Promoting your new book on social media: advice for new authors from someone who’s not one.

Promoting your new book on social media: advice for new authors from someone who’s not one.

When I quit my job two years ago, everyone thought I was going to write a book. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t. 

I began working as a freelancer. But somehow, people had difficulty wrapping their head around the fact that freelance work was still…work. Perhaps they thought work was something freelancers did between their decoupage classes, workouts with celebrities and meetings of the local chapter of the Sourdough Starters Society. 

Relatives would call to chat in the middle of the day and I’d have to tell them I was working. “Really?” they’d ask, disbelief dripping from their voice like the fillings from a burger. Ex-colleagues would ping and ask ‘hows the book going?’, right after ‘hows u?’ Well-meaning friends would send me links to insanely expensive writing retreats in the Himalayas and words of encouragement: “Bro, bestselling author X is so crappy; you can write much better!” I am not referring to Preethi Shenoy. Well, not just her anyway.

In the early days — when I still had writerly dreams — I used to be pleased that other people cared that I was writing a book. It didn’t matter that if I ever did, most of them were the kind that would ask me to send them a copy or wait for it to be listed free on Kindle Unlimited. But I am pretty sure that at least half of them would reshare my Instagram Stories with captions like “My friend’s an amazing writer and she’s just written A BOOK!!! Go read.” 

Here is the real reason why I am not writing a book: It. Is. So. Hard. 

No, not the writing part. That’s alright. It’s what comes after any new author gets published.

For the first few weeks, grit your teeth and do some self-conscious self-promotion. (Hashtags: humblebrag, authorsofinstagram). The enthusiasm of friends and family will be inversely proportionate to the number of posts you make about the book, but never mind. Tell yourself that while acquaintances might unfollow you, true friends will just mute you for a bit.

With pressure from your publisher to ‘build more discoverability’, you’ll have to start posting pictures of yourself holding the book, nudge friends and family to share pictures of them holding the book, and do live online readings for the 4 people who join the session. Giveaways are another good way to get visibility, although like the proverbial horse, you can’t make any of the winners actually read the book.

In a pre-corona world, there would have been literature festivals and reading events. What kind of writer would you be if you didn’t show up at these dressed in your casually glamorous best and spam everyone’s feeds with live updates? After skulking around the festival bookstall, moving a pile of your books to a more prominent position and waiting endlessly for someone to pick up one of them, you can buy an overpriced, underwhelming latte, exchange contacts with the dozen or so other obscure newbie authors, and return home. 

Over the months, the chatter around your book, however feeble it may have been, will die down. But ‘Writer’ will now be a part of your established identity and the onus is on you to remind the world of that. A popular approach is to post pictures of your notebook (hashtag: #writerlylife). Make sure it has cream-coloured pages and a fabric cover with illustrations that a real writer would call ‘whimsical’. After all, which self-respecting writer would write a novel in a single-ruled Classmate notebook?

I recently saw such a post: a well-known writer lying on the grassy lawn in front of her hill station home. Flyaway hair, pen in hand, surrounded by loose sheets of paper and a cup of tea, her dog dozing next to her. My questions are (in order of how badly I want to know):

  • If it’s that windy, why aren’t the papers flying away?
  • How are you writing on grass, without a table or a writing pad?
  • Isn’t your chai getting cold?
  • Who uses fountain pens anymore?
  • Also, who is taking these pictures?

My guess is she has either a devoted husband who is handy with a camera or a very enthusiastic social media intern. If you’re going down this path, make sure you have at least one of these.

All writers, we are told, are readers. So you are morally obligated to post photos of the books you’re currently reading; well, the ones with the most grammable covers anyway. Posting a photo of your Kindle is not cool, unless you can create the right ambience. Delicately crumpled bed linen (that’s right, ‘linen’, not sheet), a wooden serving board with a single muffin and cherries strewn around, a pair of glasses laid next to it. No matter that you’d then be too blind to read. If you choose to quote other authors, let it be Murakami or Atwood. Depending on how hipster you want to be perceived as, you may or may not call them ‘bae’. 

