Books, Uncategorized

Why I Write

“I have not written and published to please other people, but to satisfy myself, just as a cow gives milk, not to profit the dairyman, but to satisfy herself.”-H. L. Mencken

One of my most painful childhood memories is that of rising onto my toes, and asking my aunt whether we can make Onion-Vada’s without using onions.  She said, “I do not know what you are talking about. How do we make Onion-Vada’s without onions?” She was cutting onions and there were tears in my eyes. I did not like the taste of onions. I stood there, confused, watching the swift movement of her fingers. And, I felt that I could see the mist through the window.

I must have been three years old then, and she was still a teenager. I also remember that she used to call me a book-worm. When I used to insist that I wanted to join her when she takes her bath, she would raise her hand as if she was trying to smack me. She never did that, but I would then stare at her palms, hoping against hope that she did. It would have felt good. I remember someone who was unapologetic about it. I would then lie on the bed counting the marks of her fingers wondering whether it was all a dream, or whether it actually happened.

But, it would take me decades to understand what she meant. Two decades later, I would tell many editors that it would be great if newspapers and news-magazines do not carry news at all. When they expressed astonishment, I suddenly made the connection with what my aunt once said. In some important ways, we never change. There is often a conflict between how things are, and how things ought to be. Deep inside, I was always attached to my idea of how things ought to be. But, I was attached to it only because I relished it.

This is why when I write, it is not about the “random trivia of the day”, but about principles that are fundamental. But, I do not write about them because these principles are important. Their importance does not matter one way or the other to me. I write because writing gives me more joy than anything.

To me, this is an intellectual parlor game—It always has been, and it always will be. This game is important to me precisely because its importance does not matter to me. If you have to justify having babies saying that they would someday become Bill Gates, you are precisely the kind of man who should not have children.

When I was a toddler, I quickly gathered that the people around me were not really serious about the word. Ayn Rand once said, “Observe the intensity, the austere, the unsmiling seriousness with which an infant watches the world around him. If you ever find, in an adult, that degree of seriousness about reality, you will have found a great man.” When I was an infant, this was how I watched the world—with unsmiling seriousness, intensely. There was not a single word or incident that escaped my attention. This was a trait I would retain till adulthood. When I often stared at the floor, my aunt used to ask me what I was doing, and I would say: “I am thinking”.

The books I liked as a child and a teen are still the books I love today. I still like Mark Twain and Ayn Rand. I appreciate them more today.  Some say that it is because I have not grown up. But, I suspect that this is because they fear that such writers can see through bogus very well. They make them afraid. After all,the principles of fraud have not changed a bit since the 19th and the 20th century. I think a great mind should take delight in dissecting this fraud.

When writers cite me in 4013 AD, I do not want them to tell their readers that this is a Neanderthal philosophy. But, I like writing about fraud not because what I write is timeless, but because I relish fraud more than anything.

I have not changed my worldview much. My views on feminism, for instance, have not changed since the age of 5. I remember the day I joined 1st standard. The “male chauvinists” in my class insisted that they will not be sitting with the girls anymore. I was the only boy who was willing to sit with them. The other boys said, “If you like them so much, why don’t you kiss them?”And I sat there, feeling alienated—feeling cut off.

But, like my high IQ detractor, I knew that all of man’s battles are fundamental. I knew that this was about “the male fear of the feminine”. When I write about it today, there will be decades of introspection and analysis which goes into every single line of it. But, what matters to me is the incident and how amusing it was to me, retrospectively. My prose is better for it.

I also knew that history repeats itself.

In my state, if you are not an idiot, when you graduate from school, parents will send you to an evil professor. If you think that your teachers are mean, wait till you get him. He could solve multiple choice questions at breathtaking pace. He is more like a one man industry. He had once started his entrance coaching center with four students. But, when I was there, he had 17,000 students. He must be a clever dude, with ruthless clarity of thought.

But, the moment I saw him, I understood that he is excellent writing material. In his own ways, he was crazy. When he once saw a boy and girl talking to each other, he asked them why. The girl said that they are great friends, and he asked the girl the same question the male chauvinists in my class hurled at me: “If you love him so much, why don’t you give him a kiss?”

I could connect this incident to the concept I learned the day I was out of baby class: “The dread of women”. But, what I found amusing was this incident and not the concept or its timelessness. It was priceless.

Once he saw some girls walking around in the night. He asked them why they were roaming through the streets in the night, instead of solving multiple choice problems. After fumbling and fiddling around for a while, they said that they were going to the temple. He was a very religious man, but he was still not taken in. He asked their names to make sure whether they went to a temple. Some of them were Christians. But, these girls were very intelligent. They said that they also wanted to do some shopping. They were just too shy to ask the guard to buy Whisper for them. But, he was not a man who can be fooled. He understood that they were lying because he had seen many such girls before. He said that it is a sin to buy sanitary napkins before entering the temple. The next day, before the Morning Prayer, he narrated this incident along with the moral lessons we should derive from it.

