I would walk along the fence and frequently I cried so hard that I lost my breath. When this happened, I became detached from myself. I walked and gasped and, as I did, I could feel my unhappiness walking beside me, waiting for my breath to return so that it could climb back inside me. TAkhil Sharma
After four or five months of reading Hemingway, I decided to write a story. I had in the past written stories for English classes. These had all been about white people, because white people’s stories seemed to matter more. Also, I hadn’t known how to write about Indians. How would I translate the various family relations, the difference between an uncle who is a father’s brother and an uncle who is a mother’s brother? Having read Hemingway, I knew that I should just push all the exotic things to the side as if they didn’t matter, that this was how one used exoticism—by not bothering to explain.Akhil Sharma
The first story I wrote was about my brother coughing. I woke one night to the sound of Birju coughing downstairs and then could not go back to sleep. To be woken this way and not be able to return to sleep struck me as sad enough to merit a reader’s attention. Also, Hemingway had written a story about a man being woken because somebody is dying nearby, and the man is forced to witness the death.
I got up from my bed and turned on the light. I then returned to bed with a spiral-bound notebook and placed it against my knees. I began my story in the middle of the action the way Hemingway did. I wrote:
The coughing wakes me. My wife coughs and coughs, and then when her throat is clear, she moans. The nurse’s aide moves back and forth downstairs. The hospital bed jingles.
I wrote that it was a spouse coughing because that seemed something a reader could identify with, while a brother would be too specific to me.
I lie here, listening to my wife cough, and it is hard to believe that she is dying.
It was strange to write something down and for that thing to come into existence. The fact that the sentence existed made Birju’s coughing somehow less awful.
As I sat on my bed, I thought about how I could end my story. I held my pencil above the sheet of paper. According to the essays I had read on Hemingway, all I needed to do was attach something to the end of the story that was both unexpected and natural.
I imagined Birju dying; this had to be what would eventually happen. As soon as I imagined this, I did not want him gone. I felt a surge of love for Birju. Even though he was sick and swollen, I did not want him gone. I wrote:
I lie in my bed and listen to her cough and am glad she is coughing because this means she is alive. Soon she will die, and I will no longer be among the lucky people whose wives are sick.
Fortunate are the men whose wives cough. Fortunate are the men who cannot sleep through the night because their wives’ coughing wakes them.
I had been nervous about not doing well in college. During my first class, I looked at the notes the boy next to me was taking. His supply and demand curves seemed more neatly drawn than mine. Nearly everyone appeared to have gone to preparatory schools and already knew such odd things as the fact that there was no inflation during the Middle Ages. Very few, however, were willing to work the way I did.Akhil Sharma
When I would come out of Firestone Library at two in the morning, walk past the strange statues scattered around campus, and then sit at my desk in my room till the trees in the yard appeared out of the darkness, I felt that I was achieving something, that every hour I worked was generating almost physical value, as if I could touch the knowledge I was gaining through my work. One weekend, I came home to my parents and worked all Saturday night. In the morning, my mother saw me at my desk and brought me a glass of milk. Later, in Birju’s room, she said to him, “Your brother can eat pain. He can sit all day at his desk and eat pain.
The little babies are missing their families from their past lives. The babies have old souls and the old souls have to shrink to become little babies. The tears loosen their memories so they can slide away. They cry at the life they have lost, and then they cry at everything they'll forget.Akhil Sharma
During the coming days, the wealth of America kept astonishing me. The television had programming from morning till night. I had never been in an elevator before and when I pressed a button in the elevator and the elevator “started moving, I felt powerful that it had to obey me. In our shiny brass mailbox in the lobby, we received ads on colored paper. In India colored paper could be sold to the recycler for more money than newsprint. The sliding glass doors of our apartment building would open when we approached. Each time this happened, I felt that we had been mistaken for somebody important.Akhil Sharma
Born: July 22, 1971