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Versova diaries

By October 20, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu

Where happenings in the area inspire the writer to pen a novel


Once, I fell in love with a road. May it not happen again. On JP Road, in Versova, in Mumbai, I rented an apartment — not the first apartment I ever lived in by myself, because there was one before — but this was the first truly nice one. It was cosy (really cosy, not just tiny) with abona fide sea view, and Versova’s enchanting streetscape at my doorstep. I had, in that dreamy period, not only time but even some money to spare. Any evening, I might walk past, or wander through, the restaurants and cafés where the impassioned men and hard-nosed young women of the ‘indie’ film industry were working out their next projects, or stroll down Versova beach, with its brooding figures perched on the rocks, its couples and its cricketers. So much seemed accessible from that road. The sandy expanse of Aram Nagar, for instance, where some celebrated movie directors had their offices, and where there were always auditions underway; beautiful people walking in and out all day. I could be a screen-writer, and plunge into meetings at Aram Nagar, and the cafés, and then take myself to a pub in the evening, whether the cheap and grungy variety, or the posh and upbeat — JP Road gave me choices — and then return, lurching and swaying, all happiness, to my own apartment, my own bed, till the sunshine woke me to another day on my beloved street.

Or, if the tediousness of film meetings stood in the way of my screen-writing career, I was welcome to continue playing the novelist-at-large. Friendly and non-judgemental, JP Road promised to keep a place for me at the banquet. So I began to think up a novel, set in that very spot of Versova, but charged by currents that were moving, I sensed, over the whole country. And then a strange thing happened; so strange, that I only really see it in hindsight.

I began to grow aware that my characters — the people I was interested in — were not actually a seamless part of this setting. In fact, they were in a continuous, terrible struggle with it, whether they knew it or not. From the deadening demands of Bollywood, which they fought in meetings and auditions, and the inscrutable dating culture, which weighed them down in the cafés, to the pubs, which sought to sedate them, and the rents of the city, which ruthlessly piled up on them; as far as the eye could see, were entrapping and abusive relationships. Now, also, a new spectre had appeared on the horizon: political turmoil was coming, towards these cornered people.

Therefore, I had to choose my loyalties — first of all, for my own sake, because this would determine what kind of book I would write, and what kind of person I was going to become. It was either the cafés, or the people who sat in them; either the beach, or the beach-goers; either JP Road — which I had been so taken with — or its inhabitants. Ironically, in making my choice, I seemed to lose both. As I disentangled myself (slowly but surely) from the place, I offended the people who still loved it helplessly.

Offences, however, do pass, and moreover, I owe to my road this insight: that it too will pass away, along with its charms. But many who lived there will blossom ever after.

Aditya Sudarshan’s new novel isThe Outraged: Times of Ferment

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