A fellow author mentioned to me that most of her protagonists are young women in in their late teens for that is when we feel invincible enough to take chances with life. I disagree. For me turning a certain-unmentionable-to-the outside-world age has resulted in an epiphany. I have choices now, which I never did at seventeen.
As a teenager growing up in a middle class South Indian Bombay household I didn’t really have options in the real sense. All I could do was rebel against the most conventional routes, and opt for the road slightly less travelled but nevertheless conforming to society’s version of what a successful life should look like. Yet I found that my internal happiness co-efficient was inversely proportional to the number of the boxes I ticked off.
Surely something was not quite right here then, for things were not going according to plan. Over the last eighteen months then (following a near death experience which made me realize that the finger of God could point to me anytime) I embarked on the real thing—an adventure of my own. I consciously made the decision to follow what I really wanted to do and had known since I was five. I actually just gave myself over to the pleasure to writing. Writing not for the world, or for publishers or for agents. But writing the words as they poured out of me, simply for the pleasure of it, for the reason that I never felt more alive as when I was mining experiences and giving them shape in a voice that was uniquely mine.
My personal blog was the first to take off, followed by guest posts for other authors and then for the Huffington Post and here at The NRI. The launch of my first novel changed everything. Suddenly the world saw me as an author. I saw myself in my author avatar.
I realized that my identity was something that only I owned, it was also something so distinctive that only I could carve it out for myself. I couldn’t take the short cut of attaching myself to some thing that I did not feel as strongly about. Half way through writing the second novel, the decision was made without even my knowing it. There was no turning back.
So I quit my day job. Reactions have varied from complete horror and distress, to congratulations and in some cases just a look of ‘you are completely out of your mind right?’ Actually it’s the only time in my life I think I have fully, in conscious mind, known what I really wanted and decided to go after it.
Yet I don’t have the courage to tell my parents, and probably will not mention anything to them on my annual trip to Bombay, next week. A part of me wars with that. I am almost middle aged; surely they should understand what I am doing? But the child in me—the by parts, lost and angry five year old—who I shrink down to when I stand in front of them, knows I will not be able to coherently explain what I am trying to do here.
How can I tell them that I have a terror of dying before completing the stuff I really want to do? Or that I hope that I now have the means to arrange my life around my writing and not the other way around, that I hope to be able to still earn a living but in such a fashion that it frees me up to focus on the ‘stuff that actually means something even if only I can see it?’
So you see, the conditioning of my middle-class roots still stays with me. I am not letting go a 100% of the real world; just loosening my reins on the iron control that I normally try to have on my future so I can see what road it takes.
Laxmi Hariharan is on her way to Bombay. Over the next month she’ll be sharing more of what happens when she meets her parents and how they react if and when she does tell them about the change she is making to her destiny.