Tag Archives: blogging

seven years strong: an ode to survival

On April 22nd of this year, WordPress kindly sent me a notification reminding me of completing seven years of this blog business. Little did it know (or, acknowledge) my intermittent growing silence. I have been quiet, most often than not, on and off in the past two and a half years. My closest friends, allies, even some foes, know why. The past two and a half years have been spent in a cloud of anxiety and depression, both triggering the other, more often than not.

My tongue has been in exile in the process. I kept telling myself if only I could convince myself to survive, I could conquer anything. Isn’t it sad how much more difficult it is to admit our fallibilities?

Finding my writing (and political) voice took letting go, took recognizing my limits, took giving up in order to move forward. The desire to sprint hasn’t left me, but the older, wiser, survived-a-battle (both inner and outer) me knows better. This reborn me knows that recognizing limits is not failure, that recognizing failure is not giving up.

It took me seven years to find my writing voice. For the first time in my life, when anyone asks me, “are you a writer?” I hesitate a little at first, and then say, yes.

I started this year with a flash fiction piece that poured out of me, “Mars in Scorpio,” which will be published in Toronto Lit Up’s The Unpublished City anthology; a project curated and launched by Dionne Brand. I will be reading this piece with 17 other brilliant writers on June 22nd at Harbourfront in Toronto. These are big deals for me. Giant leaps for little me.

I also had a provocative essay that questioned the problematic and debatable canon of Canlit published in FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity)‘s Program in early May. The essay was accepted almost two years ago by a big publication in Canada and then revised a million times, and then rejected on some dubious reason (they wanted me to rewrite the whole thing minus the discussion of Writing Thru Race conference held in early 2015 in Toronto because it was apparently “dated”). I didn’t respond and instead submitted it to FOLD when I saw their call. It was a good decision. It was the universe sending me a message.

Finally, I have been writing a lot this year. I wrote a short story in February which is currently under consideration at a Canadian magazine. I am also working on a short story at the moment (which is taking on the length of a novella). And, I am inundated with story ideas, one of them as a children’s book. I am buzzing with creative energy, a thing that was not possible as recently as December. I hear voices that speak to me, that tell me their stories, that lead me to unknown places. I am no longer questioning whether I am a writer. I just know.

There is another part of me that is excited for the academic project I have undertaken, my big fat dissertation. My own idea, developed by me alone, with necessary input from a fine committee. The best possible committee I can have for the project I have undertaken. I am blessed. So very blessed. Sometimes, there is a negotiation, a conflict between my two worlds, but that is a negotiation I have to engage with as I go forward.

And finally, there has been this new desire in me to give back to the community. Curating and running Balderdash Reading Series has been a part of that desire. I was fortunate enough to receive a Graduate Enhancement Fund for the next year to run the series. There are other initiatives I am looking into as well that will allow me to engage with the larger community outside, perhaps even build a bridge between those in school and storytelling? I don’t know. I am exploring possibilities.

A large part of this has been possible because of a few generous people in my life. To name a few: Doyali Islam. Phoebe Wang. Jing Jing Chang. Beth Marie. Bilan Hashi. Heather Olaveson. Samah Katerji. Maggie Clark. My mother, Jharna Sur. And my love, my heart of hearts, Krishnakumar Sankaran. Thank you for giving me so much, and asking for nothing in return. Thank you for helping me survive.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Thinking Aloud, Writing about writing

Havana Calling

havana

Freshly painted pink car in Havana – © iStockphotos.com/Christian Bernfeld – Source: http://www.timeout.com/travel/features/392/20-great-things-to-do-in-havana

This post comes a little belatedly, not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I was/am busy finishing up before I depart to feed my soul for two whole weeks.

That’s two weeks without working on my thesis, or thinking about deadlines, or marking papers, or answering questions to concerned parents who unknowingly turn up the stress factor by affectionate nagging.

That’s two weeks of engaging with an unknown place and people and experiences through creative writing and photography.

Godammnit, I can’t wait!

But le sigh. I have to finish a mountain of work before I get on that plane.

So on the eve of 23rd April, I completed four years of being a blogger. Ta-da!

What did I do that day? Nothing substantial. Meaning, no celebration as such. But possibly worked on a thesis chapter, as I have been doing every day now.

So here’s the lowdown. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I haven’t been publishing much lately. Not because I haven’t been sending my stuff out, or writing anything at all (Oh, but I have! So. MUCH.), but because I have been aiming higher.

By higher I mean I have been sending my work to journals where I truly want my work to be seen (won’t take names. Don’t make me! Not yet…). The result has been that I have also been getting a lot of rejection letters. Not form ones. Actual letters with feedback where most of them say:

We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, your piece was not selected for publication. We sincerely hope you will submit again in the future. 

ps. Thanks for the chance to read this. You do a great job of capturing voice in this piece. It made the shortlist for this round.

