I have lived my whole life in a crowded suburb of a busy metropolis. What I make up in opportunities, I lack in inspiration. The real struggle underlying the fights for space, time & money is keeping your spirit alive. It is eroded, drop by drop, cell by cell, in mundane ways every day.
But I found my way to deal with this in the same mundane that we assume destroys the grandeur of an interesting life. Spiritual lessons don’t hang around, ripe for the picking from Bodhi trees here. Meanings of kindness, companionship & camaraderie have to be deciphered between the mayhem of traffic signals & car horns. Romance & nostalgia must be distilled from the sewage of commercialism. Yes, it helps to be next to the sea. Some days it is my only saving grace.
But I keep trying because because it’s not possible to spend forever on the beach (even on this tiny island). Maybe that is how I learn to shape words, to fashion my realities into bigger things than what was thrown at me. Isn’t that the soul purpose of a writer, a poet? I try.
I have been journaling since I was a child, diary entries, coded letters to myself, notes in the margins, blogposts. My last week will be forgotten in a couple of months, written up in my medical file as a second COVID attack, buried under work invoices. But each night I used the scrap of energy that the virus spared me to spin a yarn about the day. And that is how I made it through the week. (The images are from before I tested positive; I’ve been in quarantine through COVID.)
12 Oct: I had a successful meeting with someone I was nervous about meeting. Then I took myself out to celebrate. As I walked down a street that was still wet with the downpour that happened when I was in the meeting, the sunlight glinting through the leaves, I felt my worries lift. I spent an hour in a bookshop by myself, just savouring the company of new books. I had a couple of crazy turns with a set of mad autorickshawallas & got home to finish The Good Place rewatch. All these adventures after 30 months of struggling to be patient – such bounty!
13 Oct: I thought a lot about forgiveness, about culpability, about careless cruelty. And I decided not to carry the burden of other people’s inability to hold dignity. The Good Place rewatch helped. There were many strange incidents with autorickshaw drivers that day – a stalled engine, an unexpectedly kind one ferrying me a short but inconvenient route, an egoistic asshole and more. I learnt how much I could endure and how much more powerful that silent endurance was in breaking aggression. Thank you, Alanis Morisette.
14 Oct: I had an extraordinarily determined day. This is also most likely when I picked up the COVID infection. Everything seemed to come just too easy after the trials of the previous day. I completed a book after a very long time. I finished everything on time. I guess endings signify the beginnings of new challenges for me. I could not have known then.
18 Oct: Just over the weekend, I woke up to a migraine, waterfall cold and fever. Doggedly determined to hold on to my power Friday self, I pushed through a busy day of cooking, chores & errands. I hated going to bed that night. It felt like trying to fall asleep in water, water made murky with bloodied pieces of me and old bits of trauma. The next morning I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had fallen prey to the virus again, in a bare 10 weeks since my first infection. How could this happen to me? I evaded all the previous waves, even managed to stay immune through my family catching its most infectious variant & nursing them. But I did catch it. And I caught it again. What does this say about my immunity, my mortality? I haven’t gone there yet. Were the last ten weeks a mirage? Trying not to go there either.
19 Oct: There’s a grim old me that puts down anxieties & complexes and plods through what must be endured. And maybe COVID works as some sort of backhanded anti-anxiety depressant, pushing one’s brain to its most rudimentary functions. Worries slip away just as memories and desires do. Hunger? Maybe, no, I don’t know. Sleepy? Hmm, uh. Who me? Was that me just a week ago? And before I know it, the day has passed. That’s a relief. Or something like it.
20 Oct: I watched Dear Zindagi for the first time. I’m glad I avoided it when it first came out, fearing all the triggers. It was triggering and it pried loose a lot of things. But I had all the time in the world. I watched it over two days. What else is there to do with a brain going in circles in a body that can’t decide whether it wants to breathe or not? I also started a rewatch of Dil Bekarar since I remembered it put me in a good mood the last time round.
21 Oct: I tested negative. I could feel my brain heaving past the fog willing my body to do it. And I did. It was a Friday, the Friday before the first Diwali since the pandemic. And it was surprisingly quiet and clean aired. Was the universe making a concession for me? I lived through another wave.
Find your poetry, whoever you are, wherever you are. It just might save your life. Or make it a life worth saving.