A couple years back, while conversing with an acquaintance (I wouldn’t call her a friend because I simply cannot stand the sight of her), we stumbled upon a very generic topic. Our gripping heart-to-heart was about activities we find pleasure in, and I, very much like the bookworm I am, said “I like to write.”
To this, I usually get a twinkle of the eyes, a puppy-gaping mouth, and a sound that is customarily something along the lines of “ooooooooooooo,” or “Oh my god, that is so cool!” Or “Wow, what kind of stuff?”
But this girl threw me completely off guard.
“Why?” She asked.
And it left me absolutely baffled, that word ‘why’. I had never given it much thought back then. All I could think of was the times I would frantically search for a pen and paper, so I could scribble down whatever crazy new plot my brain was cooking.
I didn’t have a practiced, tested, and repeated answer for this ‘why’. So absentmindedly, I uttered,
“It makes me happy.”
(She finds pleasure in watching movies, by the way. Just in case anybody was wondering.)
To this day, I catch myself thinking of that answer. It was the most thoughtless answer I had ever given, filled with distractedness— as most writers are when it comes to speaking (I will also take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who thought I wasn’t interested. I just “writered” my way out of that).
I mull over that answer more often than I probably should, and it bemuses me how absentminded, and yet how completely honest that answer was. For a writer, I must say, it was too simple, too ordinary of an answer.
But then I think— if it really is as ordinary an answer as I imagine it to be, why am I still thinking of it? Why, after all these years, does it loom in the back of my head, creeping up front the first chance it gets?
I muse over “happy”. It’s such a small word. Such a delightful word. It is the mother of all those words we use as synonyms for “happy”. In fact, we use these synonyms so often, that we seem to have forgotten how to be happy itself.
And so, “happy” becomes too generic, too common, too much of a plain Jane. Even non-writers seem to shy away from the word.
Maybe that is why it materialises so vividly in my mind, that answer. Maybe this pressure and sense of urgency, that I must not be generic in any manner, has embedded this answer into my memory forever.
For a few months, that answer even played as a source of embarrassment for me. In those four words, I was too average to call myself a writer. My reason to write wasn’t reason enough.
But as the years rolled by, and my mulling didn’t see its end for a long time, I thought really, really deep about my answer. Why does writing make me happy? What contentment could I possibly achieve from an activity that all other children in my grade seem to loathe?
And the reason, upon pondering, was not too complicated. Writing made me calm. Writing helped me express myself, and gave me the freedom of being who I am in the privacy of my pen and paper. Writing gave me a purpose.
While others engaged in supporting art, I made art.
I guess that makes me feel a tiny bit special, but more than that, it makes me happy. Yes, happy. And so, I decided to stick to “It makes me happy,” because no other answer could be truer.