From one to another
passing from hand to hand
an ideal that's oh so shiny
that everyone wants to see
to hold, caress, inflict upon
opinions and convictions
with the dirt in their feet
making a plaything of reality
leaving their mark on it
before passing to another
spreading it as wildfire
to fellow playmates—shrewd
and dirt-smeared as they
a game of shameless soccer
politics—dividing the world
“So I heard you have a habit of writing every day?”
That’s the clear winner if there’s ever a contest for the silliest thing you can ask a writer.
And yet it still confounds many that a writer would, after all, write. Although I can see how the confusion arises, it’s surprising that we’re now part of a society where corporate copywriters aren’t writers in real life.
It all started with a colleague who raised their eyebrows as I admitted to writing every day. They couldn’t understand the reason. Why would I spend an hour or so every morning writing, before I started work which was also—writing?
As I stood there, stumped, I realised I didn’t have a ready-made answer. No, it wasn’t because “I love writing” or because “I’ve always imagined myself a writer” or because “I don’t know anything else.” Although those statements ring true in many ways, it’s also true that they’re resumé answers—something you’d say to impress a potential employer into giving you the job.
I have different reasons.
For one, it was my writing habit that landed me a career as a copywriter. And despite writing countless types of pieces at work, I still don’t write what I want, the way I want. And for a good reason, too, because a corporate copywriter shouldn’t possess a powerful personal tone that disrupts the business’s tone. Therefore everything I write depends on the company, its offering, and audience. When I come home after a day of such scrutinised writing, all I can think of is work. Not only do I don’t have time for myself, but my thoughts revolve around work as well. The mind goes around in circles in constant debate and debacle—”perhaps I should’ve used a better title for the blog, or added a banner image, or tweeted it out with a GIF.”
Dabble in this long enough, and you’ll wane. A writer who’s lost the ability to expand beyond work isn’t far from losing the ability to write altogether.
Consider those who write only emails all day. They become accomplished at conveying their purpose in an email, but when asked to write something different—a comment on social media, a guest blog, a webpage, or even a catchy advertisement—they’d crumble under pressure. The reason? They no longer have the creative spark to think outside email jargon.
A full-time copywriter isn’t any better. The longer they seep in familiar territory, the more comfortable they become. They get used to using certain phrases and styles and avoiding others that don’t sit well with the business they write for. And it’s often already too late when they realise they’d forgotten how it feels to come up with something unconventional. When a writer foregoes the spine-tingling sensation that results from framing an excellent metaphor, or the jubilance that emanates from dropping a witty pun, a writer ceases to exist. What remains is the shell of a person who can create ideal corporate content.
That’s why I write every day—to keep the chaos within alive. I don’t write flawless pieces in my blog. I don’t put forth impeccable grammatical sentences or distinguished vocabulary. What I do write, instead, is random thoughts, scribblings, and haiku—all the things that help me remember why I still write.
A concrete jungle
or a calming river town
I walked out of the doctor’s room, dazed. Nothing made sense anymore. Of all the people I knew, I was meticulous, and the most watchful about what I eat and drink.
Some would say I bordered on neurotic obsession. I’d be mindful not to overindulge in deep-fried butter or pigs in a blanket blanketed with pork fat. And yet, there I was, despite stringent diets and careful observations, holding a report that deemed my cholesterol levels nigh too high.
At 22, I knew no one as careful with their diet as I. I had to, too—diabetes, heart complications, blood pressure, and a hint of a brain tumour induced comma, all clogged my mother’s bloodline. I inherited, along with a few crumbling, unintelligible letters and premature graying, a lengthy list of disorders that could make my adult life miserable.
Therefore I took enough precautions to keep diseases away for as long as I could. I succeeded too-by choosing more fiber-rich alternatives to white rice and flour. I thrived on vegetables, millets, red rice, and bananas. Lamb meat and chicken were occasional because we’d get fresh meat every time I visited my parents.
Life seemed good-except for my weakness for peanut brittle, I’d become comfortable without artificial sugar, empty carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats.
And then came the verdict: high cholesterol.
My doctor denied medicines. He suggested I stick to a proper diet, instead, and that everything should be fine then. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, he said. “Eat,” he cupped his palm to indicate portion control, “but don’t overeat, meat. And get regular exercise, too” he raised his eyebrows at me, who hasn’t skipped yoga even for a day in the last five years.
What he didn’t know, and wouldn’t listen either, is that I’d been doing everything he said since 19.
