Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why I write...



And why you should write too ................


I do not know why I often tend to view people rather grimly: they usually are not as benevolent, well-intentioned and capable or strong as they appear to be. This assumption is founded on my own self-assessment, though I don’t have a clue as to whether it is justifiable to generalize an observation made in one individual. This being the fact, my views of writers as ‘capable’ people are not that encouraging: I tend to see them as people who intend to create really great and world-changing writings but most of the times end up producing parochial pieces. Also, given the fact that the society where we grow and learn is full of dishonesty, treachery, deceit and above else, mundanity, it is rather unrealistic to expect an entirely reinvigorating work of writing from every other person who scribbles words in paper. 

This said, I am harshly self-critical in matter of writing and I often pose some unpalatable questions to myself: what if I had never written a word? Would the world be a better place or worse without my writing? Have I deluded myself into believing that my writings do affect the world while the reality being it is as meaningless for the world as the chatters of a kid? Given the fact that billions of words and millions of works of writing are already there in the world, what exactly are my writings adding to them and is that addition meaningful in any sense? Is satisfying my ego the only real purpose of my writing, and if that is the case, why does my ego need so profligate use of words to be satisfied? Am I simply playing with the words all along or does real meaning generate from such use of words? With my writings, am I bearing some of the responsibilities as a citizen or have I used the words to precisely avoid bearing such a responsibility? 

This again brings me to the rather awkward position: should I write at all? Well, I do not know why I wrote a decade back and if/why I will write a decade from now. But for now, there is no escaping from the question: why do I write after all? 

My rather pessimistic premise before judging people, and myself, related to writing and otherwise; is this: by default, all of us are miserable, vulnerable, passive and pusillanimous beings. The virtues of strength, creativity, adaptability and excellence come only through a protracted process of learning that goes on from the moment of our birth. As expected, not everyone excels equally in the process of learning and those who do well often display their capabilities in one or more fields. 

Also, many of us, whose chronological accomplishments - measured in various ways - are below (often far below) the expectations, are afraid of a status in which we are 'nothing' or 'nobody' in the society or merely ordinary beings in the crowd. A peek into the lives of some 'successful' or 'famous' people makes the feeling all the more acute and we long to somehow distinguish us from the crowd. If not plan for or expect, we fancy a life where we would enjoy a distinction, a degree of deference and reverence from people and obviously the fame/prestige that accompany. 

To put it plainly, it was to escape from the mundanities of daily life and mediocrity of the world around me that I started writing. I could well have chosen one of the many fields like music, theater, sports, politics and so on, but probably I was more unfit in any of those fields than in writing. Also, though a good writer needs an immense investment in terms of time and effort, the monetary investment is nil to minimal and that could be one factor why I chose this medium in an attempt to break the cocoon of mundanity that nearly suffocated me. 

 Again, this leaves the question as to why I write now unanswered. While the role of writing in diluting the feeling of 'nobodyness' and 'nothingness' is doubtlessly important, I have found some other uses of writing as well over past many years. First, it is an important and often neglected part in the process of thinking: when a flicker of an idea strikes your mind, you tend to forget the idea altogether amid the distraction by chaos of daily life. On some issues, dilemmas persist for quite long periods because you cannot give sufficient attention to them. Once you sit to write on the idea or issue, there is no recourse except thinking hard, rethinking and finalizing the words to be written: written words cannot afford the vagueness and ambiguity of unexpressed ideas in mind. While dealing with complicated issues, as you go on writing, you keep up building the whole narrative with new ideas, information and newer part of the narrative being founded upon the sentences and paragraphs completed earlier. And above else, rewriting is one of the most skillful things where you learn how to care not only about the thematic but also about the aesthetic aspects of the act of writing. 


Second, writing helps you to understand yourself: I have seen people who often have an utterly misplaced idea of who they really are. This is more or less natural: every person is a complicated being with layer upon layer of thoughts, ideas, sentiments, emotions, prejudices and so on, which remarkably obscure what they are at the core. While this virtual garb of perceptions and prejudices is exceptionally thick and impenetrable in most people in some fields like politics, ordinary people like you and me are also not immune from this; over time we develop a customary idea of ourselves that may have little to do with the reality. This said, people have different ways of discovering their real self every now and then: after major jolts in life or while mourning for someone who meets untimely death, just to exemplify. In such instances, we tend to look deeper into our existence and ask ourselves: what for, after all? Why do I live and how shall I die? It is, of course, an altogether different reality that we tend to forget about all this ‘sentimental stuff’ the moment we have to resume our worldly duties. 

