Why do we tell stories? In this busy world where nobody has time to stop and listen, why do we continue writing stories, hoping someone will read till the end?
For me, stories are roundabout ways to arrive at the roots of reality. If we dig straight and directly, we are more likely to destroy the fine, delicate roots which nourish life itself. Life's mysteries and the sense of wonderment they engender, cannot always be filed away and conveniently categorized as dry data. That's where the storyteller enters, to breathe life into words and emotions, and evoke all the nuances that make up life.
Let's take a question which many of us face. What does it mean to be an Indian? It isn't easy to define the sense of identity we feel in a land of many cultures and languages. I'm a Bengali (Bong), but folks in Karnataka, where I live, take me for a Coorgi or a Mangalorean. Some have even taken it for granted and tried to converse with me in their totally incomprehensible to me dialects. I've given up trying to explain to people that I'm a Bong (noo, not from Kolkata, only rarely visit there, never lived in those parts, no roots there. but I know the language well enough to translate a Bangla story or two into English) I'm a Bong born in Delhi because my father settled in Delhi after Independence/Partition (1946, to be exact). Ancestors are East Bengalis. And now I live in Karnataka and speak passable Kannada. I've given up explaining to people and just say, I'm Indian.
I wrote a short story which has a reference to this feeling of being different, but also being totally Indian. The link to 'A Royal Tour' is on the right sidebar.
I have always wondered how much of one's personal experience can go into a story and still be considered fiction? This particular story of mine is based on my true life experiences. My only child is named Siddhartha, and he is a newly emerged from the chrysalis doctor. This piece started out as creative non fiction. But somewhere along the way, it evolved into fiction. As the real life Siddhartha observed,"The character evolves into someone like me towards the end, but at the beginning of the story, he is quite different."
I put this question to Indian author and actor Tom Alter, who despite his markedly Caucasian looks, is 100% Indian, right down to peppering his English speech with untranslateable Hindi and Urdu colloquialisms. Here's his reply;
"As for putting personal truth in our writing? -- it is the only thing to do -- all writers do -- they must -- we must -- in both of my novels, I am everywhere -- but not always as 'I' "
I hope some readers of this blog will pause to enlighten me. How much of your own experiences and emotions do you put into your fiction?