In an interview to Learning & Creativity, Monika talks about her experience of creating Echoes From The Vortex (A Memoir) as an experience of churning and discovery, as she battled stoically with cancer.
When you are suddenly faced with an uphill battle with the dreaded disease, and you don’t know what the future holds for you, the biggest question you face is YOU.
Doubts, fears, anxieties, depressions…darkness and despair. It’s a disturbing mix of emotions and experiences you deal with, alone.
Your family is there with you, the doctors support you, the medication brings pain and relief, the love and encouragement that pours in from everywhere sustains you and pushes you towards holding forth and waging ahead.
But in the end, it is you who has to answer all the questions that keep cropping up in your mind. It is you who stands in front of the mirror and faces yourself.
Monika Pant, a writer who has been through life’s sharpest twists and turns with courage and conviction, never losing her self-belief, relives her journeys through Echoes From The Vortex (A Memoir).
The experiences – painful and revealing; the discoveries – enlightening and uplifting; the self belief – sometimes shaken, sometimes rock solid. Echoes From The Vortex (A Memoir) takes you on this journey through diary entries, poems and prose pieces written by Monika, as she came to terms with her battle, discovered the depths and strength of love and relationships, discovered her talents and took sure steps towards achieving her dream of becoming a writer.
The book is now available on Flipkart.
In an interview to Learning & Creativity, Monika talks about her experience of creating this memoir as an experience of churning and discovery.
L&C: What made you think of writing this book?
Monika: This is a firsthand experience, a true story. When I underwent this life-changing experience, I felt that it should go out into the world, reaching millions who undergo similar or disparate experiences, and those who need to be reassured that it is alright to be in pain, in agony, to fear and hate and be angry.
I too had read accounts of the life-changing experiences of others and that gave me courage to brave adverse circumstances in my life.
L&C: Is this your first published book or have there been others before?
Monika: No, this is not my first book; I have had my novel published. Also, my short stories and poems have been published in anthologies all over the world.
Besides, my non-fiction pieces are published in almost all titles in the Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul series.
L&C: Have you always been in the habit of writing diaries? Did you ever think that recording your thoughts, memories, experiences in a diary would translate into a book?
Monika: No, I have never been in the habit of writing diaries. Maybe for a very brief period as a teenager, when I had no one to voice my thoughts and ideas to, and that every teenager does for a time.
This is a diary I have written specifically to record a very personal and profound journey. I had never thought it would translate into a book. Actually, it was my husband who encouraged me to publish it.
L&C: Writing memoirs is a very personal experience because you practically relive every moment before writing it. How was your experience?
Monika: As I told you, it was written at the time of undergoing the journey. But, yes, as it was written in a notebook, I typed it out and, in the process relived each moment before handing over as a manuscript.
I realized then, that it was an inward journey as well that has transformed me into what I am today.
L&C: The memories you have penned are of varying emotions – from happy and pleasant to gloomy and some excruciatingly painful. Life is full of memories. How did you handpick your memories for the book?
Monika: I did not. I hardly did any picking and choosing. Life is a long experience – with memories of the past and dreams of the future. In that sense, this being a memoir, is my life encapsulated; with glimpses of my past, present and future.
L&C: As a cancer survivor, what do you consider is the biggest support for those fighting some debilitating disease or fatal ailment? Is it faith, self belief, family…?
Monika: Self-belief worked for me in this matter. But to each his own, it could be any or a mixture of many factors that give support and courage to keep going when the going gets tough.
L&C: The memoirs are interspersed with poems. Was poetry a release from the agony that you felt within when fighting the dreaded disease?
Monika: Poetry is, and always will be a release – for the ecstasies and agonies in my life. Beyond that, I do not consider myself a poet.
L&C: In a market cluttered with fiction, self-help and “how to” books, do you think there is an audience for personal, straight-from-the-heart non-fiction?
Monika: I do not write for the market. Period.
Having said that, stories – both fiction and non-fiction, if told straight from the heart and with a certain amount of detachment from the side of the writer will always resonate in the hearts of those who read.
The curiosity among readers is the reason why writing will never go out of fashion. Everyone wants to know about everything – what is really going on in another person’s life, in the imagined worlds of poets and fiction writers or even set in alien landscapes.
Whether the writing gets immortalised in the mind of readers is, of course, dependent on the writer’s craft.
L&C: You found an echo of your sufferings in calamities. We do too, in our own small way. Sometimes compared to other greater devastation, our miseries seem smaller in comparison. It is said, “one death is a tragedy. A million, a statistic.” Does the way one looks upon devastation and tragedies change after one goes through life threatening experiences?
Monika: I think, disasters on a bigger scale never become a statistic for someone who goes through a life threatening experience. Each individual tragedy becomes enhanced after such an experience and, as you said, one’s own misery becomes too trifling as a consequence. If at all, I considered my personal sorrow to be a mere statistic in the face of a greater devastation sweeping across the world. But then, I speak as a writer who lives through the experiences of others.
L&C: When faced with insensitive stares and blunt, sometimes hollow sympathies, you felt angry. Your husband was the voice of sanity in those trying times. On hindsight, do you feel that such insensitivity of people towards those who are suffering, made you grow in strength, faith and the resolve to fight and win against the malaise?
Monika: Insensitivity of others did not make me want to fight and win. That was innate. My belief in beating the odds was for the love of my loved ones. It was not for proving to others.
Anyway, as I always felt it’s not that I had a choice to fight or not to fight. No one does. It was about survival, because I wasn’t ready to leave my family just then. Survival is nothing great. It’s a basic instinct. So words of consolation or insensitivity do not matter. Only acceptance and love do.
Yes, on hindsight I realize that as a writer, it made me grow and learn about the incapacities of people in dealing with the suffering of others but as a cancer victim, it made me mad. So, as a writer, today I understand a little more about people and their reactions. Perhaps my characters will depict that some day.
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