Category Archives: Writing101

Home

Day Eleven Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old. Use short, medium and long sentences.

When I was 12, I lived at Home.

Home was a single storey brick home with just three rooms. Inside a green mosaic floor with specks of brown and black. The in-built cement shelf on one wall of the living room , called as “the Hall” ,doubled as storage and a TV stand for the small black and white TV.  With family photos displayed on the top shelf along with some memorabilia. Just a handful of them,for at that time there was none of the ‘made in china’ junk of today. A three-seater leather sofa and a single seat matching chair. A blue laminated dining table placed flush against the corner wall and one side of the single sofa chair with only one side of the rectangular table available to access. These three pieces of furniture waltzing now and then , to my mother’s tune, to regroup in different permutations and combinations with the walls and the two windows and two exterior doors and two interior doors .And in all the possible combinations that dining table never got to use all its sides at once.  A picture of a green cliffy coast with the sea with no sign of human life or litter, framed and hung above the living room window. The provenance of the photo a mystery.

The late comer, the refrigerator, relegated to the bedroom already packed with two long single metal beds with a cotton silk mattress. The beds always together , wedged between a desk and a steel ‘almirah’.  A wooden antique cupboard with mirror.

The terrace that had no stairs but which could be easily scaled by climbing on the compound wall, from there climbing on the window cement awning and from there reaching out to the edge of the terrace wall standing on the toes and pulling up your body while lifting your leg to get a foot hold and clamber over. It’s easy. Was easy for a pre-teen. Terrace – A place girls were discouraged to climb.

The little garden on clay soil. Guava trees with plenty of fruit and a squash creeper that grew so fast attaching itself to the outer walls with tendrils so strong that belied its fragile appearance, that spread to the terrace where for a year the bounty was huge. Sopoata and lemon shrubs that decided not to grow much or flower much. Seasonal flowers , Ginnia and mums, that came and went. Seasonal vegetables and an attempt at a grassy lawn.

The layers of sounds in the morning, changing as per season ,with the local temple blaring “mariamma….”  mingling with the 5 times a day “Allah …” from the mosque and the girl next door reading out loudly , history, geography and physics, her method to memorize (‘mugging’ as it’s affectionately called ) at 5 freaking am in the morning. The girl ,the first rank holder who put visionaries  like me to shame. Visionaries like me , who somehow knew it deep in the bones that memorization while be so outdated and that  google and Wikipedia would emerge, and slept in (tried to sleep with a pillow as a ear plug). All these sounds instigating my mother to add to the cacophony of sounds : “Get up and study”. Add to all this the incessant cawing of crows.

More than all these sounds the distinctive sounds of a motorbike engine heard from two streets away in the quiet night .6 days a week.The sound. Or rather music. The squeaky gate the ending note of the symphony ,to welcome the hard working man , returning after a long day, sometimes drenched in the monsoon rain.

The smell of the wet rupee laid out to dry in the blue laminated dining table.

Home. That’s where I lived when I was 12 years old.

Advertisements

Happy Blood day !

This piece is in response to a writing101 course’s Day 10 prompt : Tell us something about your favourite childhood meal. Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

The one food that was always a treat and comforted me and has deep roots in my memory is: Blood. I loved the spongy texture of blood almost like Jello except for that …er… bloody taste. The dark brown, almost black dish cooked with finely chopped onions and garlic and chillies adding the spicy flavour …with crunchy split chick pea  seasoning with mustard adding the textural contrast. To this the smell of the curry leaves and a dash of coriander leaves …ah… Heaven!

Now , this was not an everyday meal. Although I wouldn’t have complained if it was. But you can’t go about killing everyday. Maybe the once a year ritual of this dish added to the charm. And maybe I would have gotten tired of it if we  managed to make it an everyday item, like rice.  You never know….

My grandfather talked about his father (my great grandfather) proudly , how he killed with one clean sweep of the long knife, severing the head from the body in one single stroke. I have always imagined that scene in my mind but never watched it live. We are a violent clan….I feel that in my blood sometimes (dear husband, Beware!)…and I carve ,occasionally ,for that coppery, irony tang on my tongue with that hint of garlic.

We are not vampires obviously….the garlic thing must have told you that much. Just plain old village folk from a remote village in southern India, who believe that our god/goddesses like mutton…like us ..after all Man made God in his own image or is the other way around? I always get confused….  So anyway, we fatten up a goat and save it for that one day – when the whole village and the immediate family living in cities all gather together – to chop or rather sacrifice at the altar the aforementioned goat (with one clean sweep if the ‘chopper’ was as good as my great grandfather )…a  goat that we first decorate with a  flower garland and add a make-up of vermilion and turmeric….Seriously ..we really know how to dress our food.

