March 4, 2014

Journeying into the World of Words

Autumn Poetry

I can't remember what it was like not to write. What I do distinctly remember are the first lines that captured my attention and drew me into the world of words: they described rivulets of water streaming across a parched desert. As I read the words, vividly visualising the shining water and the dry, cracked earth, I thought to myself: I want to write. Too. 

My first poem was published in a children's supplement of a Dubai-based newspaper, Khaleej Times when I was eight years old. I was living in Muscat, Oman and the newspaper used to be delivered a day after its publication to our home. As we scooped up the newspaper and took out the children's magazine from its folds, I can still clearly recollect my little brother and parents' excitement on seeing my name in print for the first time. The title of the poem was quite simply My Little Pie. 

While other children participated in soccer tournaments, played in the band, or acted in theater productions, I wrote. My mother has still meticulously and lovingly preserved all the lined pads and notebooks in which I furiously wrote poems, mock-interviews, stories stylistically similar to my current favorite author (Ann M Martin of Baby Sitters Club and Judy Blume, for example), and journaled. My father would gift me yearly diaries that he did not happen to use and I in turn would fill up the pages with philosophical notes on whatever intrigued or puzzled or bewildered me. When I was in the sixth grade and studying Buddhism, I became so deeply drawn towards the religion that I must have written countless poems about karma and suffering and whatnot. Yes, sixth grade, folks!

Two of my books: Silent Moments and Into My Own World

By the time I turned thirteen years old, one of my mother's relatives and a poet himself, suggested that I get the poems published given the huge number I had already written; in fact, I had such a huge bank of poetry that I eventually ended up publishing two more poetry books in 11th and 12th grade respectively. As an extremely reserved child, for me, poetry was an outlet which enabled me to record, comment, commiserate, and express myself in a way that I otherwise would not have been able to. While many of the poems were entirely based on visual observations, quite a few of them also delved into my interior feelings growing up as a teenager. Now, when I look back on them, they also help reflect those junctures of my life in which I was passionate about the environment or Buddhism or even Bollywood. Perhaps, if blogging had been around when I was growing up, I would have blogged. Back then, though, what I could not verbalise otherwise I would do so through the medium of my poetry. 

However, a funny thing happened when I started university and began studying creative writing. One of our first tutorials was about writing poetry and also, what exactly was a poem and how a poem could be so much more than just a string of lines arranged upon a page. However when it came to my first assignment, I was in severe panic mode: there was just a day left before the deadline and I still hadn't come up with anything radical. One sleepless night later, when I woke up and absently glanced out of my window, I observed that the ground was strewn with fallen fall leaves – and I suddenly thought of the Bollywood film, Mohabbatein (2000) in which Shah Rukh Khan urges his students to pen their feelings upon...fall leaves. (Chalk up to SRK for inspiration!) I ran outside, picked up several leaves, scribbled down drafts of a self-conscious ode of being an autumn leaf, carefully inked it on my chosen leaf, and sealed it in a sandwich bag – and ran to the department just in time to meet the deadline. Yet, this was the first and last time I experimented with the structure of poem; afterward, I became so hooked into writing fiction that I entirely gave myself to short stories and it has been a long time now since I have written a single poem. 

Yet, I still write: I cannot imagine a life without writing and it will always remain my raison d'etre, the reason to is still the first and most interesting way I make of my world (photography is increasingly come a close second though!) There is still nothing like experiencing the joy of assembling words together to re-create an experience or conjure up a character from thin air, as one is using individual ingredients to cook or bake an incredible dish. Whether I seek to reproduce an interviewee's thoughts or blog about an amazing holiday, writing is my bridge to the world – and it was my venture into poetry which taught me to do that. Will I ever write poetry again? Never say never!


This piece was originally published in Brown Girl magazine here

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