Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Maulana Azad Memorial Lamppost of Panipatnam (Rough Draft)

In the summer of 2005, I met a friend of my grandfather's named Ahmed Paksima and spent an evening listening to him tell stories about his father's life: a life that spanned various eras and was spent across a large range territory in South, Central, and Southeast Asia, a life that shed interesting light on the interwoven histories of those places.

One reason I more or less gave up playwriting to study creative nonfiction in grad school was to learn how to write stories like Ghulam Paksima's in a way that could capture some of their complexity and historical sweep. Once I got to grad school, however, I found that the challenges of writing about lives tied up in a different place's culture and history is very difficult indeed, especially for audiences that aren't terribly invested in history, period.

With this piece, I decided to approach the life of my aunt's father, Ramesh Moses Murala, from a fiction angle instead of a creative nonfiction one. Would readers be less concerned about disorienting history if I could make it obvious that disorientation was part of the desired effect?

Like The Valiant Chattee-Maker, I wrote this piece in a hurry leading up to a 2010 Mayhew Contest deadline (it's interesting how much the potential for prize money plus a due date forces what might otherwise remain scattered thoughts to coalesce into a piece of writing).

In this piece, though, the time constraint was probably a bit too tight: what starts out as an interesting piece subsequently rushes to a conclusion in order to be finished on time. I have ideas about how to improve it, many of them thanks to John Bennion's fiction workshop, but haven't gotten around to finishing another draft yet (it's interesting how the lack of potential prize money and due date allow scattered thoughts to remain scattered).

You can read the draft I entered into the contest here.

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