One December morning in Goa, I sat in a shack overlooking the beach – within reach of all things comfortable – hot water with ginger lemon & honey, a pack of ice burst, the book I was reading (Machado’s In the Dream House), kindle bookmarked to Miranda July’s short story called The Man on the Stairs (a woman sleeping next to her partner wakes up to sense a man walking up the stairs, towards the bedroom – he takes forever to arrive and she waits for him, often almost going back to sleep but everytime he shifts his weight, she wakes up again), a notebook, sunglasses.
Two shirtless white men are playing frisbee yet the only other nakeder thing on the beach is a lone tree bending awkwardly to its knees – it changes posture every now and then – depending on who it is imitating. Presently, it is bent to catch a frisbee that no one throws at it.
There are women in white bikinis who don’t rush into the water like I had just a few hours ago, in a yellow bikini that had made me feel small, unattractive, pleased. The women I am watching from behind the safe, cool shadows of my sunglasses – are, despite their composure (they don’t rush out of the water either) pulling me furiously into their bodies and I arrive at a wetness in a sudden poof that I cannot recognise.
It hadn’t taken more than a gentle squeeze of one of the thighs to produce. It was unfamiliar but welcome. I felt grateful to not have had to imagine anything more because everything I would ever want was there in that moment. I figured I enjoy watching women so much, it didn’t matter that there were two Hindi-speaking men at the next table who I wanted to beat up with their sunglasses because they were imagining perhaps the same things that I was.
After years of vaguely saying bi-things, I had arrived at an epiphany – an epipoofy. It was easy, like vanilla ice cream.
Very rarely do I feel inspired to be happy and look forward to the coming days with a stinging intensity. I am going to call that feeling the Saturday evening feeling. When you know there is the Saturday night and then the whole Sunday for an endless possibility to not do anything but feel inspired to do many things. It’s a little like that feeling when you are going to drink after a long time or when you are packing your bag for an exciting trip. It happened thrice this month and I’m more than willing to offer an explanation.
It’s a fleeting moment of delight in one of those long stretches of solitude. It’s a gloriously empty, happy feeling. Nothing still makes sense but it doesn’t matter. Life is good in those few but energetic moments. I know when it’s inside me, I also know when it’s slowly ebbing-now at my fingertips and now gone. But I don’t feel sad when it goes, I just feel hungry. Like an orgasm. And then I order a ton of pizza and drown my inspiration in cheese and pepperoni.
The first such moment happened a week ago. I had just returned from a nice little trip. I had had zero sleep because I had to catch an early flight. But it was all okay because I had been reading the Neapolitan series. Elena Ferrante has made the October and November this year the best months of my life. A month ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep so I spent the entire night with Lila and Lenu. No sleep and still not cranky.
Last week, I was pages away from finishing the fourth book in the series and when I hit the last page, I almost didn’t want to read it. I was sad because it was all going to be over. I finished. Put my face in the pillow and bawled like a baby. And then I slept and for the first time, felt very inspired in my sleep. I woke up cranky and miserable but it was a good misery. Like having lost to a battle that I enjoyed being part of.
The second happened again, with Ferrante, after I finished reading The Days of Abandonment. I suddenly felt prepared for every tragedy in life. Olga suffers and stops and suffers and grows. I learnt a lot from her. I lay in bed for an hour after that. Not thinking, not moving.
The third happened this morning after I watched all six episodes of Ladies Room. I felt happy for no particular reason. Or maybe lots of reasons – for holidays, for wearing shorts, for not having bathed in two days, for finally feeling okay to have missed deadlines for three writing contests, for knowing I was soon going to go out to drink, for wanting to plan life, for wanting friends like Dingo and Khanna, and for the love of cities.
In episode one, Dingo is happily rolling weed after weed, calmly saying that the universe has got her back. I don’t know about universe or my back and who’s got it. But I’m content with this bubble that keeps filling me up and emptying me at the same time.
It’s 5:00 in the evening. I’m sitting at my desktop with both the terrace doors wide open. It’s windy outside. I had an epiphany when I was finishing my chai and so I decided to make a blog post out of it. Today’s possibly the freest Sunday I’m going to have in a long time – until far, far November.
