Tag Archives: writing

In An Anthology

26 Feb

A post I wrote on this blog more than 7 years ago took on a life of its own and first made its way to an online journal. I have the vaguest memory of receiving an email from the editor last year, mentioning it was going to be published in an anthology, to which my very enthusiastic response was:

“Oh, that’s wonderfzzzzzzzzz…..”

And so, when another emailed arrived two weeks ago, saying the book was now out, I had the pleasure of surprise all over again. It could be my family history of Alzheimer’s. Or the fact that I haven’t slept in 15 months. But yes, the anthology of which my piece is a part:

our stories too

 

 

Here is the link to the Amazon page. And here’s what the book is about:

Our Stories, Too is an eclectic collection of personal narratives by women from around the world: America, South Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. You will see in these stories how the very ordinary threads of our lives are interwoven with the grand tapestries of world history. We are all, the famous and the unknown, part of the fabric. Gathered from 2013 – 2015 on themes of home, place, belonging, trauma and life change over time, these stories will take you behind the scenes into the lives of thirty three women.

Among my deepest beliefs is that we are made of water, cells, and stories. This, combined with my lifelong interest in gender, makes me honored to be a storyteller among women sharing their histories.

Okay, thank you, byebye! See you next week with Truesday Talezzzzzzzz……………..

Turning 10: 2006–2016

26 Jan

Truesday Tales is on break this week, for the following reason:

I’m trying to remember whether there was snow on the ground that day. I know it was bitingly cold, the sky was a glorious winter blue, the sun shone like a superstar who couldn’t acknowledge his best days were behind him, and my biggest concern was fitting all my precious shoes into two suitcases as I readied to begin a new chapter in the country of my birth.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, I casually wrote a post called Shoes Blues. I even uploaded a picture, because that’s what you were supposed to do, nobody only read words. All of two people looked at the post, not counting myself. Who knew what this whole blogging thing was, anyway? It was January 26, 2006, and life was about to change big time. Only, I didn’t know back then that it was the blog that would propel the biggest changes of all and remain my steadiest constant over the next decade. A page I goofily christened Wisdom Wears Neon Pajamas, after the bright orange Eddie Bauer pjs I happened to be wearing that very minute. Yes, imagination has always been my strong suit.

It would be interesting to look back at my journey since: the amazing highs, the stressors only a twenty-something can handle without turning grey, the lessons that chiseled away at me, the teachers, nasty and kind. But I’m on a tight clock with a wakeful baby and don’t want to sound like a granny reliving her heyday. I’m a steady sort, a creature of habit. I’ve had the same bestie for 21 years. Ditto favorite authors and hairstyle. I like my coffee exactly the same each morning, and only the Boy’s surprises aren’t stressful for me. So it’s not really a whoa moment for me that this blogaroo baby has lasted a decade, because it’s been such fun! Really, such fun. It married words and community and fresh ideas from some terribly sparkling minds. And gifted me friendships. A solid, warm, sustaining sisterhood. So much gratitude to the universe for it all!

This blog isn’t going to last another decade. I have my doubts about the end of the year. But that’s okay, because everything has its time, and other platforms were bound to shunt out this early form of self-expression. So pardon me if, between the books I race to catch up on and the simmering something on the stove (hey, can’t have a birthday post without an alliteration!) and Herr Toddlemeister’s shenanigans, we don’t exactly party here anymore. But thanks for all the fish. For reading, chiming in, telling me that you exist. For seeing the heart on my sleeve and treating it gently. Funnily enough, only a clutch of folks in my offline life know that I have a blog, and that’s exactly how we’re going to keep it, you and I. 😉

To 10! It’s been a whopper of a journey. See you next week for Truesday Tales?

Bear hugs and neon confetti,

Still in Pyjamas

 

Friday Feelings (in no particular order)

25 Sep

Poetry sorts my soul. Feeds it morsels of digestible nutrients, just as it is about to keel over from starvation. It swishes in, linen a-flapping, a crisp, brisk Nanny organizing my emotions, clearing out the clutter, neatly labeling, allotting buckets (transparent) so I may remember where I put my feelings.

~

In a moment of painful revelation, I see. Our love for each other will never be uncomplicated.
Perhaps I err. For the emotion is simple. It lays open unselfconsciously, in plain sight. But far too many feed off our cord. Sating their bloodlust on our abundance.
To the point where intrusion invokes murder.

~

Along with the gush of blood and birthing fluids came a rush of words. An unexpected side effect of labor. And, unlike the perfectly formed but fragile entity they delivered into my arms, the words they poured strong and insistent. Demanded I pay court. Danced circles around my shadowed eyelids and wouldn’t leave well enough alone.
So I wrote furiously in my head, even as the baby hungered at my breast; scripts and rivers and torrents flowed, swirling thick in the air around me. I breathed out lines. Sent them to live with my now-vanished placenta.

And such is the nature of new motherhood that nobody knew (until now) how much of the blood was the doing of my leech-like stories.

Play Review: Vande Mataram

19 Jun

When we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area two and a half years ago, our aunt introduced us to Naatak, a local theater and indie cinema company with a reputation for interesting productions, well-executed scripts, and great performances. Naatak’s plays, enacted in Hindi (mostly), English (sometimes), and Tamil (infrequently), with supertitles, have used the scripts—both original and adapted— of stalwarts such as Bhisham Sahni, Satyajit Ray, Vijay Tendulkar and Girish Karnad. The play in review, Vande Mataram, was written in 1997 by one of Naatak’s mainstays, Sujit Saraf. And if you’re wondering why I’m blathering on about the writing piece more than any other element, it is because this wonderful performance that we enjoyed this past weekend was the product of a strong, nuanced, beautifully written script that was satisfying and whetting in equal parts.

