Published: 24th June 2019
When chance encounters change your life forever: Why Sonia Bahl's new book is a must read
Ad maker and screenwriter, Sonia Bahl is out with her second book A year of Wednesdays, three years after her first one
Before we talk about Sonia Bahl and her book, I'd like to share with you dear reader, a rather disappointing story, straight out of my life. This reporter was boarding an overnight flight from Dubai to Chennai, a year ago. Since I had to report to work the next morning, the only sleep I could have managed to get was during the four-hour-long flight. But unfortunately, the flight appeared to be a crèche for the most unruly children in the world. For reasons best known to themselves, they thought it was a great idea to scream out loud, kick the seats, spill food all around and try to poke a few of us who were counting sheep to get a wink of sleep.
Needless to say, the next day at work was a nightmare and I have lost count on the number of cups of coffee I drank. Since that incident is engraved in my memory, I could totally empathise with the passenger on seat 7A, one of the two protagonists from Sonia's A Year of Wednesdays. Naturally, when he entered the flight to find a mother and toddler seated next to him, he would have frowned in an unnoticeable manner.
But then, something unexpected occurs obviously. No, this isn't a cliche where the two protagonists fall in love during the flight. And that is precisely what sets the book apart. How does one unplanned encounter change two lives forever? The book is an answer to that question.
For Sonia, the book began 'with a trigger and a belief'. She tells us how. "After my first book (The Spectacular Miss), I went back to my world of writing and breathing screenplays. Pooja Dadwal, the Managing Editor, began sending me these not-so-subtle texts asking what my next story (for a book) was going to be. I told her there was none. But she persisted." So, Sonia Whatsapped the beginning of the story — the part where the author familiarises us with a not-so-comfortable thought of being squeezed inside a plane washroom with a stranger and a toddler with a stinky diaper. "Soon her (Dadwal's) devious ways resulted in me sending longer pages — still via WhatsApp and then seamlessly moving to write on my laptop. It was pure entrapment," Sonia exclaims.
For Sonia, who feels like she's been part of the writing universe from the beginning of time, writing happened almost naturally. Mostly because she was "too daft to do anything else." "Before I knew it, I was writing ads for a terrific boss at an ad agency and I loved it and did it for a really long time over different agencies and geographies, with decentish results and intense pleasure," she says.
Now as a curious reader, I couldn't help but ask her if she had ever met these two travellers in her life. "Haven’t we met, and in some way been, everyone we create stories about? Isn’t all fiction the invisible glue that holds myriad truths together?" she asks me. She also quotes author Ann Patchett to give us a perspective — "None of it happened and all of it’s true."
Sonia had the idea (that later translated into the book) apparently since she was a child. "The physical writing of it happened from February to November 2018," she says. But we do not know if she began writing on a Wednesday. It would be interesting if it really had happened. So, what is the deal with Wednesdays anyway? Sonia quotes the other protagonist, the passenger on seat 7B, to answer this question. She says, "It’s not the start of the week. It’s not a flamboyant Friday. It’s not the revered weekend. And yet, this humble mid-week day has this halo around it. Nothing bad can happen on a Wednesday."
Now I'm counting the days till next Wednesday.