Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Since 2006

Once upon a time, I used to address my life online with the moniker "Lizzie Borden". For those of you in the know, wondering why on earth I chose an ax murderer to talk about my life, I played Lizzie Borden in a play.





Those days, I posted everything on my blog. From life stories, to poetry to the things I wrote.

Then I decided to branch off and have separate blogs for my fiction and my personal journal. And wouldn't you know it, the journal got filled up faster than I could churn out my work articles!

I shut down the Lizzie Borden blog and the email ID it was linked to. In 2008, I created my current email ID and in 2009 December The Shh Diaries were born. Somehow, writing here about the things that I think about and the things that matter to me seems easier. And initially, like all bloggers I wanted an active comments section.

I stopped worrying about it all, though. I didn't want an active comments section. Not after that "Open Letter to a Delhi Boy" went viral and that girl apparently got all manner of indecencies thrown at her. I was glad for this corner of the internet where I could peacefully write about my life and hate on people I disliked and went my way to do my thing. The occasional comment would pop-up and make me happy and I would engage with the person who left a message here, but otherwise things have been mostly quiet.

These days, I've been posting on Google+ and Twitter about any new posts on the blog, hoping that this time around the things I want to share will be read by people and they would leave a comment about it. Not happening. That's when I remembered that this blogging format is pretty dead. The blogs that are being followed either need a viral post to become famous or be helmed by a famous person or just be hella more interesting than my musings about everything.

The quiet out here makes me think about other things, though. What if my book does get finished and get published? And as an aftermath, in the quest to get to know me better, people troll this blog and pick up something and go online with it and say "Shruthi Padmanabhan's views on feminism will shock you" or something and a damn hate campaign takes off? This is usually the point where my rational self steps in and corrects my emotional self. The thoughts I've put online are not thoughts I'm ashamed of. They're not things I would never say in person to the people I know. I've been known to say and do far worse than I let on online.

As I read more and more about the death and temporary resurgence of longform, I wonder how much longer I'm going to keep this blog active. Because honestly, without this space, I wouldn't have any place to try out my experimental sentence structures and tampering with vocabulary. Maybe it is time to get back to that unfinished masterpiece after all!


Thursday, July 9, 2015

It Never Rains in Chennai...

...but when it does, it's something else!

Before I get into this, let me tell you why I'm talking about the rains when my weather app says - "38 degrees but feels like 42"!!! -

Narayani wrote about her first memories of the monsoon and tagged me. I would have written this earlier and passed this along, but, Fluff keeps me super busy and disinterested in typing anything longer than a Facebook status update!

So, anyway, here goes:

When we were kids, I remember waking up at the crack of dawn and dawdling at what I can only describe as a human chain that formed at the landing of the staircase that led up to our house in Kilpauk. My grandmother, my aunts, my uncle and my mum would all be lined up. Sid and me? We'd pretend to be useful running out of the house with empty buckets.

You see, our next door neighbour had a handpump and that was our only source of water. The compound house we lived in didn't have a pump, so, we had to fill water up in the mornings and evenings to use in the kitchen and bathrooms. Those were the days we used water very carefully and didn't waste a single drop! Madras was experiencing a drought. To the point where one of our relatives, who was a state minister, invited us over to their house where they had a regular supply of water tankers, to bathe (a shampoo bath!).

Thinking back on those days now, it seems ridiculous. But the memories of my old baby bath tub being coverted into a water storage bucket and lines of brightly coloured plastic kodams filled with water are still vivid.

Why drought when the original intention was to talk to you about my monsoon memories? Because it doesn't rain in Chennai!

We're a coastal city, we have cyclone warnings every year. Some years it even rains in Feburary/March, but for the most part my city doesn't experience a monsoon like the rest of the country does, not until October.

When the rest of the country airs its woolens and the advertising is about winter creams and thermal inners is when we sit in the muggy pre-rain outdoors and watch as the clouds build up and listen to the rain fall and store it as a precious memory. Because when the agni nakshatram heat hits us in May, that cool breeze before the rain is what sustains us until October and November.

My favourite monsoon memory, however, is dated 2005/2006. I was studying at Madras Univeristy then. On campus. My classroom was on the top floor. Other than us and the Computer Science departments, everything else was terrace. And the view! Right out into the Bay of Bengal! The unfortunate fact was that we had to sit on the parapet outside the loo to take in the sight of the endless ocean!

One afternoon, Jeya and I were sitting on that parapet watching the sea. We had class, and we didn't want to go. We never wanted to go to class, that's a whole other thing. I don't remember what we were talking about, but, we were both looking at the sea ahead of us. And then we saw it. Clouds. Dark. Almost black. Moving above the sea. Coming from opposite directions and looking like they were headed straight for each other. There was a thin grey wall underneath them, telling us that there was rain where these clouds loomed. The terrace  tiles in front of us were dry as a bone and yet, somewhere on the sea was rain.

As we watched, part amazed, part awed, the clouds met and before we could comprehend what we'd witnessed they headed straight for us. A thick wall of rain, heavy and noisy and cool. Jeya and I watched as it covered inch after inch of the terrace before flying over us and into a parched city. We were both a little too excited to pretend we were grown women doing our masters degrees. I don't even know if I've managed to explain it properly over here.

The reason this stands out for me is because until then, rains were all about reaching a place with great difficulty. It almost always rained when I had to catch my bus for school or college and almost always I was late or I got splashed by some car or I arrived looking rather shabby. I didn't have the time or inclination to appreciate the romance of the monsoon or anything pleasant about anything to do with the rains. My clothes had to be iron-dried and my socks almost always got the worst of it. I had to always wear proper footwear because travelling by bus meant I didn't have a dry space to change shoes.

I always complained about the rains. I still do. Objectively, I see how pretty it is and how lovely everything looks once it's been washed in the cleanest and purest water, but reality had a whole other picture for me and frankly I didn't care for it. It took me until my early twenties and that afternoon sitting on the parapet to really appreciate what the rains were all about.

For those of you who are coastal children who have seen the rains come in like this, I'm sure you've also tried explaining the rain coming in. For those of you who've never seen something like this, I think it's time to visit coastal India. Seriously. You have to see it to believe how beautiful that sight is.