Long before I accidentally became a writer, when I was only a fiction-obsessed young woman in her 20s, I was infatuated by the settings in novels.
Reading was my only passion, other than day dreaming. I loved getting into the story, identifying myself with the protagonist and living that life. That made our connection “real”.
I went hungry on purpose, walked miles in the sun, sweat streaming down my neck in the hot and humid Indian summer at the risk of being thought “crazy” by friends. That was the Thomas Hardy phase, whose female leads were forever sad, lonely, lost and eternally suffered when their physical and emotional worlds clashed and collapsed at the whims of fate or men they loved.
When I was into the Franz Kafka and Gabriel Garzia Marquez phase, I had an altogether out of the world existence; making folks at home suspect I had indeed lost it.
When I was into Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I imagined myself to be suffering from revengeful natural and unnatural forces, both people and situations. I became difficult to loved ones, and my employers; lost jobs in quick succession, but found new ones as easily.
It was only natural for the writer me, while I was scripting my novel (The Plunge), to go beyond reason to get it perfect.
But some things were beyond my imagination, like when I decided to have Shimla as the setting for the latter half of my novel. I travelled to the hills several times, the mission involved four days in travel alone (to and fro) each time, dragging my family along to Shimla, for it was not safe even then (eight years ago) for a woman to make such expeditions alone in India.
My final round to Shimla was in the hope of catching the so far evasive snowfall. At that point, my son, then about 13 years old, whined, “Oh mamma, no…, not again!” He was by now bored stiff by those endless journeys to the Queen of Hills. Once I promised him this would be the last trip, he agreed reluctantly.
We reached the hills in mid-January. As the taxi driver was storing our luggage in the car trunk, I asked him what chance we had to witness a snowfall. “No chance,” he said, which hit me like an absent-minded hailstorm. Firstly, the winter was mild that year, and secondly, the weather at that moment didn’t show a hint of snowiness, he backed up his opinion with logic. I felt dejected. Did that mean this visit too was a total waste, snow-wise? I wanted my story to end in the snowfall. How do I write my concluding chapter? Real fix.
Just then, when we were about to slide into the car to reach our hotel, the clouds hurriedly rearranged on the sky. In a magical suddenness, it became overcast, the air chilly and a sharp drizzle broke onto us. This followed a short sleet and as I stood in awe, snowflakes magically floated down on us. I caught them on my open palms, grinning endlessly at my son, who stood beside me stunned. This followed a steady snowfall, as if the Almighty had torn open a bean bag, spilling the pearly pith on me. It was an awesome moment and an overwhelming experience. The next few minutes were among the best in my life. I saw God that instant and a sign to complete my story; I had the divine consent.
To all non-believers and radicals, I know for sure the Divine is a force beyond our intellect, controls our destinies, influences decisions and nudges us along life. I know this from my encounters with the Almighty, which I am at the moment compiling into a small autobiographical 100-odd-pages book, to be published by the end of 2013.
To those chronic sceptics, kindly explain the design of the leopard skin or the peacock feather, or your first crush. If you are thinking of quoting from Charles Darwin or Sigmund Freud, demystify the shifty nature of mind.
Or, simply wait for your moment of insight; if you aren’t lucky during your lifetime, you surely will be on your deathbed.