Thursday, March 06, 2008

Living vs writing

I am currently reading Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia. What a beautifully narrated novel, what voice and flow! It's an intoxicating read, and I am going to include this novel in my most favourites ever.

Here's a passage from a piece on Kurieshi who has just penned a new novel, Something to Tell You:

We live in a society that's committed to pleasure, to what we describe as self-fulfilment. If you lived in a Muslim country you'd be committed to the ideal of the family and to your responsibility as a member of that unit. Those are two quite different ideals. There aren't many people in Muslim families who talk about the importance of their being happy, because the whole unit of the family is where your pleasure would have to be subsumed. In the west, the commitment to happiness is stressed. There's much more anxiety about whether people are happy or not, or whether they're thin enough, or fulfilled enough, or if they're having the right kind of relationships with the right kind of people. In a Muslim society, you have much less choice. And certainly there's less anxiety about whether you're doing OK.

I'm committed to my family, to my art and to myself." He reads less - has less time, gets less out of it. "Reading On the Road, or Flaubert, or Balzac - it's like a memory for me now. It probably won't happen again. You grow out of certain happinesses." But "I still have the hots for [writing]. I still want to do it, but in a way I don't care if I don't. It's not as important to me as living.

Read the last para carefully. Hanif says something that echoes my own inner thoughts: I still want to do it, but in a way I don't care if I don't. It's not as important to me as living.

I also think that living is more important, family obligations are more significant than seeking fame and fortune through arts (for me, however, it comes a close second). Many youngsters might disagree with me but I am too old now to be excited about fame and all that that follows it (especially in an age where everyone is some sort of a celebrity). It seems to me that trying to be ordinary (and humble) is the new extraordinary in our new age.

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