Divita Aggarwal: 'It Was Always You'

Divita Aggarwal is a second-year undergraduate, majoring in Economics and Finance. Her book, It Was Always You, got published in 2016 when she was 17 years old. Here are some insights about the book and her overarching view about reading and writing.

Q.   What motivated you to write a book?

A: I wrote the book when I was in 11th grade, and I had shifted to a boarding school in Jaipur. My roommate at that time was writing a book. It got published after a month, and that took me by surprise! I’d assumed she was casually writing and never fathomed that it would be a published book. We used to talk about her book and what motivated her to write and that was what first inspired me. Another thing that worked as a catalyst was the gloomy phase that I was going through in life. Writing has always been a great distraction from everything, and this was what really worked here. I began writing a story to keep myself distracted from other things, but never knew it would turn into a book.


Q. What do you enjoy more? Reading or writing?

A: This is going to surprise you, I don’t read! I am appreciative of what others write but I am not a very huge fan of reading. Everyone says that to be a good writer, one should be an avid reader. I know it’s true, but it doesn’t seem to work for me. When I read, it takes away my style of writing. My writing is fluid, it does not have any form, and that’s my style (Am I sounding too narcissistic?). If I were to read a lot, I feel as though I won’t have an original style and I want to write in my own style. So coming back to your question, yes, I do enjoy writing more!

Q. Tell us more about your book?

A: It’s a book in a book! It starts at a book launch where the female protagonist Aisha is narrating her favorite excerpt from the book. The story is about Aisha and Kabir. Aisha has moved to Bangalore where she happens to meet Kabir. Kabir is the son of a politician and everyone loathes him because of this very fact. There’s often more to a person than what meets the eye and not everything is what the surface levels reveal them to be. Away from the messy world that his parents live in, Kabir thrives in a simple one. Aisha chances upon befriending him, soon realising that this friendship is actually love.


Q. How long did it take for you to complete the book? When was it published?

A: I started writing in the June of 11th grade and I got done with it by the December of class 12th. It was published in the month of February in 2016.


Q. Being in the hardest phase of the academic life, did the book affect your studies?

A: No, not really. As I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t going through a very good phase and writing was the distraction that I needed. I didn’t have to ‘take out’ time for writing. It became more like a necessity for me to write for two hours everyday. I would say, more than affecting my academics negatively it helped me do better.

Q. How did you approach the publishers?

A: It’s actually a very simple process. I had to go to Rupa publications’ website and submit a paragraph or summary. They liked it and asked for three chapters of my book, from the beginning, the middle, and the end. They showed interest post reading my submission and asked for the entire manuscript. The manuscript left a great impact and thus I signed a lifetime contract with Rupa publications!


Q.   How was the response from readers?

A: I got a pretty overwhelming response. Well, definitely more than what I’d expected as I never set out with the intention of writing for publishing. They printed a thousand copies first and all got sold in two months. Umpteen teenagers liked it as it was a love story. There are some reviews available on Amazon as well.


Q. How did you feel after getting such an overwhelming response from the readers?

A: Umm… actually I haven’t thought about it! But yes, I was definitely thrilled with the reaction and impressed with myself. If you see the book, Dr. Shashi Tharoor wrote a blog for it. We spoke on phone and we met; it felt really good to be appreciated by someone like him. This was one of those cherry on the top kind of things.

Q. What role did your parents play in the entire process?

A: I would say it’s because of my parents that this book actually became a book. As I’ve told you, I started writing as a means to take a break from what’s around me. We love fiction more because it’s often more entertaining than reality. So, one summer, when I came home, I told my parents that I’m writing and they informed the directors of my school about the same. Without my knowledge, they asked the directors to support and encourage me in this endeavour. At many instances, it became really hard for me to write, but my father being a writer himself, helped me out. We used to discuss character development, plot progression, and the likes. So, yes, my parents did play an important role.


Q. Are you planning to write another book?

A: Yes, I’m planning on writing another book. Though the hectic schedule of Ashoka doesn’t spare enough time, I do have something on my mind. I’m planning to write a nonfiction novel along the idea, ‘Are happy families a myth?’


Q. What are your hobbies other than writing?

A: I play badminton for Ashoka and dance. Dance has always been a hobby of mine!

Q. What is your long-term goal?

A: I’m majoring in Economics and Finance. I have a startup but I don’t have time to be there and take it forward. My long-term goal is to become a businesswoman, but writing has always helped me and I’d love being a writer side by side.


Q. Has Ashoka enhanced you as a writer or reader?

A: Wow! That’s a great question! As I just mentioned, I’m now interested in writing a nonfiction novel. I want to write the story of someone really simple, like you, like me, like my friends. Every person you speak to at Ashoka has a different story that is neither ordinary nor plain. Ashoka influences me by the conversations I have with people. And I know one of these conversations will someday morph into a book. Ashoka has indeed enhanced me as a writer.


Q. What message would you like to give to budding writers?

A: I don’t know whether I’m capable to do that, but I think no one should look at writing as a task or a goal. It’s not going to work if you look at it as something which has to end up becoming a book. This only piles up pressure. Write because you want to write. Feel and relish the process of writing!

If you want to grab a copy of It Was Always You, here is the link: https://www.amazon.in/Was-Always-You-Divita-Aggarwal-ebook/dp/B01AUWHGRC


Edited by Vedika Gupta

Photographs by Viraj Malani