Dilkhush returns to the hometown where a gas disaster killed thousands. Those in charge at the time are back. She is sent there to give and get forgiveness, but vengeance surfaces. From the moment she gets off the bus, the past rushes in, and a mysterious chain of events unravels. Allies emerge, including a wise old owl, a master of bargains, a disaster entrepreneur, and an enigmatic supporter. But a powerful nemesis also appears. Dilkhush scours the depths of her soul for answers. How is she to know that the present would rush at her with startling revelations and brutal secrets? Yet, these could also liberate her for a rebirth.
Lifewalla is an unforgettable portrait of loss and pain. It is a deeply moving story of the humanity that could be experienced in a family of strangers. A story of the instinct to grapple for a child’s survival, with indestructible hope.
Nina Joshi Ramsey
Nina Joshi Ramsey, a serious writer now also doing comedy stand-up, was born in London to itinerant migrant parents from British India who travelled with professional work, and finally settled in British East Africa. Nina left Kenya as a teenager with her family after an attack on their home in the violent aftermath of an attempted military coup. Her account of that won a place in a Decibel Penguin Literary Prize Anthology.
Following a BSc in Applied Computer Systems and a career in Global Technology Management, Joshi Ramsey did a Creative Writing MA and Psychology PGDip. Her debut novel, Lifewalla, is inspired by the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster. The UK launch of the book raised funds for survivor clinics in Bhopal (Lifewalla.org).
Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, 2015-16 President of the British Psychological Society, considers Lifewalla ‘a very human book’ that ‘really gets inside the psychology of disasters and the consequences they wreak’.
The theme is serious but Nina weaves in humour, for relief and as a reflection of life.
Nina also wrote the play, ‘Familiar Strangers’, which had a rehearsed reading produced by Kali Theatre at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden, with the stellar cast of TV/Film/Stage actors, Ameet Chana, Shaheen Khan and Clare Perkins. ‘Familiar Strangers’ unpicks racial prejudices to explore the familiar in strangers, and the strangeness in the familiar. And yes there is humour amidst serious issues, of course. Nothing’s black and white.
Nina loves travelling and has travelled to over 40 countries for pleasure and work, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Amongst that she has worked in city slums and skyscrapers, trained male prisoners and desert villagers, managed global managers and teamed up with underprivileged girls. She was a digital volunteer co-ordinating helicopter rescue efforts for those stranded in the Langtang valley during the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. Her writing is informed by the sum of her experiences.
Nina lives in London with her husband and their occasional, imaginary dog.
Our Inner Lives and the Writing Adventure
By Nina Joshi Ramsey
When I first started writing, I had a real urge to express myself. Sometimes, this was in short story form, sometimes journaling of goings-on in my life, sometimes imaginary conversations, almost Gestalten. But this happened without me knowing or planning it. The dialogue was often between characters I created from my perspective. Even if they might have been seemingly real-life people, their views were what I considered to be true. I couldn’t have known their truth. I later trained in coaching and psychotherapeutic approaches and realised there is much of both in writing.
Often the contents of such stories (by no means all stories) are metaphors for people and situations in our lives, capturing the emotional cores of those situations. These are possibly the strongest and most resonant tales because of the emotional veracity and intensity they contain, and also because emotion is the lingua franca of human beings. Connecting to such stories is through that vehicle, for both reader and writer. When the going gets tough in the writing, often what sustains me once I am on the journey, is the striving for some emotional resolution, or even a nod to that. Leaving part way is more challenging than continuing the uphill climb towards an end of sorts. That will reliably tell me how important and connected the story might be to my inner life.
There is an implied vicarious living through characters we write, which is why it can be so emotionally exhausting. Readers do the same. While they may choose to read the book only once, writers must normally do several drafts, going through the emotional cycle again and again, albeit with possibly diminishing inner impact.
Whatever gets expressed or explored in such stories may also affect our real-life perspectives and experience. Once there is a resolution in the book or in real life, the desire to express the same wanes. We understand it at the intellectual level but not with the same pull from the heart.
On the other hand, without a satisfactory inner experience, the pattern repeats, perhaps with some change – any expression can enable some standing back and observing of events. This detachment can help change something, even if at a miniscule level. This is my view, of course. It does make a point that’s key in literary theory, as to whether a work is read within the context of the author’s environment, beliefs, experience, etc, or independent of that. I am a believer in the latter. One doesn’t need to understand the author’s journey to understand the work. The reader’s own journey is key, and each reader’s journey will be different, as proposed by Roland Barthes in his essay, ‘Death of the Author’. Readers connect from their own contexts and take from the book what is relevant to them. The same episode can thus have a different impact on different readers.
With Lifewalla, I was going through some tough years of my life during the writing but I kept coming back to it whenever I could. I felt a responsibility to the survivors to finish what I had started, whether I understood my own emotional journey within it or not. To my mind, finishing the book had an inner pull for me, and at the logical level I knew it meant more people could then relate to the invisible, enduring trauma that survivors of any disaster may face. I am glad to say something inside me has moved and also more people are able to connect to the story. And long may that continue with the help of those on their own journeys of experiencing and sharing.
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Merry Christmas from Kelly & The Team, thank you for all your support and love in 2017.