Rosheena Zehra is your average, Delhi-girl-next-door, graduating from DU and then Jamia Milia Islamia, and going on to work as a journalist at The Quint. She looks bubbly, intelligent and glows from a mile away when she smiles. Except that she’s not your girl-next-door- she’s a published author whose book, Dreamcatcher, published by Storymirror, just sold out in Delhi. And not just any book- she wrote a novella about isolation and madness.
“Madness is a country, just around the corner”- the poem by Kamala Das introduces us to the journey of the protagonist Zoya, whose world we get a glimpse into as she begins her study at the north campus at DU. We dive right into Zoya’s mind, as she ponders (maybe a little too much, we start thinking) on the various events which take place in her mind, be it bumping into her long-lost friend Priyanka, or the one-liners her roommate Devika drops.
And then she meets Reza, and her life really begins to turn. Yet in the midst of it all, from keeping in touch with her parents back in Lucknow, maintaining her friendship with Priyanka and Devika, and trying to identify her feelings for Reza, Zoya feels an increasing isolation in the world around her, which is exacerbated by a chance event which will change the course of her life forever.
More than anything, the novella is an interesting exploration into madness, and how your circumstance, the society around you, and more importantly, you yourself, can drive you to it. Zoya is a girl who’s always been asked to keep her feelings repressed, and as a girl in an Indian society, all of us can very well relate to it. As a culture in fact, we are asked to suppress, not express; we are taught the value of sacrifice, the beauty in giving up for others, and the dignity of silence. And yet at certain times it is essential to speak out, as Rosheena Zehra proves to us.
Madness in this book is definitely a comment on the society, Zehra says. And why not? In a society where mental health and psychological illnesses are such taboos, it is high time we have fiction addressing this issue. Women are regularly labelled mad if misunderstood, whereas the society forgets how it treated them once. The novella is drawn from Rosheena Zehra’s own personal experiences, as well as a fair amount of fiction that she’s read over the years, which led her to create a character who was so isolated that she was driven to such lengths to end her isolation.
As an author at a young age of 24, Zehra inspires others to write; she wrote the novella when she was nineteen and it took her time to be able to wear it on her sleeve. But, as her story suggests, it’s important to make that step, and the rest will follow. Pick up Dreamcatcher for it’s character depth and neatness of language, as Zehra takes you for a thrilling ride into Zoya’s mind which refuses to pause.
You can read her blog at https://rosheenazehra.wordpress.com/
And this is where you can watch the teaser for her novella: