The Writer’s Revenge
Each time you scar my heart,
I’ll bleed you onto paper,
with memories for ink.
*If you liked this, follow my other micropoetry/microfiction on https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy
The Writer’s Revenge
Each time you scar my heart,
I’ll bleed you onto paper,
with memories for ink.
*If you liked this, follow my other micropoetry/microfiction on https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy
Read me a story of touch
when I cannot see
Sing me a song of colour
that reaches through
the white noise
The birthday month has come and gone and I can only feel deeply grateful. It was the kindest thing to happen to me all year. I felt like myself in my own skin again. I felt home. And what else is more important to a Cancerian?
Several people who have been very important to me, are no longer a part of my life. April to June was spent reeling from the shock of realising – they do not love me anymore. Maybe they never did. Maybe it was all pretence, under the garb of diplomacy, avoidance of conflict yada yada. Maybe they loved the idea of me. Maybe they loved in a different way from how I see and define love.
But July, July was kind. July allowed me my dignity, my space and that thing unique to all Cancerians – the ability to feel so much and be completely overrun by emotion while never losing sight of who we are and what our life’s path is.
Every one of these people in some manner or the other tried to make it sound like my fault. One has been blaming everything from their relationship problems to their health issues on my ‘depression/thing’ last year. Another has abruptly (or maybe it was a long time in coming; I just didn’t see it) decided that I’m on a ‘complaint cycle’, that my references to astrology and numerology are me hiding behind crutches when I’m to blame for everyone else’s troubles. Someone else laid bare their secrets to me and then stabbed me in the back. How can a person bear to do that? I could never wilfully wound someone I’ve seen asleep. This has been the hardest thing to bear, made worse by the fact that these very same people have also been the ones to see the troubles on my horizon before I did.
On one hand, I was deeply grieved by this gaslighting. There is no other way to describe it. Gaslighting is making a person believe that their thoughts and perceptions are wrong and somehow they are to blame for the world around them. It turns out it happens in relationships other than the romantic ones too. And yet, all I can think is what horrific hell each of them must be in, for them to turn so monstrous in nature. I’ve been grappling with ‘but I never did this’. Until July made me realise that doesn’t matter. I am who I am and I deal with things, good and bad and love and mistrust the way I do. And other people do it the way they do. There is nothing more to be said in this.
“Because you are a mirror”
has been the rallying cry from more than one person clawing at me in the past few months. There must be something to this. Do I set out intending to make people feel bad about themselves in my quest for truth? No, I think not. But to love a person is to love them boundlessly, above the flaws and the nicks and cuts and sharp edges. Not to love them blindly. I cannot help but see the tiny indentations and the quirks that make a person, them. It’s what happens when you see them up and close. That is the way I love and I will not apologise for it. I guess it’s not necessarily comforting to be loved in that manner. And I must accept that, just as I want the universe to accept my loving.
I went for a dance therapy workshop hosted by a friend. July allowed me a chance to savour my loneliness instead of being crushed by it. I drift along, pretty okay on my own, without a real thinking plan but somehow, dimly, intuitively into experiences that are healing, pleasant and welcoming. I don’t know why dance, why in this way. But it was there and I could so I did. It was different, in a quiet sort of surprising way. I have dance coiled away in nooks and corners of my body, that my friend’s guidance was able to unlock in some way. And then I also have some kind of barriers, boundaries or safety valves against dance in the most surprising of places – my feet. I don’t know what that means but I’m letting that understanding drift about inside me and do as it will.
I rediscovered food. I go along blithely unaware of life’s experiences as they relate to me, the deep core fundamental ME because so much of my experiencing is about making the people I love, happy. This is not necessarily a sacrifice. To make someone I love happy, joyful or even pleased keeps me in a state of warmth. But when there isn’t someone to love, then suddenly that is replaced by a different kind of hunger which is uniquely and entirely only me. How much I crave sushi. How lustfully I imagine the warmth of liquid chocolate oozing from a warm croissant onto my tongue. How wonderfully the beef chilli from Sneha’s would fill my mouth, my throat and my entire body with the summer of Kerala. This month, I ate. Sushi on the day before my birthday with a new slight friend. Peaches and pears smothered in chaat masala. Full English breakfast as brunch with Manisha on my birthday. A pasta with very little cheese and a lot of fresh vegetables dancing on my tongue for birthday dinner with family. Hot tomato soup that is just sheer goodness. A garlic-cheese naan with chicken kolhapuri. Sausages slathered in barbeque sauce. Perfectly shaped omelettes that I learnt to make, myself. I ate.
