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Debut author Rimsha Hasan on her first collection of short stories, 'Coldest Sun'

Debut author Rimsha Hasan, 23, tells My Kolkata readers the story behind her first collection of short stories, 'Coldest Sun'

Rimsha Hasan | Published 09.11.21, 05:51 PM
The author with her first book

The author with her first book

Courtesy: Rimsha Hasan

Writing is a strange, beautiful process. It can be hard, but when done properly, it can also be rewarding and liberating, even therapeutic.

For me, writing has always been an outlet, a way to internalise information and come to terms with it. Information about anything or anyone that moves me. It might be a song, a movie, or a friend’s story. A story I didn’t think they had nurtured inside them for so long, based on an experience I didn’t think they were capable of.

Trauma that leaves scars

Once I write things down, I feel good. I no longer feel that I have been carrying the load of a story alone.

The people I see around me largely appear normal, nothing much seems to have happened to most. Until one day the layers start coming off and I see someone for who they really are, for what they have really gone through. I realise that the sweet, happy-go-lucky person I have sat next to for years has trauma of their own. Trauma that leaves scars.

'Coldest Sun' is a collection of 20 short stories about trauma

'Coldest Sun' is a collection of 20 short stories about trauma

Courtesy: Rimsha Hasan

My first book is called Coldest Sun, and it is a collection of 20 short stories about trauma. Not necessarily physiological trauma that inflicts literal wounds, but trauma that feeds like a parasite upon one’s consciousness.

Families are like the Sun

I named it so because the sun, otherwise a source of warmth and sustenance, can often disappear when you need it the most. When darkness envelops the day, the sun goes into hiding. When the chills of winter arrive, the sun snatches away its blanket of protection. 

In everyday life, families are like the sun, omnipresent but not omnipotent. Sometimes when you need your family the most, they desert you. Worse still, family can often be the source of your issues, your trauma. 

Many of my stories are about the role of family in shaping trauma and inadvertently making it a formative aspect of adolescence and early adulthood, a sort of rite of passage. 

Experience Kolkata in all its peculiarities

Born and brought up in Kolkata, I had not seen the city in its most intimate shades for years. Wherever I used to go, I felt chained by a curfew and a chaperon. But over the last few years, as I entered my early twenties, I got the chance to experience Kolkata in all its peculiarities. 

'The charm of having tea at my favourite tea stall, the beauty of watching sunsets near Birla Planetarium, the solace of solitude in an empty corner of the Maidan have earned the City of Joy a place in my heart,' says Rimsha

'The charm of having tea at my favourite tea stall, the beauty of watching sunsets near Birla Planetarium, the solace of solitude in an empty corner of the Maidan have earned the City of Joy a place in my heart,' says Rimsha

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The charm of having tea at my favourite tea stall (Arun Tea Stall near St. Xavier’s College), the beauty of watching sunsets near Birla Planetarium, the solace of solitude in an empty corner of the Maidan... are all things that have appealed to me, earning the City of Joy a place in my heart.

But at the same time, I have come to see Kolkata, or rather its people, for the multitude of contradictions they carry within. I have seen how so-called progressives, most of them my peers, are still victims of internalised misogyny. They have no hesitation in advocating for women’s rights on Instagram, but in private they would still judge a girl when she is on her periods or refuse to entertain the idea of marrying someone who has already lost her virginity.

This hypocrisy, which by no means is exclusive to Kolkata but nevertheless lurks in large parts of its privileged corners, is another of the fundamental themes in my book. Themes which reflect themselves in stories about harassment, assault, and gaslighting — heavy words that are often taken too lightly.

Rimsha Hasan

Rimsha Hasan

Courtesy: Rimsha Hasan

At 23, I am well aware that I have a long way to go before I can learn to wield words in the most efficient and engaging ways. But my first book still means a lot to me, especially since I, like most first-time authors, had no idea how the publishing industry works.

A friend of mine had encouraged me to pitch my book to Ukiyoto, a Canadian publishing house that has featured several veteran and gifted writers over the years. I was reluctant, but I took the plunge, and everything just fell into place. My manuscript was selected and my name was in print!

Toni Morrison and Ruskin Bond

As I wrote my book, mostly between March 2020 and March 2021, I tried to incorporate  techniques and devices from my literary inspirations — Toni Morrison and Ruskin Bond. Morrison’s imagistic writing, so different from “bleeding emotions” like Haruki Murakami, has taught me a lot, as has Bond’s seamless ability to bring characters to life without too much contextualisation.

Toni Morrison and (above) Ruskin Bond are Rimsha's literary inspirations

Toni Morrison and (above) Ruskin Bond are Rimsha's literary inspirations

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My goal in crafting my own style has been to show rather than to tell. To leave certain things unsaid so that the readers can verbalise them in their own heads.

In writing Coldest Sun, I have tried to create a balance between my emotional and intellectual selves, to tread carefully on the slippery lines between honour and disgrace, consent and violence, love and loss. I have tried to find the bliss point between rebellious freedom and a caged, sheltered experience. 

Ultimately, my book has a simple aim, to soften the hardest of hearts towards being sensitive, to establish that navigating life is all about navigating the greyness of existence.

 

Rimsha Hasan completed her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in English literature from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. She aspires to take up psychology as part of her further academic studies.

Last updated on 02.12.21, 04:48 PM
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