Every book is a journey by itself. There's always a story behind the story. I've always been a writer; a freelance writer, a corporate writer but fiction remained a distant dream. I knew I would write a novel one day but didn't know when. I would visit book fairs, book shops; gaze at the rows of books, look at the increasing size of the space occupied by Indian authors and muse when will my book grace the shelves? Will I ever do it? Will I ever write a book?
As a freelance writer and a corporate writer I'd trained myself to be an ideas factory. I was churning out article ideas for newsletters, house journals and features supplements by the dozen but when it came to fiction I drew a blank. Thinking a formal course would help me train my mind to kick start fiction I enrolled for short story writing course with London School of Journalism. A brilliant course for those who'd like to learn the art & craft of writing, I strongly recommend it for aspiring authors. Over enthusiastic me, finished the 13 month course in 8 months. By the end of it I wrote few short stories and 2 novellas. And then drew a blank. This was sometime in 2007.
I really believe that things are destined to happen at the time they are meant to be. We just need to work hard and be prepared for it. I carried on with my freelance work, secretly nursing my dream and often getting angry and frustrated with myself for being unable to make my dream come true. I hated myself and often questioned my self-worth. Often I told myself, "You are really a worthless idiot. You're going to live your life doing articles on sales conferences, brand promotional articles on soaps and deos…nothing else. Worthless you."
In the interim period I started an online writing course to help teach women the art of freelance writing. I had been helping many getting started as a freelance writer so thought why not do it professionally. That took off really well in 2012-13. Qualified educated women leave their jobs for domestic and personal reasons. They choose to be at home but the fire in them burns. I thought it would be great if I could teach some of them how to write; I could show them a new path. And I did that very successfully. But this couldn't hold my interest for long because my heart was elsewhere – in fiction. All this was just preparing me to meet my Destiny when it would come to me. And it did. Just like that.
End 2013 I moved to Gurgaon grudgingly as my husband moved to a better job. I fought bitterly and hard. I hated leaving Mumbai, my friends and the flourishing freelance work that I had set up. But living apart was never an option so I moved. A chance meeting with a wonderful dynamic woman, who is now a close friend – Kiran Chaturvedi – introduced me to the world of authors, publishers,, book events and writing. Together we started organizing writing workshops and just like that I began writing my first book.
In Gurgaon there was calm, away from my known and familiar friends. Sometimes you need to be uprooted and planted in a different place to grow and flourish. And sometimes you need to be immersed in a different world to find yourself. In Gurgaon I found myself surrounded by authors, bloggers and publishers. It was as though Destiny had set the stage for me and all I had to do was step in and start writing.
HOW DID I GET THE STORY?
It was end Jan 2014, my husband and I had gone for a music show in Hauz Khaus village. The performance hadn't begun. My husband was busy talking shop with someone he'd met and I was getting bored. I didn't know anyone there, so I did what I always do when in a crowd. I started observing others, eavesdropping on conversation. A man just passed by and I caught a whiff of the perfume he'd used. A bit spicy, hint of mint; it was wonderful. This is where you should know that I'm extremely sensitive to smell. I associate people and memories with smell. A strong odour can trigger my migraine and a good one can send me into a tizzy. I don't remember anything about the man; how he looked. I don't know him, who he is, what is his name. I followed him around for a bit, breathing in the whiff of the perfume he'd used.
When we returned home, sleep eluded me. A very cold winter night it was. I stood next to the large French window that looked out to the sprawling golf course and the Aravalli ahead. It was pitch black outside. Far away I could see a small fire and few shapes huddled around it. This is the beginning of A Forgotten Affair. Sagarika standing next to a large French window staring into darkness. A small fire flickering far away in the darkness. I wrote the prologue much later.
I sat down to write the story of a woman who'd lost her memory. She remembered nothing and the whiff of a perfume sends jolts through her mind. She begins to get memory flashes. She can't understand why the scent means so much to her. The story just kept flowing.
Every character in A Forgotten Affair are people I know. Rishab is every successful arrogant man who thinks that the sun rises and sets at his bidding. I've had the ringside view of a relative in the family who behaves like him. Some friends are married to versions of Rishab. Of course I've added liberal doses of imagination to the character to make him more despicable. Amrita/Roohi is a mixture of two women I knew. And the bit about her finding through past life regression that she can't have babies because of abortions she carried out in her previous life is a true account. A woman I knew in Mumbai told me the same. The friendship between Sagarika and Roohi is my tribute to my girlfriends and the bond we share. .
Sagarika, the protagonist is part me and part every woman. Her journey to find her memories is a representation of the journey of every woman to find her self, her identity and to come to terms with it. There's a lot of me in A Forgotten Affair; my thoughts, feelings and opinions. It's often said that first book is autobiographical; AFA isnt an autobiography but certainly inspired by people I know and love. It was important I write this story and get it out of my head & heart. Writing this book was a very personal journey, the first book always is and I believe it's important to traverse the journey and be done with. I didn't plan, structure or plot while writing this book. I just kept writing; my feelings and thoughts pouring out. Writing Novel 2 was a very different experience but that's for another post.
If you haven't read my debut book - A Forgotten Affair, do buy & read it. Please click on the link :