The flux of time: An Author’s Challenge

When as an author you write a story, you place events in a particular time frame. It is difficult, if not impossible for you to predict all that will happen in the future. Let me explain with an example to make my point clear. In my latest thriller, “Lucky For Some, 13” a terrorist group orchestrates attacks in Goa and Bangalore in India in January and September 2010 respectively. It is a work of fiction and you and I know the attacks as described in the book, did not take place. When I wrote the book in the period November 2010 to June 2011, Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist who was taken alive after the infamous attacks on Mumbai on November 26, 2008, was very much alive. There were a lot of jokes and snide comments made in India about how the process of law was dragging on while we spent a huge amount of money to keep him safe and sound, in jail! Many, including me, felt that in such an open and shut case like his, justice should have been fast tracked to bring the case to a logical end much sooner. There are differences surely between ordinary cases, including murder, where the person is reckoned to be innocent until proven guilty and terror attacks like the one Kasab carried out.

“Lucky For Some, 13” is being released on December 1, 2012. Today, I find myself  in a bit of a quandary as an author. In a sudden move by the Government of India that took the nation by surprise Ajmal Kasab was hanged to death in Pune’s Yerwada Jail this morning, November 21, 2012.

The Firstpost has an informative timeline on Kasab’s case.

My quandary is that I have mentioned Kasab in several places in the book, not expecting him to be hanged so soon!!

Here is one extract: ” After she had spoken for some time, he had said, ‘I must tell you something in strict confidence. I have been assigned a task of great importance. We must get back Khalid and Ghouse, two of our mercenaries who were held captive by the Indians after that Goa attack. They know too much about too many things. They have been in captivity for the last six months now. In India, things take their own sweet time. In many countries they would have been executed on the spot or hanged within a week but India prides itself on being a democracy with a lot of principles.’ He laughed aloud, ‘The fools are still wondering what to do with Kasab, the fellow they captured in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks. They are spending millions that they can ill afford to waste on people like him. It should be easy for us to carry out our operation in India.”

And here is another: “An article in a leading daily had kicked up quite a controversy. The writer had said that keeping the growing number of terrorists in Indian jails was a colossal waste of time and money. ‘The country cannot afford to waste valuable money, which can be better utilized elsewhere, in the up keep of enemies of the state,’ she wrote. There was the usual outcry with defenders of human rights saying the article grossly lacked sensitivity to human life. Others felt the government should wait no longer but execute terrorists like Kasab. They argued that the ordinary process of law didn’t apply to acts of terror. Why should he be given so many chances when he gave none to those innocents he gunned down, they asked.”

In my defence, this was written in 2010-2011 when Kasab was very much alive. I am sure you now understand what I meant by the flux of time being a challenge for the author! There is a long gap between the time a story is written and it is eventually published. In my case, as explained above, Kasab was mentioned in passing and is not a character in the story. What if he had been one? How does an author deal with events that take place after the book is written that could change his story completely? Any suggestions?

3 thoughts on “The flux of time: An Author’s Challenge

  1. Interesting post. If I were in your place and I was writing this story I would have used a different name for Kasab, but perhaps similar so that the reader recognises the person being referred to. Having said that, though, it won’t have much of an impact on your story since he is only being referred to in passing. Congratulations on the upcoming launch of your book and good luck!

    1. Thanks for your views. Since these are characters of “historic” significance using some other name, in my view, wouldn’t have had the necessary impact.

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