This has been a strange and difficult year, unfolding in an ever-changing and surprising world.Last year, I started a ritual of an end-of-year update, to reflect on my writing journey and share it with my community. Bravely taking that forward, this is what 2020 was like for me.
Love and Difference
My forever genre as a writer is love stories. What can I say, I am a romantic! Intrigued by the unusual and unrequited, I enjoy unpacking popular tropes, bringing together characters from contrasting worlds to uncover the approach/ avoidance dance of romantic love. This year, my published stories explore various nuances of love. ‘Coming-of-age youthful love’ in The Good Girl, ‘Missed connections’ in What were we?, ‘Opposites attract but do they live happily ever after?’ in Sea Creature, Land Creature. In times like these, love is what anchors us and gives us hope and patience, love for our families, friends, communities, and most importantly for the hidden parts of ourselves. So many more story plots brewing within, here’s hoping they bubble to the surface soon!
Gender and Society
Another theme that intrigues me is the interplay between self and society–between individual agency and authenticity, and conformity to roles and norms, especially for women. Last year, I published a research paper on how age 30 shapes women’s work identities and aspirations. This year, I draw upon cultural narratives- history, myths and fables, to shine a light on how gendered structures replicate themselves in contemporary lives. In Ilaa turns into a woman, we dive into 19th century Maharashtra as a young girl makes sense of her changing adolescent world. The Lost Slipper, a contemporary retelling of a classical fairy tale, explores the power dynamics of class disparity. This story is selected as part of an anthology on violence against women, likely to published next year.
Integration and Expansion
This year I launched my author website, and challenged my resistance to social media. One of my struggles was around identity. Am I a fiction writer, a PhD researcher, an arts-based facilitator? How do I choose or balance between these possible selves? I am now learning to integrate these paths and find joy and nuance at their intersections. I taught my first postgraduate course on Art and Organizational development at my alma mater TISS. I published a research article on my experiences with Applied theatre in the management classroom at IIM Bangalore. I conducted an Improv session for writers at the Bound Virtual Writers’ Retreat. I approach next year with the intention to move into a more expansive vision of my work, grateful for the multiple platforms for creative expression.
Loss and Liminality
2020 has been a year of liminality, a constant feeling of in-betweenness, between past and future, isolation and connection, security and existential dread. Personally, I was grappling with ambiguous loss, grief and exhaustion. By the end, there was a need for a pause, to heal and recover. These experiences foregrounded the ‘personal’ in my literary choices, drawing me towards memoir and non-fiction. My story Fire therapy makes meaning of love and loss during the pandemic. I started outlining my first book, a work of narrative non-fiction drawing upon stories of radical career change and insights from my PhD research. I look forward to the inspiration and flow to complete this in 2021.
I do hope you too have found your moments of solace and belonging, whether in your creative projects, Zoom gatherings or hot cups of tea. And I wish that 2021 leads the way to our desired and much deserved silver linings!