Image courtesy: Nidhie Sharma
“Never give up, whatever the odds!” is the thought scriptwriter, adventure sportswoman, filmmaker, screenwriter and author Nidhie Sharma wants to leave us with. Her latest book, her second, Invictus: The Jungle that Made Me, is one that embodies exactly that spirit. It chronicles her real-life journey of being lost in the dense jungles of Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, 10,000 feet above sea level at the Indo-China border as a child. It is a thrilling memoir of leadership, grit, survival, the trials that shape life choices, one of survival against all odds. It is a tale of six army children – the oldest, 13, the youngest, six – who have been missing since daybreak in the jungles of Tawang. They face their hardest test yet to find a way out before sundown, braving inclement weather, streams flowing downwards and hiding from predators.
“Of all my father’s postings, I remember Tawang most vividly with its stunningly beautiful terrain and surreal weather conditions. This tiny military base was our home every summer,” the author tells us. Tawang might has well have been called the land of fairies and elves where mystical beings and soldiers peacefully co-existed, and she believes she was fortunate to have spent three amazing summers there not so long ago. “I also think it’s impossible to forget a day from your life when you made choices that nearly killed you and those you felt responsible for,” she smiles.
Image courtesy: Pan Macmillan India
Ranked #1 on Amazon’s ‘Outdoor Survival Skills’ category (aka Bear Grylls category), Invictus has a lot to offer to women, especially to those young women who often grow up in environments where they are led to believe that their potential is limited. Revisiting such a memory from childhood can have different meanings for different people. Sharma dealt with it in her own way. “When you live through a day that exposes you to the extreme ferocity of the elements and it is a day that you brought upon yourself and five others, it automatically becomes a very significant part of your life experience, and revisiting it comes with many advantages,” she says.
She believes that when you’ve had a man versus wild experience and have come very close to dying, you get hardwired to look at life from thirty thousand feet. In Invictus, Sharma admits she has been able to explore and examine the experience dispassionately and recognise the powerful impact it has had on her life and subsequent life choices. “In hindsight, I am amazed at what I’ve discovered about myself and all of those learnings, self-reflections, introspections and invaluable lessons that the Jungle taught me have been shared in the book” the writer of International Emmy Award-nominated cricket thriller web series Inside Edge states.
For Sharma, it was the pandemic that brought the thought of getting her experience out as a narrative to the readers. She things there is a time and place to share a deeply personal story and perhaps during this pandemic, accounts of hope, resilience and survival needed to be heard. “Invictus was written to not just share an incredible adventure from my life in one of the most inhospitable terrains near the Indo-China borders, but also to spotlight how powerful our choices can be and how important it is to never give up, whatever the odds,” she reveals.
Image courtesy: Nidhie Sharma
Revisiting life-threatening moments in the wilderness did bring back a flood of hair-raising memories for Sharma while penning the account. It also came with a lot of gratitude that she and the others had all survived that day. “It was a relentlessly challenging and nerve-wrecking day where everything that could possibly go wrong in the wilderness did, and every choice snowballed and became the kind of challenge that six children; me being the oldest, were ill-equipped to handle,” Sharma says. Dipping into the memory, she was able to create a thrilling experience for the reader through her writing. She is happy that readers have reported being teleported into the jungles of Tawang with her, as her endeavour was to share the minutest of detail without holding back.
It is the real-life account, that sets apart Invictus from Sharma’s first book, Dancing With Demons that was a fictional story of redemption set in the world of boxing, the first in India in this genre. Having learnt martial arts among other sports as a young adult, she is passionate about sports and action storytelling and uses both literature and cinema to tell her stories. When in dire need, she draws inspiration from her mother’s paintings, her father’s soldering and her love for nature. “Inspiration is all around us and often comes from the people we look up to or the events unfolding around us,” she states. She enjoys trekking and being in the lap of nature, where also she looks for inspiration.
This fierce advocate of gender equality, wildlife conservation, climate change and sports education, especially combat sports training for women has directed documentaries and co-directed the second season of the Anil Kapoor action-thriller 24. The adventure and journey she chronicles in Invictus is a must-read for all!
Fast Five With Author Nidhie Sharma
Your Favourite Book
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I couldn’t sleep for many nights after reading this dark and unputdownable historical fiction.
Your Favourite Author
Marlon James for being poetic, fierce and visceral in his writings.
A Book You Turn To When You Are Low
An Anthology of Poetry gifted to me which includes poems by Robert Frost, Williams Wordsworth, John Keats and TS Elliot.
A Book You Are Currently Reading
The Blind Matriarch by Namita Gokhale
A Genre You Would Like To Explore As A Writer
Dystopian science fiction
Invictus: The Jungle That Made Me
Pan Macmillan India
Also Read: Author Rohit Trilokekar’s Latest Book Is A Fable For The Ages, Of The Ages