Tag Archives: fiction

Becoming Chikni Chameli in 3 Steps

I encountered Chikni Chameli in the December of 2011, mid afternoon at the Calcutta airport, waiting to board a flight to Indore. I was on my way to a friend’s cousin’s wedding. The overhead televisions kept blaring the annoying music of the item song, in sync with its provocative lyrics and gestures. Men and women alike had their eyes glued to the rhythms of Katrina Kaif’s thumkas and chest thrusts.

Fast forward to December 2013. Calcutta, again. 2 am. I am hunched over my laptop, seeking inspiration to finish my final assignment for Carolyn Smart’s fiction workshop class. Write a flash fiction piece, under 500 words. There are no parameters, except for the word limit.

I finally find inspiration , through another writer I admire. And, a stream of unconsciousness. Who knows where inspiration really comes from?

Several drafts, and a few rejections later, my piece sees the light of day.

My short fiction, “Becoming Chikni Chameli in 3 Steps,” is up at Matrix Magazine. You can read it here. It is a part of their trans issue, edited by Lucas Crawford.

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Blood Red Sky redux

Got me a tiny excerpt from Blood Red Sky (my eternal novel-in-progress) in The Four Quarters Magazine. It’s only good until their next issue, so check it out here.

 

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Words are all I have

repressed mem

I never quite understand the process of writing, what connections I make in my unconscious mind, and how (or, why) these connections show up in a particular story. Isn’t it strange that I am a stranger to my modus operandi as a writer of fiction?

Take last month, for example. There I was alone in my parents’ house, in the middle of the night, in bed with the cat, stroking it absently while it shuddered as it dreamt, taking me back to a memory of someone shuddering in the exact same way a long time ago. And even as I lay there in the dark, words started forming in my mind, leading to a story I knew I wanted to write.

I think what it boils down to is this: I remember all kinds of shit. Random details about people I do not talk to anymore, people who are not even indirectly connected to my life in any way, and yet, memories of little moments stay with me, their quirkiest habits, their deepest confessions, their most obscure fears.

I think it’s the way my mind is trained – as a writer – to observe and record. That even if I want to escape, I am a prisoner of my mind.

All of this is fodder for my work, of course. That even when I am not thinking of these randomnesses consciously, they slip through into my words, jolting me back to a vivid past, making me relive a moment I thought I had long forgotten.

I used to think it was a curse. But not anymore.

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Five Years Strong

4 stages of writing

I woke up earlier today, cognizant of the fact that five years had passed since I embarked on this self-journey of finding myself as a writer. Five years is a long time.

So much has changed since. I have changed since. There are days when I stare at my face and can’t recognize who I am anymore. Not that it’s a bad thing. Change is good. Change should be constant. What is life without change? It’s complacency one must fear most.

I realize that every time I hit a year with this blog, I come farther away from the naive twenty four year old who on an impulse one night created this blog, ever hopeful that within a few years, she would be. A writer.

But a year comes and goes.

Not that I am not proud of all that I have achieved since the last time. Taking into account all the drama that went down, I am doing alright.

I had the privilege of working with Sonnet L’Abbe on a bunch of my stories these past few months. She was perceptive enough to point out that I need to manipulate my readers more. Play with their emotions. That makes sense. I am not very good at being tactful. I like to lay out things the way they are. Yeah, I am not very deceptive. That is an area I must work on. (Yet, I do know of a person who is extremely deceptive as a person, has an MFA in creative writing, and hasn’t published anything ever. So, I am not sure if that is an accurate assessment – on my part – of why I fail as a good fiction writer.)

novel

Meanwhile, I continue to publish more poetry. This year I have two poems forthcoming in The Feminist Wire. That’s the biggest publication I have ever broken into.

I have also become more sure of myself. I understand people better, read them better than I read myself sometimes. I work by instinct now, and it works.

No, I am not ungrateful. But somehow, somewhere, it doesn’t feel enough.

I guess I should do something about this feeling of unhappiness. Harness it, like Sara Ahmed says.

Watch me, go on. Watch me do it.

I have a few projects lined up this year, but I also have a few loose ends to tie up. So far, this year has been so damn promising. Even with the drama. And my instinct tells me, it’s just going to get better.

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W.T.F.

book

Disclaimer: This one got a little personal.

I have been questioning my life choices lately.

Here I am. Finishing up my first year as a doctoral candidate in English. On the cusp of thirty.

Not that age should be a factor. I am not worried about getting older. Hell, I am actually ready for the big 3-0 (still several months away). Nor am I in a rush to get married, having recently extricated myself from a relationship that wasn’t really working that well.

