Days turn into months which turn into years. Even before we adjust to the pace, they turn into decades. One more decade of my life had gone past. In that decade, the most significant one until then, a lot had transpired. I had overcome many fears, main one being that of the unknown, and insecurity of having to go through life without a regular job. But before that, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Whenever my father told me during my growing up years that uncertainty is the biggest catalyst in one’s self development, I had scoffed. But at 40, I realised the true meaning of it, years after he had left this planet.
I was the kind who didn’t quite believe in – if life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. For me it’s more like – If life gives you lemon, go get vodka. So you see, it’s never easy for people who not just ask for more but also push their boundaries to go get it. The first week of my life as an independent aspiring author looked something like this:-
Day 1 – Wake up before sunrise, go to the kitchen, get a huge mug of coffee, pick up the notebook I had bought to write (Yes, I’m the pen and paper fossil still), stare at the blank page, sip coffee, stare some more at the blank page, write `Om’ on top, stare more, drink up the coffee, stare at the bottom of the empty mug, wait for inspiration, go back to bed. Wake up a few hours later, read newspapers from the beginning to end, have breakfast, clean the closet, watch TV, have lunch, take a nap, wake up when my son got home, chat with him for a bit, chat with my husband for a bit, go for a walk, get back home, watch some more TV and off to bed thinking “Tomorrow will be a better day to begin my book.”
Day 2 to Day 7 – Repeat all the actions except cleaning the closet. Instead, I clean the kitchen, go out to movies with my husband or friends (including morning shows, if you please) and random stuff like counting clothes to send out to the dhobi, watering the plants and before hitting the snooze button, reassuring myself that the next day would be the day.
So what happened to that burning desire to write a book for which I had chucked up a cushy job? Luckily for me, it didn’t permanently go into a limbo, though there were days when I was tempted to just pick up another job and revisit my dream later.
In essence, I did everything except writing for which I had ostensibly taken a sabbatical.
Day 8 – After repeating the same actions till 11 AM, I decided to phone my friend Bina who lives in Goa. (Those days I would spend hours speaking to friends on the phone when I was actually supposed to be writing!) God bless my soul sister who suggested I pack my bags and get there. “You need to get away, my dear,” she said convincingly. Hmmm…. Hmmmmm…. I mulled, hemmed, hawed. Something was stopping me from reaching out to my dream. What was that something? What was I wary of? Why wasn’t I just picking up the pen and writing when I had left everything behind to start a new chapter of my life? Guess what?
It was the FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN. I was scared to embark on a journey which had no definite path or outcome. I did eventually get over it. It took me a month of ennui. One fine day, I just decided to snap out of it. Worst case scenario, no publisher will touch my book. So be it! I couldn’t just sit doing nothing about my dream. I heeded Bina’s advice and off I went to Goa with my husband and son. While they sunbathed, drank and ate, I wrote while watching the sea in between. They returned after a week and I stayed on for a while. I was consumed by my writing. I took tiny breaks to eat and sleep, rest of the time, I just wrote. All this thanks to my friend Bina’s timely advice and of course, my understanding family.
That’s how my debut novel ‘Butterflies and Barbed Wires’ was born. More importantly, that’s how I had overcome my fear of unknown. My first novel was published by Rupa Books in 2006 and went on to become a best seller. Interestingly, several papers and thesis have been written by research scholars on it. One in particular is extensive. Thank you Pratima Das. Here’s the link: http://www.museindia.com/regularcontent.asp?issid=37&id=2652
Here is a review by my favourite blogger and author Anuradha: http://www.anureviews.com/butterfly-and-the-barbed-wires-by-vanaja-banagiri/
Recently I stumbled upon a Project funded by Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany – CHANGING FOOD CULTURE IN GLOBALISING HYDERABAD by Rebecca Hofmann and Christoph Dittrich – which started off with a paragraph from my book. This is how it goes:-
“Mir-alam-mandi, the famous marketplace in the old city was bustling with
life. Under the hidden sun and the seeking clouds, hundreds of people – men
and women, boys and girls, Hindus and Muslims – were going about the
mundane business of their weekly shopping. Haggling buyers and cajoling
shopkeepers, happy vendors and disgruntled customers, satisfied buyers and
tired sellers. Various permutations. Different combinations. Once common
Food has always been a great binding agent in the lives of Hyderabadis.”
(Prologue to ‘Butterflies and barbed wires’ by Vanaja Banagiri)
I don’t know Rebecca and Christoph. But if I do meet them at some point in life I would like to tell them how I almost didn’t write the book because of my fear of the unknown.
Life’s interesting! Let’s not stop ourselves from achieving our true potential because of the imaginary barbed wires!