Tag Archives: Growing up

When A Writer Falls Silent

It has been awhile since I wrote. And it has been a long time since I wrote an entry in The Thirty Diaries. I have of course, been growing deeper into the 30s. But for the first time in over 11 years, I’ve gone such a long stretch without writing.

I just couldn’t bring myself to write. The writing engine in my mind has been getting slower and slower and eventually just upped and died some time ago. And each time, inspiration seem to flicker, the thought of writing made my heart sink.

But I have been meditating a lot. Not just in that wise-old-man-in-yoga-pose way. Letting silence settle. Inside me. All things seem clearer in silence.

Writing, I realise, is not healing. It’s catharsis. For a lot of us, it starts with an outpouring of things, usually negative things that find no expression in the outside world. Especially on a medium like the internet, the immediate response is validation. As one of the first people to play in this space, the almost instant celebrity that hit with it was addictive. I got lost in the echo chamber of dark sentiments that found immediate validation and craving that, I wrote more of that. Every writing takes you to the place in your mind from where the sentiment rises. And each time you relive it, it becomes a little more firmly rooted in your head. Break-ups, death, politics, broken friendships, disappointment, anger, pain — all of these and more found a place in my blogs and my writing. Voices came to resound with mine. Voices of equal clamour and pain. And in our multiplied frenzy, we kept each others’ pain-addiction enabled.

What do you do when you don’t want to dwell in a place of pain anymore, I asked my digital universe? How does a writer survive? None of the answers satisfied me. And eventually, I knew the only way was for me to accept that I might have to give up writing altogether. I hesitate to call it a decision because that would imply that I had choice. Does a leaf caught in a current have a choice in where it is headed? Well, neither did I.

Who am I if not a writer, I wondered. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered confusion again. I say pleasant because I also remembered that it was a place of possibility and peace even, not fear. If I don’t have to carry the label of writer with all the heavy expectations, fears and tangles that come with it, I am free to float and in whatever part of me floats away, I come a little closer to discovering who I am. And in that leaving behind, I looked down and saw all the nice, pretty things that I could take happiness from, in the life I was saying I was willing to leave behind, as a writer.

My longtime dream of being a published author came true this year. In the least dramatic and most stable, contented of ways. One of the projects I’ve been working on completed a year and my client decided to commemorate it by asking me to write a piece of my own choosing (“Basically anything at all that you want to say”). I did. And then, they collated all our work into a book that was circulated to some people within the company. It’s not a book that I can talk about since it is company-internal. It may never reach the numbers and climb to a bestseller list. But it is a bonafide book. Most of the work in there is mine. It became a book because what was written in it, reached people, touched minds and hearts. It is a book because it did what it was intended to do and showed the promise of even more. It even has my photograph at the end with an endnote (the commemorative piece I wrote as an open letter to the people I worked with). How much better this is than the vision I had of myself as an author, sandwiched nearly apologetically on an overcrowded bookshelf. I am very grateful for life’s surprises. Author? Me!

Alphabet Sambar, my most recent baby grew by leaps and bounds of its own accord too. There have been several difficult nights like all new parents have. Tears, fears and pain are a part of any writer’s journey and we’re talking about a community of tens of writers. But it grew nevertheless, reaching people only by word of mouth, growing in new directions with every new member who brought in their perspective. We grew in numbers but also in genres, experiments and what we saw as possible. Twelve members attempted their first novel via the group last year. A student decided on writing for her future studies, after a year at Alphabet Sambar. A wide-eyed young woman dared to dream about writing, then novel and most recently standup comedy, becoming one of the small but growing number of female performers in the medium in India. She credited the group with giving her the space and the confidence to try it all. One of my longtime writing mentors who I’d never have imagined would be interested in this group, joined and built a relationship between this group and the bigger writing community she straddles. A writing compatriot wrote about us in a local publication, listing us as one of the top community entertainment options in the city. What an uncommon thrill it is, to have been a part of all these journeys in my own way. This totally happened by mistake, a very very happy mistake and I can’t believe the opportunity to be here and do this just fell into my lap.

Love became a possibility, if not a reality last year. I got trapped in fear and confusion and medication. But it was all a process of healing and growing. And I came out of it filled with sadness but with the grim hope that love still could bloom in what I thought had been left as a barren heart.

Do I find myself wiser? I always visualised wisdom as this gigantic encyclopaedia of answers, all of which I would know. I have even fewer answers now than I did ten, five, two years ago. But I’m finding it easier to remember the simple mantras. Breathe in, breathe out. Really, that’s the only one. And at the end of a few breaths, the world looks like a more manageable place to live in. If that’s wisdom, I guess I justify the white in my hair and the tooth that I had to have extracted.

