Tag Archives: Writer

The Suicide Pact

What do you do when you don’t feel in love anymore?

Love has been my direction, my definition for eleven years. I have written about the people I loved, the city I still feel immense, nagging affection for and the things that nurture me. And in all of this writing, I discovered the colour, the texture of my love. It’s words. All in words.

Good writing makes me happy. Not pleased, not fulfilled. But all-is-right-with-the-world happy. It’s not just my writing. More often than not, it’s somebody else’s writing. A book, a line in a movie, a stranger’s blogpost or even something written by someone I know. I go through days afterward, cherishing the existance of those words, much like the way children of a kind cherish a new toy or women finger a pretty ring meditatively. I was that kind of child though I have never been that kind of a woman. Words. They slip into my pores, the little holes in my skin. Sometimes, they settle into the cracks of my being and make my insides feel whole again.

And it’s not always happy stories and pleasant emotions. There are words that trickle or curl into my being, leaving behind little punctures in my soul. They leave burn marks. And they let free the monster inside. That monster, is a living being. And after it has gone on a rampage, it turns around and thanks them for giving it breathing freedom. Words.

Of course words are dangerous. There was never going to be any other way love would be. You would imagine that it is the danger of other people’s words that I fear. But, hardly. I’m charmed and felled by words. But I know by now that words are my downfall. They are also my resurrection. So I have Post-its lining my tidy pinboard and a line of tweets down my Favorites. I collect words and put them away in the first-aid kit of my mind. Here is Reema saying “Potatoes will potato, Ramya.” and there’s the exuberance of Shreyans tweeting “Step 2 done! Life, come, come!”

No, I don’t fear what I don’t know. I do know words. I know them with the intimacy of someone who has been married to them and made every kind of love — wild, passionate love and the mundane, comforting sort — to them. I know the tricks words can turn. I know the mirages that can be conjured up in the heat of my imagination. I run double matinee shows for myself every day. I fear that this is everything. The tricks and the trickster.

Moonshine. What a lovely word. It means pretty untruths. It means the dim, surreal light that brings up things that you don’t comprehend in regular daylight. It means this could be true or this may not be. But it exists because you thought of it, anyway. I’m a master of moonshine.

It’s time to come out of the shadows and face the harsh, ugliness of sunlight. Confusion has begun to feel comfortable. But it’s not pretty without the moonshine. Love endings never are pretty. So what do I do from now on?

Allow myself the last weakness, a final dalliance with words. What do you do when you don’t feel in love anymore? Write your suicide pact in the form of a love letter.

Corn Chips

Expressions painted on faces saying,

Welcome to Goa.

A stranger two feet from my elbow, chuckles as he reads from a Paperwhite. I want to say, I know that feeling!

That inside joke that you share with the writer,
and then in your memory with someone else the writer doesn’t know,
a secret from the creator of this word-universe.

And in these secrets that I can’t read
but i know are there (because I have those too),
I’m a little heartened over the company
(chosen by chance)
of those who take this journey with me.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

W is for Writer’s Block

WI wrote this for a prompt exercise where the theme was horror. This is my first attempt at a scare-story. Tell me what you think. Too obscure? Not chilling enough? In today’s A to Z Challenge we look at a writer’s worst fear, W is for Writer’s Block.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

W is for Writer’s Block

I had woken up that night. The cigarette ashes near my bed should have been indication enough. I remember it clearly. But the memory is behind my eyes. You’re going to need to see the evidence in the form of those ashy streaks. What’s the point? You aren’t even listening, anyway. You don’t know how to. You can’t. Did I awaken in a cold sweat? A dull feeling in the pit of my stomach? No, no. I just opened my eyes and there the world was, and I was awake. It happens often enough.

I used to lie awake for nights on end. I’ve spent hours watching fragile, wispy thoughts dance about. It’s an ugly thing they do, solidify into words. Nasty buggers they become then, rattling about inside your head. I used to wonder how coin slot machines felt. You know the ones that have a zillion, hard colourful balls inside them that whir around when you put in the coin? And if you’re lucky, one drops into the slot. You pop it into your mouth and stroll away, never even knowing how glad the machine is to see you go, how it envies your nonchalance. You’re ingesting, masticating, devouring what it struggles to vomit, shit, eject out.

