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Calling Harinder Sikka
This story appears in the September 2018 issue of School LIVE.
After serving the country in the navy for fourteen years, Harinder Sikka began his journey as a storyteller and a writer. In an exclusive interview with School LIVE, he tell us why he began writing and what all he had to undertake to make Calling Sehmat possible.

·From the Indian Navy to a writer, how has your journey been so far?

I believe that there is a miracle which is driving me towards this beautiful journey. I was in the navy till 1993 and had served a commission period of fourteen years in total by then. When I decided to leave the navy pre maturely I had nothing in hand, no pension and no savings, however, I had a lot of things to tick off from my bucket list. Everybody knows that when we are in the armed forces, there is not much liberty that we get. No freedom of expression through writing or doing things as one wants. It was by god's grace that I joined the Piramal Group of Industries, which gave me an ideal platform to be able to work and also gave me the freedom to accomplish all that I wanted to. I have completed 25 years with them and have realized that there was no better way to do this.

My real journey began in the year 1999, when I went as an embedded journalist to cover the Kargil war. This was the second biggest risk that I took in life, but in actual terms this is where I discovered the story of the strong headed Kashmiri women, who today has been immortalized by the book and movie. The more I dug into her story the more I realized that she was no ordinary woman. I could not have found out about her journey without travelling to the place where it all happened, and so I set out on a journey to Pakistan. This was rather difficult, because being an ex- serviceman from the navy people were already hesitant about my presence.

My journey from the navy, to finishing this book took a long time, and it is an experience that I will never forget. From the navy, to a writer and now to a successful movie producer, my journey has been tiring but never the less exhilarating.



·How much time and what kind of research did you have to put in, before finally writing and then publishing "Calling Sehmat"?

The structure and the overall flow of the story was already known to me, when I began work on the book.  So I already had the baseline of a story that deserved to be heard by all, and the most important task for me was to be able to put that across in an impactful way. I knew I wasn't a writer which made it all the more challenging to do justice delivering the story of Sehmat to others. I remember that all she did was drop hints for me, and she left it upon me to pursue and find out the details. It involved eight years of patience, hard work and research from my end to bring to the fore, the story of this inspiring lady.

Every page or chapter that I wrote was sent back to me by Sehmat, crossing off almost 60% of what I wrote, because she thought that I was either getting carried away or was underplaying a certain situation. Finally in the year 2008, the first book was launched and ever since then there has been no looking back.

There are a lot of people who helped me while I was in Pakistan, which is when I realized that the people there have nothing against India or the Indians. One of my aims behind writing this book was to question all those people who are benefiting personally by creating an enmity between these two nations.



·What lead you on the path of becoming a writer?

To be honest with you I became a writer for a very different reason. I began writing, which was my way of raising a voice against the questionable behavior of a senior member in the navy. Over the years I have now realized that a writer can become a writer for any reason. Some may write to pursue a hobby, some to educate, but for me I pursued the path of writing to stand up against what was wrong or unjust.

With the success of Sehmat I discovered that I wanted to write to bring awareness about all the other Sehmats who go absolutely unnoticed, not because they do not exist, but because they are not allowed to see the light of the day. Whether I became a writer because I wrote this book, or I was destined to perform the noble task of making people aware of Sehmat, is a matter which is beyond my understanding and is something that I do not ponder over.

Today with the help of Sehmat, I am reaching out to so many school and college students who are the future of our country. I am able to speak to them and tell them that the only religion one must have and follow is that of the nation. My reason to become a writer has helped me educate the young minds of our nation. It might just make a difference of ten percent, but none the less, it is a change that is being made.


·Any word of advice for the budding young writers?

For all those who aspire to become writers I will say that it is easy to become a writer. Think about the language that you think in the best. Once you find the answer to this question, think about what you want to write and then translate those thoughts to English and start writing it down. If you are unable to write it in English, write in the language that you are comfortable in and pour your heart out.

Take small steps and write a paragraph every day and don't attempt to write a 500 word article in one day. Write the best that you can, edit it and fail at it. It is very important to fail in the first few attempts that you make. This only helps you understand the correct flow and structure that you will need and your mind will automatically connect with your words and will enable you to write effortlessly. With practice over a period of time, you will realize that you write for yourself and not for others. The day you are able to enjoy what you have written, is the day you can call yourself a writer.


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