No, I am just wondering why I haven’t done it yet. Written the book, you know? There was a time when I saw myself a published author by the time I hit my thirties.

A joke really, considering that one only gets one chance at that first book. Fuck up, and you are fucked.

Pardon the language, but really, W.T.F?

A writer friend who is also as engaged in academia as I am states that she is unable – unable – to be both a creative writer, and an academician.

I beg to differ. I can be both. For me, it’s not about the switching between the academician and the creative writer that’s the problem. But the mental space. The time one gives oneself to become both – not necessarily at the same time – and do it well.

Well, well. That is the key word, isn’t it?

How does one do it well? How does one know that one is doing it well? And, how does one do it and know that one is not fucking up?

I have realized these are questions that have their own answers, depending on who you are asking.

Me? I am still searching for my own versions of truth.

But I feel them shimmering. Hovering just out of reach.

But there they are. Right there. See?

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The Erotics of a Queer Fantastique

Source:

Source: “Hallucinations” http://xkcd.com/203/

This came to me in a dream.

Sometimes, dreams hold the keys to your creative innards, the threads of which you must then pull out and knit together, make a boutonniere of sorts, and make a peace offering.

To cleanse the self. And, to gather your innermost self.

Sometimes, it is the only way to release that part of you, to release what is inevitably you, and yours.

My short fiction piece (my most queer piece, and I do not say this lightly), “Regular,” is in the last issue (themed: The Erotics of a Queer Fantastique) of LIES/ISLE. You can read it here. And, trust me, there is nothing regular about this one.

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Writing from a Stream of Unconsciousness

Am I a writer?

Why do I write?

Am I just enamored with the idea of being a writer, or is this more than just a self-righteous obsession?

These were questions that had begun to plague me lately.

You see, most stuff that I have/had written stem from some personal experience or the other. Some of it also comes from having overheard stories. But everything had been a reproduction of some sort, and even though I am proud of some of it, they seem to be missing some essential ingredient. Maybe, some inherent truth of life.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I was just stumbling in the dark.

So, I started reading/watching interviews of writers online. Why do writers write? Why do great writers write? And, what makes them write the way they write? I began to study the art of writing in earnest.

Most of them (like Sarah Selecky, who came to give a talk at the English department at Queen’s,) spoke about writing as a journey with unknown destinations. Some mentioned a plan with a possibility for uncertainty.

But one thing was clear.

To be a great writer, I had to trust my characters. I had to let them take me somewhere. And, I had to be open to whatever/wherever this “somewhere” was.

I began to doubt myself. I had never actually experienced this. My characters didn’t talk back to me. They did what I told them. Or, they were just reproductions of me and – what I began to realize later – derivations, at best.

If I couldn’t tap into this great unconscious where magic happens, then I could just pack up and quit.

But like the serendipity of all magic and miracles, I had a breakthrough. One of my characters spoke to me, and a story emerged.

I was working on my final assignment for Carolyn Smart’s fiction workshop. It was supposed to be a flash fiction piece under 500 words. We could play around with it, but it had to sit within the word limit.

I didn’t know what I wanted to write on, or where I wanted to go with it.

For inspiration, I turned to one of Sharanya Manivannan’s published shorts. Since I have been an ardent fan and a writer-in-progress groupie of Manivannan’s work for a few years now, I was already familiar with her stories. A particular story stuck out in my memory and I pulled it up. Her “Stream of Unconsciousness” in Fictionaut. The first two lines of the piece stared at me:

In his dream, he was choking on an ice cube. He didn’t know what would happen first — if it would melt or he would die. 

And, from those two lines, my first two lines emerged:

In his dream, he has a vagina. He doesn’t know what came first – the vagina, or his desire to have one. 

These lines would have never come to me a year ago.

Smart’s fiction workshop/class at Queen’s had helped a lot to open me up. I had begun to write without fear. I even put forward my full blown queer bildungsroman short story for workshop in class. A story that starts with a sex scene. Yes, me. Me who couldn’t even write about sex without being self-conscious.

And, there they were now. Undeniable. Waiting for something to happen.

Then, I heard it. The voice. A person, talking. In my head. Leading me somewhere.

And then, a narrative emerged.

A narrative that had absolutely nothing to do with my own lived experience.

So, this is what it feels like, I said to myself once I was done. This is why people write.

And, this is why I want to write.

Check out this article, “The Case for Writing a Story before Knowing How it Ends,” by Andre Dubus III (author of Dirty Love and The House of Sand and Fog), to get an idea about unconscious writing.

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