Rebirth & Fiction Writing

The idea of rebirth always fascinates me. To me it makes a lot of sense. To examine this idea it is first necessary to consider what birth itself is and why we are born. This in its turn leads to the fact that there is someone behind the birth of everyone; human, animal or plant. Perhaps even non-living things are controlled by someone who wants the world to operate according to the principles and methods decided by Him, Her, or It. How can such a vast and wonderful world of creation and destruction go on all by itself? There’s got to be a Creator and Destroyer in case it is not the same Being doing both the things. Once you accept a Creator, you accept the idea that creation doesn’t happen mechanically but according to Someone’s Will.

The Creator can either send us back to this world in a different form that has connections with earlier forms in which we came here, or keep us back and create someone entirely new to send to this world. We either have birth or we have rebirth. In the former case we are unconnected beings; in the latter we are connected to our past and future lives. If you think that you are unconnected and will perish after this lifetime, along with your mortal body, then you can feel like a clod that is trampled and will disappear. But if you believe that you are connected to your past and will remain so in the future, then there is an entirely different feeling.

As a writer, I like to think that we have rebirths and that this life is merely a station on the route to an eternal home where we will ultimately go. This gives me faith in the Creator and in my connectedness. This birth isn’t final in any way and, therefore, is not to be taken too seriously just as a rehearsal is not to be treated as the final performance. There will never be a final performance and therefore there is no reason for tension.  Some of my characters think like me but some don’t and when characters who don’t, they fail in their endeavours; they become destructive and negative. They take this world more seriously than it deserves to be taken. Of course, my characters never state this belief explicitly. It is in their attitude that such a belief is reflected.

In a recent magical realist novel that I’ve written, WE SHOULD NOT ALL BE FEMINISTS, there’s an American woman, Emelia, who feels strangely connected to Lady Jane Grey, the Tudor Monarch for nine days. When she comes to India someone who has studied and understood rebirth tells her that she was Lady Jane Grey in a previous birth. Then the reader can see why she so empathizes with this monarch and why she thinks so seriously about feminism. There is another, the Brit named Clarissa, who is not the rebirth type and so tends to get destructive when she fails in something. This is why magical realism is different to other kinds of Fantasy; it can connect the rational to the extra-rational much more easily. Its basic premise is not fantastical even though it keeps connecting to the fantastical.

Belief in rebirth can be an elixir, or an extra life, to fiction. It can change the way a writer tells a story or creates human and non-human characters. The difference can be something like the difference in the way someone like William Wordsworth looked at his universe from how T. S. Eliot looked at his. It is like a man walking steadily to his home on the one hand and someone who has nowhere to return to, on the other.

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