I must admit it feels good to know that your book is finally in the shops. Even better, that it is available on online bookstores. Till the other day I've been ordering books by Henry Miller and Eric Newby from these sites, and now it feels strange -- in a nice way, though -- that your book is also up there, being offered at the customary discount and all.
But it is also true that I am not being able to relish these moments the way I would have in the normal course. One reason, of course, is the absence of mother. During the two weeks I was in Kanpur after her cremation, a part of my mind believed that she would return one of these days and that her death was only a bad dream. But only after returning to Chennai did it strike me that her absence was now permanent.
The other reason I am in no mood to relish these moments is I am tired. Very tired -- my body and mind. I have hardly slept in the past three weeks. I am working on a new manuscript, and it needs to be done fast or else my thoughts would evaporate. The thought of writing this book came to my mind the afternoon my mother was cremated. I was standing by the Ganges, staring at the river, with some 20 bodies burning around me including that of my mother, when it struck me: this is Banaras, where people come to die; and what a waste it would be if I did not record my experience of being right in the womb of death?
Quite a few people, mostly Westerners, have written about the burning ghats of Banaras. But a visiting Westerner is so dazzled by the spectacle of several burning bodies simultaneously that he remains blind to every other colour dancing on the ghat other than the yellow of the fire. And here I was, who was not only dazzled by the yellow of the fire leaping out from the burning pyres but also someone who had his dear mother burning in one of those pyres. I had been through shit which a Westerner can't even imagine to be in. Who could be a better person than me to write about Banaras and its famous burning ghat?
Of course the book is not going to be just about a cremation in Banaras. There would be a lot more to it. That's how the publishers want it. They want me to tell a story. Since I know no story well enough other than my own, this book will be my story, more or less. In spite of toiling for the past three weeks, I've reached only one-third of the word count I am aiming for. But the real problem is: each night when I sit down to write, I am forced to recall my mother's death. I am forced to recall the same images again and again, in order to to be able to write. And that drains me out.
Worse, as soon as I finish this manuscript, I have to get down to working on the book on Chennai. The publishers have already paid me an advance for the Chennai book and they would not buy any excuse.
Fortunately, my mother was still very much alive and lively when I had told her about signing the contract for the Chennai book. "All the best, beta," she had told me. Those were her exact words. But now I feel tired. There was a time, just three years ago, when I was desperately hoping to find a publisher. But today I am desperate for a break. That maybe because I also have a job to keep.
Whatever the case, my back hurts. My eyes hurt too. Also a constant pain in my left arm -- the result of typing non-stop with my left index finger. Someone, please, give me, or get me, a job that lets me be. All I need is a little money that takes care of my bills and my booze and cigarettes, and plenty of free time to write and to travel. In return, I promise, I will give you undivided attention for five full hours every single day -- on days I am in town, that is -- which might just change your luck for the better.