Someone pointed out a person from my past and likened the two of us. It was insightful. I hold no grudges against that person from my past. But life has moved forward and I feel like I’m too far away and I’m swimming in some other direction now – onward and upward. I wish them well on their journey but it is not mine to move towards them right now. That’s just the way it is. The friend said that I was to some people as the people I’m trying to let go of this month are currently to me. I’ve been struggling to understand why they don’t love me anymore. Maybe it isn’t that complicated. Maybe it was just the nature of the current.
Exactly a year ago, I wrote this. I am so thankful to have writing to bring me these lessons and to remind me when I’m in the danger of forgetting.
I’ve been writing, of course. Trying to fish out my truths from the seas of emotion, cradling the discarded pearls that come up, setting aside the dead shells with love and putting it up in bits and bobs I call Micropoetry or picture-poetry. There is meaning, there is truth. I’m swimming alone. July made it feel like a good thing. July made my body and my life feel like home. August is here now and I think of it as the Leo month, a sign I always approach with some shyness but trust and joy. Kindness helps you find who you are, when you’re losing your way. And when you know who you are, it helps you treat the world with grace. August, I welcome you.
…is the name of a book by the guy who wrote ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. I happened to mention what an amazing title that was and what a shitty book it turned out to be. My AlphabetSambar peeps suggested we reclaim it by writing something else around it. And Sunday served up the perfect post to match the title.
Over dinner, one of the writers proclaimed that Spoken Word was shallow. He wouldn’t or couldn’t explain why. It bothered me that a person of words would be so loose with their ideas, so thoughtless with their thoughts. To my mind, a writer is the explorer of thought, the wielder of words. How can we allow ourselves the luxury of treating them so carelessly?
It bothered me because now I will question everything I read or hear from this person. If he doesn’t care about words, how can I trust him enough to let him take my mind on a journey? It bothered me that people let self-importance and ego limit their flights of fancy.
I enjoy gatherings of writers and artists for a lot of reasons. But the primary one is that I love being a part of people’s journeys. With this blog, I invite people into my own journey. At these events, I’m a hopeful mind traveller, waiting for anyone who wants to take me along on their journey. The quality of people’s writing doesn’t bother or touch me as much these days. I’m more intrigued by who they are shaping up to be in the process of journeying.
I met Anu after a really long time. The last time I saw her, she whispered in a conspiratorial tone that she was pregnant. Now she’s mother to a nine-month old and several poems and ideas but I haven’t met her in the interim. I enjoyed her performance. But most of all, I was moved beyond measure by how far she has come from when I saw her last – in her writing, in her body language, in who she is. I got to be a part of her journey almost two years ago when she joined Alphabet Sambar and from here on, her journey will always touch me.
These gatherings are also full of people I’ve come to think of as ‘career poets’. They’re in such a tearing hurry to achieve goals and form impressions, that somewhere they cease to move along on their journeys. I don’t like riding paper trails.
I called Adi, almost out of desperation on my way home. He listened gravely and then chuckled and said,
“You should be thrilled, not annoyed. It sounds like you got the best of the argument.”
Well, maybe I did. That’s nothing great. I have my share of weapons and tools that I can brandish. But I wasn’t looking for war, I was looking for an interesting journey. Still, I felt better at the end of the call because I realised what I was looking for when I called Adi. I was searching for a reminder that I was not alone, a single flesh-and-blood person in a world of paper promises and paper cuts and paperthin words.
Adi tends to have more placid reactions than mine but he also lives in a smaller, less frantic city than I do. I find this paperness in people everywhere I go – in the corporate world, the creative fields, the poetry circuit, my neighborhood, my social media communities. It’s relentless and sometimes I find myself feeling like I’m drowning in a sea of superficiality. I never learnt to swim in paper.
