“A Kiss in Kashmir” Monica Saigal’s new book to be released on Valentine’s Day

Monica Saigal in a conversation with Kojo Nnamdi, on February 6, 2024, at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Alexandria, Virginia: Internationally celebrated, Indian-American author Monica Saigal’s, latest book, “A Kiss in Kashmir: A Timeless Tale of Love” is expected to be on the stands starting February 14, 2024.

When asked about her motivation for the book, Saigal told News India Times, “As a single woman in my 50s, it was very disappointing to see that all the novels that are out there about young people. So this book was almost a form of rebellion saying that a second chance in love is for all of us. And that love is not something exclusively just for the young.”

About the book, WAMU’s host of The Politics Hour, Kojo Nnamdi, a veteran radio journalist, told News India Times, “What I liked about this book was that it engenders hope. It gives one hope. I am at an age in my life now where people encourage you to believe that there is not much left to life. What this book shows us is that as people arrive at middle age, there can be a great deal left to life. It can include love, it can include adventure, but it’s life and I really liked that about it.”

Book jacket of the latest book by Monica Saigal. PHOTO: @Books by Monical Saigal Bhide

Saigal in a conversation with Nnamdi, on February 6th at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel, spoke extensively about her book. Explaining the important message of the book she said, “[there’s] a narrative that’s been out there about people who are single by themselves choose to be single later on in life. There’s a certain story that’s told, and I think if we want to be fair to people, we need to change that narrative.”

She underscored “What is going to stay behind is our words, is our art, is the music that we create, it’s the stories that we tell. So, let’s leave our children with hopeful, beautiful, amazing stories so that they blossom.”

Saigal said she got the idea for writing this book came about a year and half ago while watching Hallmark Christmas movies. After watching those movies, she went on Facebook and exclaimed “Oh, my God, they’re all the same…” and that she was going to watch her favorite movie “Die Hard.” Then someone responded, “Well, you’re a writer. Instead of complaining, why don’t you go write a book?”

About her reason for picking Kashmir as a location for this book, she noted, “some of it is nostalgia” and recalled her visit to the valley with her parents when she was 16 years old. “What I remember about the valley is all the newlywed couples. So many people honeymooning and it was like, oh my God, this place is about love,” Saigal said. “And then, of course, Bollywood, from the Bollywood of my youth, all the movies used to be set in the valley. So, for me, it was a natural association. That’s the place of love.”

About what she learned while penning this book, Saigal maintained she spoke to many individuals including the people of Kashmir and learned “hate” and “love” are not superpowers, the real superpower is “empathy.”

In response to a question from Nnamdi about the main characters in the book, George, and Sharmila, who both lost loved ones, and subsequently had survivor guilt – Saigal explained that she had spent a fair amount of time researching characters, who had “human connections.”

“While writers can claim, I can understand what someone feels like. You really can’t. I couldn’t tell you what a woman in her 50s, who was divorced after 23 years of marriage would feel like until I got there,” emphasized Saigal who got divorced five years ago.

Nnamdi who lost his wife in 1982 and remarried 12 years later recounted he experienced “a great deal of survivor guilt” and wondered “why I was here and why she was not.” He noted that was one of the things that drew him to this book.

When Nnamdi asked Saigal about her vivid descriptions and careful attention to details of every aspect in the book, Saigal, an engineer turned writer, expressed, “I think the recovering engineer is showing. Sometimes I feel like I approach my art with a blueprint of an engineer. So if George and Sharmila are sitting in a Shikara [houseboats] on Dal Lake, undoubtedly, the way my brain works is, if I’m sitting with them, what am I seeing? what am I hearing?” She further noted “So literally, for every book, I will do what I call the senses round.”

Saigal said this is her 12th book and it took about four months to complete this book to which Nnamdi responded, “It was because this was the story that was in you. The other stories you had to do research for. This story came out of you.”

Born in New Delhi, and currently residing outside Washington DC, Saigal works as a corporate storyteller at a prominent professional services firm. “I work for a tech company by day. I am a brand strategist. I handle social media for a company of about 400,000 people. And I get to tell stories of the amazing people who work there” she said.



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