It was a stuffy afternoon in the summer of 2001. I was traveling by train- a journey that lasted 22 hours- to meet my husband in another city, where he’d gone on assignment.
Books have always been such lifesavers for me and this time was no exception. Tuning out all the excited chatter from a large family of travelers in my coach, I settled down with my copy of Jeffrey Archer’s A Quiver Full of Arrows. It wasn’t long before the teenager in the family bunch broke away and proceeded to stare inquisitively at the bright cover of the book I was reading. Her stare was long enough to compel me to lower the book a few inches and smile, hoping that she would now leave me in peace.
Fat chance of that happening.
‘Why are you reading that?’ came barreling out of her, in the classic open manner that teenagers ask questions.
“Well, I think he writes rather well. Have you read any of his books?” I queried in return.
‘No way! And I wouldn’t either! He’s a liar! He was sent to jail last month. For perjury! You shouldn’t be reading his book.’
Delighted at the chance to engage in a debate, my eyes looked at her eager face, filled with the idealism and righteousness that comes from childhood, before experience snatches them away. I had just started a job, training students to appear for competitive exams and the fire that burns in their chests, the one of enquiry, is something that positively encouraged me to seek out people and engage in non-confrontational discussions.
In a discussion that lasted a little over thirty minutes, the girl and I spoke about how books are judged by their writers, their personal lives, the things that they say in public or the actions that they undertake. At the end of it, she was grudgingly willing to concede that perhaps a writer could be judged on the quality of his work alone. She wasn’t entirely convinced by my reasoning, but it was a pleasure to see that a young mind was open to other points of view.
This incident came to mind a few days ago, when I was reading posts by various writers on the Web. It struck me that all writers/bloggers are, in fact, liars. Not consciously so, perhaps, but we certainly choose to reveal that part of ourselves that we are most comfortable exposing to the world at large.
We read a post. If we love it, we gush over it. If we dislike it, we are not too sure what to say about it. Some may say a non-committal, ‘Good post’, which is about as useful as hearing that the sun rose this morning. If we completely loathe it (or perhaps the writer, due to personal reasons), we turn our noses up at it.
It also brought home the harsh truth that great writing may go unnoticed because the writer is not very ‘nice’ in reality.
The truth of the matter is this: We all lie. Some of us are better liars than others. As writers, though, there is a fine line we need to address- that boundary between blurring the truth for a story and masking it completely for personal reasons. Ideally, though, this ought not to affect the way your work is perceived in the public domain. For, the people we are in reality and the ones we profess to be through our work are, in fact, diametrically opposite beings.