As I walked out of the park after my evening walk, a snazzy sign on a cheap billboard just opposite caught my eye. It boldly proclaimed "₹150 a Kilo". Since you can't even get a cup of decent coffee or a kilo of black grapes for that amount it piqued my curiosity and I walked towards it to see what exactly was selling so cheap. (Hey, a good bargain is a good bargain and as a true blue shopaholic... you get the picture). As I walked closer to read the sign, I wished I hadn't. My heart split in two and I got that empty feeling in my stomach as though someone had just sucker punched seven lifetimes out of me.
It said,"₹150 a Kilo"... "For Books"
As I recovered from the shock, a myriad of emotions took over.
People around us feel we aren't doing very much with our time and don't even deserve respect, let alone money to survive on.
I felt sad because of my choice of profession, I felt sad because the talent I was blessed with was clearly not worth very much. Had I been an actress, perhaps, of any calibre, maybe I would have made some money and people would have exclaimed, even if momentarily, about my creativity.
I felt angry and indignant that authors aren't valued even though we are the thinkers who are instrumental in changing the world, one idea at a time. For all our efforts, people around us feel we aren't doing very much with our time and don't even deserve respect, let alone money to survive on.
I felt pity for my fellow authors as I know the pain that we go through to write. We sleep late, wake up early, lock ourselves up in our rooms, skip meals, work with minimal resources, ask our friends and family members to leave us alone so that we may write in peace. And at the end of the day, what is the payoff? "₹150 a kilo" if I'm lucky.
Here's another travail that some others might identify with: sundry relatives asking me to write 'statements of purpose (SOP)' for their 'brilliant' child who is going to go abroad to study housekeeping or some other strange course in a third-tier university. This, of course, is a stop-gap before said child is married off or dispatched to run the family business. When I ask them, "Aren't you sending your child for a higher education?" they just respond with vacuous stares, not getting the sarcasm. "Ya, but you're a writer, so you can write it because my son/daughter is quite busy and you can write it faster." I can't even begin to elaborate on how wrong that statement is at every level.
Here's another travail that some others might identify with: sundry relatives asking me to write 'statements of purpose (SOP)' for their 'brilliant child'...
But the gist is this: writers don't do anything, writing is not a profession, it's just TIME PASS.
I don't have to repeat the narrative that is being played out in the newspapers on an ongoing basis about writers' protests, and how their arguments are just brushed aside.
Of course, hope is not lost, especially when one sees the popularity of literature festivals in the country or when one sees writers speak with passion about their work.
Because let's face it, we are spurred on to write not because of the promise of any huge riches and treasures but because of passion for the written word. This passion is not going to die any time soon. So, ₹150 a kilo or even ₹ 1 a kilo, it doesn't really matter. Nothing can stop us.
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