Anyone can write this column. It’s hardly unique, the stuff I write.
In any case, it’s only writing, isn’t it?
That is the one thing we all know we can do. All we need to be able to write — unlike, say, be able to play the piano or perform cardiac surgery or do synchronized swimming — is a knowledge of the alphabet. We all have that. So we are, after a fashion, all writers. (If only I had the time, I’d write a book, we are fond of saying. Everyone has a book in her, we say. Um, as the Guardian said some weeks ago, yes, that is true, but that book, in most cases, is best left unpublished.)
My seven-year-old daughter certainly thinks that she could write this column. Or at least she thinks she knows well what should go into it. Every so often, she tells me, “Baba, why don’t you write about…” or, looks at me with a gleam in her eye that suggests that she has my number, and says, “You will write about this, I know.”
The disquieting thing is that she is often right. That’s how easy this stuff is.
When my daughter wants to appear gravely adult, she imagines she is a writer. It’s probably what all children do, this miming of the parent’s activity.
I remember how, when I was a small boy, I’d imitate my orthopaedic surgeon father and play at performing complicated bone-and-joint surgeries.
So Oishi makes her own books, and discusses cover art, running through the gamut of what hers would (should) look like in hard- or paperback and whom she should dedicate it to.
But the miming goes only so far. She does it to seem adult; it is not what she wants to do when she actually becomes one. For some children, what the parent does appears to be too familiar, too shorn of excitement, too dulled by routine
repetitions to feel worthy of emulation.
Once they get to that much-desired state of being an adult (no studies, no one tells you not to watch TV, you can come and go as you please), they think, they will do something that isn’t in the family, something that has about it a whiff of the exotic.
Of course, not all children feel like that, and, of course this is my one rupee of non-wisdom in the matter. Otherwise, what explains so many people following in the footsteps of their parents and taking up their professions? I can speak merely for myself and, at the moment, for my girl.
Being a journalist consumes too much of the day, my daughter thinks. And being a writer is an endless tapping away at the keyboard and long spells of staring out of the window and feeling unhappy with things.
Oishi says she wants to be a painter when she grows up. That seems thrilling enough. Or did. Last week, she said she’d rather be a “professional whistler”.