Photo by Jasmin Whiscy on Unsplash

After a few months, it is completely okay, even expected, to say you’re struggling with writer’s block. Rant about how difficult the writerly life is and how the road to book signings and panel discussions is long and weary and paved with more tubs of ice cream and self-loathing than you’d imagine. Pro tip: post a photo of the cursor blinking wretchedly on a blank document or the Hemingway quote on how writing is akin to bleeding at a typewriter. Wait for people to send you virtual hugs and tell you ‘You’ve got this!’ Once you feel sufficiently validated, open Swiggy and order your next tub of ice cream.

Oh, I nearly forgot throwback photos. Ironic, I know. If it’s been more than a year since the book got released, repost old pictures of the launch, friends posing with your book in hand, and the 5-star reviews they’ve left for you on Amazon. Good old nostalgia is a great way to plug in the fact that the book is now at 80% off on Amazon, in case anyone has *still* not read it.

The truth is, your job does not end with writing a book. You now need to become a master marketer (“Aarti didn’t like the first chapter of my book. But she ended up giving me 5 stars. Find out why!”), pyramid scheme sales person (“Tag 3 people who’d like to get my book and ask each of them to tag 3 more”) and social media personality. 

Are you prepared for all of this? I wasn’t. That’s why I haven’t written one yet.

Besides, between sourcing the best scoby to brew my kombucha and doing chakra meditation with Shilpa Shetty, where would I have the time?

Between the tracks.

Between the tracks.

What is it that makes train journeys so magical? It cannot be just the romance of seeing new places, snatched glimpses of other people’s lives. To me, they are also a period of limbo, where time hangs suspended.

Inside a train, I lose my anchor. There’s nothing to tie me to the places I speed past. I belong nowhere and everywhere. Ideas that have been sloshing about in my head for weeks suddenly stand still, showing me their forms with startling clarity. And I rummage feverishly in my bag for a notebook and pen.

Inside a train, I sit for hours with my Kindle on my lap. But I don’t read more than a few pages. I linger on each line, wondering about the words and their meaning. My mind keeps straying, yet my senses are heightened. I notice the beauty of a sunset, an old woman lighting the evening lamp in her verandah, even the shape of a tree.

I pick up snatches of conversation from adjoining coupes and the approaching cry of the chai vendor. The reverberating chachak-chachak of the wheels on the tracks is soothing, hypnotic.  My nose is tickled by the oily scent of masala vadas, a whiff of heady perfume as a traveler brushes past, the soapy scent of cleaning fluid that the cleaning staff spray. Everything smells stronger, starker.

I look out of the window and see another day come to a close in a spectacular display of colours. I point my phone and try to capture the image, but again and again, its beauty evades me. And slowly, I realize that this is another world. One caught between two dimensions. One that exists, but only briefly.

I occupy this space for now, but soon I will exit without leaving a trace, like everything else around me.

Looking back, looking forward

Looking back, looking forward

There are people who go to naadi astrologers to know about their past lives and what the future holds for them. I could never do this.

Like 2019 for instance. If I had known in January last year what I know now, I simply could not have gone through. I would have been paralyzed with fear and hopelessness.

The next time I see a meme about life throwing a curveball or springing a nasty surprise, I am going to be thankful for my lack of foresight.

2019 has been a year of many milestones: good, bad, and ugly.

I finished one complete year of self-employment. It has been amazing in terms of flexibility, freedom, variety, and money. And not a week goes by when I don’t thank the impulse that made me unusually risk-averse and decide to make the switch from full-time to freelancing.

I rebuilt my relationship with my mother. Never in all my life, until now, had I realized how important she is to me. All through the year, I have been spending time listening to her, knowing more about her life, and talking every day. I have been terrible at this in the past but I am glad, glad, glad that I changed this.

I tried many things for the first time.