And while I was having all these thoughts in silence, I realised I needed to say sorry to someone. Before the impulse vanished under pride, fear and distraction, I sent a message. And an evening meeting materialised. Perhaps because I had began dropping away the trappings of ‘writer’, it felt easier for me to not go around in circles trying to find the best words to express what I felt.

“I just wanted to say I am sorry,” I said.

Curiously, he understood. It was a very different evening from any I’ve had in years. I let myself stay in that place of not knowing, of feeling desperately vulnerable, of handing someone the chance to hurt me with rejection, condescension, pity or malice. And none of it happened. There was no dramatic flourish either. But it did not hurt.

And when I came back home, suddenly, I felt like I could write again.

I didn’t rush into it immediately. I’m learning to take deep breaths. Nothing seems very urgent or frenzied after a bit of oxygen. But a few weeks later, the words seem to flow in my bloodstream. Not pounding through in place of blood as they once did. But there’s something there. And look, I’ve written an entire essay! I am writing.

But mostly, I’m still discovering who I am. And I’m alive.

All Is Well

I took the first step today. I asked for help.

I’ve had a fracture and a ligament injury within a year. I’ve had a recurring cough for over 2 months. I have probably fallen asleep before 3 a.m. some 4 times this year. And I don’t remember the last time I woke up feeling refreshed and excited about the upcoming day. But I vaguely remember that once upon a time, I used to.

I went to an Ayurvedic clinic that worked wonders with my health problems a few years ago. It took about an hour to capture vital information about me. It was the first real conversation I’ve had in many, many years about myself. That is odd, isn’t it? I have one of the longest running personal blogs in the country. For ten years, I’ve talked about my feelings, my relationships, my dreams, my goals, my observations, my angst.

But in telling her why I stay up late at night, why I sleep fretfully, why the frown lines on my forehead are deeper than the smile lines on my cheeks, I found myself talking about another me. I found myself realising, I’m not happy.

Well, I know that already. After all, I’m me. But I feel like there has never been any space to say this. Here are the things that I’m scared will come in response:

Why? You have such an awesome life!

You are so lucky. You should be grateful!

Do you know how many starving people there are in the world?

At least you didn’t have to go through a divorce/miscarriage.

Nobody forced you to quit your job. No one asked you to write for a living.

You are so angsty. You complain too much. You whine too much.

You know the odd thing? I’ve rarely said ‘I’m not happy’ and yet I carry that sentence as well as all these above ones that weren’t given a chance to be said, inside my mind. And the weight of them is crushing me.

I don’t even know why I’m unhappy. Not yet, anyway. Though, I can think about it and hazard a guess.

I’m still so tired from the effort of rising from a relationship gone sour, a failed engagement. I’m still hurting from the judgement. I’m scarred by the things that went wrong.

I’m suffocating under the pressure of labels like ‘feminist’, ‘strong woman’, ‘role model’, ‘committed’ and ‘responsible’. A label looks harmless — light, papery and fluttering in the wind. The ink scrawls on it seem deceptively ordinary. But they stick to the skin and to the identity and the force of peeling them away, takes away a part of yourself. It does.

And I am tired of cruelty. Wanton, random cruelty. Unwarranted spite. Needless meanness. Unjust ‘but you promised you’d never hurt me’ heartbreak. So cruel, so much.

I don’t want to go to war with the world. This is not about how badly the world has treated me. This is about my losing my way, forgetting the only things that really matter, that make any of the other stuff worth doing.

This is about remembering to live. This is about remembering to choose living over suffering. It is a choice and this is about remembering that.

This is about remembering fun. What it looks, tastes, smells, feels like. It’s remembering what it feels like to have your eyes light up, what that feels like from inside you — the internal wiring that makes everything come on and send the charge to your eyes that the world can see.

This is about being okay. Shouting that you’re more than okay, is not being okay. It’s just being.

This song came up minutes before I walked into the clinic.

I’m not a teenager under relentless pressure to conform to someone else’s ideals. And yet, concentrated H2SO4 ne pura jeevan jala daala. I did that to myself, to appease the stern, cruel, goal-oriented, never satiated maniac in my own head.

The specialist said something that cheered me and warmed me from within. He said my disposition was one that instantly zooms in on the positive in situations and people, and sometimes forgets about the negative. And he told me that it had made me able to rise above a bad relationship more easily than some others. He was telling me one simple thing that I’d stopped telling myself for so long that I forgot it was true. He was saying,

“Ramya, you’re okay.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————

I actually wrote this post on 11 Sep 2014. But true to the reality of this post, I either didn’t have the time to or I didn’t feel I was ready to publish it (perfectionist me). Today, six weeks later, I want to report that I’m feeling much better. The cough is gone. And the doctor says I’m healing. Accepting that all is well, is some way off though.

