As polarising religious beliefs tarnish India’s pride in its secularism, debutant author Savie Karnel, in her book The Nameless God, aims to promote religious harmony. Set in an imaginary town, the book unfolds against the backdrop of an unforgettable event in recent Indian history — the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, and the communal riots that followed right after.
Talking about her book, the former journalist from Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, says, “The present scenario, where suddenly the religion of a person seemed to matter more than friendship, perturbed me. People seemed scared to use the word ‘secularism.’ In our childhood, though there were riots across the country, people made an effort to build a harmonious society despite the religious differences. I began to wonder how I would explain these things to my child and felt a need for a book which explained these things in a simple, yet entertaining way.”
She says that after writing the book, she realised that the new God created by her characters Bachchu and Noor had no name. “I felt that I should leave it just like that. Here was a God created by the innocent beliefs of children. They felt no need to give him a name. So, without a second thought I called the book, The Nameless God,” she explains.
The book talks about friendship, faith and religion. Pointing out how important it is that children be taught about communalism and secularism, Savie says, “Adults think that they are keeping children away from communalism, without realising that children are always listening and picking up from their surroundings. With social media and smart devices, propaganda and fake news have penetrated into every home. Children are constantly being exposed to them. If we don’t speak about love and friendship, and the pointlessness of boundaries created by religion, we will lose a chance to build a harmonious society. As for secularism, isn’t that a beautiful thing? Millions of Indians are living in a healthy secular society, and nothing should stop us from speaking about it.”
The lockdown due to Covid-19 helped Savie in many unexpected ways.
“Suddenly my six-year-old son was home all day with online school, leaving me with little time to write. Then, lightning struck, burning the router, leaving me with no internet, my smart phone stopped working and monkeys broke the DTH antenna. None of these could be repaired then, leaving me with absolutely no distractions and I could focus on writing. When I wrote the first draft in 2015, I had first chosen the setting of the 90s, but I found it difficult to simplify the incidents and the emotions attached to them. Perhaps, that could be called some kind of a writer’s block,” she shares.
Savie is planning to start on a second book soon.