For the first time in forever, I let people into my life, shared my emotions and vulnerabilities with them, and I am so thankful that they rallied around for me in all the ways they could. I have never felt so included, so supported, by anyone who is not family. V, S, M: thank you for being there.

For the first time in forever, I went on a holiday by myself. I spent a week writing, walking around, listening to music, reading, and thinking, with no agenda whatsoever. It was liberating and I know I will do it again when life crowds me too much.

For the first time in forever, I learned some lessons in self-reliance. In not looking outwards for happiness or contentment or entertainment. I realized that no matter where I go, I take myself along. So I need to enjoy being by myself, figuring life out in every way from small to big, making my own decisions, taking my own risks.

It was so hard to do (in spite of my having always considered myself good company!) especially on the days when I was also struggling with depression. When you spend a lot of time introspecting, you will not like everything you find. This year, I learned to accept it and take things one hour at a time, one day at a time. I am not there yet, but I am on my way.

This year, we were there for our families on multiple occasions. Suddenly, you realize that your parents and grandparents and all other parental figures you’ve relied on over the years aren’t permanent. That they need help and support now. And that you still need them, no matter what you thought in your twenties. This is one of those saddening realizations that come to you in your thirties but thankfully by then, you have learned to accept it with grace.

Now for the good stuff.

This year, I think I was a better mother to B and S than I have been so far. Somewhere during the year, I resolved not to lose my cool with the boys, no matter how provoked I felt; no raised voices, no threatening body language, no punishments, no guilt-tripping. I tried to see myself through their eyes and suddenly realized how much at my mercy they are: for food, games, walks, even peeing and pooping. And I suddenly felt like a monster. If you bring pets into your life, you take responsibility not just for their physical wellbeing but also their mental and emotional health. I am glad I realized this early in the year.

This year, I discovered that I enjoy some forms of physical exercise (I had struggled with this for years and nearly written myself off as ‘not an active-lifestyle person’) The first is running. In 2019, I realized that I enjoy running. The scenery whipping past, the wind in my face, even my heart beating in my cheeks. The second is dancing. Not in a class, not on stage, but simply putting on some of the worst dappan kuthu or Bollywood item songs and thumping away to abandon.

This year, I learned that I love lipsticks and I may as well add here that I built up a small, cruelty-free collection of them. I used to think the shape of my lips was weird: now I have realized that I simply had the wrong colours and the wrong technique.

I often tell people I have a long history of starting things and not following through on them. But in 2019, I am glad I stuck (well enough if not perfectly) to my resolution of not ordering food that comes packed in single-use plastic. This had the unfortunate side effect of me eating too many burgers and vada pavs just because they were wrapped in paper. BUT I am still glad I didn’t accumulate those terrible plastic containers no one knows what to do with.

This year, we also made some progress on reducing our plastic consumption: carrying shopping bags everywhere, using metal straws and spoons, saying no to single-use plastic, switching to biodegradable menstrual pads, trying a cup (haven’t learned it fully yet but I hope to do so soon), and taking more public transport than ever.

In 2019, we managed a few holidays: one to Bombay where SR’s parents took us around to all the places they had lived in in the 70s; it was nostalgic and poignant and such a bonding experience for all of us. Another holiday was to the UK (the second time in three years, something I could never have imagined) and if possible, we enjoyed it even more than the first. Sometimes I suspect we may never holiday in any other country again. The third was OMO and it was bliss.

I suppose every year is full of ups and downs, events and experiences, heartache and hope. This year certainly was and it tested me more than I have ever been tested. What does 2020 hold?

I think I am old enough to not hope or to want to know. Let’s take each day as it comes.

Happy new year!

My mom was here

My mom was here.

And now she’s gone.

I see the scratch on the wall

Where her suitcase scraped.

And there’s a scratchiness in my throat

Strangely similar in shape.

 

My mom was here

And now she’s left.

Her bathroom slippers are by the door,

a little looser for me than they were for her.

And there’s a drumming in my ears

that sounds just like them slapping against the floor.

 

My mom was here.

