Writing Practice

Never complain about the behavior of anyone, unless you have the power to change in his nature what makes him act this way; and if you have this power, change him instead of complaining.” –The Mother

Today is the Sri Aurobindo Society’s 51st anniversary, so there was a group meditation this morning. Happy birthday to the society! Every day I am amazed at my good fortune to work in such a beautiful space with such intelligent, passionate people who are creating change. I will be starting my visits to the organic garden (hopefully) by the end of this week, which I am really looking forward to. In the mean time I have started working full-time on the guidebook for the Alternative Winter Break students.

Sampad, our resident Sanskrit scholar gave me a worksheet of the Hindi characters to practice writing. There are only about 30 or 40, not so many really.  In fact, I am told that the writing is the easiest part… It’s like first grade all over again! (Remember when we were made to learn italics in elementary school? Was that just me? Whatever happened to that?)

I love Hindi. Apart from the foreign sounds, the sentence construction is a bit to adjust to. For example, instead of saying “I am not a tourist,” you would say mai touriste nahi hu, translating to “I tourist not am.” The subject of the sentence always goes at the beginning, and the verb at the end. It is exciting to learn a few words each day.

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Oo! This weekend I also got to practice making chappattis again at a friend’s house. This time I could actually roll the dough into something that resembled a circular shape, and I didn’t burn them! Yess… I was so happy I went out and bought a bag of atta, wheat flour, so I can keep practicing at home.

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Due to requests, I will post a few of my writings from the workshop.

One of our activities required everyone to bring a special object and place it in the center of our group’s circle. Then we had to all randomly pick an object and do a ten minute free-write, describing the object in detail. Free-writes work best when you don’t think too hard about what you’re writing. Just let it flow. The object I selected out of the pile was a small blue scarf. My free-write came out as a short story:

 The Blue Scarf

 She thought it quite garish really. The sky blue of the small, square scarf clashed with the purple, green and yellow sunflowers stamped all over it. Didn’t he notice that she only wore shades of black, khaki and mauve? But he had brought it back for her from Spain with love-drunk eyes, so she smiled and gave him a kiss. The scarf’s material was too scratchy, the kind that feigns silkiness but is really just a sheer weave of polyester. The hem was stitched with a too-large gauge of white thread and the edges had already started to fray.

She put the scarf in her dresser and forgot about it, reverting back, if she had ever diverted in the first place, to her pashminas of olive green, plum and ivory. It was only until one muggy afternoon when she was rummaging through her drawer of winter clothes that she pulled out the piece of sky from behind her black wool socks. She was in a good mood that day, and threw the hideous thing into the bag she was packing.

The love-drunk boy was now her workaholic husband, and they were heading to the beach for an assiduously relaxing three-day vacation.

Husband and wife drove along the rocky coastline, the pine trees standing sentinel on both sides of the road, today allowing pillars of sunlight to warm the young earth. She wore the scarf tenderly wrapped around her neck. Her husband hadn’t commented on it. They pulled over the car to take a photo at a scenic viewpoint. In the midday heat she tugged at the itchy blue scarf. She asked an elderly man to take their picture, with the ocean dancing against the rocks a life below. They pasted on smiles as the man counted to three and for a second–a split second–her mind was quiet, at peace with the world.

Still smiling, she turned her head to look at the water and a gust off the ocean snatched the scarf from her jeweled neck. It fluttered above their heads, down, down the shoreline cliff. She watched the piece of sky descend, free as the gulls. She wanted to laugh, to wave goodbye to it. She did neither. Turning towards her husband who had already started the car, she wondered why she suddenly felt as if something inside her had shattered.

The Eye and I Creative Writing Workshop

August 27th, 2011

“I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of being forgotten.”

“And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on.” –Blood, Sweat and Tears

 

It’s almost 11 pm but I can’t sleep. My head is buzzing with the processing of the workshop activities and other hilarities of life. Our group of about 15 students is so wonderful. I am one of the younger participants, and the only foreigner. I am joined by many education professionals, teachers, principals, and published authors who are all lovely and have come with open hearts. My elegant and intelligent roommate Rama, currently snoring in the bed next to me, serves as a principal at a fancy residential school in Puree, a town in west India.

The Delhi ashram is a very nice facility, built in the modernist era when everyone thought concrete was God’s gift to humanity. Every room and wing of the ashram guest rooms is built in the shape of a hexagon, after Sri Aurobindo’s symbol. There is a health center, a library, classrooms, and a large, beautiful meditation hall.

It is interesting to see another branch of the Sri Aurobindo ashrams. The dining room is much smaller, and the food has a bit more variety than in Pondy. (They have chai at breakfast!) In Pondy you also need a meal pass to enter, here you just go eat.

Our workshop activities have been a combination of sensory free writes, a group story, object descriptions, and a free write inspired by our favorite song. One activity was meant to get us to stop observing with our minds and use our senses instead. The blindfolded person in the center had to touch the faces of those around her to guess who each one was. Hint: it’s really hard. Our days are punctuated by tea and samosa breaks and lively conversation. It’s going by as quickly as my usual bag of guavas in my backpack. (I love guavas. A source of amusement for my colleagues, I try to explicate that we do not have the yellow fruit in the lush but gelid pacific northwest.)

I have written a lot in the last two days, some good, some that I am unsure where it came from. I will post some after the workshop is over. It has felt wonderful to get to write for no one but myself. Writing blog posts is a different thing, with a consistent theme and audience. Blogging has certainly gotten me in the habit of writing everyday, allowing me to dive into my expression at a deeper level right away. In these activities I lose myself, free to scrawl whatever bubbles to the surface.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be heading to Arti’s house, which is fortuitously in South Delhi as well, only a few subway stops away.  The Divine above has definitely been watching out for me so far.

Delhi, ho!

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

– St. Augustine

I have been hatching a plot to go to Delhi for a creative writing workshop. Society staff member Harvinder, who used to be an IB school principal before coming to the society, will give the workshop. Now she writes curriculum that incorporates integral education for mainstream schools. Really cool stuff. Harvinder is a fiery, no nonsense poet, teacher and English major herself. The workshop is three days long, and I’ll be staying at the Sri Aurobindo ashram there. Delhi is the society’s Center for Media and Communication Arts, so I’ll be interested in what’s going on there.

After the workshop I’ll be staying with Maneesh’s aunt Arti near Delhi University for a few days. The Taj Mahal is only a day trip away!

I am taking the train almost the whole way. It takes two days to get to Delhi on the train, so I’m leaving on Wednesday. Taking the train is a trip in itself, and I’ll get about 5 whole days of train travel to read, write, and stare wide-eyed out my window.

My last stop will be in the far north, in the Punjab region, in the city of Amritsar. I’m very interested to see the differences between the north and south India, in food, dress, climate, everything. India is so diverse and varied; I love it.  Amritsar is famous for the beautiful Sikh Golden Temple, built on the water. I’m staying with my good friend Shabd’s friend, who is now a teacher at the school they both attended together.

I found this map online. I’m going north, north, north, then coming back on the same track. You can see how how far New Delhi is from Pondi, about 3/4 of the length of the country. Amritsar is on the northwest border, printed very small.

I will be back to Pondi in about two weeks. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to post, but I will definitely write about all of my adventures. I will likely find internet every few days then post a lot at one time.