“Do you not know how to adjust?”
I often wonder why we are compelled to adjust to the structures and institutions around us rather than have them adjust to our needs. It’s hard — if not impossible — to adjust things like skin color, sexuality, gender, class, certain disabilities, and sometimes even our immigration status. But we are asked to assimilate and acculturate to fit a certain mold.
Who are we serving when we adjust to the establishment? What are we upholding when we acclimate to poor living conditions, lack of basic human rights, a gentrified, hierarchical and capitalist society that is violent to each and every part of our existence?
According to my brilliant chiropractor, my foot pain is the the least of my problems. Everything from my neck to the balls of my feet are out of order. There’s physical trauma and injury to several body parts. Accidents. Bad exercising habits. Too much of something and too little of something else. Life. It’s a physical manifestation of how things around me are always falling apart and how my body is reacting to keeping everything together.
I am out of order. One leg shorter than the other with a pelvis that is tilted up right. My spine doesn’t fall in line. Nerves pinched so they don’t feel pain. Joints clicking loudly and popping out. Feedback mechanisms distorted and dis-functioning. I find it so amusing that even my body has such a rebellious spirit.
There’s beauty in functioning perfectly — functioning in well-behaved, mechanized, controlled, and contrived ways that are expected of us in a capitalist society. But it is so much more beautiful to fall completely apart and not serve any order or ordering. Of course it is going to hurt. They will make sure of it.
“But sexuality is fluid.”
“Yes. My sexuality is very fluid in terms of moving from one woman to the next.”
I am writing a novel. I’m re-writing it as I write it. And I’m too possessive about it right now to share it with anyone for feedback. But I can promise plenty of women and sex, sordid affairs and dark humor, and several tales of almost too good to be true love.
We evolve as writers over time. We actually do get better with edits and re-edits. But it takes practice and consistency. I was incredibly pedantic at 23 and wrote terribly: “…colonialism is alive and enduring in the geographies of Chinese imagination that has employed narratives of discent in shaping a nation which suppresses and appropriates all ‘other’ histories while trumpeting a nationalist hegemonic history on the linear trajectory of past, present and future…” Then I started blogging for an audience that could hardly grasp that academic style and I knew I had to change it considerably.
I was a young poet. I tried my hand at creative writing and I was terrible at it in the beginning. I cannot bear reading some of my early pieces. But over time, I’ve realized that the more you grasp your characters, the more you feel for them, the better you get at writing them. They shape you and you shape them. Another important thing I realized is that I have to finish this piece while I’m in this space and zone. Otherwise, what I’ve written would seem foreign to me within a couple years. That’s how fast I feel myself growing and evolving. If I had to re-write parts of some of the fan-fiction I’ve written, it would be dark, morbid and satirical rather than some cheesy, love story.
I’ve a circular, non-linear writing style. It often leaves people dis-oriented and it is a desired effect. But I’m still struggling to avoid typecasting. No one wants to read yet another story about immigrants. This is not to say that I am necessarily writing about immigrants but a lot of the plot is derived from real-life events. A friend once told me that if I ever did write my memoir, people would take it to be fiction. I could probably take advantage of that. I haven’t come across anyone else who can inject humor into the most painful and humiliating aspects of their life. Tragic-comedy is a survival skill and I do have plenty of it to spare.
I also don’t want to be compared to other South Asian diaspora writers, especially since I’m nobody in comparison, since I am not writing for an audience but writing for myself. I’ll never be a Jhumpa Lahiri — she is too special. I don’t think I am meant to create brilliant postcolonial art like Salman Rushdie. At the same time, I have my own voice, I’ve experienced great highs and lows, and what I have to share is unique, worthwhile and special.