[Before you even start, this essay or edition is an afterthought; The Killing of an Author has been loved by some wonderful people--and was No. 1 on a list of books recommended by NDTV, for a couple of months. It can be judged on the basis of the book alone, not this recently added Preface.]
Recently, thanks to a meeting with a childhood friend, I understood why I had chosen to write and publish a dangerous book titled The Killing of an Author (the kind of book that, as Franz Kafka put it, is “an axe for the frozen sea inside us.”)
As a boy of 11–at an age when American boys are usually playing with their Lego collections, and Indian children of my social class, then, were playing rubber-ball cricket or throwing stones at cashew and mango trees–I enlisted in the Army of Christ. And, as an enlisted serviceman, I ultimately ended up doing a lot of fighting … though not for Christ.
To begin at the beginning: In a country that has 43 Hindus for every Christian, I was born, in Bangalore, to Roman Catholic parents. Moving to my parents’ home town, Mangalore (which sometimes refers to itself as “the Rome of the East”), at age 6, I grew up a devout Catholic, brainwashed into believing that martyrdom was the only guaranteed path to sainthood and immortality.
Attaining sainthood, I realized, was very hard work: like studying for the most difficult exam you could ever imagine, but studying, not just for a few years, but for all your miserable, self-flagellating life, and being better at it than most others.
However, there was one shortcut to sainthood (a shortcut that appealed to my lazy self): martyrdom. The deal was this: All you had to do was offer your neck, at the right time, for Christ the Lord (or Mary, his mother; no, Joseph was not good enough). And no matter how sinful your life had been until that moment, if you recognized the error of your ways just minutes before your beheading or deep-frying (or whichever inventive and kinky method your persecutors used), and so long as you had mentally repented your past sins, and so long as you were clearly sacrificing your life for the True Faith, you were guaranteed martyrdom—which, in effect, also guaranteed sainthood.
However, just to be sure, and just to strengthen my spiritual resume (which would be examined by the Pope, as well as by Saint Peter, before I was granted sainthood), I joined the Sodality of Our Lady, a Catholic youth organization whose anthem was this martial song:
An army of youth
Flying the standards of truth
We’re fighting for Christ the Lord!
Heads lifted high
Catholic Action our cry
And the Cross Our Only Sword!
… Mary’s Son Till the World is Won
We have pledged you our loyal word!
The Cross Our Only Sword! So, at the age of 11 or 12, I had been brainwashed into becoming a sword-wielding crusader for truth (which at the time, equaled Christ), for I had now been told that it was not enough to follow Christ; one had to fight for Him, win the world for him.
And, though, as a mere first year high school student, I outperformed college seniors to win first prize in the Sodality’s Religious Quiz, there followed, four years later, a stunning reversal: at 16, I rejected the program of being a crusader and martyr for Christ, having woken up to the realization that I had been brainwashed with horse manure, and that I had spent eight of the best years of my childhood believing in that program and shunning many other possible childhood pleasures.
What I didn’t realize, at the time of my “liberation,” was that history often repeats itself, and would in this case repeat itself, in disguise … that the program is embedded too deeply inside us for it to be removed by a mere “Aha!” or a book [Continued in the book; please find my links below. And, by the way, this is one of my three best books, in my opinion, and the one that best reveals who I am.]
Google Play: http://bit.ly/1oX5jsN
Amazon Kindle UK: http://amzn.to/iUbcHw
Createspace paperbacks: http://bit.ly/1o9LVZq