Welcome to my first stab at writing fiction. Although the subtext of the story is based on certain feelings and an experience of my own, the inspiration was my desire to try and change the stereotype of white women in India.
My story is about the exciting life of Surya, a young boy from Mysore who grows up from humble beginnings into a man thrust into the fast-paced world of rally car racing. He falls in love with Juliet, a journalist from Los Angeles. But Surya’s family has their heart set on him marrying Asha, who they view as the most suitable match for Surya. Can true love prevail without bringing dishonour to a traditional Indian family?
NOTE: The story isn’t full of many details because it was written as a rough outline for an idea I had for a film – so it spans about 25 years in just five pages. But my idea is not commercially viable because almost no one would want to see an Indian man fall in love and marry a foreigner in an Indian film. Personally, I only wish for happiness in my daughter’s love life – on her terms. However in India, in just the short time I’ve lived here, I’ve seen firsthand that it is often unacceptable for an Indian man to marry a woman who practices a different religion, is several years older than he is, if she is much more successful in her career than he is or if she is a non-Indian. I have tried hard to understand this …. and at the end of the day I do respect the fact that things are different in India and these unique marriage criteria help to uphold the traditional values of the country.
The story is about 3x longer than my normal blog posts but I didn’t want to break it into “chapters” so please go grab a glass of wine or some chai … I hope you will enjoy it!
Part 1: A Boy Dreams of Speed
All lads dream of driving fast cars but there is one impoverished but very special boy from Mysore who thinks of nothing more from sun up until sun down. No matter what toys his loving parents are able to afford for him, Surya can turn anything he’s given into someone or something from his imaginary racing world. He spends hours on his own building entire mini rally courses. He can’t get enough of Speed Racer comics and he’s constantly in trouble at school for doodling rally cars in his text books and day dreaming during class about being a famous racer.
Surya is an oddly brilliant boy but much to his dismay he looks nothing at all like the typical daredevil heroes from the comics he pretends to be. Truth is, with his wire-framed glasses and sharp eyes that give the appearance of being wiser than his years he looks like a book worm who belongs in the library. His favourite playmate is his next door neighbour Asha, the only girl he knows who doesn’t make fun of him and who likes to pretend he’s Speed Racer. She always plays Trixie, Speed Racer’s girlfriend, and for as long as she could remember she dreams about being Surya’s real life bride one day.
Surya’s curiosity for building things starts early. In his early teens, Surya spends hours reading books about mechanics and engineering and he is constantly modifying the components on the old, second-hand bicycles his father can afford to buy him. He makes them jump higher and go faster than all the rest of the boys in town who have shiny new bikes. Surya’s need for speed and an adrenalin rush grows over time. He learns to ride a motorcycle.
Then the day comes that changes Surya’s life forever. His uncle, the only family member to own a car, is tremendously fond of his nephew and wants to teach him how to drive a car. When Surya sits behind the wheel – he feels instantly alive when his foot touches the pedal and he revs up the engine. As strange as it may sound, it’s as if the car spoke to him and he dreams of the day that he will have a car of his own.
His passion for autos continues and he and Asha sneak off many nights to watch the dangerous races that take place on the outskirts of town setup by the local rich boys. He can always pick the winners based on the sound of the engine and tread on the tyres. One day the richest boy in town shows up for a race with tyres from Italy that his father had given to him from a racing production series. As he watches this car win every race Surya starts to obsess about tyres. Asha is there that day and sees something click and change in Surya.
The years go on…Surya receives a scholarship to a local engineering college. He grows into a handsome and tall man. His father is proud beyond words that his only son graduates top in his class but it’s time to start helping support the family and his father secures a job for Surya that is anything but a dream job. His father has always worked at Mysore’s largest tyre plant that designs and manufactures tyres for the leading automotive and motorcycle manufacturers in India. Although Surya wants to leave Mysore to work as an engineer at a tech company in Bangalore, Surya’s father forces him to painstakingly take the job at the tyre factory with him.
Part 2: Go Speed Racer, Go!
