The thing about being an author is everyone’s got an opinion on what your ‘next book’ should be.
The premise holds especially true when you’re a ‘first time author’ – a physiological condition, which in some elite literary circles is loftily addressed to as being a ‘debutant.’
And so after a few months of saying ‘I Do’ to my first novel – Faraway Music (it is a romance after all, so what if after the first chapters, it gets ‘complicated,’ most good love stories do. Or so I’d like to believe!), I wandered about in search of the one thought that haunts most creative souls – ‘So, what now? What next? What follows?’
The last thing on my mind was a fun lad lit. Heck I had no clue a man’s story is even called lad lit. But perhaps the term originated in the same posh parlours that came up with the term ‘debutant’! To be honest, I was tired, like really deadbeat after Faraway Music – the whole, gut wrenching, rollercoaster ride into the great unknown, that the swish set often hide, especially while eulogising the ‘debutant’ drama.
I drew a blank. On one hand, I was grappling with the idea of an epic, historical fiction that would involve nights on end of research, creating a panoramic period landscapes and, yes, lots of emotional drama. On the other hand, I was loitering the streets of Kolkata, with the svelte swagger of a ‘debutant’, stuffing my face with food, writing poetry clad in a strappy, cotton nightie (a regional variant of a really, sexy night wear option, shapeless really, always low cut and held together by merely two, flimsy straps… c’mon we get really hot back home!) and watching mostly inane commercial flicks like Fhade Pore Boga Khade Re, with a bunch of rowdy, old pals from school and college!
We have history, folks!
Besides, we all wore cotton nighties at some point… Now that should qualify as factor for deep seated emotional bonding. One afternoon, after one such retrograde cinematic experience, a bunch of us sat in a really odd smelling Chinese (that’s how it is down in downtown Kolkata) joint, smoking cheap cigarettes (the usage of the word cheap has got nothing to do with the setting of the scene – just a disclaimer) and dissecting the finer nuances of the movie we’d just watched, seated on faded rexine seats (refer disclaimer again).
Since there wasn’t much to shred anyways, we soon reached the pivotal question that seemed to be on all our lips (no, this read ain’t getting raunchy… too early guys!).
Which was – why is it that in most so-called, romantic flicks, it’s always the Girl who falls in love with the Wrong Guy first, then is destined to meet the Right Guy, then he messes up (bloody jerks – the Right Guys!), then she gets confused (bloody confused – all women), then parents create a panga (bloody mom and dad – why must they always be around?) and she says Yes to Wrong Guy (bloody, bloody, bloody –now that’s a lotta blood!).
Finally, just when she’s about to say ‘I Do’ at the altar, something, anything – birds chirping in background tune same to the love song Right Guy crooned to Girl back in the days when it wasn’t complicated; Right Guy’s best friend’s secret letter (timing Best Friend, timing!); or even a torn photograph (Right Guy’s face ripped out… no, not the Right Girl’s… this is complicated, remember?) – All it needs is that one vital sign for the Girl to run!
And boy does she run!
Of course, you know what’s going to happen next… so let’s not go there.
Neither did we in fact.
Instead, with chilli sauce dribbling down our reddened lips (oh c’mon, told you it’s not going to go there!), we debated on another kind of story… the one where Right Guy gets to play this part. He falls in love, then can’t decide, then gets cold feet, then meets another gal (better-looking of course, but you knew that was coming. Right?), has sex (Eureka!), then wakes up feeling guilty (you’ll never know if it was good/bad… well… not so fast at least!), misses Girl One (Could she be the Right Girl? Gotcha!) and then goes on a mad goose chase to find her. And finally like her, he runs. Runs really fast.
So does he find her?
And is she his Right Girl?
‘Ummmmmmmm, ummmmmmmm, ummmmmmmm,’ cried a pair of saucy lips.
‘Ummmmmmmmmm, it’s gooooooooooooood… Can you do that all over again?’ another moaned sleazily (refer to disclaimer; please, this is getting embarrassing, people!)
‘Yes, yes, yes! I’m almost there,’ whispered a college pal (read male).
Well, to cut the long story short. No, not because I’m a tease, but because there was a bill to pay at Chinese joint, here’s what I decided.
My next book was going to be a man’s story, a man in search of love, a man who loves having sex, a man whose got everything going, a cool man – a man of the moment… and yet a man who’s lonely, lost, alone… just like any of us.
Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.
And before you think the writing of it was a breeze as compared to my ambitious historical, ummm… what was that? It wasn’t.
On the flight back, I read Shakuntalam by Kalidasa, one of my favorite guy stories. I mean guy, love stories.
Try seeing the classic love saga, once, through the Guy Dushyant’s eyes – the mighty Emperor of Hastinapura, clean bowled after laying eyes on the nubile, half clad, voluptuous Shakuntala in the wild (maybe the dhoti-sari-choli thing was the precursor of the Bengali nightie… but I leave that for some other time).
Dushyant then chased Shakuntala around luxuriant jungles and idyllic village streams… before enjoying a ceremonial bathing ritual with her (you know where this is headed right, so don’t say I didn’t warn you) and obviously ending up ring swapping.
Yea, yea, yea, they hot hooked.
But was Dushyant booked?
Why then did he forsake his one, true love, even forgetting her name as she pleaded for his affection at his pompous court, with his love child in her stomach (birth control wasn’t invented, dummy).
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to hear Dushyant’s version – that first kiss, that first bath, that last look over his shoulder as his carriage pushed away, that tearful reunion at the palace, those nights of longing, the time apart, the impending repentance of a lot of ‘f****** up decisions’ in the love department to the final chase.
When he runs… (Okay, so you’re back to Hrithik, let’s just leave it at that).
And did Dushyant give me all the answers? Well, honestly I’d spill the beans, but now that I’m not a gushing ‘debutant’ anymore and my second book You’ve Got the Wrong Girl is a ‘lad lit’ (said with a slight smirk!) – I just have to leave you to do the math.
However, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about ‘doing’ a guy (go on… gloat, you earned it), it’s that we don’t talk shop. At least not here, not on Millennium Post. It’s just a guy thing I suppose.
Kundu is the author of Faraway Music and You’ve Got The Wrong Girl.