The Write Choice
The moment I gave notice of my impending
relocation to the Nilgiri hills, people set my future agenda for me. `Oh, going
to write a book, are you,` they asked, looking incredulous when I denied such
intention. Everyone goes to the hills to write a book, they said, reeling off a
list of luminous names.
No one paid any heed to my litany of
protests about downshifting, about relaxing in healthier environs (I’m now
convinced Delhiites are secretly proud about living in such a polluted place),
about just chilling out.` I see a future Booker-winner in you,` e-mailed a friend
from California. `What else will you do there anyway,` jeered someone. `Nothing
ever happens in the hills.`
The point was, I did not have a book in me. `Nonsense,` scoffed someone. `Everyone has a book in her.`
`Go seek your inner book,` advised yet another well-wisher, confounding me with the profound potential of
Call it the power of thought transference.
A few days after I’d settled into my wisteria-fronted cottage, I decided I
might as well write a book. The setting was ideal. Here I was, perched atop a
steep hill, watching the swirling mists weave patters in the emerald valley
below. The house washedged by eucalyptus trees, the garden was abloom with
late summer flowers; all I needed to do was sit in front of my PC and let the
The first sitting was a no-go. Even as the
screen stared blankly back at me, the peace and quiet was rent by loud
intonations. Investigations revealed that the sermon, for sermon it was, came
from one of the many steepled churches dotting the surrounding hills. When the
sermon ceased, the hymnal music began. When that died down, someone played Carnatic
music at top volume from the tea stalls on the main road below. And it’s true
what they say… the smallest sound carries a long way in the hills.
When I next sat down to write my potential
Booker, the mali came to tell me Boss, my retriever, who invariably followed
his own drum, had eaten all the gardenias and was starting on the hyacinths. By
the time I finished commiserating with the man, remonstrating with the dog, the
mood to write a literary tour de force had gone.
Every time I sat to write down my book, a
series of incidents put paid to my resolve. The weather played hooky, forcing
me to do 40-metre dashes to bring the already soaked clothes in. Plumbers
dropped by to look at the Victorian plumbing and leave, shaking their heads in
wonder. New leaks in the tiled roof would necessitate new buckets at strategic
places. Outsized spiders, three monkeys, a rat snake and six women from the
local women’s auxiliary group came visiting.
This morning, even as I punched ‘Chapter
One’ on the keyboard, I was told Senthamarai, my maid, had eloped with a man
from the next village. His wife wanted to meet me, Senthamaria’s husband wanted
to meet me, a couple of policemen wanted to meet me.
Maybe I should just head back to Delhi to
write my book. Just how did you manage it, Arundhati R?