It is a pleasure to welcome Mohana Rajakumar as a guest writer for this edition of “Why I Read”
I began “Why I Read” last year to highlight the value and necessity of reading for both pleasure and personal enrichment as well for work and contributing to one’s community. I again thank those who have contributed to the conversation here on this blog and plan to have more guest columnists present on the value of reading throughout the year.
Who is Mohana Rajakumar you ask? Well, you can read more about her at the end of her post. But for now here is Mohana Rajakumar, wife, mother, professor, reader and writer on her literary ‘R and R’
I Can’t Live Without R and R
By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
Until I went to college, I thought everyone in the world read.
My mother packed us up every weekend, usually on a Saturday, and drove us to the main branch of the library in our North Florida town. We went to the main branch, not one of the smaller ones closer to us, because the one downtown was the biggest and had the largest amount of books. She and I would request books from our favorite authors and wait for other eager readers to surrender the titles.
My younger brother wrote on the suggestion card that the library should also offer video games in addition to movies. He didn’t take pleasure in reading like we did; he didn’t consume voracious amounts of books but he did attend these outings and check out the requisite number of books. When he got to college the passion for reading ignited. I found him during the holiday break curled up with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
During my senior year, as I prepared for a career as a clinical psychologist, my advisor, the head of the English department, told me I was one class away from a double major in English.
“One more class,” she said. “The senior capstone, and you’re an English and Psychology major.”
I was easy to persuade. I never stopped reading books that interested me, not as a graduate student toiling for a PhD’ or as a professor teaching undergraduates a love for the written word. In many ways the casual way I fell into literature as a profession and eventually into writing protected the relationship I had with reading as a refuge.
I hope to give this legacy to our children.
From infancy I carried a few board books in the diaper bag. When our toddler was restless in a restaurant, on a plane, or at the doctor’s office, I pulled out Hop on Pop, a Dr. Seuss classic, and gave it to him. He would gnaw it (what that wonderful line of materials is for), flip the pages, and throw it on the floor. By the age of one, he knew which way to hold a book. At two and a half, he memorized his favorite lines and could make up the stories on his own. When he sees me reading, he exclaims, “Book!” and wants to have a look, even though in exasperation I explain that it has no photos and is not nearly as exciting as his.
My love of reading is what led me to writing. I knew books were how people tried out new ideas, shared unknown realms, and halved the pain of their lives. As a young adult, the popularity of South Asian writers in English was inspiring and challenging. They were telling stories about brown people, something I hadn’t read much of going up. But their stories weren’t like mine. The urge to tell stories of people like me is what pushed me into writing.
People often ask me how I write so much. They’re asking the wrong question. Yes, writing a manuscript is part prioritization and discipline. But if you don’t have inspiration, if you don’t know why you’re writing, then of course, the laundry, birthday party, oil change are more important.
Thanks Mohana for sharing your story!
Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had a baby, and made the transition from writing as a hobby to a full time passion. She has since published five e-books including a mom-ior for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me, a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories, and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace. Most recently, From Dunes to Dior, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. After she joined the e-book revolution, she dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at www.mohanalakshmi.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.You can also follow her on Facebook by ‘liking’ her at www.facebook.com/themohadoha