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Archive for May 2nd, 2008

I travel by train. Whenever I can. Whenever I announce this to my friends they all look at me strangely and I can almost read their thoughts – “Maybe she is harder up than we thought.” No amount of declarations that I actually like doing so will convince them otherwise. They cannot imagine anyone who can afford not to travel by train, actually doing so.

But a train is such a wonderful place to observe different people and hear strange stories. From what I overhear (eavesdrop actually) reality is indeed stranger than fiction. It is such a rich source of material for writing that I wonder more writers don’t do so. Yes, even the saas bahu writers. The real life shenanigans would put Komolika to shame.

I pick out a woman (I travel in ladies’. I’m not that crazy) and based on her appearance, get a fix on her background and personality. Based on her conversations with her friends in the compartment/phone I try and figure out whether my evaluation was correct. Most of the times it’s not. Appearances are indeed deceptive.

The most gharelu looking woman turns out to be coquette, phone-flirting with multiple men with yet a third one waiting for her on the platform. I strain to listen to her conversations on the phone. It’s hilarious the way, alerted by my presence, she will first frown at me. But seeing as how I’m undeterred, she will surreptitiously turn her back to me and try and whisper into the phone. Occasionally women get spooked by my staring and clutch their gold chains tighter.

I’ve met cancer survivors, people who are on their way to a wedding or returning from a cremation, hopeless strugglers on their way to yet another fruitless meeting with a prospective employer, girls going to/returning from college, lovers on their way to a date.

My single biggest complaint is the shutting down of dance bars. Otherwise whenever I took the last train for Virar, these girls would get on at Grant Road. Now their stories were interesting indeed, more my kind of stuff. Based on their conversations I’ve got ideas for characters that I’ve used in my book Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions and countless other stories.

I’m my friends’ best friend because I’m such a good listener. I’m the only one who’s willing to listen to the most mundane of their stories. Where most people would hand them a mobile phone and says, “here use my phone, call someone who cares,” I prod them. I ask them the strangest, weirdest, most bizarre things they’ve ever seen or had happen to them.

I talk to my bai and listen to her woes about their shakha pramukh or her sister’s aphasia post trauma. She witnessed her husband being murdered and was so shocked that she lost her speech. So she couldn’t even talk, let alone, provide the police with a description of the culprit. I talk to my eye doctor (have you noticed that most eye doctors wear glasses?) and learn that he an interesting OCD (no, I’m not telling ‘cos I’m using it in my next book). I talk to my watchman, courier boys , wrong numbers and even tele-marketers. I especially love freaking out the latter by wanting to know about their job, their salaries, their aspirations etc. Usually I’m rewarded by a click at the other end.

Bottom line is, if you’re/planning to be a writer, get in the habit of observing things and talking to random strangers. Your imagination can only take you so far. For more you have to depend upon others.

 

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