Why I made a bonfire of my book
"How much royalty did you get from your book?" Someone telephoned to ask the day before I released my book at the just-concluded Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF). He must have read my Facebook posts about the book release.
"How does it matter to you?"
"How many copies did you print in
the first run?" Someone else pinged, wanting to know.
"How does it matter to you? Do you want to buy them all?"
"How many copies did you manage to sell at the Sharjah fair?" Yet another WhatsApp message.
"Are you and your wife sleep-deprived over my sales?"
"Why did special needs kids release your book?" A good old acquaintance wanted to know.
"Because I am not in the company of intellectuals and celebrities."
"Why didn't some of your kin and friends come to the launch?" Several who attended the event were keen to know.
"Shall I WhatsApp their numbers so that you can check with them?"
"Who was the lady with you on the stage? Your publisher?" That's a cousin who uses BOTIM to gossip with my people back home.
"My sweetheart. Have a problem?"
"Your book was a tiny drop in the SIBF ocean." This guy hasn't even tripped over a book in his life time, let alone read one.
"Hope you didn't pee on it."
"Why is the cover black?"
"Because we live in a cruel world, where we are waiting to pounce on each other."
It rained cats and dogs the day after the fair. The wet spell wasn't cool enough to mollify me. I was agitated. I was melancholic. I was in a trance brought on by an awful sense of futility and hopelessness.
I sat by the window in the night, taking in the golden glow of the muted streetlight streaming through parted draperies. It was my first night with my print edition. I had not opened it beyond the first page where I was autographing. The book rested on my chest like a baby, bobbing rhythmically with my heavy breathing.
"Dad, go to sleep. You have been there for a long while." My daughter woke up and squinted at the light cutting through the diaphanous curtain of rain.
"Dad, you are an author. Be happy."
"It didn't make me happy."
"I was so proud to see your book on the shelf."
"It didn't make any difference to me."
"Never mind. It would make a difference to someone, somewhere, some time. If just one soul from the 2.5 million people who visited the fair reads your book, it's mission accomplished. That someone will stop for a second, think for a second and remember you for a second."
"Like the hoi polloi asks, nothing can change the world, so why write?"
"Lone wolves have left indelible impressions in the world, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Carl Marx and Nelson Mandela."
"Dad, you are crying?"
"There's so much anger and agony in the book. A lot of them. Are they all in vain?"
"No. I can feel it, Dad. So can others. I see the bleeding heart behind the line, 'Manorama was raped. She was my friend'."
"Yet, we'll continue to rape; we'll continue to kill; we'll continue to hate. In the name of God, religion, race, and politics."
"Keep raising your voice."
"I have given up, Vava. We are living in the lamest dystopia possible."
"Watching how the differently-abled children performed at the book launch, you said you stand corrected. You said you see light at the end of the tunnel. This is where you need to start." She got up to close the panes as wind and rain whipped through the window.
"Easier said than done. Even some of my close friends didn't turn up for the book release. Books don't matter to people."
"It's not about books, dad. You don't matter to them. Redefine relationships. It's a wake-up call."
"The world is so insensitive."
"Dad, I can see the glow in your eyes. I can see the fire in your heart."
"It's a bonfire of my book and dreams. Let a wildfire of angst sweep across human hearts."
"Let there also be a bonfire of intellectual paraphernalia, negativity and pretensions. Don't forget to consign your sense of hopelessness to the bonfire. Then, rise from the ashes to start a new chapter."
I was sleeping, eyes wide open.