Writing Story 2022: The Winds of Change

Change arrived in the beginning of 2022, a warm, slow sea breeze waving in the new normal. Then suddenly it picked up speed, a stormy gust, a whirlwind that carried me far faraway, to a whole new continent.

Transition emerged as an ever-present theme in my thoughts and musings, poems and dreams. It was a time of navigating paradox, of holding together contradictory needs and desires, from opposite ends on the spectrum of longing.

As the year draws to a close, I reflect on the paradoxes that shaped my creative life:

Stillness and Movement:

A transition, at its very essence, signifies movement. A journey from a point of stability, stillness, perhaps even stuck-ness; to a destination unknown.

Sometimes the move is physical, like it was for me. A dislocation, from one place, one home to another. But it is often temporal, metaphorical. A journey into a new phase, where time moves at a different pace, arranges itself into new seasons and weather patterns, rituals and routines. Rarely linear, full of false starts and accidental pitfalls, much like a game of snakes and ladders. Only to find new forms of stillness at the other end, the silence of rivers and canals, red brick houses, yellow autumn leaves, of invisibility and solitude and winter.

I engage with the journey metaphor in my poem Manzil, the Hindi original translated into The heart’s destination. A deep longing for Roots in an old favorite piece, has evolved into migratory bird status, complete with feathers and wings.

Remembering and Forgetting:

A transition also confronts you with an important choice. What to pack and what to leave behind? What is cherished memorabilia, a token of comfort and familiarity? And what is excess baggage, better shed away?

Of course, this is true for material objects. But also for experiences, habits, versions of the self. Taken-for-granted places and spaces, sounds and smells, people and food suddenly acquire special significance, jostling for sentimental attention. But how much can you really fit within the luggage allowance of a one-way ticket? 

Distant memories float to the surface and recent laments are quickly forgotten. Nostalgia around food and friendship forms the core of my personal essay on the dynamic dosa (forthcoming, as a podcast episode). Fire therapy, an auto-fiction piece from two years ago, brings alive memories of loss through snippets of familial conversation. In the Penthouse, an ageing actor encounters the ghosts of his past.

Dreaming and Reality:

A transitional period brings with it liminal feelings, of being suspended in-between worlds, timelines, identities. A sense of disorientation hums in the background, blurring what is real and what is a fantasy, an escape, an extended vacation, an over-stayed welcome.

The new under-construction life feels like a dream, situated in an alternate dimension, outside the bounds of the expected and permitted. An ambiguous space full of juicy possibility, fertile for imagination and creativity, art and playfulness. An open portal to everything hidden and unconscious, shadow and light.

Through this brain-fog, I fell into the beginnings of a new novel. The dragon of my storytelling workshop shape-shifted for corporate and creative audiences, before finding her way into an exciting book. An old love for improvised theatre was rekindled, moving from zoom to the stage, with high musical notes and a penchant for rhymes.

And now, as another portal opens into a whole new year, I would love to know- what was 2022 like for you? What shifted and what remained constant? What paradoxes did you live through? What will you carry forward and what will you leave behind?

Thank you for all the little and big ways you have been a part of my journey! Here’s wishing you a transformational New Year! I hope the winds of change move you to the best possible directions, in the most surprising ways. And within their turbulence, you still find safety and stillness, and spaces to rest and dream. 

Writing Story 2020: Towards Silver Linings

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!