The Writing Habit

This writing habit of mine is a funny thing. I say habit, but I break it every once in a while and end up coming to the same conclusions. At this point, this is probably the tenth time on the blog that I’m writing about breaking my writing habit and the kind of things it has made me think about. However, each time, although the conclusion is the same (that I need to write), I find that it is a different thing that triggers the break. Recognizing those triggers for me is as important as anything else I do, because if, one-day, I ever read my own blogs again, I’ll be able to understand why there was a random gap between posts when I considered myself to be a daily blogger.

So, why’d I end up on this break? Three things happened all at once in the past two weeks:

  1. Fear: I was talking to a high school friend of mine when I first vocalized this fear building up inside of me that I would run out of stories to tell, particularly given that most of my stories, and most of my writing revolves entirely on observations I make in a given day. During this lockdown I’ve been really fortunate to have found a routine that works for me, and I’ve stuck to it almost religiously, but being slightly confined, I began to get scared that my writing would reflect a broken tape-recorder, with the same observations about the kitchen, or maybe something else I found in the house, but not much else. My friend told me this wouldn’t be the case, especially because I notice new things so frequently, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by that. The realization I’ve come to now is that life will go on, and this blog has essentially always been a chronicling of the things I find fascinating on the day to day. Letting that fear stop me from writing, and this is something I’ve felt before as well, is premeditating that nothing story-worthy will happen in my life henceforth, which is simply not true. Life goes on, things will keep happening, so I shall continue to weave stories out of them.
  2. Longer conversations with parents: My parents and my family are the most ardent readers of this blog. It’s weird to think that now, especially given the kind of things I write about, but I’ve never been conscious of my audience while writing here – given that I am not writing for an audience in particular, so there’s never been a filter on content. Over the last few weeks, my parents and I have spoken for longer durations each evening. It’s a combination of things again, but they are free-er at the end of the day, as am I, and we have these free-wheeling conversations about everything under the sun. I usually end up telling them my stories, and they’re the best private audience to observations I’ve made throughout the day. Writing about them almost feels repetitive. In short, I became lazy. If a story is good enough, there’s no harm in saying it twice. In fact, I think my parents will get the preview to all future blog posts, because it’ll probably be one strand of the conversation that ends up making it here.
  3. Lull: The last two weeks have been a lull for me in terms of actual productive output. There’s been a blip. I’ve been consuming more content, but I’ve not reflected or written about it. In some ways, that’s because I’ve been changing up my routine – which has tired me out a lot. In other ways, it’s because I’ve not noticed where the time has gone. For example, it actually only occurred to me yesterday that I hadn’t written for over 10 days now. Inconsistency is easy to cultivate I think, especially without fixed, tangible deadlines. Hobbies don’t have those unless you really want to set them. Lulls seem a part of life as well, you know, but I think the ambition moving forward is to have stories in reserve – those longer stories that deserve telling when there is time on our sides.

Time to write away.

Tubelight Moments

I would understand if you saw the title and expected a blogpost about a sudden realization I’ve had today, or sudden realizations I have generally. Those happen extremely rarely these days, and when they do, more often than not, it’s usually a realization of how much time has passed.

This afternoon, I managed to change the tube lights I have in my bedroom. As a result, my room is more illuminated than it was before. My eyes are still adjusting to the brightness. It’s around 12AM at the moment, yet it feels like it could be any time during the day. There’s a warmth to this light and the way it spreads across the room that makes the room feel bigger and more welcoming. I understood that only because I haven’t had the light on for the past two months, relying on a smaller, round, circular light on my ceiling.

When I was younger, this tube light used to be in our living room. It moved into my bedroom when I first was given a bedroom of my own, and it’s been with me ever since, which is now a period of 14 years. I can’t recall a time without the tube lights in my life, so I have a feeling the fixture was purchased before or around the time I was born. While that is a long duration of time, after the light turned on at night, I was thinking about all the moments of my life that the light has shined on, and some snippets deserve mentions.

Well, the first one that came to mind, is the fact that the tube light saw me sneak onto my computer to play RuneScape when I was meant to be studying. That’s an early memory, because I definitely needed the light on at night to be doing anything in my room at all.

