Enid, Agatha and I….

It is easy to be a dreamer at age seven, but definitely more challenging to be a writer.  But for me ―a passionate dreamer lost in my own world―both were an effortless fit.  For the simple reason that I knew, from the very beginning that I was born to be a writer.

Iwas a voracious reader, reading anything and everything that had words printed on it. My favourite author was Enid Blyton and I loved her books. In fact, as a child, I was completely convinced that I was Enid Blyton reborn, until I came to know that she was still around when I was born!I connected so strongly with her characters that I believed only I could’ve created them.  My best friends were characters from her books, and I lived in their world. Enid Blytoninspired values of friendship and love and the feeling that good always triumphs over evil in the story book world. I loved the way the children would have adventures and that everything was nicely resolved in the end, on a happy note. I was jealous that I couldn’t really live in the storybook world. I pined for the seaside and countryside scenarios of her mystery books. And I think that is what really triggered my need to write. A craving to be sucked into the world of stories, with lovable characters and adventures.  She instilled in me a love for reading and a strong desire to write.

As I grew a little older, I saw a Hindi film called ‘Gumnam’. The story and plot fascinated me so much that I was amazed at the ingenuity of it. I discovered that the movie was based on Agatha Christie’s novel ‘And There were None’.  That got me hooked to the Queen of Crime’s novels. Since I wrote from instinct and a creative and imaginative point inside of me, Agatha opened a world of technique for me. Each novel was a piece of art in mystery-writing in itself. The exquisite layering of characters, the element of surprise that she kept intact till the last page, the double twists in the end, her style – each zone of mystery writing unfolded before me as I read more and more of her novels. It was a lesson in self-learning. The novel ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ especially is unique. It is a masterpiece and I treat it like my bible.

Enid Blyton brought out the natural writer in me, triggered my imagination and a love for mystery. Sheintroduced me to a genre which made me feel complete as an author.

But Agatha introduced me to the craft, thedeeper intricacies of mystery-writing, to the games people play and the depth of the human psychology. She explained the ‘why’ behind the mystery to me.  I realized that Mystery is a genre which has so much more to offer since it is an all-encompassing genre – it absorbs other genres within it. The insights into a human psyche, political upheavals, societal attitudes and issues, gender complexes, relationships and many more subjects can fall within the realm of this story-telling.

I feel that I don’t create my books but every book that I write creates me anew. I learn a lot about myself, life and the world around me through the process of writing and creating imaginary characters. Simply put, I write novels from my heart. Complicated plots but with anunpretentious, direct, sometimes racy style of writing. I don’t remember consciously adopting any style because luckily, I found my writing ‘voice’ quite naturally and very early on in life.

That the Indian media compared my novels with those of Agatha’s,labeling  me the ‘Desi Agatha Christie’ was one of the highlight points and most humbling moments of my life. The climaxwas when 2015, I was invited for the International Agatha Christie Festival at Torquay in the UK, which was celebrating the author’s 125th birth anniversary. I did a reading from one of her novels and spokeabout her influence on my work and I found the whole experience very satisfying. The ‘Torre Abbey’ and its  grand gardens, where the Litfest took place, was a picture of extreme elegance, illuminated with colorful, mood lights and artists playing roles in the dramatic settings of the late evening. To be actually present in Torquay where Agatha was born and to witness her 125th birthday cake cut by her grandson, was exhilarating.

I had always felt anunusual connect to Agatha’s work. But it was when I was researching for my session at the Festival that I discovered some startling similarities between Agatha’s life and mine.  Facts and dates related to her parents, the death of her father, penchants as a child, reading habits, loving dogs, being born in the same month, publishing her first novel, and even the fact that she married the son of a judge born in India. My husband too is the son of a judge!

It just didn’t stop there. When in Torquay, I visited her holiday home ‘Greenway’ and experienced a sense of belonging and peace. Her favourite chair, her piano, the little paths which ran down from the hill to the boathouse – it was all fascinating yet strangely familiar.

I could call all this a coincidence or perhaps a topic of profound discussion. I preferred to accept the similarities as facts, the parallels between her life and mine simply a state of divine tricks.  A cosmic connection that surpassed time and age and which explained my initial pull towards her. What remained indisputable was that Agatha, through her work had opened new depths of writing to me. Mentors are usually in the form of teachers. For me my mentor was in the form of a guiding spirit― This indisputablyunrivalled author who had left behind a legacy of master pieces.

I particularly remember one incident. I was writing my mystery novel ‘The Cosmic Clues’, which was basically about a Pune-based lady detective Sonia Samarth who  solved cases with the help of Astrology. One of the cases takes place in a bungalow, amidst a set of suspicious characters and unfolds entirely within two to three hours of a stormy, rainy night. It was a difficult task to accomplish, since a murder was to besecretly and deviously attempted and solved in front of everyone, including Sonia and she had to solve the mystery right there and then.It was a kind of locked-room-mystery. After racking my brains over the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ for a long time in vain, I finally did the most logical thing. I categorically and systematically asked myself some questions – how would Agatha have written this story? How would the characters have behaved and what are the undercurrents between them that Sonia could interpret? What kind of clues would she have introduced and how would she have used them to decipher the story? As the answers bloomed, so did the nuances of the plot. It was as simple as that!

I became a writer for several reasons : Because of good books that I devoured as a child: because of my wild imagination and my capacity to lose myself in daydreaming; my need to express myself and a need to create magical worlds that I could control, my desire to see happy endings in stories and finally  the need to create happy memories in the lives of readers.It was an inherent craving to create memorable characters, a world which was entirely mine but which would grow beyond me and last beyond me.

Memories are the only thing that survive change, distance and age. They are proof of your existence. Ultimately a human being lives on in the form of memories which are passed on from generation to generation. If the readers would allow my characters into their hearts, and if in some corner of a reader’s mind, if one of my characters lives on as a part of a memory, I would feel honored and blessed. I would feel that I have achieved something in life and that I have fulfilled my goal as a writer.

And I shall have these two authors to thank for - Enid and Agatha….

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