I’ve returned to my mother’s land. A land I spent some of my childhood in. A land most of my mother’s family live in. A land of people that still don’t understand what I do.
To be fair explaining my job to people back home (in England) is not much easier.
India has changed. It’s no longer how I remember it. ‘Fair and Lovely’ is being publicly slated by ‘skin glowing’ brands in adverts that seem really progressive. Hipster Asians with beards and man buns (the ones on their heads) are also a thing here and even in the villages people know how to take a better group selfie than I. But when it comes to talk of work and jobs some just can’t get their head around what I do. They’ve been asking me difficult questions.
Why do you write?
What do you write about?
And of course. How much are you making?
How exactly do you make money?
In a consumerist society the arts seems to have no place. Writing and paintings are for the rich, white or society women. Hard working Indians don’t have the time nor the money to appreciate theatre. But films and music are well woven into Indian society. Until the art meets their lifestyles they don’t need it. (That being said Mumbai International Airport has some brilliant artistic pieces of work lining the walls).
I worry sometimes that the content of my work is not suitable for me to be talking about. I don’t have a set of work that I can read at parties. Most of my work is depressing, weird or adult content. It’s not the sort of thing my mother would want to translate into Konkani. I sometimes think I should write something suitable for readings and I start them with that intention but before I finish they’ve slid into the ‘never read in public category’.
I get introduced as a journalist. But I dont think I’d ever call myself one. Maybe it’s just their way of simplifying what I do. Or maybe it’s their way of understanding how I make money. Though I dont think I’ve ever been paid for any of the articles I’ve written. It’s difficult to explain how the arts council works and how some people will pay me to write based on a pitch – I’ve only just begun to understand it.
So I stick with being called a journalist for now as until I’ve made it, it’ll be too difficult to explain that I’m not penning the next Harry Potter (or 50 Shades of Grey in my mother’s eyes).