We called this day : ‘Jatara’ . It was like a wedding celebration combined with Diwali and Pongal because it was celebrated with the whole family and all the families in the village. We were all one community. I got to see all the cousins ..and almost everyone who I could possibly share a strand of DNA…my blood. Maybe that’s what made the ‘Goat blood poriyal’ so tasty….being surrounded by my own flesh and blood.

This is one food that takes me back to the deepest roots of my being…back to that so very unique and vibrant agrarian culture …. back to that sense of belonging to millions of others…all pulsating together as one … back to the simple times when superstition reigned supreme unquestioned by reason….where right or wrong we got together each year to taste some blood!

P.S. The  government banned animal sacrifices in temples.  I haven’t been to  my village Jatara in more than 25 years….It’s been a while and sometimes when I watch vampire movies I wonder…..

Inside out! – A Poem

“I am a woman struggling to look younger”, all her muscles screamed.

“You are a girl struggling to be wiser”, she sagely whispered.

“I am a woman struggling to be full of care”, all her wrinkles mimed.

“You are a girl struggling to always dare”, she chimed.

“I am a woman struggling to uphold tradition”,  her posture dictated.

“You are a girl struggling to break convention”, she shrugged defiantly.

“I am a woman struggling to be a realist”, all her words reasoned.

“You are a girl struggling to remain an idealist”, she reminded firmly.

“I am a woman struggling to be a good mother”,  her actions blared.

“You are a girl struggling not to bother”, she nonchalantly whistled.

“I’m a but a shell “,  her mantle rattled.

“You are swell”, she smiled for that’s what mattered.

She turned away from her and skipped towards the stairs.

“Watch you step”, she told her self.

Photo courtesy: demotivation.us

Loss – Part 3

This is a continuation from the first two posts on this series:

https://ansumani.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/loss-part-1/

https://ansumani.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/loss-part-2/

It all started, the slide down the path of loss, when the older girl next door asked,  “Can we all play together, You me and Babuji?”.

I said “Yes” when something in me , which I would later find out is instinct, screamed ‘No’.

We sat at the stairs and played with Babuji. Babuji let her do whatever she wanted with him. It was as if I didn’t exist. Did I say he was fickle already?

Next she declared, “Babuji has a tumor in his stomach. Let’s operate on him. Can I cut him open?” and brought out a blade. I shouldn’t have said ‘Yes’.  She took one deep cut in his abdomen. I watched transfixed, unable to move,caught up in her perversion. His skin was too tough for the blunt blade and it took several cuts to get through to his hollow centre. She wasn’t satisfied. She wanted a wider cut to be able to put fingers through the cut. I woke up from my apathy then and said I was done playing.

I walked away with the damaged Babuji , something stuck in my throat. A bundle of emotions that I didn’t know to name or spell. It took many years, several other losses and serious soul searching to recognize and untangle them: regret, shame, anger and pride.  Shame that I let someone’s perversion, consciously or unconsciously, destroy something beautiful.

Babuji and I  still were together most of the time, bound by that tangle of guilt and shame.  You see, guilt is one thing that’s not very easy to lose. You can turn it into resentment to protect your precious ego. You can turn it into blame and find faults like ‘Babuji was Fickle’ to justify your inadequacy. But it will always be there, if there is no proper atonement.  I shouldn’t have said ‘Yes’. Period.

“You are too old to be playing with dolls. Let a smaller child play with them. Can I send these toys to your cousin?”, mother said.  She bundled all , including the damaged Babuji and sent it over. I shouldn’t have said ‘Yes’. The last ‘Yes’ that I thought was the decision point….but by now you all know that it was those smaller ‘yes’s along the way.

That was the last time I saw him. I looked for him at my aunt’s place..a week later.”Where is Babuji?”, I asked. “It was damaged and we threw it away”, my cousin said.

Richard Bach is not right all the time. If you love something, hold on to it tight. Protect it. Not everyone will value it the same.

And don’t say ‘Yes’ when every bone in you screams ‘NO’.

Loss – Part 2

This is the continuation from the previous post:

https://ansumani.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/loss-part-1/

I didn’t feel the loss the day I saw him last. Just thought I will see him again.

I’m talking about my first friend, my first love of sorts, the one I lost: Babuji.

The memory of when and how he came into my life is lost , just as he is. He was just there in my life, an everyday part of it. We were inseparable.

I recall my mother watching us with trepidation…. on my obsessive servitude to him and his undivided attention to me.I’m sure she plotted then to separate us soon, waiting for the right time. Her resolve must have strengthened when I declared that Babuji and I will bathe together going forward, the rest of our lives. There was a severe water shortage, I learnt later, and she was not going to let precious water be wasted on a rubber toy. That’s what Babuji was to her….a rubber teddy bear that used to squeak from a little device when pressed until that was lost…Even Babuji had experienced loss!

