“I am like a white coloured stain on a black coat. Initially, people think the stain is weird and will ruin the whole coat but as I spread to make the whole coat white people usher into something new which then becomes the accepted set-up.” – Rafaat Gilani
One fine winter evening, seventeen-year-old schoolboy and passionate computer gamer Rafaat Gilani thought of writing a novel and the youngster’s dream came true on Sunday when his book ‘The day I died’ was released at Winterfell Café on the banks of the famed Dal Lake.
The teenager’s debut novel is a story of a young boy’s decision to choose ‘aggression over depression’ in pursuit of achieving something in life. It narrates the boy’s struggle and his encounter with people in his endeavour.
Rafaatis in class 12 at Saint Joseph’s School in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. He chose science stream when he joined the higher secondary school.
Speaking to Rising Kashmir, he said nothing specific inspired him to write; rather he chose to write when the phrase “I just died, cried my inner self” stuck his mind one ‘sublime’ winter evening as he enjoyed the warmth of Hamam at his home.
“I thought of writing something around these lines and that’s how the journey began,” he said.
Rafaat said by means of writing he aims to drive people away from smartphones and make them read instead. He wants to revive reading culture among people, which he said has vanished from the valley over the years.
Interestingly, Rafaat said he did not take any financial assistance from his family and got the book published on his own with the help of his friends.
“I told my family that I have written a book just 10 days ahead of the launch. I wanted the young people to know that a lone wolf is enough to accomplish the wishes he/she has,” he said.
Rafaat said many people discouraged him but he chose to fight the pessimistic surroundings and this kept him on track.
“I am like a white coloured stain on a black coat. Initially, people think the stain is weird and will ruin the whole coat but as I spread to make the whole coat white people usher into something new which then becomes the accepted set-up,” he said.
Rafaat said people should not be afraid to try something which the society is not acquainted with because the passion to do something different drives the radical change the society requires.
He is presently preparing for his upcoming school board exams and also working on three more novels. “I won’t reveal what I plan to do in life, time will tell everybody.”
Interestingly, the book has been published by a Srinagar-based firm—Paper Square—that is itself an endeavour by three schoolboys—Abrar Yaseen, Mouzam Khurshid and Haider Parvez, all students of Delhi Public School, Srinagar.
Rafaat happens to be in their common friend circle and they helped him publish his first novel, which is also the first book published by them.
“Our firm is more into website developing, robotics and graphics but then we tried this and will surely continue on this,” they said, adding that their family do not understand what they are doing.
They trio have now setup an office at Rajbagh area, aiming to develop the firm. “We published this book on zero profit but we understand the nuances of making a profit in publishing now.”
Speaking at the book release event, Editor-in-Chief of daily Rising Kashmir, Syed Shujaat Bukhari, said Rafaat is “himself a fascinating story” as he started on the path of becoming a novelist at a very young age.
“In my 27-year-old career, I have written rims and rims of papers but then couldn’t still write my own book,” Bukhari said, adding that Rafaat is born ahead of his time and the Kashmir valley needs such ambassadors at the global level.
He said Rafaat is a positive side of Kashmir which needs to come out like the other side being discussed everyday. “The other side of Kashmir which we all debate cannot be branded as negative but then this positive side of Kashmir needs to come out as well,” he said.
Bukhari said Kashmiris can relate with the novel because ‘wittingly or unwittingly everyone in the valley is marred by depression’.
“Young people here can take inspiration from him and chose something for themselves which they can boast about on a global level,” he said.