Cordelia Cordelia

Tuesdays are tricky. Both my best and worst days in the last one month have been Tuesdays. I think Tuesdays like playing with me. So I’ve decided that they don’t have to like me but I am going to tolerate them. I had a pretty regular day – class, lunch, curses, tea- blah – blah. After my last class, I sat at my desk and wondered if should just cut my uterus out and hide it somewhere. But then it tired me to think of blood, especially since I haven’t seen any in god knows how long so I decided to nap and read and make chai – and in that order. Thankfully my habit of mindlessly doing shit on Facebook will never outgrow me and I found SR’s new piece up on the Finger. It’s on Margaret Atwood’s book – Cat’s Eye. SR’s opening lines made me blush. Like somebody teased me and I couldn’t help but blush and pout at the same time.

Margaret Atwood wrote my childhood before it happened. Or at least a very good approximation of it.

And as I continued reading, I realized that I have accumulated far too many Cordelias in my life that I’ll never have the balls to walk away from. Some of these Cordelias don’t even know that they were my Cordelias. SR quotes Elaine, who says:

But Cordelia doesn’t do these things or have this power over me because she’s my enemy. Far from it. I know about enemies. There are enemies in the schoolyard, they yell things at one another and if they’re boys they fight. In the war there were enemies. […] You throw snowballs at enemies and rejoice if they get hit. With enemies you can feel hatred, and anger. But Cordelia is my friend. She likes me, she wants to help me, they all do. They are my friends, my girl friends, my best friends. I have never had any before and I’m terrified of losing them. I want to please.

The basic problem with all my Cordelias has been that they have all been my really good friends. I am only now learning how to survive potential Cordelias – measured, cold, distance. Something I think I may be getting good at. SR’s essay saved my Tuesday and made me not want to do miserable things to my uterus.

I wanted to same-pinch the crap out of her when I read this:

For me, this was crying. I’d cry and run away. Crying slid me into another mental state; one in which I didn’t feel so trapped that I was paralyzed, and my legs would actually move. Cry and run, cry and run, that’s my go-to for whenever I feel trapped – even today.

Every time I read an old journal, I count the number of times I have written- I am not going to cry about this anymore! And the number manages to astonish me every time. Even today, nothing comforts me like crying does. After a long session of feeling sorry and crying, my mind is clear and I get awfully chirpy.

My goal for the next week is to read Cat’s Eye and read like a motherfucker.

What they told me

Living alone is a skill, like running long distance or programming old computers. You have to know parameters, protocols. You have to learn them so well that they become like a language: to have music always so that the silence doesn’t overwhelm you, to perform your work exquisitely well so that your time is filled. You have to allow yourself to open up until you are the exact size of the place you live, no more or else you get restless. No less, or else you drown. There are rules; there are ways of being and not being.                                                 ~ Catherynne M. Valente, Palimpsest

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Pic courtesy The Daily Mail

Somebody shared this on Facebook and I died. Even though I have never lived alone, it’s what I think about – at least once every day. Two months ago, I did a bit of research to find out what women think they need to do to become/feel independent. This is what a few of my favourite women from 2015 had to say:

NV:

  • Live alone
  • Travel alone
  • Walk alone
  • Masturbate
  • Cut men down to size
  • Say the words Vagina and Clit in public

NM: Learn to cook

SR:

  • Flip water-cans
  • Develop a tolerance for loneliness
  • Buy Condoms

ZG: Live alone

IA:

  • Read
  • Travel
  • Have a hobby

SA:

  • Save money
  • Eat/drink alone

I keep borrowing the final image of my living alone from movies. Konkona Sen from Wake up Sid! Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz from The Holiday are the absolutest. What continues to be the deal-maker however is this quote:

Then there’s the deep contentment of turning the key in your own front door on a Friday night, slamming it behind you, pouring a glass of wine and settling down to watch a favourite movie.

I found the quote here.

