Write here, write now

“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.” ~ Gloria Steinem

Last night I received a surprisingly warm reaction from a special friend, Miss SS, on one of the stories I had written on this blog way long back in 2010. I was somberly happy about her reception of the story ‘Emily and Sam’ and slept over it (a writer’s joy) almost immediately. When I woke up early today morning I felt a strange sort of psychological pain in my head. At first I put it down to a nightmare that I couldn’t recall and with that thought, I proceeded into the cold shower hoping for the pain to go away. No sooner than I shook off the drowsiness, thanks to the snipping cold shower, did I realize that the pain was caused not by a forgotten nightmare but by the much memorable compliment of the previous night. Yes! the compliment had had that strange effect on me. With the healthiest use of words it stirred up a deep-seated regret of not having written enough over the last few years, especially before my last birthday (which was four days ago)! I realized that in an attempt to avoid making the most-cited regret of writers (“I regret letting writing come in the way of life”) the story of my life, in the past few years I have immaturely sidetracked my writing habit. And to me, writing is more life-affirming than breathing itself.

“Have you been breathing just a little and calling it a life?” asked Mary Oliver in one of her poems. In a similar fashion, the compliment of last night made me question myself,”Have you been avoiding writing to live life and calling it a life?”

Before stepping out of the shower, I mentally sifted through the entire pile of regrets I had been listing down since my birthday this past week and, at the moment, none matched up to the pangs of conscience caused by the regret of not having written enough. I really regret not having written more and more when I was younger. Because essentially, as grown-ups say, it’s not the things you did but the things you didn’t do that you end up regretting the most. I lived life by my own rules in the recent past, almost without limit at that, at the cost of writing. Today I ought to realize, now that I am one of the grown-ups too, that my urge to live unfettered ought not to come at the cost of my urge to write. Not writing and not living are the two regrets I cannot really live with when I’m much older. (I am slightly ashamed of having to remind myself of a fundamental tenet – writing – of my own life at this age, but hey, life’s like that!) Writing and living are not contradictory but complementary elements of my existence. There are other things I’d be glad to compromise on and sacrifice, like sleep or food or internet BUT NOT writing, when life comes flooding through the sluice gates again.  I promise!

I did make a resolution this new year, to write regularly but life took over even before I realized it. Now that things are back in control, more or less, I am looking forward to a great AOC (ass-on-chair) time. What’s more reassuring is that, my career-plans now demand professional writing abilities, which means that I am required to spend at least three months from now AOC. So, in effect, there can’t be a better time than now to align my personal writing agenda with some professional AOC action.

Plus, I endeavor to get my creative streak back this year, shifting focus from the self-pitying write-ups I’ve been indulging in these past few years, those few times that I ever sat down to write. Imagine riding those flights of fancy again, just like the teenage days..!

I’d have done a great disservice to my older/future self had I not written this very blog post tonight. I’d be doing a great disservice to this post if I fail to push myself everyday from hereon to keep up the promise in this post.

“Being a writer is a bit like eating garlic–even when you stop the act itself it seeps out of your pores [but only if you’ve not been away from it for too long],”  writes Naturi Thomas-Millard, to metaphorically illustrate how an ‘in-the-zone’ writer’s emails et al become unappreciated works of art.  I know exactly what she’s talking about and I want exactly that garlic-seeping-out-of-my-pores feeling and emails-becoming-unappreciated-arts feeling real soon!

P.S.  Thanks to Miss SS for pushing the right buttons in me, knowingly or unknowingly.

Testing times

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston.

I just read that quote here and it resonated most vigorously with me because for more than nine months now I have been going through questions, questions and more ‘testy’ questions..and I still can’t seem to find the light at the end of this dark and dreary question tunnel..

The more troubling part is that I can’t find the thread that holds my whole life story together. Why is this annoying year even happening to me? Is this year going to end soon or is it going to run into another year, or more? It’s certainly not going to be like this forever, right? Right? RIGHT?! Oh hell, say something!

This year has had possibly the most number of nerve-wracking months in any year since 2010. The current year is like a minefield with an extensive variety of landmines. By ‘landmines’ I mean bad days; but not just your average bad day…a little worse than that…like, a bad day in a bad week of a bad month of a bad year. In my case of landmines, there’s at least one such day in a week waiting to explode in my face, tear me limb from limb, and send me into an emotional vortex, and finally plonk me into a teary grave. I sleep it off. And if the next morning I still feel like a train wreck then I write it off. I mean I LITERALLY WRITE-OFF the discomfort. (RELEASE: wRiting hElps Lighten thE loAd, wordS Escape.)

