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This afternoon, I attended a workshop on icons of Bombay and wondered whether we’d have any distinguishing features, given our chrome-and-glass obsession. In my mind, I saw beloved parts of Bombay fade, as if in a dystopic graphic novel, replaced by generic highly dense built structures that didn’t belong anywhere. The memory of Bombay, it’s icons, things that made it special, completely erased. But I am being dramatic and getting ahead of myself.

If the present and the future were the preoccupations of the afternoon, the evening dealt with memoir, in the context of fiction and non-fiction. Sitting next to two writers, both whose practices deal with the ideas of memory, “real” stories and imagined ones, I thought about the range of distinct voices and treatment of narratives, the perspectives they employed as insiders, outsiders, and privileged insights. In a world surrounded by stories of every kind, there is a narrative if only you look. There are stories in people, in things, in places, and in the nowhere space, like trains. A few people stop to see these stories and tell them.

At the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, I usually beeline for all the literary events. I love listening to writers speak– about their work, their writing process, the world that informs and inspires… Writing to me always feels like an isolated task: a dark room, unlimited supply of coffee and food that’s easy to eat, and someone else has cooked. Under the canopy of trees at the David Sassoon Library garden, where many of the lit events are held, the writers are out in the open, and one has access to them, beyond their books. Whether it is a good thing, that is debatable. But they are there: In flesh. Sharing their thoughts, as you leaf through (their) books, wondering if there’s a way that you can directly transfer your salary to Kitab Khana.

This evening, however, I didn’t buy a book. I made mental notes to check out a couple of authors, and as impressed as I was but the panelists, I didn’t feel like buying anything. Who doesn’t have a reading list longer than they can handle? Who has the time to read everything? But that can’t be the reason I didn’t come home with a loaded brown bag. The sheer number of books on sale felt intimidating. The baggage of all that is not read was weighing me down and I had to walk away. The feeling is strange and has no bearing to the fact that I’ve made several purchases only a few days ago and am scared my parents will throw me out of the house.

 

Overwhelmed 

How much is too much? How soon is too soon? How you you learn to slow down, take things slowly and learn to wait? 

How do you not be overwhelmed by art, politics, people? How can you take life at a pace that is steady, calm and centred? 

January has been a month of being overwhelmed. Of madness of travel, bucket lists, writing, reading, talks, parties, concerts and many things in between. Of 8am classes, crazy schedules, lost plots and emotions, so far 2016 has been breathless. 

Half

Some thoughts only come to you at half past midnight, when you want a mug of coffee and are too lazy to brew it. You scribble a sentence or two, and give up, half-way.

Many tabs open on chrome, Norah Jones crooning, as you half-heartedly write (a different story, one that you must finish), instead of reading and making most of this wild wonderland that is the internet.

You see how people write, how they travel, the odes they write. You eavesdrop on conversation, half-wishing you were a part of that camaraderie.

A voice in your mind tut-tuts at the timepass, as another album ends, and another notification pops up. Tomorrow isn’t an early morning, but you want to go to bed. You’re not halfway through your essay, so must stay awake, promising yourself to finish it, in half an hour.

 

Gulmohar

This home takes after its name, a beautiful flower on a robust tree. For the last 6 days, I’ve been here, quietly working, eternally grateful for the solitude this home has offered me.

I’m not used to Gulmohar being so quiet. There’s something so strange about this big home with dimmed lights, and no chirping. The table is too big to be eating alone, it is quite lonely on a large square table with a printed tablecloth, and only one place set. But I haven’t come here to miss the people that make my life special and colourful– I’m here to work, and that’s what I’ve been up to.

Working with doting Akka– who i call Amma, making sure I eat on time, supplying endless cups of filter coffee. Working as Pramila makes me pasta, noodles and palak parathas. Ignoring Urmila and her inane questions.

I’ve always wanted to take a reading & writing holiday. I’ve endlessly dreamed of whisking myself to a five star hotel, in the middle of nowhere, guaranteed only of food, a swimming pool and peace. I got all three, and a gorgeous 22nd floor view of the only green patch Bombay has to offer. With the townhouse, familiar things, the presence of K & P everywhere and the thoughtfully stocked fridge, I’ve had a better experience than any swanky hotel can offer.

Having said that, I want my people back. I want the chaos, the hyper-energy, the laughter, arguments, the love. I miss my “core family”.

Diwali

This was a strange Diwali, sandwiched between frenzied activity, socialising and solitude. 

Work, writing, good food and the quiet left me enough time to think about priorities and how we cope with things. I thought of how we make our choices and how we deal with consequences on our own. This Diwali, I think about how easy it is to leave things and people behind, and how difficult it actually is to stand your own ground. 

This Diwali, I think of midnight culinary experiments, of lost and found opportunities, of the romance of lit lamps. Most of all I thank god (actually man) for inventing antibiotics and the face-steam machine. Nothing cures a cold, but this helps you cope. 

Block

Sometimes you can’t write. You really want to, you force yourself to put words on paper, but you just can’t string a sentence. Your mind wanders to interesting places and back, you worry about your day tomorrow and the consequences of not writing, but you don’t write. You bribe yourself, and you berate yourself, you blame everything under the sun, but you still don’t write.

Minutes, hours and days go by, dread settles on you like dust on an unused table but you can’t write. Cue panic and shame, but no words.

Endless cups of coffee, reading other brilliant books, conversations that momentarily inspire but still no words. You stop going out, turn off notifications, delete time trap apps but still nothing on the damned word document.

Comfort food offer no comfort, the internet barely distracts, the to-do list grows and deadlines whoosh by, with you sitting just there, with no words, a jumble of ideas, all that looked good till you began to write, only to realise, they were just words, with little or no potential.

Sometimes you just cannot write.

I never thought I would get over Chhoutu. 

I never thought I would be able to love another dog, although I keep telling everyone the void in my life is a dog, not a husband/ boyfriend. 

Today, I reconsider a lot of my ideas. I have met, fallen in love and completely been adopted by Bubbles, my new canine-nephew. 

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