Usually, I complain: about my kid, my grading obligations, my bank balance, my back, even my cats!
But I cannot complain today: I just had one of the best days I've had in a long, long time. I dragged my very good friend to Miami because I wanted to attend a reading by one of my favorite authors, Chitra Divakaruni, whose work resonates with me to the extent that I wonder if she writes solely to express my response to the universe, with the graceful articulation I do not possess.
One of the major reasons she caught my attention is I stumbled upon the reason she says she feels compelled to write: to try to preserve a world that is fast disappearing, may already be gone. Her characters, who often leave their own worlds behind, usually end up trying to fit, acknowledge, belong to the realities they are left with. One of the most fascinating treatments I find in this author's work is the way her characters feel about the spaces they inhabit, wish to inhabit, or don't inhabit any longer.
I have just realised that all the houses I grew up in, or I felt a belonging to, do not physically exist anymore. Where they stood, now squat shopping mall, office complexes, and apartment buildings. It amazes me that the spaces that haunt my dreamscapes, tower over the cities behind my sleep, are now officially figments of my imagination, scraps of memory I don't really remember very well. Yet all the spaces I now live in, my living space, my desk at home and at work, my car, the streets I drive on, all seem extensions of the ones that don't exist anymore.
So reading Divakaruni's work, about characters who are driven by the spaces in their mind, feels like a validation of my own experience, since it examines the myriad stories that emerge out of the way one changes homes, discards old ones, adapts to new ones, misplaces parts of oneself in forgotten places, displaces oneself in an insistence to own, and ultimately, in isolation, one is forced to face a mirror that refuses to lie.
My friend, who is a first generation immigrant battling similar issues, agrees with me and confesses to being one of the newest fans of Divakaruni's already extensive fan list.
I can truthfully say that attending this reading has been one of those experiences that have helped me further crystallize the self I am right now. I have folded this away and shall re-examine it when I stand at the edge of the beach, the terrain that separates and joins land and no-land, one of the timeless spaces that allows me to look into the nature of things.