Interpretation of Misery by Shaurya Arya-Kanojia

“Misery breeds art,” my granduncle had proclaimed once.

Funny then, I remember thinking, why being miserable isn’t something we strive to achieve more than anything else. To oppress our soul (or whatever we call the encapsulation of our consciousness) with the unrelenting pressure of this thing we call life, to have it willingly step into an inescapable black hole that’s devoid of any trace of joy or happiness, to subject it to a pain that borders on agony…

Sounds foreboding, doesn’t it?

My granduncle’s maxim was part of a tale he shared with me, one he claimed was “as real as the sun that gives us warmth, as the water that quenches our thirst.” 

“There is a large field close to where I used to live as a kid,” he started. “I had never been there. People said it was haunted, and I didn’t once doubt their claim. Anyhow, throughout its existence, several stories have sprung from its infamous legacy. According to one of them, anyone who walked through the seemingly endless treacherous path – a territory ruled by walking demons who breathed out fire – to get to this field was emancipated.”

As a kid, I didn’t know what “emancipated” meant, but I didn’t disturb him.

He continued. “They are the ones, it was said, who had truly endured sufferance, who didn’t submit to those demons, and attained glory.” 

He leaned a little closer, looked at me squarely and took his time before continuing. “These people are called artists,” he said, letting me absorb the story. “Misery breeds art, always remember that.” Only when he saw me nodding did he go back to the football game he was watching on the TV. He left me, a mere nine-year-old boy, wondering just what the story really meant. 

I wanted to ask him if he’d had a bit to drink, but I held my tongue.

That story came back to me many years later, when, last week, I finished the first draft of my debut novel. I don’t know if it’s any good (to tell you the truth, I would call it a relentless and ridiculously long rant), let alone if I’ll be able to find a publisher who will back it. And, even if I do, it’s highly unlikely it’ll sell well. It took me two years to write it, and, regardless of its probable fate, I can say that I’m quite proud of it. Going through the massive pile of the hard work I’d put in in the last couple of years, I discovered a sense of relief wash over me. What followed that relief was what I would like to call, for the lack of a better word, emancipation.

Yes, exactly like the victors who had trudged through the treacherous path and tasted the glory my granduncle had spoken about. Oh, how these warriors must have felt as they stepped onto the carpet of freshly cut grass, the sun on their faces, the sinister demons behind them. The elation, the sheer joy.

But, as I think now, would this emancipation even be realised if it wasn’t for my own treacherous path that I had to move through? For the needles I had to walk on, with cuts and bruises all over my feet as I determinedly put one leg after another? For the fire breathing demon chasing me, his face a horrid mix of revulsion and sinisterness?

Or perhaps I’m blowing things a little too much out of proportion. But, then again, exaggeration is a useful asset for a storyteller. And, after the last two years, I do get to call myself a storyteller, don’t I? 

Maybe my miseries aren’t as significant as some of the more pressing – more tangible – issues our world faces today. I have a job, one which gives me no reason to complain financially. I have a place to live; and, even though I rent it, you don’t take a roof over your head for granted. I have friends and family who care for me. I am in good health; sure, I could cut down on unhealthy habits (too embarrassing to be specified), but I do maintain what I can safely call a reasonably fit lifestyle.

And isn’t that all that we need? 

But, yet, time and again I find myself… miserable. 

Especially when, for example, I have just had a tiresome call with a disgruntled client who, unhappy with the services our company was providing her, called me a “thief” and a “sadist”; and a panic so deep and formidable set in me because the cycle would repeat the next day, and the one after that, and the one after that. Or each time I would let my aunt walk all over me pointing to how my boy, who dropped a year in high school, was a “failure”; while, inwardly, I’m seething, cursing myself at not being courageous enough to tell her off. Or even when, sucked into the wormhole of memories from my past, I am forced to relive the bullying and the name-calling I had to endure in school because of my stuttering. Kids in high school are ruthless, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or incredibly fortunate.

I opened up about how these instances left me miserable to a friend a few years ago. She, a well-wisher as she likes to call herself, was quick to point out that I “can’t keep all this bottled in,” and that I’ll “erupt like a volcano,” with the “lava of these miseries scorching everything they so much as touch.” 

Quite a colourful picture, isn’t it?

Today, as I leaf through this documented rant that I ambitiously call a novel, I say to her, “Look, Nancy. I erupted.” 

A drop forms at the corner of my eye, and I don’t bat it away. 

“I finally erupted.”

 

Shaurya Arya-Kanojia is the author of the novella, End of the Rope. He likes sports (cricket, mostly), eating out, and watching reruns of The Office and Everybody Loves Raymond. His social media handles include @shauryaticks (Twitter) and @main.hoon.ek.sharara (Instagram), and more about him can be found at www.shauryaak.weebly.com