Dear Diary

diaryI like the idea of a journal because I write it for me, meaning am my Target Audience—this gives my imagination a lot of free rein.

Take a look at some of poet Bernadette Mayer’s journal concepts: Dreams, food, finances, ideas, love, ideas for architects, city designs…even telephone conversations. There are six pages of journaling ideas and concepts that Bernadette lists. It is a landmine of prompts and I’m thinking of posting it in my room. You should too.

The list reads like a catalog of observations we could make while we go on with our lives—while going for work we can change that jumpy bus ride into a poem or talk about the saddest things in our lives in prose. You could have a journal for your sweetest dreams and one for your fears. There is a format designed to portray every experience in our lives.

The journal and me

I started journaling when I was a teenager. I guess it was the worst time to start as I ended up burning my diary. Teenagers don’t usually store their diaries in case they want to write a book some time in the future. After burning the diary, which didn’t have any acute observations of the world around me but was more me-centric, I abandoned the concept of the cute little diary from Archie’s with the hearts and teddy bears and the Lock.

There was a Lock. I really shouldn’t have burnt it.

The next time I started writing a diary was when I became a Mom. This journal was different as I was obsessive about scrawling down feeding times, potty frequencies, fever occurrences, doctor’s appointments, vaccination dates, but all in a very disorganized fashion. At the same time I was typing in entries. When I typed, my journals were different and when I wrote by hand they represented some other aspect of me.

Getting Past IT

“I hate what I write,” a journaling novice told me. “When I look at what I’ve written, all I see is pages and pages of rubbish, trivia, blah blah blah, and I start thinking how I could be this way. How do you get past that?” It happens when you write. I was ashamed too at some point (now don’t come looking for my diaries!).

A lot of you comes out. In the beginning, your diary could be about the things you hate the most, the people you never want to see but who keep showing up, the life you don’t want to live but are living anyway.

Even years later, when you think you are over IT, IT raises its head and you lambast IT all over again. You got to get yourself out of you before you see the rest of the world. I guess that is why people who write are very introspective at some point or the other in their lives. Once you write yourself out in your diary, a lot of room will enter your writing space—and you will start to do word dances. The free writing finally starts becoming meaningful writing. I promise you that much.


The Making of ‘Unsettled’

Knock, knock, who’s there?

I am not a paranormal sort of person, so one day when a Yakshi, a female predator with her vampire aspect and white sari, her eyes that drink and siren voice knocked at the door in my head, I was surprised.

It made me sit up and take notice.

She sat down beside me as I wrote and showed me the lush green place where she lived. She led me through the rooms of the hundred-room house and she confessed that she was angry, with reason. After all, she is a woman and her grievances are real.

She told me to start looking at who I was. So I did. I come from a place with heritage written all over it. She was saying, See. That’s where I live! The hundred-room house. But of course! It was a large house that stood out on the path  I passed it a million times as I came walking home.

Now you may live in a place your entire life but it’s when you start writing that the place acquires a voice.

Two and two equals five

When I started writing this novella, past conversations came to me in a rush like audio clips—a grand-uncle who talked about a scholar poet who visited the village five centuries ago; ghost stories that my maternal family shared with me; poems I read aloud when it rained outside.

It seems very romantic, but it isn’t really. Writing about an unsettled character can unsettle you as well, and to etch the Yakshi’s character I fell back on many of the mad women in the attic, misunderstood characters I so loved and understood. Thathri the Yakshi is beautiful, yet so tragic, almost Plath-like in the way she is trapped in the bell-jar of her memory. Thathri needed to be heard.

Like so many women she was demonized—a mad woman lingering in a tree, a tree spirit with allure and deceit branded on her every elegant gesture. She urged me to tell her side of it.

So I wrote the story in a month.  I sat on it for a while, and then rewrote parts. The challenge  was writing the story across different time spans. That’s when it struck me that time doesn’t really change much—Divya suffers in the here and now and the Yakshi yearns over centuries. There seemed to be something timeless about this business of yearning and hoping for love.

The only thing that could save them both was the Scrolls of Love or poetry.

The journey to the scrolls

This book is not all female wizardry. In fact, it is my homage to poetry. A verse strewn on one page and another gives the text a kind of embroidered feel. The texture of love is the same—it permeates everything and yet it is so hard to define.

When the court poet in ‘Unsettled’ began his verse, the flow of the novella started for me. It’s when the voice of the character rings in your head that you know you are going in the right direction. The poems in the Scrolls were branded in Thathri’s mind and writing those lines is what I enjoyed the most on my journey with this book.

The Scrolls of Love are yours to find—they exist within. All you have to do is take a chance and read. Think outside genre, outside the convention. Just go read ‘Unsettled’ and see love and writing with new eyes.