"What is the point of it all?"
The first time I asked this question aloud was when I was in my final year at University, working towards completing my project to secure a joint Bachelors' and Masters' degree in Chemical Engineering. This was way back in 2004.
I posed this question to my project advisor. Poor fellow. He was caught unawares. I don't remember his reply, but I remember the look of befuddlement on his face.
"What is the point of it all?"
Two decades have passed, and I've been asking myself this question ever since.
Every time this question popped up in my head, it marked the beginning of a decline, of a change to something new, somewhere new, where it would subside for a bit. Only to pop up all over again after a few weeks or months had lapsed.
Over the past couple of years, I've asked myself this question about my writing as well. I didn't quite find a satisfactory answer until very recently.
Over on The Creative Penn podcast, author and interviewer Joanna Penn recently interviewed fellow author, Barbara Nickless.
Penn asked Nickless, "One of the things that comes up a lot for fiction writers is—Should I be doing something “better” with my time than writing fiction?
And this came up for a lot of us in the pandemic. It was like, oh, my goodness, should I just go and train as a doctor or nurse or carer or something? So how do you deal with that feeling of, you know, is this enough for the world?"
Barbara's response to this was absolutely stellar!
"I grapple with it every day. Is what I'm doing useful in any way?
And no matter what you're writing, you're offering something to someone.
Whether it's an escape, whether it's a new way to look at things, whether it's an understanding of somebody and their life that you didn't understand before.
It all adds to this great human collective, I guess the Jungian collective unconscious, that allows us to support each other."
Something else also happened as of this morning that made me see the 'point' of writing and expressing myself through the written word.
I got a chance to speak with my cousin and my aunt, following the unexpected passing away of my dear Uncle, Sekhar Chitappa, two days ago. I wrote about last seeing Chitappa nine years ago. Incidentally, that was also the last time I met/spoke with my cousin and aunt. After all those years, we reconnected over a WhatsApp video chat this morning.
Surprisingly, they mentioned that they had read my post on Chitappa and were deeply touched by my words.
Turns out my mom had read the post and shared it with them. So firstly, Mom, I had no idea you visit this website. (If you're seeing this, thank you. And I love you and Appa so much! ❤️)
Secondly, I'm glad they found some solace and relief in those words I had typed to process my own sadness.
This turn of events so easily answers that question that used to keep nagging me: "What is the point of all this (writing/insert any activity you love here)?"
Any expression of love has the capacity to touch another heart and soul.
That is all I ever intended to do with my writings.
It was lovely reconnecting with them and sharing some memories of Chitappa. I spent most of my childhood in Thane (near Mumbai), far away from the south of India where most of my relatives lived.
Every time Chitappa travelled from Bengaluru towards Mumbai or beyond, he would come bearing very precious gifts — cassettes with recordings of Tamil jokes and songs.
Back in the days when the Internet was not even a thing, these cultural memorabilia of the native land and mother tongue my parents had left behind served as a salve to their souls. My dad even labelled those cassettes with his brother's name.
I'm glad I got to talk to my cousin and aunt. Of course, we all made promises to stay in touch more and connect more often once they return to the US, and I truly intend to do so. Even if we speak only once a year, that's way more often than letting nine years slip by without a word to each other.
So don't worry Chitappa. In your absence, the loved ones you leave behind will come closer to and support each other, and bask in the bountiful memories of your humour and zest for life.