A Conversational Exposition in Two Acts
The previous week, I met a critic. He is a fireband journalist,
a young gentleman, erudite and polished, in brief, everything
which yours-truly is not. Like all conversations between adults,
this one steered, willy-nilly, in the direction of that one
big question, the occupation.
"I am a mother", I announced.
"That's alright. But there must be something you do, besides
being a mother", he pressed on.
I had half a mind of ending the conversation right there, but
I replied politely, "No, I am a full time mother, if that
makes any sense to you".
"What a waste of good resources", he said.
"You may get the answer to this twenty years from now,
but then too, as now, you'll miss the point", there's little
patience I have with such people, so with brief perfunctory
goodbyes, we parted ways.
As luck would have it, I bumped into him again last night at
"Hey, I've been thinking of getting in touch with you again.
Didn't you say you don't do anything? You write now and then,
you sure do, isn't that you?"
"Maybe. But why are we starting this all over again?"
"Because I want to know why you write such trash."
Oops! Unkind words spoken even before I could savour the first
sip of chilled tamarind juice this winter.
“Maybe because I am not capable of producing anything better”,
I told him, keeping a straight face, which was anyway red hot
and spinning now. "Does that suffice for an answer?".
"No, but why this fixation with inconsequential things.
Especially when the world is simmering with such immediate issues
like war, inequality, injustice, cruelty. There are crises all
around us. The world is burning, don't you get it?". He
sounded (and looked) agitated. Oh my God, I thought, he believes
in what he is saying.
I figured I was no match for him, so I said, "But aren't
there enough minds churning out enough theses to counter them?
Or several more who dwell upon these issues in earnest?".
"No, there can never be enough written, said, or discussed
on any of our blazing problems. Writers have a duty towards
the public", his fiery eyes looked possessed.
"But then you're speaking with the wrong person, haven't
you figured that yet?" I wanted this talk to end right
But he had come prepared with more pointed questions. "Who
do you think you're reaching with your pieces? Who reads it
anyway?" Ouch, that hurt bad. Not since Samuel Beckett
elevated critics to a haloed position, as the ultimate form
of abuse (remember Gogo's CRRITIC, one of the best known check-mates
in recent literature?), has the world seen such a passionate
"I know of five people who do. I do, The Hubby does-if
only to keep me in good humour, the editor of SWM (I hope she
does), a friend of mine in the US, and now you. That's not a
bad audience for trash, given that the written word is no longer
this generation's best friend".
"Hey, keep me out of your ego-trips. I skip such write-ups,
especially yours, even before I reach the page."
"Uh-oh, that's makes it only four of us. I earnestly hope
the editor didn't hear that."
"You find it amusing? Well lady, let me do some plain talking
with you. I am certain no man, as in the male man, appreciates
such stuff. It is so girlie, so naïve and trivial, so…ordinary",
he paused before uttering that last word. Perhaps the ordinariness
of the term had made him hesitate. "Who wants to know what
happened to your child or your home, or even to your partner?"
Point taken, I thought, and added, "Fine, so this week
I'll write about you? Does that help you ease up a bit?"
"Huh, I be damned before I feature in such inconsequential
places", he said with an arrogant puff on his cigarette.
"But then, you'll never know you got mentioned since you
don't read it ever, you won't read it this week, will you?"
After a brief pregnant pause, he muttered, "People like
you call yourselves writers…". He sounded disappointed.
It was as if this world had suddenly become an even more hopeless
place after our brief chat. By now I could see my son start
fidgeting under the coffee table.
"But that's the point, you see? I don't call myself one.
If I did, this explosive parley would have happened last week
when we met for the first time. I told you I am a mother, didn't
I?" I said getting up. "And now if you'll excuse me,
there's a little crisis I have to attend to. This little one
wants to visit the toilet. I'll make a move now". I smiled,
and just before turning around, I added, "A full-time mother
has to think about such trivial things on a minute-by-minute
I think I saw him smile back! For the first time that evening,
with a nod, which hinted he understood. Or did he?