Surya takes the job on the factory floor with his father but unbeknownst to everyone he sneaks into the engineering bay every chance he can and starts work on the super tyre he’s been dreaming about since he was a teen when he saw those Italian racing tyres. After some time, his secret is discovered. The lead engineer in the company finds Surya’s designs and shows them to the owner. The design is revolutionary and unlike anything that the company is producing.
The owner decides to take a risk and partners with an Indian car manufacturer who is developing a rally car for the upcoming race taking place in Mumbai. They have just enough time to manufacture tyre prototypes in time for the race. The owner asks Surya to join him and the company’s top engineers as they travel to Mumbai to take a stab in the exciting world of rally car racing.
The energy at the race mesmerizes Surya – the smells, the sights and above all the sounds. He instantly feels like he belongs to this world and he sneaks off to watch the rival teams test driving the track as much as possible. The team’s lead mechanical engineer takes Surya under his wing and acts as mentor. He eventually lets him test drive the car around the first stage for the experience of it when the track was empty of other cars. It is his destiny. With zero training behind a wheel besides the driving lessons from his uncle as a lad, Surya handles the car like a veteran driver with ease and surprises everyone when he drives within seconds of the best time for that stage amongst the actual racing teams.
The next day, trouble befalls the team driver and Surya is asked to step in to drive the first round of the day. His performance is outstanding so the team owners decide to put Surya in the official race and to the amazement and delight of the crowd he flies over the last big jump of the super special stage to take 3rd place in the first race of his life. No rookie in history has ever achieved so much in so short a time. In one day he becomes an underdog celebrity and shines a spectacular light on a new Indian tyre brand in the world of rally racing. His father is proud beyond words when he learns that the owner of the tyre company has offered Surya a promotion and wants him to build and lead the new racing tyre engineering division for the company.
But Surya has racing fever! He is immediately approached by a well-funded racing team who wants him to travel the country and race for them. He wants none of that old life back in Mysore and instead decides instead to follow his heart. Surya accepts the opportunity to race, defying his father who demands that he return to Mysore and not turn his back on the security of the engineering job with the tyre factory. Surya dishonours his family by choosing a fast-paced lifestyle over duty. He breaks his parent’s hearts.
Part 3: Racing for Love and Passion
The next day he sees her. Surya falls for head-over-heels in love with Juliet the first moment he lays eyes on her. He’d seen her and tried to speak with her over the past few days on a couple of occasions but sadly she doesn’t notice Surya. That is, until she learns that he is her next assignment. Juliet works for a US-based sport magazine writing a story about the passion for rally racing in India, trying to make a name for herself as a serious journalist in a male-dominated industry. She’s smart, witty, kind to everyone she meets and beautiful. Juliet has sun-kissed skin from years of living on the beach in Los Angeles, she has long amber hair and eyes the colour of the sky.
When word reaches the magazine about Surya’s story – the poor, tyre factory worker from a small village who outraces today’s finest drivers and is now signed with one of the world’s leading racing teams – the magazine decides that Juliet should tour with Surya and write an ‘underdog exposé’ feature. During her first interview with Surya, she falls head-over-heels for him too. It’s inexplicable but the chemistry is undeniable. Surya is several years her junior but there is simply something special about him…and something special about them.
The game is on now for Surya, in more ways than one. He needs to prove to his family that he made the right choice and sets out to be the number one racer in India.
The new life Surya is leading is like a dream come true. He is an overnight sensation with the fans as an underdog newcomer. His team is thrilled as he continues to place closer and closer to the number one spot with each race. The engineers marvel at the ingenuity of the improvements he’s making to the car. It’s as if the car is speaking to him directly because there is no explanation for why this young and inexperienced villager should know so much about racing.
