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“Aapne Naani Maa ko kab bataaya ki aapko writer banna hai, Mamma? (How old were you when you told Naani Maa that you wanted to be a writer, Mamma?)”, you asked one night while I continued to stare at the screen, re-reading a pathetic story I had just somehow finished writing.
“Hmmm… I didn’t even know I was going to be one, babu”, I said, gaze still fixed on the screen.
“But I know for sure that I want to be a writer like you one day. Should I tell you about it now or later?” You said, and I turned to look into your beautiful black eyes. [Your smiling eyes are the best thing that I have been gifted with, babu. They talk, and how!]
It took a few seconds for me to realize what you meant. I was not sure if it is the ‘want-to-be-a-writer’ part or ‘like-you’ part that I worried about more, but I suddenly felt a tight knot form inside my heart.
I had started writing this letter in my head while trying to put you to sleep, and I may have lost some important points in the process. But I will still try to tell you what it means to have a desire like that, so you make an informed decision when you have to take one. This letter should help you understand what it really means to have an unusual ambition of ‘being a writer’.
I didn’t want to be a writer, to begin with. Or at least didn’t want to be called one. It sounded too pretentious, too difficult to believe. It was alright to write through most part of the day, and it was alright not to get paid for that. And it was perfectly alright to remain unemployable with your musings and idiosyncrasies.
So, you see, writing isn’t such a fancy job after all. There is no money, and there is hardly any fame, at least for a long long time. And then, it is hardly considered respectable in our society. Writers are known to be self-destructive, mad, unsocial, promiscuous and broke.
Does it sound terrifying? It is meant to be.
Do you know what I am getting in the bargain out of this whole writing business? More and more heart breaks, while what I write seems like a piece of junk, something you would conveniently want to tear and toss into the dustbin. More and more sleepless nights, as I can’t get a damn story out of my head. I have got this compulsive disorder of eavesdropping and observing intently, when all it gives me is a terrible headache and restlessness. Mamma seems to be lost in her own world lately, staring at faces, trying to guess their stories or weave one for them. Nowadays I have been overwhelmed by this strong urge of writing about things I have never talked about – even when I am well aware of the consequences.
And then it fills me with immense peace when I realize that this whole writing thing is taking me away from the kitchen more and more. I care less about appeasing others now. It is taking me away from the unnecessary hours spent in fixing your opinions about everyone else around you other than yourself. YourMamma, however, still has to learn to handle the contempt in everyone else’s eyes when she walks into a room full of people after a long day spent on the laptop. “So, writing again, huh?” Well, yes. Sigh. I still haven’t found an answer to “itna kya likhti rahti ho”?
So, a writer will have to be prepared to destroy comfort zones while creating her own fantasy world. She will have to handle contempt and disdain which will come in abundance.
Do you want your characters to be what you could never be? Do you really want to go through the pain which isn't even yours? Especially when you don't even know if you will succeed at narrating that pain? I would rather want you to be carefree and untouched by what was going around you. You have one life, and you should live it well. Although I have no control over your destiny, and I have no idea what’s in store for you, I somehow dread this thought of you writing relentlessly.
You learn to write by trial and error. You learn to write by walking into the walls. You learn to write by bringing forth your pain and sufferings. You learn to write only if you are willing to go through this self-inflicted bitterness and loss. You learn to write only when you believe that what’s happening around you is not right, and you better talk about it in your own way!
So, my darling, writing can get extremely volatile for you, going against ideas of morality and righteousness that you were raised to believe in; conjuring unpleasant or simply unbelievable notions about life around you. If you really want to be a writer, be open-minded, for there is nothing that’s right or wrong. We are our best judges. And take a plunge only when you have the conviction of seeing through the layers that we are taught to ignore.
Do not pretend to believe when you do not. It is alright to question, debate and argue. Look for your own explanations. That’s again something you won’t be taught, especially with a mother like me around you, who so strongly believes in harmony that she will forego her convictions just to maintain peace in her surroundings. That, my girl, is not a good state to be in for a writer, or even for a woman. So, I would rather say you change the ‘like-Mamma’ bit to ‘unlike-Mamma’. Or at least make some amendments while you are trying to be like Mamma.
So, babu, decide to be a writer only when you are sure of being able to handle extreme emotions like love and hatred. Be a writer only when you can do well with your failures. Be a writer only when you have questions worth thinking about.
I know in my hearts of heart that the daughter I feel proud of everyday will make me feel proud one day. Here is what I wish for you… May you be the creative being Mamma could hardly be and may your life become your work of art, just the way you want it to be.
For now, Mamma will write because she wants to live life twice over - one in the moment, and the other in retrospection.