The last few days were tough, there were thick clouds of uncertainty, darkness of despair and gloom of loneliness. The feeling enveloped me soon after a fairly good Pooja, I hope it was not what I suspect it to be -- post pooja depression, for it will prove I that I have finally turned into a true blue Bengali, not that I mind it anymore. If anything, I would love to be born as one next time, in the land of love, art, culture and beauty. As a beautiful, intelligent, nonchalant Bengali woman. In this lifetime though, I find consolation in being married to one and being mistaken for one -- more often than not.
Finally the sun shines. There is nothing that a smile, a little love, a long heart baring conversation and some shopping for your loved one cannot counter. If by chance they fail, try seeking refuge in your favorite music and your favorite author's works. In my case, it happens to be Ruskin Bond.
I love Mr Bond. He is the reason I started to read, he is the reason I started to write. If you know him or about him, good for you - you belong to a minority, a small section of people who take pride in Indian literature. If you don't, please read him, he is the best storyteller ever - God sent for people who love it short and sweet; who want real stories of real people and real places, of places they belong to, of people they belong with.
Story telling is both an art and a craft. Many people around me are gifted storytellers -- especially my brother and husband -- they can talk about a five minute incident for an hour and keep you engaged and often in splits. It however has always been my waterloo; I have the capability to destroy the best of stories, if I ever decide to narrate one that is. If you notice, none of my writings are done in third person. I usually write in first person only.
So, to learn the art, I go back to Mr Bond, my absolute favorite and a completely undermined writer. Whenever I talk about him to people, I often hear them say "oh that children's writer !" I immediatly change the topic.
Unlike many other famous authors, he tells real stories of real men and women. In the introduction to one of his masterpiece collections -- Friends In Small Places, he says "Somerset Maugham liked writing about the people he met. So did Maupassant and Chekhov. That is why their stories are never dull. They wrote about real people. I find most people interesting, the dull ones are those whose lives are too orderly or those who are forever boasting of the ease with which they have succeeded in life. True that, what's the fun of a perfectly orderly life? It will be one long boring story.
That, most of his stories are set in and around Dehradun and Mussoorie, perhaps adds to the connect that I have with them. I was born in Dehradun and grew up listening about it from my mother who spent her youth in and around Dehradun and Mussoorie.
It is often difficult to determine if a writer's life is as romantic as the world makes it to be or as difficult as the writers themselves claim it to be. Thanks to the stories they tell, the many affairs they have or the underlying sense of unfulfillment that runs through all their tales, writers often earn a romantic tag. From what I understand though, a writer's life is often more difficult than romantic, what the world sees is the result of years of hard work, patience, loneliness and uncertainty -- the success. What the world fails to see is what goes into making them successful -- the hard work.
Ruskin Bond writes about his hardships and his struggles too, but hardly romanticises them. They are beautifully entwined in his stories, making an appearance once in while, as a matter of fact and not as something he dwells upon. Almost all his stories are biographical, some are autobiographical too. Until, I started to write, I often wondered how did he manage to fall in love so many times? I soon realised that a writer simply tells a story while the reader often mistakes it to be his story. That also reminds me that most of my stories are in first person. Does that mean they are my stories? Not really, I am incapable of handling so much love.
The reality is, all of us, at various points in our lives, fall in love. Sometimes, over and over again, and when we do, the age does not matter, neither does the social standing or marital status. It just refrains and restrains us from its expression and often even acceptance. But one can fall in love many times over, with the same sincerity and passion.
So, Mr Bond falls in love too -- when he is a teenager, when he is a young writer in England, when he returns to India and lives in shanty rooms on the roofs and even when he is forty three. Most of the stories are about women older or much younger to him, most of them of unfulfilled love, unending passion and abrupt ends - that's what real life is about.
But while he is love, it is all encompassing, in one he confesses to have ignored his typewriter and writing altogether. In another he travels all the way to Delhi to get a glimpse of the girl he wants to marry, who is less than half his age -- still in school. In the same story he goes on to say "What else can one say, I love you, I love you. There is nothing simpler; nothing that can be made to mean any more than that. And what else did I say, That I would look after you and work for you and make you happy; and that too had been said before, and I was in no way different from anyone. I was a man and yet I was a boy again" and then later in the story "I may stop loving you, but I will never stop loving the days I loved you."
Then there is The Girl From Copenhagen, where he spends two days and a night with an unknown girl. He says "We made no promises - of writing, or of meeting again. Somehow our relationship seemed complete and whole, as though it had been destined to blossom for those two days. A courting and a marriage and a living together had been compressed, perfectly, into one summer night." It reminds me of Walking in the rain though I had not read this story when I had written that.
There are many, many more beautiful stories and passages that I can go on sharing, but, for now, I must read and practice. The art and craft of telling stories, after all how can I call myself a writer, if I cannot tell stories.
Before signing off, one last passage from his latest collection. Something strikingly similar to what I wrote in my last post. "Falling in love is probably the best thing that can happen to a writer; it gives a certain spontaneity and intensity to his writing" and " My life has been one long love story, and I have loved people, I have loved flowers, the sun, the moon and stars, old roads, old trees, children, grannies, butterflies, seashells, fairies... And of course I keep falling in love, for where love begins, there is the border of heaven."
No, I had not read this when I wrote That heady feeling called love.