WordPress’ Daily Post suggested its bloggers post about the number twenty-six in some way, since it is the first twenty-sixth of the year. Meanwhile, I changed my theme again, to the one I had my eye on a while back. So my post on twenty-six is not on the number of apartments I’ve lived in (nineteen); the number of pounds I would like to shed (though twenty-six would not be a bad start); the town I lived in when I was that age (surprisingly, it was the same as now, although there has been a gap of precisely twenty-six years) but the number of author websites/websites about authors I’ve lately admired, and some I went looking for: 1. Haruki Murakami 2. Heidi Jon Schmidt 3. Simon Van Booy 4. Lakshmi Wennakoski-Bielicki 5. Toni Morrison 6. Mira Jacob 7. Sandra Cisneros 8. Carole Maso 9. Canio’s Books 10. Jeanette Winterson 11. Andrew Wille 12. Bhanu Kapil 14. Tania James 14. Kate Atkinson 15. Virgina Woolf 16. More Virginia Woolf 17. George Eliot 18. Shakespeare 19. James Joyce 20. Padma Hejmadi 21. Salman Rushdie 22. PD James 23. Cynthia Morris 24. Tim Hernandez 25. Marcia Douglas 26. Closereaders.
When I first returned from my seven-day India trip, my head was full of the voices of my relatives. I could hear my cousins, my aunties, creating a joyful dialogue that kept me company when I crossed my apartment’s threshold. I had been up since Sunday morning, India time; I returned early Tuesday morning, India time. A good sixty hours without sleep, aside from a few naps. Loneliness arrived in full blast, and I missed being in India, drinking filter coffee; talking with my cousins, seeing the sights. I discovered on coming home that my grandfather had been the chief civil engineer of the very hotel I had stayed in for a few days. I took an early morning walk around the ninety-three acre Lodi Gardens, covering about a mile at most.
From New Delhi, I traveled to Bangalore, and then onto Mysore. At Mysore, we visited the Kesheva Temple at Sonamathapur, a non-functioning temple built in 1268. Thieves, the guide told us, were so disappointed at the lack of treasure that they broke the noses of nearly all the statues. What remains is an artifact of immense workmanship.
The Mysore Palace was next, a palace more sumptuous than i had imagined. The moon was near full, but only on Sundays is the palace lit. It was shimmery nevertheless.
It has been a week already. My words cannot enclose my experience there, but this is a glimpse, an excursion provided by family and friends.
As my third assignment in the zero to hero blog course, I look at what made me create a blog in the first place. I had just returned from my first trip back to Chennai, India from the USA after an absence of several decades. I decided to join Facebook and get a blog. It was a way of re-declaring my profession, of making the private public, and a step towards finishing my third novel. That was in january, 2010 and now it is four years later. I have become so familiar with FB that I use the acronym. I completed the novel, and saw it published. I moved from the mountains to the Atlantic Coast. My third blog post in 2010 reminisced about once being a DJ on Community Radio, and I have since picked back my headphones, though on an academic break for now.
I am once again in India, and it is for a memorial, a look back at a dear friend’s passing by a hundred or so mourners in Delhi, the second such function where several hundreds gathered. Rosemary Marangoly George gave so generously of herself, so spiritedly, so honestly that one can almost forget the brilliancy and importance of her academic work in Post-Colonial and Queer Studies. She leaves behind a vast vacuum, but as one of her nephews noted, not an ugly one, because her spirit was so deeply beautiful, a word that is inadequate to measure the depth of her being. She has touched so many lives, family, friends, colleagues, students, readers. To gather collectively to grieve and mourn and celebrate is an important passage. The young might wonder why does a party take place to remember a passing? A party is a gathering, a collective hug, a reaching from to the levels of suffering in the crowd to the deep suffering of family and close friends. It is a chance to remember, and in this case, to tell stories; stories of all kinds, that might have us weeping or laughing, something to cling to in what really is a numbing truth: a dear one has been taken away far to quickly, too young. Rosie had triple negative breast cancer, a disease my brother specializes in, and a disease about which I know so little. Why did I not immediately scour the internet for information? I could say it was because I did not want to face up to the reality. Was it because I thought there was more time, that Rosie was far too precious and powerful for this disease to have a chance?
It is light outside, and winter in Delhi is chilly. My life is made of such tactile facts, spaces to live. What can one do with life except try to live it better? Live it better for my friend, live it better for others. Compassion to mind and body, compassion extended to others.
When I write, I am aware of both content and audience, of effect, and that makes the practice tiring and trying, for I don’t want to dress up reality, and yet I do. Joy Harjo believes words themselves have power, and one can release some words: fear, hate, for instance. Can one fully release sorrow and regret? Grief will burnish some things, so what remains is easier to hold.
Writing does that, too. It creates space to walk.
I just joined a thirty-day blogging course offered by WordPress, with the idea to learn something new about blogging. I started back in January, 2010, not knowing much. I thought I would post non-personal observations about, say, food, gardening, and books. the first posts were erratic, but I have since settled into a twice-monthly format. The blog has become more personal, to the extent a friend once asked me about an event, but commented she would probably read about here. Of course this gave me pause. Do I blog instead of calling, instead of writing a letter? Is a blog really an essay or a year round holiday letter? And should I not be seeking to publish this stuff, if any of it is interesting? Isn’t that what I do–write professionally?
I am an Indian immigrant who learned English in kindergarten in St. Louis, and took to writing because I liked listening to and telling stories. My grade school teachers encourage me, even if I took things literally ( asked to write another story “just like this” In second grade, I went home, and copied my story in neater script.) My sixth grade teacher gave me discipline with deadlines, as she required a story every week. I knew I wanted to major in English Literature in high school, dropped Drivers Ed in favor of Mythology. At Vassar, after an intriguing year in India studying Fine Arts, I went back to English Lit. A teacher at entered my work for a selective course in Narrative Writing, and I realized The New Yorker not only published reviews by Pauline Kael but also short stories. I started my first novel in graduate school, and finished it three years later in Provincetown. I did not learn to drive until I was thirty, but I had a publishing contract at twenty-seven.
Okay, that does make me proud, even if I dropped the ball on a promising career, and did not publish again until seven years had passed. Another sixteen years would pass before my latest. So what do I see ahead of me? More teaching, more writing. Maybe a lessening of procrastination and doubt. Maybe less silent comparison to this writer or that writer. In my personal life, I have remained single for a long time, and I suspect that status will continue, though I have become a pet guardian. I will continue to make food, try to return to yoga, eat more vegetables. I would like to make soup. Eat more pickled things. (Here is Mark Bittman on the subject of eating healthier.)
I hope I continue to have good people in my life.