By Aminah Sheikh


Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because I love to write. From childhood I have loved reading, and it was a natural progression to write stories as I grew older.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My publisher, Speaking Tiger, published my novel, Son of the Thundercloud in December 2016. It is the story of the Christ-child growing up as a Naga boy. I experimented with placing a well-known story in a completely different setting and giving it a different cultural background, transferring the mystery elements with it. It gave me the freedom to write about things that are very close to my heart: kindness, love and what my publisher calls the eternal aspect of life and love.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

It depends on whether I am writing fiction or non-fiction. Some books stay in my head for a long time before they come out on paper. I have writing bouts where I begin my days with writing and don’t stop until the last chapter as I don’t like leaving anything unfinished. If I am writing poetry, I go out of doors, sit in a cafe or sit by the boats alone for hours.

Who are your favorite authors?

Moris Farhi, Hugh McLellan, Ben Okri, Robin Ngangom, Tim Winton, Astrid Lindgren, Graham Cooke, Max Lucado, Michael Leunig, etc.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

It would probably be MARI, a book on the Second World War and the Japanese Invasion of India via the Naga Hills. I used my aunt Mari’s diary and her memories and my mother’s memories to reconstruct the Kohima town as they knew it 60 odd years ago. Reconstructing historical events and details is both challenging and fascinating.

son-of-thundercloud_e-bookGrey Earth

When he had been travelling for two weeks, perhaps more,   he could not be sure, Pele came to the base of a black mountain. His feet hurt and his white canvas shoes were brown with dust. There had been no big roads, just narrow mountain paths that he followed up and down until they brought him to some human settlement or a solitary dwelling. He would partake of the hospitality of the starving inhabitants and continue on his journey.

Everywhere he stopped, he was told he should go to the Village of Weavers. Rumour had it that there was enough food and water to be found there. They might let him stay and build a home. In the last habitation where he was told this, a man gave him detailed directions to the Village of Weavers.

Pele decided to go, if only to keep travelling. He did not know if he wanted to build a home. He did not know what he wanted; except hunger, thirst and physical pain, he felt nothing. The journey could take him anywhere, or nowhere. The mountain lay between him and the Village of Weavers. It was a hard climb and when he reached the top, the sun had begun to sink low on the horizon. Pele stopped in his tracks and looked around him. He had never seen such desolation in all his travels. Before him stretched miles of barrenness. The earth was so dry that the soil no longer looked like soil. It had cracked apart, every brittle vein and ligament exposed, looking more like sun-dried sponge with big holes running through the sod. The brown colour had gone from the soil and if the traveller were to describe it, he would call it grey, death-grey. It had long given up the struggle to sustain any form of life. His eyes scanned the horizon for people, though he asked himself how anyone could possibly survive here.

To the east, he saw a knot of houses. But as he began his descent, he saw that they were dilapidated sheds crumbling to the ground, the few remaining posts vainly holding up the overhanging roofs of thatch. They looked as desolate as the dead fields. Everything looked abandoned. He decided to spend the night in one of the ruins and set out early for whatever else lay in his path. He was some distance from the base of the mountain when he saw movement. Two  dark figures emerged out of the sheds and stopped by a large rock, looking up at him. Were they human or were they spirits? He could not tell. His pace slowed down; he was surprised that he could still feel fear after weeks of lonely travel. He watched as the figures began to move again, almost gliding through the air rather than walking  on the dead earth. And as they came closer, something calmed him a little.

It was only when they spoke that he realized they were human. ‘You have come far, traveller. We have no food, but you may shelter in our house. That is our way.  We  never turn   a traveller away and it will soon be night, so you may be our guest.’