Surya and Juliet see each other almost daily. They fall madly in love. Juliet also graduated top of her class, also comes from hard-working parents and also has a passion for adventure and craves an adrenalin rush just like Surya. The two are literally drawn to each other, like the sea to the shore. They can find each other through massive crowds in the flash of an eye and they spend every possible moment together. When they are alone one day, Surya looks at her sweetly and tells her that he never knew a woman like Juliet even existed until the day they met. Juliet wakes up to sweet messages from Surya on her phone almost daily. Everything seemed perfect but to Juliet’s surprise Surya tells her that they must hide their relationship from the judging eyes of the world in India. Coming from liberal California, Juliet doesn’t understand the conservative request but she trusts him and respects his choice for now.
Their romance is like something out a movie – with tenderness and caring that neither has ever known. For Juliet, she’s never been so drawn to a man the way she is for Surya. For Surya, not only has he never been in love before but he’s never seen a man and woman display the openness or passion that the two are sharing aside from in unedited foreign films off the net. This is all new for him, he’s never even witnessed his parents kiss…yet with Juliet it feels like the most natural thing in the world to do.
Surya and Juliet seem to fit together perfectly. They are both adrenalin junkies. Surya takes Juliet for exciting rides in the open air on the back of a rented Harley Davidson. Juliet has had her private pilot license for years and she surprises Surya one day by taking him up in the air to fly over the ocean in a Cessna 172. They play chess together in the evenings, sipping wine and swapping tales. They spend hours on the sofa wrapped in each other’s arms, watching romantic Hollywood films in which the man bends down on one knee to propose marriage to the woman he loves.
But Surya’s insistence that they keep their relationship a secret hurts Juliet. She’s in love but he constantly makes her feel like she’s a dirty secret that he’s ashamed to acknowledge. Even worse than that, the situation makes Juliet feel like she isn’t good enough for him. This isn’t the life that Juliet envisioned for herself, being made to act and subsequently feel like a mistress in her own love life. She knows she deserves better than this so Juliet starts to pull away.
Much to Surya’s surprise, Asha arrives on the bus from Mysore to watch him race one Sunday in Bangalore. She confesses the feelings she’s had for Surya since childhood. Surya is torn. With Asha he would certainly have his parent’s approval. They are the same age, from the same village and it would be logical for them marry one day. The match is expected but Surya isn’t sure what to tell her. He loves her as a mate but isn’t in love with her. He wishes he could just tell her about Juliet to make her understand that he isn’t trying to be aloof to hurt her. When Juliet meets Asha she senses Asha’s feelings for Surya. She does her best to be gracious and warm and befriend Asha, and never allows her feelings for Surya to surface in front in Asha.
Shivanth, the handsome son of the owner of the season’s top racing team has had his eye on Juliet. At the same time as Juliet doubts whether or not she should stay or go, Shivanth makes his move to win her heart. He invites her out on the town and proudly introduces her to all of his friends, showing Juliet that there are men in India who would be proud to love her. It’s such a refreshing change for her, and Shivanth is such a sweet, nice guy that she’s starting to wonder what life might be like with him. Juliet is torn. He comes from a family with a global spirit who is open to the idea of seeing their son with an American. Surya senses that he is losing her.
When Surya sees Juliet standing side-by-side with Shivanth and the rival team he becomes jealous and his temper gets the better of him. For weeks, they have been winning almost every race and when the rival team walks by and cracks a joke at Surya a physical fight and brawl breaks out. Surya’s team is outnumbered but our hero comes out of the fight victorious. The rivalry between these teams is now intensified.
The season is starting to come to a close and Surya has one last race to make it to number one.
Part 4: Winning at Any Price
Juliet and Shivanth are seeing more and more of each other and it is breaking Surya’s heart. But like he told Juliet time and again, he knows that his family has other ideas for him and they would never approve a love match to a foreigner so what’s the point in starting something that can never be? The happiness they feel now would one day have to die and in the end they will both be hurt when things have to end. Juliet doesn’t feel the same passion and love for Shivanth but she adores the fact that she’s with a nice guy who respects her and makes her feel like she’s an important part of his life. Somehow that makes up for the fact that she doesn’t really love him like she loves Surya.
The last race of the INRC series is just around the corner and Surya is dedicating his every waking hour to prepare for it. This race is his last chance to prove to his family that he belongs in the exciting world of rallying and not back home in a tyre factory in Mysore. There’s also a small part of Surya who is racing for Juliet, the woman he knows he shouldn’t love but does.
