Rosalyn D'Mello: A shout-out to all my readers
Even a single reader's response can transform the energy of a text
This column is a shout-out. I'm thinking, for instance, of you, Lyle Michael. I've never met you, but was made aware of your existence on Wednesday evening, when I was at The Pianoman Jazz bar with Jonathan, my lovely godfather's amazing son. We were catching up and your name came up. You and he are friends, it seems. Jonathan told me that you were a regular reader of my dispatches. I blushed. He then offered me proof; he read a text you'd sent in which you referred to a column where I'd spoken about how all the diaries I've ever owned sit on one shelf in my room. You cannot imagine what it meant to me to know there is someone who follows my writing, who believes it worthy of recall and mention to another person. It made my evening. It filled me with hope.
I'm also thinking of @anjumattar who sent me a message on May 18, via Instagram, telling me she loved my last column. Because I had been writing on the go in Italy, and had stopped even sharing the links to my columns on social media, and therefore felt like my voice was just being dispersed quietly by the wind. You made the effort to write to me, and just that single line with a heart emoji made me gleam. There's another person who seemed intent not to be named, who, a few months ago, wrote me a letter via mid-day's mailbag, so I would know that what I had written then about the imposter syndrome really resonated with her consciousness.
You must understand that because I travel so regularly, and because I am not often in Mumbai, I have seen my column in print just three or four times, which is shocking, considering I've been writing this column for two and a half years. It's become an integral part of my weekly routine, but I no longer share it online because I imagine my friends on Facebook must be tired of seeing me flaunt my by-line. So I often function under the illusion that I have no ostensible audience (which can be liberating, too).
I'm thus eternally surprised when I get feedback from a reader, or when someone is gracious enough to reach out to me to tell me that what I wrote mattered to them. One of the most precious moments in my writerly life was recently, when I was having lunch with one of my favourite artists, Nalini Malani, in Mumbai, and Nisha Da Cunha, the Nisha Da Cunha, whose short stories I feasted on when I was in my second year of graduate school at St Xavier's, came up to me to tell me she regularly read my columns. She didn't introduce herself. She modestly said her son's columns appeared in mid-day on Sunday, so I put two and two together. It was a major fan-girl moment for me. If you've never read Nisha da Cunha's short stories, you absolutely must.
I wrote last week about the loneliness of the writerly vocation. Even a single reader's enthusiasm thus has the potential to transform the energy of a text. Because writing is also a way of reaching out into the world, of having an intimate conversation with strangers who may either never read a single thing by you again, or may follow your every published piece, every review you receive, however brief or loquacious is redemptive and validating.
You must also believe that this shout-out is not a vain gesture. It comes from a space of humility. It is an acknowledgement of the mysterious ways in which a piece of text gets circulated, in formats that are usually unknown to the writer. It's a testimony to the power of language as communication, its ability to resonate differently with different audiences, its power to heal and sometimes even vindicate a notion that you, as a reader, might often feel, but haven't managed to articulate. She, who asked not to be named, who wrote to mid-day's mailbag, said that while reading the article in question about inferiority complexes she felt like I had picked the words right out of her brain. "I pray that you keep touching lives with your work," she said, after thanking me for helping her feel like she was not the only one who felt the imposter syndrome.
This column is a very honest gesture of gratitude to all the people I know and the many I may never know, who have dignified my writing simply through their act of reading my words, and to those who have communicated to me, directly or indirectly their appreciation for the courage it takes to write (so many of whom live in Kurla). It's also a shout-out to my two most favourite readers, my parents, whose continuing love and support is an overwhelming source of strength.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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