Venturing out into a new city is both, frightening and exciting, at the same time. You never know what might happen to you, but you also don’t know what you’re going to find. Probably a new place, an experience to take back home, an incident that you can reflect on or narrate as a story to your friends, or even harm that scalds your fingers. It’s better to take precautions and do as the Romans do, but sometimes, you should have faith and let your instincts guide you.
I walked around Allepy with my sister today. We had breakfast at a typical South Indian restaurant where the tea was priced 8 rupees. 8 rupees! The filter kaapi was the best I have had in for ever and I had 2 glasses. (It was 12 rupees a glass.) Not only did I down the coffee with glee, but also wrote an email to friends in office who I generally share my beverages with. They had to have it. Dear reader, you have to have it. I received replies from them, and one of them asked me to get the kaapi back to Mumbai. We would name the coffee house ‘Starnotsomanybucks’ I was told. Teehee.
Walking around and driving around Kerala was vaguely familiar like I have said. There is little newness attached to it. While my village is a trailer, Kerala is the full movie. Like they say in Bollywood, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost. (I’m filmy. We know that already, don’t we?)
I woke up to a piece of writing that liberated the bondage which has clutched me for long. Yes, reality kicks in as the vacation draws to a close. So, let’s talk about my struggles for a while. The piece made me give up in under 3 minutes what I hadn’t given up in 1.5 months now. Or probably a year. Not sure which. And today, I read Elif Shafak’s semi-autobiographical novel Black Milk in a matter of a few hours on the train. (It’s really late right now.) To reiterate, I love Elif (Shafak is her mother’s name as I discovered today). She makes me proud of being a writer, a woman, a believer, and she makes me proud of being my imperfect self. Black Milk is necessary reading for every girl my age and wanting to write for a living. And I have the most amazing friend who sends me books when I’m not looking.
Although Black Milk is about post-partum depression, it is more about finding oneself when one gets lost in the labyrinth of life. Like she says in the book, you get lost in the labyrinth, and you get yourself out. This book not only talks about Elif’s own personality and her challenges, but also narrates stories of some very powerful women writers of the past – Dorothy Parker, Louisa May Alcott, Zelda Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, and obviously, Sylvia Plath to name a few. In this book, Elif narrates their stories and talks about their life decisions. So many women writers have had to make tough choices between having children and not having them. Between building a family and not building one. They have not had the support from men, as generally men writers have had from the women in their lives. The book discusses those women writers who chose to have children and their struggles of every day. When should they write? Who will take care of their children? What if they can’t be there for their children? Why should they give up a career? Elif juggles the thoughts of being a woman with all her society-assigned duties and being a full-time successful writer. It’s easy to see that women have never had it easy. But what I love about the book is that it doesn’t pity them. Not once. Women are wondrous creatures. The capacity they have for life is incomparable.
I must confess, I made a prayer outside that old British church which I could see from my room. I left a part of me back there. The heavy part. The part that hurt. The part that weighed me down. And I left it upon whoever wants to take care of it, to pick it up.
And now, as I venture into this new city I opened up for myself, I am queasy. Who knows if I will find a way out of this labyrinth? What if I get lost in it never to come back? Whatever it may be, one thing I know for sure, I am frightened and excited, both at the same time.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
– Anaïs Nin
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My review of Black Milk can be found here: Black Milk – On Motherhood and Writing: Review