Then I have memories of struggling to switch off the light and climb atop my bunkbed in Bangalore. I used to sleep before my parents went to bed, and climbing to take my place on the bunkbed was quite a bit to manage in the dark. I used to be terrified of the dark as a child, and I am, to this day, pretty scared of heights. Turning off the lights meant that I had to tackle both my fears together, which was not something I was particularly good at. I remember switching off the light and almost leaping up the ladder steps to get to the bed before the last flicker of orange that shone on the edge of the light went out.

Finally, of course, are all the memories from studying. The tube light was my companion on late nights, which was anything past 11:30pm on schoolnights and pretty much most weekends. It was also my companion during board exams, where my fear of forgetting things made me wake up and revise. I remember doing this for one exam in particular, my Chemistry Paper 4 exam, which took place on my 17th birthday in 2015. It was the day after the law entrance exam, the CLAT, and preparing for both had meant revising for the Chemistry paper in the car on the way back home from the entrance exam to University – an odd feeling. I went to sleep worrying that all my studying was going to be for nought because I had spent the Sunday meant for Chemistry doing something else entirely, so I woke up around 4:30 and began to revise away. During those board exams, my friend and I used to get to school and back together, and I dozed off in the car after I picked him up because I could not keep my eyes awake.

Thankfully, I stayed up through the exam.

It’s odd that the tube light in my room has also always meant the coming of evening. Lights in the house used to go on at different times, depending on the amount of sunlight available. I remember the kitchen and the hall going on first, because there was very little light poring through the curtain, and evening television always necessitated good light conditions. My room, on the other hand, was often without light when I came back from playing outdoors in the evening. I used to use those trips outside to the football field or to the basketball court to split up my days – into “school” and “after-school”, but it was only when I came back home and turned on the light that it struck me that my day was coming to a close.

Naturally, therefore, the tube light has been witness to several pieces of homework put-together at the last minute. The tube light was the first piece of electrical equipment I learned how to fix from my grandfather.

There’s just one thing to say in conclusion. The tube light rests above my piano and below my air-conditioning unit. As a result, it’s seen some of the most infuriating times in my life – the piano practice and the mistakes I used to make. It’s also provided the light to some of the most inspiring things I’ve done with music. Sight-reading, for example, is a skill I am extremely proud of, and the tube light provided the source that guided me to each note.

May these tube lights live longer than the last set did.

Calling Old Friends

I love keeping in touch with people I’ve met in my life, because it’s difficult to look at any of the friendships or relationships I’ve had in the past and say “my life would be better without that person”. I think I’ve been privileged and fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people – people I’ve had disagreements with, fundamental disagreements, people I’ve hurt, people who have hurt me, but all wonderful people with their hearts in the right place. So thinking back to friendships I no longer have access to is sometimes a painful thing. When my brain decides to meander along to that place, I often find it resting on my school friendships – because at the end of Grade 12 I felt like we had all just become one big blob of friends, but that vanished soon after. In a lot of ways this feels magnified in my head. My brain enlarges small issues, something I’ve been working on, and I’m sure this is one too. A small change in the way we kept in touch somehow magnifying that we weren’t friends, or as close anymore.

Yesterday I was thinking about three people I hadn’t heard from in ages, so I messaged them this morning and had short phone conversations with one of them. That’s what convinced me I had blown everything out of proportion. It felt like nothing had changed at all. We’d just gone our own paths, having stopped for a while to meet each other along the way, but taken different turns after meeting – with different destinations in mind. Those roads aren’t that far apart that you can’t find the space to meet again. Phone conversations feel like the best way to do that, even if you just recall how you met the last time. I think I want to do these sort of catch-ups more, even if I’ve derided the practice in the past. Maybe it’s just a result of the conversation today, and maybe it’s just the circumstances – but calling old friends and hearing from friends with whom I went to school will always occupy a special place in my heart.

Taking Pictures

I’m not great with photography. Not in terms of it being a hobby, or a profession for me, but in terms of how I respond to requests for photographs, or when people ask me to take photographs generally. I’m usually okay with it, but I rarely take photos of everyday life, or of things I see around me on the day-to-day. Photographs for me, are reserved for trips I go on, or when I meet people I usually don’t meet. Special events, in essence.