Older And Wiser

Tell me what it’s like.

she says.

Does it get better with time?

I pause and wonder what to say.

Can I give her an honest answer?

That it won’t..in some ways.

That heartbreak hurts as much at 30 as it does at 20.

That you never quite get used to the pain of letting go, no matter how often you’ve done it….though you might learn the lesson of numbness.

That love and cheating and tenderness and passion will continue to turn up unanticipated…and unwelcome, no matter how clear your vision stays.

That eventually dreams will become the last survival tactic for those who don’t have God or Family or FairyTales anymore.

No, I decide, I can’t tell her all of that. I can’t paint the next decade in a pall of gloom before it’s even arrived.

So I take a deep breath and say instead…

What does change is all the things in your head.

With the pain, there will be the aspirin of reality,
a little snapshot of the last time that grows clearer with time,
the knowledge that you survived that and so this you will too.

With time, other people’s opinions
will start to matter less than your own
or at least you’ll be able to pick and choose what you want to believe.

And if you’re smart…and I know you are,
you’ll have a Plan B or at the very least…an exit route.

So I end without lies, telling her the truth…but perhaps not all of it.

And I wish there were some lessons one didn’t need to learn.

—————————————–

*Dedicated to a very young and wonderful friend who asked the question. I hope she’s reading…or perhaps I hope she isn’t.

Shoe stories

Last month I wrote my first pair of wedge heels. Now that I’ve been initiated into feeling about three inches taller than I usually am, braved such jokes like…

Do you have a driver’s licence for that? I thought all hazardous transportation needed one!

and

Do you need a ladder to get onto those each morning?

…I find my mind wandering out of its ‘sensible comfortwear mode’. After all, I reason, if I learnt to get into tight jeans, low-waists, body-huggers and halters, my feet have to follow.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Yesterday I went shopping for some absolute essentials and found myself lingering over the footwear section. I actually walked into a few shops and tried on shoes I’d never wear…..stilettoes, blocks, mules. And to think I was a Bubblegummers kid who breezed through the hip college years in sneakers and floaters. I had to literally tear myself away to stop myself from buying a pair of metallic green noodle-like creations that passed off as sandals. They were beautiful. And useless of course. Not to mention overpriced.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Last week I broke yet another one of my collection of strappy, flat Roman sandals (gladiators, I think they’re called). gladiators.jpgI found one pair in Bangalore a few years back and wore them all across the city. They were so comfortable, they were, as the ad (for contact lenses) goes…”like wearing nothing at all!” Last year, on my Bangalore trip, I tracked down the shop and picked up no less than 6 pairs of the same design…in different colours. Black travelled with me to Bangkok and Phuket, was mislaid on my way back with my lost luggage and finally came back to me a month late. Brown breathed its last a few months back, White is still alive but with a mysteriously missing buckle. Blue broke last week. Pink is still going strong and my soul colour Red continues to caress my feet all the times I go for the Indian look (that’s my look this summer….cotton kurtas, skirts and chuddidaars).

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I’m wearing a pair of mirror-bright silver, strappy sandals to work this morning….waving a peace flag to my battle against bling. I agonise more over whether they’ll cause reflections bright enough to distract motorists and cause accidents…more than how the high heels are screwing my back.

On our post-lunch soujourn, my friend remarks that they remind her of Cinderalla’s sandals. And adds that they should have had glass heels to complete the look.

Yeah, right. All I’ll need is a dinnerplate sized ring then and I can audition for one of the K-serials!

Coming back, we get stuck on the divider, between whizzing cars and stranded in the bright sunlight. She says

This would have been a good time to run!

Not in my Cinderalla sandals!

You could leave one behind and your Prince Charming would find it!!

Ha! More likely an irritated BMC employee who’d fling it in the trash after it was run over!

bling-2.jpg

Spring-cleaning

I went to yoga class this morning. After over 7 months.

I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I also don’t remember the last time I did something without thinking about 20 other things at the same time, planning for the next 4 hours at least, all while trying to do whatever I was, at that moment. I didn’t even realise when the clock went from 7 am to 9 am.

I was a little concerned that I would be woefully out of shape, the way I was when I first began. Stiff as a board, even as the youngest member in the class, it was frustrating, how I couldn’t bend over or backwards easily. Surprisingly my lower back didn’t trouble me too much. It used to be the biggest hurdle in my stretches and my teacher said it was because I was carrying too much stress and it was going down into my back. Today however, my right side was knotted and stiff. It’s a reminder that the body echoes the state of life and the mind. I sit in the left-most corner of my cubicle. And my right side, which is the side that everyone usually sees of me, is the one that’s stiff and clenched. Does that indicate how propped-up, how unnatural, how artificial, how very repressed, restrained and forced I’ve been? Yes, it probably does. My left side, generally hidden to the world doesn’t suffer the same problem.

