A week after the launch of my first book at the Oxford Bookstore in Calcutta, one of my close friends from school, while we were driving back together from visiting another friend said “R and I, we were just discussing yesterday, that getting celebrities to launch your book, also the numerous reviews and coverage from reputed publications was easy isn’t it, your husband is after all in the media and has good contacts.”
Shocked and hurt, but more than by her insinuation, the annoyance towards the man who was getting the credit – and my realisation that it would be collective thereon, when none was due, I retorted “Every person you saw at my event, those you will see in the ones to follow in other cities, all the media coverage, is due to my own initiation and perseverance.”
“No, but he knows so many people.”
“Yes he does,” I replied vehemently now, my voice betraying my attempt to stay calm, “but it is not of any help to me. I have had to fight for myself at every step as I will continue to do.”
Then after the Chennai launch of my book, one of husband’s close friends (a journalist) told him, which he conveyed to me – “K (another journalist) was asking me about Shree’s book, she was laughing – what has she written…will this book ever sell? Who will buy such a book?”
“So what did you say?” I asked husband sharply.
“I didn’t say anything, but my friend told K – you never know she may just get lucky.”
I gave husband a disparaging look, and angrily replied, “Does being journalists give them the exclusive rights to becoming an author? I well see the excellence in ‘writing standards’ in Indian journalism and I wonder what gives them the smugness to judge or write me off?”
He obviously looked at me nonchalantly, reminding me of the queer if not amused looks many of his journalist friends (he’s always been one too)had been giving me, since hearing of the launch of my book – as if to say now you’ve written a book too. So far, they had been tickled at my PR and promotion efforts at the launch of husband’s books – they had not come across such yet. Though I must admit those journalists in various cities, including in Chennai, I approached personally, have been very helpful and obliging, at various stages of my struggle.
In any case, I was so irritated with Ms K, that in rebellion I immediately removed her from my FB friends list, just as I had a good mind to do more, but better sense prevailed.
All through this process that saw the launch of my book in Calcutta, Delhi and Chennai, I must mention, I was inundated with the continuous rejection slips I received for my first manuscript a collection of 18 short stories, as I was not about to abandon my first child yet. I looked upon husband’s writing path dejectedly, assuming mine would light up as automatically as his, even bring to the fore a spouse who would pick up on the relay-run, where my baton fell off in exhaustion, as I always did for him – with the use of my work experience as many years as his, though in varied fields.
Thus my struggles were always and forever seemingly magnified to alarming proportions in my mind, as I have the first row seat to watching husbands game or race if you like, take shape. Now I’m not complaining, far from it – I am proud of where husband is in the race, way ahead now. I set out on this path rather late, while he always knew his assigned path and followed it diligently, built his readership and reputation over time. I cannot obviously expect to do it over night. I’m still on the lower rungs of the ladder, and I struggle on with the confidence of my many years of working – that if not the writing skills or practise yet, I’ve definitely brought to this ‘writing’ journey, the wisdom and maturity that is relevant to what I wish to achieve.
But don’t I have the right to be upset, when people think I have it easy, as my husband assumedly does it all for me. Let me assure you, he has not read my first novel yet, insists my short stories are absolutely no good – even says so publically if someone asks to read them; that my current novel needs that I change the plot completely to stand any chance at all. Even as he mentors, guides and handholds others in the process, introduces them to publishers and media people, but yes only whose skills he is convinced of unlike mine.
Now will someone please come and run this race I’m in from my lane, see how it feels to run alongside a professional, who has no time to invest in a beginner jubilantly skipping on the track following him as if only impressed by the neon lights – insignificant to the world even close friends 🙂 But I will continue, you will see, till I reach the end of this race I so inadvertently joined, leaving behind a life that I was sure of excelling in, even if I’m the last to arrive at the finish line and it takes me a lifetime to do so.