When in 2001, like thousands of other students goaded by crazy parents, I shifted from a ‘CBSE school’ to a ‘State-Board school’, I had to take an entrance test. As part of the process, I was asked to write an essay on the thoughts running through my mind on looking at a photograph; the B&W photocopied photograph of a boy looking down a street. The perspective was such that the boy was also looking almost directly at the viewer, therefore giving the viewer absolutely no idea of what was down the street. I wrote of the photograph as a symbol of hope. After all, what more compelling image of hope could there be than that of looking down a street with absolutely no knowledge of what’s coming at you from just around the corner?
Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. When I started writing The Annotated World*, I was unconsciously tapping into this decade-old memory. I was looking down an empty street; shouting down an empty street, hoping to catch the attention of someone — anyone — just around the corner; hoping against hope to hear a voice, a voice, in reply. The life of a reader isn’t an easy one. It’s fraught with obstacles; obstacles sometimes in the form of ignorant, but well-meaning friends and family members, and at other times in the form of the sheer lack of empathy for a life that revolves around and draws its sustenance from words, images, voices, and ideas. So what did I hope to find coming at me from around the corner? A voice, the voice of a fellow reader. Maybe it’ll never come. Maybe I’m destined to be an outsider forever; always reaching out to, but becoming a part neither of the world of words, nor of the world at large. Like Kathleen Kelly, I just want to send these (existential?) thoughts out into the void. Goodbye, dear void!