A World Of My Own: The Magic Of Writing
December 11, 2018
Ruhi could paint people in a way that made them seem real. When you looked at the canvas, you’d expect their eyes to blink and words to topple out of their mouth. Tonmoy made miniature airplanes with matchsticks. Danny ran 100-metre races so fast that everyone else in the race was only inches away from the chalky start line when he swished past the ribbon. Radha came alive with every character she played- Portia, Alice Liddel, and Matilda- in a musty smelling auditorium with an audience that roared each time she delivered a line. When we were children, everyone had their ‘thing’ that made us feel like we created our own kind of magic. My magic was writing.
When I was 10 years old, I wrote my first poem. It was a quatrain with a total of twelve lines. I scribbled the poem on a loose sheet of lined paper ripped from a school textbook and then handed it over to my mother with an air of accomplishment. My mother’s eyes widened, and her mouth rounded in the shape of an egg as she finished reading the poem. In an animated voice, she asked me if I had written the entire poem all by myself. I nodded, forcefully surprised at my new-found talent. She pecked me on my cheek telling me it was a great piece of writing and that I should tuck it away for safekeeping.
Over 20 years later, I don’t have a copy of the poem with me anymore, but I remember it clearly enough to know it wasn’t a piece extraordinaire even for a 10-year-old. However, my mother made me believe it was. And so I wrote. I wrote when it rained during the evenings when my cousins and I couldn’t go out to play. I wrote on long, humid afternoons when days stretched out in front of us like shadows under a midday sun. I wrote when I was nervous as a mouse with exams looming over my head. As years rolled by, I wrote not because I wanted to see my mother gush in pride like the time she read my first poem but because writing became a part of me.
As I entered my teens, I was gifted a thick, faux leather diary. In it, I scribbled about what I then considered mundane days. I wrote about my friends at boarding school, my mother’s new job at a travel company, my winter holidays in the hills of Shillong, and the brown-eyed, shy boy from my class who travelled with me in a noisy, rickety school bus every morning. I wrote when I couldn’t find the right words to say something in person and sometimes, I wrote when emotions overcame me. At other times, I wrote because I wanted a memory of the fleeting days.
I still have a few of my diaries buried under encyclopedias and other old books from the time. During those years in the 1990s, writing about a problem often made me realise that even though everything wasn’t okay yet, but for the time being at least, I felt better. I didn’t know it back then, but today, when I read some of the diaries, I see how writing helped me to not only express myself but also to get a broader perspective on things and realise that a problem wasn’t as insurmountable as I earlier thought it was. Today, it’s not surprising for me to see that writing created a place of solace during some of my prime years.
As I entered adulthood, in addition to a diary, I started maintaining a notepad for humorous incidents from college and home, and another to write snippets about day-to-day life. Initially, I started writing these snippets merely because I enjoyed writing stories. But as weeks passed and I read and re-read some of the entries, I started seeing things from other people’s perspective. As 18 or 19-year-olds, we are often self-absorbed to a point that we don’t notice another person’s viewpoint or identify with what they are feeling. Sometimes, reading these entries helped me get a slightly better understanding of who they were or why they may have behaved in a certain way that I otherwise wouldn’t have understood or even tried to understand. These snippets made it felt like I was very much a part of a story, and yet I could also read the story as an outsider.
Almost a decade later when I was in my late 20s, I started writing personal essays. For the essays, I relied primarily on scribbles and notes I had made over the years in tattered diaries, coupled with my memories of those years. To my surprise, I remembered a lot of moments from the time in vivid detail such that they seemed clearer than any day in the recent past. Composing personal essays created a different kind of joy because they helped relive bittersweet memories of a time long gone. But mostly, writing them felt cathartic. I would scribble page-long notes sitting at the dining table, and a few minutes later, walk out of the room with a wave of calmness overriding me.
There are several things I love about writing. But one worth mentioning is the feeling of exhilaration when a piece of writing is completed. Sometimes, it occurs when I’m unable to complete a sentence for lack of a right word to convey a feeling or thing, and then minutes or hours later having found just the word I’d been looking for. The word that captures the right emotion and strings a sentence together in a way that the words all fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
My writing desk at home is next to a window in a shoebox bedroom of a four-storied apartment. It’s far from a quiet place. Down below, the road has a constant hum of traffic and blurred conversations of pedestrians and hawkers. There is a line of grocery and dairy shops that have a steady influx of buyers. If I glance ahead into the hills many kilometres away, the space between us is dotted by dwellings of all colours and sizes. But when I start to write, everything else fades into the background. I can barely hear the honking cars or the buzz of pedestrians or shoppers. My physical world slowly evaporates and I enter the world on the page where each word is a picture and a story slowly brews. The only sound is the clicking of black keys as the sun throws a warm glow across whitewashed walls.
If this isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
Prarthana Banikya is a graduate in Sociology from Miranda House with a certificate in poetry. She spent her formative years in the valleys of Northeastern India from where she draws inspiration for most of her writing. Her work has been featured in several journals including Aaduna, Asia Writes, Aerogram, Danse Macabre, Poetry Super Highway, Namnai, and Pratilipi. In 2016, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry and in 2018, was the recipient of the Orange Flower Award for poetry. She blogs at prarthanabanikya.blogspot.in.
You can read her articles here.