I wrote this some months ago, but the words are still as true as they were back then. I don’t know why I didn’t post this when I wrote it.
Writing does different things to different people. For me it has been a means to discover my fears and express myself, and say what I perhaps wouldn’t have said if I didn’t have the blank pages listening. Writing has become a kind of emotional support system from me. I find answers and solutions through putting my words down. It has helped me to lighten my heart a little.
It has also helped me find connections.
Not just between certain things, between a problem and a solution, between cause and explanation, but between the people I love (and some I used to).
One of the very first short stories I wrote was during my twelfth or thirteenth year; a story about a grandmother who amuses her granddaughter with stories and eventually starts writing them to deal with the grief of losing her husband, and one day dies in the middle of writing a mystery, thus leaving her granddaughter with an unfinished story. I was quite proud of it, and had written it as soon as I’d read about a national-level writing competition for kids, to be judged by Ruskin Bond and Chetan Bhagat, two of India’s best-selling authors.
That story is quite important for a few reasons. The first is that it convinced my mother, and eventually, through the enlightenment she gave me, that I was meant to be a writer, and not a fashion designer that I was dreaming of becoming at that point. I will always be grateful for that day, for had not my mother opened my eyes, I’d perhaps been as clueless about my future as most of my classmates.
I still have those pages I’d written that story on, torn from an old executive diary. I’m the kind of person who cannot easily let go of memories; or rather, things that remind me of those memories. I cling on to them, not willing to part from such precious moments of life. It’s a bad habit. I didn’t enter that competition because we went to my mother’s village and there was no internet (or computer) available to submit the story, and by the time we returned, the deadline had long passed. But I kept those pages with me, as a memory of the first short story written by me.
Around two-three years later, I was going through an oddly lonely time. It was one of those adolescent periods of rage when you feel like no body understands you, that nobody cares. It’s called “personal fable” in Psychology. I was rather cross with my mother; we weren’t financially very well off, and it seemed like someone was slowly driving my best friend away from me. We were about eight hundred miles from our house in New Delhi, where we used to live with my grandparents and my uncle’s family before moving to Nagpur. I was particularly missing my grandparents because I was afraid that time was slipping away and I might not get the chance to know them or make some memories with them. Those that we had shared during our time in New Delhi belonged to my eight year old self, and there was no surity of how deeply and for how long they would last.
It was an oddly overwhelming moment when I suddenly became insecure about that story, which I’d titled ‘The Story That Never Ended’. There was this irrational fear inside me that perhaps what I’d written in the story (in the First Person) might come true; too soon. My grandmother was very much similar to the protagonist’s grandmother, except that she didn’t have a dead husband to cry over. And that she’d just defeated breast cancer a handful of months ago.
What were similar were the stories. I grew up learning stories my grandmother told me when I went to the temple with her or when I often slept with her at nights. Only this year during a discussion with her about her father, who used to write beautiful poetry, did I learn that she used to write too – poetry as well as one-act plays in which she acted with the other members of the quarters during my grandfather’s days in the Air Force.
I was afraid that just like the girl in the story, I would lose my grandmother too, sooner than I’d have thought. I wrote about it in my diary and even deleted the Word Document on which I’d started editing the story (but had never finished doing so), and was on the verge of throwing away those pages on which I’d originally written it. But I didn’t chuck them in the dustbin or tear them to shreds. I placed them back in my shelf, where I’d kept it with other objects that were reminders of one memory or the other. I told myself that my fear had no logic behind it, that my grandmother wasn’t going anywhere.
Fiction, though it talks about the truth and reflects it with easy simplicity and deception, does not predict the truth of what is going to happen. Stories are not some kind of prophecies or some scientific prediction of something bound to happen. I know death will come to her; it will come to me, too, but to assume that my grandmother would lose her life just because my character’s does made no sense. I somehow held myself together and that insecurity was gone, but at the same time, I realized how important it was for me to strengthen my ties with her.
It seems like the words and my relationships shared a unique connection. There is no other way to put it, no other way to understand. Writing does strange things for every one of us. We all have our own subjective experiences with the act for writing.
While there was an odd sort of connection between that story and my grandmother, it was a different experience altogether when I used words to come over the fact that I had lost the last person I had expected to lose, let alone so soon in my life. My friendship with my best friend forever (ever after) was perhaps the one I was the most glad I had, after the one with my mother. It was a beautiful relationship. We understood each other; we had each other’s shoulder to cry on. However in the last few years of our friendship, it felt like she was slowly drifting away from me, and it made me insecure. I not only spoke to her but also wrote a letter to her, pouring all my insecurities in my words. Not more than a year later, it was all over – I had never imagined, even in my worst scenarios and nightmares concerning her that that was the way I would lose her. I’d dreamt of her death once, but other than that, whenever I thought of our future, she was always there like the childhood friend who had traveled all the way to adulthood with me. I had never thought it would all end so abruptly, without either of us sharing a word, without her letting me know why it was all over, what I had done for her to leave me.
The parting bothered me for a long time. She was all I could think of writing about whenever I faced the blank page or screen, and many subsequent pieces I wrote were about her. There was a point when I thought I was done writing about her, but after a brief silence, the words emerged again, and I couldn’t help but put them down on paper. There was no other way I could free myself of those words and the sorrow of having lost someone so close. I was tired of them after a while, I wanted to get rid of them, and here I am months later, still writing about her. I don’t know why I am doing it, why she occupies so much importance and space in my writing. I don’t know what to make of it. I just want to forget it all.
One other time writing and my relationships found a connection was when I decided to write a memoir essay about my mother’s brain operation that had brought a very important change in our lives. It was a turning point, and along the way, I shared a very sad and heartbreaking moment with my mother, and I knew if I’d read about it in some story, I would’ve found it incredibly beautiful.
I tried to make that moment beautiful too, when I attempted to put it into proper words. That single moment, of my mother trying to hold my hand but not being able to when I went to see her in the ICU on my birthday. That was the moment when I was genuinely, for the first time, scared about her. It was over; the operation had been successful and everything was going to be alright, but to see my mother in such a state disturbed and shook me to a point I had never found myself before at. Now when I look back at that moment in retrospect, I think the reason I cried so horribly as I took my mother’s hand in mine was because all the strength I’d mustered since the moment she had a seizure at our house six days previously and all through the days that had followed had somehow welled up inside me. I had maintained a cool demeanor all along. It seemed impossible that anything bad would happen to a person like her. Not once in all that time had I feared for her, except for that brief moment when my father told me that the outcome of the operation might not be a good one.
But at that precise moment in infinity, it all swelled up high like a large tide and broke down, shattering in a billion drops. Writing about that moment makes me feel like perhaps the words have helped me to realize where our relationship had been and where I needed to take it from there. It has made me see what I hadn’t before
So sometimes willingly and sometime unwillingly, my words have forged connections with the people in my life. They’re strange and beautiful and sometimes unavoidable, but I’m glad for most of them.