Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Symphony of Meretricious Wounds

After my initial post several weeks back about the rules of how to write an Indian novel in English, some people asked me if I was being too harsh. I disagreed and explained, either via emails, on Twitter or over various pints of beer in random pubs, that I was completely, utterly and absolutely correct, and that everything I said or did could be proven empirically.

I am still somewhat surprised why people bother arguing with me. They know I'm always correct, but I suspect it's like a mind gym for them - a bit like trying to sharpen their limited intellect against the whetstone of my brain.

Anyway. We digress.

My rules of writing an Indian novel in English (henceworth referred to as "IWE") ruffled some feathers, but then what would I be if not the ultimate feather ruffler? And imagine my glee at finding a work of non-fiction, written by an Indian doctor of medicine in English about cancer. What did Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee choose to title his work? A very humble, and not at all bombastic "The Emperor of All Maladies".

(Cue the smell of freshly ground chillies as they hit hot mustard oil in a California kitchen. Children play noisily on the floor as a fat Tamil woman, stoic in the face of her own sexual futility and loveless existence, prepares dinner for an uncaring doctor of a husband who spends his days in pathology labs having tumultuous bacteria-ridden sex with a blonde resident)

Anyway. You get my point.

So I was berating the ridiculousness of this title on Twitter, when the inspiration struck: I too would create an IWE. And not only that - I would write an IWE ON TWITTER.

So, dear reader, presented to you below, in all its glory, is my Twitter Indian Writing in English. my TIWE, if you will. The text below is a direct collation of my series of tweets relating to the subject.

I'd like to write a novel called "The Symphony of Meretricious Wounds". It would be a fantastic exemplar of Indian Writing In English.

It'd revolve around a young man, in his late 20's. He' be American, but of Indian heritage. I would call him Surya. Or Sunil. Or Jack.

Jack would be from South India. Preferably Kerala. That would allow him sensual brown skin. And the use of coconuts as sexual innuendo.

He would live in the East Village, leading a hedonistic lifestyle of sex, drugs, rock'n'roll & denial of his own ethnic heritage.

But in Jack's past lurked a deep, dark family secret that an aloof father, a hapless mother & a retarded sister would never resolve.

The secret would craft and shape Jack's entire identity, forcing him to run away from his family to New York. They lived in Menlo Park.

This secret was so powerful, so terrible & so unspeakable that nobody in Jack's entire extended Keralan family ever spoke of it.

The secret was this: Jack did not like coconut in his masala dosa.

Long had his mother sobbed at little Jack's refusal to eat coconut with his food. His father beat him, his sister made faces at him.

His many aunts, redolent in heavy silk saris, reeking of jasmine & oiled hair, whispered when he came to family get-togethers.

His cousins pointed and laughed at him, refusing to let poor Jack join in their little Keralan games. Jack played by himself.

The family crisis came to a head when his father, in a drunken rage, tried to force feed him dessicated coconut. Jack nearly died.

His mother screamed as his father kept slapping teenaged Jack, shoving handfuls of coconut into his mouth. His retarded sister drooled.

After all, what kind of good Keralan girl would marry a boy who didn't eat coconut?

Jack was taken to the hospital that night. New Jersey doctors pumped his stomach clean of all coconut. Social services was called.

Social Services took Jack away from his abusive, coconut-force feeding father. He was put up with a large Croatian family.

The Croatian family did not eat coconut. Jack was happy.

Jack grew up, went to university, and met a good Hungarian girl. He moved to Manhattan, became a photographer & built a life.

And then it happened.

He was walking through Union Square when he bumped into a beautiful Indian woman. She wore kajal in her eyes. And bangles.

Her name was Shakuntala. Or Katyayini. Or Jane.

Jane was fresh off the boat from India. She was studying politics at Columbia. She was opinionated. She oiled her hair.

She'd carry mango pickle in her coat pocket. In the middle of heated intellectual debate, she'd pull out a piece, suck it & go "ooh".

Her sex appeal was off the charts. It was also largely predicated on sucking bits of pickled fruit. Jack was smitten.

Jack & Jane had a tumultuous affair. Their relationship was marked by long walks by the Hudson, debates about Sartre & lots of bad sex.

Jane was the one who made Jack watch his first non-Fellini film in years. Thanks to Jane, Jack watched Rajnikant. In Robot.

It was to Jane that Jack finally described his underlying dislike of coconuts. He slowly opened up to her, verbalising his loathing.

As softly as she could, Jane whispered, "But Jack, if you hate coconuts, you hate yourself."

"You are a Keralan American, raised by Croatians, denying the everlasting allure of coconuts. You are the ultimate coconut, Jack."

Jack stared at her fat naked body in bed. He was thunderstruck. She had struck him at his white, watery core.

Unsure of what to say or do he did reacted viscerally. He started hitting her. Because what was an IWE without domestic violence?

Jane screeched as he held her by her plait & slapped her. But her coconut oil had done the trick. Her plait slipped out of his grasp.

Racing to the kitchen she hurled the first thing she could find at him. It was - but of course - a coconut. It hit Jack on the nose.

Jack stopped still in his tracks. His nose was broken. Yet again he was rushed to the hospital in a coconut-related emergency.

Mt. Sinai doctors set his nose straight. "How strange", said the weird Telegu doc. "Why waste a good coconut like this?" Jack agreed.

Unable to face Jane after that scene, Jack walked aimlessly across New York. He listened to pretentious American rock on his iPod

Finally, unable to avoid the issue any longer, he went to the curry shops in Murray Hill. He was a man on a mission. A coconut mission.

Walking into a South Indian restaurant, he sat down beneath the large statue of Ganesha. Incense sticks filled the air. Rose petals too

"What would you like to yeet?" the obsequious waiter yasked him. Jack drew in his breath. "Bring me... a coconut masala dosa".

The waiter brought the dosa, hot, steaming and full of coconutty goodness. Jack stared at it, his face impassive, unyielding, immobile.

Suddenly, an old Bollywood song came on the radio bleating in the corner. It was a song Jack's mother sang to him as a child. Badly.

And as he sat there in a curry shop in Murray Hill, with a broken nose, staring at a coconut masala dosa. Jack softly began to weep.

Because if you were a 20-something man who hit his girlfriend & had his nose broken by a coconut, you would weep too. A LOT.

But most importantly, Jack wept because as he sat in a grubby curry shop in Murray Hill, he realised the worst thing of all.

He had forgotten his pants at the hospital and was walking around town in a hospital gown.

The. End.