I miss Manisha when she isn’t around like she wasn’t this weekend. She represents my sole beacon of hope in the darkness of paper in creative gatherings. I admire her as a writer but she is more than her last accolade and the number of compliments people pay her. And through her dramatic moods, she never loses sight of that. Real people keep me sane in a town of paper people.
Home and a cool shower later, I feel somewhat saner. Perhaps it’s not fair to extrapolate this one incident. That would be such a paper thing to do too. People, especially those in their 20s are still getting tossed about in the reckless environment that is this city. Artists and writers frequently lose their sense of reality especially after their achieve some recognition. And (I hope) nobody is a paper person all the time. Maybe the next time I hear him speak, he will say something that will change my life or those of many people.
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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.
Rochelle brought her wonderful self to Alphabet Sambar and my life last year. She also carried us in the direction of Performance Poetry. In the past year, she has conducted several workshops on the art form. And last week, she hosted her first ever Open Mic at Me So Happi. As a show of support, I said I’d be there. But I got swept up in her infectious warmth and was inspired to give it a shot myself. So here, wonderful world (because I’m feeling that good!), is my maiden performance. You can see Rochelle in the corner just behind me, cheering me on.
Rochelle, thank you for being a wonderful person and for showing me how it is possible to be both warm and an independent woman.
This event has whetted my appetite and I’m hoping to do more. If you’ve been following my journey, you’ll see how this could be a milestone for me creatively and individually. Please leave a comment with any thoughts you may have.
Note: Alphabet Sambar is a community project for writers, that I began in October 2013. Today we have over 100 members spread across 7 countries and 14 cities. Mumbai is our most active spot. We meet every Sunday to share our writing, critique each other’s work and have a geeky laugh or two over words. If you love writing and conversations about words, come join us! Alphabet Sambar is on Twitter and Facebook. You can also write to me at ideasmithy at gmail dot com if you’d like to attend a meet.
2014 saw my worst ever case of writer’s block. Worst I say, not just because of how much I struggled to write but because how much I felt myself tearing away from writing. Writing and especially fiction, has been my release, my motivation and my source of survival for the past five years. It was not comfortable at all, feeling myself come disconnected from what has kept me nourished and breathing. If you read my blog often, you’ll have noticed the hiatus and the hiccups. Several of my posts were recycled, touched-up old ones, a desperate last-ditch attempt to retain the blog I’ve spent ten years cultivating.
Alphabet Sambar, my pet project of 2014 also took a hit towards the end of the year (though this was only slightly connected to my mood; there is a seasonality to people’s interest levels). We didn’t have any meets from mid-November onwards. And I felt myself drag and crash into the abyss of not caring about words anymore. I always thought that the day I stopped caring would be the day I stopped living. To stop caring about writing and words – I felt like a dying person with no hope.
But towards the end of December, other members of the group started to ask about the next meet. One of them told me how much she enjoyed them and how she had gained. Another friend who was privy to my depressed thoughts of quitting writing, urged me to reconsider and reminded me of how happy I sounded each time I spoke about the group. It pushed me to initiate a meet.
Today, we had the first 2015 meet. 11 people responded (a record number for an individual meet). I found my fingertips tingling even midweek, looking forward to seeing people I hadn’t seen in weeks and also – to write. Last evening, I sat down and wrote. Since I’ve resolved to be less stressed in 2015, I allowed myself to not worry about style and quality or even adherence to format. I finished in 45 minutes and went out to meet a friend. It was the first fiction I had written in months. It was more fun than anything I’ve had in over a month.
And today, in the talking and the sharing, I found blood running through my veins again and breath moving easily in my lungs. When I shared my piece, the group loved it and I remembered again why I write. The power to touch people with words – this is my privilege, this is my dream, this is me. The company of people who found joy in this idea of mine, inspired me into action. The heaviness of 2014’s worries seemed to lift. I’m soaring on wings of words again. My labour of love returned to rescue me from the depths. Thank you, Alphabet Sambar.
Note: Alphabet Sambar is a community project I began in October 2013. I had gained greatly from the company of experienced writers and from participating in writing groups. I wanted a safe space for people who loved words but didn’t think of themselves as writers. It began as a late afternoon coffee between four people on a Sunday. I couldn’t have anticipated how far it would go. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, it picked up momentum, ideas and people. We did writing exercises, collaborated on writing projects, began novels and became good friends.