All the exploded landmines in the year so far have made me so sensitive from the inside that I keep my guard up constantly. So in this state of affairs it has naturally become unthinkable to think of anyone beyond myself and that has to be the sickest part. It feels like I don’t even know myself anymore. Had I always been this selfish? There is no way to retrace my path back to where I felt I was on the right track to being a better human being: I lost track of the path of my evolution. It’s all a mess. I’m probably what one calls a ‘spiritual goner’. And for a spiritual goner I have too many emotions, soft spots, and depression-triggers. The only good thing about this condition is that PMS pales in comparison to it.

This year is also marked with intermittent phases of depression like black-holes in the unbounded space of bad days. Depression is the only thing worse than the landmines. I can never pinpoint the entry points, nor map the escape routes out of these holes. I just keep dreading them. Only last week, on a dusky Saturday evening, when I had lain down on my bed to soak in my ocean of depressing thoughts I felt a common red ant crawling up my arm to bite me any second then. I instinctively crushed it with my thumb and a sharp pain of anguish and remorse shot through my entire body, top to toe, a million times more painful than what the poor ant would have caused me if at all it had bitten me. The horrible pangs of repentance, I can vividly recall even now. I retracted my thumb almost immediately but the damage had been done by then: the ant’s limbs were all twisted out of shape. It was the first time perhaps that I truly, with the full force of truth and wisdom, realized that an ant’s life or the life of any living creature was in no way inferior to mine.  This also made me realize that I wouldn’t have had this realization, this intense shock of repentance, had I not been soaking in depression. Depression ‘marinated’ me, and brought out the sensitive side of me to a great extent, like how chicken marinated in yogurt brings out its flavors…!!!! Oh the thought of killing, marinating, cooking and consuming a hale and hearty bird! Horrendous! That meant that I had lived through the major part of my life being remorselessly insensitive, growing harder and tougher and more self-obsessed with time, not to mention killing ants and hens left and right. The awareness that I had otherwise (that is, when I’m free of depression) become so self-obsessed added to the already cluttered baggage of emotions: guilt. Guilty of not sparing a thought to family, guilty of forgetting to wish best friend on her birthday, guilty of not staying in touch with many other special ones…the list is endless.

In the midst  of all this shit, the year also featured the re-emergence of a love affair which I had thought was dead and gone by the beginning of the year. I interpreted the re-emergence of ‘love’ as the return of the cool monsoon showers after a particularly torrid period of solitude and soul-searching. I thought that that ‘love’ might be the elusive light at the end of the tunnel. It was neither monsoon, nor light: it was a farce. The guy had inadequacy, insecurity, and insincerity written all over him but my love was as blind as true love. “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”  The differences/alterations we found along the way, of religion, caste, creed etc. would not have altered this ‘love’ had it been love. I always knew he was a hypocrite and a snake but I also believed that no person was constant, which was why I gave him a second chance. Thus, I had it coming for me. And, before I could judge correctly and get my guard up, it exploded with the force of a truckload of landmines right in my unsuspecting heart. He ditched me all over again. The re-emergence resurrected all those fuzzy feelings, at times warm and at times hot, which gave it enough pressure to finally explode. After all, the whole re-emergence episode was a mega-landmine in the array of landmines, and the year continues to test me. And in the aftermath, today’s newspaper headlines indicatively and rather mockingly read, “Ebola’s re-emergence, a wake-up call”. If ‘Ebola’ stood for ‘ex-lover’, the ‘wake-up call’ in my case pertains to perhaps these questions: “Had I not learnt anything from the previous episode of rejection by the same fucking guy?”, “If and when Ebola (read: any ex-lover) strikes again, would we be able to deal with it better?” It’s high time I worked on the answers to these questions. In any case, I have always maintained and still do maintain this: It’s his loss. I love back, like always. ‘Redamancy‘ is a beautiful word.

The year so far with all its helter skelter rush through the minefield was not without its aleatory moments of happy clarity. For instance, right now I clearly think that when all of this passes, whenever that may be, I shall be glad I had one day taken the time out to write this post. I longed to write this one for over two weeks now but could not as last Sunday I had a major ‘test’ (which was a mini-minefield in itself), which surely added a lot of heat to these testing times, and it took me till today to reorient myself to the normal pace of things. So relieved the test is done, so glad the post is written and so ready to sleep today’s landmine damage off!