It made it to the shortlist! Atleast on three different occasions. Which means I am getting something right. In this essay on academics/writers and fashion, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says as much. She calls it “progress of sorts”. That’s where I am right now.

I have also been fashion blogging. It’s a one year project (not just for now. It just is.). It has been evolving and frustrating and fun and all kinds of mixed feelings. From a post every week, I have dissolved it to every alternate week just because it is too much work. Mad respect to fashion bloggers all around. Also, just like my little sister, if anyone else is wondering WHAT THE EFF IS THE POINT? You will find out in a year, when the project’s done.

And for those of you not in the know, my second MA thesis has a creative writing component. Which is really parts of my work-in-progress novel. And, for which, I was allowed to take Carolyn Smart‘s fiction and poetry workshop classes over the past eight months.

In fact, Smart is so awesome that she even edited a short story for a competition. I didn’t make it in, which sort of broke my heart, but it just makes me want to work harder on the story. It will find a home elsewhere, I am sure.

So, there you have it. This is what it has come to after four years of blogging online.

Not a writer yet, but getting there.

Meanwhile, HAVANA CALLING!

2 Comments

Filed under Writing about writing

Portrait of an Ex-Lover

I apologize. I haven’t been writing (creatively) lately- except for a few poems / prose excerpts here and there – because I haven’t been in that creative mindspace since September. I have even fallen off the NaPoWriMo bandwagon this year. Hard.

No, I haven’t been depressed (because that would actually help me write!), but I have been consumed by life (both academic and personal). Consumed in very rewarding ways, if I may add.

Why this mea culpa? Well, today is the three year anniversary of my blogging journey. It’s only natural to be self-reflexive.

Last year, I had typhoid visiting. An unannounced, unwelcome guest. This year however, I am going to celebrate in style. I have the champagne (a birthday gift from some of my Gender Studies friends). The dollar store wine glasses (alas, they didn’t have the appropriate ones). A sexy somebody to celebrate with. Oh, and a new fiction piece (my best piece yet) to share.

My short fiction piece, “Portrait of an Ex-Lover,” is in Rose Red Review. You can read it here.

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction, Thinking Aloud

Anniversary Blues

I should be up and about. Rejoicing. Celebrating the completion of my second year as a blogger. But I am sick. Even while writing this, I have to pace myself. Type a little. Catch my breath. Lie down for a bit. You get the picture.

When I came back from India, about two and a half weeks ago, I thought the tiredness and the infrequent fevers were a result of overexertion. Four months of it. But the fevers got worse. They were always the same. Violent shivering, followed by sweats. They became more frequent in nature. In fact, I was weak and nauseous all the time. Something was definitely wrong.

The doctor took one look at me and asked, “Did you take any of your malarial shots before leaving?”

Err, no. I was too busy with other things. Plus, I thought myself to be invincible. Surely, a few mosquito bites wouldn’t kill me?

“No,” I said, guilty as charged.

“Hmm… I suspect a case of malarial strain. Get these tests done.”

Wow. Malaria. The Great Indian Adventure doesn’t seem to get over.

Last night, I couldn’t stop shivering. Four layers of blankets did not do the trick. I felt guilty. Ma was awake due to my invalidity. Every half an hour she would feel my forehead. Baba, who hasn’t even recovered from his own illness, was up too. I felt angry at myself. And perhaps, a little vulnerable.

I have found that vulnerability often leads to stupid existential questions. In my case, I asked Ma, “Will I die?”

“If you are fated to, then yes,” she said in her usual cavalier manner. Before I could question her on her morbid joke, she added, “But don’t worry. You won’t die so soon. You will live to be in your eighties.”

You see my mom takes inordinate solace in the words of our family astrologer, according to whom I will live to see the Grand Old Age.

But what if he was wrong and I did not make it? What would I miss?

Let’s see…

I would not live to be thirty (which in retrospect, doesn’t seem like a bad proposition).

The Great Indian Novel that would not be written (ahh.. all that research gone to waste..).

The second M.A and the Phd that would not be done (I did like the sound of Dr. Sanchari Sur).

The dreams, wishes and fantasies that would never get a chance to be fulfilled.

The love that would never be professed…

Okay, maybe I am getting a little ahead of myself. It’s malaria. Maybe. Not c-a-n-c-e-r. Nobody dies from malaria these days.

So, with a brave face and a que sera sera eshque attitude, I gave my blood and other things to be scrutinized by lab rats. The pronouncement comes in a few days.

Meanwhile, I will stop moping, cross my fingers for the best, and hope for a better anniversary next year, and the next, and the next, and the next…

(Afterall, everyone deserves a second chance. I am just counting on mine.)

