The Writing War

It is winter; Mumbai musters up whatever little chills that it can bestow upon me. The study window looks out into the hills. The lazy morning light showers a golden glow on my table, my notebook, my Lamy. The wind, caught between the high-rise within which I am ensconced and the hills on the opposite, howls and wails to be released. 

The first of the morning visitors arrives. The little brown fellow perches on the bird feeder and pecks at the maize grains. My presence doesn’t bother him. He is used to the bespectacled fat lady who can spend hours looking at him and his fellow beings. In-between the pecks, he looks at me—an arrogant, disinterested glance. I realise, with surprise, that he feels no love or gratitude towards me while I am so happy, thankful and honoured to have him visit my house. The shrill ring of my phone alarm rudely wakes me up. The day has begun. The real day, filled with cooking, cleaning, tiffin and clothes. I looked at the notebook that lies open before me. The brand new metallic green Lamy rests unopened on the unwritten page. What is this obsession for fountain pens? As if the pen decides the words and not me!

Sometimes, I am harsh on myself. I scold me for looking at the hills, trees, birds and bees while I should be writing. At other times, I tell myself that whatever little I write is only because I look at the hills, trees, birds and bees.

“So, it comes first: the world. Then, literature. And then, what one pencil moving over a thousand miles of paper can (perhaps, sometimes) do.” Mary Oliver’s words are reassuring on all those days when I give up writing to rake a few bucks, when I give up writing to care for a sick child, when I give up writing to stroll leisurely on the beach holding hubby’s hands. The waves wash away the fears, guilt and remorse.

Often, I am asked how is it like, this business of being a writer. I smile, blush and mumble some inarticulate words while all the time my heart screams to respond which part of ‘being a writer’ are you talking about. The noun, adjective or verb?

The noun is just a tag—doctor, engineer, teacher, writer—bestowed without any formal vetting. Who else, except a politician, gets a professional tag so easily? So, the noun makes me feel like an impostor.

The adjective— “She’s a writer!”—either makes me writhe uncomfortably within my clothes or leaves me giggling on the floor. Who am I kidding? I look towards the door; they will march in here anytime now and ask me to take up a real job—one that pays bills!

It’s the third one, the verb, the doing word, the action, that is the scariest of all. Every morning, when I open my eyes and realise I am still alive, I send up a silent prayer hoping that I can keep my posterior glued to the chair for many hours that day. Then, I pray that I can spend those posterior-glued hours writing. Then, I pray that my lovely muse shows up in those few hours and blesses me with words and ideas that I can hold on to. Anything can happen any day and it can all go down the drain: parent-teacher meetings, an injured pigeon stuck on the bathroom ledge, a crippling migraine, an unnecessary tiff with hubby, anything.

Because, you see being a writer is easy. It is the writing that is war. Still, the weapons and armour are ready and buffed. I am not quitting even if it kills me.

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