Leftovers from last night!

When my fusty little room is brimming
with leftovers as these from a certain meeting –
your big winter jacket with leather straps,
your weathered pocket book with local road maps,
your box of matches about half-empty,
loose, scattered coins about twenty or thirty,
all left behind on the tabletop, in the dark;
the poetry book you lovingly bookmarked,
the wilting red rose in a fat milk bottle,
my drugged slumber too powerful to throttle;
(hence) your unread message pasted to the door,
with a promise to meet again and so much more,
in the winter garden beyond the street
like crazy teenage lovers, reckless, indiscreet –
I’d buy a glass bowl with that loose change perhaps,
into which would go one of your leather straps,
the wilting rose pressed in my book of poems,
your love message rolled into the bottle,
and a page or two from the tattered guide;
and that bowl will stand by my bedside…
while we steal away into the gleaming moonlight,
with aim and hope to renew our promise by daylight
and thus I mark newer objects for the bowl daily
until all that is yours becomes mine slowly
and all that is mine, yours…
Then we belong to the bowl of memories,
just the two of us, the two of us entirely.
The next winter in the white winter garden
under the falling white snow,
swaying to familiar winter songs,
in a silent bliss,
we might just wonder if
we are that couple in a snow globe!

Two lovers

Two lovers

“2+2=5”

It is almost too hard to think any further when you are confounded by sights such as the ones I see everyday, which are microcosms of the world which you are a part of, which you hate to be a part of. It is not nearly as simple as it sounds. It is so painful, so drastically cruel to come upon such scenes in everything that meets your eye and ear in the time that you are awake and moving around in search of some meaningful moment. When it hits you right in the face, knocking off one or two of those rotten teeth out of you, you just have to take a step back and lie down and take a look at what unfolds, wait for the end. Your nerves throb with a palpable optimism, tearing out of you so hard that it is tough not to visualize with all the functional faculties of the mind, that forever-elusive triumph of good, triumph of the inevitable truth. And, as you wait for it – the end – amid all the white noise, crunching flakes of corn, sounds of dripping mayonnaise, you are clutching the ends of your sleeves, exuding heavy drops of sweat from the surface of  your overworked body, crossing your fingers two folds over,  tongue-frisking the empty slots in your pasty gums, you feel lucky. Lucky that here you are, as a child watching ‘La vita è bella’ projected on the spotty white-wall of the community hall on Christmas eve, churning out all the possible happy ways to end the saga of love, here you are waiting for that happy ending to blow you away, the ending that is the entire truth, the entire wisdom that you swear you’ll live your life by, the secret resolution that will emerge from the wisdom, the  resolution that will rule over your life for the rest of your life beginning from the moment that the film projector is turned off.

So, seen the ending, right? Is the music out of you yet? No? The projector is off and the people are moving out. You are not a child anymore – discuss the movie, comment on the man behind the camera, criticize, praise, predict the number of awards it’s going to fetch. Try! The children have already put down the numbers on Face-book.

Those sights I was talking of earlier are not actually discussed by anyone unlike the movies. Nobody sees them,  there are no tickets. Only you and I watch them, they are our lives’ major decision-makers, and we, the wasteful consumers of  time. Scenes of ants near a jar of jam, fallen flowers on the road, swaying clouds in the sky. Mother ant, father ant, and baby ants, you think? Flowers decorating the path, you think? Clouds coming together to  pour down, you think? They all end the wrong way. Big ants kill small ants. Flowers linger, pressed under car-wheels and swept into the gutters. Swaying clouds break, break, break and move apart to make way for the planes. The days have changed.  We are an anachronism, you think? It’s been a while since I laughed about it. Laugh about it, it’s weekend.

Twisted is the new truth. Twisted is the only truth, was the only truth. Twisted is you, your truth. Truth is no joke. It is not for simple-minded fools like you and me to try to understand.  Forget what the writers were talking about, now, right now. Drunken fools and old maids. Let us go mend the broken bones and leave the rest to them-the others. The broken bones in your crossed fingers is what you are a symbol of, and not the other way round. Everything is twisted, mauled, broken, unhinged and torn apart and abused, from your  point of view, and not anywhere close to what you had been imagining a few moments ago. There are no surprises because what you see in the end is what you imagine AGAINST. Even you know what’s coming in the end, the worst. There is nothing beyond it, no curtains to move aside for the real thing, the wall is right in front of you, pressing against your forehead, marked with your sweat.  The marks of your drying sweat on the wall seem to be saying, “You are all done for the day, you can go ahead and press-dry that shirt of yours, puff on a dash of perfume on it, forget dinner and catch some sleep.”

