A difficult sigh to heave

That is a sigh of relief, which I am trying to heave for the last few days but it is not always a successful act. The event merits perhaps a little celebration, so one can imagine that if I find it difficult even to heave in relief, how much the pain would have been.

In many a posts on this blog I have referred to my research (‘big’ research that I started in 2012), and which has been like an onion peel- the tearing of every layer has made me shed tears. In 2013 I wound up the research, and submitted the work to a major social science publisher, at the recommendation of a senior academic. After that I got down to a few things, the biggest of them being shifting home from the north of the country to the south, and bringing my four dogs by road the entire distance.

With great difficulty a year passed. Every few weeks I would talk to the commissioning editor of the publishing house and he would assure me things were in progress. Subsequently he told me to change many things, including the subtitle of the book and several chapter titles. I did. I was not egoistically attached to the titles in any case. I thought if a different title made more sense, then why cling on to an older one? In any case, with all my writing work I always maintain a great deal of humility, in particular the attitude of a novice- for it keeps the gradient of knowledge flow in my direction, than the opposite.

After a year of much change, both in the manuscript and my personal life, the publisher’s commissioning editor wrote the following mail on 15th Sep 2014

Dear Prateeksha,

Greetings!

 We have completed the final stage evaluation of your project, where we presented the project/manuscript to the senior editorial and management board here.Unfortunately, the board members, especially our sales representatives from across the regions, are not very encouraged about the positioning of the book and whether they will be able to push it in the market. They have expressed their inability to sell the content in the required market segment. In light of this, we regret to say that we are unable to take it forward for publication. This is unfortunate for me also as I was involved in the project since its beginning and we have worked together to bring the project this far. However, I hope in the long run this decision will fare well for the book and you will find a suitable publisher who will be able do more justice to your work.

 Wishing you all the best!

My response to him was- (on 15/9/2014)

Dear S
Am grateful for the end of this uncertainty, and thanks for your support, whatever and at whichever stage it was there- I value it.
Regards
Prateeksha
and on second thought, I wrote this on 16th Sept, 2014
The final decision about my book from [name of publisher] is really NOT the final decision about my work- so I will urge you to reconsider your language when you send out such rejection slips to authors in future S . Additionally, the time taken to come to this decision was unduly long. I hope you will remember that for everyone who you choose to engage with. Nobody is disappointed with rejection, but the way it happens!
Of course I was extremely hurt- stunned beyond words and it felt that a big stone had been hung around my neck and it was saying- go and drown. I just sat quietly for sometime, and did not convey this to anyone. But that is another story.
The nightmare was not yet over- the book got many a rejection slip and not because of the content was but I suspect because of who the author was. The author was a person who had recovered from mental illness. But instead of writing a story of recovery or about her own triumph the way people are accustomed to, when they overcome something of any significance in their lives, my research was about the recovery and illness narratives of others! Without having the trappings of university frameworks to guide me, I forged an independent path of inquiry, because I wanted to see how others negotiated with mental suffering and if it ever lead to recovery. I could not be the only person who recovered successfully.
It was a difficult path to say the least. I had no training in research methods, no access to libraries, no one to guide me, no one to talk to- except in parts my sister who had a foreign phd, who had but a little patience with me due to her own work. The only person I would hesitantly communicate with was Prof. Misra- that too on the phone, which never exceeded more than half and hour, not more than six times in the course of the entire writing. Later I got to meet Prof. Ajit Dalal who was extremely generous with his time on the phone. I developed high blood pressure during the process, among other losses to health. I also lost all the friends and this is not a hyperbole- or let me put it this way, I just figured out who the friends were, if there were any. They were all remote facebook people, not people I could share my fears and uncertainties with, who would feel for me or let me hold their hand if I wept. For that there were the dogs- who let me weep in front of them and did not abandon me in the least, at the sight of my anguish.
I could write a book about writing this book- for this was the first real act that I was creating, after my recovery from bipolar. My ability to work had emerged and it was flowing, even if nobody was offering a passage, there were innumerable roadblocks on all sides (still are). Little affirmations that came from journals accepting my scholarship were the sole pegs that kept egging me on, apart from the courage mummy offered all through. Others also chipped in half-heartedly, possibly just to egg me on, so that my spirit does not break. Andre of course stayed the course too- so between my mother, Andre and my sister the burden of emotional venting rested – mostly the former two in fact. I had no courage to tell the research informants or anyone that my book was getting rejected repeatedly. Neither could I tell anyone that my book was finished for a long time or anything about what stage it was in. I maintained silence for a few years- a painful silence for me personally, for my nerves remained so frayed all the time.
I had no courage left in me. A friend whose book in military history had faced an identical music, tried to encourage me by saying I ought to revise my resume and my publications a bit and then customize them according to the publisher. Every publisher has a different requirement.

Just before another rejection

I had only faced rejection all this while. I do not think it is a good idea to think of numbers at this stage.  I have a document in my folder of the book, which lists the publishers who have rejected the book– at least six-seven of them, someone even within a day or two. One was such that he kept telling me he would come back to me, every few days (for at least six months) and then started not responding to my phone. He could simply have said no, instead of promising me that he would read my chapters and come back. He assured me that at least six-eight times!

Just before my heart would break completely I encountered another publishing house, recommended by someone known – a feminist publisher. But hey! I never thought I was working within that domain. I have never called myself one at least. I have always preferred the tag of humanist- though I am certain the feminists are also that.

They were interested from the first email- what a change. I was still tense. The publisher herself was travelling to Goa, in the week after my first email exchange and she proposed we met- we did, and within the first meeting itself she was ready to publish. I could not believe my ears.

I still thought I would wait further. Earlier in one of my moments of anxiety I had been talking to Prof. Dalal who had suggested to me that I go and meet some publishers personally when I went to Delhi, which was due for ten days in March end. Could it be that Delhi was coming to Goa to meet me? The publisher was in Goa from Delhi and she said we meet! Wow! it is difficult even to believe.

Anyways, I met her again in Delhi- and handed over the manuscript as hardcopy. I wanted someone (a professor of law) who I recently met to write the foreword, and she agreed with the one who I suggested. So that is it!

My book has been accepted for publication- my first book, struck in my throat for the last three years…such difficult years that even though this passage has come, I am still unable to heave the sigh that I want to. Extremely heart breaking years of uncertainty- my universities.

There are good things and there are bad things about everything. The bad thing is that in the waiting for this book to go through, I could not muster the courage to write another book or even start any significant project successfully. I did turn the ignition on, for many a venture- but my heart would just not pluck the courage.

The good thing is that having written the book, I discovered that if I have to do any further research, I would just be wise and fund my own study, because I would not have anyone to support me. I am not here on a psychiatry-backed enterprise to help selling more pharma products. I am here to tell people that they can recover from mental illnesses and not just offering myself as testimony but several others too! And so I founded the enterprise- my enterprise, to help others recover like me! Here is the website, currently getting ready. In not helping, they all helped me get up and straighten my bent back- thank you all, for never stopping to reject.

On a last note, I must record here that the Faiz CD that I recorded happened during the course of writing this book and I had a mind to mention that in the book itself- but the experience turned out to be so bad and sour that I would refrain from any such allusion for all times to come.

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