Ambika Bhardwaj talks about her debut book 'In Conversation with Light and Darkness'

Abhishansa Mathur
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Ambika Bhardwaj talks about her debut book 'In Conversation with Light and Darkness'

The first book of Ambika Bhardwaj 'In Conversation with Light and Darkness' is a poetic dialogue between the light and darkness present in each of us. It manoeuvres around the themes of self, strength and surrender, love and hate in the form of verses and a few short stories.

'In Conversations with Light and Darkness' by Ambika Bhardwaj is a shrine of hundred poems and ten short stories. It dives deep into childhood trauma and how it branches out into our adult selves and relationships. Born and brought up in Delhi, Ambika moved to Manali a couple of years ago to write her first book. The book is a personal journal of destroying, redefining, and integrating the new self with forgiveness. Healing is a confusing journey, more often a lonely one. This book can be your companion in attending your own funeral(s) and rebirth(s). 

Abhishansa Mathur was in a candid conversation with Ambika Bhardwaj on her journey of moving to mountains, finding herself and penning down her debut book.


1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? What inspired you to become an author?

I am Ambika Bhardwaj, twenty-six years old from Himachal. I lived in Delhi with my mother and brother— these lines trace back me to one of my initial memories of my mother's smile. English was a revered language in our Himachali—Punjabi household. Even if daughters and sons are raised in the same family, barely ever are they raised the same. English was the language of approval for me. The more I read, spoke, wrote, and sought approval in English, the more of a promising child I became in the house. As children, we have a deep desire to be seen, heard, and loved. Words looked like a magical portal to me, they still do. But not in the same way.

The whole mommy—see—me—please thing lasted only a while. It was merely the beginning of a journey about seeking approval and love that later triggered my inner revolution. I believe that the foundation to whom we become is laid way before we even understand concepts like becoming. In conversation with Light and Darkness are my notes from the underground maze of healing. This is what healing looked like and felt like on the inside for me.

2. Tell us your inspiration behind In conversation with light and darkness.

Casting a long shadow, all the way from childhood, writing continued to be a way of life for me. Words came to me as constant companions in my healing journey. Most of these words came to me in guided or free meditations.


3. What kind of literary influences did you have growing up? Your earliest memories with storytelling?

Fairytales! I've always believed in them. I talked a lot about them in the book. Children's books hold such deep meanings for me.

4. How much research, imagination, and conviction do you think is required before writing any book? Take us through your writing process?

Writing a book, especially the first one can be an overwhelming journey. It's a unique process for each one and thus cannot be generalized. For me, the book is a reflection of my inner journey and the documentation of the same. The book itself became the process of healing. Thus, it wasn't research bound but experiential. However, any kind of writing does require authenticity and discipline. How soon can we bring these energies to action is again subjective.


5. Tell us about your decision of moving to the mountains. How did it happen? How was your life before the move?

I visited Manali, in the summer of 2016, stepped out of the bus, and simply knew it— if I ever build a home it had to be this place. A few years later, I moved to Manali and created a home here. However, in my journey, moving to the mountains wasn't merely a physical move but one that also involved moving to and climbing the mountains within. When all the city hustle faded away in the sleepy Himalayan village of Manali, I started sharing my midnight scribbles with the world online. Soon strangers from all walks of life began to resonate with my captions and shared their life stories. My Instagram page, Dastaan-e-Musafir, became a movement of exploration between the inner journey of poetry and the outer journey of the mountains.

6. Ambika Bhardwaj, tell us about your content creation journey.

Living in Manali, content became a natural next step. Living and sharing the aspects of a Himalayan village has been exciting. A cobblestoned village of old houses and happy childhood, Manali has given so much life to my being. It's a place, you'd want to tell the story of.

7. How do you spend your time when not writing or busy with work?

Manali is a place where not much yet a lot happens. Experiencing sunsets, talking to plants, hugging trees, nature walks, and creating art, are all part of our alarm-free schedules.

8. Who is your favourite Indian author?

Ruskin Bond. He gave me a childhood when I had none and I'll always be grateful to him for that. I am beyond mesmerized by Elif Shafak.

9. What is it about mountains/Manali you love the most?

The slowness of life. The luxury of time. The comfort of a warm wooden home when it's snowing outside, the warmth of chai and people alike. Manali feels like home.

10. What are some of your favourite local spots to visit in the Mountains/Manali?

I've been a travel writer for quite some time now to understand those good locations and secret spots aren't to be revealed. We sadly end up losing these spots sooner than we'd like to.

11. Future plans?

I am working on my second book— Small before the Mountains I stood. It's about a girl who climbs mountains to seek answers and surprisingly finds answers to those questions through life lessons.

About the Book,  In Conversation with Light and Darkness

The book is a beautiful and relatable collection of 100 poems and ten short stories featuring themes like death, love, hope, self, strength, and surrender. All the pieces have a common message and a belief that every one of us carries both- light and darkness within. The Light represents healing and darkness talks about the 'Inner Work',  a psychological and spiritual practice of diving deep into your inner self for self-exploration.

Bhardwaj even shares one of her own childhood traumas and how they impacted her life in the book showcasing her journey of becoming a better self-person from a wounded child. Mental health is another highlighted topic and the book dives deeply into this process of accepting and forgiving past versions of ourselves. The poems are written very well and will help you take a step forward with your spiritual journey. 

If you are a person who's into poetry and short stories, and looking for something simple yet thought-provoking, give In Conversation with Light and Darkness' by Ambika Bhardwaj a read.

Also Read: Godfrey Joseph Pereira talks about his new book ‘Four and Twenty Black Birds’, growing up in Mumbai, and much more!

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