College has reopened and much as I am still hungover from the month long vacation, I am really excited about this semester. I have always had a school-girl fascination with new beginnings no matter how much I hated the endings. When college closed for vacation this April, I thought I’d roll on the floor and cry when it reopened in June. Turns out, I am a romantic like that. Nothing can make me hate my job. Nothing can make me hate my desk at work. And one month is enough to make me miss having a job and waking up to it every single day.
I remember having an epiphany at Meta this year. Something about spaces having more meaning than people and how Meta has gone beyond people. Similar feelings are happening off for my job also. It is coming around to mean a lot more than it did a couple of months ago. It has gone beyond people and maybe even beyond me.
In other news, I’ve discovered a great way to blackmail myself into writing. I’d already bought The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma on Kindle when I was just finishing Cat’s Eye. And I told myself not to start reading it unless I finished writing about Cat’s Eye. This was especially hard because I was dying to read TPLOMS. I read an extract and it made me giggle and fall about everywhere. I felt threatened in those four long days it took me to finish writing about Cat’s Eye.
It’s a sick thing to do but I am not complaining. I’m bearing the sweet fruits now, aren’t I? Spent the whole afternoon giggling under my bed sheet, reading TPLOMS.
I’m also back to watching New Girl. Ransacked Seasons 4 and 5 in three days – also got suspiciously teary-eyed at Schmidt and Cece’s wedding. Damn you, Jessica Day. I love you more and more with each passing episode.
I don’t really care about the epiphany I had when I began writing this post anymore. What was it anyway? That today’s probably the freest Sunday I’m going to have? That’s alright. I am going to bed with Mrs. Sharma and Jessica Day tonight so it’s totes worth it 🙂
7:00 am today, I leapt out of bed, sat at my desktop and deleted plants vs zombies 2. It felt evilly liberating. This happened partly because of a writing workshop that I attended in the last two days and partly because there was one psycho level that I just couldn’t cross. Bleddy Zombies.
Writing workshops don’t really make me write any better than I usually do. But it’s reassuring to listen to other writers and their struggles and stories. And when I listen to a really good one, I don’t feel like tearing my hair out. What I do feel like tearing is what I’ve written. I am full of decent admiration for these peeps and there’s a quiet desire to write like them.
This is my fifth writing workshop. I am a lot less anxious than I used to be. At my first, I was anxious to be good, to sound good and to make people believe that I was a writer and that they should take me seriously. At my second, third, and fourth, I was less anxious and more demanding of myself. Time was always a constraint and I told myself I will never be good if I don’t produce good writing, here, now.
I wasn’t anxious or demanding this time. It felt like I was on tranquilizers. I was smiling most of the time. And I paid attention when everybody read their stories, which is something I am not too good at. But lately, I have been very pro artists. For a long time, I had this very bad habit of putting people I admire on pedestals, convinced as I was, that they could do no wrong. While it is severely unfair to do that to them because we are unwittingly ignoring their struggles, we are also putting undue pressure on ourselves to be like them. Anything less, and we tell ourselves that we lack talent.
But they are people, who like everybody else aren’t really good all the time. When I think of myself as a writer, I feel like cringing a little bit for various reasons. But mostly because I still lack the good sense of saving drafts and reworking them into more or less something I am less ashamed of. As writer Paromita Vohra explains in this essay,
Sure, everything artistes do doesn’t work out. The really self-aware artist has distance on this and junks the dud draft. Some don’t. Moreover, in this particular Internet video universe, significance is superficially at least drawn from the numerical logic of likes, shares and engagements. When numbers become the sole indicator and defence of significance, a person may easily lose the very judgment artistes guard zealously, over what’s worth putting out and what’s not.
In the department the other day, A asked me if I ever write for myself and don’t put it on my blog. Her question left me wide-eyed and panicky.I realised that I haven’t written for myself in a year. I don’t anymore. And I don’t even know why.
I remembered what Namsies told me last week about changing the audience in my head to be able to find a new voice. I obsessed about this for the rest of the day and then the panic carried itself well into the evening where it split and became about many other things. At this point, I don’t know what I am looking for. I am sure I can’t find a hole big enough to bury my bighead and wail there until I have adulted enough to resurface.