Lately, I’ve been feeling that the older I grow, the farther the dream seems. My fears grow horns on their own when I travel with my family. And really really scary horns. Like I start feeling I will somehow be pushed into their dreams and when that happens, I’ll be too paralyzed to do anything about it.

I want to say I haven’t made any resolutions but nobody will believe me. Not even my blog. It may just delete itself off if I lie to it on it. So maybe resolution number one should be to stop traveling with the family.

Vicky Christina Barcelona

This is the first Saturday night I am spending with Bubbly and Mintu. I was in the department today reading Sound & The Fury for a little while before I realised I was alone. Mintu texted a little after I had become bored and abandoned my book. She said to bring wine, and that she wanted to watch Vicky Christina Barcelona. At first, I protested. I had watched it only last week, in a moment of mad inspiration. I told her we could watch horror. She refused. My throat felt dry and so I cancelled my writing group plan and headed home.

I picked up a bottle of Sula and rode. At 9:00, I had a long family dinner and marriage wasn’t mentioned. So I joked around, speaking urdu for sometime and then sent signs to Mintu and Bubbly to follow me upstairs.

We debated for a little while and then eventually I agreed to watch VCB. Very rarely am I able to watch a movie again after having watched it very recently. VCB, Band Baaja Baarat, DDLJ, The Holiday, Aadukalam, Monsoon Wedding, Amelie are some movies I can watch over and over again.

While it’s true that I notice something I have never noticed before when I watch a movie again, it is also true that there’s a mad, raging connection between women when they are drunk, and watching a Woody Allen movie together.

Tonight, for instance, I discovered that Mintu is perhaps the only human being who smirks at the same scenes that I do.  She smirked when Doug climbed up the escalator to meet Vicky after she had slept with Juan Antonio. She said that she loved the movie when Christina went to Juan Antonio’s home and better still, moved in with him. She hit the space bar at the exact same moments that I had — when Vicky refused to join Juan Antonio on his little trip to Oviedo and Christina considered it. At this point, Mintu asked us if we would ever do what Christina did. I said yes and Bubbly said no.

I knew they would both love Marie Elena. Especially that one scene where she poses for Christina, holding that cigarette like she’s holding, well, a cigarette. Mintu smirked when Marie Elena, speaking of Juan Antonio said ‘Our love will always be romantic because it is unfulfilled’

I have also learnt that women in love have a better sense of what’s about to happen in a movie, than women who aren’t in love. That’s because they think they have more to lose, and therefore are at risk all the time. Bubbly had a crazy sense of predicting when Marie Elena would lose it, and when she was just about to do something crazy. All of Mintu’s predictions were wrong. And as far as I can remember, so were mine.

Both my sisters however, cheered when Marie Elena and Christina kissed; and shrugged gruffly when Juan Antonio joined. Thankfully, Mintu giggled when Doug was turned on when Christina narrated her passionate scene with Marie Elena. ‘How typical!’ is what she didn’t say but knew,that she wanted to say.

I don’t even remember the wine anymore. It has been a good Saturday.

A Tuesday in December

Last night, I downed half a glass of wine and watched Hannah and her Sisters. I am going through a Woody Allen phase. Waking up was hard, had to skip Yoga to beat the 9:00 am traffic. I used a new soap today. It was very soapy and not creamy at all. In college, my day got interesting. After running around a lil bit to wrap up some tax documents, I – wow. I have tax documents and all. God, I feel like such a grown-up. It’s also not that scary anymore. I just need to stop being lazy.

Back in the department, I made chai and settled with Faulkner. I had to reread those three pages again. It was difficult because of all the names. But after 30 pages, I didn’t want to do anything else but read Faulkner. It’s rattling. I made two post-it notes today. Both pink. One had a list of all the reading I have to catch up on over the weekend. The other had a list of writing projects.

On instinct, I opened the London word document again. This piece was due a week after my return from Europe. It has been seven months now. It gave me troubles and that’s why I had to put it away. I had made a habit of opening it, looking at it, feeling disgusted with the writing and going back to my sad little life. This happened everyday for two months and then I couldn’t look at it anymore.

