Fair Share

In the last seven days, I’ve told complete strangers the following seven things:
  • I’m nursing a celebrity crush on Michael Bublé
  • I hate flying American Airlines
  • I watched Shahrukh Khan’s interview on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross
  • I have Facebook friends in common with Salman Rushdie and Hanif Kureishi
  • I eat a lot of pizza
  • Where I was on Saturday morning
  • Did I mention the crush on Michael Bublé? (Don’t laugh. I haven’t felt his way since Jordan Knight.)
These things are all pretty general and inane, I’m sure you’ll agree, but go back a bit further and you’ll see that I’ve also told strangers about the bitter consequences of having an arranged marriage, the utter naiveté with which I entered my second marriage, my less-than-perfect relationship with my mother, and, the most affecting of all, my father’s death in 2007 and what I felt in the years after.

I guess that kind of explains why a few people I’ve been introduced to in the past have said “I feel like I know you.” Some of them will have read my first book, others will have developed an idea from my blog and articles. This is flattering on one hand, but disconcerting on the other. Invariably, people will probe further, using my candour as some sort of license to demand an explanation as to why a “bright, modern, intelligent girl like [me] would ever agree to an arranged marriage”. (That one was at a dinner party a few months ago.)

I always take it in good humour. At the end of the day, if you’re sending personal information out into the ether, you can expect a little curiosity in return. However, a recent post by the wonderful Nathan Bransford got me thinking about the line between an author’s personal and professional online presences. I wondered if I was oversharing, but, having thought about it, I realised that this blog has always been a personal thing. It was never set up to sell books or gain exposure (especially since I was giving books away for free at the start); it was a way for me to share my thoughts, experiences and frustrations – just a tiny piece of the internet that belonged to me. I don’t deny that I’ve used it occasionally to push the books, but overall, I leave the commercial stuff to the official site.

So, for me, the blog isn’t a question of "How much personal information should this author share here?" but "How much professional information should this person share here?" I like my blog the way it is. Yes, I share personal information, but, for me, that’s kinda the whole point.


Nothing Gold Can Stay

Things change after you lose someone close to you. For a while, the change is big and dramatic. You wake up every day and you feel the loss echoing through your chest. Your movements seem slower, your regrets cut deeper. But as time passes, life slowly begins to resemble normality again. First you find that you can get through the day with dry eyes. Slowly, you stop crumbling when people say ‘I’m sorry’. Eventually, you remember how to smile again. For some, this happens within days; for others, months – maybe years.

You think you’re doing okay because those big, dramatic changes have slowly drifted away. But then something subtle will bite you so hard, it leaves you breathless. It can be an old man with a beard like your father had or the old Dunhill catalogue you kept because it was the last piece of post addressed to him. It can be something more obvious like the birth of a nephew that will never know his amazing grandfather, or opening a closet in your old home and realising your mother still hasn't packed away shirts and jackets three years after your father's death. It can even be something bizarre like a blue alien daughter losing her blue alien father on a 3D screen in a darkened movie theatre. Those moments, those quiet, subtle, everyday moments, are when the loss cuts deepest, when you realise you didn’t say enough, didn’t do enough.

We all complain about our families, but we can also tell the difference between a ‘normal’ dysfunctional family and one that’s simply not worth knowing. Chances are, those of us in the former group don’t see our families as much as we should. Or, if we do, we don’t tell them we love them as often as we should.

I grew up in a conservative Asian family. I get that ‘I love yous’ don’t tally with tradition, decorum and etiquette. I get that love is unspoken and often takes second place to respect. I get that Asalaam Alaikum is more appropriate than a hug or a kiss. I even get that some people are better loved from afar.

But that understanding, however complete, fails to help in those breathless moments; moments where regret feels like a spider in your veins, crawling through the very fabric of your being. In those moments, you wish you had expressed your love, by words or by actions. In those moments, you wish you had spent more time, called more often, made an effort. That’s the funny thing about time. Yes, it lasts forever, but it leaves everyone behind.

Do I really need to tell you what you should do now?