When Women Tie their Hair in a Bun, Leave Them Alone

Image Credits: pinterest.com

Writing must become writing. Writing must become the want to write even if the desk is unkempt, and there are a hundred others things one should be doing, one could be doing. Writing must become slapping all other things off the table to make room for the dull heat of the net book, the cold forgotten earphones, and nothing else to keep it company. Not even the green mug of chai. Why does there have to be chai? Apparently Nabokov could only write standing. He stood every day of his life at a lectern and wrote. There was nothing else in this space – not chai, not music, not even quiet maybe.

It is different from the way I imagine Machado writes.

Writing has to be become the shock one wakes up with every morning and the warmth one sleeps with every night. It must become the zoo of sentences of beginnings that one repeats to oneself when one is riding. It shouldn’t be the way it is now- where only the beginnings remain and then their echoes follow one around to remind them of stories they could not write. That they cannot write.

When Machado writes, her bed is a mess. There is a mug of warm coffee in her hand but she only sips after writing a good sentence. Her table is messier and so is her hair. She has tied her hair together in a bun, keeping them away, as if to keep all distractions away. When women tie their hair together in a bun, leave them alone. They don’t want to be disturbed. My brother once told me that on days that I tie my hair in a bun, he is afraid of me. I laughed at him then. I think he is wise now.

Image Credits: en.wikipedia.org

Writing must become the hole in my stomach when I go days without reading, the catch in my jaw when I don’t write, the pull in my gut when I read a student whose writing makes me jealous. Writing must become the words that appear magically in my mind and don’t leave without any notice when I am staring at the pausing cursor.

When Alice Munro writes, her characters come alive, robustly living and evaporating into stories that are more real than my nightmares. When Adichie writes, her hair is standing tall, her posture straight and she is wearing a skirt that I only have the courage to wear on holidays that I take alone. Their stories run each other down into puddles of joy and sorrow until I cannot say which is which anymore.

Writing must become the ache in my insides when I think about it. The strength to leave behind a desk that is piling up with work. It must override the temptation to sit, to talk, to be drawn into conversations. Writing must become feeling unafraid to walk out on fun.

When I imagine Woolf, Austen and the fictional Miss LaMotte, I imagine them in black & white. I imagine them taking long walks in a city whose imposed loneliness they resist. They are afraid of silence but maybe they are not afraid of being with themselves. When they write, they struggle and have no one to talk to but they continue to write. Outside their quiet homes, men write and write fiercely. It’s what they did. I will always feel indebted to all these women who wrote before me. I think I can write because they wrote.

Writing must become the smiling pause after I read something that tingles my back and sends goose bumps down my arms.

At long last, writing must become what I do every day, little little.


On my right, a zoo zoo holding a bat with its mouth open looks on, a mug sits next to it, cold and white and as useless now as the teabag inside it. There are books on the table, piled on top of each other randomly, looking just the way I want them to look, deliberately careless. A bunch of black wires sticking out from a hard disk and a pair of earphones are casually strewn about by the books.  They feel left out, like they always do amidst books and paper and Net book and pen stands and coffee mugs. They are fillers between the time that you are completely uninspired and the time when you are 5 minutes away from writing a masterpiece you will secretly be proud of.

A plate, empty except bits of yellow food is on my left gathering flies. Various branches from the only tall tree standing in front of my house threaten to knock the window down. I am sitting in front of it, trying to think of something sensible to write. A bundle of uncorrected answer scripts are trying hard to get into the picture, cutting into my time and view. I am very careful about not looking at them, atleast not right way. I do however, want to get done with it just so I can move on with my life and all the other things I will not do.

It’s a holiday today so this is usually the time when I am busy making life altering plans for the day, only to watch it from a distance and grin impishly as it passes me by.

The cursor and a half filled page mock at me now and then. Their voice, disapproving of everything I have ever written and of everything else that I have erased. I have used the Control A + delete button thrice since this morning.  All three were attempts at writing about the book I finished reading yesterday. I am going to make one last attempt.

I finished reading possession yesterday and I am in love with Christabel LaMotte. There were tears followed by quiet howls when the drama ended. Finishing a book has always been an emotional moment for me but more often than not they are accompanied by a brutish sense of accomplishment and relief. Yesterday, I felt neither. I was mostly unhappy because she planned to live differently and deliberately and bang in the middle of when she was getting good at it, she falls in love and is mercilessly burnt by it. A.S Byatt is a seductress and I know I will get kicked for saying this but I am thrilled that she is a woman. Finally now when somebody asks me why I don’t worship a woman writer the way I worship Llosa or Nabokov, I can scream ‘A.S Byatt’

No other book has caused me so much grief when it ended. Surely, when I finished reading ‘The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto’, I was partly grieving but I was also secretly relieved. It took me three months to finish Possession but there are no regrets. I still wish I was reading it. Most books, when they end, leave me vulnerable like a small child. A part of me died when I read about Ammu’s affair with that man and her subsequent suicide in  ‘The God of Small things’; I felt betrayed and wailed in misery when I finished ‘Em and the Big Hoom’, I beat my chest and mourned over Dobby’s death. She crossed a line there, that Rowling.

Some characters, some words, some descriptions, some moments are what I am left with when I leave the book. Every book read and kept back on the shelf takes a bit of me with it. They have more memories of me and my moods, my secrets and my tales, my desires and my pains than my journals. They are constant reminders of life as it happened while I was reading it. Of all the things I remembered and missed, of all the plans I made, of all the trials of writing a piece soon after reading a paragraph that made me jealous.

Possession is a beautiful book. Byatt weaves a plot thick with the human desire to go back in time to see how they lived, loved and wrote and the forgotten mysteries of the written word and what they are capable of. Maggi says I will have the Possession hang over for two more weeks. I am kind of looking forward to it while having carefully made my next jump to Llosa’s ‘Captain Pantoja and the special service’.