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.

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