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Then she grew older, her boyfriend in college constantly chastised her. Asked her to stop talking to other guys. To pull up her top. To not bend. To hush. Every guy she ever spoke to was a victim of her uncontrollable desire.
2019 is the year in which our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry. The writing cue for February 2019 is from the poetry of Mary Oliver, passed away on 17th January 2019, aged 83. This is a tribute to her, and her memorable words, taken from her poem, The Summer Day.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
The first winner of our February 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Ayushi Mona.
It had been a restless night. She tossed, the sheets on the bed tying in with her unease. There had to be a way around this, surely.
It was puzzling that this was even confounding her. The answer should have been easy come, easy go.
The campus was silent, unsurprisingly so, considering it was a term break. Silence helped her construct her thoughts. Well, it was not working out this time.
She could have gone home but she didn’t want to feel the burden of expectations, the confounding stares of disappointed parents, and the sliver of doubt appearing on her friends’ faces replaced by fake heartiness.
So, she stayed.
Stayed at the not-home that felt more than home. The stale stench that usually emanated from her roommate’s ashtray wasn’t there to bug her tonight.
Well, that’s one good thing, after a day, which had been full of doubts.
She laughed. Why was she even thinking of all of this?
She had directed before. Acted. Written. All three leaps of courage. Well, for most people. For her, they were second nature.
She pulled her drawer open. Took out her notebook. Riffled through the shelf for a pen that worked.
She recalled her Director’s instructions, “Take your personal misery and turn it into a story that all women associate with.”
She’d been amiable to this – she thought of the time her parents fought, or when her granddad died. Eve – teasing. Judgments. Stares. Condemnation. She’d thought misery was tangible. Quantifiable. Understood. Like a root canal. Or three days of staying indoors. Your poison. Personal Hell. Whatever.
But, she groaned, this was too mainstream. Then she thought, and thought and nothing came. Nothing that was her own pain. In its own quintessential way. She kept back the notebook.
What misery of hers could be her protagonist’s larger worry, a definition of something larger?
The little clock on the wall ticked.
She thought of the last time she’d felt upset. She remembered Shreya calling her an ice princess. For no reason whatsoever, she’d found her nostrils flaring. She was not cold! She just, well, kept her distance. It made things easier.
Theatre of alienation 101. In real life.
Keep distance emotionally to analyze a problem intellectually. She stopped.
Was this what she was doing wrong?
Was this why she couldn’t dig deeper, find a common pain that she shared with other women?
She thought of how she even reached this stage of detachment.
And though she could think of multiple incidents, like pollen scattered by the wind.
She remembered that one incident when she had loved someone and she’d been shy. And he’d not been comfortable with her silences. He’d dismissed her as the nice girl, the sort who stayed home, and the ones who obeyed. Docile.
Boring. Fit to be praised. Too gentle to be broken.
Then she grew older, her boyfriend in college constantly chastised her. Asked her to stop talking to other guys. To pull up her top. To not bend. To hush. Every guy she ever spoke to was a victim of her uncontrollable desire. He left. Good riddance to bad rubbish. With a lingering stink of mingled nostalgia and anger.
She could see the sun rising from her room’s window. She stepped out in the corridor and bent her head towards the courtyard. A tiny action, done a thousand times.
She saw, what she saw every single day since she had returned to teach where she had been taught.
And her heart stopped.
What she’d always dismissed as a vintage party girl looked startling different to her now.
The girl in the graffiti looked like Marilyn Monroe.
The red pout, the cropped hair, the tantalizing mole. But she was in a little black dress, poised like Audrey Hepburn.
Eyes closed, in thought, as if she lived in the realms of her mind.
Both, the Seductress and the Princess.
And, then she realized that this was what had to be done to her. To the magnum opus of her life.
Realizing that there could be two selves in one self.
That she was both the Madonna and the whore. That she wasn’t an object a man could pick and choose.
She opened her laptop in joy. She had a story. She was going to write. She would direct.
7 years later.
The annual production was underway.
Ayushi Mona wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: pixabay
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Lover of good books and great conversation. I run a podcast called India Booked. Personal
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