As of last Saturday, Write Club Bangalore completed 136 weeks of operation. Somehow we still manage to get anywhere between twenty and thirty people for every session, and the conversation is lively and vibrant as ever. No matter how long into the future it survives, I think it has punched far above its weight. Long may it continue.
I was the host for the session, and the idea was to use the concept of alternate history. As most of you will know, alternate history is a genre of fiction where authors speculate on some of the great turning points of the world’s history and write stories based on what answers come up. What if India were still a British colony? What if Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had chosen not to return to India? What if Adolf Hitler had won World War 2? What if, what if, what if.
We could ask the same question about our own personal lives. What if you had not married the person you did? What if the sixteen-year-old version of you had chosen to be a writer instead of taking up engineering? What if you had taken that job you rejected last week? How would life be different if one or more of these ‘turning points’ had twisted the other way?
This is pure speculation, of course, but also fun. Whether it’s true or not, we view ourselves as a direct result of the consequences we’ve had to bear due to the choices we’ve made. How different will we be, then, if we had taken a bunch of different paths along the way?
We had some interesting stories, though understandably no one wrote about deep personal issues. I suppose this is more of a introspecting tool than a writing exercise, which is why I am writing about it here. Do any of you look back at your life and wonder, sometimes, how it would all have turned out if you had chosen differently at a few crucial forks in your road? Or do you take the philosophical approach and think that we’re just conditioned to obsess about the choices we’ve not made?
In one of his famous poems, Robert Frost talked about two roads diverging in a yellow wood. Whether you’re happy with your choices or you’re filled with regret, I think none of us can resist that temptation to occasionally turn back the pages and take the other road – just to see what it’s like. Do you agree?