On Christmas, I received a book as a gift from a dear friend of mine. I was like, oh.. a book.. thanks! “Since when do I read novels..?” I thought to myself. On my way back to Potsdam, I opened this book, and started reading.. And I’ve never in my life had such an experience with a book, to dive so deep in the story, sense all details, be able to picture the place and the people. Maybe because my life at the moment is very similar to Willi’s, the main character in the book. Wondering if my friend chose this book randomly, or if she picked it specifically knowing the Willi and I are searching for the same answers.
Willi is an Indian whose dad is from the Caste (middle class) and his mom is from the backwards. At the time of the Mahatma, Willi’s dad felt like he should also make a sacrifice, he responded to the Mahtma’s call and burnt his English books, quit the University, and chose to marry this ugly girl who is a backward. After that his life changed, and things went bad.. the fruits of this marriage was Willi and his sister. The marriage was an unhappy one, Willi’s dad never really liked his wife or kids. For that, Willi was miserable.
Not only this, but also having a mixed background caused him nonacceptance in both the Caste and the backwards. He never felt he belongs to any, he always felt he has to leave.
Being a student in a missionary school, he knew a little about the west from his Canadian teachers, and he decided to go there for college. He ends up in a college in London.
In post-war London, he saw the bohemian life, the clubs, and girls. With the latter, he had serious issues. Willi couldn’t find a girl for himself, he only slept with his friends‘ girlfriend, and prostitutes, and he was really bad at sex. He blamed his dad and his culture for this, he never felt his manhood compelete, every girl kicked him off.. and the same feeling of nonacceptance he had back in India, had started again in London. His only hope for acceptance was a book he wrote, and like Willi, it didn’t have any success. There was as well a big mess for the black people there, a black man got stabbed in a riot, and since then he had to be careful and felt even stranger than before.
His college studies was about to finish, Willi thought, “I don’t know where I am going. I am just letting the days go by. I don’t like the place that’s waiting for me at home. For the past two and a half years I have lived like a free man. I can’t go back to the other thing.” Around that time, a woman has read his book, and sent him a letter, she had a big appreciation for him. They met, they talked, they had sex and it was good. Never in his life Willi felt so accepted. Her name was Ana, she was half African half Portuguese.
College finished, Ana was about to go back to Africa. Having nowhere to go, Willi said to her, “Ana, I would like to go with you to Africa. You’ve read my stories. You know I’ve nowhere else to go. And I don’t want to lose you.” He goes with her back to Africa, and when right when he arrived, he realized he hates that place, and he does not belong there either. Willi thought, “I don’t know where I am. I don’t think I can pick my way back. I don’t ever want this view to become familiar. I must not unpack. I must never behave as though I am staying.”
He stayed for eighteen years.
Days went by him, boring and stale. He was hiding in Ana’s life, he didn’t have a name, he was for everyone Ana’s man. Eventually, at the age of forty-one, Willi had the courage to tell Ana he wants to divorce her. “I am tired of living your life”, he said to her.
“You wanted it, Willi. You asked. I had to think about it.”
“I know, You did everything for me. You made it easy for me here. I couldn’t have lived here without you. When I asked you in London I was frightened. I had nowhere to go. They were going to throw me out of college at the end of the term and I didn’t know what I could do to keep afloat. But now the best part of my life has gone, and I’ve done nothing. I have been hiding in your life for too long.”
Ana said, “Perhaps it wasn’t really my life either.”