The first novel I wrote was a Hunger Games fanfiction. Considering I was fourteen at the time, I’m thoroughly embarrassed, because I’ve met quite a number of experienced young authors now, who are definitely done with their fanfiction phase. But, considering my circumstances, I’m kinder to myself – my circumstance being that I come from a middle-class family in Delhi, India, surrounded by what is a completely different cultural environment (in comparison to my western peers), and having an icky liking for Bollywood and Hindi music and abstract art.
How did such a person come upon the western literary community, how did they identify with their tastes and their works and their cities? To be very blunt, even I don’t know. Somewhere between being fourteen and becoming seventeen, I absorbed a ton of Austen and Plath, found common ground with people who lived half a world away from me, and went on to write a substantial amount of prose and poetry, inspired from all these new landscapes I was coming across.
Although often I’ve imagined myself stuck on a fence, one foot in Western culture and other in Indian, both pulling me in opposing directions, what I’m beginning to realise now is how much these two identities of mine complement each other. If tradition and moral values are what have been taught to me since I was a baby, then the western cultural world with its new territories and individuality is like home. Perhaps this is what we writers do: making metaphors out of the unexpected, weaving stories by gathering a pattern of threads nobody thought went together.
Lately, in my work, I’ve begun to explore the dichotomies between the two civilisations, between the urban world and the rural, between the city and the slum. The ruins of Old Delhi, the dust and smoke, the thriving metropolis – it is this sacred heart of my city I’ve tried to capture in my work, all the while laying it against a world that resides miles away. Although I’m still very much rooted to my soil, this journey of mine into western literature has been somewhat cathartic. It is my belief now that if more and more of us begin to explore new arenas, our talents will flower like never before.