Listen to me. (Nobody does, of course, but me). I’m so verbose. Perhaps I should start taking care of my words, even if I’m the only listening. But it’s so hard, so hard to. HRMPH. Say it again. It’s hard. I feel like there’s…I have diarrhea and I can’t shit it out. It’s clogged inside my entire body, this diarrhea of words. Better. Time to go out. Get some cigs.

I don’t even think about what to carry anymore. The notebook in my pocket is as good as a bankroll. I pat it to check it’s still got enough pages. I step out, and as usual, the memory of that first morning floods me. It’s always first morning now, no matter how many I’ve had since then. It’s gotten so I notice things I should have but didn’t, on the first morning. Infinite rewind.

No scrawls on the walls. Paan stains galore and something that always looks like shit smeared on the second last step. The signboard at the gate is missing. No scratches in the paint, either; only peeling in broad strips. There is a pile of sacks of cement near the wall, where it’s broken. They’re covered in the uniform grey that creeps out of tears in the sack fabric. But no names, no penmarks visible. How did I never catch that? Because I automatically avoid construction sites and materials, that’s why. They make me sneeze. This pile is about ten feet away and I could have read the black or red letters that usually mark such sacks. But I never noticed. My mind wears a breathing mask to thoughts my body does not like.

The road is busy as always. But the sounds never fail to shock me. The machine noises are all there – cars moving, road repair machines whirring. And there’s a steady hum underlying it all – human breathing. Human beings breathe real loudly, did you know? But no voices. Well, there is an occasional gasp and plenty of sneezes. They don’t know the word ‘pollution’ but they suffer it anyway.

I’m nearly at the cigarette shop at the end of the road now. The smokers mill around near it. A lady steps up through a gap. The shopkeeper hands her a loaf of packed bread. She puts down a lemon on the tiny counter. He catches it just before it rolls off and drops it into a jar behind him. I can see it also has a bunch of leaves, spinach maybe and a green chilli or two. It bounces off the top of a tomato and settles on the leaves. He shuts the jar and turns back.

I step up to him and he already knows which brand I want. He holds out the packet. The cigarette pack shows a badly scanned image of a bare-chested man superimposed by a picture of blackened lungs. No face. No name. No mandatory ‘Cigarette sniffing makes your eyes water’ message. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. ‘Cigarette sniffing is injurious to hair’? ‘Cigarette sniffing is halibut to injury?’.

I give up just as I note the frown on the shopkeeper’s face. The other smokers are edging away from me. Just because a man takes a minute to think. Bloody amoeba. What would they know? What was that saying my grandmother used to parrot? Bandar kya jaane ice-cream ki sugandh?

I reach for my notebook and I tear out two pages from it. The shopkeeper reaches out and I swear he does this gingerly with the tips of his fingers. He plucks just one sheet off and sets it down on a looseleaf pile to his right. I watch the first page of the sixth chapter of my next novel settle in with toiletpaper remains, slightly dusty tissues, a sheaf of oil-stained brown paper and a cardboard square. I know he uses that pile to wrap unpackaged things. Maybe he’ll use my worded page to giftwrap somebody’s special purchase.

I slide two cigarettes out of the pack and put it back on the counter. He frowns again, this time even more troubled and looks around his tiny shop. Then he turns and takes out the tomato, lemon and a few leaves from the jar behind him. He packs them deftly in the oily brown paper and hands it to me.

Well, so my noted paper is worth more than a couple of cigarettes. Not that I know what to do with a lemon, a tomato and some leaves. But what the hell, eh? In a world that doesn’t value your currency, you’ve to learn to value their’s.

Back at home, I drop the vegetables on my table and survey the cupboard. I’m a rich man then. I think I’ll start with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, first. It might even buy me a car. But perhaps I should invest it instead. Charcoal, first. I’ll have to figure out something to write on. Leaves? Tissue paper, I decide. Cover them with words and letters. Look at me, I’m a money mint! It’s not counterfeiting if it’s the original. Call me an artist.