But now she’s left.

After telling me I was putting

too little water in the rice cooker.

and too much salt in my koottu.

She said a grinder would make better batter

than my mixie and that

I hunch my shoulders when I walk.

 

But I gave her a massage

Where she said her back hurts

And she told me it felt like a spa.

I slept in a bed with her,

My legs draped over hers like before

and listened to her snore.

I held her hand in the crowd at the temple

and bought her flowers from a cart outside.

 

I packed a plastic box with curd rice

And pressed a piece of pickle into it.

I put in a spoonful of brinjal stir-fry.

And four broken potato chip pieces.

Maybe I was crying, I don’t know.

 

She washed her face and plaited her hair.

Filled her bottle and packed her bag.

Reminded me to add more water in my batter.

Promised to send me a forward about the

perils of too much salt.

Peed again to be doubly sure.

Said “I love you” to my living room wall.

And suddenly left, leaving

her bathroom slippers by the door.

 

My mom was here.

And now she’s left.

I listen to my dogs whimper.

Maybe they’re hungry.

Maybe they’re bored.

Maybe they miss her,

Nobody knows.

The right attitude to weather

The right attitude to weather

[This post has been lying in my drafts folder since April, when summer was at its peak. Today, as I type this foreword, I am sitting in a cafe on a green, green street, taking sips of ginger lemon tea. It’s only July but it looks like winter is here early this year. The air is deliciously cool, heavy with unshed raindrops. In my mind though, the conflicts and the questions are still the same.  I re-read this draft today and felt that the thoughts still resonate though the weather has changed. So here goes.]

One of the most frustrating things in life is to feel that you are not in control, that you have no choice over what is happening. As a freelancer, I don’t have control over the kind of potential clients who approach me or the type of project they offer. Of course, I have the choice to say no to things that do not interest me or which I feel are not worth my time. Motivational posters and pages tell you that you always have a choice. You can choose how to feel, how to respond, how to act, no matter what the situation. But when there are bills to pay, I make certain choices that make me feel I had no choice at all in the first place.

All of last week, the weather reports kept predicting a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal area and we were all expecting Bangalore to cool down. Yesterday had very English weather. The skies were a dull, brooding grey. We kept expecting rain, kept watching for it, even went on a long drive in anticipation of it. But we were cheated. And today is a very hot day. Probably 32 or 33 degrees Celsius. It is so bright outside at 9AM that I cannot stand in my balcony for longer than ten minutes without sweat running down my face and body.

Could I have predicted today’s skies to be this hot, bright white? Absolutely not. But here it is.

And funnily enough, I don’t mind.

The weather is the one thing we have no control over, but which we rarely resent.  We might whinge a little about how hot or wet or cold it is, but we just make adjustments to our day’s plans, our routine, our meals, and our clothing to suit the weather outside. Because we can’t change the weather, we have a favourite summer drink and a favourite winter drink. We have cotton dresses for the summer and woolens for the winter. We have hats and shades, but also sweaters and mufflers. We have umbrellas and rubber-soled slippers, but also sneakers and sandals.

In a nutshell, we don’t question the weather. We just prepare ourselves for it.

What if we applied the same attitude to everything else in life? In my case, the kind of projects I get offered. Sometimes, the work is creative and fun, or easy and pays well. But sometimes, it’s tough, tedious, time-consuming, or a combination of these. Whatever it is, I can just tackle it with the right equipment (attitude, approach) and move on, instead of feeling angry and frustrated.

It’s a thought.

Mouna Ragam: Silent Rhapsody or Silenced Womanhood?

Mouna Ragam: Silent Rhapsody or Silenced Womanhood?

While walking back home last week, I heard a snatch of Nilave vaa playing off someone’s phone and felt an overwhelming urge to watch Mouna Ragam again. This movie has always found a spot on my list of favorite romances (right after Alai Payuthe). For months after I watched it for the first time, I dreamed of marrying someone like Chandrakumar and living in a bright and airy house like his with its Indian boho-chic decor: low lying beds, glassy walls looking out onto patches of green and potted plants dotting every corner.

