Recently published author and former editor-in-chief of Woodstock’s student newspaper, Shreen Vaid, Class of 2011, visited the Journalism PASSAGE on Sept. 10 as part of her short visit to the school after more than a year.
At the beginning of her talk, Vaid explained that the primary purpose of her visit was to give a copy of her debut book, SAUDADE: Road to Requiem, to Mr. Andrew Plonka, who was the staff adviser to the school newspaper when she was the editor-in-chief.
She talked about her own experience doing journalism at the school, telling the story of how she and her friend managed to get into The Doon School to cover a boys basketball tournament without adequately getting permission for the trip.
At the time, both Woodstock and Doon School were under a safety threat, resulting in extra security at the two schools. Yet, Vaid and her friend managed to get out of school by taking a taxi down to Dehradun.
When they reached The Doon School, security at the school did not allow them to enter without school identification.
They were about to turn around when Vaid realized she had her dad’s Air Force dependent card. Using the card, they were finally able to get into the school and cover the tournament.
She then talked about how different journalism was when she was in school. At the time, journalism was a class that only eleventh and twelfth graders could take. Now, it is an after-school activity offered to everyone in Upper Years.
She commended journalism members for working hard on the newspaper despite it only being a PASSAGE.
“You should be proud that you’re working hard on journalism even though it’s not a graded class,” she said.
Her debut book, published in April this year, deals with the story of a pair of twins and how they rebuild their identities while coping with loss.
“When you lose family members or loved ones, you change as a person and redevelop,” she said.
She then elucidated the reason she made the two main characters of the book twins.
She said, “Many times, guys are expected to take on responsibility, so I made the siblings twins to see their response to loss at the same age and level of maturity.”
When asked about her motives for writing the book, she explained how her experiences at Woodstock significantly impacted her book.
She said, “If you read my book by any chance, you will recognize a lot because it’s about relationships between people at a boarding school.”
The book’s theme about coping with loss was also subconsciously shaped by Vaid’s own first encounter with loss, which was in her freshman year in 2007.
In the very first assembly of that academic year, students and staff learned about the death of a recently graduated student, caused by a car accident while he was on his way to pick up his brother from the airport.
This incident left a “deep impression” on Vaid and continually kept “replaying in [her] mind.”
However, she didn’t even realize that this incident had influenced her book until her friends pointed it out after the book was published.
Her younger brother and friends also influenced her writing.
“My friends’ losses have touched me in many different ways,” she said. “I’ve also taken my younger brother’s conversations and put it into my book.”
Vaid is currently working on her second book, which deals with the definition of rape in Indian society through the perspective of two sisters. She illustrated this idea by giving the example of how India doesn’t recognize marital rape.
Alongside writing, she also does full-time research work studying identities, namely Punjabi and Tibetan.
When asked for writing tips and advice, she said, “Just experiment. You’re in high school so you have a lot more room and space to experiment. Try different styles. Even if you don’t think it’s your thing, just try it anyway.”
Edited by Dhrubhagat Singh.