Books affect its readers. But it also affects its writer too.
While writing The Shadow of Darkness, the journey had come together in a bunch of surprises. When i was done with my previous work - It's Never Too Late - i knew there would be a sequel to it. As the creator of Maya and Sejal, it'd be unfair of me to leave Sejal's side of story, her struggle, issues she might face and overcome, and finally the life she would make out of everything, on the side curb.
In one of my recent interviews, i was asked what's the hardest part about writing. Not surprisingly, i responded with thinking is the easiest while setting it up on the paper the way it's been rolling inside head is the hardest. When i had started writing The Shadow of Darkness, i felt my response of the interview question magnified to another level. Writing It's Never Too Late was easier than penning down The Shadow of Darkness the way i wanted this world to know Sejal and her story. To begin with, i had to come close to the much hushed topic called Childhood Trauma.
Sighing and lifting my sword up, i jumped into the battle field. It was either do or die. i really did not have any choice. So i researched. A lot on childhood trauma. i kept exploring books and internet pages. The horror of real life trauma stories had started to shake me within. Plug in your internet, bring Google to life and make it chase stories on Child Abuse (a type of childhood trauma) and you will find endless pages colored with the blood of child abuse victims. i still recall a case vividly and i remember how i had trembled just reading it. It still sends me into shock. What those people did with the barely a month old baby was cruel, inhumane, a pure torture. That baby had fought bravely. As i kept scrolling down the page, tears too continued rolling down my cheeks just by imagining the baby's plight. Finally that baby died. And so did the torture. Hospital people said he fought bravely against those bruises, lacerations, sexual abuse and torture. i still feel the hatred towards such people.
Above and many more cases of childhood trauma i have explored during my research. i now see the subject with a wider lens, where it is no more a myth. Childhood trauma (and abuse) exists! And so do the people responsible for that baby and many more kids.
Now arrived the bigger challenge - how to incorporate the symptoms of childhood trauma in a grown up Sejal? Once again, i borrowed my protagonist's shoes and tried fitting myself into it and trust me, it was no glass slipper neither did any prince asked my hand to snatch me out of the misery. With me in Sejal's shoes, i could see and feel her pain, the agony she has gone through all those years, the cutting helplessness she was feeling recalling the night of October 23rd over and over again, the nightmares, bizarre habits, trust issues...there was no big line to draw. Her trauma existed in small dots, here and there and if put together wisely, they created a map which would lead to her past, the horrible experience she had when she was barely a five year old kid.
Now when readers say i have crafted Sejal's trauma induced life brilliantly, i gleam. With me, Sejal does too. After all, it's good when others know about your pain and appreciate the fight you put against it.
Another challenge was to understand her mother, Maya, and her stance once she learned about the reality. How would a mother behave knowing her child has been facing nightmares which were believed to be gone long ago? It took me sometime but with Maya's eternal patience, i finally managed to put two and two together and shared her side story too. Readers do say Maya is designed into a very strong women. Because, she is.
Along with other characters, time was to ring the bell and allow Kartik to enter. After all, the guy had been waiting outside the door for so long. And i must tell you. i had fun creating him, giving him the keys of the conversations he would unlock with Sejal. i sat back this time and allowed him to take the lead. He came and took Sejal and me both on a crazy ride. Where Sejal scoffed, i guffawed. Such a witty character Kartik was emerging into! With him, i could see Sejal from a fresh perspective through which she was a prospect of love, and not the victim of any trauma. Their conversations have made me smile for so many times. No wonder, my readers found connection with Kartik. Such a charisma he carries with himself through out the narration. i am glad he has succeeded in pulling not only my attention but also of Sejal and of course, his readers. i love him too.
Other characters are equally important but i can't talk about them here. It's a blog post, not an empty canvas to scribble another book. But one character do need attention - Rajat.
As a father and husband, you must have seen Rajat in It's Never Too Late. Charming as a husband, devoted as a father. He has been a support pillar for Maya since their IIT days. There were two jobs i had given him in the book to fulfill which he did astonishingly well - 1. to fall in love with Maya madly, and 2. To love and support her after the night.
In The Shadow of Darkness, his role gets bigger. He is now a busier but more successful businessman, loving husband, caring and protective father but he brings the best out of him in the last pages, where Sejal asks him a question about the past to which he has to answer in such a manner that could bring his daughter back to him, to the happiness she was once contended with. Did he manage that? Well, that's not for me to answer but i do hear readers praising him for the way he managed. He smirks at me because he finalized the challenge with the trophy of success while i had a doubt about him. What can i say? He has the right to scoff at me. An author could never outgrow a loving father.
Quite a long post? Laugh because i have not covered even half the magic of The Shadow of Darkness. There are so many things and aspects to talk about each story in the book. i can go on but let's just close the door to the past and come back to the present.
Read, not because i am saying it but because i have learned plenty with this book. Who knows, you too get the privilege of learning one or two lessons out of them?