Watch it I did, after nearly a decade. But this time, it didn’t leave me misty-eyed and mush-hearted. Divya and CK still have their sizzling chemistry. The house in Delhi is still beautiful. But the scales have fallen from my eyes.

In the movie, it is winter and Delhi looks like a quiet, green haven. But like every other city, it has an ugly side: heat and dust, noise and pollution and traffic jams. Just as the camera skillfully ignored these, my eyes and mind had remained blind to everything that is wrong with this movie.

The biggest loss of all.

Revathi’s Divya is a brilliant character: a twenty-something child-woman barely out of college who has had to deal silently and alone with the horrifying loss of a first love. (Notice how not even her friends in college seem to know about Manohar?) And she copes in the only way she knows: by shutting her heart to another round of loving and hurting. “Engitte ethuvume illai” as she screams at CK (“I have nothing left to give!”)

Mouna Ragam is not a story of how a young girl who has tragically lost her first love and shut her heart to it heals, grows up and finds love again. It is the story of a strong, proud woman coerced into one relationship after another by the very people who claim to love her.

Mouna Ragam is less about the loss of a first love and more about the loss of one woman’s free will.

Do one thing for me.

Mani Ratnam has openly shown how Divya’s family emotionally blackmail her into marrying CK in spite of her vehement protests. Nobody pays attention to her when she says she wants to study and her first reaction is what comes naturally to her: stalk off into the night for a walk to clear her head. She comes back with the look of someone who has made up her mind but we never find out what this is, because her father has just had a heart attack. Her brother cold-shoulders her and even her ten-year-old younger sister looks at her reproachfully, blaming her for their father’s condition.

This is followed by a scene that is not alien to Indian families: a mother emotionally backing her daughter into a corner by playing the ‘this is a matter of life and death’ card.  The following morning, Divya’s father asks her, “Did you do this for me?” but when she kneels down next to him crying, he seems quietly satisfied, not concerned.

But Divya is no stranger to emotional blackmail. In fact, she has surrendered to it once already.

Love me, love me not.

Comments on YouTube, where Mouna Ragam is uploaded, gush over what a truly romantic character Manohar is, one that any girl would swoon over. But is Mano anything more than a charming cad? Take a look at how he wins Divya’s affections: he stalks her; embarrasses her in public; storms into her classroom and gets her out using a blatant (and fairly insensitive) lie; challenges her to ‘prove’ that she has no feelings for him by having coffee with him… For all her fieriness and pride, Divya is swept along, easily manipulated by his bold tactics.

The night that Manohar gives up his activism and shows up outside her house, what he gives her is not so much a proposal as an ultimatum. Marry me tomorrow, he says, brushing aside her protests. Show up outside the registrar’s office tomorrow or it will mean you don’t love me. There’s no conversation, no discussion about their future or what she wants, no consideration for her feelings: just a take-it-or-leave-it proposal. And Divya succumbs.

What ensues is certainly a tragedy, but would not living a life of compromise and manipulation with a man as impulsive and stubborn as Mano been a bigger one?

A woman without a man.

Throughout the film, Divya gets advice from friendly, well-meaning women, all of whom supposedly care about her. “If he is handsome, marry him,” says a friend flippantly when Divya worries about going home to face the marriage party. “I am begging you, let me keep my thaali (don’t drive my husband, your father, to his death)says her mother, when Divya tries to explain her feelings to her.

And her own divorce lawyer—an educated, professionally accomplished woman—tells Divya that a woman cannot live by herself. “I am speaking from my own experience,” she says, as if to add credibility to her words. This female character, who seems strong on the surface, turns out to be another cardboard figure and one has to wonder what the writer and director are really telling us.

Bharadwaj Rangan writes that in a conversation with him, Mani Ratnam said that Divya was originally the protagonist of a short story in which a young girl coerced into a marriage ends up being a victim of marital rape on their wedding night. It is ironic that this dark slice of realism evolved into the patronizing, manipulative beauty that Mouna Ragam is.

