Sagarika Dash: ‘Runaway Writers’
New Delhi: Speaking Tiger. 2015
Pages 288 | Rs 299
Running away frantically for a better life
“Choose a job you love and you never have to work a day in your life” – is an appropriate line that describes the theme of the novel in a single sentence. This line can aptly be attested with the real life experience of the author herself as in the acknowledgement to this novel she has mentioned how her children follow their own path and have inspired her to write this book. Life moves on smoothly when people follow their instinct and enjoy working.
Runaway Writers tells the tale of three writer friends who meet at a writers’ workshop held in Greece. Although each of them is quite successful in their current job positions, they nurture a secret passion of their own. Amby the narrator wants to be a screenplay writer in spite of being a tweet writer for a renowned Kollywood star Krishna Kumar. Similarly, Bobby and Mini want to be travel writer and erotic novelist respectively. It is not only a story of writers but of a film star Krishna Kumar who has a craze for becoming a chef once he retires from his filmy career.
The novel is divided into many chapters and the title of each chapter tells about its theme. The chapters again can broadly be divided into two parts where the first part introduces the main characters through the narrator and the second part narrates the incident as how the three runaway writers meet with each other to become pals forever and fulfill their dream.
Although the novel is written taking the backdrop of current social milieu about a modern and educated girl Amby and her friends, it at the same time reveals the concern of a mother for her marriageable daughter. Amby when divulges her plan of going to the Writers’ Workshop, her mother suggests she think about the marriage proposal which they have thought for her. “Ma: And when are you going to allow us to take the Seshadri proposal forward? … now you can keep that Greek sheek plan for your honeymoon, okay?” (p 55). For every mother a daughter is old enough in her late 20s to get married but too young to travel alone to a foreign land.
The novel gives space to the concept of househusband which is still not culturally acceptable in India. As in case of Mini, her mother (Sarah) is a CA who travels from place to place and father (Cherian) is a househusband who quits the job to pursue his passion of gardening and take care of their little angel Mini. The strong conditioning of the Indian culture makes Mini’s grandparents react towards the activities of their children and think that men and women are born to do their respective jobs (as if they are designed and destined to do so). A simple role shift is not allowed and if it happens it becomes an eyesore for the entire society. “While Sarah’s own parents thought of her as a ‘cold, ambitious career woman, simply neglecting her house’, Cherian’s parents were embarrassed by their ‘foolish son who stopped working and is cooking at home…’ (73).
Through the characters of Amby and Bobby, a real life situation has been presented where people who usually play with words to manipulate others, occasionally fall short of words when it comes to declare their feelings. Amby searches for the appropriate words while she reveals her wish of flying away to Greece for the workshop before her family and Kay Kay. Bobby is also faced with a similar situation in her office. She loves her job but hates working as an advertisement writer irrespective of the prestigious awards she wins for her writing. She too is badly in search of words which she could use to convey her wish about attending the workshop.
Indu Balachandran herself has been to Greece for the Writers’ Workshop. She says the workshop was really interesting due to many challenging tasks given to them to sharpen their writerly cognizance; and she mentions this in the novel through her characters. One of those tasks teaches role shifting, i.e. the writers should be empathetic and identify themselves with the characters they are portraying in their work. This is an important aspect of any fiction. It is clear from the words of the narrator where she mentions their role shifting task in the workshop. She says, “… we knew that we would forever remember the intensity of feeling like and being someone else – a prerequisite for any fiction writer” (187). Apart from that a good writer is described as “a gregarious loner” (227) too.
A moment comes in everyone’s life when they become completely blank to write an effective sentence. It is a case more with the creative writers when they get stuck in writing. Apart from describing the qualities of a good writer the novel also discusses how some renowned writers used to overcome the writers’ block. “Did you know Mark Twain and Truman Capote wrote best lying down? Earnest Hemingway had to sharpen dozens of pencils to get him going. … what the poet John Donne liked to do: lie in an open coffin before picking up a pen!” (204).
Now-a-days, the social networking sites play a pivotal role in everyone’s life. For these sites, the entire world looks as small as a globe. People not only make friendship over such networks but often these friendships lead to marriage. How such acquaintance can turn into a very good love marriage has been discussed in reference to Amby. In her opinion the social medias like Face book, Emails, Skype, etc. prove to be the virtual mediators for marriage who often turn a traditional arranged marriage into a modern love marriage. It begins with a simple friend request on face book. “And then the mildly flirtatious dialogue moves from Messages to Mail. Then from Mail to Skype. From Skype to a fine dining restaurant. Till the announcement is eagerly made on both sides of the boy meet girl tableau: It is a love Marriage!” (114).
Apart from being a story of three runaway writers, the novel also has ‘romance’ as another major theme. Where there is love there is jealousy too. While at one place the partners try to make each other jealous to attract their attention, at the same time they themselves feel jealous for the growing relationship of the partner with others. Amby along with her secret passion also nourishes a secret love for her boss Kay Kay but hesitates to express it. She feels jealous in learning that Kay Kay is increasing his social contacts through tweeter. Filled with jealousy she says, “Five had been re-tweeted many times over. Hmmm. Not bad at all” (181).
Indu’s long experience in the ad agency enables her to use witty and humorous words and sentences in her novel. She has mentioned about a concept called “Gap Year” which facilitates in taking a year’s gap from the stereotype life and think of something creative and fruitful. Although this concept is quite common in foreign countries, it is yet to gain its acceptance in India.
As the title suggests Runaway Writers is not about making writing as a career but it is a therapeutic tool that soothes someone’s heart and soul. One’s profession may earn a respectable livelihood for someone but it is the passion that makes life worth living. The participants of the writers’ workshop while interacting with each other find a kind of similarity among themselves. “Our… realization that each of us, in some way, was probably ‘running away’ from something. Each had, it seemed, the Best Job in the World – but was inadvertently searching for something else. Perhaps the Second Best Job in the World! One that wasn’t about money and prestige, but something else that was all about heart and soul…” (127).
As the back cover says, “Runaway Writers is a racy romedy about staying restless till you find the life you love. And the love of your life.”