It was back in 1997 that the first seeds of a story were sown in Asha Anand’s mind.
Married to Dr Raj Kumar Anand, a well-known medical professional in India, Asha, born Annie Thaiparambil Chacko, had always nurtured a penchant for writing having penned pieces for several magazines in India, including Reader’s Digest. But work and family duties meant she did not have the time to pursue her pet passion.
"It was in mid-1997 and I was spending a short holiday with my mother in Kottayam," says Asha, in a telephone interview from her home in Mumbai. "It was a beautiful time to be in Kerala and I remember enjoying the spectacular nature that my little town is blessed with."
Waking up in the morning to the chirping of a variety of birds, going for long walks in the lush, green fields and plantations around her home, spending time with her mother and taking trips down memory lane… the month or so she spent there was blissful, she says.
"Since I didn’t have anything to do, and because I had always wanted to leave some notes about my life and times for my grandchildren, I decided to put down my thoughts, the little life lessons I picked up," she says. And surely, there were many.
Growing up in a small town in Kottayam in Kerala, Annie, after her schooling, decided to venture to Bihar to pursue a course in nursing, something none of the women in her family had ever been "adventurous enough" to do before her. Completing her course, she landed a job in a hospital there – an incident that would in many ways change her life’s trajectory in ways she never dreamt. "It was there that I met the man who would become my husband," recalls the octogenarian, who although battling cancer today, is positivity personified, if her bubbling, cheerful voice is anything to go by.
Asha initially began by jotting down notes and reminiscences in a little diary but they began to take a life of their own a few years later when she and her husband visited the US. "We were to board a domestic flight to attend an event in another city, but due to some unforeseen circumstances we arrived late at the airport. The result: we, my husband and I, could not get seats next to each other," she recalls. "Since I was sitting away from him – the first time in the 43 years of our marriage that we ever did – and with no one to talk to during the two-hour-plus flight, I started writing my book in earnest." It would continue for a few more months – rewriting, editing, polishing and adding more anecdotes.
The result is 1959, A Love Story. A straight-from-the-heart, poignant, sometimes hilarious, often touching but all through honest tale of the life of a Christian woman who grew up in a small town in Kerala, journeyed far beyond the backwaters, fell in love with a Punjabi man of a different faith and got married despite opposition from several quarters.
"I wanted to share my story of the joys of growing up in a joint family of modest means, pursuing my dream to become a nurse, marrying a man I love then adjusting with a family that was so very different culturally, traditionally and linguistically from mine," says Asha. "I want children to understand the joys of a joint family."
If the praise she has been getting from those who have read it is an indication, she surely has touched a few hearts.
Bollywood filmmaker Sooraj R Barjatya showered praise on Asha’s book. "The fresh writing comes with all the humour…," he said, adding "your book can be made into such a fine film".
1959, A Love Story, by Asha Anand is available on amazon.com