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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Today's Morning Walk - Encountering a Writer

 Today’s experience on my morning walk was a bit disturbing, in a sense, it affected certain beliefs and assumptions of mine. Most people think writing is a dream job and that all one needs to do is sit in a room, facing a window, and write. Most people are taken up by this illusion to be writers. Here’s what Angus Wilson says in Adil Jussawala’s book “I Dreamt a Horse Fell from the Sky” (My present reading):

“People still come up to me at literary luncheons... and say the most awful things. There was this lady who came to me and said, ‘Oh, Mr. Wilson, I’ve always wanted to write, but I just can’t find the time.’ Isn’t that extraordinary? People don’t realise how much I’ve had to give up in order to write.”

This was something such. I was on my usual morning walk around the Artist Village dam, which had dried up of late. It probably portends to the harsh summer that will follow, I guess. Grass was growing on the edges of the little puddles that were still left, making it look like a group interconnected ponds. There were birds pecking at small fishes and, on the opposite shore, a group of children were fishing with a net.

Then I heard shouting, loud hysterical shouting. It was coming from a few huts that had been built around the dam, where poor daily-wage earners were living. I was in a shock when I went to investigate. She was a published writer of repute, who had, lately, fallen into bad times. Was fortune to blame or society, or, the literary establishment, I don’t know. She was hardworking and spent long hours writing and, somehow, her brilliance is rumoured to have turned against her. Her latest works weren’t published, reason for which I am unaware.

She stops me and asks me how long I have been staying in the neighbourhood and how long the huts have been here. I found this odd because I know her, her family, and her reputation as a writer. Though presentable, she was in dishevelled state and wore a dirty-looking house coat. I tell her I have been living here for the past thirty years and know her husband. The huts came up in the last few years, as they always do in vacant spots of land in New Bombay. This is the first time I am talking to the reclusive writer. She was unhappy about the huts and the temples that had come up a few years earlier, about which we could do nothing. These days, we have a strict municipal commissioner who is demolishing these structures only to find them cropping up again. It’s a law of nature that people’s faith can’t be challenged. These things I discuss with her, telling her that she should complain to the authorities, not deal with them, meaning hut dwellers, directly.

It was a strange encounter. She is past her prime in writing and I am still in search of my identity as a writer. It seemed odd that after having achieved so much, she hadn’t found contentment and self satisfaction. I came away very disturbed by the walk.

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