The day of the race is laced with excitement. Surya’s heart sinks just a bit when Juliet, conducting possibly the final interview for her story on Surya, not only shows up to the race with Shivanth but then speaks to him in a professional tone that shows no signs of the love they once felt.
Surya and his team huddle and pray in the few minutes before the big race begins. With spectacular hills forming a picturesque backdrop, the winding valley roads provide a perfect setting for the fierce battle ahead. Surya begins with a bang and handles the car with precision and ease all day. With only 2.25 km of super special stage left before him, the 13 second lead he has over his rival seems enough to assure him of the title. Then something happens. Surya overcompensates around a hair-pin turn and the car slides off the track. The 13 second lead is now lost as he sees his rival coming into the corner. He guns it and accelerates to maximum speed. The two rivals are now neck-and-neck until almost the end, then Surya manages to break away, jumps ahead and wins 1st place for his team by only a fraction of a second.
He’s done it! Surya is so elated that he is distracted for just a moment, drifts from the course and doesn’t see the tree trunk ahead of him. The front right wheel clips the trunk and shoots the car into a triple spin through the air before slamming hood-first into a tree. Juliet witnesses it all and takes off running to Surya but Shivanth restrains her and holds her back, as tears stream down Juliet’s face. In a single instance, Shivanth understands the secret the two had been keeping.
The fuel line rips open and a spark from the engine ignites the vehicle. The field marshals rush to put out the flames before the fire reaches the interior of the vehicle. The paramedics wait nearby to rush in and save them. The fire is controlled but when Surya is removed from the car he appears to be dead. By the looks of the car and the flames that have engulfed it, it seems impossible that either occupant could have survived the crash. He is placed on a gurney in the back of the ambulance unconscious and rushed to hospital. Surya’s family is watching on TV and they are devastated. Is their son going to make it? Have they lost him forever?
Luckily, the injuries are minimal but Surya has a broken rib from the impact against the safety restraint, a broken arm and a body full of scrapes and bruises. While in and out of consciousness, Surya dreams of the love triangle he has created with Asha and Juliet, and he imagines both of them fighting for his love.
When he finally wakes up, he learns what has happened to him from the team owner. He won 1st place at quite a high price. His family arrives to be with him but Juliet never comes. Juliet realizes that she doesn’t love Shivanth and that there is no reason to stay in India without Surya by her side. Surya has no idea that she calls the hospital to secretly check on him, even after she says goodbye to Shivanth and India and returns home to California.
While in hospital Surya thinks about what he really wants in life and what matters most to him. He’s lived the dream and now it’s time to go home, honour his family and live his real life. But Surya could never marry Asha or anyone else knowing that his heart belongs to someone else. It’s not fair to Asha or him because it would only cause them both pain as the years go on, even if they stayed in the marriage forever out of their sense of duty.
Surya decides to be honest with his family about his love for Juliet, a foreigner from California. He promises to go home to Mysore and engineer racing tyres at the factory if they approve his love match to Juliet. His parents don’t want to lose him again and they agree.
As soon as his rib heals enough to travel, Surya takes the first flight to Los Angeles. He shows up at the magazine where Juliet works with flowers in hand. He sees Juliet at her desk, and without any explanation she senses something and slowly turns her head around and sees Surya. All the love they ever felt for each other comes flooding back and she stands up and walks to him. Then, just as she reaches him and extends her arms to hug Surya, he surprises her by bending down on one knee like in the Hollywood films they used to watch together and presents her with a ring. Tears flood Juliet’s eyes. Surya asks her to marry him and she says yes.
Their new life in Mysore is nothing like what either of them ever dreamed for themselves. Destiny brought them together and love and passion sealed their fates. Juliet could write from anywhere, Surya still enjoys adrenalin bursts whenever he test drives his newly engineered tyres, and his family has their son safe at home with them and a new daughter-in-law who they’ve welcomed with open arms.