'I was living in London, only twenty-four years old, when I found myself completely burned out'. Irish-based Indian writer Disha Bose revisits the road to writing her debut novel, Dirty Laundry, which has just been chosen by US TV giant Good Morning America as its prestigious Book Club pick for April.
I was a good liar, as a child. I'd make elaborate stories about my family history, dream up places I’d visited, some adventure I’d been on. Like all good storytellers, I would legitimise my tales with half-truths and facts, confusing the listener into believing what they were hearing. Until they eventually discovered the truth. I lost friends, but I was a maverick, throwing all caution to the wind and continuing on. I cared less about what people thought of me, but more about how they reacted to my stories. I should have known I was meant to be a writer.
Life beat it out of me, and perhaps for the best. I focused on building a career that I could rely upon, so I could support myself and gain financial independence in order to leave home. This is crucial especially in a country like India, if you’re a woman approaching marriageable age.
I consider it lucky that I was recruited by a tech startup, having unrelated qualifications - a Bachelor in English Literature and a Diploma in Journalism. They were looking for people to curate data, manage website content and for quality control. It was good money, and as a nineteen-year old; I got sucked into the addictive startup lifestyle quite quickly. It was like being in college, but getting paid to hang out with my friends. We were required to work twelve hours a day, six days a week, answering emails at midnight if need be. However, there was an endless supply of food and snacks, impromptu poolside parties at the office, we were traveling all over the world at no personal cost, being given company shares. I was waking up in other people’s homes, after having partied all night, diving straight to work for long stretches until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but choosing to fuel-up on energy drinks in order to hit the day’s target. It was a nauseating adrenaline rush, every day of the week.
I was living in London, only twenty-four years old, when I found myself completely burned out. I just didn’t have the stomach for it anymore - not for another day of working through a mind-numbing hangover, not for resorting to pizza because I didn’t have the time to cook, not for answering one more email. I just wanted to curl up in bed and read a book, something I hadn’t done in what must have been years.
I'm allergic to wild parties, rarely ever touch alcohol anymore, and I’m untrusting of people who email with deadlines and "gentle reminders".
I handed in my notice within days. It turned my life upside-down, because I had to return to India, to my parents, with no real transferrable skills gained through my work-experience. I’ve been blessed with particularly supportive parents, who didn’t question me once when I isolated myself in my room for weeks. I spent those weeks reading, rarely leaving the house. I must have read at least fifty books, overcome by an insatiable hunger to return to the thing I loved most - stories.
Eventually, the fog cleared and I found the strength to leave the house again. Mostly because my boyfriend also quit his job in London and landed up in India. The next few months were priceless; we travelled, our relationship strengthened, and I was reading even more, which ignited that old extinguished flame. I wanted to tell stories again, and even though I hadn’t the first clue how to go about turning it into a realistic future, I was determined to remain unflinching in its pursuit. I had swayed once, and I never wanted to wake up in a daze again.
We moved to Ireland soon after. My boyfriend was returning home, while I was about to embark on building a new life in a new country. I was happy; enrolled in the Masters in Creative Writing course at UCD, and I was writing daily.
Nine years hence and I still live with the after-effects of the lifestyle I gave up. I’m allergic to wild parties, rarely ever touch alcohol anymore, and I’m untrusting of people who email with deadlines and "gentle reminders".
But I have put to use the skill I’ve polished since I was a child, and finally written a novel.
Dirty Laundry is published by Viking