THIS AU­THEN­TIC LIFE

Storizen Magazine - - Special Feature - By Laxmi Har­i­ha­ran

Have you re­alised that the best jour­neys in life are when you travel in­wards?

I have al­ways writ­ten; writ­ten since I was very young. But I only be­gan writ­ing with in­tent since 2012. No it goes back further than that. I be­gan writ­ing with feel­ing and di­rec­tion a few years prior to that when I moved to Hong Kong, to live on my own for the first time.

No hus­band, no par­ents, no friends, no one I knew at all. I’d been dropped into this alien city from the fu­ture, a con­flu­ence of the East and West. Stranded on my own in my lit­tle 400 square feet flat on the 25th floor of a block, from where I could look into the flat of my neigh­bour in the tower op­po­site; I could look to the hori­zon where the build­ings shot up­wards to the heav­ens. Trapped in a web of hu­man flesh and con­crete which en­trapped the soul and did not let you touch the ground. No space to rise up and feel the air of the open sky.

Hong Kong is the base chakra of the uni­verse. The root of much com­merce, and the more ba­sic in­stincts in life. Lust and greed: a sur­face con­tent­ment that soothed your skin but never touched the cells just below. As out­ward look­ing as you can get.

My first night there I couldn’t sleep. My heart flut­tered, raced as if it were caged and be­ing pur­sued at the same time. As if all my fears and in­se­cu­ri­ties, for a fu­ture I could not see and a past that had been cut off, had left me sus­pended with nowhere to call my own. And un­able to un­der­stand my re­ac­tion to the city I be­gan to write.

I wrote to un­der­stand the un­seen emo­tions around me, to record the un­ex­pected en­coun­ters with peo­ple from dis­tant coun­tries I was meet­ing. Many of whom had been dropped into this strange city and were try­ing to

find pur­pose in life.

I wrote to con­fess what I was afraid of, to give shape to the tur­moil that churned in­side. To fi­nally give voice to the ques­tions I had about why I be­haved the way I did, when faced with new sit­u­a­tions. Which is what you do when you live in a for­eign place. You are so starved of hu­man com­pany, that you go out and force your­self to meet new peo­ple. You try new things be­cause there are no old pat­terns to recre­ate. You re­alise you can come and go as you want for there are no other de­mands on your time. And if one day, you de­cide to sleep the day away and awake at dusk, that was okay too. Imag­ine a space with­out rules. Where you re­ally can do what you want … and you open your eyes one day, and re­alise some­thing is still hold­ing you back from let­ting go.

You re­alise you need to give your­self per­mis­sion to go for­ward and ex­per­i­ment with life. Go ahead and al­low your­self to write. Push aside those voices which say that writ­ing could never be a ca­reer. Face the fear that the only log­i­cal con­clu­sion to fol­low­ing your writ­ing dream is to die

pen­ni­less and un­known in a base­ment some­where. Strange isn’t it, we never know what you’ve ab­sorbed from the en­vi­ron­ment, or what is hold­ing you back till you dare to take the first steps on the jour­ney.

And so I be­gan the se­ries of sto­ries which I con­tin­ued writ­ing over the next many years, and which re­leased as my first novel The Des­tiny of Shai­tan. And yet, yet I never took it se­ri­ously, that this re­ally is what I wanted to do, for this was me. I knew it, but couldn’t ac­cept it. And didn’t want to pay at­ten­tion to that in­stinct in­side that still kept me com­ing back to my desk to just try to pour out what had been bub­bling in­side for a while.

Of course it’s tim­ing too … Mov­ing to Lon­don in 2005, find­ing my feet again, learn­ing to man­age my re­sponse to a com­pletely new cli­mate. To go from liv­ing in 38 de­grees with bright sun­shine to a place with four sea­sons, where you change ex­ter­nally and in­ter­nally ev­ery three months as the sea­sons change. Where you dress dif­fer­ently at dif­fer­ent times of the year and find your phys­i­cally re­act to the bloom­ing of buds in spring, and the late sum­mer evenings when the sun sets at 11 pm to walk­ing through fall­ing leaves and never see­ing the sun some days for you’ve spent most of it in­side. Pat­terns within pat­terns. And you are re­act­ing to those mi­cro pat­terns, and not re­al­is­ing why some days you are so an­gry, and some days so joy­ful and some days just so sad. Fig­ur­ing out the cues from those around you, a dif­fer­ent cul­ture where you maybe panic­ing in­side but re­ally you don’t say it aloud or lose your tem­per out in pub­lic to get your way, for then you lose the re­spect of those around you. But then you wake up one day and re­alise, you can’t re­ally live any­where else, for you love this city that is the green­est city you’ve ever lived in. You love its parks and woods and trees … oh! Those life giv­ing trees that whis­per to you as you walk by and shield you when you are pen­sive. And that you ac­tu­ally like the weather for it prompts you to look in­side and in­tro­spect and fi­nally you find your feet … un­til you lose your bal­ance.

