Tag Archives: Krishnakumar Sankaran

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with a flash fiction piece that poured out of me, “Mars in Scorpio,” which will be published in Toronto Lit Up’s The Unpublished City anthology; a project curated and launched by Dionne Brand.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). It was largely a “white” publication, as their editorial board seemed to indicate. I never responded 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.

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Filed under Thinking Aloud, Writing about writing

Na-Po-Wri-Mo-oh oh OH!

Alright, this is not the National Poetry Writing Month. That was back in April. But since I was indisposed back then (read: typhoid mistaken for malaria) and didn’t even know about NaPoWriMo, I am late on this bandwagon.

The idea is simple (although, très ambitious). Write a poem a day for an entire month.

HAH. Easier said than done.

Poetry is a tough cookie. It requires whittling down of superfluous bullshit till you have captured the core (the “essence,” so to speak) of what you are trying to convey. It requires soul. It requires commitment. It requires seriousness.

Of course, good writing requires that stuff too, but poetry demands you of it. Otherwise, all you are left with are nonsense verses like “roses are red/violets are blue/if you write like this/I will positively hate you”.

Which brings me back to NaPoWriMo.

The project, started by poet Maureen Thorson in 2003, posts daily poetry prompts on her website for poets to start writing. 30 days. 30 prompts. 30 poems. Or atleast, that’s the general idea.

I, by no means, consider myself a poet (please disregard all that I have published). Even though my first foray into writing at age 6 was through a simple chara (a Bengali haiku of sorts), poetry is still not my cup of tea. Sometimes, I don’t get it. Sometimes, my own stuff disappoints me. Sometimes, I just find the abstract metaphors slightly pretentious. Instead, I prefer the bluntness of fiction.

My sister says, I should abandon poetry as I can never “make money” out of it. But she isn’t a writer, and I have better things to worry about than to ask her to hold her tongue. Also, summer is almost over. And, I have nothing to show for it (an incomplete novel manuscript does not count; nor do the short story ideas I have yet to transform into stories). NaPoWriMo seems like just the sort of experiment I can use to motivate myself for the next month before I become an academic robot. I might abandon it two days into the foray. Or, I might keep at it and come out victorious.

Who knows what lies ahead?

I will not be posting my “results” on this blog. If, however, they were to get published at some point, I would make a note back to my NaPoWriMo efforts.

Here, I must thank poet Krishnakumar Sankaran, who has become an exacting (albeit what one might call “with gentle blows”) critic and a dear friend over the past three months since I have known the bugger, for introducing me to NaPoWriMo through his blog. He has also helped me in writing more than I normally would (more on this in a later post).

For those interested, here is an adapted list of prompts from http://www.napowrimo.net/: Project_NaPoWriMo

Please note: I don’t plan to follow this list in the given order. I will go according to whim/fancy/mood, and cross the prompt off once I am done with it. But of course, no cheating. One prompt a day keeps your poetry book healthy, wealthy and wise.

For now, it’s time for Na-Po-Wri-Mo-oh oh OH!

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Filed under poetry, Writing about writing