Idols with cracks.

Chandrakumar (CK) is the epitome of perfection, a gentleman par excellence whom it is difficult to discredit. He is never more radical or liberal or attractive than in the scene in which he starts clearing up the remnants of the house party himself and tells Divya, “I am sorry. I can only imagine what you must be feeling.” In a world where a man who deigns to wash his own plate is applauded, such empathy and quiet sharing of chores cannot be scoffed at. And remember, this movie was made 32 years ago.

But even gods collapse and CK too falters in the end. Things come to a head when Divya, hurt and angry at his outburst, asks CK why he is still ‘keeping her here’. (Another subtle hint at how she is really a prisoner of circumstances even when she isn’t physically restrained?) She has to ask him to book her tickets even though it is revealed later that she has some housekeeping money saved (which she dutifully returns to him).

The biggest tell is when CK calls up the travel agency—he makes it a point to spell out her name: Divya Chandrakumar. The divorce papers have arrived that morning and they are no longer husband and wife, but his is a name she has to carry with hers like a cross all her life.

Destroyed but not defeated.

Throughout the movie, Divya is repeatedly victimized. Even the audience’s sympathy switches to CK halfway through. But she doesn’t allow herself to be a victim. Her innate boldness and strength of character shine through after every crisis. So you cannot help cheering when at the railway station, she tells CK, “If you didn’t love me, I would have understood. But I know you do. It is your ego that prevents you from admitting it. Fine, I will put my ego aside and admit it. I love you. I am in love with you.”

These lines are so many things: an admission of pride, of mistakes made. An assertion of confidence. A bold and open proposal, something unimaginable coming from a woman all those years ago. In this climax scene, Divya is hurt and scared and lonely, but she shows that she has lost none of her spunk. And that really is the saving grace of this movie. That is what makes her a true heroine.

Prufrock and coffee on a New Year morning

Prufrock and coffee on a New Year morning
As another new year is rung in, I wake up thinking of Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. An oft-quoted line from the poem says “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” and I realize that I have done just that.
 
Three hundred and sixty five times, I have lifted my coffee maker and poured out the decoction into my mug. Three hundred and sixty five times, I have added a splash of milk and shaken the mug–never stirred. Even middle-class married women must have their quirks.
 
Some mornings, the decoction is dark and strong and scented and my mood lifts instantly. Ideas roll off my tongue with haughty ease. I ace every meeting, breeze through presentations.
 
On others, it is light and golden and watery. I berate myself for measuring out too little coffee or too much water. I cradle the steaming mug like a lifeline, breathing in the coffee fumes, and will myself to look up and face the day.
 
“The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.” wrote Ella W. Wilcox.
What a fragile thing life is! Balanced on the knife-edge of sanity and fantasy, moods and madness. Sunlight patterns on my balcony can lift the edges of my mind. A mug of coffee has such power over my life.
 
I pour and lift and sip and the years roll by.
 
Wishes dwindle from many to a few. Dreams hover benignly, waiting for me to give them my full attention: there’s no more of the frantic beating of old. My senses are alert and I notice each day, its shape and colours and outline more keenly. My energies, spread over many things over many years, seem to have concentrated themselves into laser pinpoints.
 
Inexplicably, I feel younger and older at the same time.
 
There is not the old excitement for new beginnings, no eager anticipation to see what the year has in store. I simply sit back on my chair, lift my mug to my lips, and take life as it comes.
 
#happynewyear #2019musings #newbeginnings

Short story: A Flower for the Lady by Gowri N Kishore

My short story, published in Kitaab.

kitaab

Gowri Kishore

Karthi was in love.

Whether it was right for him to be in love, being only eight years old, was a different matter.

