The Calling at Calangute
In the pleasantly warm month of August 2014, my family and I went on our annual food, fun and frolic pilgrimage to the wonderful carnival and cashew feni state of Goa. Over the years, this has become almost a ritual for us, a way to unwind from the hectic mores of the routine Mumbai life.
Now my family consists of me, of course, my wife Anita, and our two lovely angels, Gilmore and Felicia. The kids are quite a handful, but they keep our spirits high. Most of our trips are centered on them, as they should be; there’s precious little that we do for ourselves.
Every year, our trips to Goa turn out to be the annual highlights. We begin looking forward to them from March itself, and the year of 2014 was no different. However, that was only as far as anticipation goes. For, when the trip actually began, we suffered, right from the outset, from a severe case of Murphy’s Law. For the uninitiated, this Law states: If anything has to go wrong, it will.
So, in Goa, this year, everything began going wrong. We decided to go by train this year, which turned out to be a bad idea. Blighted by gregarious co-passengers and facing inordinate delays, we somehow reached Goa. We alighted during a sudden torrential downpour, in which we traveled to our destination — Colva. This was a long and onerous journey because of the rain and a major road accident ahead of us. The next day, we had to go to Calangute, our final destination, and that journey turned out to be misery personified as well. In any case, when we reached Calangute, we were told — horror of horrors — that there was an issue with our booking. Despite having a two-month advance booking, due to an oversight (mea culpa), we had to give up the reservation and then footed it along the beach to another hotel I knew had rooms available.
Finally, we downgraded ourselves, and found ourselves in a passable accommodation, where we would pass our next three days in bliss.
But, alas! Bliss it was not meant to be! For, the very moment that we dumped our bags at our hotel, Anita caught the chills. She ran a temperature, which was brought down by the antipyretics we carried with us, but she was too emaciated to travel anymore. She could only join in the fun from the hotel room.
So, this was the trip in summation. But, what has all of this got to do with Maya’s New Husband?
I’m coming to that.
The one most wonderful thing about our impromptu accommodation was that it gave us a magnificent view of the salty Goan sea. We were right on the beach, and the balcony opened out to the sounds of the lashing waves at every hour of the day.
On the second night there, after the kids had slept, Anita and I sat on this very balcony, close to each other, snuggled in one warm blanket, and looked at the stars. We spoke of general things, mostly about our lives back home, because that ghost never seems to leave us. But, somewhere midway through this conversation, I was reminded of Longfellow’s brilliant phrase: Footprints on the sands of time.
This created a passion in me like no other. I began thinking aloud, with my patiently-listening wife for company. What would happen of me when my journey here is done? Would I be obliterated just like that? Would I be one of those nameless, fameless grains of sand? Or, would I leave a few of my footprints on the sands of time?
What legacy would I leave behind?
I thought aloud, and she listened. And then I told her that I have to follow my dreams. Because, well, ars longa, vita brevis. I decided, then and there, that from that moment on, I will give wings to my fancies. I will leave my footprints in the form of my stories.
I brought my laptop out that night when everyone had slept, and sat through the dead of the night, in that quaint hotel on Calangute Beach, Goa, chipping away at the machine. It was around 3 in the morning that the initial words of Maya’s New Husband began to take shape.
The story of Maya’s New Husband chose me. I did not choose it.
Horror had always fascinated me, but, for me, horror isn’t just about spirits and ghosts and vampires. It is much more. Real horror is that which you can feel. Real horror needs to have its element grounded in reality. Horror stories that play out in our real world are the ones that are the scariest.
Here, again, my marriage with Anita became an inspiration for the story. Ours was a so-called ‘arranged’ marriage. We knew each other just for a little less than a year before we got married. This is too short a time to understand each other, their likes and dislikes, their pet peeves and fond fancies, or anything for that matter. Despite that, we took the plunge.
From that first day of marriage itself, I had an awareness of how much harder the marriage must have been on her than on me. She was the one who had left everything behind and made a home with me. I was still in the same house I lived in. Her stakes were undoubtedly higher.
Millions of women marry in this manner in India each year. Knowing practically nothing about their husbands, they aspire to make their homes with them. And, a lot of times, they face unspeakable horrors at the homes of these unknown husbands.
What if, a woman married someone who held the most terrifying secret within him? Won’t each moment with such a man be present a new horror for the poor woman?
This was the basic grain of the horror element of Maya’s New Husband. The horror is not because of the themes; it is because of this desolation that Maya surrounds herself with in her new house.
My inspiration took form from my personal observations, and Maya took shape.
I could not have written the story if I hadn’t been introduced to National Novel Writing Month in 2014. Towards this end, many things had been instrumental. My brother, Roy, helped me in creating an author website. As the website was created, I saw how my short stories got a concrete platform. My interest was piqued, and I started sharing my stories with people, and got a heartening response.
This was what made me confident of writing a full-fledged novel. It was time to give Maya’s New Husband a shape too. During the NaNoWriMo month, I started writing right from November 1, 2014. I wrote all through this month, religiously clocking in several hours every day. Finally, the manuscript was finished on November 21, 2014.
I won the certificate as a NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner. I proudly shared it with everyone I knew.
When we were a week into December, I sat with the editing of the novel. Anita sat next to me all through those hours, and as she read it, I saw the expressions on her face and realized this was something that could hold people’s interest. I shared the story with a few other people and found similar reactions. I knew I had something monumental in my hands; now all I had to do was to edit it thoroughly and share it with the world.
Maya’s New Husband underwent three complete revisions. I added scenes, deleted fluff and when the third version was done, I got the feeling that this was ready to go.
Around this time, I did some research on self-publishing. This is really an amazing thing! Writers no longer have to grovel at the feet of traditional publishers; they can hold out on their own. The Internet is a wonderful place.
On January 1, 2015, I put forth the eBook to the world. It earned strong reviews right from day 1. Maya’s New Husband had taken off.
On January 18, 2015, I was ready with the print version. This was launched at a happening online event, where some of the best self-published Indian authors attended. The event was buzzing through the night, and the book arrived in its print form.
Today, as I see the print version of Maya’s New Husband, I get a feeling that cannot be described in words. Yet, I am only humbly reminded of the beautiful words of another masterful poet, Robert Frost:
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.