Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Making Stories

Someone asked me recently if my novel ‘Meshes of Smoke’ is My life story. 
No. It is not. 
But it is the story of life.

Incidentally, ‘Meshes of Smoke’ was born seven years ago. I still remember the day it all started. Those were the days when I took refuge in running. Seeking the borrowed bliss of just packing up my bags and going away; propelled by this urge for verisimilitude, in a life full of delusional imaginings.
And on that humid and dull afternoon when I was in the remote, small town of Jalpaiguri, the idea was conceived. It was raining outside and the heavy rainfall had stalled my plans of travelling to Darjeeling.
I had to make a stopover at Jalpaiguri and spend the day enclosed inside that musty room of a hastily chosen hotel. I was lying on the bed watching those damp patches on the walls growing bigger, until it felt like it would enclose its wet tentacles around me and choke me. The bed sagged and the sheets smelt fusty with the trapped memories of previous guests.
I called the room service for my meals, because I had no inclination of seeing another human being. Because it was too much to see faces, hear voices or even talk...
Perhaps, I would have just lain there and watched another common, dreary day crawl towards a lugubrious evening through the thin curtains of the narrow window. But something turned inside me, a kind of physical sensation, a tight knot that choked my throat and began to beat upon my chest with dull thuds.
I became too restless to keep lying and I sat up with a jerk. There was an itch to write  Familiar. 
But I was not carrying my notebook. So I just picked up the hotel’s monogrammed letter pad from the bedside table and started scribbling…
By evening, when the time came for me to check out because I had to board a train that was leaving for Calcutta, the entire notepad was filled with many crossed, uncrossed, disjointed sentences, phrases and paragraphs. Mostly gibberish.  Some phrases made sense, a whole lot of it didn't.
Anyway, I tore the sheets off the notepad, thrust them into my bag, and left the hotel…

The next day I landed home, armed with ambiguities and impeded by the insidious consciousness, but decisive about turning my limitations to good purpose.

'Meshes of Smoke'  was finally published in April 2011, and a dream was fulfilled. The dream to see my written words on pages of a 'real' book. That feeling of touching 'my baby' for the first time. The smell of new paper and print!
Those authors who have gone through this experience will agree with me that nothing compares to this absolute bliss!
 'Meshes’ was appreciated and talked about. One reader told me that she felt like some kind of catharsis is happening to her when she finished reading the book. That feels good!

I would like to share some very special comments about my book, from a special friend William Michaelian. 

Here is what  William Michaelian  said:

“Dear Nazia, Your story is compelling and you told it well, without unnecessary digression or diversion...Life by its very nature is not meant to be safe, and your book speaks to that. It speaks to the heart. It hurts. It speaks to the mind, and the tangled web of habit, thought, tradition, and culture, some of which is so beautiful on the surface but ironclad beneath. And again it hurts. Through it all, I really did feel concern for everyone in this messy painful circle of family, lovers, and friends. No further proof is needed than this: I thought about them when I wasn't reading, and when I was involved in other things. And I feel I know you that much better, which is a gift in its own right.
Thank you William, once again. 

Incidentally Meshes of Smoke is not a " popular" book. Surely not a best seller of any kind. It is still lying in relative obscurity but whoever has read it has got back to me, saying, they were "moved". And for a first time novelist this means a lot!! Every scrap of praise thrown in my way is grabbed and cherished. Dil se...
Though I understand it is a difficult book to go through, and also difficult to come out feeling sanguine about life, marriage and relationships after reading it. 

Now I have moved on to my second novel and everyday is a struggle with rewriting, editing, taking away chunks of paragraphs and then putting them back again. I am finding the second one even more difficult to write, because I am experimenting with a 'new genre.' I don’t know when I will be satisfied enough with it to allow it the light of the day…Que sera sera… 

However, 'Meshes of Smoke' will always stay closest to my heart!

     Picture courtesy: Daniel Dragomirescu
     Thank  you Daniel. 

© Nazia Mallick


William Michaelian said...

How quickly the year has flown. And while your beautiful book might not be your life story, it is an indispensable part of your life nonetheless. Just try to imagine your life without it. And yet it has a life of its own. Whether it has been absorbed by ten minds or ten thousand, in subtle ways or grand, those minds have been changed forever. We don’t always know the effect a book has on us. Sometimes it’s visceral and seems obvious; others, it’s more like having been in the presence of a flower. Just today, before reading this post, I was thinking about sweet alyssum, and how, after all these years, its rich honeyed scent takes me back to my childhood. Well, some books are like that, and in as many ways and for as many different reasons as there are readers. A book lives through its readers. That very thought is food for the imagination. It’s also a source of inspiration. And so, here you are, a year later, working on another book, as sure and necessary as any cycle, any change of season. If writing were not difficult, if there were not moments of despair and doubt, if it did keep you up at night and make you talk to yourself, if it did not lead you into strange dark corners, it would not be worth doing. Such is the nature of things.

I still think of Meshes of Smoke as a gift. Of course, I feel the same way about our friendship. That, too, is like sweet alyssum.

Nazia Mallick said...

Tears... smiles...tears...smiles!
This is what I felt William, while reading your your comment,which is like a beautiful and inspirational post in itself. I will read these words again and again, but first I wanted to reach out and say -THANK YOU!!!

Your words are a gift. And our friendship, more precious to me with each passing year!


Last night you wrote your sonnets in  Braille: the commas, parenthesis, ellipses engraved perfectly on my skin- and  I  ...