Still, something had to change, I knew. Sure, I was cautious, but caution wasn’t enough anymore. I looked through my habits yet again. I was taking eggs and a generous amount of milk every day, in addition to a decent amount of meat every week, and a tad bit too much of it every two weeks. It seemed to me that I wasn’t distributing my meals as efficient as I should, and because of that, I was getting too much of one thing and too little of the other.
Oh, trust me, you can have a careful diet and still be way off course.
I tried quitting eggs. It wasn’t hard because I never liked them much anyway. They involved too much work cleaning up without a stink that it was a relief not to deal with that anymore.
I felt good.
I wanted to keep feeling good and forget the fiasco that was my cholesterol.
I tried quitting milk. It would’ve failed had I woken up one day and stopped drinking tea altogether. It would’ve driven me mad. Instead, I switched to low-fat milk. I scanned labels analysing differences between skimmed milk, 2%, and fortified milk. But I soon learnt the risks of skimmed milk, and not too long afterwards, the vague health verdicts on milk altogether. I realised it could do more harm than good. From full-cream milk, to skim, to skim milk powder, I hopped on and off, before getting tired of them all.
Good food shouldn’t be so hard to get. By the time I realised the potential risks of consuming adulterated daily and meat, I no longer craved it.
I was beginning to feel great.
Black lemon tea and drip coffee never tasted better after that.
I crave other things now-stuff that has little to no room for contamination or heated debates in lifestyle magazines-vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Not only did they taste great, but these foods also made eating a less stressful practice. The idea of relying on a plant-based diet freed up my mind from worrying about the side effects they could cause in future.
Now that I’ve acquired a taste for plants, I don’t think I’d want to go back to a meaty diet, to feeling bloated every morning or being uncomfortable after lunch on Sundays.
The best part is that I’m discovering new plant-based foods every day. My options, unlike popular notions, are abundant even to the point of overwhelming. This search could never end.
When I cast my t-shirt aside, I had only one thing in mind—it’s one less thing to carry. Not that a single t-shirt acquires too much space or weight, but it’s the little things that accumulate faster than we can count. That’s the mentality I always assume when I pack.
How much would you carry if you’re returning from visiting your parents, and have a five-and-a-half-hour train journey ahead of you? And mind, this isn’t Amtrak—we’re talking about congested and almost always unclean train compartments that allocate 80 seats but accommodate upwards of 150 sweaty humans and even more bulging bags of what-knows-what.
It was a Sunday morning—6:50 am to be near-precise—and I was on a train back to the city, back to my routine work. I’d spent almost a week at my parents’ for what’s supposed to be quality time with family. Despite how that turned out, I was now heading back to take care of my own life. And I didn’t have a reservation on the train. I’d tried, but failed because the website wasn’t able to cope up to the traffic of the Indian population. And so I stood, almost plastered to the walls of the compartment to avoid the incoming crowd trying to find their seats.
As I watched, from my corner of the car’s wall, I saw most adults carrying a child, a piece of luggage, or a bag of breakfast—in addition to their one baggage.
Now, Indian Railways doesn’t have a limit on baggage. And for a good reason too, because it’d make no sense. The only reason people throng the trains is that they’re cheaper and accommodating to the growing needs and waists of the average Indian.
And so every person struggled to get on and navigate through to their seats. Bags overflowed in the overhead racks, they lined the aisles between the seats, and some even sat snug at people’s feet.
A grin escaped my face as George Clooney’s “what’s in your backpack?” came to mind. Every time someone wobbled past me or heaved at the weight of their bag, I couldn’t help but wonder why they’d inflict such discomfort upon themselves. I had one backpack, which I’d placed in the overhead rack, but even then it was a lengthy and uncomfortable journey. To go through that with additional bags made no sense to me.
It’s a pity that while there’s a cult doing everything in their power to reduce luggage and prioritise convenience travel, there’s another group altogether that doesn’t even try. What’s more, Indian train stations are so crowded that it’s not uncommon to see late passengers sprinting through waiting crowds, swerving by long queues, and high jumping over people sleeping on the floor. Imagine going through all that with a bag you can’t even lift.
The more I wondered, the more convinced I became that people don’t know what matters most to them. They’re so feeble and craving that they can’t bear the thought of leaving things behind. Our intense desire to cling to material things, and our inherent fear of death and denial of its permanence has led us to live in constant fear of losing what was never ours.
Pfft. Let it go.