Editing your own work is like being made to look in the mirror after you've cheated on your lover. You look at yourself and wonder who you really are. Who committed these acts, of putting awful words in terrible syntax? You can't believe it was you. YOU would never do that. But indeed you have, you did, and the evidence is in the book and upon your face.
I began writing what became a book, on a KLM flight from Cardiff to Delhi via Amsterdam. I had finished my fourth year in a city that I had outgrown, and decided based on three reasons, that it was time to go home.
1. Family. In the years I had spent 'discovering myself' (perhaps forgetting myself is more apt?), I had drifted away from the daily humdrum of Delhi. The maids and sisters and dogs had become trivial, pushed back into the caves of my mind. But while I drank Malibu-Cokes and bunked classes, my grandfather had left, finally telling cancer, "You win". And my parents had left each other. I needed to go home. I needed to remind myself where home was.
2. Sunshine. Everyone laughs when I say it, but I missed the sun. I missed the warmth on my skin, and the ability to wear a single layer. I missed the thong of a flip-flop between my first two toes. I no longer recognised the colour of my skin. Google told me, statistically, if I went on living in Great Britain I would die earlier, and probably suffer from severe depression before that.
3. Love. The boy. Of course there was a boy. There always is. He wasn't special. What was special was how freely, openly, and devotedly I had given myself to him. And here I was on a plane back to India, wondering if our paths might cross again. And how little I had left to say to him. And most of all, how much he had taken from me.
Now, six years later, I see how much he gave me. He gave me a story. How many people can you say that about?
As I edit this work that most people who read think is a monumental toast to him, but I know is a colossal affirmation of myself, I realise that I can’t recall what really happened. Reality has become a skeleton for a story much larger. I no longer remember what happened in reality, and I find the book has become my reality. I read on and judge my younger self…she uses more curse words than I deem graceful. I am harsh with her, and then I am fond of her. Best of all, there are moments when I am proud of her. Like this verse:
Come to bed, lay on me, eat me up and pierce me through
Write on me like letter paper, then rip me up in two.
I have written a book and it has freeze-framed my youth. Of that I am petrified, but I know this: For writing it, I will always have a standard to live up to, and a standard to better.