This morning, while cleaning the house, I stopped at the wooden cabinet that contains photo-albums from when I was younger – these carefully compiled archives of regular moments of us as a family. I didn’t do anything “special”, I was just a regular baby-child, but my parents had captured every single moment. Or at least it felt that way. Each photo had a neatly-worded caption under it, and it felt like I could point to a photograph and my parents would tell me what transpired on that day in history. Of course, advances in technology have rendered hard-copies of photographs and physical archives a little moot in today’s world, but for that time, wow. It was incredible to look at how much effort went into compiling these, because they would have to put in a request for negatives to be developed into photographs and then select photographs from that pool to figure out which ones made the album.

We’ve got so much technology at our disposal today that I have an archive of most (if not all) photographs I’ve received since 2013, because everything’s just steadily backed up to the cloud. Today, though, after seeing all those images, I was looking back to photographs from University, to see if I could find some I’ve taken of my friends and I. I realized that there was a disproportionately low number of photographs – most of the photos I have from the past 5 years are just to commemorate things I’ve deemed special. Spending the last month in lockdown and recognizing University life’s come to an end, sometimes I wish I had more photos of the mundane. The dirty bathrooms, the dusty hostels from the first days I went back to campus, the room on each day. Just so I could look back on everyday of my life and point to something I wanted to cherish.

This blog makes it easy for me to do that with words, but I think one of the things I want to be doing more is taking more photographs. I was explaining this to my parents today. A large reason why I didn’t take photographs was because I felt they would take away from the experience of living a moment out in first-person, because I’d look through my phone or camera lens to capture it. I prefer, in that I’m more comfortable with words, so it always felt easier to describe the things I’ve seen or done using words. I guess that only conveys some of it though.

Stories are nicer when you can tell them using multimedia, to really engage with people’s senses, so to speak.

For me though, I want to be able to capture every day a little better. So starting today, I’m going to be trying to take a photograph a day. This was an ambition of mine for the newsletter as well, just so I could sneak in my perspective on things. This is just something I want to enjoy though.

I’m not going to “set-up” shots. I don’t think I want to do that as much. I’m just going to take a photo of one thing I find interesting each day. Maybe along the way I’ll learn a little more about photography too.

Let’s see how this experiment pans out.

GloPoWriMo 2020: 28/30

Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s description of her aunt’s cozy room, scented with hyacinths and a crackling stove, warmly recalls the setting decades later. Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.

Gosh, today’s prompt is a doozy. So many rooms to pick from.

A-201 

The bedroom was to the left of the hall,
Its door right behind the tiny desk I called my office,
You wouldn’t have considered the possibility that 3 slept in the room,
But for us, it never felt too little.

Straight ahead from the door was the attached bathroom,
A small alleyway to the right led you to the rest,
A large king-sized bed to stretch out your legs,
White cupboards lining the walls to store clothes, books, the very best.

Originally there was a large, Alder Hardwood Table,
Resplendent in the light that hit it,
A Windows 98 Desktop computer rest comfortably there,
“Tell Me Why?” played on the VCR mounted in the right corner top,
On a small black television that I watched from the bed.

Soon, however, my parents wanted me to be independent,
So one summer, when I was in India – a remodelling was done –
The computer table disappeared altogether, the VCR did too,
I came back to find a bunk-bed in its place: capacity – one.

I’ve played cricket in the space between the bed and mine,
Chipped off edges of walls with tennis balls,
I’ve hit my head on the edge of the bed with a towel on my head
(Ruining my kindergarten photo no less),
And hurt myself in that house countless times.

However if I search within myself to find, really
Find the person I am,
It seems to me it all started in that room, because
Today I have a room with a bunk-bed, with cupboards underneath,
I keep my books neatly organized, stacked, yet, food in the room,
I do not eat.

The royal blue on my pin-board matches those old cupboards well,
And the wood in my room is Alder too,
You may leave houses and rooms, it is evident –
But they will never leave you.

GloPoWriMo 2020: 26/30

I don’t quite enjoy today’s almanac questionnaire prompt. I’m also in the mood to write haiku, so that’s what I’m going to do. Since I recorded a piano cover of “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton: An American Musical (see here), this was the only thing that felt appropriate.

