The Writing (03.22.2005)
I have been writing since I was 14.
“Can you write me a decent love letter for my girl?”.
“Hey bud, I need to get this job. Can you write me a sparkling cover letter?”
“ I need to break up with that girl. Can you just bang something out where she doesn’t go stalker mode on me?”
You are on your own pal.
How is it that you write so clearly, so fluently?
Damn, can you teach me how to work that magic too?
Where do you find these words?
They ask me questions that I cannot answer. Not because I don’t want to divulge a trade secret, but because I have no appropriate answer that’s even close to the truth without sounding completely crazy.
I try to answer it though sometimes. Just for my own sanity.
I think back to my teenage years when I was just starting college. We were always a little short of money and needed to apply for funds that give out scholarships to needy students. My mother’s uncle had written out a good application that I used to help copy over, again and again, to apply at various trust funds. Slowly within those iterations came slight variations. I begin to inject a bit of my own personality, a slight dash of pepper to the placid salt.
I also have a voracious appetite for reading. It started with a newspaper — ‘The Bombay Samachar’, a Gujarati language chronicler of everyday news that I used to read daily while having lunch sitting on the balcony of my childhood home.
By 13, I had graduated from Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, similar variations of detective work by some smart and very lucky teenagers.
James Hadley Chase came in around 16 with its dark twist on human nature installing a new sense of how treacherous people, especially women could be. In some sense, I lost my innocence but it made for some ravishingly absorbing reading.
Around 18, I got my hands on the first real nonfiction — “ The Day of the Jackal”, a biography of Carlos the jackal, an internationally known manipulator who turned assassin for hire. My dad had got it a while back, probably given to him by someone. He was not a reader by any means and kept himself limited to the daily newspapers. I read it end to end completely fascinated, refusing to get out from under the blanket for a couple of days as I wade through it.
One night, while studying for my MBA, my roommate brought in Atlas Shrugged, an Ayn Rand masterpiece that was in a category of her own. I never assimilated the outlook of free will and creative destruction that she so vigorously promoted, but I was fascinated by the characters. We used to take turns reading it- him from noon to night while I slept or chased tail. The night owl took over after 11.00 devouring it all night like a coyote picking at a 500-pound of flesh — One bite at a time.
When I ended up in the USA, in the heart of Silicon Valley I found this amazing store called Barnes & Noble, a Las Vegas buffet of ideas under one roof — all free.
On a lazy Saturday morning, I amble around and end up with a book by Jiddu Krishnamurti. Every sentence is a minefield. For the first time, I am not collecting information. I am actively destroying it. Destroying the ideas, I have, questioning my preconceived notions of a higher power. I scrape through every corner of my mind cleaning everything that I have collected over the years, probably over eons.
I leave the store to go home at 10.00 pm still on page 32. A boy slightly different from the one that walked into the store on that drizzling Saturday morning. I still did not buy the book then.
I had spent most of the years that followed wondering what to do with my life. Why did I feel so lost? What was it all for? It wasn’t until much later that in a moment of despair I turned to reading books. I read them and then I wrote — In notebooks that I filled up and left in drawers, unread, unseen.
I re-discovered something the little boy I used to already know: that the time that I spent reading was the best part of my day.
It still is.
There are books that mold me, and shape me into what I write as a reflection of who I am or better, what I have become.
But all the more, it is the fact that words have the capacity to move me. It makes me fascinated by their interplay and the enormity of their power in making or breaking a psyche.
I vacuum those words and sentences as I read storing them somewhere, to be used later.
When I sit down to write, all I do is slightly crack open that door.
There is nothing at first. I stare inside the dry well and a sense of immensity starts to take over.
Then the first thread of thought flutters by, like a feather floating down just before an impending storm.
A trickle of drops as they fall. A sense of relief washes over me. I know now that there are more coming.
And before I know it, the light drizzle turns to a roaring torrent.
I stop trying to write the words. A higher power takes over and pens it for me. Out they come in streams of consciousness.
I remember the Darvish and his words — If you stand at the precipice and stare too long into this dark abyss, it could turn you insane. Maybe this is what that insanity of higher consciousness feels like.
I never go back or revisit my sentences, ashamed that they are not written by me. That they are not my ideas but someone else’s.
But yet they come with a roar so loud it submerges every sound around me. An unstoppable force that threatens to destroy me and everything around me.
They cover everything in a sheath of luminosity, making things seem slightly glossier than they actually are.
It’s actually just minutes but it feels like years. It leaves me exhausted as it passes through me.
And then I am done.
I put down my pen or stop typing. I take a couple of steps away from my creation, afraid of what I have given birth to.
Like a survivor after a storm, I look around at the new landscape in dazed awe. There is complete silence at that moment.
There will be another storm brewing around the corner. But for now, I am surrounded by tranquility.
And this is how I write….