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Talking With Kishwar Desai: Exclusive Interview

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Kishwar Desai is one of the greatest and most accomplished people you can find. Desai needs no introduction, with more than 4 books under her belt, she is a journalist, founder of the Partition Museum, a trustee at the Gandhi Statue in Westminster, and is one of the most inspiring and accomplished figures you can meet! So we were happy to have her for an interview.

"What started you on your path to be a journalist? I understand you started as an intern in print media while still in college? What drew you to this position in college?", was our first question. "Well, There was a feeling as a child around ten that I wanted to do something like journalism, I even kept a little diary with ideas for novels, hilariously enough, most of them were actually all about Cow Boys. But that was the first moment for me". Kishwar began her career in Television, climbing the ladder at a variety of large TV Stations, and would eventually become the CEO of Zara Punjabi TV. "I realized after a while that in television, the documentaries, the news, they are simply there for a news cycle and they don't make an impact. That was around the time I began to transition fully to journalism, writing, and novels.

Origins of Love was the first of her Simran Singh series, a series revolving around a middle-aged social worker cum crime fighter, and in each book, Simran as a character tackles a Social issue, which the story revolves around. "Tell us a bit more about your character development within the Origins of Love? The story is around surrogacy in India, were you driven to write this book based on the lack of regulatory measures for women in India around this service?". "... Women often rent out their wombs, and their rights are not looked after, so it is very important to look after them, be sure they're being looked after".Simran Singh has also tackled such issues as Murder and Sexual Violence, and her series was put in the Top Twelve Indian Novels of All Time just this year by the Independent. "With Novels, you really make a lasting impact, and it can really be inspiring and can really make a change."

The Cover of The Sea of Innocence and Origins of Love by Kishwar Desai

Another of her many accomplishments was the foundation of the Partition Museum in Amritsar India. Partition was the even when the British left the British Indian Empire, but following the Divide and Rule policy, communal violence simply was going to be inevitable, so for that reason, the new nation of Pakistan was born. This was followed by the largest mass migration in human history, but we can't really get into that right now, it really is a long story and we will make a video about it but I don't think we really can right now. But the Partition Museums largest importance is that an even where over 1 million people died has only one museum, hers, and she is a huge part of keeping the memory of Partition and a United India alive, "otherwise there will be another partition worse than the one in 1947". "It really is the major deciding event in South Asian 20th Century history, and when we forget it, another partition is bound to happen. And now we are getting even higher counts than a million, maybe five million, or ten million, and this is the largest mass migration in the history of man, and it shouldn't be forgotten".

Partition Museum
From Top Left to Right: The Partition Museum, Courtyard of Photos, Kishwar Desai giving a Tour of the Museum

We also talked to Kishwar about another event in Indian History, which occurred in 1919, and is another event that is not taught about or even well known. This was called Jalliawallan Bagh which was the event when peaceful people were gathering in a walled garden, with a single entrance, where people began discussing independence. One general Dyer and a group of soldiers appeared blocked the entrance, and without warning fired on the crowd. It was a massacre but is not even in textbooks in Britain, something worrying. "You can't just write away history. And this was a massacre, and it really should get attention, and be taught about", said Kishwar. She wrote a book called, Jalliwallan Bagh: 1919, in 2018, commemorating a huge even in Indian HIstory, for which she won many awards, and brought more attention to a major event.

Jallian Wala Bagh
Jallianwala Bagh, 1919 Book, Depiction of The Massacre

Since the FFP is full of writers, and cinematographers, and journalists, we had to ask Kishwar what her writing process was. "My process is very intense, and when I am writing something I first develop, and then I write for months on end. And I really just focus in for 6 months or a year and just work and write, obviously taking breaks for meals but little else."

The Gandhi Statue is a statue in Westminster, which has been visited by numerous heads of state including the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as well as the Prime Minister of India, and has been visited by major people from around the globe. "With the statue, we were allotted the land to put the statue on, and we had a few months to get it up, and we had to raise the money ourselves. And the greatest thing was we got all kinds of donations from around India, from the U.K, which means a lot. And we ended up getting more donations than we needed and that was true, amazing.

Opening of The Gandhi Statue (Kishwar Desai on Far Right)

Kishwar's books have won many awards and accolades including the Costa Award, and this year, Witness The Night was listed as one of the 12 best Indian novels, by the independent, calling it a "stunning debut”. So we had to ask when we would be seeing another Kishwar Desai book soon, and we were excited to hear her response. "Well, I am very excited to say that my latest book, The Longest Kiss, came out on December 28, and is available online and in stores. The story itself is all about an Indian Actress called Devika Rani, who actually was abused when she was young. In the 1930s and 1940s, she became an actress in Britain, and she started her own studio which is still active today. And she never spoke out about how she was abused, because she wanted to do everything by her own merit". when asked about the title, to which we found out, "Devika Rani holds the record for the longest ever kiss on screen, which was around 5 minutes".

The Longest Kiss Cover

We finished off our interview with this amazing person by asking her what she would like to say to all people who want to be journalists or just enjoy writing, which is a beautiful note to end on, "Failure is really such a horrible word, there is only Challenge in life".

You can purchase Lady Desai's book on Amazon, and you can check out the Partition museum on its website!

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