I am an outcaste in my family for two reasons. One I am a girl. Two I am dark. Neither of these I can do anything to alter. Well, maybe I can do something about being a girl, but I don’t want to. Truly speaking, I am happy being a girl.
If you look past my dark demeanor, you will probably find that I am also cute. I have a pair of large eyes, a sharp nose, and button lips which smile all the time. But my family members need to look past my stuttering cousin to notice all these things about me.
There is another aspect that makes me not only an outcaste, but also an element of closer examination. I write. I want to be a writer. Well, I am a writer.
‘You are a writer?’ the question comes with a frown which is both mocking and dismissive. My uncle thinks that he holds the divine right to look down upon everyone who comes in the proximity of his eye sight. ‘What do you write?’
I gaze at the steel fork in my hand, silently cursing myself for blurting out my heart’s deepest desire. Yes, I am a writer. Maybe I have not written about WWII or beggars roaming the street. Maybe I write funny stories. But that does not make me any less a writer, does it?
The question hangs at the tip of my tongue because my father’s hard gaze falls on me. He does not like me talking about writing or anything remotely related to writing. The reason for this disdain is my uncle’s son - Dhruva, the stuttering dynamo of our family. Everyone proudly call him Maharaj Dhruva. I don’t want to be like my uncle, but sometimes I wonder about people’s knowledge and wits.
Maharaj Dhruva was a Vishnu devotee, an extremely humble man, a far cry from the Dhruva of our family. Not only he stutters, he flaunts his money like it is something he will take to his death pyre. If you have money, you are admired. If you are unfortunate enough to struggle to make the ends meet, well, you are a piece of trash from Dhruva’s standard. My father falls in the trash category. He does not have much money. So, I don’t have the right to have a dream which is slightly different, slightly wayward, and a lot crazy.
‘I…’ I stammer, trying to grope the right word. My uncle, his wife, their pride Dhruva, and my parents, all stare at me. They want an answer. I don’t want to give them an answer. But I will have to say something. In the end I decide to say the truth. ‘I am a humor writer.’
A silence falls around the table at the revelation. In the hush I hear my heart thudding against my ribs. Dhruva opens his mouth to say something. But then closes it shut because he cannot form a word when he is in his Maharaj Dhruva lingo. But his father, my uncle, has not such disability. He simply throws his head behind and gives a laugh. A hearty laugh mind you.
I sit, playing with my fork, feeling Maharaj Dhruva’s amused eyes on me, wishing desperately that I have kept my mouth shut. But somehow me being me, I have allowed my words to run free. And now, I sit with my heart thudding against my ribs in shame because I do something no one else in my family does. Because, practically, they lack the ability to create.
‘You…’ Dhruva begins with confidence. Then the rest of what he wants to say gets stuck in his throat and he chokes on his toast. For a moment we all hold out breath and allow the family dynamo to have his chocking-glory in comfort. Once recovered, he begins again. Maharaj Dhruva never gives up, I note, not for the first time. ‘You…need to be outstanding to make it big in this industry.’ And that comes from a man who has never written a single creative line in his entire life. But I will still give him a pointer, because he had completed the entire sentence without chocking even a single time. A great feat and I note a touch of pride on my uncle’s face as he looks at his son.
‘You know,’ my uncle says while applying butter on his toast. ‘You should ask Annya to be more realistic.’ I throw an uneasy look at my father now that he has become the target of the conversation. ‘Wanting to write and becoming famous enough to make money from it are two different things.’ Of course, another piece of gem from another man who has never used his creativity in his life. Like father, like son, I mutter silently. ‘You should talk to her I guess. She should not waste time on wishful thinking. She should focus on studying and not all these.’
I wake up to a vibrating sensation. Something vibrates somewhere. In panic I pull myself up on a sitting position. Then realization floods in. The vibration comes from my mobile phone. I have set the alarm at 2.30am in the morning. After the conversation at the breakfast table, my father has banned me from indulging into writing. He has given me a long lecture between which he has shaded a few drops of tears and pleaded me to focus on my study. I have my standard twelve’s board exam coming. I cannot afford to waste time. If I flunk the board, no one will ever give me a job, no one will ever marry me. I will forever be a stigma for Maharaj Dhruva’s dynasty. He will never be able to show his face to the world ever again. All because of me…
So, to keep the stuttering dynamo of our family proud and smiling, I am told to sacrifice my dream. Yet, it is not my dream. It never has been. Writing to me is a way of expressing myself. It is my solace. It is me. How can escape being me? But I am not allowed to ask this question, not to my father, not to my mother, and of course not to my uncle.
I decide not to ask anyone. It is better to pursue some of the things in seclusion. With a deep tired breath, I get down from my bed. By the only window of my room sits a wooden table. On it rests my most prized possession – my netbook laptop. I have saved up for years to buy this. Despite strong protest from my uncle, aunt, and their son, I went ahead and bought it six months ago. Since then I have not bought anything. My uncle has withheld my pocket money. So, the last six months I have spent rereading all my already read paperbacks. I have sneaked one new book inside. It is a gift from my best friend Lavania. The shiny thick book is sitting under my bed. I have not dared to bring it out. If my uncle sees it, I will never get to read it.
Without thinking even twice, I open my netbook. My uncle had tried to take it away from me. But I threatened to leave home if he did so. That more or less settled the matter.
With practiced fingers I open a hidden folder. No one will be able to find it, if they don’t know about its existence. Inside the folder is a word document. My debut novel. I have written it like my life depends on it. In a way, my life does depend on it.
I have spent one whole year to finish writing the first draft. Finding time to write has been my primary challenge. So, instead of investing a chunk of time on writing, I have sneaked sentences and paragraphs to develop this 200K humor novel.
The clock strikes 3.30am in the morning, when I edit the last line of the novel and declare it ready to be published. My own creation, I say to myself, smiling a little. The only bleak spot is – there is no one to share the news with. It is my story, my dream, and it will forever remain so. Yet, a small part of my heart cries for a friend to talk to. It lasts for a minute or so, then I chase it away, telling myself that writing is a lone battle of lone warriors. Writers don’t need anyone to cheer them on.
But the pep talk does not work its miracle this time. My heart remains heavy as I begin to format the novel for online publication. Traditional publishers will not publish me. I don’t have money for self-publication. My father is not rich enough to support me. So, free online publishing is my only option.