author of the state who had published her book sci-fi novella Wizards versus Beasts at the age of 14.
A seventh class student at DPS Srinagar, Touyiba has a strong penchant for reading and writing right since fourth grade. She has been deeply inspired by the works of Italian children books author Elisabetta Dami (Geronimo Stilton) and British novelist J K Rowling, best known for The Harry Potter fantasy series. The latter remains her favourite till this date. Recently, she felt need to read literature other than fantasy fiction and she hooked herself up with works of local authors like Half Mother and Scattered Souls by Shahnaz Bashir and Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer.
In her fourth grade, she started jotting down a story titled Scramy Spark, which she had intended to make a book later. After writing 50 odd pages, she dropped the idea completely and stopped the writing midway.
“Everybody liked the story but I was personally not satisfied with the content,” Touyiba said. “It didn’t feel good to me, so I dropped the idea completely. I might revisit the story in future and work on it again.”
After one year, the thought of writing a fantasy novel struck her mind and she started to work on the story. A year later, the manuscript was ready.
“I started working on the book when I was in the fifth primary and finished it in a year,” Touyiba said. “I didn’t let anyone help me in the whole process. I didn’t even let anybody read it until it was finished,” she said.
After readying the manuscript, came the hard task of finding a good publisher. This is where her father toiled very hard, going from one publisher to another. At first, he reached few big publishing houses but was turned back because of their policies of not publishing children literature. Thereafter, he approached few self-publishing houses but was not satisfied.
“After I ran out of every possible option, I approached Cultural Academy with the manuscript,” Dr Javaid said. “After initial analysis, the academy told me that they are accepting the book solely on the basis of merit. They were very impressed.”
Not only did the Academy accept it for publishing but it also selected the book for complete financial assistance. The book was critically acclaimed by Shahnaz Bashir and Aijaz-ul-Haq.
In a place riddled with conflict and bloodshed, Touyiba has created a peaceful fantasy world of her own. The 129-page novel is solely set in a fantasy world with names and characters of the other world. Divided in 44 short chapters, the story has cats as characters with different names and relations to the central character; Luna Spark, also a cat. The whole story revolves around a clock which is supposed to tell the future and the characters are on a hunt a find it. The imagination seemingly tells a lot about the author.
Interestingly, her paternal grandfather, Haji Abdul Kareem Mehand, has published Kashmiri poetic collection Hamsoas. It is a work full of reflections on life and author’s Mecca pilgrimage. The book was also published by the Academy.
Touyiba’s maternal grandfather and uncle are academics and authors in history and political science respectively. Their presence around Touyiba also acted as a spark to ignite her hidden talent. Her mother is also a PhD in history.
“Right from my childhood, my grandfather would narrate his poems and works of other authors to me,” Touyiba said. “I have learned a lot from my grandfathers and I think that has also impacted my psyche to a large extent.”
Before writing the book, Touyiba was more into writing poetry. She has around 30 short poems, which, after polishing and additions, might get published in future. A poem titled Brain fry stands out as one of her favourites:
“We burn out our brains
still give our best
but can’t get away
with our parents’ quest.”
Touyiba is currently working on her second book which also belongs to the genre of fantasy fiction. “Parents do unimaginable things to keep us safe and sound in every way. I have always wanted to do something to make them proud. This book and all my future endeavours are the ways to repay them to some extent,” she said.