Gurmehar Kaur talks about her next novel, life in DU and her impressions of Mumbai

By Dalreen Ramos

In the city on an internship, Gurmehar Kaur​ ​opens up about her second novel, life in DU and her impressions of Mumbai

Gurmehar Kaur (right) takes part in a lit fest held in Mumbai

Raising hell for peace, her Twitter bio reads. From dodging death threats to being a published author at 21, Gurmehar Kaur doesn't hesitate to clarify that she is still very much ordinary. She doesn't imply any insignificance by using the word but, in fact, sheds light on how her reality mirrors that of many young Indians. An advocate for peace, Kaur has waded through hatred and, in the process, paved the way for a mission of reaching out to people.

A deeply personal narrative, her first book, Small Acts of Freedom, launched in January 2018, and told the story of three generations of strong women in her family. In the introduction, she writes, "My strength is inherited. I don't believe that my existence is all about a three-day long controversy [which erupted after the Kargil martyr's daughter made a video holding a placard advocating peace with Pakistan]." Kaur is currently writing her second book, also non-fiction. With the book announcement coming in a week's time, Kaur says it's on similar lines as the first, adding, "When you see it, you'd definitely expect me to write it." But her journey as a writer doesn't end at non-fiction. "I am so young, I want to do everything."

Always open to adventure, Kaur landed an internship in Mumbai at an Internet media company last month and found herself working away from home for the first time. She validates the answer to a common question — just how distinct a world is Mumbai when compared to Delhi? "They are two different worlds but they make so much sense when you view them in totality. Here, there are a lot of creative avenues. Delhi has more political discourse. But when you pool in the best resources of both cities, it can create magic," she explains. The sea, she feels, really does define this city. "I think the wave of calmness across the city comes from there. The people are also very accommodating."

As an intern, Kaur worked on content and video production — a path slightly different from her traditional writing life in Delhi. She says, "The idea was to learn something I didn't know. When I came to Mumbai, I didn't have a set to-do list. Instead, I had a list of people I wanted to meet and we ended up having great conversations about future collaborations."

After the Save DU (Delhi University) campaign in 2017, a lot has changed for Kaur. "It has opened up opportunities for me. But more importantly, there is a certainty now that when I reach out to people, they will be listening," she says. About to begin her final year as an English Literature student at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, she still won't restrict herself to a single label. When it boils down to being a journalist or activist, she maintains that the choice isn't binary. "But the best part is that you can be an activist even when you're doing other things professionally," she tells us of her future plans.

With more than half the country's population, about 600 million people, under 25, Kaur realises the importance of creating a dialogue and is excited to venture into the digital content space herself.

On social media, she devotes her time to building conversation, especially around her struggle with mental health. "The stigma only exists because nobody wants to talk about it. I realise that a lot of young girls look up to me and I don't want to present a picture of perfection. The events that unfolded last year impacted my mental health, so I do open up about my anxiety. I want people to know that it is okay to have issues and lead a perfectly happy life," she says.

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