“I was trying, as every writer tries to do, even in fiction, to get at the truth, write the truth.” – Anita Desai

An excerpt from The Village by the Sea by Anita Desai.

‘I won’t,’ Hari promised. ‘ I want to learn more.’

‘Good!’ cried Mr Panwallah. ‘That’s what I wanted to hear you say. Learn, learn, learn – so that you can grow and change. Things change all the time, boy – nothing remains the same. When our earth was covered with water, all creatures lived in it and swam. When the water subsided and land appeared, the sea creatures crawled out and learnt to breathe and walk on land. When plants grew into trees, they learned to climb them. When there were not enough plants left to eat, they learnt to hunt and kill for food. Don’t think that is how things have remained. No, boy, they are still changing – they will go on changing – and if you want to survive, you will have to change too. The wheel turns and turns and turns: it never stops and stands still. Look, even Bombay is not always the same. Fifty years ago there were hills, gardens, beautiful palaces and villas where you now see slums, shops, traffic, crowds. Once I lived in a villa with a garden and roses and fountains – now I live in a pigeon roost over a railway station!’ He cackled with laughter as though it were all a great joke. ‘So Hari the fisherman, Hari the farmer will have to become Hari the poultry farmer or Hari the watchmender!’