Tag Archives: writing

Books to read and some herbal chai

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December is a month of waking up, of taking stock, of being startled into action by unfinished business, and of silent promises, and vows to do better, rectify and start anew. This morning, I woke up to the realisation that I had distanced myself from my blogs for a period long enough for me to forget my passwords. That I was kidding myself that I’m a blogger. A blogger blogs regularly, posts either every day or every week at least. I had been on a sabbatical so long, that I had to begin afresh to reclaim my identity. I’ve been there before. I struggle with the erratic nature of my writing–periods of silence followed by periods of intense activity. Most of the time, I’m writing in my head with spools running through my mind and I’m so lost in this world that I’m loathe to  abandon it  even if it is to give concrete shape to the ideas that bloom.

“Write something,” I told myself, afraid at the same time, that I would end up posting something inane, inconsequential or insufferable. “It’s better than not writing at all,” I chided myself, reassured by the recollection of the “shitty” stuff, Anne Lamott refers to in her wonderful book ‘Bird by Bird’, which most writers fill their first drafts with. Anyway, this blog is about the ordinary life, the mundane, the banal. In her book, ‘Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life’, Amy Rosenthal gives the truest account of what she saw, felt, learned, loved, and strived for! It’s a book that gave me a new perspective of looking at objects, events, words, nature and the most inconsiderable, in a new way.

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Amy Rosenthal’s amazing book with my favourite bookmark

It inspired me to look for the unfamiliar in the familiar, for the bizarre in the normal, for the terrific in the commonplace. I browsed through it yet again today. I also made a note of the books that I had begun reading but not completed–not because I didn’t want to but because I read at will and tend to flit from book to book, unless it’s fiction, which I read from beginning to end.  I’m currently reading Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Oranges are Not The Only Fruit’, ‘A Million Thoughts’ by Om Swami, ‘Ordering from the Cosmic Kitchen’ by Patricia Crane and ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen MacDonald. Next on my list is ‘Hot Milk’ by Deborah Levy. However rapidly I read these, I’m still going to fall short of the target I had set for myself, of reading at least 50 books this year. I’ll just about manage 45 and I know of readers who devour a 100 books every year.

Someone forwarded a video to me today about how the body heals itself, how positive thoughts direct and facilitate repair, restoration and wellness. It reiterates what Yogis knew–that we are a mind-body complex, that every emotion has a corresponding physical manifestation in the body and that our biography is our biology. I’m learning to observe my emotions, to detect the signals my body sends me, to focus on my breath, to live more mindfully. It isn’t easy but it’s not impossible. Dare I say, it’s one of my New Year resolutions. Despite my previous record of breaking a majority of  my resolutions, I’m still committed to making new ones. It’s  a ritual that gives me hope, gets  me excited like a child and adds zing to my life. Number one on my list is: Do not romanticise overwork and overexertion. (Most of us do that, as if it’s a medal to flaunt): “Oh, I’m just so  ambushed.” New resolutions demand a new diary:). During my search for one, I rediscovered http://www.chimanlals.com/new-pro.php. Dig these

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Elephant Diaries

I also rediscovered herbal tea. Here’s the recipe a close friend, Pushpa Mani, shared with me:

Herbal Tea

For two glasses of water

Ingredients

Dry coriander (dhania) powder – 1 tsp

Cumin seed (jeera) powder – ½ tsp

Pepper (kali miri) powder – ¼ tsp

Turmeric (haldi) powder – two pinches (optional)

Two inch piece ginger – grated

OR  Dry ginger (soonth) powder – ½ tsp

Tulsi leaves – 10

Jaggery – as per taste

Method: Boil the above ingredients and strain.

Tip: You may add a pinch of elaichi or dalchini powder or any other spice according to your taste.

Note: Have only a quarter glass of herbal tea at a time. You may store it in a thermos and sip it through the day too.

Just what I need, now that I’ve overcome my block. Smells good, tastes divine. Try it.

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How the day bloomed

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There are days when you wake up on the wrong side of your bed or sit up and stretch, expecting the life force to surge inside your body, in vain, and walk limply to freshen up, hoping that the blues vanish, as the day passes. At six in the morning, the day was holding itself back, hiding the sun behind a grey sheet of sky, trapping within its fists, gusts of wind that breathe momentum into a new day.