I was thinking of a short-story to show my students. A story written in second-person narrative. I read Lorrie Moore’s How to Become a Writer and then it hit me. What I hadn’t been doing with my piece.

I sat for an hour after that and changed all the I’s to You’s. It’s more readable now and in better shape than it has been in months. But it still needs work. In class, I think they liked the Lorrie Moore story. More than their predecessors did.

After class, I wanted to write so here I am. If the other Tuesdays are like today, I will grin throughout the year. I watched Tamasha last evening. I liked the first-half of the movie. The second -half scared me. That mad storytelling  – baba is frightening. Why did he have to scream so much? The film took forever to move from screen to screen. I was perpetually worried that I was going to be stuck watching one scene for 15 minutes, which at one point did happen.

I must go to book-worm today and put my coupon to good use. I also have Marzipan to go to today. I can’t believe I am still on the lookout for my replacement Parisian. So you know what they went and did to Parisian Cafe? Turned it into some hoity-toity apartment grocery shopping dump.I am not amused.

The month that was

Saturday was a fun day. I watched Delicacy with my students and liked it more this time. Later, we watched a stage portrait of Einstein in the college auditorium. I sat in the front row which may have, just may have, made me like the play more. A shortish review to come soon. After the play, I came back to the department and stalked a blogger I thought I had forgotten.

I remember feeling super impressed and a little jealous when I first read her blog. That whole design is hers and I learnt a lot from my stalking- sessions. I learnt about widgets, colors and themes, copyright on the blogosphere, disabling copy -paste through CSS and the likes.

She writes regularly and I can say she’s guilty when she doesn’t. I pay more attention to design, lists and posts that are part of weekly/monthly challenges on her blog. This is who I now turn to when I am running out of things to write. She has a post up almost everyday. There are quotes, lists, and pictures for days that she hasn’t written.

That kind of investment is all kinds of enviable. I also find that I need to stop feeling foolish about wanting to decorate my blog. There’s something so welcom-y about her blog. She does these reviews of months that I am fascinated by and want to try. I have nothing pressingly aggravating in my life that I want to protect as of now. So there you go, November was helpful.

  1. I went to Goa and Hyderabad. Goa reminded me that I should travel more often and Hyderabad reminded me to write more papers and attend more conferences — I loved the whole experience of being on my own in a university campus. I have now also understood the beauty of web-checking in.
  2. November also meant waking up to a fresh semester. Half a month has gone by and I have come to learn that there’s an odd sense of calm when only the students who are interested are sitting in your class. Sin Drama.
  3. November has been tight, money wise which meant that I made frequent trips to the bank. But I think I am getting better at managing money.
  4. The Reading Room met to discuss Rebecca. Our next book is The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I have only read three pages so far but I can already get a Madame Bovary- reading feel from it so, yay.
  5. I spent the last weekend in November watching various films. I am getting back to a decent movie-watching zone. I watched Coco before Chanel, Delicacy, and Deconstructing Harry.
  6. I love Woody Allen. He is God.
  7. I spent more time at home than I usually do. Eliminated 3/4 of the drama from my life.

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Coming to Sonnet 116

I sat in an Optional English class yesterday and wished I had been a better student. Since The Awakening, The Yellow Wallpaper, and The Husband Stitch, I have been all prose, less poetry. I have read these stories over and over again, imposed them on students every semester because the women who wrote them wrote them so unnervingly.

I read a Sharon Olds one day and thought that Sex without Love was beautiful– both the idea and the poem. I read Ramanujan another day and it rained. Sometimes poetry does what prose cannot do for me. And this is a discovery I made only a month ago.

P, S and I formed a poetry group, which means one whats app group was also created. P called it Bommali Beats and put up a Javed Akhtar dp. We’ve met only once so far. But when we did meet, we made chai, sat on the steps near the media lab and read Ramanujan.

We read poems about leaky taps in small marriage halls, about conjoose marwari businessmen who slipped coins under the mattress they sat on, and about barks that scratched the windows in unison. It was an interesting session. I came to read words beyond what they meant for me, in my regular prose world. I came to treat words with envy, with distance, and with an unfamiliar resistance to laziness.