All I want to do now is microwave yesterday’s potato wedges and stuff my face with it while I watch Premam again. Sigh.
Every once in a while, I must pause to look around, breathe deep breaths, sigh a long sigh, fart a longer fart and smile. Even though I say so myself, I have come a long way. And because this journey has not been easy, because I have been lazy and busy and because there were always noisemakers I had to hush and ignore, I forgot to look back and congratulate myself.
I could have gotten here sooner. This place where writing still frightens the crap out of me, where the first sentence is always the hardest but at the end of four hours when I realize I didn’t notice how time went by, I feel a little well opening up in my chest and warmth gushing out. Even though I want to disown everything I’ve written, I still feel like Lara Craft on mission every morning. This place, where I am comfortable with silence and I let it decide what it wants of me, in the moment.
It’s like tugging at a small hole in time and locking myself in it for hours. I float, I writhe in embarrassment of myself, my words humiliate me but they also teach me and then there is the light plop of a water balloon and when I look around, I’m home like I never left.
Sometime in the middle of last year, I hit rock bottom from which I haven’t fully emerged yet. My writing was and still is tinged by anxiety, by revenge, and in search of a closure that isn’t there- that was never there, to begin with. But writing is all I have. Regardless of how much it hates me, I must tolerate it. It makes me vulnerable like nothing can, which is why it was attacked with such precision.
I thought I had to protect it – protecting it was a way of protecting myself. But I’ve learnt now that from the moment I began to write, there was no hiding. I feel stronger now. It feels like everything that they could say and do, they have said and done. What more, what now, what next? I don’t feel the need to protect it like I did before. It’s on its own now. We exist, as if on different planes. I own it until I finish it, and then it is not mine. It is theirs – whoever they are. They can do what they want with it. They can hold it up against the sky and mock it, hold it between the folds of their palms and crush it, hold it close to them and see their own reflections in it or they can completely ignore it. It is all I have but it is not mine anymore.
The girl I left behind is rooting for me quite strongly. I know this, I know her very well. She creeps up in my writing now and then, surprising me with a line that suddenly just appears, with a memory I didn’t know I had. If she knew I am here today, nowhere in particular but a place that she and I dreamed of, having stood through time and people, their smiles and hisses, she’d be happy for me and I, for her.
She turns up in various forms and sizes. A student who smiles from a corner and feels that she can relate to me, a student whose twinkling eyes from the first bench — her face, never leaving mine, holds my gaze steady, and tells me to ignore the bullies and just continue my work, a student whose emails tell me that I have helped her see a version of herself, a student whose voice is shaky and shivering but tries to reach out to me, and a student who never makes eye contact in class but is bursting with questions and comments. I see myself in all these people. In a world that thrives on destroying other people’s small joys, these students make it worth living in.
This doesn’t make me invincible. This just makes me see that my writing and I will always be vulnerable and this doesn’t scare me anymore. It is liberating in a very strange way, like I am letting go after holding on too tight. It has left wounds that will heal, but won’t be forgotten. I want to carry them proudly, like scars from a battle I didn’t know I was in.
Every morning is a struggle to write a new story, every evening is a sigh while I erase this story and write new ones and everything in between is a big yellow wall that I must paint a new color every day.
My summer vacation has officially begun and this is a list of things I am going to make myself look forward to with mind numbing enthusiasm.
Finally got hold of a desktop. It’s a Dell something something. It is taking care of my movie/music/TV show catching up. Also got a printer/copier/scanner thingy. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to go looking for a printout shop. Ever.
My room. I don’t know if it is the madness of last year or that I finally have a place to wear shorts and just chill in life, but when I get back home every night, I feel happy knowing that I am going to crash in my bed soon even though all it has is a table fan.
I feel stupid saying this but I am beginning to see how busy the city can keep me if I just give it the chance. Even if it means going to Lalbagh on a Saturday evening and looking at the bloody birds. And the bloody trees.
I feel stupider saying this but in this whole process of growing up, I have forgotten what it’s like to watch movies and plays in theatres. I have only myself to blame for this. Bangalore is thriving with plays, cinema, talks, art and the whole thing. It has always thrived and I don’t know why I was dead for so long but I feel great now just being in the city and knowing that Kala Soudha and Rangashankara are so close to Basavangudi and that Alliance and Guru Nanak Bhavan are so close to K.