Today, a hush had descended on the tamarind tree outside my window, its invisible inhabitants exhibiting no traces of their secret nocturnal  activities. (Legend has it that a tamarind tree is the chosen abode of the dead, in limbo, entities who haven’t yet passed over to the other side). I try not to think of these baggy pouches of dimmed light swinging on the branches of the tamarind tree, peering into my house, as they savour the sour taste of its comma-shaped fruits and contemplate on their journey out of the darkness. These musings are both exciting and terrifying–flights of fancy that elevate the mundane and infuse it with nervous energy.  I know that the tamarind tree’s eyes are wide open. Silently, it captures the quotidian motions of the inhabitants that share space with it on earth. Not a leaf moves. The breeze lies curled up inside its hearth, its feet close to its chest. On days that take their time to break, the onus is on you to inject zeal into them. Monday mornings, especially, need a kick on the rear.

Last evening, I was at a reading of the lovely Kiran Manral’s latest book, ‘The Face at The Window’ at Just Books, Thane, with writer Sunita Saldhana, and an enthusiastic audience. It was a homecoming, isolated as I was from enjoyable social interaction, real and virtual, almost the whole of last year, struggling to complete my book. I had abandoned my blogs, becoming a stepmother to them, as I lavished all my attention on this strange organism that was taking shape, as I nurtured it with my sweat and blood. With the book written, the waiting has begun. Of rejection slips. Of the unexpected. Hope hovers…

At the reading, when Kiran exhorted the budding writers in the audience to pen at least 500 words every day, I felt a distinct tug in my heart. The guilt of neglecting my blogs surfaced. It was time to pick up the threads. Today, I opened a page with much trepidation, jogging my memory to remember the password that would give me all access. What was I going to write about? That too, on a day that refused to blossom? How many words?

My notebook sat on my dining table by the window. All I had to do was to let the pencil fly on the page and allow the words to flow. Would they? A pigeon cooed on the cantilever outside; a flight of birds streaked across the sky; an invisible warbler enlivened the air with its song, and the tamarind tree swayed as the breeze, having unleashed itself, serenaded it. Sunlight beamed through its branches and flooded my room. I should have known. All is well with the world.

Butt to the seat

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I don’t remember who said this but I couldn’t agree more. It goes something like: I don’t like writing but I love having written. I am a dawdler when it comes to putting down words. I really want to and nothing gives me greater joy than completing a short story, writing a poem or a blog post or making progress on the book I’m working on. But, I’m too chicken to face the blank screen, too worried about coming up with what Anne Lamott refers to as the “first shitty draft” and too lazy to subject myself to the laborious, sedentary exercise of staying put in my chair for hours, preferably in seclusion. So,  I do everything from dusting my writing desk and rearranging the books on it to cooking to washing utensils to looking out of the window to biting my nails to tweeting to checking my email a hundred times to browsing book titles on Amazon and adding some to my shockingly long wish list–anything to avoid facing the blank screen.

Yet, there’s nothing I want to do more urgently or passionately than overcoming my fears and mustering the courage to write. When I start putting down the words on either a blank sheet of paper (with a pencil that assumes a persona of its own as it flies on the page) or on my computer screen (with one finger, the pointer of the right hand which types so furiously that I worry about its impact on the keys), suddenly, it feels like I’ve come home. I want nothing else but to live in this world, to meander, to explore every nook, to dig deeper, to lose myself completely in it.

I’ve been surprised by the treasures I unearth, by the secrets that reveal themselves, by the world that lives quietly inside me and pulsates with possibilities. I edited a women’s magazine for 17 years. That was a different world altogether, no less interesting but far more structured. I wrote there, on demand, what was required of me, what the nature of the job dictated. I loved interviewing women from different walks of life, writing my column on women’s issues, writing features, rewriting articles sent by freelancers and much more. Somewhere along the way, the limitations that the nature of a job can impose got to me and I hungered to work on a larger scale and to have the freedom to say what I wanted to, to face and tell the truth.  I needed to read and write at will. I needed time out to be with myself.

I had started blogging in the interim period but my posts were so erratic that I felt like a fake blogger. In my blog: https://thesepeoplehere.wordpress.com/ I wrote about the people I had met, known, loved, admired, disliked or observed…people who had touched my life in some way. These posts too were irregular and I longed to write daily–a few words too keep up the practice of writing. So, I started a blog on the diurnal, the mundane, the inconsequential–that which we live from day to day, that which is essential to exist. For a while, it went well. Then, life took over in many ways and blogging was relegated to the back-burner.

A New Year has begun. There is the promise of a better writing life ahead. Maybe, I could actually write a post every day, revive my blogs, as I struggle to complete my book. Here I am, happy now, having written, relieved that despite the breaks I had to take to clean, cook and take the garbage out, I’ve managed to write this post. Shitty it may be, but then, life is all about braving the shit it throws at you.