Today we have over 100 members spread across 7 countries and 14 cities. Mumbai is our most active spot. We meet every Sunday to share our writing, critique each other’s work and have a geeky laugh or two over words. We are NOT however, a therapy group, a free coaching class for aspiring writers or a brand powered social media community. We’re just a bunch of people who found a place to park their words and enjoy a chai together.
The first weekend of NaNoWriMo was about facing up to my own miserable excuses and the deceptions that I put up for the world. After all my bluster and pushing other people into noveling for the first time and gloating about my own success last year, I woke up on November 1 in dread. My story skeleton wasn’t in place, not really. And what good are all the conversations about Plot, Conflict, Character etc, if you don’t have a story?
I plodded through creating a Word Document and spent one hour deciding what font I’d use through the month and how I wanted my Table of Contents to look. Then I told myself to stop wasting time and write.
Then I went online to look for names for my character and spent another half an hour clicking through sites. Then I told myself I was making excuses and shut them.
Then I went to Twitter to rant about this and to ask for help. No one responded and I realised again that I was wasting time.
Bored with my own excuses, I made it back to my Word document. I struggled through the next half an hour and what I wrote seemed to have no connection to the story idea I had in mind. But I put it aside, proud that I had started something and I went out my Saturday evening. I went for a walk, ate some panipuri and dahi-vada (which usually makes me feel happy), walked a bit more and then wandered into Prithvi theatre. Refusing a kind elderly gentleman’s offer to share his table, I sat down at the base of a tree and opened my laptop. Then I ordered a Suleimani chai and balanced the laptop on my knees. How very Indian hipster, right? Cutting chai, Macbook Air and Prithvi cafe. I actually did manage to write. Not a lot though. After awhile I just shut the laptop and went over to the proferred seat. The gentleman had left though so I sat around and looked at everyone else around, hoping to soak in some inspiration. Within a few seconds the waiter was asking if I’d go back to the tree since there was a group waiting. I grmphed at him and got up and left. When I finally got home, I decided to at least update my word count — the first such update this year. And to my absolute dismay, the NaNoWriMo site wouldn’t let me do it. Hundreds all around the world must have been trying to do the same thing! Or maybe the universe was telling me that I hadn’t worke hard enough to attain that reward yet.
I began Sunday morning with my writer’s group session. The first thing I heard was one of them tell me that he had crossed 5000 words. I hated him vehemently then. Another girl, a newbie looked serene and said it would all work out. I wanted to bang my head on the table and quit. HOW WERE ALL THESE PEOPLE MANAGING WHILE I WAS JUST ABOUT SURVIVING??
I came back home, watched TV, ate lunch, exchanged barb-jokes with a friend over chat and then decided to meet another for coffee. Anything to keep that dreaded document away. I got home around 7:30 so it was too early to shrug and say that it was too late. Sighing I opened the Word document and wrestled with it for another hour.
By the end I had barely written 500 words. But I decided to call it a day and acknowledge my effort. So I logged into the NaNoWriMo site to update my word count. This time it did let me update though the abyssmal figure a little over a 1000 stared balefully at me.
Today though has been better. I woke up on time, ate on time and got to all the right things on time. I took several work items off my agenda, went for a walk, spoke to friends and sent out some invoices (another activity that always cheers me up since it chronicles how much tangible work has been done and how much money is due to come in). When I came back from my walk, the friend who was to meet me cancelled. I decided that this was the universe’s way of telling me,
“Look I know you’re really struggling with motivation and distraction. So here, I’ll take one off your plate. Work with me, will ya?”
I opened the Word document determined to break past that dread I’ve been feeling over the story wandering off in a strange direction. After all, I hadn’t even completed Chapter 1. Maybe I could just jump to Chapter 2 and come back to Chapter 1 later. But even as I typed ‘Chapter 2′, I realise it was such a niggling little bit left that I’d rather plow through it and finish it.
And would you believe, I did? When I checked the word count, it was 2191! And just like that, I broke through my dread. 😀