But, what I noticed that day was something different. I noticed that when he had the mike in his hand, he was a very different man. He talked to us as if we were his children. He would talk endlessly on morality and religion. I had heard that he was uncompromising in his adherence to income tax laws. He once said that he knows how to cheat government uncle. But, he wouldn’t attempt that because he wants to sleep peacefully at night, with a clear conscience. Not surprisingly, he was one of the highest income tax payers in my dishonest state. He behaved like a feudal lord, but he paid his staff really well. It appeared to many students that there was a dichotomy there. But, I knew that there wasn’t. These people are not very honest about themselves.

My high IQ detractor knows many things about such people and this is why he once wrote that ideals are a form of deceit. And I suspect that this is also why he tried to tempt me a lot. I keep all this in my mind. If I understand such people well, it will save me from shock till the day I am taken to the graveyard. The world is a coherent whole. It is intelligible. When I write, I have that in my mind. But, what really matters to me is not any of this. What matters to me is that all this makes the world more entertaining. Otherwise, I would not find all this worth writing.

There are of course other motives involved. When Murray Rothbard’s secret writings were published, my favorite economist blogged that he soon took out his credit card. Because, “to read the off-the-record writings of a man already prone to speak his mind is a wish come true.” I want people to take out their credit cards when my darling novel is published. If honesty is the price I have to pay for those credit cards, I do not mind making the payment.

But, when I write what amuses me, I often hear things like:

“Shanu, such is life. We should move on. What else could I say?” (But, if I find it so hard to move on, I would have never written about it.)

You cannot stop corruption, Shanu. (I never wanted to. Such things never made angry. I just would never let people who messes with me go. Believe me, it is a joy.)

“I really appreciate your honesty.” (But, I do not need the justification of honesty to do what I simply cannot help.)

“I have faced politicking throughout my career. But, I have not written about it. If I write about it, I know that I will become one among them. Office politics beats democratic politics. But, you must have noticed that my columns are always about democratic politics. ” (But, you need not justify yourself to me. I know that you need your job. I also know that ordinary people cannot take too many risks.)

You believe in revenge?You must be a bad person. (Why do you feel sorry for all the wrong people?)

What you write sounds like gospel. (Yes, but I like good prose. Why else would I want to undermine my “credibility”?)

If you want people to take you more seriously, your writing cannot be so black and white. You must be a bad person. (But, if I had written everything that happened, it would have made them look worse. What if I found all that somewhat “unlovely”? And what if I had missed what happened behind my back? How do you even know?)

I agree with you, but I cannot help but notice the anger. You come across as someone with an ax to grind. Why cannot you begin by giving them some credit before you attack them? (But, if that is how I would come across, it does not mean that I have an ax to grind. It just means that I am pretty effing stupid, or simply telling you what I think.)

You might have twisted everything in your favor, like you did in my case. (If I had broken with you, and have never written about it, perhaps it means that I can handle the thought of twisting things in my favor? You are a good psychologist.)

It is great that there are libertarians like you in the mainstream media. (But, I have never felt any desire to convince people that my politics is better than theirs. I like the science. I like the art.)

So, you have stopped writing about economics and politics to write about yourself and your detractors. (Yes. I enjoy this more.)

You should read the “Brevity Magazine”. If you make your posts shorter, it would be read by more people. (I wouldn’t take your words at face value. Almost all my popular posts are very long. I can ramble for one page, and perhaps it is true that every single word in a 24 page essay is carefully chosen. Why do you think I kill myself with this?)

It is too bad that you have such a high opinion of yourself. (This is often said by a girl, with a frown on her forehead.)  But, I respect your intelligence. When my detractor writes, “The war of the mediocre, in the world was a battle that they always won in the end. It was the right of simple people to survive in their little nooks and do their little things. But the geniuses did not let them. They came with their grand plans and high standards and proud inability to offer false compliments.”, he is trying to say: “Like me! Like me!” [Clever cookie! There is punishment for everything. Just wait!] I am more straight. Why does it bother you so much?

Why do you say that liberated young ladies do not have your support? But, most girls who are raped are tribals and Muslims. Do they have your support? (Gasp! Artistic license?)

But, how does all this mean that rape is good? (Good God!)

When there are men like you, it is hardly surprising that women are raped in Delhi? (Yes.)

I felt that you are a bright young man and can be saved. But, now I feel that having grown up in a retrograde culture, your bad attitude towards women will never change. (True.)

You have “Mommy issues”. (Now you know why I am still not over you.)


  1. I really liked this post esp where you say “In some important ways, we never change. There is often a conflict between how things are, and how things ought to be. Deep inside, I was always attached to my idea of how things ought to be. But, I was attached to it only because I relished it.

    This is why when I write, it is not about the “random trivia of the day”, but about principles that are fundamental. But, I do not write about them because these principles are important. Their importance does not matter one way or the other to me. I write because writing gives me more joy than anything.”

    Exactly! Keep writing. Cheers!

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