I wake up, this time in a cold sweat. Hot sweat, actually. My eyes start watering the minute I open them. The smoke is so thick, I can’t even see the door. I drop to the floor and ease my way out. By the time the fire engines arrive, I’m crying so hard, my face is streaked with snot down to my throat. The books are gone, all gone. Our world has truly lost every last word now.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

W is for Writers Block

*Image via thaikrit on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Mind Of A Writer

* Last year, I began a new job, an unusual one that brought together all that I’d learnt in my twenties in the corporate world and since then about social media & writing. I moved out at the end of January 2013 and wrote my goodbye email to the people I had shared an office with, for that time. This poem, dedicated to my team of writers (Oh, how wonderful, how grand that sounds! The best of both worlds, indeed.) was a part of it.

So once again, Dishpa, Anita, Gaurav, Vandana, Suchithra, Nayanika & Sneha, this is for you. It was my privilege to have shared words with you.

Fall in love with the written word
Let that word carry you
across uncharted regions of thought
into dangerous conversations
and unexpected ways of being

Surprise yourself
Crash land from flights of fancy
smack dab into stupid decisions
Rescue your graceless self
with a parachute of pretty words

Commit to the quest for the muse
Chase her with the keen eye of a hunter
The needy blindness of a newborn
The precision of a serial killer
and the ardour of a lover

Be an architect of stories
A trader of tales
Become a travel guide
through the landscape of ideas
Feast on a banquet of metaphors

Become best friends with a phrase
Be a writer.

The Lucky Writer

The promise of morning turned into a winking evening outside my window as I completed my story. Some days I feel lucky, so very lucky.

I haven’t been blogging for awhile. Much work has been coming my way, professional blogging and the workshops. Somewhere through all this, the almost-winter of Mumbai passed into my favorite season of the year. It’s time for cool showers twice a day, ripe mangoes and plenty of talcum powder. It has been nearly a year since I moved out.

The book is finally complete. I feared that I’d experience a sense of loss at not having something to hold onto anymore. But the day I sent it out, my two-and-a-bit year old baby out into the open universe, I felt such a sense of giddiness, you wouldn’t believe. And almost immediately other things have whooshed into the place it has left before I had a chance to brood over it. Maybe I did take too long over it.

There are new curtains on my windows. Actually they’re quite old, nearly a decade or so. I chose these curtains, my first experience of building a home, when we moved out of the tiny pigeonhole flat that I’d grown up in. 11 years later, they still come out of the wash as sturdy, comfortable and subtle as they did the first time I hung them up. They really cut out the heat during the hellacious times of the day. And in the evening, swaying in the slight breeze, the mild blue-and-white tartan print makes me think,

“I’m home.”

I’ve finished a deadline a little ahead of time and it’s evening. There’s another half an hour of daylight at best and no sun to scorch me. I think I’ll take a walk down just for old times sake or to enjoy the breeze. Days like this make me feel so, so very lucky.

NovelRace 12: All Kinds Of Wow

I wonder if anybody who reads this blog now, even remembers NovelRace. Two years may as well be twenty on social media. I don’t mean the book; everyone and their brother-in-law seems to remember that, much to my discomfiture. If you ever decide to write a book, my sincere advice is don’t tell anybody about it. In all likelihood, you’ll never get around to it. If you do, you probably won’t get past a few pages. If you still do, you’ll struggle and struggle and spend so much of time struggling to finish it just to prove people like me wrong that you’ll hate it. Trust me, you don’t want the agony of being constantly asked,

“So…that book you’re writing, when is it coming out?”

Actually I meant my personal diary on being a first time writer. Well, as it turns out, I do know what I’m talking about. I have been through all of that. And you know what, I did it! I finished the goddamn book and there now I’ve said it. Two years and more survived just to be able to say that. Now please don’t kill me by asking when you’ll see it on the bookstores. I didn’t start with a publisher, I haven’t been visited by that fairy godmother common to all writers’ fantasies – a surprise book deal and I haven’t started hunting.