It is precisely here that writing comes into picture: it helps me penetrate the layers of perceptions and prejudice to peek into the core of my self. While it is perfectly possible to venture into the dark depths of solitude without writing a word, written words are extremely useful at such moments: while you utilize writing process to cope with the situation, writing uses this peculiar state of mind to produce unique and otherwise impossible write-ups. I remember writing a short story early one morning years back at heights of frustration, sitting in a cemetery, and with myself as a protagonist. The recent poem on solitude was also written at the lowest point of the year at which I faced the abyss eye-to-eye. 

Third, elaborative or investigative writting, journalistic or not, is an immensely effective way of learning things (beside sharpening writing skills). This helps you to both learn about the world and express your own ideas about the world rather meaningfully at the same time.

Of course, it is easy to preach but hard to practice. So far, I have produced barely few pieces of any kind of writing that I can remember with pride. 

Before closing, however, one clarification: I was not born critical of writing or anything else, rather the contrary. As many kids, I too had this dream at that age: to become an ‘established Nepali writer’ if not accomplished one. Receiving prizes and recognition for writing were the other dreams. So, how did it all change? There is a story.

 To me, to start with, the world was a nice place, society a nice society and people all nice individuals. Whatever was bad or 'not nice' in either three was an exception and not the norm. These exceptions and anomalies had to be fought against and would be somehow eliminated thereby establishing (an egalitarian) utopia at some future date. Say it the impact of socialist ideology in early years or not, I automatically assumed myself to be the part of that section of society which actively struggled to achieve that state of justice and happiness in the world.

As years passed, however, first the world started to appear a much different; messy, unfathomable, unpredictable and challenging place than it had appeared earlier. Second, I turned out to be an enormously overestimated creature; neither my words, nor the deeds, over the years, had meaningfully contributed to any change in the society, leave alone the world.This forced me to reappraise my views on both the world and myself. As I happened to be writing more or less regularly, writing came into scrutiny and above inferences about writing were unavoidable.

To conclude, while I have been harsh towards the writing I have created so far, I have stopped well short of abandoning writing altogether. Today, I write without the pretense of having the whole world as my audience and I avoid viewing world as an entity ready to change itself at my slightest gesture. A readership, even though limited, is my privilege and I have no hesitation exhorting them, if they have not been already doing so, to indulge in writing, whatever the genre, field or quality. Writing really helps, to clarify your vision of yourself if not that of others and to cope with adverse situations constructively; and who knows, your writing may well have relevance to the society and the world. If you don't write, that possibility is already foreclosed, a rather unfortunate situation. 




(In case you are curious as to what I have written so far, here are some samples and most of the articles in this blog are mine with respectable exceptions in the 'Guest Column'. The stagnant river  is a short story written in the cemetery as described above. In the darkest depths of solitude is a poem on solitude, again mentioned earlier. Metamorphosis is a short story revolving around solitude again where I retell a nightmare that I skipped once.The Gurkha Legacy: Nepal's National Shame  is piece of elaborative work, an essay on collective conscience of Nepalis as a society in relation to a tradition.Fighting stress and seeking happiness: a monologue  is another brief piece on adapting with solitude where I outline my approach to deal with stress. Twenty-eight years of solitude  deals directly with solitude again and was written for my twenty-eighth birthday.)







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Read more from Dashain Issue

Debating partition of India: culpability and consequences




Read the whole story here

Why I write...

I do not know why I often tend to view people rather grimly: they usually are not as benevolent, well-intentioned and capable or strong as they appear to be. This assumption is founded on my own self-assessment, though I don’t have a clue as to whether it is justifiable to generalize an observation made in one individual. This being the fact, my views of writers as ‘capable’ people are not that encouraging: I tend to see them as people who intend to create really great and world-changing writings but most of the times end up producing parochial pieces. Also, given the fact that the society where we grow and learn is full of dishonesty, treachery, deceit and above else, mundanity, it is rather unrealistic to expect an entirely reinvigorating work of writing from every other person who scribbles words in paper.


On life's challenges

Somebody has said: “I was born intelligent but education ruined me”. I was born a mere child, as everyone is, and grew up as an ordinary teenager eventually landing up in youth and then adulthood. The extent to which formal education helped me to learn about the world may be debatable but it definitely did not ruin me. There were, however, things that nearly ruined me. There came moments when I contemplated some difficult choices. And there came and passed periods when I underwent through an apparently everlasting spell of agony. There came bends in life from which it was very tempting to move straight ahead instead of following the zigzag course.


Read more