The Indian Quarterly
A Beating Heart Behind the Words Image Credit: The Indian Quarterly
A Beating Heart Behind the Words Image Credit: The Indian Quarterly

A Beating Heart Behind The Words

What do we write about when we write about love, asks Janice Pariat

IT IS EASY TO SEE why writers write about love. In particular, love of a romantic nature. It's a fundamental part of the human experience, shaping us into our own intricate individual forms. As Tishani Doshi, dancer, poet, novelist, told me, “Love is central…it enters all equations.” Because crucial to literature is relationships—with others, with ourselves. (In fact, the latter largely determining how all others play out.) Drama, real or “fictional” springs from this. The ties that bind, or weigh, or elevate.

What might not be as simple to explain is how writers write about love. For Manu Joseph, novelist, editor and columnist, “It is always autobiographical.” He explained, “The most underrated literary element is conjecture, a writer’s ability to guess an emotion or an experience that he has not been through. This is totally useless in writing love.” I find that I feel the same.

Everything I’ve written has been about love.

The short stories, the novel and, now, a novella. Not intentionally. But when I think about it, I see it’s true. At the heart of almost every story in Boats on Land is a love returned or unrequited, mostly young and filled with yearning, filled with promise. In the title story, an adolescent girl falls in love with an older, troubled teenager on a tea estate in Assam, by the wide Brahmaputra. In “Dream of the Golden Mahseer”, a ma


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