Friday Speak Out!: Should I stay or should I go?, guest post by Laxmi Hariharan

Friday, November 30, 2012
Last night I watched the Welcome to India series on the BBC. The programme followed a young couple—Rajesh and his wife Savita—who call a shack on a Bombay beach their home. They support their kids' future with some great improvisation, including running their house as a makeshift beach pub selling cane liquor. But then eviction by the council threatens their home for good.

Growing up in Bombay, I had lived blissfully unaware and yet on the fringes of such super-human-everyday-stories. Being a part of the fabric of middle-class Indian society meant my brush with those on the poverty line was limited to the daily visits of the cleaner. At that I don’t ever remember enquiring exactly where she lived, assuming it was in one of the shanty towns adjoining the apartment complex where my parents had made their home. It was only after spending many years away from the gridlock of urban Bombay that I began to appreciate the heroism in the everyday living of the 99% of the subcontinent.

Yet, fifteen years after leaving my birth city here I was, squirming on my sofa in my warm London living room, uncomfortable with the visions of dirt being turned to gold, of a place from my past, where people used technology reminiscent of the times of El Dorado to find their future. Unlike them I had a lot to be thankful, of course—opportunities, luck, education, and more. Yet, I was contemplating of leaving the very security that many of them reached for, in search of … what? My own personal rainbow?

I come from a long line including my father and aunts, who wrote many unpublished and a published poems and stories. None of them pursued writing full time. The economic need to work and bring in money, perhaps married with an insecurity to reveal what really went on behind closed doors, held them in chains. Yet, on publishing my first book, my father’s delight was tempered by a “don’t neglect your day job” warning. My peers dream of balancing work and children as a kind of having everything package. Me? Grounded as I am, in a practical upbringing which lays emphasis on economic fulfilment above all else, I stand at the cross roads of wondering how I really could have it all—of a different kind.

As I saw my country-men, struggling to provide for their children, my sub-conscience pricked me. How could I possibly contemplate giving up some of what they could only dream of in pursuing something which only I could define? But, I can’t ignore my instinct which says that I have to be the one—absolutely—to break the circle of discontentment handed to me through my blood lines.

Are you a writer too, and do you face such a quandary? Is it a real cross-roads that I stand at or just another figment of my over-wrought imagination? What’s your advice?

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 Though born in India, Laxmi Hariharan lived in Singapore and Hong Kong before being based in London. She is inspired by Indian mythology. It was in embracing her roots that she found her voice. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon. Reach her here: Facebook:, twitter at @laxmi, website:,  goodreads:
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


BECKY said...

Hello Laxmi! I really enjoyed your guest post. You conveyed everything so well that many of us struggle with. Whether we're writers, artists, musicians...What to do? Follow a dream? Live our passion? Congratulations on your debut novel! I wish you all the best in whatever your future brings.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your novel. Whenever the heart speaks, I always try to become very still and patient, and listen. Best to you whatever path you follow.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Laxmi--The pull of our ancestors is powerful indeed, isn't it!

Great post.

Margo Dill said...

Sometimes I think part of the definition of a writer is that we must question our every single decision--and sometimes every single word. :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

What an inspiring post! I think many writers struggle with the decision to pursue our dreams and possibly end up in poverty or keep our day jobs. I've been on my own since I was a teen and struggled to stay afloat, but even then I made sure I incorporated art into my life. I guess if it's that important to you, you will find a way. Kudos to you for making it happen! :)

You must have such an interesting story to tell--from growing up in Bombay and moving to London to writing your novel. Perhaps you'll also write a memoir one day. ;)

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