Social distancing, isolation. quarantine – all these were words that we didn’t use in 2019. But here we are, home-schooling, working from home and finding new ways to keep ourselves occupied.
So I got together with my poetry group
and created a book of poems -
about staying indoors, washing hands,
home-school and so much more.
These poems were all written during the period of staying indoors, to amuse ourselves and to bring cheer to others. It is also more than that. As writers and poets, our feelings are often expressed in words and while we worked, talked to our families, went for our permitted jog or shopping, we also wrote about what we are going through.
It’s chaotic , it is filled with impatience, blaring horns and swerving bikes. I don’t plan much when I write just like the city planners in India. If I plan, I lose my interest to write – at least at the beginning. I have some stories mapped out fully, with outlines, chapter breakdowns and character sketches. Then I put them away because the joy of the telling was satisfied with all of the work I put into the prep. There was nothing left to tell the full story.
Perhaps my impatience is the reason I prefer writing in 12 spreads. Not because I don’t want to write longer text. I want to and love to. But I want the story to be told quickly and with little words. I imagine the pictures. I know what I am saying in the pictures and what in the text. Sometimes I wish I could draw or learnt drawing. I grew up without drawing a single picture, colouring or painting. Except for the once-in-a-childhood experience of egg-shell painting, I stuck to writing, stamp-collecting and reading. It never occurred to me that I could draw or even try learning.
Now I am learning to doodle and the children in my school visits tell me I’m not that bad. I guess it is all in the practice and of course if I start now, perhaps I could be an illustrator when I am 75.
I digress. I’ve been in India for a week now for my book-launch and related stuff. And I’ve been thinking of my writing as the traffic that moves around here. There is no lane discipline – but in many roads, there are no lane markings. Like when I write fiction – there are rules, but no formulae. I just have to figure it out as I go and if I have gotten lost in the melee, I have to find my way back.
I have so many new ideas since I came a week ago. I went to some beautiful old places in Delhi and Chennai, listened to sounds and breathed in smells of this place. Now what I need is a route map to convert one of the ideas into a story without getting lost. It needs patience – the patience to find my way, the patience to finish the journey even if i have to make a lot of detours and wrong turns. I need to trust my driving and not worry about the lanes. I need to make eye-contact with the characters I create and not just wait for traffic lights to tell me how to proceed. And of course call upon the myriad gods in bronze, wood and stone to guide me .
I am heading to one of the oldest libraries in Chennai – the Connemara this week before I head back to London to find some research on the ideas I have. This trip has been inspiring in many ways – and the traffic is one of those urban miracles in India that has triggered me to draw the parallels with my writing.