My Medicine

My girl casually remarked today that I write only sad and insecure stuff. Not a very hard observation to make. Something that reminded me of another little pattern: every time I’ve decided to write something funny, I’ve ended up with a really nice short story. But it is really hard for me to go against myself, even to write an innocuous little story. Every time I stare at the blank screen when I’ve decided to fill it up with myself, my heart churns out copious amounts of sadness. I’ve gotten too much of it. I feel like a phony when I’m not writing. I am forced to wonder how much of my constitution is melancholia. The answer, I feel, only adds to the existing melancholia.

There are definitely moments when I am happy, when I am a man of the moment, but sometimes the moments get so hot, so unreal, that I have no recourse other than to go searching for some cushions in my past. It occurs with such a degree of inevitability that I feel like I’ll soon become a resigned fatalist. Or worse, a believer. Reality is a hard bargain, and I often find myself making costly purchases, which makes it really tough to avoid hanging out in the past for relief.

I sometimes feel I write only because I am sick, in the head, and writing is my medicine. I then feel sick at the thought of writing only to cure myself, contrary to my held assumptions of writing because I love writing. I am tired of climbing this mountain just to look at myself, then falling back again to being myself. I want to lie on the ground and enjoy the sun. I don’t want to be Sisyphus any more, I don’t want wisdom so immense that I cannot handle it. I want a mosquito to bite me so I can chase and kill it, be engaged in anything but myself. There, I start again. And again. I want to end this infinite recursion, but I want to be sane as well. In short, I am just scared.

I think this much should be enough. I’m getting more tired of all of this by the minute, by the word.

On Writing

By the end of my second year in college, a strange melancholic feeling would rule my mood. I found it very difficult to pin the reason for the feeling, but if there was one thing that brought me respite, it was the company of similar men. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to tell the readers about my situation, what preceded it, and the point of the essay: what followed it.

I was mostly an amiable person with a taste for things that talked about life: about aspirations, about failures, about rising, about falling (the better the presentation, the more I liked it). I sought wisdom from books, songs, movies, graffiti, poetry, dreams, anything and everything. I was so thirsty for such stuff that I would find meaning in rubbish, imagining a song that talked about politics in Africa to be talking about me and then get all dewy-eyed over it. It would take me a full three years to realise what people actually talk about. I had only my poor emotional maturity to blame for it.

I did not have any real affairs, most of them a bunny-like affair: very horny and very innocent. I, hence, knew not what love, as talked about in poetry and songs, was about. I also was (and still am) extremely self-obsessed, my solipsism restricting me from ever having a genuine empathy for others, even those sharing a close mental space with me. The only time when I actually knew what others felt like was when I read books (but let’s save that for later). I have watched countless movies, only to watch them a second time now and realise that I knew nothing about the characters when I watched the movie the first time. Obviously, it took me monstrous efforts to properly understand any movie, especially if it dealt directly with emotions. I was a lover of wit and witticisms, of words and wordplays, and that is how I was led onto the difficult road of enlightenment to a most humiliating realisation of personal worth.

I don’t really know when the absurdity of life actually hit me, or when I phrased the question: what is the meaning of life, for the first time. It was surely sometime in the third year, for I recall standing with one of my friends looking out at an open fallow expanse and asking no one in particular these exact words, in between or soon after one of the several ganja sessions I found myself indulging in. It was then that I was recommended The Outsider, a book after which my life was never the same again. I had read Frankl’s Meaning of Life, some of Coetzee, some of Burgess, some of the others, but the effect, due to its brutal clarity, of Camus’ best work influenced me the most decisively. I had myself a tagline (I lived, I lied, I fucked, I died), among other things absurd and absurd.

This book gave me a brilliant summary of my condition, offered no solution and I revelled at having at last found myself a company. What prompted me to write, however, was a book I still consider the best sounding book ever written: A Clockwork Orange. I wanted to write like Burgess, write lines like, what’s it going to be then, eh… hear angel trumpets and devil trombones… horrorshow groodies. I still feel bad that most people rate the movie above the book. Of course, I couldn’t write for shit: I cared not for the punctuations, I knew not my grammar all proper, I was as confused as Jim Morrison, and was even inspired by him on many instances, I knew not what paragraph construction was, I had no sense, only an accelerated senility. But I had cheek and a lot of it. I wrote a story and showed it shamelessly to one of my English professors. This was the turning point in my writing career.

She slaughtered my write-up brutally, though she tried to appreciate the way I drew my characters. That day, I decided to first learn the rules, before I could start experimenting with them, like the good old Burgess. I read and read carefully, how the masters tell their tale in words, how they draw the tables, how they choose their words so precisely and cautiously. I also started getting better at understanding human emotions, which they so neatly portrayed in their works. I still try to base my analysis of the people I meet on the characters I have so carefully scrutinized and admired. I also read a lot about psychology and language.

I have even drawn my own disinterested character sketch, in short, a man given to vanity of all kinds, trying to place a sincere finger on what he really wants between admiration and gravity of thought.

Enough altitude, time for the jump now…

Since I am a person whose skills at language have risen meteorically since the past two years, I am also a person who is painfully unsure of them. I know not if I write good, or even passable. I also doubt my capacities for well-spun thought. I can never know if the characters of others I have drawn are accurate, whether I have assimilated anything at all from what I have read over the past two and a half years. Maybe this is why I desperately crave admiration. Or maybe admiration drives me. That I will know only after I get it in plenty.

So, what I do is write. I write to drown myself in the noise of the keyboard or get lost in the trail of ink on paper. I write often to remind myself of what I am. I write often only to be admired. Writing brings me to itself, for when I don’t, I feel incomplete. I write bullshit. I write the truth. I write anything that comes to my mind. I write to decorate anything that comes to my mind. Most of all, I write because when I write, I am a different person, and I love to read what that person has written, for he is so much like me, but ever so slightly.