I am waiting for sister in her hotel suite that has a TV and a coffee machine in each of its two rooms. She is on a busy official trip to Dubai. While sister was away for the whole day and evening, I was wasting time like how usually writers do before they start writing. I tried to think of the rains I saw just a few days back when I was in Kerala, and relate it to the drizzles we celebrate in Dubai. But that had no more meat than for a facebook status message.
I have been assigned a writing test. I have no idea how good or bad am at it. I mean at a test. As this one comes eight years since the last test for a journalist’s job in a daily in the same city. Though I have been writing on everything I have been assigned on for a long time, a test is a test.
Restlessness made me message my sister on a possible topic that bothered the business world these days. Perplexed smiley icon on her WhatsApp message followed this - “You are the writer, sister! Just write.”
Seriously I think my fingers are frozen!
The classic problem of many topics. I am stuck on three equally compelling subjects - art, education and wellness. Though I have no clue what would really interest the examiner, am giving it a go straight from the heart.
In my first writing test 14 years back, I wrote about the real estate scenario in New Delhi and it landed me my first job as city reporter with UNI. I had heard of the market every day since childhood as mother used to invest in new apartments, redo their interiors and sell them. She spoke of rising prices of apartments in Patparganj, changing municipality laws, bureaucracy, land mafias as well as the latest Italian decor books available in Khan Market. She always spoke well of how important packaging and positioning are at the end of the day no matter what the quality of your raw materials.
I look around in the hotel room for inspiration. My eyes stop at M. T. Vasudevan Nair’s Bear With Me Mother, picked from the airport, neatly tied in a ribbon and meant for a dear friend who would not mind if I read it before I gave it to her. I did just that. Sister called between meetings, to ask if I were ok. She reminded that the room service coffee was better. Fresh coffee on a cold night was a great accompaniment to follow the author’s mind as it ran thorough autobiographic instances that inspired each of his short stories. The title was honest. He is not very proud of borrowing plots from around the people and places he knew.
Just few nights back, in M. T.’s own home state Kerala, I was on an airport cab from Thiruvananthapuram to Punalur, where my grandmother lives. It was pouring and the radio played rain-special numbers between an interview. Movie Director Priyadarshan was clearing the air around his new flick Gitanjali that brings back Dr Sunny, played by super star Mohan Lal, a popular character from a blockbuster Fasil movie Manichitrathazhu. He said that Dr Sunny is like James Bond. Each time in a new plot and unconnected from his previous adventures. “Nothing is original. As creative people we are always inspired. When I am discreet of my source am thought of as original and when am not am seen otherwise. I will always entertain you with what inspires me. I have been in the craft for 40 years and am addicted to it. Please bear with me.” His clear narrative voice on the radio matched the heavy downpour outside.
I wonder if smoking made your larynx produce a heavier manly voice. My non-smoking late grand father used to mock my soft-spoken uncle, who smoked not just cigarettes, saying that he does not even sound like a man. No parent can bear his grown-up son to be living an irresponsible life. Perhaps nature’s benevolence leaves you with no urge to explore, change or break free of your addictions. A numbing, soothing something takes you over no matter how short a visit you may be in Kerala for. It was a refreshing change for me this time too.
Meanwhile, in the Dubai hotel suite, I had more time to while away.
Susan Minot’s Evening played on Fox Movies. A melancholic 1998 novel about a woman in her 60s remembering her past while very slowly dying. She left me wondering what if I lost my memory, mind, health or all of it. Will I grow old and become like the protagonist played by Vanessa Redgrave, who is in her deathbed, waking in and out of a dream that screenplays the best days from the past. She had vivid memory of one great love - of a man whom she dated before she met her husband. The story had a hallucinating but charming Redgrave reminding us of Gloria Stuart who played old Kate Winslet in Titanic. A-not-so-great love story that made me teary, unnecessarily.
Sister walked in ready to crash. She asked feebly, “Could you finish your write-up?” Guilt just made me sigh without speech while I made a new resolution. No matter what, I will have my daily dose of soaked almonds. Like my grandmother, I wish to have my brain in good form.
By the way, my grandmother in her 70s has a great memory. She thinks I am a great writer. I used to post her a copy regularly when bylines were new in my life. She loves to pull out old magazines from her bedside drawer, read out her favourite portion from my then stories, throw glances at me from above her glasses and wear a look that makes me feel almost certain that she would never grow old.
Looking forward to thank my good genes, luck and the opportunity to keep writing!
PS: Glad to mention I cleared the test :)
PS: Glad to mention I cleared the test :)