Vande Mataram opens the night before August 8, 1942. For those of you not familiar with the Indian freedom struggle, this date marks the launch of the Quit India movement. With Japan advancing rapidly and successfully through the countries east of India, and Britain’s increasing need for Indian military and resource support to fuel its WW II efforts, Indian leaders finally had a playing card and employed resistance and civil disobedience tactics to make the Empire take heed of their demands. It is here that the storyline departs from the black-and-white textbook version of history that would have us believe it was Gandhi vs. the British Raj, Independence vs. Colonialism, and Honor, Freedom and All Things Good vs. Exploitation, Repression and Popular Sub-continental Narratives.

Naatak picture

[Photo credit: My resident photographer, the one and wonlyderful Boy.]

Interestingly, the production whose byline reads “A play about greed, gunpowder and Gandhism” manages to skillfully remove Gandhi from center stage and relegate him to the footnotes. Based on the Keezhariyur bomb case in Kerala (erstwhile Malabar), it introduces us to a cast of characters that plot to blow up a bridge in Patna along the same lines and draws us into a web of their motivations, personal histories and politicking. Six men, each playing his part superbly, embody a motley crew of a Colorado-trained professor, a local Congress committee head, two Marwari businessmen (and feuding brothers), a restaurant owner and a former soldier-turned-bank-guard with “a chudail who dances in his head”. Together, they debate, squabble, negotiate, reminisce, manipulate, plot, re-plot and maneuver the circumstances to their individual viewpoints and advantage, and through their synergy, we are rapidly transported from a macro picture to a microcosm of their personal greed, ambition, humor, and failings. We relate. We associate. We recognize. Sitting in a darkened theater on a sunny California afternoon 70 years later, the audience identifies the common human denominators that bind us all, and it is to the scriptwriter and actors’ credit that they make it so easy.

Then there is the plot. Moving at a fair pace, this dialogue-heavy play never feels a minute too long, and with a well-timed interval, leaves one waiting for the second half. Will the plot succeed? Will they be caught? Will a difference be made to the freedom movement? In spite of knowing how it turned out, and witnessing the imperfections of its characters, Vande Mataram is a play that makes you root for them, their well-being, desires, and safety.

The Sanskritized Hindi is true to its period, which has us modern mortals glad for those English supertitles. The costumes are authentic, and the set is simple and effective. Not intended to be a high-cost endeavor, Naatak’s production is nonetheless neat, efficient and a job well done. This genre of theater is what they do best and would do well to focus on in the future.

The play leaves you pondering about the multiple layers of sentiment, motivation and issues that form a complex but never tedious package, and it is to the team’s credit that they do not aim to dumb down any of it. For so many of us fed a simplistic version of one true representative of the people versus the British Crown, it is a gentle reality check about the multiple voices and opinion streams of the period. It invites the audience to take from it what they will, at a level and depth they are comfortable with. For me, an idea that has me toying around with it in my head nearly a week down the line and likely to continue, is a worthy one.

Not your typical treatment of nationalism, this. Which, incidentally, is what makes it a winner.

Go watch it if you live in the Bay Area. I just got even gladder that I do. 🙂

Writing and Reading

18 Sep

Sharing your writing with someone in its nascent form is like carving open your womb for them to inspect: You hold your breath and pray.

That they won’t: poke about with a sodden stick.

Won’t: Touch the tender bits.

Will: Notice that you’re inflamed.

And that, when done, they’ll hurriedly close the gaping wound and not tell you in agonizing detail about the tumors, the polyps, the cysts and fibroids, the bleeding cells, the lacerations, and the festering gunk they saw.

Hope. You can only hope. For once it is opened, it is owned by the sky. And you can only peer hiddenly from the shrunken margins of your own verse.

Book Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors

13 Sep

I went in with my eyes wide open, knowing the subject would be dark, unaware of the treatment of it by this woman with a dazzling smile who asked me to review it within an hour of meeting her. Growing up in India, some latitudes north of the Sri Lankan civil war, meant it had remotely touched me as a child and teenager through political rhetoric, waves of radiated human anguish and the assassination of a Prime Minister, but beyond that, I was a clean slate.

What I was unprepared for, was how much Nayomi Munaweera’s labor of love would demand from me as a human bystander, make me invest in the lives of its characters and their teardrop-shaped country, draw me in and make me stay, in spite of the savagery around me. There are novels you breeze through, nod “Good read”, and move on. Pick up Island of a Thousand Mirrors only if you’re willing to carry it within you for life.

Crafted in present tense and delightfully crisp sentences, one is busy falling in love with the emerald isle and the language used to sketch it, pretending nothing untoward will ever happen on this idyll where Munaweera’s father grew up. But that is the curse of history and hindsight: we’re forced to look back over our shoulder and bear witness to its horrors.

In the creation of drama, several authors rely on words of deafening thunder and grandiose landscapes of pain. Nayomi Munaweera makes you do the work, as her sentences play supporting roles in a beguilingly simple manner: her descriptors exquisitely gut-wrenching, her voice matter-of-fact, she draws out your blood, your angst, your despair at being human, like a literary shaman.

This searing debut, so beautiful it hurts, is pyrotechnics and poetry.  Award-worthy, absolutely, but ultimately, so deeply enriching that you’ll be infinitely poorer for giving it a miss.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors, published by Perera Hussein, releases on September 15th, 2012.

And He Wears a Beret

26 Jun

My friend Phi: When you write, silence your inner critic. You know, that little man on your shoulder?

Me: Little man? Girl, my inner critic is 90 years old and morbidly obese.

So what does yours look like? Share share.