When I told my mother that I wanted to be a writer, I expected some kind of disagreement. She was not very delighted but she wasn’t angry either. I got a modest and an are-you-sure okay and soon we both forgot about it. Somehow, sluggishly, I finished college and I obtained a degree that said I was an Electrical Engineer.
Even though I had told a few people that I wanted to be a writer I wasn’t really serious about it. I fantasized about it yes – Living in a big new strange city, lost and lonely among millions; I am sleeping on the pavements, cold, helpless and yet the fire in my heart kindles and I dream and I dream. Often I don’t eat, often I forget to eat, my writing is all that is and all that will be. I stay in my miserable room devouring two-three books I have, day and night, again and again. But those few books are my life. War and Peace, Madame Bovary, The Ulysses, and oh how I read! Like a demon. My room is built with bricks and rejection mails. And still, I breathe. And still, I write. No one in my family is talking to me. I have no friends. The fumes of my cigarettes and a glass half filled with cheap warm whiskey are my only companions. Yes, it is hard. It is so difficult that almost all kinds of poetry make sense to me. But I am on my way to be a great writer.
The reality, however, is that after graduating out of college I joined a company. We manufactured switchgear, did our bit in providing safe electricity to people. It was a normal 9 to 5 (or 7 or 9 or sometimes 10) job, which I grew to hate within two months. But I could have continued doing it for the rest of my life if it wasn’t for my family.
‘You don’t deserve such a job,’ my mother used to tell me. ‘You should do something else. Do you have anything in mind?’
In my mind, there was a dream that I never thought could ever come true.
‘I don’t know’
‘How about MBA?’ she asked.
Another trending degree that I am actually not interested in studying but I may get a better paying job with it so yeah why not.
A day later, she called me again, ‘How about English?’
That would be wonderful! Wait, what?
No, Ma, you are supposed to force me into choosing a ‘practical’ degree.
You are supposed to be an antagonist so that I could be a protagonist.
You are supposed to say things like – ‘Just because a few odd people praised your writing that doesn’t mean you could be a writer!’ Then I am supposed to leave home, burning with fury and ambition and say stuff like, ‘Oh but you are wrong Ma. I am leaving now. Forever.’ And out of this tragedy, a great writer shall emerge.
‘Why not study writing if you like writing so much?’, my mother told me instead.
You are supposed to resist my dream. You are not supposed to make it your own. What’s wrong with you! What kind of broad-minded dreamy mother are you who sends her daughter to study creative writing all the way to England?
They say that artists live wretched lives. They say they have the worst family. And that somehow contributes to their genius. I have a decent life, a supportive family, so does that mean I am disqualified?
And I wonder…
Do I really need to be Charles Bukowski or is it okay to be the way I am and still be a good writer? I don’t smoke cigarettes and I don’t drink cheap warm whiskey. I haven’t read War and Peace. And no, most poems still don’t make sense to me. Sometimes my own poems don’t make sense to me. I live in a decent apartment. I don’t have money in my bank account but I can’t call myself poor. I can afford to buy books. I have Kindle, Netflix subscription (which I just canceled), and a car to go to the nearby library (which I never drive because I don’t know how to drive). Such is my writing life – not ideal but still privileged, and the only real hurdles I face are mental. Hurdles like questioning whether I am actually a writer if I haven’t struggled enough to ‘know the reality of life’. Hurdles like – Can I ever stop wondering what life would have been as an engineer? As a management student? Can I really be at peace knowing how my social rankings have slipped now that I have switched to humanities, that I can no longer consider myself ‘smart’, that Engineering to me is just a paper in my folder, that I have no knowledge regarding that field anymore, that I never really had any, that I have no idea what I am doing right now, did I ever have any such idea, does anyone have any idea, that I am not designing any kind of artificial intelligence, but I am sitting here writing a dumb book. But I love writing that dumb book. So shut up.