Tag Archives: writing

Where to Now?

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The clock on the wall is on most days just a mute witness to the goings-on in my room. It does its job, its two hands moving quietly in the background, as I bang away on my laptop or sit in front of the laptop screen and stare at it or flit from one virtual window to another, biding my time before beginning to write. But, some days, the ticking seems  louder, more audible, a constant reminder of time passing by. And you sit upright in your chair, straighten your spine, and begin to wonder whether the life you’ve lived has been worth the while. 

I wish I could honestly say that there are no regrets the way people often proclaim in their interviews, but cannot. I am aware of the words I could have said or written differently, choices I could have made more prudently and hurts I could have avoided. One did the best one could in those circumstances. In retrospect, perhaps the best too was not good enough, but the bygone cannot be undone; one can only learn from every such experience and try to make amends.

So, what does one do with one’s life? Last evening, I read a Marathi essay by the same title: ‘या जीवनाचं काय करू?’,  by social activist and researcher, Dr Abhay Bang, who, along with his wife Dr Rani Bang, has revolutionised healthcare for the poorest in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. It was a stinging eye-opener to the myriad possibilities that exist to reach out and make a difference, but which we fail to explore, because we don’t look beyond our own selfish needs or existence. While it’s understandable that not everyone has the wherewithal to be a social reformer, or to work selflessly and tirelessly at the grassroots level to effect a change, the fact is that there do exist spaces where, while living the life of our choice, it’s possible to contribute at least a wee bit to causes that require support, if only we took cognisance of them. I plead guilty here. 

Dr Bang elaborates on how it entails not following the herd or participating in the rat race, and how it means bypassing the hedonistic to embrace the spartan or at least the temperate, to really look at the world with different eyes, and to step out of one’s comfort zone. It helped that Dr Bang spent his childhood in Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram at Wardha with Mahatma Gandhi’s foremost disciple Acharya Vinoba Bhave, and was exposed to Gandhian thought at an impressionable age. It shaped his character, and he could easily refuse the lucrative job offers that came his way to choose untrodden, tough terrain, and with no regrets whatsoever. 

Exposure is a potent transformer. It adds several remarkable dimensions to one’s persona, whether one is an activist or a writer. In an interview in Storylines: Conversations with Writers, author Mangala Godbole avers that her outreach as a humorist would have been far more comprehensive if she would have had greater exposure. Unfortunately, she had to restrict her repertoire to the domestic. It’s another matter that the column which she wrote for almost a decade resonated with her readers, and accorded her the privilege of being among the very few female humorists in Marathi literature, perhaps the  only notable one. 

Hands-on exposure is obviously way more life-changing than say reading, though the latter too is a fairly effective metamorphic tool. It provides enough fodder for reflection when one is at crossroads or looking to make a far more meaningful contribution, if not through participation at ground zero, then at least through the tools at hand. Presently,  writing holds that promise. One word. Then another. The possibilities are endless. 

At the moment, several books lie scattered on my desk. There’s Bama’s interview in Storylines that I can’t wait to read. There is Dr Anil Awachat’s ‘जिवाभावाचे’, in which he writes about those who hold a special place in his heart. In one chapter, he talks of the conversations and meals (the dosas, the saboodana khichdi, the poha), he has enjoyed at authors Virupaksh and Uma Kulkarnis’ warm home. The couple is renowned for translating the works of eminent Kannada writers like Dr Shivram Karanth and  S L Bhyrappa.  It makes me yearn to visit their home, and be a part of the camaraderie. It makes me wonder about the companionship of  writer couples, and partners working towards a common cause. What is a day in their life like? Where do they get  their energy from? How do they unwind? Do they ever? That calls for an exploration of a different kind. Some day, I shall know.

For now, it’s a day filled with reading, writing and hope. 


Climes: Today, it’s cooler than yesterday. The skies are grey, but the sun’s rays have found their way through the clouds. There is always a silver lining.

I agree: ‘When there is pain, there are no words. All pain is the same.’ – Toni Morrison

Menu: Got fresh springy green spinach at the local vendor’s. Small finds make great meals. 

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The yellow colour burst stopped me in my tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Picking Up the Threads

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Today, I woke up feeling like a warrior. As if I could and should slay everything that holds me back from writing – my moods, lethargy, boredom, and my worst enemy – procrastination. If I gave the impression that I was going to indulge in violence, let me assure you that I’m a peace-loving creature, but when it comes to facing the blank screen, and getting myself to write, I wage a daily battle. Most days, I allow one or the other of my enemies to prevail over my better sense, but today is different. I’m actually posting, after having silenced the voices in my head that were saying, ‘Oh, but nothing special has happened today,’ OR ‘Why post something inane?’  (which would have stopped my overworked index finger, the solitary typist of my right hand, in its tracks),’ OR ‘I have nothing to say’ (well, that’s not quite the truth, it’s just the killjoy in me that rears its head every time I begin to write).

I started by making a new list. Lists shake  me out of my listlessness, and putting down everything in black and white, with some doodles enhancing the page, and pinning it on my bulletin board, reminds me that it’s going to be a fulfilling day. I discovered recently that bulletin boards can be popped up creatively, like the several I saw on Pinterest. (I love owls)

Bulletin Board
Picture: Pinterest

My bulletin board will have the beginnings of a story, writers’ quotes, index cards filled with references and research, colourful post-its with names of characters from my next book (the first is still waiting in the wings, rather impatiently, to find a home), a collage of my writerly life. The thought itself is  invigorating. Well, the best of writers have fought their  way out of inertia to put words on paper. I’m a fledgling aspirant, trying to enlarge and romanticise my daily struggle. And, to borrow J K Rowling’s  words, I’m a muggle. In a writer’s world, Muggles are creatures who need a large mug of coffee (in my case, ginger tea) to create magic on paper.

Today’s Quote:

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Picture Quote: Google

I have that longing too. Obviously, Knausgard is on top of my to-read list. (Well, er… I think he looks great too.) So are Elena Ferrante, and a host of classics.

Note to myself: Plan reading. (I get overwhelmed by the pile of books by my bedside, and every time someone mentions a good book, I want to grab it instantly. So I remember my friend, Arundhathi Subramaniam’s sage advice: ‘Read at will.’

Time to scan the bookshelves. To make the choice. To immerse myself in the world of fiction. To read. To write. To battle. It’s going to be an eventful day…

 

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.

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.