You close your eyes and try to remember the first snow this season as it fell softly on your way to work. You relive the memory of your train ride from Calcutta to Kharagpur where you met the woman who shared aloo parathas with you. You feel the taste of the exotic Ghost Pepper at Chelsea Market in Manhattan on your tongue, after you’re home, when the burning sensation is no longer real.
Then you simply describe it in words.
Description. Of all the strategies of writing, description should be the easiest of all.
I mean, after all, what’s there to description? The original is already in existence, or must have been in existence, or can be very much like something that is or was in existence. Just go forth and make a copy. Describe it.
A massive storm is approaching the East Coast this holiday season. It’s going to bring rain and snow and strong winds. Outside my window, broad daylight already looks like night. It’s like someone has wiped the window panes with a thin layer of gray, translucent paint. Everything looks more drab and ominous than usual.
The water of the river looks muddy, the sharp, gray, city skyline has its sharp edges smudged against an even grayer sky. The world has lost colour. The creams and yellows of surrounding buildings, ponchos and umbrellas look off white and ashen in the reduced light.
How do you write your descriptions? How to you remember the little details that are oft forgotten and fall by the wayside of our memories? How do you bring a moment to life exactly as it was as you were going through it? Above all, how do you get your memories to lie like truth? How do you create moments that make us remember things that were yet were not to lead us to our make believe worlds as though we were in them with the clarity of a memory? Continue reading Writing and detail→
I was thinking of a painting I imagined myself this morning.
A water colour of a woman in a white bonnet on a hilltop with her back to the viewer. There are rolling hills all around dotted by white and yellow grass flowers as far as the eye can see. It’s springtime. There is no noise except that of the passing breeze. She is drinking in the surroundings alone, at peace.
Then I imagined another painting. A man in a dark room at a solid, brown, wooden table sitting by candlelight at work. Everything beyond that circle of light is dark, undefinable, unfathomable. Quiet. Night. Perhaps someone else is reading or writing a letter in another corner beyond the scope of the painting. Only his heavy breathing is audible. This man is secluded completely.
I see a third painting. Two people sitting in a sparsely furnished room engaged in deep discussion. They are looking intently at each other. You are aware that that is how they have been in conversation for the last half hour even though this painting has only captured a moment in their interaction. A tiny fraction of their concentration.
As a viewer, I feel like an intruder. I mustn’t be here watching them.
When we were six or seven, we used to live in an oasis in the heart of Calcutta. Everywhere else the city was teeming with people, concrete, dust, dirt, cars, buses and street hawkers–an overload to the senses.
Yet, in the midst of it all was our oasis of a housing complex and a quiet street of some offices–a collection of buildings owned by the Railways to which change had not come in a long time.There had been few new constructions since the days the Brits were here and so the buildings were solid but not modern and the trees were all old and shady. Continue reading Memory’s oases→