Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Monday, 4 June 2018

Us Writers

It's having that e book out that caused this soul-searching.  What's wrong with my writing that no one ever buys any of my books? 

   Forget the agents and the publishers and such-like. I was at a workshop recently where three out of four agents on the podium happily proclaimed that they go by recommendations. 'A friend of a friend suggested I read that book by this new author...' One said they depended on their authors who have been with them for some years. And they are not looking for a one-off best-seller, they want an author they can nourish and sustain and will continue laying the golden eggs for many years to come. That's definitely not me.

   Sadly, at 83 years and counting, I can't promise to provide sustenance for any length of compos-mentis time. My most recent book, my memoir, AS FATHERS GO is probably my best writing to date. And the next one, BUSH STROKES is incubating nicely. Ready to be written. I am taking a break. Gardening and contemplating the weather. 

   Why do I write? Clearly I like the activity. You could even say I am a little lost when I stop. I enjoy searching for that elusive word or phrase hiding in my sub-conscious. I have a sense of accomplishment when I scratch it out. I am still learning new words. Anomie was the last one. I like the sound of that.

   Then there is my granddaughter, Asha. I tell myself I am keeping her apprised of a world long past, which still has a part to play in her world today. The jointedness of histories.

   As for my book, I think I will look for somewhere to serialise it. Must get on with the next one.

   An excerpt below - again - to test the waters.


Achamma (grandmother) goes mad.


Achan came (from jail), without notice, for two weeks, to see his mother, who was fading rapidly. After he went to jail, she, literally, had turned her face to the wall and decided to die. Through that time, she was also slowly going mad. Her eldest son had died in early youth of small-pox; her second son was in Malaya and there was no news of him from the beginning of hostilities between Britain and Japan. And now her youngest son was in prison. She believed all of them were dead, and she had no time for her daughters who cared for her.
Achamma’s idea of a prison was a place where you were starved and beaten up. One morning, she grabbed me by my arm when I was contemplating the day from my usual seat on the veranda steps. She dragged me down the walkway to the front gates and pushed me on to the road.
I didn’t understand what this was about. Her claw-like hands clutched my elbows fiercely and her skeletal torso was bent forward.
‘Go,’ she said giving me a shove. ‘Go to your mother’s house. There’s nothing and nobody for you here.’
I stood on the side of the road and made a circle with my heels in the soft dust, trying to work this out. My mother’s family lived in Madras, a good day’s journey away by train; how was I meant to go there?
After a moment, she looked left and right down the road and pointed in the direction of the river. A bus hurtled past towards Cunnoor.
‘There,’ she said. ‘See. They’ve tied your father to the back of the bus and they are beating him. He’s thin and weak, they’ll kill him.’ She gave me a firm nudge.
I was now on the edge of our road, more than a little perplexed. So I dug my heel into the red mud on the side and pivoted round again making another small circle with my toes. Achamma turned and went back to the house. I waited a few moments and walked to the veranda looking right and left. Why was I feeling a little ashamed? I hoped no one next door had noticed this little drama.
            I pondered. Then I went looking for Naani Edathy.
            ‘Achamma asked me to go away to my Veliyamma’s house.’ I started crying.
            Naani Edathy was spreading dosha (a crepe made with rice and black-dhal) mixture on the skillet and the hiss and the yeasty smell reminded me of how much I hated doshas.
            ‘That old woman is raving mad,’ Naani Edathy said. She was still looking at the skillet and gently turning the dosha. Not what I wanted from her.
            I thrust my thumb into the hole in the waist of my slip and howled. 
            ‘I am not going,’ I sobbed. ‘I’m here.’
            Naani Edathy quickly took the skillet off the fire and ran towards me.
            ‘Of course you are. With me. That mad old woman!’
            She pulled the corner of her mundu out and cleaned my leaking nose and wiped my cheeks.  Then she picked me up and held me close.
            ‘You have charcoal streaks on your face,’ she said, smiling. I threw my arms around her neck and nestled close.
            ‘I don’t like Dosha,’ I said capitalising on her kindness.
            ‘How about I roast a plantain for you when no one is looking?
            My little sorrows had vanished by then; I jumped off and went in search of Mani. An unease lingered.
            ‘Did Achamma ask you to go to your mother’s house?’ I asked.
            ‘What? To Penang?’ she asked sensibly.