Which is what hap­pened in 2011. A mis­car­riage, a near death ex­pe­ri­ence and the bewil­der­ment of re­al­is­ing life does not go as planned. That those things which only hap­pen to some­one else can also hap­pen to you. They

do hap­pen to you. And you sur­face from the mor­phine in­duced haze and ask your­self. If I were to die to­mor­row what would I re­gret the most? And then it’s so clear. You know what you have to do. You have to write. You have to feel a more au­then­tic life. And that’s when it re­ally be­gins.

When you re­alise that you have lim­ited years in your life, when the icon of a tick­ing clock is so clearly al­ways there in your mind, then you find the time to write. And the more you write and cre­ate, the more you cut out things to make more space to write.

And you write, and write, and write again, and re­alise it’s not easy. It’s great you want to write, but it’s a craft and it’s dy­namic. So you write and your writ­ing evolves. You per­sist with it and your di­a­logues get crisper, your plots clearer, your char­ac­ters more nu­anced, your plots more lay­ered.

And you know you have to keep go­ing, keep at it, be­ing per­sis­tent. Through the four sea­sons, through peo­ple who come and go in your life, through houses you change, through day jobs you shift, through coun­tries you move. Through love, and death and heart­breaks.

You keep at it and then one day you be­gin to make sense of what you are try­ing to say. And you be­gin to watch and study your own evo­lu­tion as a writer and as a per­son.

And you learn to lay bare your most se­cret fears, hor­rors and dreams. In a world filled with mi­rage, it’s this au­then­tic re­al­ness that stands out and

gets peo­ple to read you, for in your des­per­a­tion and your rev­e­la­tions they see them­selves. And yet you keep writ­ing and strip back the lay­ers of your­self. And then you can’t hide from my­self any­more, and you can’t hide from the world. As you write what you feel, you be­come on the out­side as you are in­side. You be­come that which you feel and think and be­lieve. And you pre­tend less and less and less. You be­come you, one day. You be­gin to lead an au­then­tic life.

Fol­low­ing are a few key themes that I have dis­cov­ered in my writ­ing life which I hope will ben­e­fit other au­thors too.

a. Com­pul­sive ideas: An idea that has legs is the one that sticks in your gut, and which you then can­not get rid- off, for days, weeks or months on end, it keeps haunt­ing you and then you just have to get it down. And therein lies the mak­ings of some­thing pow­er­ful, be it a novel or a story or

a blog post. For it’s what will not rest till it has been poured out and painted into a sem­blance of a vi­sion for the world to see. It has its own mo­men­tum, an or­ganic speed which will take you by sur­prise

b. Those ‘a-ha’ mo­ments: The highs and lows of lifem when you are truly alive. Milk your grief, pour out your joys. This is gold dust. This is when you dis­cover what it is to be re­ally hu­man; when you re-dis­cover that you are real, and your feel­ings ex­ist and you have this weird, so real-it's- sur­real sense of con­nec­tion -- with the world around you. Per­haps it’s a bit like be­ing born or re­born?

c. Go boldly where you wouldn’t go out­side: Don’t shy away from the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. What are you afraid of? Re­ally afraid of? That you will fail? And if you don’t jump at what is new and un­tried, if you don’t ex­pose your­self to the un­com­fort­able, how do you know what is re­ally is you? For it is only when you are faced with choice and de­ci­sion you re­alise what you are from that re­sponse.

d. Go where you dread go­ing, in­side: Once you start writ­ing from the gut, you re­alise you are plumb­ing your own sub-con­science to tap into the un­said and un­ex­pressed. Per­haps due to the kind of per­son you are or due to the so­ci­ety where you grew up, where ex­press­ing what's re­ally on your mind is not al­ways al­lowed, there is so much leashed in­side. Al­low your­self to go where you dread go­ing in­side. And then give your­self per­mis­sion to write from that space. It’s fine, it’s al­lowed. There, doesn’t that feel bet­ter now, when you do that?

e. It’s a marathon, not a sprint: We all have tal­ent. Many of us are will­ing to work hard too. But do you be­lieve enough to keep go­ing, and go­ing, and go­ing. Even on the days when you’ve lost all hope can you keep go­ing. Can you per­sist for there is no other way, there is no turn­ing back. Can you do that?

Laxmi Har­i­ha­ran blogs for the Huff­in­g­ton post, has writ­ten for The Guardian and has been fea­tured in pub­li­ca­tions in­clud­ing The Eco­nomic Times, The Times of In­dia and Verve. Mar­ried to a film­maker and fel­low au­thor, her life of­ten re­sem­bles a dram­edy of er­rors film script. Born in Bom­bay she now lives in Lon­don, where she writes while lis­ten­ing to elec­tron­ica and is an avid street art pho­tog­ra­pher. She is also the proud owner of a mononym Twit­ter han­dle @laxmi .

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