For all those of you who have read my novel ‘Diary of an Immigrant Bride’, you would know that the finale scene is a birthday party where Anjali (the central character) and her friends are performing a musical bonanza on stage. The heart-broken Anjali walks towards the stage, preparing to sing the signature song that she and her estranged husband Ravi used to sing together often in happier times gone by. The song is the classic duet from the evergreen movie ‘Abhimaan’…’tere mere milan ki ye raina’.
Here’s a sneak peek into how I came to write this scene and the work that was involved before i finished writing it:
As I prepared to write this final scene, I first listened to the song a few dozen times, soaking in the words with my eyes closed, letting the meaning of the lyrics wash over me. I knew the scene was going to be a poignant one and I had to make sure I got it right. Once I finished listening to it a few times, I switched on my karaoke system at home, and sang the song myself….repeatedly….putting myself in Anjali’s shoes….feeling the emotions I wanted her to feel…feeling the ache of heartbreak….shattered dreams….dashed hopes. At the same time that I was concentrating on the sadness that the song evoked within me, I also had one ear tuned in to the instruments playing. I knew exactly when the ‘tabla’ beat was introduced, at which point the flute took over and which segments were dominated by the violin etc. This was because Anjali’s friends in the scene would be playing the different instruments, and I had to make sure I knew at which point in the song, the confusion would begin. Although all these finer details did not find their way eventually into the book, they formed a huge part of my background research.
After singing the song myself at least fifteen times, I had become Anjali. Her pain was my pain. Her sadness was my sadness. We were one and the same. I told myself I would sing the song one last time and then go back to my laptop to write out the scene. I clicked ‘start’ on my karaoke device…the music began playing….I picked up the microphone….the first few lines were played out by the instruments…I closed my eyes, and pictured the door opening and Ravi (Anjali’s husband) walking in. It was my turn to sing. Or rather Anjali’s. But we were one and the same by then. I had turned into my character…I was inside her skin. As I sang, I imagined the emotions Anjali would be going through on seeing her husband after months of separation. And I remember the tears flowing down my cheeks as I sang the evergreen words….’tere mere milan ki ye raina…naya koi gul khilayegi…tabhi to chancha hai tere naina…dekho na…’
I wept as I stumbled back to my computer, and wrote the final chapter, with the tears streaming down. I didn’t bother wiping them, because I was in the zone by then. And I didn’t want the emotion to disappear. After finishing the chapter, I was so overcome by the force of Anjali’s predicament, that I actually remember hiding my face in my pillow and sobbing. My husband popped his head around our bedroom door and looked at me puzzled. After a moment, his brow cleared and he said with a half-sympathetic, half-amused smile: ‘Oh dear, crying over one of your characters again?’
Anyways, dear friends, that’s the secret of how that scene came to be written. It will remain one of my favourite scenes forever, because it forms the quintessence of my writing technique. Before writing any scene, I have to internalise the character and only then can I go on to write the actual words.
I have the recording of me singing the song just before writing the scene. Perhaps I will share that clip on my blog some day 🙂