“’you must never write history until you can hear the people speak’…He thought about that for years, and in the end it came to feel like a valuable principle for fiction as well. If you didn’t have a sense of how people spoke, you couldn’t, and shouldn’t tell their story.”
The way people spoke….revealed so much about them: their place of origin , their social class, their temperament whether calm or angry, warm-hearted or cold-blooded, foul-mouthed or clean-spoken, polite or rude, and beneath their temperament, their true nature: intellectual or earthy, plain-spoken or devious, and yes, good or bad”
– Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton (Memoirs)
Midnight. The singular moment between night and day, between yesterday and tomorrow. Somehow pregnant with magic, because the sky sparkles black and blue and its both the end and the beginning and that will last another sixty seconds but forget about that for just now. The spell will be broken, and then you’ll forget about yesterday and start tomorrow.
Twelve Strokes- eleven beats to bind your imagination, one to bring you back to reality. Forget about the princes and mothers and adventures of yesterday. Where are they? Not here, not coming with you to tomorrow. You inhale on the twelfth stroke- clear sinuses, clear skies, clear mind. There’s no such thing as magic, anyways.
Beep beep. The shrill sound buzzing at you comes from your wrist. 0:00. Déjà vu. You’ve been here before, you’ll be back again. À demain.
So it goes that another day, another month, another year, we accept the illusion of moving forward while we cycle through so much of the same. Same places, same people. Different places, same people. Same places, different people. Different places and people, same battles.
But ultimately what remains the same is besides the point, because you’re different now.
That is the best part about newness, it’s an open offer for rewriting your self-definition, a blank space to be filled with what you desire.
Inevitably, white space gets filled and the illusion of new starts to fade as we see some of the same. It’s easy to recognize, so we gloss over the new. We lose steam. “Are you trying to go to the gym more this year? Best to start in Feb, after the January rush.” We are our own worst enemies, the first to burst our own bubbles.
We forget that you can change the pen, paper, the author remains the same. Or, you can change the author, pen, paper, remains the same. Sameness won’t escape us, no matter how much we crave a reset. Hard stops are tough- but don’t worry. You will finish what you started.
When I was fifteen, I cracked open the cover of a new novel- Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie. In return -it cracked me: the prose overwhelmed me, I had no concept of India’s history, couldn’t follow the in’s and outs of the labyrinthine plot. I closed the book and left it to gather dust on my white washed bookshelf- next to my hardcopy set of the Twilight novels and My Sisters Keeper. I didn’t have time to read anyways, I was too busy navigating the teenage waters of learning Calculus for the first time and pretending not to be a nerd.
Fastforward, and you’d see a taller me- furiously dragging my toes through the damp sand while pacing up and down the beach. I was watching the sunset (very beautiful sunset, orange hues and crimson hues and a giant orb that disappears right into an unmarred horizon that extends to the waves at your feet and washes over your sandy toes in a cool, pure white foam) and fuming. Fuming- because I was twenty-two and in India and bored despite myself and annoyed with being stared at and feeling physically on the edge of paradise but mentally trapped in a set of social structures I thought I hadn’t signed up for. (If you want to really fuck with your own emotions- I recommend voluntarily signing your time over to other people, and then conveniently forgetting your decision once you find yourself disagreeing with the itinerary and rules of engagement. Also, go to India.)
In my silent rage against myself and the universe I read aggressively. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t. I wanted to write about India, identity, culture, other random classic DEVS topics, but in my unexplainable state of bitterness, I couldn’t:
December 31st, 2017
How My Trip to India Transformed my Life
Amidst the vibrant sights, sounds, and smells, I gained a sense of clarity I didn’t know I needed, and I learned some truly invaluable lessons. The brilliance of things here illuminated so much. I probably knew all of these things already, but I’ll give credit where credit is due: India changed me, and now fully has my heart. There is a new energy coursing through me, filling me with a sense of renewed purpose and a desire to leave no time wasted. This is probably due to inspiration from the unique spiritual approach Indians take to life: Namaste.
- Never be dependant on wastemans. This goes for all things- from a ride to the beach to being your actual husband. If you’re putting yourself in situations where your day to day activities are contingent on wastemans being reliable- don’t.
- Time is precious. No seriously, people are capable of waiting all day. Why are you waiting? What is so special that you need to see/ do/ wait for? Have you ever made a list of all the things you could have been doing in this time that you were waiting? Doesn’t that bother you? No? Okay.
