Why I Write: To Make You Laugh Or Squirm, And To Talk About It
Ray and I have never met. Yet, he wrote to me in 1953, much before he knew I would even be born. Clairvoyant that he was, he knew I’d remember his words more than I did Class 10 Chemistry (which I mugged for months and let’s say, got face-saving marks in). When I read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, I was shocked into silence (abnormal for me, as my friends will tell you). That he should be talking about this book-burning, freedom-burning future, even as it rages now, like the fires he spoke of so long ago.
So, I write to talk to people I don’t know, in the hope that they will talk to those they do know. In the hope this will start a conversation.
Flyaway Boy is the conversation I’d like to see among us adults who insist on boxing children, into Toppers and Why-can’t-you-be-toppers. I wrote this story of a disappearing child to goad us into questioning what we do to the special, unique children we have. Do we turn water lilies into cacti, parakeets into pigeons – just so that they will survive? And erm – will they?
I don’t have all the answers, wait, I don’t have any. But I’m annoyingly good at questions, planting them among those wiser (and with bigger muscles) than me, who may come up with solutions –teachers, parents, policy-makers and well, football players and tree-huggers too. Good fiction is the most innocuous way to impregnate questions into minds, and move on.
So back a bit to these dead people who talk to me (Night Shyamalan’s made a million bucks out of this idea. HUH!) Jack London got me hooked on lifelong empathy towards animals in Call of the Wild from the 1903 icy wilderness of Yukon. Toni Morrison in 1970 warned me about racism. Crime writers, humor writers, poets and hundreds of others have, from across longitudes, eras and hairstyles, started conversations with me, that have shaped the way I think, talk and walk (‘with the swing in my waist and the joy in my feet’ – Maya Angelou, 1978). (Warning: Don’t try this on wet, slippery ground.)
I write to make you laugh, or squirm, to hit too close to a nerve. And to talk about it (preferably in a 5-star review on Amazon.in). My competition is that mosquito – to get under your skin.
Today, when the most tolerant societies try to keep their heads above water, the words I carry in my head are from a wise-eyed, bearded poet who first had this chat with me in school. Rabindranath Tagore in 1910 (and I, today) pray, ‘Where the mind has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls… into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.’
Jane De Suza does not write normal books. The SuperZero series, Uncool, Happily Never After and The Spy Who Lost Her Head, among others, are examples of a very different, quirky and questioning look at life. She writes a humour column for The Hindu, had a parenting column for Good Housekeeping and is now co-building an app. The views expressed are the author’s own.