The other day a classmate of mine had written an essay on the Paris attacks. I read it, found it a little preachy but very well written. She made many valid, articulate, though provoking points. She even printed out the essay and requested ‘commentary’ from a few teachers. I found this humble at first.
Later in the day, during a class, there was a heated discussion about the attacks. Our teacher sought to subdue all the ruckus by offering to read out the essay that the classmate of mine had earlier given her to read. Immediately, my classmate began squirming, begging the teacher not to read it, that it was “meant for her eyes only” and so on. She was smiling uncontrollably and flailing her hands in the air. I couldn’t comprehend this; the subject of her essay didn’t hold a modicum of humour. Not two seconds later did this classmate give in. The teacher eventually read out her essay to the whole class while my classmate simply looked down in embarrassment but silently giggled.
And then it struck me.
There are two types of writers – those who write to write and those who write to be read. Yes, every writer wants the recognition, the applause or maybe even the fame but true writers don’t compel themselves. No amount of words are worth saying just for the sake of opinion. We don’t have all the answers or the ideas but we have hands that can hold other hands. Perhaps an important part of being a writer is to know when to write and when to be wordless; to find peace in the quiet, to mourn or to just silently feel.
My teacher finished reading the last few lines of the essay and my classmate slowly lifted her chin up, her eyes peering around hoping not many had paid attention. I watcher her; here was an immature intellectual. She was sitting right beside me. I felt I just had to tell her and believe me, tried to do so in the most light-hearted manner possible. But all that came out was –
“So what if people think it was good or not; its about something bigger than you.”
It was harsh and I lacked poise. But while we have extremists with bombs, we have extremists with words who constantly impose their opinions and insist on leaving their mark on the world. We are people before we are writers. There’s a certain amount of cruelty in extracting pain from the world, as ink for your pen. Those 129 souls are not mere subject matter. Perhaps all that Paris needs right now is a moment of silence, flowers, a prayer, a hug and not more than four little words – “It will be okay”.
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