And here I thought this was going to be a nice-and-neat, albeit late wrap-up to the Novelrace post series full of wise maxims on how to write that bestseller. So what can I say that hasn’t been said before? Pretty much nothing, it turns out. What can I say that I haven’t myself said before? Ah, now that’s something to start with.

I don’t feel as exhilarated as I imagined. I still need spell check to get the biggest word in that last sentence right, for instance. Somehow I guess I figured my life would tie up prettily with the culmination of this dream. It hasn’t.

I’ve gone so far down this path that it’s become a busy road now. ‘Writer’ is my profession now and one that I finally feel comfortable saying. I still don’t have a visiting card; I’m not that rid of my neuroses. But it is a part of my identity now.

It’s hard to tell whether the experience of writing changed my life or whether the events of my life shaped the ones in my novel. Either way, great changes were wrought and we stand on this side of 2011, a different person with a different story.

One of the things I really, really struggled with – and this may some day be the reason I quit this work for another – is the fact that I don’t have the right personality for a writer. Make no mistake, writing is a job that requires a personality fit just as much as a corporate job. I came to discover that a writer’s job is one of a recluse, a semi-detached observer of life, a hermit even in the crowds, a loner. I’m many things but tragically, not that. Having to be by myself for days on end, no conversations or chaos or people around me dumbs me to a point of wanting to stab myself with a pen. Thank God I live in the times of a keyboard then ( a pretty blunt instrument that, and even banging it on my head won’t work with this tiny, pretty Netbook) or this would be an obituary you’d have been reading. But my thoughts still, my fingers freeze, my stories die out in isolation. One little trip into the living world, even if it is only to buy vegetables, one chance conversation, on the other hands, sets those wheels churning so fast there are barely enough words in the world to keep up. That’s not a good personality fit at all.

Still, with all of that, I managed to see this baby through, not just once but twice over. Second draft written and done! I guess that deserves all kinds of personal wows and that’s mostly what this post is about. I haven’t really celebrated it at all. I FINALLY WROTE THAT BOOK I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO!!!!

I spent a lot of time being petrified at the thought of finishing this book because I didn’t know what would come next. I don’t. And that feels okay. Wow. Of another sort, this time.

And then there are moments when it seems like just another addition to my CV. I’m still as soppy & messy/sentimental about my people. I’m just as bad with goodbyes, even worse with toxicity in relationships and a control-obsessive terror. I’m no closer to Buddhadom; not to suicide either (that should be a relief to somebody).

What did I learn then? That I could do it. No more, no less. I got nothing more out of this than the secure knowledge that I did do it hence I am able and fit to do it. I guess that’s as fair as life gets.

For the record, I’m the proud writer of a second draft of 82,620 words and exactly 200 pages. How neat is that??!

What next? Wait for the sequel. 😉 Wowwie!

Word Work

Reading ‘Advice for Writers’ -compiled by Jon Winokur. Sometimes it gets a laugh out of me. Several of the insights are valuable. But each time I’m suddenly overcome by the panicky sense of what-am-I- doing-here and have to look away.

When the realisation of your dream and how close it is makes you want to throw up your breakfast, is there any hope for you? No. You were doomed from the first word.

Three Dots

The life of a writer is chaptered in unfinished stories.

Reverb 10.21: Time Travel

I like this Reverb10 prompt. It reminds me of the start of a Richard Bach book I loved as a teenager – The Bridge Across Forever – where the author writes a letter to the boy he was. This is a letter to the future but I like the idea of communicating with other-time selves.

December 21 – Future Self.

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

(Author: Jenny Blake)

Me in five years

I’ll be thirty-six at that time. If the bloodlines are anything to go by, I’ll retain my tall, lean frame and my youthful looks. I will probably also be beset by a number of health problems that don’t make themselves visible but make life damned inconvenient. There’s things I might forget by then, and will need to be reminded of, when I’m thirty-six.

