by Khushi Mohunta
Daughter of Romiit Raaj and Tina Prasher, Reha discusses her fond childhood memories centred on books and stories. She also discusses how the culture of books has evolved, comparing the literature available at her parents’ time to what it is today. Whether consistent or changing, she likes to keep a spark of enthusiasm for reading books for posterity.
From Reading Notes to Novellas
Growing up, Reha looked forward to everything, from the daily chronicle to books of contemporary and classic literature. “She sought solace from the ordinary in them,” her parents said. “I never had the potential for writing, but in third grade, we had to write a one-and-a-half-page short story.” Reha’s lips widened, and her eyes creased as she recalled her first attempt at writing. “That is when I created my characters, Allen and Ron.” Even though it was a short story, my teacher appreciated it and encouraged me to never let my interest in the field fade. My parents were equally supportive and motivated me to keep writing. The only thing they ever told me to keep me on track was to arise, wake, and stop not till the goal is reached. The next thing I saw was my dream in my hand: my book!”
Reha further said she is not only inclined to one pursuit but tries to be a jack of all trades. When she is not writing, she loves playing badminton and watching YouTube shorts. She is also an avid reader and has checked The Diary of a Wimpy Kid off her bucket list. To further strengthen her career, she has also begun to read abridged versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She can’t wait to read Julius Caesar. Reha has the intellect of an adult, but she also contains her innocence and childishness in her statement that she also loves to waste time. “I know it’s silly, but it’s a thing I like,” she adds.
Inspiration, Ideas, and Intelligence
Allen vs. Ron is about two mischievous brothers and their ventures and adventures in middle school. The book revolves around their hopeless love lives, crushes, and middle school lives. If you’re wondering what the names mean, there is a story or inspiration behind them. Reha clarifies that the names of these characters stuck to her instantly as she was drafting the story. The concept behind the title is that all brothers strive to be better and compete against one another in all areas.
While this motivated Reha to write such a compelling story, she denies having Allen or Ron in her life. They are merely fictional characters, figments of her wild and vivid imagination. She thinks the inspiration behind these characters comes from the books she reads. The Diary of a Wimpy kid follows Greg and Rodrick and the show Zack and Cody follows twin brothers who are identical yet distinct in their nature and traits. Her characters result from various characters existing in the literary world but retain an originality that distinguishes them from all others from whom she drew inspiration. Her journey began with a keen interest in reading and a desire to learn but soon led to writing something of her own, creating her own literary world.
Reha said that she never really knew that she had the potential and knack for writing; it was only in the third grade, when she got an assignment for school and had to write a short story, that she first created Allen vs. Ron. What started as a short story later turned into a novel. It was a product of people who believed in her—her parents, her teacher—who liked the idea of her story on the first try and encouraged her to keep building on the plot and no sooner did they know it, was a complete novella.
Writing a novel is a laborious process. It is the product of sheer hours of running on no sleep and analysing every bit in search of stories and ideas. Reha says it took her over six months to complete Allen vs. Ron. Lockdown countrywide has been believed to bring out the covert productive side of individuals; she wrote the book in grade four, when she was nine years old, amid a pandemic.
Reha, being determined and motivated, did not take a back seat after the book was published but began working on the illustrations, which were a herculean task. It took her nearly 3-6 weeks; not only was the process spontaneous, but taxing. A famous saying goes, “All’s well that ends well.” Reha’s diligence paid off in huge responses from her friends, other teenagers, and older family members who read her book.
Her parents’ first reaction after reading the book was something she says she will never forget. They were awestruck as they said, “We are definitely going to publish this,” Reha quoted. My family and friends extended their immense support and attested to their trust in me, with positive responses overflowing everywhere. Reha wishes for her book to be available in the country’s school libraries.
Exemplary For Ordinary School Kids
Reha, not old enough to be called an adult, had set herself a benchmark that separated her from the kids her age. In an exclusive interview, she talked about her life as an organized person. Reha prefers to take things as they come when it comes to writing stories, reading, and playing; she follows a strict study schedule. Despite intrinsic factors such as mood, she believes extrinsic circumstances like the weather and time of day also influence her writing.
With every new venture come risks, (self) doubts, and second thoughts, but it is only when learning and self-evaluation happen simultaneously that the ordinary becomes extraordinary. It is a process that helps one learn and unlearn many things. For Reha, one of the most surprising things she discovered in the process was her ability to write books and her passion for writing. “I couldn’t believe that I had actually written this book, and I am looking forward to writing many more,” she adds. At times, it’s not the will in you that drives you to write; it’s the enormous outpouring of feelings and emotions that need to be channeled, and that’s when, if one sets to write, one creates a masterpiece. What’s better than a work of literature to which a reader can relate? For things you love, you don’t mind going out of your way. Likewise was Reha’s experience; she took on the task of designing the cover page as well as illustrating all the imagery inside the book herself. Her approach to this was, first, to financially help her parents, and second, to explore another creative side of her. Reha not only believes that the illustrations came out pretty well, but she also enjoyed doing them. And it’s all that matters.
“Relatability. That’s precisely what I aim for,” Reha says. One should get into the pants of a person to understand what they mean. That’s why one of my most interesting works is the one-liners and punchlines that everybody keeps giving each other. In one of my favourite scenes, Brandon returns to New York, and he and Allen meet at the dog park. Allen says, “Brandon, you must have had a hard time in the plane, sitting in the cage with all the animals like you.” Satirical punchlines on lighter notes like these give me, as a reader, a sense of wholesomeness. She further adds by saying how she feels after writing the book and how grateful she is for the love, support, and response from the world. The highlight of her entire journey of writing a book, she believes, is seeing the book go out of stock on Amazon. She sees writing as a catharsis and suggests young children interested in writing books not focus on what others might think. Instead, they should just let go of emotions and flow.
Writing is a skill that, once learned, cannot be abandoned. There’s something peculiar about it that makes it relieving. When asked, if she planned to write another story in the future, Reha answered affirmatively that she had already written a few pages of her next book. She had the entire concept planned in her mind. She also looks forward to publishing it.
For some people, writing is a passion, while for others it becomes a profession. Somewhere in the intersection of passion and profession, Reha, when she is not writing, loves to play badminton, scroll through Youtube shorts, and binge-watch Zack and Cody. Despite having watched all the seasons a million times, she believes she can never get bored with them and also loves to read books. She is very proud of her reading collection, which includes The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and a few others. “I have also started reading the abridged version of Shakespeare. I have read Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night Stream and I’m looking forward to Julius Caesar as well,” Reha responded in the interview. Just like a coin, every person has two sides to their personality. In a parallel universe of her personality, acknowledging how weird it is, she says she also loves to waste time and believes that’s what makes her, well, her.
To put it in Taylor’s version,
“It’s me, hi. I’m the problem; it’s me.”