He lived my dream life!

Image“Since I have no faith in God, nor in the day of judgement, nor in reincarnation, I have to come to terms with the complete full stop.”

– Khushwant Singh (Author, journalist)

ImageIndian author and journalist Khushwant Singh breathed his last today, at 99.

He wrote several hugely successful books during his long writing career. I could easily say he was probably the most influential writer in my life. Not only was I drawn into writing a book by his perfectly scripted books, my life path itself has been much influenced by the thoughts he inadvertently popularized through his humour laden works.

I am yet to read his later works, The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous and the Sunset Club, which I will in the coming weeks.

An editor who made popular the now defunct Illustrated Weekly of India and later the Hindustan Times, his column ‘With Malice Towards One and All’ was syndicated in many dailies.

Mr Singh was a Member of Parliament from 1980 to 1986.

Some of his popular books:

train to Pakistan

Company of women

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Go going GONE

Another gang-rape in India within a year, this time in Mumbai, unceremoniously interrupting another poor girl’s life, her dreams and hopes crushed.

Eight months after the brutal Delhi gang-rape, in a similar incident, a 22-year-old photojournalist, who was on an evening assignment was gang-raped by five men, and is now in hospital with multiple injuries. The girl was gang raped while her male colleague was tied up and beaten in an isolated, overgrown corner of India’s business hub.Image

Police have released sketches of the four men. Police said the men may have been local drug dealers.Image

It has taken me a few days to react. Firstly, I thought: How could people be so careless? Among them, the editor who assigned the job, the young girl who risked her life, the colleague who accompanied her, all of them living and working in Mumbai! How could they not see danger hidden in every corner of the city, a criminal round the corner, every corner around? Perhaps when you are in the thick of something, you don’t see what’s coming!

During, my recent visit to India, when I spent about a month in Mumbai itself, I saw in person, the dangerous lives ordinary people are left with.

Without exaggeration, during my stay at least four house break-ins took place in our colony itself, with dozens of other burglaries in the area.

There was a general sense of desperation and insecurity in the working class and business class alike. You have poverty and crime on your face. The private sector employees, in particular those in the service sector, who once used to accept tips gracefully, were seen aggressively demanding, some begging. It made me shudder at the prospect of returning to this city, country, a year later. I need to rethink, if things don’t change for the better, I guess.

India might be gearing for another election and politicians busy warming up to vote banks. The life of common man is rapidly degenerating and my country heading for a definite state of anarchy.

Something has to happen urgently, a revolution of sorts, cultural, social, political, economic…

India has been abused beyond repair, but antisocial elements, selfish pockets, like the two young girls whose lives have been sacrificed by our apathy.

Excerpt… ‘The Plunge’

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(Image for illustration purpose ONLY. Courtsey: Aashiqui -2)

“Here we are, thanks to your desperation,” he said, turning towards her for a reaction. It sounded like an accusation.

“You never wanted this to happen?” she asked, her large eyes wide open, chin quivering.

“Come on, you must agree that your desperation made us think up this crazy move.”

“Maybe, but…” she fell silent, and sank into an armchair placed near the window.

“What? Don’t you know how much I am risking?”

He began to pace the room.

“It would be a scandal. I can’t be seen moving around with a mystery woman in a place like Shimla, where neither my family nor work calls me.”

He continued a monologue she did not want to hear.

“Shall we talk about something pleasant?”

He looked at her and stopped pacing. He walked to her. She was still stuck in thoughts, and the chair.

“I am sorry, dear.” He tipped her chin to face him. Her stress melted away when his warm hand caressed her face and neck.

Anjali smiled at him and briefly held his hands together before getting up to move away. She stood gazing through the window. Did he mean what he said? Or did he regret it now?

He turned on the television and sat on the bed switching channels.

After a while, she walked to the bed and stretched out, hoping the pain in her lower back would subside. It had been a long journey. She closed her eyes.

She felt his hand on her shoulder. With her eyes still shut, she turned towards him.

Story behind the story, and some more

Some empathised with her, completely understood her choices, even the emotionally-drivens. Others found her foolish pursuit of love unbelievably appalling. That’s Anjali, whose love story makes my novel, ‘The Plunge’.Image

That baffled me, for I never anticipated such conflicting views from regular book lovers and professional reviewers alike.

Anjali, the protagonist of my story, is close to my heart, a character crafted out of real women, friends I have known closely and grown up with. Anjali is not exactly what one of my critics called, ‘incredibly foolish’ or ‘immature’, not the person. She is naïve in a certain subject, namely love. But lovers behave foolishly in real life too, without them being foolish, don’t they? That’s where my critics went wrong, failed to differentiate between the individual and the behaviour. One need not be stupid to behave stupidly in certain aspects of life, like matters of heart.

Siddharth, was convincing enough for everyone; strange! Did it mean men were indeed on earth for the sole purpose of procreating, when they were not fooling around with women’s emotions, pitifully hormone-driven? I don’t accept that idea. Men and women have equal rights to self-worth. But I did not write this story to promote that thought. I wrote to clear my mind of clutter, the self-talk accumulated over years that threatened to crystallise into toxic imprints; that I would have had to carry along and suffer through rebirths. I feel free now, liberated.

I hope to see a movie-adaptation of my novel someday, preferably in the Hollywood. The screenplay, location, historical mentions and characters could be effortlessly modified to fit the frames. I would want the story to remain unaltered.

Who should play the female lead? Ann Hathaway, of course (in the Les Miserables look), with Al Pacino as her lover (I know it sounds like a crazy pairing, but am convinced they would work up a striking chemistry) would do justice to my story. ImageImage

I am sure with a talented script writer like Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and a bold woman director like Meera Nair (Kama Sutra), Anjali’s story would touch hearts, immensely.

I initially called my novel ‘The Scandal’, then changed it to ‘Sleepwalk’, then to ‘Stains of the Last Monsoon’, and kept changing many times in two years, finally settling for the simple ‘The Plunge’. Anjali’s involvement with Siddharth was a plunge into unknown depths of the ocean of life, therefore.

When my cover designer, Jennifer, came up with this face-down cover image, I liked it instantly, for it embodied Anjali in many ways. Never mind bookstores complaining that customers turned the book face-up (inadvertently inverting the title) each time they passed by the shelf that stacked ‘The Plunge’.

A journalist even published a story about my novel with the cover image flipped down. When I pointed out the error the next day, he blurted out, “Never thought a woman could be of any use when hung upside down!” I could not help laughing, ignoring the chauvinist undertone.