He thought Mari was the most beautiful thing he had ever set his eyes on. And though he was trying hard to do his maths homework (the terrifying prospect of facing Varadarajan sir with a blank notebook urged him on), he just couldn’t. He had been sitting in the corner of appa’s room with his back against the wall, his books spread out around him, chewing the end of his pencil and trying to focus on the problem at hand.

‘Joseph had three dozen roses. He gave half of them to Alice. How many roses did each of them have?’

Oh, lucky boy Joseph! He had three dozen roses to give away to whoever he liked. Whereas he, Karthi, could not find a way to get hold…

View original post 1,957 more words

Afternoon

Afternoon

I look at my dog sleeping

Sideways on the couch.

His golden belly gently rising.

His paws stretched, sticking out over the side.

His tail tucked under his legs,

His little ears folded back.

 

He whimpers, his paws tremble.

Puppy dreams, I think fondly,

Though he turned three many months ago.

I sit and watch him.

My laptop slack, forgotten.

And suddenly, I can smell bread baking.

A rich, warm, glorious smell

That wafts through the house.

 

Who’s baking on a Monday afternoon, I wonder.

 

I open the door and check outside,

but the other flats lie silent.

The corridor is cold and silent

And smells of cheap phenyl.

 

It is in my house, the smell of bread.

It cannot be otherwise.

Heady, rich, impossible to ignore.

My heart is filled with it.

 

I move from room to room, my dog at my heels.

I sniff the air, my head raised.

He cocks his head. He is puzzled.

What is the human looking for?

 

My windows are latched shut.

The balcony closed.

It is a cold, gloomy day with a nip in the air.

Defeated, I return to my seat.

My dog totters after and curls up at my feet.

 

A few minutes later, the clouds shift.

A stray sunbeam comes in.

His brown fur blazes golden.

And I sit, transfixed.

He yawns, his tongue lolls pink.

He scratches an ear. He licks a paw.

And turns melting brown eyes to me.

“Yes, human?” they seem to ask,

“Do you smell the mysterious smell again?”

 

I bend forward and bury my face in his back.

And it is there again.

That thick, golden, wholesome scent

Choking my heart.

Stinging my eyes.

Almost too rich to bear.

 

‘A certain weariness’ by Pablo Neruda

“I don’t want to be tired alone,

I want you to grow tired along with me.”

I stumbled upon Neruda’s poem ‘A certain weariness’ and caught my breath when I read these opening lines. I read the poem over and over and wanted desperately to do something. Write. Awaken my sleeping husband and read it to him. Run out onto the road and stop people, shake the poem in their faces and ask, “Have you read this? Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it the truth we’ve known all along?”

Instead, I did this. Attempted to translate the words and their meanings into Malayalam, my other tongue. Even in my amateur hands, they sound just as beautiful.

ഒരുതരം മടുപ്പ്.

