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Good Indian Girls Don’t

“You want to do whaaat???!!”

Write a novel. Now calm the eff down.

Ever wonder how it would be to take a hiatus from life to follow that one niggling dream that dances on the edge of your consciousness day-in and day-out? I do. All the time. And, being an Indian girl, let me tell you, it isn’t easy. An Indian girl is a ticking time bomb.

Helter Skelter: Good Indian Girls Don't
How on earth can I concentrate on creating history if I have small versions of myself crawling around me, tugging on my t-shirt and competing for my attention?

“Do you want to be the only thirty-something to marry the leftovers? Life isn’t Sex and the City.”

Jeez. Leftovers. That’s what my dad calls the baldies and the divorcees, since that’s who you will get if you decide to get married post-thirty. Why, thank you. That does mean I have a neat little bracket of five years left, right? Right?

Wrong. If you are a brown girl baby, you will know that we have two very neat choices (no, infanticide is not one of them): academics or marriage. Ever since I started my stint at grad school with my Master’s in English, daddy dearest laid off with all the “beti, don’t you want to get married?” Now that my year is winding down, and I have to decide for either the Ph.D. route, or the working girl route, there it is again. I am reminded of my expiry date, my limited shelf life, my doomed future as a single brown girl. See, Indian parents do not hand you a Kit Kat when you decide to take a break from life. A break from life is a luxury that does not exist in the Indian dictionary.

I don’t ask for much. Just want to be a Mistry or a Roy. Maybe, a Lahiri at most. Just not a contrived cow. “A contrived what?” you ask. A contrived c-o-w. Now, what is a contrived cow? The market of fiction is filled with contrived cows. In other words, books that pass for literature but are instead filled with superficial plots driven by clichés and contrived platitudes. Books that are great for mass market sellouts, but won’t be remembered 20 years down the line.

See, Indian parents do not hand you a Kit Kat when you decide to take a break from life.

There is nothing wrong with being a mass market writer. To each his own. The books sell. You make millions and then you are forgotten. If you like money and fifteen minutes of fame, you might consider the route of mass market. But some mass market writers know how to write and make money, while some are just contrived cows who end up making money by chance. Jeffrey Archer and John Grisham belong to the former category. Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon also belong to the former category but to a lesser degree, while Twilight series writer Stephanie Meyer is a contrived cow who just got lucky.

I don’t want to become a non-contrived-cow mass market writer either. That is taking the easy way out. I want to create literature. Get short-listed for a Booker, if not win one. I want people saying my name with a hushed reverence within literary circles. (Small dreams, sigh.) Or, atleast give it a try. See if I can. How on earth can I concentrate on creating history if I have small versions of myself crawling around me, tugging on my t-shirt and competing for my attention? So, here I am. Dreaming of taking off for a few months and writing my first novel. Yes, you read that right. I am still at the dreaming stage. But even that comes with restrictions.

“No, no. You can’t write on that… it’s too controversial!”

Er, dad. Are you a realist fiction expert? No? Didn’t think so. Back down, maybe?

“But, but, BUT! Can’t you write on something else?”

Hmm. Can I? Sure. Do I want to? Nope.

Now if I had said instead, “Daddy dearest, I want to get married. Here are some high resolution photos of me in an Indian and a Western outfit (you know, to show the purrrfect blend of Eastern and Western values. As if it can be discerned from some lousy pictures the high blends that I am made of!) that you can put on Shaadi.com. Jaldi! I am so ready to give up my freedom and make babies,” I would have been rewarded with the aren’t-I-lucky-to-have-such-a-samajhdar-beti look. Now, who doesn’t want to be one of those samajhdar betis? Do I see hands? No? Shy, are we?

Instead, this not-so-samajdar-beti decides to take a year off from academia, fly off to the city of her birth, and start working on her first novel. Yes, he says finally. Thik hai, go. I am sure you will meet someone in India.

Indian parents, I tell you. Will never change.

Sanchari is a Bengali Canadian who was born in Calcutta, India. She is a graduate student of English Literature and claims to have been writing since the age of nine. You can find her at sursanchari.wordpress.com, where she posts her cynical, ultra-feminist thoughts about issues that get under her skin.

Was it good for you?

  • so you are single then ; )

  • Heh. Aren’t you clever?

  • haha. fun read :)

  • Sanchari

    Thanks!

  • i am actually : )

  • Chandni1583

    how i cud see myself in this article…alas…only if our parents actually start giving us kit kats when v need a break…i think if dat day ever comes…v will no longer need breaks..

  • Nandini Swaminathan

    I can relate so well to this!! Loved it :) 

  • Sanchari

    Thanks! :)

  • Shreya

    Hey Sanchari..what a slick, funny voice! Loved it! Im a brown beti too, taking a year off from academia, writing a book, so boy, was I excited to see your post. Having read your blog, I’m gonna say, go for it! A voice like yours should definitely be a part of literature. Good Luck!

  • Shreya

    Hey Sanchari..what a slick, funny voice! Loved it! Im a brown beti too, taking a year off from academia, writing a book, so boy, was I excited to see your post. Having read your blog, I’m gonna say, go for it! A voice like yours should definitely be a part of literature. Good Luck!

  • Raghav

    Nice….though I’m sure you can find a man who doesn’t mind being with a strong,independent lady such as yourself….if and when you decide you want to get married….speaking as a man married to a charming,working woman…i think its an experience you shouldn’t miss…after all, writers do need inspiration…good luck with your book…hope it meets your expectations

  • Asia Bhattacharya

    beautifully written…goin thru the same ‘not-so-samajdar-beti’ phase myself!

  • Benny Mathew

    hi lets meet up for coffee or ice cream..
    Bob

The Tap #8

By Ramya Sriram