  • I was overlooked as a kid and a teenager. Self-esteem was squashed but I had dreams and friends. In my late twenties and even now, as I enter the thirties, I’ve hit babedom. It’s brought problems, not the least of which are jealousy, sex objectification, assumptions of being stupid and my feelings being taken for granted. I might be greying, widening and not very attractive, five years from now. This is to keep perspective.
  • I might (hopefully) be in a steady, committed relationship and have been for some time. The closeness will also mean loss of mystery, onset of some ennui and personality clashes. When I’m tearing my hair out in frustration or more realistically, in the moments when I wonder what I was thinking, I’d like to be able to remember. Falling in love is a magical experience and whatever its consequences may be, live without it is just not worth it.
  • I might be a failed writer with a folder full of unfinished documents. And I may have missed every boat possible to any kind of ‘success’ destination. I will probably rue some of the decisions I am currently making. I want to remember that I’m following a dream. It’s something that takes great courage (indeed, it took me three decades to muster it and even then I’m falling terribly short at most times). It’s something I must never stop being proud of, even if it never brings glory, fame or money.
  • I may be a regular aunty-next-door who manages the household and family. I may be Ms.Respectable who babysits, whose younger friends ask for career guidance or love life counselling. But I did drop out of college for a year. I did call my placement co-ordinator a pimp for insisting I accept the job at a place I’d been propositioned at, during the interview. I did turn my back on the campus and hold my ground till I got a remarkable job, last in the batch. I did win corporate accolades, regular and some remarkable. I did walk away from a respectable job to follow a dream. And I did manage to write an entire novel (even if it is just one Word document on a computer and no one reads it but me). I’ve lived a special life and I never want to forget that.

Me in the year ahead

Breathe. That’s the most important thing. The trick is to just keep breathing.

I may fail. I may hit a wave of success. Everyone I love may die. Everyone I care for, may turn on me. I may be the most popular person on the planet. None of these may happen. But I need to make sure I keep breathing.

Me a decade ago

My dear 21-year-old self,

I know you’re not going to be surprised to read this because you imagine stuff like this all the time. Yep, I’ve been receiving all the letters you’re been writing to me, all this time. Communications across time have considerably improved. I’m glad you got the letters down and decided to worry about postage later.

What’s life like, a decade later? Well, there’s plenty of stuff that’s been invented. If you had any money of your own I’d advise you to invest it…but never mind, you don’t have any money of your own. Strangely enough, you’re great at managing it when you have little and as you get older and more money comes your way, you’ll lose that talent. Don’t stop hoarding and don’t shut down that habit you have of putting away little notes and coins in hiding places to surprise yourself later. Yes, of course I know about all of those. I found those little money-gifts, remember?

You’ve sailed over many of the body image issues that your peers faced in adolescence. You’re going to hit a biggie, in oh, about two years from now. It’s going to take everything you’ve got, even your bloody intestines and turn them inside out. You’ll be robbed of everything that can possibly be robbed from you, including what little weight you do have.

Are you still reading? Good, you always had nerve. You don’t realise it yet but you do. That’s the one thing that won’t -cannot – be stolen from you. And many, many years later, a whole lot of ‘Why did that have to happen to me?’s later, you will be able to accept that knowledge of that fact was worth all that you paid for it.

You’ve already had your horoscope drawn by an enthusiastic relative and you’ve analysed yourself on various pop-culture fronts. Have fun with it. Belief is a powerful toy, like fire but you have a strange ability to be able to play with it. Ignore what everyone says about your love life. I won’t tell you more. Just ignore it and follow your heart. It is about your heart after all, why should you listen to anyone else? Believe what they say about your talents and abilities, though. It’s true and what’s more, believing the good things that people say about you will give you the confidence to make it all come true.

Did it all come true? Well, I’m still standing here, aren’t I? Do I sound happy or unhappy to you? 🙂 I’ll leave you with just one thought. It only gets better with time. The thirties are fabulous and I’m off to a good time! I’ll see you in another ten years!

-Much love,

Me, 31

Okay, that wasn’t short but it was fun! 🙂 It reminded me of another very old post, also full of time travel.

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