Were the Apsaras of our scriptures actually the robots of today?

As a writer, I am always thirsting to meet other writers, swap stories, share experiences and forge relationships. In New York, I discovered writers love to get together for symposiums, workshops and to encourage other writers to simply do what they love, write.

I recently attended such a symposium. It was on a Sunday afternoon and after late Saturday night revelries, my head was not in the space to do any sort of writing. But a commitment is a commitment so on a cold, New York day, I ventured out of my apartment to connect with fellow writers. Frankly, it was not difficult because my intellectual curiosity was enough to propel me forth.

It seems many people must have had too much fun on Saturday night because what was going to be a grand collection of nine writing minds, turned out to be three people, yours truly included. Sometimes things turn out for the best. The three of us connected and were immediately engrossed in sharing thoughts on a variety of topics.

We started out with simply sharing what we wrote about. One of our group is a published author of two books and as someone who has an unfulfilled desire to pen a novel, I was enthralled and immediately questioned her on how she got over fear of the unknown. I dither on this issue. Sometimes I feel all charged up and ready to take the plunge and at other times I am so overwhelmed by the notion of writing a book, I cocoon into my comfort zone and wallow in unfulfilled desires.

It is fascinating to hear stories of other writers and to get feedback on how to move ahead. At one point, we stopped and debated whether we should whip out our laptops and notepads to start the writing process. But just talking and exchanging views was so fascinating, we decided to continue the process of discovery without allowing the pressure to write, bog us down. The author was a senior editor for a publishing house for a decade and so it was an easier progression to start writing though she took on a genre she had declared never to touch: horror. Despite divorce, clinical depression and an aversion to horror, her book became a best seller and she has a fan base. Sometimes it is all about focusing and making the impossible, possible. The other member of our trio, is a prose poet. I love how that sounds. After several years in Beijing, being a published author with columns in various publications, he has now gone freelance and publishes his poetry on his website while experimenting with what life has to offer. Like possibly selling everything he owns and risking it all in Vegas. Either he becomes a millionaire or he will be a pauper but at least he scripted his own narrative and dictated how to live his life. Bottom line, we need to take charge and not allow life to happen to us.

Like my book! I need to just do it.

Manhattan at Dusk, NYC
Manhattan at Dusk, NYC

Since this column is meant to be a discussion on being a desi in America, you must be wondering what my personal journey of self-discovery has anything to do with being an Indian in Amrika. But just be patient because there is a connection.

My day job, the one that provides me with bread and butter to pursue my inner writer, is of content creator for a digital media organization. I basically write content for cell phone apps The app I am currently working on is a devotion app specifically on Hinduism. In fact, my friends laugh when they hear this: me writing about Hinduism? Really? As an atheist and now a confirmed agnostic it sounds implausible! How can I write an app on religion? I questioned myself too when I started writing, but now I am hooked.

The impossible happened. I call myself a born again Hindu. No, I am not turning religious all of a sudden because Hinduism is not a religion but about a way of life. My work on the app has led me to discover the depths of the Hindu way of life we all take for granted and that is the hook for me. During the course of our conversations at the symposium that Sunday afternoon, I started talking about the app and what I write. Slowly and surely our conversation went onto another track. We discussed theology, futuristic happenings, Christianity and above all Hindu beliefs. Were the Apsaras of our scriptures actually the robots of today? Were the arrows in the Mahabharata actually the nuclear weapons of today? Are the avatars of Vishnu the precursor to the theory of Darwin? My co-writers were fascinated by my tales and wanted to listen to more stories. Sitting in that Bushwick loft, I felt a surge of Desi pride. Something I take so much for granted was actually a tool of fascination for others. Here then is that elusive connection. This revelation of how non -Indians are totally fascinated by something we take so much for granted.

This aha moment for me far away from the motherland. When my Uber arrived, my co-writers were reluctant for me to leave because they wanted to hear more. For them dharma, karma, chants and mantras, the caste system…. these were just rumors plucked out of the air and given shape by others. Hearing my interpretations made these concepts more tangible.

I left the apartment that afternoon filled with a sense of pride in the culture that has inadvertently shaped me.

Oh and one of my co-writers lives around the corner from me so now I have someone who can accompany me to book readings at my local bookstore. 
New York, I love this city.

Monique Patel

Monique Patel

Monika Patel – Monique to her friends – is now a permanent resident of New York City, but her heart is permanently in Pune, her home for 28 years.
Monique Patel

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