Through the course of relationships

Through the course of relationships

Writing about imaginary relationships is easy. I make my characters do whatever I want them to do, provided it fits within the storyline. But where does all this inspiration come from? Some of it is imaginary of course, but a huge chunk of it comes from observing people around me, quietly, unobtrusively, often in a way that people don’t realise they're being observed. Without meaning to sound creepy, I have to admit that writers can't rely on just their imagination and sometimes, have to observe the dynamics between people and, of course, make up things as they go along.

Sometimes, the observation and the seemingly effortless way I have to accomplish it makes me exhausted and if there was a switch, I’d gladly switch it off. There are times though, when something is thrust in my face and whether I like it or not, I'm seeing, observing and making mental notes. Around three years ago, I was at a tailor’s shop in Commercial Street with my mother where she was getting some work done. I was tapping away on my phone, logged into social media, but then I looked up and saw them.

A man and a woman stood at the threshold of the shop — the woman looked like she was about to come inside, and she did. She handed over something to the tailor and turned around, and the man spoke to her — softly but with a sense of urgency in his tone. I could see the desperation in his eyes and it matched her body language as well. I could see that she felt the same, but something was not working out.

I was so intrigued that I immediately set out to make a storyline for them in my head. She was married, but not to him. He was the man she had loved when she was much younger. They had reconnected recently and without realising, they had picked it up again and now she was feeling guilty and she wanted to break it off. The more I observed them, the more my conviction grew that maybe I was right. But then, I had no way of knowing and I didn’t really care by then. I had the idea for my next book. I couched the extra-marital affair within the pages of a book where a mother leaves her family and children and goes away, presumably with her lover, and the book became When She Went Away and was published in 2015. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the couple I had observed. Had they parted ways? Were they no longer in touch with each other? But then, I could have been entirely mistaken and the two of them could have been a married couple — the man may have been trying to earnestly convince the woman to let him go on a trip with his buddies, and she may have looked at him so pityingly because, well, there was no way she was letting him go.

So, observing relationships for my work is sort of the thing I do, but what it’s made me realise is that I actually do have some sort of insight into what other lives are like, to a certain extent anyway. Looking at modern couples is slightly difficult though, because they’re so wary of labelling their relationships. But then, there are a few things that even I have managed to pick up apart from imaginary storylines.

For instance, communication. Most couples are aware of the communication gap, but they carry on without doing anything about it. Why? It could be either because they’re too busy, or maybe because they don’t care enough. Without communication, it’s easy to misunderstand words and the silences between them.

Then there’s technology. Unlike several people who look back at the 90s fondly, I don’t. They were a period of great upheaval for me with not enough clarity about where my life was headed, and most of all, technology would have made a huge difference in my life. But technology, with all its advantages, does hinder relationships. The combination of social media and smartphones enables us to be in several places at once, but rarely do we look up and see the person we are with. The rare times we do, the person we are with is also often lost within their own smartphone!

Oh, and what about emojis? Do you think they sufficiently express what you’re feeling at the moment? You’re upset with the person in your life, but instead of hashing things out face-to-face, you prefer to text each other about it. I’m guilty of this several times, too, and I have my own points in favour of it but then, emojis cannot accurately replace emotions, can they? A sad face emoticon takes away the edge, of the way I feel truly, and the angry emoticon often evokes laughter from my husband.

Real life relationships are far more difficult to navigate than imaginary ones, and it takes both parties involved to make them work.

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