Like a parent shouldn’t discriminate between her children – ‘should’ is a nasty, idealist’s favoured imperative – all my writings are dear to me. ‘Going Home’ is no less.
When I eventually agreed on revealing a short story, the obvious next question was – Which one?
Why not the first one to ever get published, I decided.
(For once, a rarity, most of my cranial parts were in concurrence.)
6th September 2006, Issue 7.
I’m glad to know the magazine is still around, it’s current avatar Winter 2013, Issue 31. It brought a smile for the editor. Good job, Lizzie.
I had sent in three of my short stories. This was a place which accepted short short-s. The editor’s choice had disappointed me. There was another I was rooting for, more subtle and lyrical.
Of course I wouldn’t argue with the editor’s taste, settling to rework on her advised editorial changes, barely able to keep the excitement down, somewhat disgruntled with her suggestions. Usually I am careful what I publish where. IPR issues aren’t any wishing away matter. I didn’t understand these things, what was literary right and how much was giving too much away. I couldn’t make uninformed decisions that would jeopardize my children’s future. Till I can, I will guard them with my soul, not let them out of my sight, not turn them loose and open to anybody’s mauling.
I have gone to the internet and read the story off the website once in a while. I forget the e-zine’s name but my pseudonym is easy to pick up, taking me straight home, the first entry in Google’s offering, a fortunate choice in SEO. No, to reveal my mask would be giving too much away. Or the link.
It was a conscious plan to stick with an alter ego. I was tempted to see if my children are good enough on their own caliber, I didn’t want their credit to chase its tail back to me. Becoming a celebrity was never my aim, strongly abhorred. I want to be able to stand at the para phuchkawallah’s and down my globular rhapsody unmolested by eulogic interferences.
Literary parenthood was not my choice, some kind of divine command. You do not keep nestled in your breast such worthy children, you are compelled by Jesus’s stringent lesson to let them sing aloud and shine. Literature is my heart’s house, not a ticket to some seedy Page 3 party. I can do without the attention, thank you; if the book buying public knew of my true misanthropic views, no children of mine would ever be lifted off their placental grave.
As a parent, the least bit I can do for them is to shut up and shut away my true self.
I read ‘Going Home’ off the website sometimes, because I fear, I may have let this child of mine down, irreparably damaged its chances. It struck me a little too late in the day, what Lizzie might have seen in the story, what I had missed detecting as it occupied just another place in the collection.
The editor saw: Bhukha India.
Sadly, possibly, that’s all she saw.
Why else this story and none other? What about its stark portrayal caught her eye?
To me, as I was writing, frenzied through several nights and days, struggling to bring five different storylines to their logical conclusion, goading myself to stay within the word limit, getting my sensorial kick out of meeting impossible parameters all at the same confounded time, this teeny perspective had slipped me.
It saddens me that a stranger, offered three different viewpoints, did not notice my creative versatility.
It disturbs me more, that the peek she got of a social milieu is one hundredth piece what my land is…or my city. And I had added ingredient to perpetuate her lopsided mirage, what shame!
A Scotsman trying to flirt with me virtually, when rebuffed, sent me a horrid email once, muddling up his geography and calling me names similar to a Thai slut. His idea of India was a sorry mix of Kamasutra meets Slumdog. Hormones beaten off think and speak so from the pissing point.
But his funny email – oh, he also accused me of being a third world overgrowth that didn’t know any English – had set me thinking. Reflections on ‘Going Home’ hit me then. And just at that point, to a tiny degree I agreed with my fellow countrymen’s objections with certain artistic representations.
I hadn’t fully liked Slumdog, purely as a film, except for the editing technicalities. I didn’t like Eat Pray Love at all, despite Julia, found it a box of bunkum. I would have eaten in India, prayed in Japan and made love ecstatically in an Italian olive grove, whatever.
No, I will never censor those authors or directors, add my voice to any kind of creative anti-lobby. Sometimes the controversial crop has actually pleased me, be it Water, the film, or City of Joy, the book. Even when they haven’t, I will speak in favour of Joffe or Boyle getting their say, pick unreserved the next Jhumpa Lahiri or Amy Tan or Monica Ali or Paul Theroux off a book store. Merchant Ivory made a kill off the Indian subcontinent, Ruth Prawer Jabvala did no less (Heat and Dust was the trigger of my many pubescent afternoon unmentionables, but we’re not going there), neither Forster. Ray had leveled against him allegations of pimping off Indian poverty to a Western audience.
Come to think of it, why only Pather Panchali? What of Bibhuti Bhushan, Sarat Chandra or Premchand and the bulk of Indian literature would have materialized but for the preponderance of poverty and pain?
And here I am beginning to feel lighter and less guilty already.
I only wish, spectators wouldn’t come to judge hastily, but bring their bags and open minds to a horizon, and cleanse their lens frequently.
Sigh. Questioning ones biases is not usual practice of the human race, why do I forget?
Till such a state ever comes to pass, I will hug Nelo slightly tighter to my heart; a little tattered, dusted, fallen, lame, this little son of my cranial conception, deserves my warmer understanding.
You can read Going Home here.