When I contacted Rohini Kejriwal, for the first time, she came across as a 20-year-old, who, like Alisha, her protagonist from her short story - Learning & Unlearning, a short story from Down The Road - was interested in Maggi parties, masti and friends. But just like Alisha’s character had a lot of depth and acute understanding of life, this girl too knows what she wants to do in life and how she could go about it.
With blogging, writing short stories, editing copies for a lifestyle website, and studying, this girl is one multitasker and is way ahead of her peers. We chat up with this girl to know about how the experience of writing and editing for Down The Road enriched her.
How was the experience editing Down The Road? How were the drafts you received? What did you look for while compiling the collection?
To say the least, it was a very exciting and new experience for me to edit Down The Road. I wasn’t really sure how difficult it would be but just took the plunge when Ahmed asked me to co-edit it with him.
Some of the drafts I received had little or no errors, while others required a little more working on. It worked on a feedback mechanism, where I would track the changes as I edited and would send it to the author. After he/she went through it and agreed to those changes or didn’t, it would be sent back to me and then the re-editing would start and this process would continue until the final copy was ready.
I did not select the stories in the collection and hence, the question of compiling the collection doesn’t arise.
While editing drafts of other’s stories what did you learn? Meaning what mistakes did you see other writers commit that you thought you should avoid?
While editing, I started learning how to look at a draft more as a reader than an editor, and go about making the changes in it accordingly.
There were no specific mistakes made by the writers that I thought I should avoid. But I would want to improve my own story writing style and make it more creative as stories should be, rather than the essay style that I seem to use.
Tell us about the two stories you have contributed for the collection.
Growing Up is a reflective essay on the entire process of getting past the childhood, remembering the good old days, and understanding how to assume the responsibilities that come with age. It is mostly about my own experiences while growing up, (which I think is still an ongoing process for me) minus the part where the person reminiscing has a lover and a drink.
Learning & Unlearning is a story about my farewell in school, following which the protagonist has a conversation with a girl who she always found strange, scary, and unemotional, but who opened up to her on the last day of school, probably only because she happened to be around when she was desperate to vent. The character is fictional and is a mix up of a lot of friends from school but does not tell the story of one in particular. The title is such because some experiences require one to unlearn what they are convinced is a fact, to learn a whole different truth to the apparent fact.
You write Poems, blogs, short stories, edit copies for The Tossed Salad. Isn’t it a bit too much to manage along with your studies? You are just 20. When did you realise you had a way with words and this is what you wanted to do in life?
For me, blogging (prose or poetry) isn’t an everyday thing and often takes a backseat because of writer’s block. When I do feel like writing, I make the time for it. I don’t write short stories too often either. The Tossed Salad is something I’ve taken up and does require a little time each day but it isn’t time consuming as such. So, my studies aren’t really affected. Besides, I prefer working under a certain amount of pressure to ensure that I deliver the work needed.
I am currently pursuing Journalism and both writing and editing are an essential part of it. So, I look at this as getting a head start into the career. Grey Oak has been really encouraging and it really gives a boost at this age to want to see how far you can push yourself to work and study at the same time without compromising on other factors.
What kind of writing do you love? Your favourite authors and books.
I like non-fiction mostly that is written in a way that makes you feel and see what the writer did when he wrote it. Jon Krakeur’s Into the Wild is one book that I’d recommend to everyone because of how it traces the journey of Christopher McCandless as he tries to leave materialism behind and go back to living amidst Nature based on instinct and passion. I have thoroughly enjoyed the works of Ruskin Bond, Roald Dahl, and J.D Salinger to name a few. In poetry, Tennyson, Emily Dickenson, Pablo Neruda, and Tagore come to mind. Two favorites are Louise MacNeice’s Prayer Before Birth & Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!