Tashiding (West Sikkim)
I call my Winter home, well hailing from a hot buffery place like Siliguri, which manages to stay warm most of the time; using nouns like Winter soothes me. During one of my visits to my Winter home, I happened to meet a woman from Japan who was home staying there along with her partner. They were there for a hike to Yuksum, the next town after Tashiding. One such dinner was organised by my uncle, and as we started conversing, everything was covered from movies to books to culture to adventure. The lady suggested some reading, and therein I first heard a mortal uttering Haruki Murakami’s name.
I still remember fresh, the exact words she used to describe the author’s writings: “He writes likes a shadow.’’ She jammed her both palms like a person about to pray while saying out loud those lines. Till today, I cannot decode what exactly she meant, neither could deny the gravity with which she insisted us to read Murakami once in life. She even wrote us on a paper the name of the writer which I stashed in my purse for long, unaware that in future, it would be my refuge for hope.
As a beginner in writing, I couldn’t go longer without taking seriously the lady’s reference, and thus Murakami entered my world. Those days I relied mostly on reading to improve my writing craft. I picked up Kafka on the Shore from Crosswords, without a clue that I was going to equally love and hate myself for picking up that book. The book took me by surprise, for I was expecting yet another lucid and simple writing like Kazuo Ishiguro; and here the world of Murakami was challenging and surreal.
Reading Kafka has been my biggest gain as a reader till now, for I have never experienced such sorcery of words. The cats talking to a human doesn’t feel weird when it glides solely in the story, creating an experience for the readers. Even the person in the dream goes on a real voyage and carries the hint of normalcy. The real and the unreal merges, creating the waft of possibility for such existence of characters and associated incidents.
I was piqued by the idea of how good writing can break down the complexities of life in a simple manner. A jumble of few words here and there can create complexity and later deconstruct the same — is what Kafka on the Shore embodied for me. I found myself subconsciously imitating the writer’s writing style and failing measurably at it. I hated myself immensely for not having my own original style. Back then, little did I know that firstly you imitate and secondly you write.
As my writing spree continued, I discovered many more worlds of Murakami, nothing less than an enchantment. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Men without Women, Norwegian Wood and my recent read Desire host a canopy of inspiration for me. With every work, the author has gone beyond touching lives from one to many, giving his characters hunger to faith to adversity, and thus redeeming their lives as well as ours, for no one knows the subtlety involved.
Hardly anyone would believe he is not a blessed writer, given that he does not have an inborn writing talent and had to hunt down his skills with effort and practice. During one of his interviews he mentioned how the process goes for him:
“Writers who are blessed with inborn talent can write easily, no matter what they do — or don’t do. Like water from a natural spring, the sentences just well up, and with little or no effort these writers can complete a work. Unfortunately, I don’t fall into that category. I have to pound away at a rock with a chisel and dig out a deep hole before I can locate the source of my creativity. Every time I begin a new novel, I have to dredge out another hole. But, as I’ve sustained this kind of life over many years, I’ve become quite efficient, both technically and physically, at opening those holes in the rock and locating new water veins. As soon as I notice one source drying up, I move on to another. If people who rely on a natural spring of talent suddenly find they’ve exhausted their source, they’re in trouble.”
Humans have a weird tendency of pacifying their suffering if the same is shared by the other being. The idea that my idol writer too goes through mammoth suffering in his creative pursuits surprisingly soothes me. I readily can identify the weariness involved. He must have carved out his ideas, while they were sailing through the wailing doubts. I assume that some of his whimsical characters, before manifesting themselves, might not have seen the light for innumerable days. Nakata, Skipper, Mr. Honda perhaps have lived in the fear of suspension, till the day they came to light and all the while their home might have been the stashed pile of likewise fellows.
I find my own havoc of creative practice resonating with what the author has described in terms of writing. The beast of persistent doubts and the resistance that follows many a times has killed a lot of my projects midway. Writing always has been, and still is, a tough act for me. I find myself cringing when my fellow writer colleagues submit their allotted projects in a day or two, while I bang my head for an entire week just to write the appropriate opening line.
Over the years, my biggest achievement, when it comes to writing, has been in being too stubborn to keep the pen down even in moments when it doesn’t want to keep going. The complete projects now boast their involved sacrifices through which I learnt perseverance. The time when my senses were rejoicing in the prose of Murakami, never for a second did it occur to me that “this could have come from someone for whom writing is tough.” Now that I am aware the author had to chew some unwanted bones to create his art, I am assured my resilience is not going astray, for in every creative process, hope and persistence seal the deal.