I shouldn’t be doing this. Analyzing my own story for my readers. But the habit of analyzing things seems to be in my veins and I can’t help it. So, here you go. If you are the kind who would think that the fun of story reading goes away with this, you can easily skip this post. And even if you are reading this one, it better if you read the story first.
Unlike writing poetry, or writing random thoughts, or writing about real events in life, writing fiction does not come to me naturally. It is very difficult for me to conjure up realistic characters, places and events without them being real! And while I can analyze the people around me to death, writing their dialogues as they would say it becomes difficult to me. I can more easily write down their mental processes. Given all of this, it is no surprise that I had not been able to write a single fictional piece till date. At least none that I remember.
But for quite some time now, I had been feeling restless. I felt the need to write prose, fictional prose. Abhaya’s advice of writing something short, a story, instead of attempting a novel or complete book, was useful. And finally I was able to begin something only after I thought of a setting far removed from my current ones. The time of Nawabs and chaste Urdu and high class tawayafs. Rings a bell? Right. It is inspired by Umaro Jaan. Not either of the movies, but the original novel. And I must emphasize that inspiration here is not a euphemism for copying. No, its a different story. The characters of my story are living in the same setting. The setting that has been only peripherally described in that novel. Probably because it was a contemporarily written book, but settings which struck as non-stereotypical to my 21st century mind. The prostitutes who were well educated and trained, who were intellectually far superior than the women (and many men!) of class.
Then, my lead characters are a bit of aquarians. They live and think in future. They are able to see the anomalies of the society of their time. They are intellectually superior than many around them. But they are not rebellions. They do not have the motivation or capability to carry out a revolution and change the society. They accept their fate in the society, making minor adjustments so that they can survive in it. But that’s pretty much it.
Writing in the setting of that era, and giving language to these characters was difficult for me. Urdu does not come to me naturally. Listening to Ghazals and writing down meanings of difficult words is one thing. Being able to naturally write in a language is another. So, I had to work on the language and words again and again. Obviously, its still not quite there. But at least they are not speaking Sanskritized Hindi. It is, let’s say, Urduish – though not Urdu 🙂 Sometimes, I was scared of going too far in my quest for right Urdu words and expressions, lest it should make the text indecipherable for the present day audience. I have learned the word मौसिक़ी, thanks to he movie Khuda Ke Liye. But I have kept the word संगीत in the story because I wasn’t sure if मौसिक़ी would be a well understood word. Though संगीत does look out of place.
Given all these difficulties the thought of setting it up in a contemporary era did come. But it wasn’t giving quite the same effect. The sophisticated, well educated prostitute – it was difficult to find an equivalent in 21st century for that (“Laga Chunari mein Daag” does seem to portray Rani Mukherjee as something like that, but hers is not believable character). Or for that matter the inability of the Nawab to give his daughter a different fate. It would not have been believable to my audience in 21st century. So, given that the setting of that bygone era provided a better platform to put forward what I was trying to say, I stuck to that. Language has been difficult and it is still far from perfect. But let me see if something gets conveyed.
Yeah – I haven’t analyzed the main premise of the story here. Thank God for that 🙂 Hope you figure that out for yourself and enjoy the story.