This evening the call finally came: that Tamarind City, my portrait of Chennai, is out of the press. A copy should reach me in a day or two, and the book should be hitting the stores in about ten days.
Unlike Chai, Chai, whose draft got transferred straight from my head to the printing press without being subjected to rewriting or even editing, Tamarind City is the result of hard work. One could have always worked harder, of course, but there is no end to it: at some point you have to tell yourself, "OK, this is it. I can't work any harder."
For a year and a half until the end of 2011, I had hardly any social life -- or personal life, for that matter -- to speak of. Almost every waking hour outside the office was spent working on Tamarind City. During these dark months, when I was blind to everything else in this world except the laptop screen, the possibility of my seeing or holding the book in published form seemed remote. Very remote. It would feel as if the book would forever remain a word document on my computer.
Today, that remote possibility has become reality. Tamarind City is no longer an idea in my head: it has finally taken the shape of a book that will reach the bookstores in less than two weeks. Considering all the struggle that went into its writing, I should have been elated when I got the call this evening. But far from it. It doesn't matter anymore.
I have realised by now that if I want to be a writer, my entire life is going to be one long struggle, and that it would be stupid to celebrate the end of one struggle without realising that another round of struggle is waiting round the corner.
At the moment yet another unwritten book is staring me in the face. It's an ambitious book: a portrait of present-day Calcutta. I don't want to spend two years writing it: I will be too old by the time it comes out. At the same time, I cannot afford to spend sufficient time in Calcutta because I now have a job that is going to keep me firmly anchored to Chennai. On top of it, I seem to be enjoying the job, as a result of which I find the sensations of Calcutta fading and the memories blurring.
I am, however, determined to set the Calcutta book rolling before I feel good about the publication of Tamarind City. I find overlaps more assuring than long gaps.