I had less interest in anything fictional- abstract writing, poems, short stories, plays, novels. I found them ‘unproductive’. I wondered what purpose did they serve? I found them to be nothing but a redundant replay of common feelings such as, sad, happy, shock, love, hatred, revenge, resistance etc. Only thing that changed was the set up- different circumstances, time and space. To me they looked like a transcription of a mind gone astray.
Some were nothing but a self absorbed writer’s indulgence in self-pity. Such writings, I felt were nothing but a forcible rubbing on people in the name of literature. The bombastic words, exclamations, commas and spaces, the sarcasm written down in spoken-English, the tiny details of how the leaf is hanging on the tree branch, they all gave me stress. While reading a poem, I found it so hard to imagine a dark sky and the rain that never poured, because the real object there was a teary eye. The metaphors used are sometimes most obvious, used by many already, they are not new anymore.
A ‘writing’ which did not enlighten me, which did not reveal true incidents, which did not inform me of anything or made me aware of less spoken stuff, did not deserve my attention or time. I was firm I would not indulge in reading anything poignant, anything dreamy or cliched. I considered it to be nothing less than guilty pleasure and thought it would blow my intelligence away. Yes, I was and will always be a proud non-fiction reader!
In all these years I never bothered to stop for a moment and flip through the pages of at least the best selling fiction books. Each time I made an attempt to read, I fell back mid-way. It’s really difficult to keep track at times. I never felt hooked. The entire thing looked pointless, specially romantic fiction and murder mysteries. They were not feeding me with anything that would stay with me forever, you know, like ‘information’.
You must be wondering what did I read as a child? I did read Edin Blyton when I was 11. Went on to read Nancy Drew, Secret Seven, Ruskin Bond and Malgudi Days. I read a little of Shakespeare. The only story I enjoyed as a child was “The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe”. The introvert I am, I envied him for the solitude he gets to enjoy on an island, to others it may sound tragedy. So, it was a normal reading course as every child has had.
I was 14 may be, by then I completed three books of Harry Potter (because my best friend gifted them). I could have explored a little more and taken it to the next level. But, the NEWSPAPER spoiled the fun. I must be the only child to not be impressed by magic. My reading preferences shifted from fiction to non-fiction. Unlike others, I could never go back, dream a little, cry over the death of a fictional character and come back. The newspapers have a short life, everyday there’s a fresh one, they were something I needed to catch up with since the events happened in real time. The fiction writings were going to be there always, even though they were not real. This reason probably must have held me back.
You’d think I must be someone with no taste for art, no imaging or appreciation for life. But before that; all that you read so far was from a readers point of view.
It was only after I started pursuing writing I understood what I missed. It was only then I happened to realize that it was the writers’ pursuit of telling stories. In vain, I tried to be a prolific writer without reading fiction. I never needed to, until I wrote only on real issues, like a journalist that I never was. The need never came, until I did not have to narrate my feelings on un-documented things around me. So much of unpublished literature is just stuck in my mind because I don’t know how to express.All because my writing habit started off as an act of descenting against the government, absolute unromantic stuff!
By the way, I should admit my hypocrisy here. As a writer, I have had my equal share of producing what I just called ‘unproductive’ stuff, which never won the expected appreciation. And there is a lot more stalked up which I wrote only for myself.
My struggle with liking fiction was eased when I started taking wide interest in history. I could not brush this subject away as a gone story which did not concern me in anyway; nothing fascinates me more than this subject. From Ramesh Singh to Bipan Chandra and Romila Thappar to Ramachandra Guha, I’ve read them all. Travelling back the timeline to a particular era to understand the circumstances then is something which never exhausts me. Drawing parallels between the present and socio-cultural aspects of people who lived in the times of Ashoka, Buddha and Akbar, understanding the evolution of a number of rituals which are observed even today, listening to concocted stories interpreted out of archeological evidences, all these sharpened my imagination. The work of historians and archeologists was something I found better than Harry Potter or Game of Thorns.
As long I drew this comparison between fact and fiction I was happy. Lately, I have found deep interest in the heritage of my city, Hyderabad. I happened to visit all the palaces the Nizams lived in, all the museums, forts and tombs. Initially I was annoyed with the items preserved. The Nizams were annoying lavish and royal. Basic items of daily use were made up of precious stones and fancy glassware. But then, I thought of the hands behind them. The artisans, painters, porters, poets etc. The etching of symbols, carving of an anonymous woman’s body, imitation of life-forms found in nature were all nothing but articulations, expressions. These, nobody could dismiss as unproductive or non-purposeful.
As I walked through the old buildings, touched the four century old walls, I could not help feeling emotional there. I haven’t been in those times to witness a war or a ceremony. They are only recorded as stories, but the moments of standing on the same spot where a historical event took place kicked up an adrenaline rush through my veins. My random feelings and the perceptions, I needed to show it in some form or the other. I am still struggle to compose a write up on that.
I am finally convinced reading fiction is no waste of time. I picked up a few historical fictions- The Shiva Triology, Asura, The Palace of Illusions, The Great Indian Novel. My quest for historical fiction is unquenchable now. It’s really beautiful how mythology incorporates philosophy and our contemporary writers re-tell stories to give us an alternate view, to make heard untold versions.
I should apologize to all those writers who were talented enough to weave stories on figments of imagination. I was ignorant to not realize the power of story telling. I wonder how I totally forgot that stories impart wisdom. Thankfully I realized that poems are facilitators to find expression to our micro-aggressions, to things which cannot be said very directly. I realized metaphors are actually life savers.
Should I be happy to have re-discovered and rejuvenated my lost interest? Not really. There’s just too much literature to cover in a single life. Too many authors to go to. My anxiety takes me no where. Not because I want to become a writer, but for the sake of it. I am wandering in search of stories that have a human touch. I need to filter the fine ones. I want to be hooked like a sincere reader, I want to believe in a dream within a dream, in the existence of the non-existent, in the unreal tragedy. I want to be shocked by hypothetical events. I want to be jealous of the perfection of unreal characters. I am finally ready to be taken over by fiction!
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