I realized that I have been avoiding poetry for so long because I am afraid and lazy — it’s too much work to stay with words for so long. To stay with them until they become coherent meanings and patterns and eventually stories that bend and curve in ways that I do not understand. The rhythm and the line and the meter all go over my head. Because I prefer the freedom that words I read in prose throw at me. There’s so little to resist when I read prose. Not that it’s easy. Reading never is. But I am learning only now how both poetry and prose are so alike and so different at once.

Yesterday in class, AM did Sonnet 116. He sat at the table with nothing but a book and a pen. I felt intimidated and thrilled all at once. Of course he knew the poem by-heart. Long ago, when Titus had asked him how to teach a poem, AM told him to read it 20 times before teaching it. Titus returned the next day and said that the class didn’t go well. AM asked him how many times he had read it. Titus said 5 and received an almighty whack on his egg-head.

In school, they made us memorize poems. I had learnt to close my eyes and recite them without knowing what I was reciting, like the multiplication tables my mother made me by-heart, a wooden scale in her hand, her lips pursed tight.

We would get 5 marks in the English exams for reciting poems without mistake. I took an immediate aversion to it and failed, like so many others, to see that poems are meant for the ear, it’s how they sound more than anything else.

AM had made everybody write down the poem before they came to class– hand-write them. I copied mine from R who was sitting next to me. While I was writing it down, I remembered reading Sonnet 116 in M.A once and liking the first and last lines. I didn’t know what they meant; I just liked how they sounded. This was also the sonnet that Paris recites to Rory in Gilmore Girls just before their big AP test on Shakespeare.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

There’s such a thing as simply allowing the poem to take shape, to give it time, to give oneself time, to make sense of the poem – one word at a time, to read each line in isolation first and then in relation to the poem. I have never been able to do that. I am hurrying always, to get to the bottom of it all.

After yesterday’s class, I am learning ways to rediscover meanings. From what I was able to gather, poetry is as much resistance as it is interpretation– resistance to laziness, to conclusions, and sometimes to interpretations themselves. This is exciting. I have found a whole new way to learn.  Sometimes I wish I was studying EJP and not teaching it.

Writing. What else?

It’s one of those evenings. After a heavy and splendid lunch at Rayalseema Ruchulu, I got under the covers and watched season 5 of Gilmore Girls. Three hours later, my stomach wants more food. In the kitchen I find two varieties of Dal, one with garlic and one without. I pour them both on the mountain -rice on my plate and head upstairs to point out more similarities between my parents and Richard – Emily.

Four episodes down, Gilmore Girls plays in the background while I am stalking writers on Facebook. Found a video. Creative Breakthroughs, it was called. I paused GG and played the video. It was Ta- Nehisi Coates explaining why writing is an act of physical courage.

For a moment I wondered if he was going to talk about pleasure more than struggle in writing; inordinately making me feel that I got it all wrong from the beginning. That there really is pleasure and if one doesn’t find it maybe one should stop writing. But he spoke of struggle. He spoke of translating the music in the head to sensible words on paper, and how disappointing it can be to find that what you think of as a writer-dreamer does not write that easily and certainly does not read easily.

When I became a more or less regular blogger, I remember thinking how easy it was to write everyday. I wondered why it had taken me so long to start writing. And then I heard the whispers. People talking, hissing mean little things. In all fairness, there were people saying nice things too. But I found it hard to believe them. It was the whisperers that I had more faith in.

I went back to the earlier episodes I had had with writing, as a hot-blooded teenager. I had found a quote that I used to think best suited writing. You sit in front of a typewriter and open a vein. Over the years it became many things, not just vein. Then came a point in my life when I threw cynicism at that quote and every other quote I found. That the process sucks, but when it’s done, it’s beautiful. Bollocks.

I haven’t stopped writing. Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate isn’t just a kick-ass whatsapp status.