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 2021: My Three Dragons

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.

A moment of serenity!