Tag Archives: story

I’ve been bad. Here’s a story.

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I’ve been down and out and under inspired recently – it’s a bad habit to get into!

I’ve been letting the things I can’t control, overwhelm me – so instead – here is a little short story that’s been in my books but hasn’t gone anywhere – if you want to add to it, change it, insert characters – please feel free to do so (just link back here please!):

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There are nights when you remember things long forgotten. What is this sensation of remembering? It is not always regret, nor fondness. Memories run away with us occasionally and take us to a time that never actually existed; we forget how memories can be hyper-complete: hyper-coloured, hyper-emotional, hyper-beautiful, hyper-real. But no – they are only memories. He has only memories and they are rotting his mind. If he were to let go and make new memories he would be sure to regret them. The future merely becomes the past – the past merely interrupts the future. What is a mind to do?

Picking Up the Pen…

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Why do I write? Why the resort to the pen? Expression, escapism, the need to feel productive, to merge the airiness of imagination with the earthiness of ink and paper, but my reasons have also changed with time. I was made acutely aware of this when reading my very first diary entry, dated December 1999 (let me defend myself in advance by stating that I was 14 ).I opened with the words “welcome people of the future”(I was also proudly nerdy)…I will not disclose the full contents of this first entry to save myself the embarrassment….but the overarching theme was an introduction of myself and my surroundings, documentation to be preserved for the future, something along the lines of a time capsule. The tone was an attempt to be impersonal, objective, a historian of sorts observing the flux of the world. “The world right now is in a stage of technological revolution” I wrote. I listed items “electrical fans”, “computers”, “wrist-watches”. I draw an elegant floral embellishment along the margins. Calm, cool and collected. I was trying to write to an audience, not self. However my efforts proved in vain… the first entry was an anomaly…my writing soon became infused with teenage politics, and rants, personal triumphs and dismay. Exclamation marks abounded. Underlined, capitalized words sprouted everywhere. Red ink came out, and pink, and silver. Words were blacked out with decisiveness, sometimes whole pages torn out in an attempt to discount the past and in a yearning to move forward unhindered. Plans were plotted, apologies to self were made, confessions were worded. Molehills became mountains, which shrunk into molehills again as perspective was gradually regained. There was absurdity and hilarity and silliness, the element of the ridiculous was dominant, but there was also something very redemptive in that brand of writing. An unburdening of thoughts. I also tended to gravitate towards writers with a fearless approach to the personal, Sylvia Plath, Osamu Dazai, Anne Sexton. I still keep a diary today but the tone is decidedly different, still personal, but not as zealous, perhaps a few steps closer to the objective historian but still ultimately subjective, as a diary is ultimately meant to be. Re-reading my old diary has made me aware of how the impulses to write, or draw, or creatively express in any other way, can be so varied. There are many reasons to pick up a pen, or a camera, or an instrument or a paintbrush, and they change by the days, and hours, and minutes. This is what can make art so unpredictable at times, but also so exciting and surprising. And yet there is also great comfort in the routine of it, in its rituals, I love stationary to this day because I enjoy the physical feel of writing as much as its less tangible rewards. So why do I pick up a pen? The reasons are many and complex I suppose, but I guess when I get old and grumpy it’ll give me something to do 😉

The Twelfth Night, the Immigrant Experience, and other Thoughts…

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Sand in her hair, corset drenched, Viola from the ‘Twelfth Night’ finds herself on a windswept beach in Illyria, understandably disoriented after surviving a shipwreck she asks “What country, friends, is this?” and then, more pessimistically “what should I do in Illyria?” For the audience it’s the start of Shakespeare’s great comedy about identity confusion, ignorance, insanity, (the Bard understood the hilarity of the human quest to make some sense), but our heroine’s opening lines also speak of the age-old anxieties of arriving on foreign shores.

