Sunday, February 14, 2010

Writers and Writing

“They don’t get someone like you,” said my editor. She was referring to the fraternity of Indian writers. I suspect some of them had heaped scorn on my non literary pretensions in her presence. We were in the hub and din of the Delhi Book Fair and I am not quite sure whether what she said was intended to be a compliment.

I think she was slightly annoyed at my enthusiasm. I was unable to conceal my glee at the invitation from my publishers to spend a couple of days in the capital just browsing in the country’s largest book fair and luxuriating in five star comfort afterwards. I have been hosted enough and more times by organizations in my role as a consultant and coach. But that’s because they want me to do some work for them.

To be hosted as a writer without any agenda felt really good. Almost as good as fraternising with 30 writers from all over the world in the International Writers Program at Iowa. Or bagging two prestigious residencies in Kent and Pittsburgh in the span of two years. For a non literary writer, I am doing fine. Thank You.

To gloat further, a German scholar wrote to me recently asking for permission to reproduce one of my essays published in a newspaper in her academic compilation on Indian Writing in English. It is the same essay that had drawn the ire of a couple of “Establishment Writers” in India when it was published.

A week later I had lunch in Bangalore with a writer from UK who I had met in the Delhi trip and she told me she always turned down invitations to literary meets in her own country because of all the grandiose egos parading around. I don’t quite remember what she said exactly but there seemed to be gentle affirmation about the way I had turned out to be.

I guess the pompous affectations are not restricted to Indian writers. World over they believe in conforming to a certain type. With notable exceptions like Zadie Smith who was one of the first to champion publicly it’s not an either/or. You can be a writer and a decent human being.

Writers have attitude and say clever, cruel things to others in public dinners. I prefer to restrict the cruelty to my writing.
When I am not writing, I like to make friends and cook for them. I go to my son’s school sometimes and help out with theatre related activities. I also sleep a lot.

Writers are supercilious and prone to make lofty statements like “I am not my writing.”
I wonder what I will be without the writing.

Most writers turn silly after some public acknowledgement for their work has happened.
I am silly enough to see through that trap.

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