King George III

My loyal, royal
Subjects will be back to see
They belong to me.

 

Vacuum Cleaners

The first house I properly remember living in is a perfectly-sized apartment for a young one and two adults. It’s the house I remember having my first sleepovers in, where we folded out the green sofa we had and my friends and I slept there. It’s where I remember spilling milk on the wall because I accidentally knocked down an entire glass with my right hand, and it’s where I first remember eating my mother’s pizzas. Aside from these memories and more, including a bunk-bed surprise, my first tryst with a vacuum cleaner comes in this house.

We had a vacuum cleaner at all of the houses we lived in when I was younger. Now I’m not sure what brand it was – and whether we had only one vacuum for all those years or not, but I’ll explain whatever I remember of it. Memory is a fabulous thing, but it’s likely that the vacuum cleaner I describe is a blend of two vacuum cleaners we had. The only things I’m certain of is that it was either a Hoover or an Aftron, and it was either red, or silver.

The rest is honestly a whirr. Quite literally, a whirr – the most powerful whirr you’ve heard. Biswa has this lovely segment on the irritating sound that motorbikes make, and my vacuum cleaner hit that frequency and more. It was not possible to live in peace in that household when the vacuum cleaner was on. The size of the house made everything echo so you heard the vacuum whirring about 4 times for 1 whirr. While we moved across the corridor to a new house, I think that was the thing I was looking forward to the most – the fact that there was an extended passageway and multiple rooms made it almost certain that in the hall, the television would be protected from the vacuum cleaner’s engine.

That was not to be.

I disagree with this Physics principle on emotional grounds, but I learned that sound travels fastest in solids. Never was that more true than when one wall separated me from the vacuum cleaner. I was in the hall, watching television, eating food, while the house-help that assisted us with maintenance vacuumed the rooms. But the sound traveled through the walls and pierced my ears like nothing else.

I knew I would love living in India when we moved here and didn’t have a vacuum cleaner. The jadu did all the jadoo and swept away all sound. For years, I lived in silence, yet a clean surrounding at all points. Till I went to live in France for 6 weeks. The vacuum returned, and with it, all the trauma of my childhood. I was really grateful for a small house and a roommate, because I had to vacuum only half the time, and I could stay outside and far away from the sound when vacuuming was being done, but oh man – on the days I vacuumed, how I wished that these things made less sound.

I thought my saga with the vacuum cleaner had come to a close. Till this lockdown happened and I was home alone. Remember how I said we didn’t have a vacuum? Turns out, our vacuum was in hiding all along. My parents told me where it was to make my life easier, and the convenience of everything has made me love cleaning up the house and doing the chores every day. Vacuuming is a joy because you can see dirt disappear. Dust vanishes before your eyes revealing smooth surfaces. I am no longer scared to make a mess because I can vacuum it away.

I’ve learned how to deal with the sound. My solution so far has been to vacuum quick. It’s worked. My ears can tolerate short bursts of this (and the mixer), so I try not to expose myself to it for too much time on any given day.

However, I’ve made another discovery about the vacuum cleaner, a discovery that has changed my life – and is the sole reason I wrote this post.

You see, my assumption about the vacuum cleaner is that it sucked dust up into the unknown; a void where all dust disappeared never to be seen again. This morning, after finishing up my vacuuming I noticed the vacuum felt considerably more heavy than it did at the start of the month. Then I noticed some flaps. Naturally, I opened them. Lo and behold, the vacuum had an interior!

First, I examined the source of my pain, the vacuum’s motor. After which I found the vacuum’s dust bag where I saw a collection of all the dust and hair the vacuum had sucked up over the past month. I gagged.

Turns out, dust isn’t decimated by the vacuum cleaner. It’s collected and stored for us to clean out. For it’s convenience this machine really sucks, I must say. First it makes that horrible sound, then I have to see and clean the dust it collects? We need a vacuum cleaner that instantly burns all the dust it collects and leaves ash or something. Some technology advancements are owed to society after this medical crisis blows over.

That’s been my adventure of the day.