Robert Benvie, Ontario
Rob hails from Nova Scotia, but currently hangs his hat in Toronto. There’s nothing Rob enjoys more than bringing compelling narrative to life, whether it’s his writing/editing work for ad agencies and non-profit organizations, or freelancing for publications like Vice, Dazed, The Toronto Star and many others. However, his true love is fiction, with two novels to date and a third forthcoming in 2020. He has a BA in English from University of Toronto and an MA from Concordia University (Montreal). In his younger days he recorded and toured internationally with obscure rock bands—get to know him and he might share a few road stories.
As a Story Terrace writer, Robert interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know him better by reading his autobiographical anecdote below.
“You write about me,” Adnan said, eyeing me through the teapot’s swirling steam, “and say good things.”
I’d been visiting my then-girlfriend in Delhi, where she was gathering research for a dissertation on South Asian literature. The city was exhilarating, yes, but with the chaotic roads, the teeming crowds, and the oppressive summer heat, quickly became more than a bit grueling.
So when she suggested a weekend getaway to Srinagar, India’s northernmost city and a popular tourist destination, I was all in.
Of course, we had some reservations about our destination. Srinagar has long been the site of violent separatist protests and sits within close proximity of the hotly contested Kashmir region.
But it’s also known for the beautiful vistas of Dal Lake, where visitors rent private houseboats and bask in the mountain serenity. As our host, Adnan, zipped us across the lake in his motorboat, he was clearly pleased at how we gawked and marveled at the scenery.
“No place like it! You go home and write for everyone.”
After a few more exhortations like this, I figured it out: in our rental application I’d stated my occupation as “writer,” which Adnan had evidently taken to mean I was a travel writer. Over the next few days, Adnan gave us the deluxe treatment: plying us with delicious meals, leading us on captivating tours, and regaling us with vivid accounts of Kashmir life.
On our last day, Adnan again stopped by, bringing strong tea and an array of unremarkable trinkets he hoped we’d purchase. We bought a few things out of courtesy, but noticed a downcast tinge darkening Adnan’s usually jovial demeanour. Somewhat reluctantly, I asked if something was wrong.
“Trouble at home,” he said, ruefully shaking his head. “My sister is very sick.”
His sister suffered from a debilitating heart condition, Adnan told us, and her treatment had so far been ineffective. Without thinking, I found myself telling him about my own family’s health concerns. Soon we were both teary-eyed, clinking teacups in mutual consolation.
“You write about me,” Adnan said, “and say good things. Tell everyone what a good time you had.”
I never had the heart to tell him the truth, and left feeling guilty for my deception. Of course, Adnan’s mournful tale could just as likely have been a ruse, stirring our heartstrings to unload those trinkets. All of us bend the truth sometimes to make ends meet, whether we’re writers or houseboat operators.
But when, soon thereafter, I returned home with my girlfriend—now my wife and mother of our lovely baby daughter—we certainly told everyone what a good time we had.
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