It feeds off me like tapeworms; it colonizes the deepest, most
visceral part of my body. Though I am allowed to take a break from
time to time, it returns with a vengeance before I find any real rest.
This colony -vengeful, relentless and demanding – paralyses me with a
fear like no other. The tolling of a bell calls upon me to leaven the
writing scene, not for the sake of fame or pride, but to forever
nourish the Lucifer inside me – until the day I die. All this because
I have so foolishly chosen to write.
I know I have been a half-baked writer, a mediocre traveler and a poor
note-keeper while I am at it. I have, over time, fallen in and out of
love with places to where writing has taken me: some of the places are
real, while many are imaginary (I have a secret tree house in the
soiree of my imagination. But let us not dwell on that for now).
Life (big word, I know) – as ayah had drilled into his young
daughter’s heart – is the aggregate of the books you have read,
phrases you have imprinted into your heart, surreal conversations you
have struck with strangers, the places you have been and the words you
have written. In other words, it is the sum total of your most
meaningful experiences. Unrecorded, their memory will fade like a
dream at the break of dawn.
And I have been to many of these places and walked down many obscure
paths. The images of these travels are still clear in my mind. But as
age piles on me, I am uncertain how long they will stay.
Let’s speak of the crispy, melancholic air of Left Bank of the River
Siene, trapped in bitter a wind as autumn paves the way to winter. I
recall young lovers holding hands amidst a flourishing street arts
scene, all presented to me in strange languages that are completely
alien to me. The Croatian, the Russians, Italians – all
pseudo-artistes paying homage to an over-rated arts scene.
Neither can I forget the flotilla of boats bobbing up and down in the
cool temperate of South Quay, Western Australia. The water so blue, it
threatens to melt the hardest part of my heart. The faint shout of
foghorns in the misty Le Serinissima still haunts me in the current
tropical heat I live in.
And some places, they just foretell the future. Istanbul does that to
you when she plays god to the unprepared and unbelievers alike. As I
stood alone, wind sashaying my rumpled loose khaki pants at the foot
of Rumeli Feneri where the Bosporus and Black Sea became one, I knew I
would leave legal practice to follow my true calling: to write, to be
a messenger, to foretell the ringing of the reader’s heart.
I wanted to do it all just the way Ms. Gilbert did in Eat Love and
Pray. I’d fill my travel notebook, collect stamps on my passport and
live only in anticipation of the next travel adventure. I’d buy a
one-way plane ticket to Casablanca – with an ensuing train pass to
Marrakech – lost in the pages of my dusty travel notebook. I’d find my
way to Budapest from London – turning up my nose to the speed of
Eurotrain – by taking slow ferry from Dover to Calais. I’d figure out
the rest when I get there – wherever there might be.
Alas, the pursuit of travel writing took a back seat when motherhood
and a career-change combined forces. Be still O my ailing heart, hope
comes in many forms. Hope is all that I have to keep the words
flowing, the heart longing. Pining for something so intangible ruins
Of course, I have thought of not giving a fcuk about anything, the way
Henry Miller did in The Tropic of Cancer. But reality is a bitch – a
phrase that makes me feel like I am now living in Dante’s hell.
I’ll edge along just fine, my dear friend, as long as I stay true to my writing.