Mumbai: Veteran Bollywood actress, five-time National Award winner, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan Shabana Azmi on Friday unveiled teen author Brisha Jain’s debut literary work that came to life during the pandemic, titled ‘The Year That Wasn’t – The Diary of a 14-Year Old’ in a Kolkata book launch event. The well-attended evening also saw the senior thespian read excerpts from the book and congratulate the precocious author on this feat.
The collective voice of young teenagers, the book is a journal-style narrative that chronicles the unprecedented upheaval of the last few months – a time when a tiny pathogen brought the world to a halt. The dated log entries serve as an incredible reminder of the day-to-day rollercoaster of the year that was penned down beautifully in Brisha’s unique first-person perspective.
The book is about making our voice stand out and be counted. So this book is not about Brisha or her life during the pandemic but the collective voice of everyone her age who went from confusion, horror, desperation to resilience and hope in the last year. This represents the collective memory of everyone who came of age in the last year.
“When we recognise Brisha’s work, we actually recognise India’s work, because 50 percent of the Indian population is under the age of 25. Imagine what a huge resource base we have, and if they can become even a quarter of the sensitive and thoughtful that she is, we would change the world. Brisha’s inspiring personality truly stands out and pegs her up as an up-and-coming author to look out for. Unlike most youngsters her age, Brisha breaks out of the social media and smartphone obsession. I’m happy to see her turn into a published author at 14,” said Shabana Azmi about the book and Author Brisha Jain.
The diary handholds readers through a journey of a lifetime – the hopeful beginning of a brand new decade; the tumultuous confusion of a burgeoning worldwide calamity; lockdown travails; a death march that won’t halt; coping with the whole new world of online schooling; a new digital divide; the vaccine race; the waning of the pandemic’s severity and it’s resurgence – all seen through the fresh, fearless and untainted lens of the author as she and millions like her juggled life, academic pursuits and the chaos of the pandemic.
Talking about her debut work, Brisha Jain says, “The last year has been the most fateful of the century. Never before have we felt so insignificant, so helpless, so insecure… Never before have we witnessed such harsh scenes of desperation, desolation, dejection but also hope, courage and fortitude… While I know that my experiences are not comprehensive, they provide a glimpse of a world in turmoil through the eyes of a young girl, through her curiosities and her sensibilities. This is my ode to humanity, her folly, her perseverance, her generosity and her survival.”
When Brisha made a New Year’s resolution to write a diary for the coming year, little did she realise that these entries would eventually turn into a treasure trove of experiences. Written in a style that is both deeply personal and yet a window to global events, the diary tells a story that’s much more than the sum of its entries – a tremendous tale of self-improvement, patience, strength and tenacity. It serves as a diary of an entire generation of young teenagers who have learnt to cope, hope, struggle and survive through an epochal time.
Brisha enjoys immersing herself in math, computers and physics, with a passion for classical singing, playing a guitar and avid reading. A budding photographer and socially conscious feminist, Brisha is also the founder of the charitable initiative, Cov-Aid, a non-profit organization offering free medicines, medical equipment and meals to those affected by Covid-19.
Featuring forewords by Director Devi Kar and Principal Damayanti Mukherjee of Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata (where Brisha is a Class 10th student), ‘The Year That Wasn’t – The Diary of a 14-Year Old’ has been published by Vitasta Publishing Pvt Ltd.