- Some things are certain, just as the sun will surely rise and set every day. Like random people asking you for a selfie. Like your opinion being ignored, because you probably are not old enough or male enough to know better. Like any apology to you also being ignored when you end up being correct. The point is, there is no fruit in dwelling upon these instances, ideally you should look for the beauty in them and/or accept them as a fact of life.
- Ties that bind- they literally bind. Do not expect mobility to be free, didn’t you know tourist vehicles come at a premium?
- Everything is about ~balance. Don’t eat rice and bread everyday. Don’t starve yourself and live off of rave drugs. Don’t do that hippie look full out. Just. Chill.
- We are all just travellers. No seriously, everyone is a tourist and so if you really want to fuck with your own meter on authenticity, please come and visit.
- Live your life, for you. Just kidding, do not, this is not how good wives are made. We must all aspire to togetherness and shy away from loneliness.
- We are all one family. Love one another. But your actual family- don’t love them too much. And definitely don’t try to marry them (…it’s a no from me)
- Social Media is a Disease. Take time to live and be in the present. Specifically – whatsapp is a disease that can ruin marriages ( T or F?)
…… On the second day of the New Year, after driving 4 hours from South Goa to North Goa I landed in the Mall de Goa, promptly ate a whole pizza and two orders of pani puri, and visited “Bargain Books” because, in my rage I was out of entertainment. Unable to find Shantaram, I found a different paperback with a little yellow sticker that said ₹499 (10 USD, probably).
I made a single New Year’s Resolution, which was to finish Midnight’s Children and know more about India and (hopefully) improve as a writer by reading such a brilliant and well-decorated author.
On January 10th, I boarded a plane to Addis Ababa. Before fulfilling an irrational desire to rewatch 17 Again, I turned the 533rd page of Midnight’s Children, and said goodbye to India for the season.
When the spell breaks, reality comes in at full volume. The illusion of silence is shattered, and there’s no escaping the noise.
There are an infinite number of spell-binding elements to life, and also, in my brief accounts. India. Princes. Brilliant Writers. Sunsets. Fiction. It’s easy to fall victim to these elements. However, in the wise words of Robert Frost as quoted to Ponyboy Curtis aka one of the best protagonists of all time, “nothing gold can stay.”
I made (as many often do) one small mistake as an audience member. I used Google. Not in the sense that I googled the plot in advance or searched terms for added context. I searched the author, and read his lifestory before finishing his story.
What I learned was a backstory of England and identity, prizes and fatwas, intelligence and arrogance, abuse and entitlement. A brilliant male specimen who aired his frustrations on his wives, was sexually inconsiderate despite (or in addition to?) his charisma, but nonetheless possesses the ability to capture the human spirit in his writing beautifully.
I can’t say this didn’t colour how I read the rest of the Saleem Sinai’s story. Armed with an idea of Rushdie’s views on women, I found the sad truths in the treatment of women in the plot were amplified. I found the protagonist less sympathetic. I read faster, not just because the plot seems to turn from fantasy to horror, but because the shine was fading fast.
Just this past week, the ethical debate around supporting Woody Allen has resurfaced as Dylan Farrow has added her voice to the #MeToo movement. Allegations against Aziz Ansari for sexual misconduct have opened a new conversation on casual encounters, feminism and agency, and have highlighted our own failure to criticize potentially (probably) outdated social norms. The question of whether art should be separated from artist, seems to be front and centre and the answer, it seems, is no.
When you prematurely wake up while you were having a good dream, you roll over and press snooze in hopes that maybe, just maybe, you can sink back into the good plot points and wake up later. Unfortunately, the more you try to hold onto, the harder it is to remember, the better the dream seems.
Waking up is more bitter than sweet- you know its good for you, but you hate it for the moment. Between fifteen to twenty-two, from serious-to-casual-to-who-knows-what, from Canada to Nairobi to India and back, the growing pains of waking up to hard truths have been sharp. More of the same, and less patience to take it created an internal storm leading to small Canadian girl kicking sand on the beaches of Goa. The writer’s block of late 2017 and early 2018 has been thanks to a personal existential crisis. Am I not vocal enough? Do I give away my agency? Do I give people more empathy than they deserve? Why are so many beautiful things created by misogynists? Why do I feel guilty about it? Your life is so dope, why are you so angry?
Without a doubt, I’ll keep having questions. But my Obama Smoothline pen still writes well, I’m a little less angry, and I’m out here for a fresh page.