BENGALURU: For Veera Hiranandani, her book The Night Dairy hits a little too close to home. The children’s book features no mythical monsters but the grim realities of the world. Featuring 12-year-old Nisha, who is caught up in the turbulence of the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan, the story looks at the plight of refugees during the historical event.
“I wanted to write a story set during the Partition for a long time because my father’s side of the family are survivors. It was an important story to tell for many reasons, but I was intimidated at first. A few years ago, I finally gathered my courage and went for it,” says Hiranandani. The USA-based author will be speaking at Neev Literature Festival for Children, organised by city-based school Neev Acadamy, on September 11.
Though set during the Partition, the book brings out issues that are relevant today as well. “It relates to the current world’s global refugee crisis and some of the divisiveness and xenophobia that is felt in the US and many places right now. I found these connections during the writing process, but it’s not the main reason I wanted to write the story,” adds Hiranandani, who is working on the sequel. Research for the book came from stories shared by her family, other books, online accounts and documentaries.
While the book is for children, the author doesn’t shy away from including complex topics like interfaith marriage and conflict. “I was able to draw on my own feelings growing up interfaith (Hindu and Jewish). At the same time, research on experiences of Hindu/Muslim marriages at that time was hard to find. But putting myself into the mind of a shy, diary-writing 12-year-old with lots of questions was not difficult because I was very much like Nisha growing up,” says Hiranandani, whose first book, The Whole Story of Half a Girl, came out in 2012.
She believes it is crucial for children to know the history of not just their families but society as well. “It gives us a connection to our ancestors, respect for our elders, a more accurate perspective, and arms us with knowledge to see when we are repeating negative aspects of history, “ says Hiranandani. And since stories of the past are easier to remember than dates or event, she continues, “When I was young, I had trouble keeping track of historical information if it was communicated as a series of names, dates and events. I always needed a story. That’s why good historical fiction is so important in any curriculum.”The author will speak at Neev Literature Festival for Children, on Sept 11, at 5.30 pm. For details visit their site.