God, I’d forgotten why yoga is so therapeutic. It is really all about getting acquainted with your body. Usually, the experiences associated with the body…a long bath, a massage and sex….seem to be about removing something, getting something out, a sort of deliberate losing of consciousness. But yoga is about being gentle and understanding, a heightening of awareness. Yoga really is about listening to your body. Quite simply that….how much do we know about our own breathing? Do you breathe fast or slow? Hard and jerky or smooth and shallow? From your chest or your stomach? Through your nostrils or your mouth? Think about it. And understand it.

Right this moment, I can feel every breath go in and cool my insides. I can even feel the roadblocks in my breathing, physically caused by bad posture and conjestion but really due to blockages that have accumulated. My body and spirit are in dire need of spring-cleaning. I’m on vacation this week and that’s what I’m going to do!

Some Lessons I’ve Learnt

Intention: Happiness
Declaration: I will accept and embrace change.
Action: Experiment with the unknown – a new job, a new kind of relationship, a new me
Observation: Stressed out, irritable, often confused
Realisation: Doesn’t work for me
Confession: I am a chronic clinger
Decision: End the damn experiments
Conclusion: Changing direction in hope that it will lead you somehow to your destination is fruitless. Figure out what the destination is first.

Intention: True love
Declaration: I will not be selfish, egoistic or scared in my search.
Action: Trust and believe in a person who ‘speaks’ to my heart
Observation: Jealousy, power struggles, fear, lot of tears
Realisation: Its an awful relationship but I rather stay than leave
Confession: I am dead afraid of being alone
Decision: Get out of situation and think, think, think
Conclusion: Loneliness isn’t a good reason to get into a relationship.

Intention: Success
Declaration: I will be unwavering and do all it takes to achieve my goal
Action: Slog like hell, ignore temptations and little voices in my head, claw my way to the top
Observation: Fatigue, insomnia, dark circles under the eyes, moodiness, short temper, cynicism
Realisation: Its a great job and I hate it
Confession: My whole life right now is one big status symbol
Decision: Drop the facade
Conclusion: There is just this long you can fool yourself that pleasing others is the same thing as being fulfilled.

Intention: Peace
Declaration: I will curb my temper and my baser instincts
Action: Count to ten when I’m angry, bite back the sarcasm, smile when I want to scream and with great effort, keep my voice steady and even
Observation: Little lines all over my face, a tendency to brood, morosity
Realisation: People are taking advantage of my good nature….and the damn thing doesn’t even exist!
Confession: I feel like a dumb bird, all trussed up and inside a cage with a cloth over it
Decision: Let it all out.
Conclusion: When it comes down to it, I just gotta be me, there’s no better way to be.

“She Used To Have A Life Once!”

Eyes ringed with dark circles, lids drooping, dull ache at the back of my neck..and my weekend’s only just beginning. I’ve been having a ‘social life’ in the past two days that I haven’t had for a long time – courtesy a friend who’s here from the city that really knows how to live – Bangalore. Here in Mumbai we’re great at surviving but living..wot is dat?

Dressing up and going out and music and drinks and conversations and reminiscences and dreams and arguments……god, that used to be my life once. Now the whole ‘me’ exists in my job profile. I don’t have an identity any more but I sure do have a visiting card. Wow.

Whatever happened to ‘Down with the establishment’ and ‘They don’t really care about us’ (yeah, yeah…I used to like MJ just like every second teenager around then). Whenever did those black tee-d, guitaring dudes turn into white-shirt and striped tie yuppies? And the ‘a girl for each weekend’ guys are turning in their Casanova hats and succumbing to holy matrimony…….gaaaaaaad!!!!!! The ‘babes’ are married and mamas, the ‘intellectual’ is planning a media campaign for a new detergent, the dreamer sells credit cards and the artist doodles on her pad while waiting for Mr.Whatsisname to confirm Tuesday’s meeting.

Whooo hoo hoo….who am I to complain? Lady rebel with the dirty jeans and a paintbrush stuck behind her ear now thinks of nothing other than deadlines and meetings. Wearing a violet shirt to work is my idea of daring now…..and Paintbrush is what you use to white out stuff on images before pasting them onto Powerpoint. I’ve gone from wild, reckless ‘high voltage’ bundle of energy to a dignified 25-year old professional…how’s that for value addition, how’s that for growing up, how’s that for a goodbye kiss to Life, the beautiful.

Thus ends the obituary of my youth, of the living, fire-breathing, cocked eyebrow me. My epitaph shall read “She used to have a life once!”

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