GLEN’S. I have found the Yin to my Yang, the Ki to my Ka. Good food, better than Parisian, and best iced tea. One of those places where they’ll leave you alone. Last week, I settled down there with my netbook and watched Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara for 3 straight hours. And then a couple more writing about the movie. And they just kept bringing me cold water.
My reading and writing didn’t die as I suspected it would over April. Tipping the Velvet brought with it my lost London mania, The story of a Widow taught me how to just let go and write, Where there’s smoke is teaching me what I ignored in my childhood.
My traveling plans in May are giving me the happies. I am looking at 4 possible trips, which means that if I am alive by the end of May, I have something to write about.
People saying mean things about my blog makes me want to write more. So I am sending you much love from here. Keep it going.
Grey’s Anatomy. Two episodes down. I should listen to Mintu more often and just watch shit when she tells me to watch.
GILMORE GIRLS REVIVAL.
I have a renewed interest in shopping for clothes. Bless you, summer. And skirts.
I get an erection when I think of free time these days. Yet somehow all that glorious free time is spent watching Season 2 of Gilmore Girls. I am not complaining though. I noticed a guitar in Luke’s apartment in the episode where Jess comes to Stars Hollow for the first time. I might be growing fonder of Emily than Lorelai – this is when I slow down, shut my laptop and contemplate life.
Summer is here – there’s blood and pus in my nose, boils the size of balloons on my face, grease and leaves in my hair, an egg that I am sure will neither fertilize nor crumble in my uterus, leading me to believe that much like me-that damned egg will live and die alone. In my uterus.
So PCOS 10: VJ Loser. It’s alright actually. I don’t even realise I have a malfunctioning uterus until a drop of the theertha is eventually squeezed out, once in three months.
Mintu and I went to Fenny’s last Sunday. Madam wanted to watch the match so she got there 30 minutes early and sat annoyingly close to the projector. I yanked her away to a nice little table with tall stools under some tree. I am yet to figure out how people grow so many trees on the third floor. Next to us was what they called a Lucky Ficus. Here’s something about sitting under trees –no matter how calm I am from the inside to be sitting right under nature’s bosom and all, I am permanently worried that there are snakes in nature’s bosoms. I kept looking up to see if there were any snakes hanging above my head and hissing. I didn’t tell Mintu because she would start crying and screaming and make us switch tables.
Mintu starts shaking if you so much as say ‘snakes’. Even the word, she says is snake-like.
In other news, I am no longer practicing tolerance and non-violence when people start screaming their guts out while watching cricket. At Social the other day, the waiters whistled with actual whistles everytime the blue men caught a six. My ears bled. I wanted to make something of theirs bleed. The drinks were nice though. The LIIT was an actual tower, a drink called trip on the drip actually came with a drip bag, and there were appetizers called crab balls to you.
Later that night when I went home, the match was still on and the peeps were mental. I was too happy and tipsy to complain so I joined in. But mother, B, M and V started throwing things at me because I was cheering for Bangladesh. When the match came to an exciting near end, my mother kept bouncing up and down, my brother was half sitting half praying, B and M were kicking me because I had spotted a man dressed as a tiger whom I decided to call Bengal Tiger for the rest of the night. Bengal Tiger beat his chest at various points and wept when India won. He had both his hands on his head and cried like a baby. Everytime he appeared, I yelped. Soon, they all joined and laughed the match off whenever they saw Bengal Tiger. He looked so sad – I think he died.
I am reading Tipping the Velvet and feeling bad for myself because after this and Night Watch, I won’t have any more Sarah or Waters to read. She reminds me of London, and the coach we saw London in. I can’t think about London without sighing and also feeling a little guilty. It’s close to a year now and I am nowhere near to finishing that Europe piece.
B is engaged! The wedding’s in August and I promised to wear a saree if she came with us for a vacation. B will celebrate her bachelorette or the Konkani version of it, on a cruise. I am making my list for the vacations– hopefully I will find the courage to let go off Gilmore Girls and get a life.