Love comes and goes unrecognised. Love songs just fill the vacuum.

Love is like a little bird
on a rainy day;
it finds shelter in a tiny nook
carved in the grand design of a
building or formed in a
tree by the arrangement of leaves
and cloistered branches;
it remains well out of our sight
for we care little about
dusty nooks in brick walls
or tiny gaps under eaves
when the sky comes
pouring down
and forces us into our own
big shelters built of
cement and stone,
or the foliage in the garden
that we had carefully pruned and grown.
The birdie shows up,
and sings a sweet love song
at our windowsill
once the rain is gone
and the sun is out…
but it is not the little bird
on a rainy day anymore.

The Aid of Cunning

Cunning, Cunning,
they need thy aid
who tread the earth
in human frames
from one ordinary sunrise
till one ordinary sunset,
a fleeting moment –
the breadth of a lifetime.
Thy helping hand
to smile, to please,
and sometimes
to shed a tear;
to love and be loved,
to be unmoved, unhurt,
to be indifferent;
to not be different,
to be like and be liked;
to hide and seek,
as well as to be
at two places at once;
to be the same child
to one’s parents;
to be the same parent
to one’s child;
to be in a family,
to be a friendly neighbor,
to go to work daily and
to change into a thousand
versions of oneself;
to write
but not give oneself away,
also, to write
to give oneself away;
to not be touched
by Art;
to not believe in another;
to not always be right,
to be a great hypocrite;
to live and let die,
that is, to survive;
finally,
to do the things
one does
to prepare for the end.

Amorphous

Last morning, having little to do at work I walked down to my favorite coffee shop in town. I picked a seat in a cosy corner of the café and settled down to a drink of delicious hot coffee. Sitting right there, I could watch human beings bustling about outside the glass doors of that blissfully quiet café. They were like tiny amorphous specks in the sea of life flowing endlessly on wheels on the city roads. The next thing I knew, I began to ponder over life- my life. A little here and a little there I digressed but every time I bounced back to it, for the rest of the day, even after I left the café, till I reached home, and after…
As I delved deeper into the realms of introspection, I became aware that besides all the day-to-day trivialities which make up the froth that one has to swim through mindlessly to go forward in time, I have a passion for something in my life, just one thing: writing. The thoughts followed thus…
I’m not a great writer, not even close to it. I enjoy writing nevertheless. It is true that certain passionate thoughts and emotions easily translate into weighty words but it happens to me exclusively when I’m caught in situations with no access to writing pads or any sort of recording instruments. And, when I make efforts to retain them in my mind they somehow seem to lose their fire as soon as I prepare to set them down at the end of a busy day. At such times, I
put the pen away, save the ink for another day, and pick  a book to read. Maybe it is frustration caused by the emotionally unbalanced city lifestyle.  Maybe it’s just my mood. Anyhow, the next time that it happens, I decided to do away with pens and papers, typewriters and electronic machines, and just sit and muse with eyes closed, instead of begrudging some author her magnificent book…
So there I sit with my eyes closed, to mould amorphous thoughts into feelings, to inject life into dormant and dead ideas, to tune up emotions, to direct emotions through the Writer’s Magic Loop and to see them come out of it as delectably flavored English words. Then, with my eyes closed, I string the words together, shuffle the strings around till they hit the right notes and reflect the right shades. When the words all fit into a perfect composition and I’m
certain that they are impressed upon my memory, that I can soon grab a pen and commit to paper, a sense of accomplishment emerges. As soon as my eyelids part to reveal the spark of eternal triumph in my eyes, the words in my mind inevitably dissolve in the deluge of light they are exposed to…the sense of triumph is crushed with the disappearance of the Magic Loop…and alas! I find myself left abandoned in my car, eyes wide open, caught in a traffic jam, raucous horns honking all around; and I look out of the side-window to see what appears as an amorphous vision of a boy sitting in the corner seat of a café, sipping his coffee, staring directly at a speck that is me and probably wondering about his own life…his own frustrations.