Feelings of being displaced, uprooted, unsure, of being barefoot and without home, whether of one’s own volition or not, of wading into the problematic muddiness of self-definition. I attach the immigrant experience to all of this and more (nostalgia, loneliness, reinvention, hope…). When I reflect on the journey my own parents and grandparents made from India to the Middle East to Canada, knowingly entering the unknown, weathering the tempest, I think about the idealism and courage that accompanied that decision to carve out a place in the world, and the ability to feel that free and that powerful. As for myself, being a child when I followed their nomadic trail there was no real choice, I was more like Viola and less of the narrator, I wasn’t following a dream or planning ahead, my ship was blown off course, it hit some rocks and I was where I was. My surety and clarity crumbled away. I went to school and felt stupid. Some loud-mouthed kid criticized the colour of my hair. In P.E. I played soccer and scored against my own team (unknowingly, not with purposeful rage). It was challenging for all of us, I was just more aware of my own discomfort. I remember our collective happiness when yellow flowers began sprouting miraculously on our front lawn; and then our collective astonishment when our neighbours complained to the municipality that our mini garden of Eden posed a health hazard, because dandelions shouldn’t be grown in such abundance and certainly not with such enthusiasm. J  I became increasingly aware of how others saw me, how I sounded, I wanted to know the magical formula for ‘normalcy’ that others had memorized. W.E. Dubois eloquently called this mad state of mind “double consciousness” : “the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” Mad and sad is this pursuit because there is no clear measurement or formula for what is normal or natural, nor should our worth be quantifiable. What seems most natural to me is diversity, you see it everywhere in nature, it defines life on this planet. Of course it took me a while to come to this and other realizations. Before moving to Canada, when I was quite young I possessed a world and inter-planetary view that was highly distorted (to put it mildly). I lived in Sharjah, which is in the United Arab Emirates, which is a pint-sized country that sprouts futuristic skyscrapers, (which from an airplane window is simply an expanse of sand), and I literally believed that I lived in the center of the universe; that my world was wielding the conductor’s baton used to produce the celestial ‘music of the spheres’. Sharjah was Earth, Earth was Sharjah, it represented what was ‘normal’ and ‘familiar’, warm and fuzzy. Other countries I believed were literally on other planets (seriously I believed this). What proof did I have? None. All I can say is thank goodness I received an education. My world was the ‘known world’, everything outside its boundaries was shrouded in mystery, everything else was ‘different.’ And what did not have a name (since I did not even know certain countries existed) was simply consumed in darkness.  My young ignorant, egotistical self had a lot to learn, many things I still had to name and less tangible forces I would try to define; I had (and still have) a fertile imagination; I was definitely a sheltered child, the youngest living in an extended family setting; and, of course, at that age, I could not see too far past my own needs and happiness. It was a very comfortable and cohesive and solid sense of self, and the only kind I needed at the time. I can perceive now the danger that accompanies this sort of comfort, this retreat to the familiar, this labelling of what ‘normalcy’ encompasses and what ‘difference’ means. My sense of place is no longer so firmly cemented in terms of geography, but is grounded in what I have learnt and keep learning from my experiences, and from those of my family. My grandfather’s stories of adventures at sea, of putting a padlock on his school’s doors so he wouldn’t have to attend class, of playing cricket in Mumbai’s lanes, still resonate deeply with me. He is one of the best storytellers I have ever met.

At the end of the Twelfth Night shipwrecked Viola reveals her true identity, gets the man of her dreams and lives happily ever after in Illyria, so it’s fair to say that she learns to settle in. Despite the hardships faced she finds her sense of place, and as one of the stronger, more textured17th century female characters, all I can say is ‘more power to her.’ Idealism renewed, stability restored, the play ends with a bountiful feast and yet in subtle Shakespearean fashion, a final song darkens the mood, suggesting that this sense of idyllic comfort is always short-lived, that “the wind and the rain” of change is as old as this world, that Viola’s journey into the unknown has no end in sight.