A QUEST WITH AN UNANSWERED QUESTION
Why do I write?
This question, a matter of introspection to me, arose in its most earnest state during one of my deeply sombre moods. It was late in the night and I felt my day too wasted to want to leave it behind and sleep. I had just finished reading a classic novel, and the melancholy its pages had contained lingered around the hall like a ghost that had followed me out of the book. I identified as an amateur writer but had not written in very long. I didn’t intend to now either; I had lost the passion. But it was still an identity I felt hollow without. It was in this moment that this question awoke. The loud silence of the room, the ghost of a novel written years past and my own restless crises over who I was shoved me into a sort of state. The sort where one happens upon a profound sense of truth throbbing within herself and stays transfixed by this chance discovery.
My guilt about not embracing enough my feebly stirring passion – writing- took the form of a soldier in chains, wanting to aggressively fight his way out of his confines and into the broad sunshine of people’s world. Shadows of thought, long mewling from the bottom of my self, shrieked out in urge now, to be born; and these were no meager shadows, for they were children not merely of the writer’s fingertips or tongue, but of the depth of her human spirit.
The question of why I write had flitted past my colorful world more than once, failing to receive no more attention than the dust of the desert sand would from a parched wanderer that has newly seen the deceptive mirage of an oasis.
But in the end, it is the sand-dust that the wanderer walks with, and it was the question that walked with me. I tried to hush it with shallow answers we both knew were not so much as close to the truth.
And still, unrelenting, the question would return with the whisper of a moonbeam or at a mood so uncharted by any object of interest. It would return and pester, and plague, and fester…
Finally, I realized I could no longer escape this recognition, this guilt. The myriad shadows of thoughts crowding the edges of my mind needed to come out, to assume a body, to be seen.
FIRST EPOCH: THE THREE WANTS
At first, I thought of writing as a mere profession. A mere response to people asking ‘what do you want to become in life? How would you want to ‘earn’ your livelihood (note: ‘earn’ refers to earning a livelihood in terms of money, not satisfaction or joy). I had thought some, rejected much and landed finally arrived to the peaceful conclusion that I would find my place amongst words and fables!
In truth, it began back when I was thirteen. There was a career counselling course I used to attend. It was a quite hall with desks on either sides. Every now and there a desk would be illumined in a pool of yellow and a young girl or boy like myself would be sitting behind its glow, lost in who knew what musings or what pursuit. My own pursuit was always the teenage fantasy of astronomy. I would read books about nebulous explosions, black holes and wormholes. I confess I don’t remember almost any of that now; but what I do remember is that I occupied the last bench in the quite hallway. Behind me, the glass walls revealed the steady flow of vehcles and the flash of their headlights two floors down. There was a world out there – busy and colorful. But inside, I was in a cucoon of silence, a profound and comforting sort. Only me, the warm yellow glow of the desklamp and my thoughts. These moments had made me a writer. I do not know how.
Nevertheless, I did not know now what it meant. Put it like this – you wouldn’t know the value of gold if you picked it off the ground. I was attracted to writing like one is fascinated by dancing lights that are reflected off a diamond. I never appreciating that there was, behind it, a full light and a diamond!
In those early stages, I knew writing to be an enticing ‘profession’. I confess with guilt now, that, the parade of successful writers who earned the respect of a flashy red-carpet, and the eulogies of admiring readers from across the continents drew me unseemingly to adopt it as a career. This was my most ignorant of requests from an art, I knew not then to be sacred.
Still, even in those amateur days, I cannot fully say this was the only prospect that transfixed me in the decision. Even then, a slightly nobler aspiration had been to acquire the strength of an unmutable voice that is gifted to a writer. A voice to be heard by the ears of men living yonder leagues across, through all the gushing roars of throngs of men. A writer had a voice, made entirely of silence, that spoke louder than any utterance of the tongue. And I wanted from the voice of these words, this power, to help ailing men scattered across the globe; to spread a change.
Then there was yet another wish to be fulfilled. I wanted from authorship, a name in the cover of a book that would exist through time, gathering dust on the shelves even after my mortal life had fled. I wanted my thoughts to be sighed out into the air which my own breath had long ceased to mingle with. I wanted the power of immortality that it granted.
These were the earliest of my wants; forceful wants then. But had I only realized at that time, as I do now, that these were all mere half-hollow treasures…
My wants had been all destination, and never the journey that is writing itself! But as some would say, the most wondrous of things about being the spirit of a river is that it meanders through the deep undergrowth of forest lands and gracefully gushes down a misty precipice, savouringing the luxuriant taste of a desert soil. Its final destination in itself is only a point on the Earth; but its journey is the whole world!
I would like to think of a writer as a river. Only when the writer is a river does his words flow. When a writer is a soldier, drilling in his mind the thoughts of a distant victory, then his words know only to march, leaving behind mere dusty footsteps to feed the wind.
To be continued…
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