Friday, December 20

India III

A few days ago, a team from a local news magazine came over to talk to me and another writer about an upcoming literary festival where we'll be reading. It was giddy seeing the writer-photographer tandem, mostly because they reminded me so much of, well, me.

Selfish remembrances aside, the past three weeks (unreported, my apologies) had passed with something that resembles calm and regularity. Another trip to the city (where I got myself a kurta), to our beloved bar at Hessaraghatta, a reading, another performance by the dancers, and the usual blur of people coming and going. I've been here for five weeks, and while I could be (rightly) chastised for not doing enough work, there is no way to adequately ascertain the impact of my stay so far on the way I have come to appreciate the depth and profundity of this civilization.

Weeks ago, the dancers performed for a group of tourists, and we were allowed to watch. The sheer beauty of the choreography; the ancient, divine origin; and the devotion of the dancers to their craft--I cannot help but be reminded of the common narratives of India and the Philippines. The thriving "indigenous" way of life, the colonial interruption, the confusion and the struggle in the aftermath. When one of the dancers were explaining to the (white) crowd that the movements of the dance were based on 2,000-year-old scriptures, in my mind I hastened to add, and this is what your forefathers had dismissed and endeavoured to erase.

Perhaps more work is needed on the serenity front. Elsewhere, progress: (1) a new story, (2) two finished overhauls, and (3) reinvigorated drive thanks to offer by a literary agent to take a look at the manuscript once it's done. "Don't show it to anyone else before me," she had said, quite needlessly.

Tuesday, December 3

India II

The initial euphoria gone, have settled into routines, always the life jacket to which we cling on when flung toward uncharted waters. Here, it is waking up at around 9 or 10 (depending on previous night's alcohol intake), breakfast of either toast or scrambled eggs (as can't cook anything fancier), lunch with the dancers at 2 (if Anand isn't cooking), and dinner at 9 or so (plus rhum and a beedi with Venkat). In between, lots of tea and long walks, watching downloaded shows and looking out the window for hours.

I still think it is a gift--all this time to write, the (largely unfounded) belief that the project is worth investing on--but the faces are now familiar; the cold, tolerable; the silence, no longer an oppression. The profound exhilaration that I had felt at the prospect of being away from Things, I had been constantly revisting it. Had it been an exaggeration? Overcompensation? The facile way to put this turnaround is simple homesickness, which is not wholly untrue, although it ignores the additional isolation of being so far away from the city, with its noise and energy, the comforting warmth of multitudes.

Am I getting a lot of writing done? I am inclined to think that that is beside the point (cover your ears, dear sponsors). The conversations with the other residents--on caste, on regionalism, on popular literature, on this absurd thing we all love called writing--there is no ascertaining its value. The primacy of experience: how can it be so simple but also so multifarious? The heartbreaking thing about a tragedy like Yolanda, on whose heels I left the Philippines, is that the cold, hungry victims in her aftermath watch the same noontime show as me, laugh at the same crude jokes, and go to an SM mall to eat the same Jolly Spaghetti. Is it a paltry claim at solidarity? Perhaps. But such is never more clear to me as when you interact with foreigners.

Which is not to say I am not taking advantage of it. From my little desk, I can see an ampitheatre and, every now and then, passing tourists and goats and sheep. Progress, then, apart from the growing comfort: (1) further revisions on a really complicated story, (2) learning how to make masala chai, and (3) a confirmed lunch date in Delhi two months from now with the author of this little book called The God of Small Things.