The complimentary copies of my first book arrived just one day before I took a leap into the dark at the age of 41. It was the summer of 2001. I had quit my job at St Edmund’s College, Shillong and had packed my little belongings. A colleague from Edmund’s came in the evening with a packet that had been delivered at the college address. Four copies of English Poetry: From John Donne to Ted Hughes, my first book. I took it as a good omen though I was battling the most protracted depression of my life.
That book had a tragic history. I had done a lot of research before writing it. But all through those months of research I was treated by my colleagues like a mental retard with an ethereal ambition or something like that. Edmund’s was my hell. It scorched my very soul. Purification before you enter heaven. Delhi turned out to be my heaven.
Strange things happen in life. I have narrated all those strange things of my life in Autumn Shadows. I wrote many books after English Poetry. But nothing delights me today as much as that first book. I consulted hundreds of books by scholarly writers before writing this one. It was an experience that I would love to go through once more. But I don’t have access to so many scholarly books today. In those days, the library of the North-Eastern Hill University [NEHU] offered me all the wisdom I wanted. Except the most essential: practical wisdom.
I left Shillong just the day after the author’s complimentary copies reached me. For good. I guess no one leaves Shillong for bad. In one of the interviews I attended in Delhi [for an editor’s post at Vikas Publications], I was asked why I left such a beautiful place like Shillong and chose a hell like Delhi. The devil belongs to hell, I wanted to answer. I had not yet overcome my depression. “I did not belong there,” I said. That was the same thing in different words.
Vikas Publications appointed me with a salary slightly higher than I had asked. But I didn’t join them. I chose teaching instead with a much lower salary, the same job I was doing in Shillong, the only one I knew. I had no guts to try something new. Shillong had broken me entirely.
These are some thoughts and memories that flashed through my mind when I read Chinmayee’s blog post today. I wish Chinmayee all the best with her forthcoming book. And I think of writing my next book on literature once again, fiction this time. Some essays on a few contemporary novels. Maybe. I’m not a broken man now. I can afford to toy with options.
PS. This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.
PPS. Paperback editions of Black Hole and Autumn Shadows are available exclusively at pothi.com