I have had opportunities of listening to authors talking about their writing skills. About the books they have read, and the company they keep and the ways of writing into greatness, fame and riches. Indeed, you need strong networking skills, and recommendations and knowing the right people and master the latest marketing platforms etc ,etc.What most forgot, I thought, were two words: The Reader.
Strange are the ways of this writing world. It survives on one pivotal point called the reader. And readers, in my view, should never be under estimated. True, you can beguile us with flashy covers and screaming advertisements and lots of awards. We will spent our money to buy your books. But in that sacred moment when the reader is alone with the book, it is like a lovers’ union. Either you fall in love, or you mock, or you are indifferent, or worst, you hate what you hold in your ahem, arms. No editor, no publisher has entry permit into that holy ground.
The reader decides, what to read till the last page and what to shut down, after a few cursory look around, and what to forget, forever. There, something of the author becomes part of the reader: a process of assimilation and agreement or disagreement in quietude, the most human phenomenon of all- where race, religion, gender, country, nothing matters. Hence, the word sacred- sorry, we do not let dictators of any ideology to decide what to love and hate in our reading. Of course, that is why they burn books and ban schools in the first place. Who knows, if a philosopher from the frozen part of the world rouses a soul in a part of the world, where the sun burns harshly, to question the way of life in her society? The good thing is, that secret ritual, shared by readers of all human languages, will prevail forever. We are just too big in number for any eradication.
The notes on their writing journeys from two writers of Malayalam, delighted me. Priya A.S., who turned her childhood fights with illness, a la Stevenson, into a fiery writing gift, is one. I wish that she would give us more of her wisdom in words. Considering her potential, this young lady is not writing enough nowadays. In her speech, receiving the Lalitambika Antarjanam Award, she says ..( translated from vernacular) ..” T.A.Razakh in his screenplay comments that Artists were the blessed ones on whose heads the droplets of water fell; when the Divine shook his wet hands! I sometimes dread to think, what my condition would have been, but for those few drops that blessed me. My writing opens for me many windows, which otherwise would have remained close forever. When those windows opened, maximum sunshine fell on my own self. In that light, my eyes and mind opened….When I do not write, I am a mere leaf- floating helplessly..But when I write, I am the flow of water, even as I remain a leaf…Writing is also a balancing act for me. I shake my mind all over in that space. An anchor like one’s mother- to lay down the burden of what the world does to you…”
Benyamin, who enchanted us with ” Aadujeevitam”/ translated into English as Goat Days (and was long listed for Man Asian Literary Prize, 2012), has something to say about his writing destiny too.
“Circumstances and incidents pushed me to the writing path. Walk if you want to, this way, they said and left me there. I decided to walk the path of my destiny. That is all…My most favourite prayer is that of Nikos Kazantzakis: ‘Lord, please make me that person, whom you want me to be.’..In the middle of a big cashewnut orchard, within a small house, I have the memory of a mother, reading late into the night, by the light of the kerosene lamp. Perhaps, my intense desire for reading, came that way..Behind all the lines of all the writers,you will find the writer’s soul, life, dreams, beliefs,fears all in shadowy hues. Even the writer himself might not be able to discern that truth- unknown to him,unrecognised by him,unreachable even to him…I am still standing agape at my path. If there are stories destined for me to write, I shall definitely meet them along this path.”
Benyamin’s character in Aadujeevtam, Najib, is so inspiring that whenever I feel the world is too much for me, I dip into his story. Najib and his utter humility, his trust in the Divine and his redeeming gratitude, never fails to cheer me up.
Oh, there are so many worthy writers in this world, who shine a light for others to walk by. Often, they do it without much hue and cry. Without big lights and shouts of boastful glory. They converse with the reader in an intimate space. The prayer of Kazantzakis, is handed over, from the story being told, to the reader’s own life story.