Tuesday, June 23, 2009

She Wants to Get Back

When I first started writing, it was an activity inextricably linked with walking. But there was a long period of walking which never resulted in writing.

I had just moved to Panchsheel Enclave in South Delhi. We moved there from Portland, Oregon. In my old life I walked as a way to escape the depression of being in the house all day. So rain or shine, and mostly rain, I bundled my three and nephew makes a fourth, into all the appropriate gear and shoved off each morning to drop the older two at school. A walk of ten to fifteen blocks, sometimes longer if, after dropping the elder two, I felt like walking further – maybe to the train yards to wave at the freight trains switching tracks. If the driver waved back, joy all around, and less guilt for me looking at rain-damp heads and noses red and running from nippy air. In those walks I communed endlessly with myself. Random fragments of narratives moved in and out of my consciousness. I turned words over, but mostly I little handled them, letting them drift into my line of vision and back out to the ether.

I made this trip to the children’s school and back thrice daily because those years there was always at least one child too young for a full day of schooling. I know I was thought the neighbourhood crazy lady. This period lasted a good six years.

Something shifted for me once in Delhi. I walked in the jungle park bordering my colony—a place, lovely and crowded, like so many in Delhi. A small search here yielded solitude. Solitude, by the way, isn’t at all the same thing as loneliness. In fact solitude is the best cure for loneliness. Walking here I found myself and again became my own best companion—the left right rhythm of walking merging my left right selves, so they spoke to each other. And this time I gave chase to the words floating into and out of me. I wanted to know where they came from and where they were headed. I was not content to think, how extraordinary, as an image emerged then vanished. I wanted to turn it over in my hands, examine it from all angles to see what made it work, and I wanted to replicate it on the page, where it would yield its meaning at my will. But what is extraordinary, when it is suspended between left and right, me and I, becomes less so on possession. I wonder sometimes if that is the way it will always be.

What shifted in the course of the Portland to Delhi move is not important to share. That the move was a homecoming had something to do with it. But it wasn’t as simple as I walked in one city and never wrote, walked in another and did. After all, I had begun writing in the weeks prior to the move. The important thing I’ve understood about writing is that walking is a way for me to enter the stories floating in my head. And the satisfaction of story is its ability to merge selves.

When I met my niece for the first time she was a year and a half and just beginning to handle words. She had a number of skits she performed using a repertoire of word-sounds. In the most hilarious of these skits her part called on her to fling her head back, to make eye contact from under slyly lowered lids, to run her tongue over the repeated sound of Ze. She sounded like an engine revving.

Ze ze ze ze ze.

The engine done revving, she paused for a beat. Then: ha ha ha ha (final emphatic) Ha.

The crisis in her performance was in the moment of the pause. A look of knowing in her eyes– the look of one about to create an effect, the look of one who knows the future.

She was a great storyteller then. I saw her again recently after a two year gap. She is three and a half now and still a story teller to learn from. She lives almost exclusively in the third person. And she sees herself in two. Watching her I recognized the way I see myself. When she wants something she has this to say: ‘She wants to give it to Ella.’ If she were a lesser story teller she would stick to ‘Give me…’ or ‘Ella wants …’

Here’s a tragedy she recounted as I played a game of blocking her way in the rather narrow hall outside my mother’s kitchen. Before I knew it, the game had crossed the point of being fun. Ella stopped darting this way and that, squealing and looking for a way around me. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “She wants to get back to Ella.”

1 comment:

  1. I discovered your stories quite by accident and now am hooked. And loking forward to read 'if it is sweet'.
    And u look gorgeous too..:)