Writing 101

A cabin in the woods

The sound of the train fades away. I marvel at the little station. There isn’t a soul in sight. Not even a stationmaster. A solitary mud road leads into the woods. I pick up my luggage and start walking.

The sun has disappeared behind the western hills. An unnerving chill accompanies the twilight. I take half an hour to reach the cabin. It looks ancient. Parts of wood have turned black with rot and creepers nest in the cracks. Only a gentle smoke rising from the chimney betrays human presence. I knock.

Chandan opens the door and greets me with a toothless grin. I look exactly like my father, he says. He quickly explains where various supplies are kept. He has cooked khichuri in case I am hungry and has prepared the bed in case I’m tired. He would love to talk, he says, but he needs to reach home before nightfall. I thank him and try to hand him some money. He refuses and leaves hurriedly, promising to drop by again tomorrow.

The surrounding trees are alive with the chirping of birds settling down for the night. The noise is deafening. I decide to look around. The bathhouse and the toilet are out on the backyard — or what is supposed to be the backyard. Nature has taken over parts of it. The broken remains of a fence can be made out on closer inspection. The mud road continues past the cabin. It disappears at the bend some distance away and is supposed to end at the village. Chandan lives there. I plan to pay him a visit tomorrow.

Darkness falls rapidly and I go back inside. The interior is now visible only through the flicker of a burning candle on the table. The cabin has a bed, a table and chair, a bookshelf, and a firewood stove. The bookshelf contains few dusty volumes. I carry them over to the table for inspection. Some medical books and some novels. Dad’s name is inscribed on all of them. I picture him — young and with a head full of hair — sitting at this very table, under the candlelight, and studying through sleepless nights. Somehow, the image seems very fitting.

I change out of my travelling clothes after singling out The Grapes of Wrath. I will be spending this month well.


Writing 101

Stream of consciousness

Ten minutes of free writing.


Okay… I’ve done this before. We had a humanities course in the first year of college, and the professor had asked us to do the same thing. I don’t remember what I had written then, but it must have been pretty lame. All such write-ups are lame anyway, I mean, unless you’re a professional writer or something, you’ll end up making no point whatsoever. Maybe that was the focus of such assignments all along: to write without making a point.

I’ve often wondered whether I should stick to reality in such write-ups or whether I should let my imagination off the leash. A freely running imagination can create some fun imagery, you know, but only if it is in the right mood. I mean, you cannot always rely on imagination. Sometimes it creates wonders, sometimes it’ll leave you scratching your head and deeply disturbed.

On the other hand, one cannot expect to jot down one’s “real” thoughts and get away with it. That simply does not work. I can’t remember the last time I straight out said things that were on my mind. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying I lie continuously, it’s just that I have to refine and make everything presentable before putting it out there. That’s what all of us do, I think. Or maybe that’s an incorrect thing to say — after all, I can only speak for myself.

Neither reality nor imagination seem to be ideal. Why not bits of both? But how does one find a balance? It all boils down to being a good writer, and if you are a good writer, it’s unlikely that you’ll be undertaking beginner exercises like these. No… such exercises are created precisely to make a fool of people. That isn’t bad though, it’s actually very productive. There’s no motivation as potent as the realization of how bad you are at something.

Anyway, the timer indicates that 10 minutes are up. Guess that’ll be all for today.


Note: Writing 101 is an effort by WordPress editors towards building a blogging habit. It contains prompts for writing inspiration. Each day offers a new prompt and a special twist. Thanks Arpita, for introducing me to it.