So one fine Sunday, I was able to sort out the jalebis of my life and parcelled my novel to a few publication houses. I was Gung-ho initially but started getting cold feet the moment I inserted fresh crisp A4 sheets in the printer. I turned into Gollum and my twin personalities started fighting.
“It’s not good enough! Give it another reading!”
“Go on. Don’t listen to him. Don’t stop now.”
The good Gollum won and the button was finally hit, printouts taken and manuscripts couriered and e-mailed. It’s all done and the trepidation is nowhere near abatement. I will give it another 5-6 months and if I do not hear anything, I will drink my tears and move to the next lot of publishers.
Now as you all are the elite readers of this blog, it is my responsibility and privilege to give you a sneak peek into the creation of this story and how I went about it. This is how it happened –
- The story is not entirely fiction. It is derived from reality but is tossed with fictional occurrences. Only the people who were involved can distinguish where one ends and the other begins. Two of them are dead.
- The story is non-linear. It begins in 2002, then moves to 2064, then to 1930, 1984, 2003, 1952, 1965 and so on. The whole span of the tale is from 1930 to 2064. Baring the main thread, the story is derived from true events till the year 2002. It takes an entirely fictional turn after that. The story is set in Dalhousie and Delhi.
- Since the story is non-linear, I was bound to make mistakes in the narrative if I was not cautious from the beginning. So, I maintained an excel sheet where I divided the whole timeline in decades (columns) and put major events for each of the characters (rows) in the respective columns with the exact year. This worked as a very helpful reference point for me. Even after all this, I tore off half of my mane writing the synopsis.
- I gave up blogging to get myself disciplined and took almost a two-year break. It took me around 4-5 months for research before I began writing the book. A major chunk of the story happens in an era I have not seen. I relied on the stories told by my grandparents (which used to be very elaborate) and a lot of material I found online about how people lived in pre-independence India. I cherish those days of research because I found things I had no idea existed; I lived memories which were not mine.
- Writing about the 50s, 60s and the 70s was a daunting task. I turned to my parents to fill me in. I had elaborate discussions with them about how people lived during those times, what they ate, what kind of movies they watched etc. I also read as much online material as I could find. Internet was a great help. I made elaborate notes.
- The most painful experience was writing about the partition. I left it for the end. I finished writing the whole book and then went back to it. I saw a few documentaries and was left disturbed for days. What we learn in our school books can never prepare us for what happened that year. I felt completely helpless when I saw an old man crying remembering how his father beheaded his sister to save her. He said he could not forget the sound of the sword striking the flesh.
- Finally after writing the first draft, I sent it to a few friends for review. Geet read it and liked the story. Poonam Sharma and Sonia Sundaram gave very positive feedback. After that I kept polishing the story for almost 8-9 months till I was completely satisfied with it.
So, that is how, ladies and gentlemen False Ceilings came into existence. I have sent it to a few publishers and the wait time is anywhere between 5-6 months. I will update you as soon as I hear something. And, so I leave you with a could-be-blurb of the story.
It was an enormous owl sitting on Shakuntala’s bedding that brought the bad news and changed her life. Years later, when the nerve ruptured in her brain, it was too late to share her secret. Her open eyes oscillated for seven days.
It wasn’t humans but dancing peacocks and steam engines guarding the horizon that elicited an emotion from Aaryan. He turned into a misanthrope when he was five.
Manohar was almost there when he gave up and crumpled like a detonated building. When he died, his grandson saw him flying because his legs were so thin.
Vinod liked female wrestling and lions hunting deer on Discovery. He had hunted for quails in the jungles of East Delhi and jumped into trams in Chandni Chowk. The adventures had to go on.
Meena sprinted like a horse and won prizes in racing competitions but no one wanted a bride who runs for a living. Marriage was fed into her as an escape to utopia that eventually choked her every dream. In the end, her coffin broke her into two.
Lipi could never make the almirah speak. The almirah had seen it all but it stood in a corner, hiding the secret in its false ceiling. And even after 127 years, the wooden radio still worked. She died listening to it.
Shakuntala, Aaryan, Manohar, Vinod, Meena and Lipi were bound by the secret for 130 years. The secret that devastated their lives as it travelled from Dalhousie to Delhi, as it travelled from 1940 to 2062.