I think that I have created a modern day equivalent of Dominique Francon or Scarlett O’ Hara through my writing on Krishnapriya. Few believe that Krishnapriya is real—that such a smart, 12 year old girl exists. But, almost everything that I have written about her really happened. I did not even have to edit the conversations because unlike the newspaper smarties, she was an impeccably literate child. After reading my paean, she just said, “It was brutal. You remember too much. I remember too little.”
My novel is about my maddening, unrequited love for her. She said, “Do you want it to be unrequited? Do not worry. It will be unrequited. Men like you, I will never love.” When I said that I am trying to watch her with affection and understanding, with academic curiosity, without judging her, she replied, “You should have greater control over your faculties then.” Stein, an anti-social kid who hates humankind and amuses himself by playing computer games much of the time has an IQ higher than that of mine, she says.
It was in my mind for long. In all those years, I had the prose set in my mind, but I wanted to feel that I am prepared to write. It took me a decade, eventually. One evening, I was listening to the lame speech of an elderly businessman. He talked about the market transactions he did purely based on trust, the importance of trust, and the importance of giving back to the society, the society that gave him so much. It was mindless pap that went utterly against my grain. When I was back at my home, I wrote a damning indictment of this fraudulence, to skewer this bore.
Many react somewhat hysterically to what I have written on her. An online conversation of mine with a girl after she had read me is indicative:
She: You are more easily attracted to women older than you, except, well, Krishnapriya. What turns you on?
Me: I do not wish to put it quite that way. Anything more than motherly treatment from older women would scare me. Or, anything less.
She: I was waiting for the details on something else, Sir. Hand too busy?
Me: I would love twisting your ears. I would not mind kneeling down and kissing your feet on the ankles, and kissing the back of your hand, the tip of your fingers, and your ears.
She: I think you misread my question, Sir. I can easily predict what you would want to do. My question is what you would like me to do. Go on. You are a big man. It cannot just end there. But, I have already thought through this. You are quite experienced in being spanked. I will have to be good at it. But, there is a problem.
Me: What is it?
She: You said that you are uncomfortable with nudity. I hate having clothes on, in bed, any kind, on you or me.
Me: If I lie on your lap, I might have an erection.
She: Your erection is my responsibility. The clothes bother me.
Me: I will pull it down.
She: Will you be careful, or will I have to be?
Me: I shall be careful.
She: I have already spanked you. I have already kissed your lips. When you are lying down, I will twist your ear and caress it. I will kiss your ears, and the side of your neck and your lips. Then, I will do my thing. Was that to your liking? Yes. Saying something intelligent is how I intend to turn you on. But, in the bed, as long as it does not, you know, slow down anything, it is fine. Anyway, I am going off, to sleep now.
Me: Sleep tight.
She: Certainly. Will do.
Why do people find her unreal? She thinks that they are prejudiced. I think so too, but I really do not know. Orhan Pamuk once said, “Completely naïve readers always read a text as an autobiography or as a sort of disguised chronicle of lived experience, no matter how many times you warn them that they are reading a novel. Completely sentimental-reflective readers, who think that all texts are constructs and fictions anyway, no matter how many times you warn them that they are reading your most candid autobiography.”
They are perhaps like those sentimental-reflective readers, but I do not think that they fit this description, anyway. I am not a naïve reader, but I am one of those writers who find it hard to write what is not real, to write about people and events that do not have a concrete existence of their own. I do not understand the novelists who can do justice to a novel that is not autobiographical, if it is true at all that they do.
I am not sure that I understand people. I cannot get inside their minds, and write about them. I think that they have such poor taste, and no inner life worth mentioning, like cockroaches. But, at times, they surprise me with some petty trick of their own, when I had not expected it. It is perhaps true that between the genius and the moron lies the large majority of human beings who can tie a shoelace and have no difficulty finding their way home, but are incapable of grasping even the simplest of abstractions.
When I write, there are instances where the concept of “artistic license” has its value, but I do not think it is possible to violate its integrity without destroying the story in its entirety. I even feel attached to the names of the people that I loved tenderly, and cannot leave them, deep within. I do not write an email without a salutation, but I leave it out when I am writing an email to someone who shares the name with her. I share what I write while I am writing, but with her, I used to share only the final, over perfected essay.
A normal reader might find this fraudulent, but this is not uncommon among writers. Lolita’s foreword says, “While “ Haze” only rhymes with the heroine’s real surname, her first name is too closely inter-wound with the inmost fiber of the book to allow one to alter it; nor is there any practical necessity to do so.” We The Living’s introduction says, “Leo is real. He is a romanticized version of the first man Ayn Rand ever loved, a student she had met in college at the age of seventeen and gone out with many times. His name was Leo. She disliked the name, but felt that she had no choice about using it: In her mind, the character was inseparable from the man.”
The beauty of the prose, too, is very important to me. There are people who do not understand this, or perhaps they understand it too well. I do not know. The construction of stylistic prose is the most challenging, and the most rewarding aspect of the writing process. Most non-fiction writers are typists. I do not want to be one among them. I am not sure I understand the writers whose attitude towards writing is different from what is at best expressed in these words of Faulkner:
“Only Southerners have taken horsewhips and pistols to editors about the treatment or maltreatment of their manuscript. This–the actual pistols–was in the old days, of course, we no longer succumb to the impulse. But it is still there, still within us.”