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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.

By Neelima Vinod

Neelima Vinod spent her childhood in the Persian Gulf, with holidays in the warm, dreamy climes of southern India. Writing about the supernatural is an inevitable outcome of her exotic background. She now lives in Bangalore, India.

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