Every writer is happy when his writing sells. When I decided to collect some of my short stories into a book, I was not very hopeful about the commercial success of the book; I was only venturing on an experiment. The real motive was not commercial success but the dedication of the book to some people who nagged me into writing the stories. The publication of the book with its dedication that appears on the very title page was a ritual of exorcism for me. I was casting out the demons that were put in me by certain people.
One of my acquaintances who read the book or a part of it asked me today, “What made you write these stories?” Most of the stories in the volume are subversive to some extent, he said that in different words. My first reviewer, Sreesha Divakaran, said the same thing in her own words: ‘...all the stories in the book, in subtle ways, question morality as we know it, what we have been taught as “right” or “moral.” Being a subversive is not my conscious choice. Subversion is my subconscious rebellion against what I cannot protest more effectively and consciously. Fiction-writing is not entirely a conscious activity.
Towards the end of his relatively brief life, George Orwell listed four reasons why any writer writes though “in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living.” The reasons are, in Orwell’s own words:
1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen - in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all - and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.
2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.
3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
4. Political purpose - using the word "political" in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples' idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.
I don’t think I can add anything more to what Orwell said as far as my motives as a writer are concerned, leaving aside the exorcist one mentioned already. Only a clarification is required: the ranking of my writing may not rise much “above the level of a railway guide.” Nevertheless, the impulses that drive me as a writer are no different from those which drove Orwell and others, in short. There is a lion’s share of egoism, an aesthetic motive which I would like to believe is not too feeble, a very strong historical impulse and a matching political purpose.
My attempt here is not to compare me with any great writer like Orwell. Rather, it is to state that my motives and impulses are as good or bad as those of other writers.
My book, The Nomad Learns Morality, is doing good business, my publisher tells me. They have made it available at the following sites.