I recently finished reading What did Tashi Do? by Anangsha Alammyan, a thriller about what can happen when your personal information falls into the wrong hands and the dark side of social media. I’ll be posting my review of What did Tashi Do? on Friday, but first I had the pleasure of interviewing Anangsha and I can’t wait to share what she had to say with you.
The great thing about being an author is that it’s a profession you can start at any point in your life. I know a lot of people start writing fairly early in life which begs the questions, when did you first start writing? Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Ever since I knew what dreams were, I’d wanted to be an author. In fact, the first poem of mine that was published in a local newspaper was written when I was four years old. It was a six-line poem about my mother.
The first story I remember writing was a short romance tale I wrote for an English assignment at school. It was about love blossoming between two teenagers. The short piece was heavy with Harry Potter references and left the reader with a sweet aftertaste.
I love that you starting writing so young and that the first piece you published is about your mom. As a mom, I know that’s something she’ll cherish forever. What else are you working on right now?
I am working on a college romance novel. Although a love story is at its crux, the book will deal with several other sub-plots like LGBTQ issues, gender and caste discrimination, body shaming, bullying, and mental health. The book will have strong female characters who aren’t good looking in the traditionally accepted way, but have their own flavor of raw beauty.
That’s such a great message and one we all need to hear from time to time. Now this next question is a little bit of a cheat since I’ve already read a little bit of your personal story in the afterword for What did Tashi Do? but can you tell us howhas your personal experience on social media influenced this story?
My Facebook account got hacked in mid-2016.
I had no way of getting my account back; the hacker had covered every loophole, including –
- changing my login email ID,
- replacing my phone number with a different one (which kept on ringing, but nobody ever picked up when I called),
- changing my display name to ‘Nangcy Alam’ (so I cannot show Facebook a government-issued ID proof and gain access back to my account),
- replacing my ‘trusted friends’ with some fake accounts, etc.
It was akin to theft of my intellectual property and I was desperate to get my account back. So, I logged into the account of a friend and when the person who was using my account was online, I sent him a message saying it was me. I asked him why he had done something like this.
He told me hacking into my account was the only way he could get my attention.
Even now, three years later, this message chills me to the bone.
The hacker could view anything I had ever shared on Facebook – including every personal message I had sent (which included several images I had shared with my boyfriend).
I was in the IIT Guwahati campus. I had logged into my Facebook from what I presume was a compromised system in the computational lab.
This person could have been just about anyone – from my lab-mates who I interact with on a daily basis or someone from another department who had seen me sometime back and kept track of my whereabouts (how else would he know I had logged in from a compromised system?).
It took a lot of struggle and pulling some strings to finally gain back access to my account. But the hacker was never found.
It makes my heart sink to know that there is someone out there in the world who has looked through my personal photographs without my consent.
I’ll be honest. There are times I still worry about what might have happened had he made those details public.
This incident had taught me an important lesson:
Cyber-crimes against women are a severe threat to her mental and emotional well-being.
It affected me so much that Tashi’s story was born out of it. She is the protagonist of my first novella What did Tashi do?
That is super scary and I’m so sorry you had to go through all that. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have that hanging over you. You did an amazing job getting that feeling of fear and dread across in this story. In fact, there are so many hard, emotional moments in this story, but I want to know what was the hardest part for you to write?
There is a scene in the book where the lead character, Tashi Chotten, has been pushed too hard by her tormentor. She sees no way out of her predicament and feels as if giving up is the only solution. One evening, when she is alone at home, she walks to the balcony of her tenth story apartment, looks down at the hard concrete below, and wonders how easy it would be if she could just jump and end it all. This scene was difficult to write. I had to capture the character’s state of mind, without making the scene sound like a cliché.
You did a great job capturing Tashi’s fear and desperation throughout the story, especially when it comes to how the events could ruin her reputation. Though I hope it never happens, what advice would you give someone who finds themselves in a similar situation to Tashi?
My first advice is to be extremely careful of what information you share on social media. Every time you post a live video, or check in to some restaurant, remember that you are leaving a virtual map of all your activities, and practically any person with an internet connection can get to you.
Apart from that, if you ever find yourself in a dire situation like Tashi, going to the Police is the safest bet. Though they cannot always catch the criminal, at least they can take steps to shield you from further harm and actively undo any malicious actions the blackmailer might have already taken. Also, it is best to confide in your near and dear ones to blanket them from the shock and trauma.
That is such great advice. I think we all need to be more careful about how we use social media. Now this last question is one I always like to end my interviews with. If readers could only take one thing away from this story, what would you want it to be?
I hope with all my heart that whoever has read this book would think twice before posting any information on social media. I want them to remember that all the things they post online – even Instagram stories that disappear in 24 hours – remain on the internet forever. So, they should ONLY share stuff that they are sure would not come back to haunt them even in the worst case scenario.
Also, I want people to never share any compromising pictures of themselves with a lover. With the kind of technology that exists today, even objects that self-destruct can be stored.
Thank you so much for doing this interview Anangasha and sharing your own personal story of social media gone bad with us. If you want to connect with Anangasha you can find her at the links below and don’t forget to come back Friday to check out my review of What did Tashi Do?