What is your greatest fear as writer?
No, no one asked me that question, but I have often asked myself that, especially when the ink is dried up in my head and the words won’t come at any cost. Coffee, active dreaming, speaking aloud. Nothing helps then. My greatest fear has always been something as debilitating as what my Mum has. Dementia. Sister of Alzheimer’s. Mental disease that erases parts of your existence, one step at a time. That is my greatest fear, that someday like my Mum, I will be a victim of mental disease. For a writer, that is certain death. Otherwise there is no death. Writers live forever in the words that came from their brains, and if they are fabulous writers, it would have come from their soul.
What if…what if the words dried up?
What if…I forgot every single word I ever learned and though I remembered things, I couldn’t say them because my brain erased those words… the vocabulary that makes me, well, me.
What if…one day I step out to go to Starbucks where I don’t like the food, but I like the Flat White double shot, and I reach the smiling fellow at the counter and he asks, ‘What would you like, M’am?’ and I just open my mouth and no words come out?
Living is harder than dying, but if we forgot all our words, dying would be easier than living. Whenever I buy stationery, and I buy tons of it, it empowers me in a very utopian way. As if the act of choosing, ordering, purchasing and receiving stationery is in itself a sign of a clear, sharp and eternal intellect. I have friends who love buying notebooks, pencils, pens and what not…just like me…and oh, lately, lots and lots of art materials, too! Anyway, I digress. So coming back to this studied act of buying stationery though there is no place for storing or hoarding more – well, it is therapeutic.
I imagine that each time I buy books or stationery, my mental life span increases in years, expanding like hot air from a blower in an icy room, filling it with warmth and a sense of permanence. Writers share a common goal…they won’t admit to it, but they do…they all want to be first appreciated and respected as ‘unique’ intellectual beings who are not ordinary in any way, not even when they are buying stationery like the school kids or art students. The symbolism of owning truckloads of pencils and pens, notebooks and stamps and books is directly related to their highly evolved mental faculties that the years can’t erode.
Of course, we are wrong. See Jean Iris Murdoch. She was a brilliant British novelist and philosopher of Irish parentage, who died at 79. She suffered from Alzheimer’s for a very short time, but it is terrifying to know that the mind can fail anyone.
I took this picture in an ad agency where a whole wall had pencils stuck on it. My Mum did not have the disease then. But something about this wall gripped me. This is what my mind is like, I told myself when I took the picture. It was full of ideas that were stuck since aeons in it. All I needed to do was pluck one out, sharpen it and write you a story.
So be it.