7 Comments

Filed under anecdote

(Un)Happy Anniversary

A year today marks the spot. This blogger is a year old. Bring on the champagne!

Or, not.

Blogging began as a quest to find that writer hidden inside of me, somewhere. Have I found her? I am not sure, but let’s see… I have written and published quite a few articles. I have found the poet who is proud of some of the recent stuff she has been churning out. Oh, and apparently, I can write fiction too. Wrote my first publishable (in the words of those who have read it) short story, and am going onto the second one. And, I have a little fanbase who very kindly provide virtual backslaps and head pats (Thank you!).

So, much to rejoice? Much to be “happy” about, this anniversary?

I beg to differ.  I want more (yes, I am greedy like that)! This girl is just getting started. I hope you will stick around for the show.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing about writing

Intent and Inspiration: Mallika Chopra’s Mantra to Life

I conducted this interview on June 18th at the ideaCity conference in Toronto. An edited version was published in The Weekender on July 2nd.

Mallika Chopra. Deepak Chopra’s daughter. Their names are almost synonymous. Almost.  But there is more to her than her father’s name.

Mallika Chopra and her daughters, Tara (left) and Leela, 2002

Mallika Chopra and her daughters, Tara (left) and Leela, 2002

Recently at the ideaCity conference held in Toronto (June 16th – June 18th), Mallika Chopra’s presentation talked about her inspiration from her family, her ‘intent’ blog (now, www.intent.com) and her journey from a girl in her twenties to a woman who quit her glamorous job at MTV Asia to find her true intent in life, as well as, the constant inspiration that she draws from her two daughters.

As Deepak Chopra’s daughter, she reminisces on stage about how Dr. Chopra taught her and her brother, Gotham, to set intentions for their lives on a daily basis. He urged them to say, “I am responsible for what I see, I choose the feelings I experience and set the goals I want to achieve. And everything that happens to me, I asked for, and receive as I have asked.”

She further divulges that it was her job at MTV Asia at the age of twenty-three that opened up her vision to the realization that the power of media can change the world. And voila, the germ for the idea of her intent blog was born. Co-founded with Gotham Chopra, Deepak Chopra and Shekhar Kapur, the blog asks people to post their intent for the day, an idea very similar to what her father cultivated in her and her brother at a very young age. When asked about the idea behind the blog, Chopra answers, “Basically we started writing. My whole family [is made up of] writers. We started blogging. It was really a hobby that took off and became something… The power of intention has been such a foundation in my life. It was actually a very slow process. I am a mother with two kids. I stayed at home with my kids. It kind of evolved over time. Overseeing is the power of social media to manifest change and it’s been more inspiring to see other people who have taken it on”. 

Despite being a successful spiritual guru in her own right (as many would agree), she is proud of being her father’s daughter, “I don’t mind being labeled as my father’s daughter. I am proud to be [Deepak Chopra’s daughter]. My brother and I have been blessed to be brought up in an environment that was surrounded by love and compassion versus an environment of hatred. I think we were very lucky. I think my father does great work. And he’s touched so many people which to me is an inspiration. Absolutely; we embrace it completely”. And, do you think your father’s fame has been key in your own fame? She laughs and answers, “Definitely, there’s no question about it”.

Mallika Chopra at ideaCity 2010

Mallika Chopra at ideaCity 2010

When asked about her mother’s almost non-existent mention, she clarifies that her mother has been (and is) “the complete rock and foundation for our family and our extended family”. Her absence from the media is a deliberate move on her part, as she “hates to be in the press and she… shuns it”. Chopra feels that this is “wonderful” as according to her, her “mother is the person in [her] family who has kept [them] all grounded”. Chopra adds that her mother “keeps us down to earth and not to take ourselves too seriously. She is the reason my dad is so successful because she made a lot of sacrifices”. The pride in her voice is perhaps a little more than when she talked about her father. In fact, being a mother herself has further changed Chopra’s life “on every aspect”. Not only did maternal joy make her a writer, but she believes that her “whole life is based on [her] children”.

And ten years down the line? She bursts out laughing and answers, “People keep asking me that question! I have to be honest… I talked a little bit [at my presentation] about how I found my voice when I became a mother. And, that’s been so transformative for me. I have always been interested in children and  children’s issues. So, I hope that in time I can become more of an advocate for children’s issues, because I see it through the lens of being a mother myself”. 

As a youth icon for today’s generation, Chopra has some sound advice for newbies aspiring to find their voice, “Frankly, I meandered and have done so many random and different things. There is a kind of fear of being on a path… It’s ok to take time and figure out who you are [and] what you want… Find something that you truly love to do and with that, you will find success.”

Photograph of Mallika Chopra at ideaCity 2010: Copyright Sanchari Sur

1 Comment

Filed under Interview