Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Destiny of Shaitan - Origins (Hong Kong/ Bombay)

Hi Everybody,

It’s awesome to be here today. Thank you Goddess Fish for having me. I am a writer based in London. Though originally from India, wanderlust drew me away from my home city of Bombay, and I travelled across South-East Asia, living in Singapore and Hong Kong for a few years. My travels inspired my writing. So in the first of my series of posts here, I wanted to share a little of how The Destiny of Shaitan was born. It was 2003 and wanderlust had led me to Hong Kong. Landing in this city felt as if I had been dropped in a cauldron of seething emotions. As a kineseologist friend said “Hong Kong is the base chakra of the universe, the seat of commerce on Earth.”

Hong Kong - the base chakra of the universe

It made sense, for everywhere around me the thirst for money and the search for a life lived outside oneself -- preferably in a series of the latest branded acquisitions-- ruled. For someone like me who is spiritually in tune with my inner self, the city came as a shock. I could feel my heart beating fast—from the crowds, the people, the uber-tall skyscrapers with their small cell like apartments—one of which became home to me for the few years. I lived in a tiny four-hundred-square-feet apartment. “Eighteen—lucky number,” the landlord had reassured me, when he showed me the place, as apparently, was the street address—Eight Hollywood Road.

My 18th floor apartment, #8 Hollywood Road

The belief in numerology runs deep in the Orient, with local businessmen shelling out millions of dollars for a car license plate bearing the number Eight. But I digress, for I am here to share the story of the origins of my novel. One hot perennial-summer-afternoon found me walking down Hollywood Road, wearing my favourite thin cotton cut-off trousers, and a skinny-T-shirt. In that eighty-degrees-heat the less one wore the better, and I had learnt very quickly that even wearing jeans felt claustrophobic. Cotton was best, as it let in the cooler air to keep the skin ventilated. Raindrops drizzled, and a slight sea-breeze crept up, enveloping me in its cooling embrace before fading away. I raised my eyes in delight at the perfect moment and put out my hand to catch the drops of calm in the palm of my hand. Thank you, one above! My phone rang just then, startling me out of my dialogue with the greater force of nature. “Enjoying your walk?” It was the man I had met last night at the salsa bar. Hong Kong—strangely—is a salsa hotspot, and most nights I managed to make it to the gym and then onto a salsa class to give myself over to the pure enjoyment of becoming one with the music. I was a novice and he was obviously a seasoned dancer. I was flattered by his attentions, and for the rest of the evening we twirled, sashayed and swayed together. Seemed he was in the bus that had just gone by, “I saw you talking to yourself” he told me that night as we met at another Saturday night salsa melange.

Everyone dances in Hong Kong

I blushed feeling the blood rush to my face so that the heat curled up from the pits of my stomach all the way to the tips of my eyelids. I blinked. Why did it felt as if he had caught me in the act of making love to myself? Perhaps because at that very moment, when he saw me, I had been one with the universe. In the middle of the city I was in my own private place. No one was meant to see it, and yet he had intruded to see a vulnerable side to me; the one which no-one was meant to know even existed? There are no coincidences. So what was this? All it had been was an emotional exchange, yet the attraction felt wrong, it felt as if coming from a wellspring of hope which I had not known existed within me.

A gaze, a touch, a sizzle

 A gaze, lust. A touch, sizzle. A beat of music, caress. A drop in time, like the rain which chattered down while I had looked up and floated away. Why did it feel so strange? When all I had done was look into his eyes and felt a connection? I had to get to the bottom of these uncharacteristic emotions—hope, lust, guilt—all bubbling up within me and so had put the first words to paper, in the form of a short story. My writing style, it turned out, was firmly rooted in the magic realistic, almost fantasy genre. Set in a futuristic city filled with foreign scenes—similar to the alien city of Hong Kong, where nothing was as it seemed; splattered with characters who were bizarre—much like the own country rejects who came to Hong Kong, attracted by its multilayered, east meets west confluence of sensations, in the hope of finding their path.

Where East meets West. Inspiration for Tiina's adopted planet Java

The unerring precision of being caught in that act by him sends goose pimples up her arms. She plays it out in her mind, examining it from different angles. These were the first lines I wrote in Hong Kong. They found their way into the book for Tiina, my protagonist. A strong, free-spirited, ready-to-fight-for-what-she-believes-in girl she is. The Destiny of Shaitan, #1 in the Chronicle of the Three traces Tiina’s origins too, from her birth to when she is seventeen. The novel tracks the influences of her formative years, from carefree child, to an angst ridden teenager, with the raging confusion of rebellion, first love & first heart-break driving her ultimately on a quest to find out who she really is. The one place I didn’t make it to while living in Hong Kong was Borobudur in Java. It’s ancient yet futuristic locales bridge the old and the new. It inspired the confusion of emotions which Rai goes through. I hope to go there next spring, so stay tuned.

Beautiful Borobudur: Inspiration for Rai's conflicts

In my next post I’ll talk about my life in London as it is today and how the open green spaces of this magnificent city nourished me into finding my voice. Meanwhile you can find Tiina & The Destiny of Shaitan on Amazon To find out more about me go to

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