We were a group of 12 people working for the same company, living in the same residential locality but travelled with different means to our workplace that was 40 kms away. I was a part of this crazy ‘shared’ cab group idea that was ‘invented’ to ease our daily travel pain. None in the group shared a similar interest, except for the NEED of travelling together. Our journey went on for four long years, with adjustments and compromises…
This is just what we do in our life, is it not? We don’t look for permanent solutions, in fact there are no permanent solutions!, we solve a problem just for the moment and move on to the next one…we try to get the best out of every present moment rather than waiting for a perfect one…it works until it works and the rest is uncertain. This was pretty much the same with the world inside our cab.
The best thing about writing a reality fiction is that you seldom need to chalk out a character from then scratch. I spent four years of my life journeying with these 12 ‘items’ and they had their own direct/indirect effect on my personal life too. There is nothing I did deliberately to ‘come up’ with particular number of characters. Every character is based on a real person. Their mannerism, their behaviour and the way they react to situations are such that the readers can easily relate them to a person in their own lives. Each character in the book has a quality that makes him/her unique, they have their own habits, thoughts, they speak in a slang of their own- at times even use colloquial tongue. I tried to retain their natural charm by not over doing or diluting the characters with unwanted strokes of fiction.
The experience with the cab taught me that ‘There are no good or bad people in real life, there are just situations’. And so, in my book, there is no central character.
The heroes and villains keep changing as per the situation they are in. A member who would ride high on morals and punctuality at some instance may err by getting late in the next one and would try to cover it up!
The characters that I was surrounded with, were nothing less than the essence in the word ‘Items’ in the Bollywood context!
Chandu, the originator of the group and a guy with ‘Help ever, hurt Never’ philosophy; Sushant, an aspiring leader with a loud (speaker) voice; Rajnish, a gadget freak; Raghav, the youthful guy who never thinks straight; Saina, an arrogant and self-centric girl; the out-spoken, bold and dynamic Nagesh who is ‘gifted’ with a ‘curse’ of extra sarcasm; Binodh, the math guy who is always talking over the mobile; Aishwarya, the self-styled social activist; Mohan, the English-man whose English can be fatal; Avani, the most eligible spinster in the group; Vijaya, the sole bread winner of her family, and Jatin, that’s me, the recorder, the philosopher and a co-conspirator of every good and bad thing in this story.
How else would you extract a story out of an everyday journey? To me, if I had to brand someone as hero, heroine and villain in this book, then there wouldn’t be a story to write at all!
Talking about inspirations, I’d say, the inspirations have found me and made me write them out…to the best of my knowledge, after my second book, While I was Waiting, which was a collection of short stories, I wanted to write a novel and the inspiration came to me in a strange way. In one of those early days of cabbing, we used to have childish fights on petty matters that would often end in day long frustrations. By the end of the day, we’d fix it in equally stranger ways and laugh out the frustrations. I felt that this urban story of everyday struggle needs to be told. The idea of a constructive carpool needs to be promoted, its brighter side needs to be highlighted.
I am a writer who steals hidden inspirations from real life. So, at a certain point in our journey, I realized that this story of daily struggle for survival, in the wrap of humor, need to be told to the world. In 2013 I started compiling incidents and experiences into a book, for this one I maintained handwritten notes. Almost a year later, I had enough material but the climax. The ending of the story came to me in a special way. That was a time in our cab when quarrels, misunderstandings and frustrations were at an all-time high. Work at office was also demanding. The cab service itself was not functioning promptly because our regular driver had left. Every day we would talk about giving up on the cab. But, we managed the situation in an excellent way and the cab survived – this gave me an idea for the climax.