A Ramble of One's Own

I am writing this to the steady thrum of rain on my window. I'm perched on the ledge in my room, alternating between looking outside at the trees swaying gently and Googling the usage of the word "thrum." I live in a part of Delhi where I can actually hear the birds chirp, and right now, the steady beat of the rain is interspersed with thunder and a cuckoo. My window overlooks a government school; the roof of which has always been the favourite for peacocks. Growing up, I'd hear the peacocks screech and know if it was going to be a rainy day. Sometimes, the peacocks would come out for a dance too, shimmying their feathers and wooing a forlorn-looking peahen. (I'd always think of them as forlorn anyway.)

On this side of the window, the house is quiet. Sunday afternoon siestas are sacred in my family. Errands and worries are paused for an hour after lunch and slowly welcomed back in with a cup of tea around four o' clock. After all, a cup of tea fortifies you to face the world with a little more patience. It's why the first thing I do in the morning is make myself a cup of tea; the newspapers come later. I also pride myself on making a delicious cup of tea. The best in Delhi, I often tell my friends who nod along despite the disbelief on their face. Like all good friends they are willing to indulge in my harmless delusions despite knowing the reality of my cooking prowess. (Subsistence-level, at best). Luckily for me, I love my tea the way I make it. One small step for tea leaves, one giant leap for self-sufficiency.

The only sound in the house right now is of me tapping away at my ancient laptop. The word 'ancient' is not just the writer in me trying to be whimsical. It's truly how my laptop is. It doesn't work without being plugged in which renders it immobile mostly. (There are only so many plug points.) Even when it deigns to switch on, it makes me wait as it patiently arms itself with "updates" which never seem to have an effect on its speed. While working on it, I dare not be reckless. Every command must be thought-out and 3-5 business days be adjusted for the command to be fulfilled. But in what I think is a good example of unnecessary emotional attachment to technology, I love my laptop. It's honourably acquitted itself through panic-stricken days of thesis submission, been a reliable companion with its copies of "Mughal-e-Azam" DVD-rips and a digital historian of my life through its endless photo libraries.

I had a rare double-off weekend this time. Let me explain for non-journalists who are looking baffled at the screen right now. I work alternate weekends. Either I'd be working on Saturday or Sunday and get the other day off. Or I'd get a double-off. Usually, a double-off is an occasion rare enough for me to suddenly transform into a social butterfly. I'd walk around in my favourite monument (always changing which one), meet up friends for bunch and then go for a concert in the evening. But this weekend, I decided to stay in. To read, write, think about reading-writing and the people who get to do it.

"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." That's what Virginia Woolf wrote in her seminal book "A Room of One's Own." I'd add one more thing to that — time. From books on how to write while having a family to take care of to personal anecdotes where a book is written in the snatches of time before the kids wake up; the leisure of sitting around and toying with ideas seems to be a privilege that most men take for granted. For a woman, only a clear boundary between the writer and the woman would suffice. In her memoir, the writer and critic Shanta Gokhale advocates Woolf's counsel and writes how her children knew not to disturb her when she was writing. The two figures of Aai and Shanta Gokhale were to be respected separately. It's why every time I read a brilliant woman writer, I'm in awe.

It's one thing to write a beautiful sentence. But to write it with a clear awareness of the ticking clock is just genius. The ticking clock might not be visible always, but it's there. The alarm that wakes the kids up, the impending marriage "deadline," the dinner which needs to be cooked, that list of errands which are a woman's responsibility.

As most editors would rightly argue, a writer rambling on without coming to the point is a pain. I often feel embarrassed if I feel I'm rambling away when I am writing a letter or a story. Today while writing this to you and deliberately discarding thoughts about "but where is the structure?" — in a small insignificant way — it feels like a rebellion.

The rain is still pattering on, I can faintly hear the peacocks in the distance, my ancient laptop is heating up with every word I write and my father just popped in to ask if I want some tea.

"I'll make it myself," I say.

------
LINKS I ENJOYED THIS WEEK:

1. This piece by Ayşegül Savaş made me tear up and also buy a new book.

"A middle-aged man, “Big Silver,” is talking to a young woman he’s invited to his table. After a while, the young woman interrupts to tell him a strange story of her own, about a scuba diving trip, which is also a story of being hurt by someone in her life.

“You talk a lot don’t you?” Big Silver responds.

“It was not easy to convey to him,” Levy writes, “a man much older than she was, that the world was her world too… It had not occurred to him that she might not consider herself to be the minor character and him the major character.”


2. Always read Mr. Mathrubootham on a Saturday. Even if like me you were a quizzer and don't understand the sentiment.

"​Madam/ Sir, since childhood itself I have 100% total hatred of all GK quiz programmes. First of all there used to be quiz on All India Radio. My father used to listen and tell, “Hello, Mathrubootham, whether you know any information or your head is pure jackfruit.” Immediately I used to say, “Appa, at least jackfruit you can eat, what you will do with information about first man on moon, first elephant on Uranus, first adai-avial on Neptune.” Then I would jump out of room and run quickly before arrival of father’s footwear."

3. I love podcasts, but this is a little too much. Thankfully, we are far away from hitting a peak in India. Though if I hear one more podcast which is just two dudes cracking jokes about "life"...

"It’s no wonder that the phrase “everyone has a podcast” has become a Twitter punch line. Like the blogs of yore, podcasts — with their combination of sleek high tech and cozy, retro low — are today’s de rigueur medium, seemingly adopted by every entrepreneur, freelancer, self-proclaimed marketing guru and even corporation. (Who doesn’t want branded content by Home Depot and Goldman Sachs piped into their ears on the morning commute?)"

That's it from me for this week. Some of you have reached out to say that the newsletter is going to your "Spam" inboxes. I'm doing what I can so that's not the case but if you find that happening, let me know.

As always, if you want to say anything, write to me. If you liked what you read, please let your friends, colleagues and friends who are colleagues know.

I will write again soon.

Maanvi