Because Words are Never Enough and Yet They’re All I Have. And therein lies the rub, to quote that wordiest of masters, The Bard himself! From all the writerly moments in my life so to speak, a recent one stood out starkly, vividly, and in that ultimate manifestation of the irony of life, also at once profoundly and ridiculously! It spoke to me as a reply to that ever-nagging query all writers face at some point or another: Why write?
I was in the middle of a meeting in the middle of a workday, which in these days and times of social distancing, implies that I was in my room on a Zoom call. It was a numbers-heavy meeting, a lot of data-crunching, analytics-sharing kind of presentations and debriefs happening from the team that handles social media and outreach at the media platform I consult at. Not a numbers kind of person even in my most perfect mental Math days, I was having to pay extra attention, sharpen focus and concentrate even more.
I took another sip of my adrak chai, longing for it to become magically stronger, and peered hard at the screen, absorbing the infographics that were on it.
Suddenly, I sensed the slight hint of movement on my right where the door to my room is – firmly shut of course, in an (some would say pointless) attempt to keep the domesticity of my world away. Half-expecting my 10-year-old to waltz in – it wouldn’t be the first time and yes I feel you, Robert Kelly – I almost got up, all prepped to admonish and shoo her away.
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Turns out the door was shut though. What was causing the flutter was a small square piece of paper that was being pushed through the gap between the doorframe and the floor.
A secret note.
Switching off the camera, I picked it up. Who can resist a secret note?
‘Hi. Take your time. I’m not hungry’, it read, a scrawl in red sketch pen.
But of course, I mutter under my breath, half angry, half amused at my 10-year-old, and also at myself. Feelings that in the next instant had turned to pure awe – how, how, do children manage to do this every single time, I found myself wondering? How does a child understand so deeply, and execute so perfectly, such terribly effective mind games on a parent, especially a mother?
It is this very landmine of emotions that I have attempted to tread in my new book Momspeak – the dilemmas and conundrums, the soaring highs and the absolute lows, the painful tears and the raucous laughter that come with being a mother.
And in writing this book, in exploring and traversing this landscape and spectrum of feelings, joyride of emotions, I have also realised why I write at all.
At the risk of sounding like a Boyzone song, words really are all I have – oh wait! That’s exactly a Boyzone song, but boy bands, arguably, have been bards too, in their own right – it’s a truth that is at once painful and purposeful, profound and ridiculous, exactly like the scribbled words on a note that say one thing, and mean something completely the opposite. ‘Take your time. I am not hungry’, after all reads as ‘When will you be done and feed me?’ in my head.
I don’t know of any mother who wouldn’t be affected in some sense by a note like that. Depending on the kind of day, month, year she was having, she would be properly rattled or slightly nonchalant. But even so, in the recognition of both the absurdity and serious import of the moment – from everything to the nature of the relationship and bond she shares with her child, her personal grapplings with her self-image, her identity, the blurring of her personal and professional lives – in that very moment, I also realise that language and expression binds us all together. (Sometimes these are ties that bind and gag, to quote Erma Bombeck!).
I write because I need to express this. This restlessness, hunger, ambition, joy, grief, sustenance, existential angst I’m feeling.
I also know that when I write, all of this touches someone somewhere, eventually. We’re all reminded of why we all evolved to speech in the first place. Chose to communicate with each other. Went from the drawings on the wall to poetry. To Insta stories.
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We often fail each other too when we express ourselves. Language and expression are often never enough. Relationships break. Communication gaps haunt us. We obsess over that line in our WhatsApp windows that says ‘So and so is typing…’
Words are never enough and yet they are all we have, isn’t it?
They are all I have.
And that is why I write.
Pooja Pande is the author of the ebook Momspeak: The Funny, Bittersweet Story of Motherhood in India. The views expressed are the author’s own.