എനിക്ക് ഏകനായി മടുക്കേണ്ട.
നീയും എന്നോടൊപ്പം മടുക്കൂ.
എങ്ങനെ തോന്നാതിരിക്കും മടുപ്പ്?
നഗരങ്ങളെ ശിശിരത്തിൽ വന്നു മൂടുന്ന ഈ ചാരപ്പൊടിയോട്.
മുഴുവനായി എരിയാത്തത്.
കുപ്പായങ്ങളിൽ വന്നടിയുന്നത്.
പതിയെ പതിയെ ഹൃദയത്തെ പൊതിയുന്നത്.
എനിക്ക് മടുപ്പാണ്.
നിർദ്ദയമായ കടലിനെ. നിഗൂഢമായ ഭൂമിയെ.
മടുപ്പാണ് എനിക്ക് കോഴിയെ.
നമുക്കറിയില്ല അവ എന്താണ് ചിന്തിക്കുന്നത് എന്ന്.
ഉണങ്ങിയ കണ്ണുകളോടെ അവ നമ്മെ നോക്കുന്നു,
ആരുമല്ലാത്തവർ ആണെന്ന പോലെ.
ഞാൻ നിന്നെ ക്ഷണിക്കുന്നു.
ഒരു പ്രാവശ്യം ഈ മടുപ്പ് അനുഭവിക്കാൻ.
രുചിയില്ലാത്ത മദ്യത്തോട്. നിലവാരമുള്ള വിദ്യാഭ്യാസത്തോട്.
ഫ്രാൻസിലേക്ക് പോവാൻ സാധിക്കാത്തതിനോട്.
ആഴ്ചയിലെ ഒന്നോ രണ്ടോ ദിവസങ്ങളോട്.
അവയ്ക്കെന്നും ഒരേ പേരാണ്, തീൻ മേശയിലെ വിഭവങ്ങളെ പോലെ.
മടുപ്പ് – രാവിലെ ഉണരുന്നതിനോട്. (അല്ലെങ്കിലും അതെന്തിന് വേണ്ടി?)
മടുപ്പ് – ശ്രേയസ്സില്ലാതെ ജീവിക്കുന്നതിനോട്.
ഒടുവിലിപ്പോൾ നമുക്ക് സത്യം പറയാം –
ഈച്ചയെയോ ഒട്ടകത്തെയോ പോലെയുള്ള
ഈ നാളുകൾ നാം ഒരിക്കലും ആസ്വദിച്ചിരുന്നില്ലെന്ന്.
ചില സ്മാരകങ്ങൾ ഞാൻ കണ്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്.
മഹാന്മാർക്ക് വേണ്ടി പണിതുയർത്തിയത്.
വ്യവസായ കഴുതകൾക്കു വേണ്ടി പണിതുയർത്തിയത്.
അതാ അവർ അവിടെ, നിശ്ചലരായി, കയ്യിൽ വാളുമേന്തി,
മ്ലാനമുഖമുള്ള കുതിരകൾക്കു മുകളിൽ ഇരിക്കുന്നു.
മടുത്തൂ എനിക്കീ ശില്പങ്ങൾ.
മതി, കല്ലുകൊണ്ട് ഉണ്ടാക്കിയതെല്ലാം.
ഈ ലോകം മുഴുവൻ ഇവയെക്കൊണ്ട് നിറച്ചാൽ
ഇവിടെ ജീവനുള്ളവർ എന്തു ചെയ്യും?
ഓർക്കുന്നത് എനിക്ക് മടുത്തു.
പിറന്നു വീണ മനുഷ്യർ, അവർ ശ്വസിക്കട്ടെ
നറുപുഷ്പങ്ങളും, പുതുമണ്ണും, ചുടുതീയും.
മറ്റുള്ളവർ ശ്വസിക്കുന്നത് അവർക്ക് വേണ്ട.
ഈ നവജാതരെ വെറുതെ വിടൂ!
ഇവർക്ക് ജീവിക്കാൻ ഇടം നൽകൂ.
നിങ്ങൾ ഇവർക്കുവേണ്ടി ചിന്തിക്കേണ്ട.
അതെ പുസ്തകങ്ങൾ ഇവരെ കേൾപ്പിക്കേണ്ട.
ഇവർ പുതിയ പുലരികൾ തേടട്ടെ.
ഇവരുടെ ചുംബനങ്ങൾക്കു പേരുകൾ തനിയെ തിരയട്ടെ…
മടുപ്പ്. ഇത് നീ എന്നോടൊപ്പം അനുഭവിക്കൂ.
മടുപ്പ്: നന്നായി ചെയ്തു തീർത്ത പ്രവർത്തികളോട്.
നമ്മളെ ജീർണിപ്പിക്കുന്ന കാര്യങ്ങളോട്.
ഇനിയങ്ങോട്ട് നമ്മളെ കാത്തുനിൽക്കുന്നതിനോട്.
മറ്റുള്ളവരെ മടുപ്പിക്കാൻ.
മടുക്കാം നമുക്ക് കൊല്ലുന്നതിനെ.
മരിക്കാൻ തയാറാകാത്തതിനെ.
I have taken certain liberties with the text. My source for this was itself an English translation of the original Spanish poem, which you can read here.