I am back with the third edition of my year-end writing updates. And what a year it was! A year of dragons, both personal and collective. They were with us everywhere we went. They stayed with us at home under quarantine, and followed us when we left home.
This year, dragons also became an important part of my work. They entered the zoom classroom of my course and led discussions on an arts-based approach to life. They featured in my story-based workshop on courage and resilience, star antagonists of participants’ pandemic adventure. As I reflect on this closing year, I share my three dragons, how they showed up in my writing and creative ventures, and what I did to ‘slay’ them.
Dragon 1: The Body
This was the year our bodies demanded our attention in many ways. In safety and immunity, in distance and isolation, in negotiating space with loved ones, in longing to be held or hugged, in fears of being held or hugged.
The pandemic also brought shifts in our experience within the body. Food became a primal source of enjoyment and comfort. Despite all the self-care, motivational quotes and yogic discipline, we succumbed to illness and lethargy, fatigue and exhaustion, age and heaviness in our skin and bones. Yet, there was something human in discovering our shared vulnerability, and looking back to a simpler time. I muse over these comforts and discomforts of ageing in my poem Younger me. The paradoxical relationship of women with food, with beauty and self-image, is central to my short story Fat.
I also discovered the role that theatre and movement have played in my evolving relationship with my body, bringing an ease, playfulness, and grounding that ‘living in my head’ never could. I share these experiences in my personal essay on this subject, written for a Body Positivity project.
Dragon 2: Past as Present
As life opened to a ‘new normal’, lines blurred between the old and new. While the present felt tentative and liminal, we coped with fantasies of the future and nostalgia of the past. We drew parallels with dystopian novels and sci-fi films, history, myth and fantasy.
As the past became present, familiar rituals were experienced as if for the first time- working in a café, meeting friends, travelling, dancing at a wedding. Along with old books and sitcoms, I revisited my own past writing that somehow captured realities of the present. In Ilaa turns into a woman, a young girl makes sense of her social constraints and shrinking zone of permissible movement. My poem Sisyphean Strivings recounts a recurring nightmare about the anxiety of leaving home and returning home.
Another blast from the past was reviving my PhD research for my first non-fiction book. It felt utterly familiar and truly uncomfortable at the same time, as I anguished over choices of tone, structure and the balance between academic and creative writing. Reaching out to friends from different worlds and worldviews brought in new perspectives and enthusiasm, and occasionally momentum. Overall, I learnt that time is more cyclical than linear, and that books and life both move forward at their own pace.
Dragon 3: Grief
This was also a year of living and creating in the backdrop of grief, a living study on what is grief, how does it present itself, where does it hide and reside? We learnt to grieve not just people but lost times, ways of living and doing things, and former versions of ourselves.
I discovered that grief is a shape-shifting dragon which hides in the corners of your daily routine, and surprises you when you least expect it. It can take time to surface, numbing itself in the face of a significant loss. I explore this surreal phase of dissociation, denial, humour and ritual in my auto-fiction piece Fire therapy. Or it can live within you for years, stuck within a deep, secret place as the outside world continues to live on. My short story The Penthouse narrates a day in the life of one such man.
As the year drew to a close, I concluded that grief is an attention-seeking dragon which refuses to be ignored. It grows larger and scarier if you try to hide from it, or worse still, to banish it. It wants you to pause and really see it, get to know it, befriend it. So that is what I did, through journaling, poetry, colouring, meditation. I now try to co-exist peacefully with this dragon, and it behaves more like an ally.
I would love to hear from you. What was your year like? What were the dragons you encountered? How did you fight or befriend them?
As we move into 2022, I wish you peace and belonging after this turbulent adventure, so we can all put down our armour and rest in our caves. Sending you love and gratitude for being part of my tribe, for supporting and nourishing me in your big and little ways.