But we all know that Babuji was more than a rubbery compound moulded together into a shape of an cute animal like creature and painted with toxic lead paint with no apparent indications of gender . He is in the same league as Santa, Mickey mouse, Donald (not Trump but Duck) and magic school bus.

Image result for rubber teddy bear

Photo credit: http://www.vintagetoys.com

Why I declared him a male, I would never know. He was He…just like we call God “He”. I would also never know why I named him ‘Babuji’.”Where did she get that name”, my parents asked themselves aloud. Maybe I heard it somewhere…may be it was part of some Karmic memory…maybe the wind whispered me the name…Baaaaabuuuuujiiiii.

I wonder where he lies now. Its been almost 30 years. His inorganic body must have been disintegrated by the elements and seeped into the earth, into the water causing algae to die, sea levels to rise.

Maybe he is still intact somewhere staring at a little girl with the same love in his eyes that he had for me. You see , for all his cuteness and his loving eyes he was fickle…he looked at all of us girls the same. Seeing him in the arms of another girl, who didn’t love him as much as I did, who wasn’t as devoted as me, who didn’t bathe him everyday and cuddle with him every night, broke the magic between us. He may have been my first love but a girl wants to be the only one. That special look of love , reserved only for her.

Still, I shouldn’t have said ‘Yes’ when I wanted to say ‘No’. There’s  no excuse for what I did.

–To be continued.

To be or not to be …anonymous?

photo

This post is my “Writing 101′ course Day one assignment: take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write. And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.

When I started to read this assignment it was so easy. A piece of delicious cake. How difficult is it to just write or type for twenty minutes, everything that comes to your mind? That too without thinking about what you have to write, without thinking about what will people think….is it the right thing to write…will I offend anyone…will it reveal too much of myself….not to think about grammar..or spell check or the tense….or whether it rhymes….It’s too easy..until you get to the ‘twist’ that says ‘publish this stream-of-consciousness’. This is when it’s gets infinitely difficult. I decide to skip this assignment…flunk on day one..or take the easy way out and ‘ignore the twist’…the escape hatch in the assignment that seemed to be designed just for me.

All my ‘write whatever comes to my mind’ episodes in the past have been torn into pieces and discarded. The scratch of pen on paper has sometimes been a therapy session between me and me and following patient confidentiality rules been always locked up.I think that I will do this assignment on a piece of paper as usual and  tear it or lock it up ..when a ‘why ‘ props up out of nowhere…asking “why not share”? Because I just can’t sprout what comes to my mind…and share it publicly. Because I’m just not myself…I’m a daughter, a mother, a wife, a sister, a ‘..in-law’ and I have these multiple persona that I have to play with each role and each have their own script dictated by  tradition/culture/the personalities of the people involved.

I realize that this is my impediment as a writer. When i read the blogs of those women who have chosen to be anonymous I can feel the candor….the ‘thoughts to words translation’ ,their ‘stream-of-consciousness’ presented without filters of the multiple persona that they too are sure to wear in their lives…I see them write without the right brain idea toned down by the left brain reason…without the anger controlled…without the grief tamed…without the humour laundered…..and I long for that anonymity…to be purely me … when i write. While I could write /create a blog anonymously , I keep myself from taking the easy way out….because there is nothing to be ashamed of being me…there should only be one me…what you see , what you hear and what you read. That’s where lies true freedom, growth….and i have stuck to this ..even if it’s me most often breaking the social etiquette and disagreeing openly on a topic while others make non-committal noises with their throat and exercise their neck in a way that shows neither consent or dissent ..and be politically correct…never revealing their strong feelings one way or the other…I have always wondered what these folks would say if the self-imposed etiquette was not there…..hey anonymity is also an option….may be its a way of having the cake and eating it too…but what’s the point of anonymity…all these buts…it’s meant to be a write your ‘stream-of-consiciousness’ and I have never seen a stream that has not meandered…

I read somewhere that a writer reveals a part of themselves in their writing and given enough material a reader can piece together the puzzle of the writer’s psyche. Maybe that’s true….maybe it also shows their understanding of other’s psyche too.

Anyway…. i decide to write about the hornet’s nest of feelings that this assignment stirred…knowing that it will be quite allright a topic to publish..if i decide to publish ,that is, in the time it takes to save this draft. I may not have decided even when my finger lingers on the publish button….you see the biggest battle is always with yourself…’you’ the biggest roadblock in your own path….will i win this battle?..

While I ponder on that question…i ask what picture could possibly go with this blog post if I decide to publish and look out of the window and see the bright flowers that have sprouted in the grass, in the middle of the still half-brown lawn like an cool idea that springs up in the middle of an writing activity, unplanned , among the dead leaves from last autumn and I think it works well….and answers my question.

seal_v2-03