I read an article today and it made me think about this: how much of our experiences as teenagers do we drag around with us through our adult lives? People who are bullied, emotionally and physically, often carry their scars well into adulthood. Some build a social network as adults so they feel supported, while others shy away from people they perceive to be part of a clique. How many of the choices we make as grown-ups are the result of emotional baggage from our high school years?We experience some of the most crucial turning points in our lives only after high school. Marriage, childbirth and career choice all play a major role in the kind of person we become. So, the big question is: are we doomed to be haunted by our teen angst forever or can we reinvent ourselves?
A couple of years ago we visited India with our daughters. For them it was the first time. For us it had been too many years. It’s funny how things that you took for granted acquire a sense of adventure when you do it with your children for the first time. When we were young it was common to buy snacks from the roadside vendors and eat it right there. One of my favourites was pani puri or gol gappa as it is called in some parts. This basically consists of crisp, hollow, deep-fried balls of dough that are filled with a spicy potato mixture. You get a few of these on a plate. Then you add spicy tamarind water and a chutney made with coriander, green chilies and mint. When you pop these in your mouth and bite down, there is the most delicious explosion of flavours. I have to say, that although I have enjoyed food from many cuisines, there is nothing quite like that initial burst of tartness, sweetness and spice that you experience when you eat pani puri. And it’s just not the same when you make it at home.
There’s something about standing in a crowd with your friends, waiting as the vendor fills your plate and hands it to you. In Mumbai we took our daughters to try it, thinking that they might find it strange, but they absolutely loved it. Of course, the “street vendor” we went to was actually an air-conditioned shop, although this particular one also had a man doling out the stuff from behind a cart on the lower level. And I must admit, they tasted better from the cart than they did when we ordered them and ate at our table. So, do our fond childhood memories actually enhance the taste of a favourite food when we eat it again after many years?
When I decided to write a book, I knew that the protagonist had to be a girl. She would be a strong, kick-ass sort of a girl. No standing on the sidelines and watching with big eyes as her man saved the world. No, she was going to save the world herself.I wanted to base my story on the mythology of India, because it is so rich and fascinating. And I knew that I wanted to write for young adults, because they are at an important juncture in their lives. Not that my book is going to impart any great pearls of wisdom. On the contrary, it is pure fantasy. But I happen to believe that when you allow yourself to indulge in fantasy, you can discover a lot about who you truly are and what will make you happy. Plus it’s just really cool to write about a girl who has the powers of a goddess and can kick a demon’s ass.
I have always been fascinated by the concept of reincarnation. The idea that you can be born over and over again is intriguing. Imagine being alive at different times in the history of our civilization. Would we have memories from all those lives buried deep in the recesses of our minds? Or would we start each new life with a clean slate, perhaps a chance for a do-over? And if we are not aware of it, would we do anything differently, or are we doomed to repeat our mistakes in one life after another? In my novel, Realm of the Goddess, reincarnation is a central theme. Here is a quote from the Prologue:
“Wherever evil rears its head, there I shall be reborn
to crush greed and corruption in its womb
I shall arise again and again.”
I like the idea of second chances, maybe even third and fourth ones. It gives us hope that we can ultimately overcome our failings, some of our wrongdoings and have another go at being better versions of ourselves.
In anticipation of my upcoming fame and appearances on numerous talk shows, I decided that this would be a good time to get rid of the many extra pounds that I found in the past year and a half as I was writing my YA novel Realm of the Goddess. During that time I embraced a diet of ice cream and chips and rewarded myself nightly with a fruity vodka concoction because I had spent the better part of my days being creative. Now that I am waiting with bated breath for editors and agents to tell me how much they love my book, I thought that I would take the time to get back in shape. You know, just in case I get discovered and they want to meet me.
So, I joined Weightwatchers online. Three days ago. So far it’s been fabulous. I went to the grocery store and successfully circumvented the cookie aisle, as well as the ice-cream section. Even took puppy for a nice long walk. I even tried to give up coffee and switch to water and green tea, but as I was tutoring my students later that day, I discovered that Math problems and chemical reactions are much friendlier to a well- caffeinated brain.
So now I’m happily counting points and waiting to hear from an editor who requested my entire manuscript.
Sometimes we allow fear to get the better of us. We give it permission to control us and veer us off our destined paths. As writers, I think we are particularly fearful of what others will think of us or our craft. We are afraid to expose our vulnerabilities and our deepest thoughts for all the world to see and perhaps reject. This New Year’s Eve, I sat alone in my favourite recliner nursing a nasty cold. I thought about how I would feel if someone told me that I could never write again. I felt awful even contemplating such a possibility. So at that moment I made my New Year’s resolution. I will cast aside my fears and uncertainties. I will not allow doubt to plague me. Instead I will plough ahead into the unknown and see what happens.