Profound was my relief yesterday when I found that the prospect of being initiated to the penetralia and the mysteries of the craft of writing wasn’t actually as intimidating as I thought it would be. Indeed, I couldn’t point out a happier day in my recent academic history when I had enjoyed my time in the confinement of a classroom as I did yesterday. The lively conversations that precipitated from my hung-up abditories surprised me exceedingly. I never knew that I could be so assertive, that I, one whose perdurable companion is her daily journal, could actually be a part of an intellectually stimulating debate. I was stunned by the revelation and I couldn’t say if my assertiveness added a hint of positivity to my vacillating level of literary confidence. Anyway, I suppose I should give you a better and more substantial account of my first creative writing class at the British Council.
The whole day yesterday the mad quopping of the clock at my desk suggested the beginning of a new decade in the annals of my life. For long I have yearned to be a part of a stimulating writing group to experience the enjoyment of collaborative literary creation and learn the intricacies of the writing art. Yet when the time came to get ready and pack my bags, I was dubious and hesitant. A rain of arrows targeted at me by the meta-voice suggested negative possibilities. The thoughts enervated me, and I was amazed at how our inner spirit seldom agrees when we are out on a revolutionary road trying to re-write our personal archives. I decided to turn a deaf ear to my own inner self. Although when I was getting ready to leave the house I failed to observe the beckoning hand of grand success floating before by eyes like some photic illusion, I was conscious of an all-embracing sense of peace gradually enveloping me. For the past few months I have been relying on the calming effects of meditation and deep breathing. The practice has been helping me relax and focus on my work.
For yesterday's outfit I chose a pair of well worn jeans, a simple royal blue T, which happens to be my favorite shirt despite its mundane getup, and my black walking shoes. It was a warm day yesterday, warm and humid. The weather around these parts often remains dry and arid, but it was strangely clammy yesterday. I felt as if the atmosphere was sweating profusely as it waited with breathless enthusiasm for my outcome in the new sport. Yesterday’s traffic wasn’t bad; “the busy old fool” was playing hide and seek in the clouds and so its piercing rays didn’t scorch my skin. I sat on the back seat of the car humming along with the tunes on the radio. The driver talked a lot, he is an agreeable gentleman who loves Delhi and couldn’t stop talking about its innumerable offerings. He proposed to give me an impromptu car trip to the major attractions around the Chanakyapuri area.
The diversion proved efficacious in relieving some of the strain. By the time I was observing the President’s Mansion (Rashtrapati Bhavan) and the beckoning of the India Gate on the other side of the road, I felt patriotic and inspired. The treasures of our country are endless, and I was overwhelmed by their iridescence.”You cannot possibly finish touring our whole country in one lifetime,” observed my mustachioed companion with glee when he saw me half hanging out of the car window trying to capture the fleeting scenery on my cellular phone.When we crossed the India Gate I dedicated a patriotic salute to the monument and remembered the time my best friend and I went to a cool nationalistic Bollywood movie called Rang De Basanti and devoted a long salute to the movie screen soon after the show was over thereby adding considerably to the entertainment of the moviegoers present in the theater on that day.
Having jettisoned all my dubiousness by this time, I found myself inspecting the environs with alacrity. The penannular roads gave way ultimately to the hub of Delhi—Cannaught Place. This place is Delhi’s Times Square, a place seething with people, quadrirotal vehicles, omnibuses, shops and many more. My driver gave me a quick tour around the inner and outer circle of this place; and I could feel the pulsating vein of the city throbbing under the weight of its inhabitants, the life of city bubbling and bursting with unbounded enthusiasm and vigor. It was hard to not acknowledge the Joie de vivre in that area. I was stunned by the amount of activity in the region: shops all settled waiting for customers, street-vendors ready with their offerings, flower shops with blooming blessings waiting for the hand of the gift-donor, and people coming and going in all directions. The setting was a mighty old chain that attached all of them in its links, all breathing, seething, and living in the narrow expanse of a constricted city hub enjoying the contributions of life.
For a moment I tried to imagine the collective stream of consciousness of the people around me, but then I couldn’t hold on to the thought. Eventually, my driver stopped the car before the establishment that was to house me and all my thoughts for the next two hours. Inside the citadel, the sentinels directed me to a chamber marked Room 1. I was accompanied by a girl who was also doing the course. I later learned her name and that she is an avid traveler. She was a very young lady, a first year student of English Honours at Delhi University. She wore a white T-shirt, a pair of watchet denim capris and small-lensed eyeglasses encased in a bright pink and black frame. Her front set of teeth slightly protruded and her hair had blond highlights which did not suit her.
As I sat introducing self to this youngster in bits, I observed the rest of the clan. The room where we sat on a circle with our chairs along the wall in one neat curve smelled of tension, apprehension, and excitement. The girl sitting next to A was another very young person, in fact, we found out later on that she was the youngest of the lot. She wore a blue top, blue denim capris and sported a simple back-brushed and clipped hairdo that suited her. She displayed considerable English skill. A couple of people in the group stood out and one of them was V, who reads one book every month and writes factual stuff; S, a dear girl, is writing her novel and could speak to her characters. She is a rather pretty lady all in pink and blue and displayed ample enthusiasm about the course. G is a lawyer and has been staying in Delhi for over ten years. Though from Nigeria, she is well versed with the nooks and corners of the capital. P and I gelled as soon as we spoke to each other during the interaction session where we were required to talk among ourselves and break the ice. Our teacher, to whom I am going to dedicate one paragraph, handed us printed out pages which had a list of common and infrequent qualities and interests and we were asked to match our new friends with the allotted interests.
The exercise turned out to be a real fun sport, slow in the beginning but gaining spirit and reaching the crescendo of conversation around the closing time. My impassioned feverishness bid an ignorant goodbye while I shed my normal diffidence and went about talking and discovering the interests of my classmates. AN was a wonderful guy, a lawyer by profession, who has the unusual dream of living in Beirut. AP speaks with a lovely accent and shares my interest in Khaled Hosseni. R is a MBA and complained about not being a voracious reader, although I though she is rather well-read and doesn’t really need to sweat over the reading issue. We all hang out talking about ourselves and our love for literature.
Our teacher was a lovely lady dressed in pristine white. She was a vision of intellectualism, sophisticated and uberous in knowledge. She is a writer and has written academic and non-academic books. An avid reader, she enjoys both the Elizabethan offerings of Shakespeare and modern Indian write-ups by authors like Khuswant Singh, Amitav Ghose among others. Although not an aficionado of Arundhati Roy’s renderings, she reads her for Roy's style of writing. During our interacting session she went about talking to the students and when the session was over she made us all partake of another fun sport. One person from the group was asked to introduce another person in the group and point out that person’s interests and qualities as discovered during the recent interactive session. AP introduced me with some lovely lines, and I introduced P, rather clumsily, I thought, and pointed out our common interest in cooking as an anecdotal reference.
Anyhow, the introduction was over soon and we then began talking about literature and narrative procedure and were asked to give our opinions to a number of selective arguments presented to us in a printed form. The list included such questions as to whether fiction needs a plot for development; whether the reader is more important than the writer and so on. We were divided into groups of four where we discussed and consolidated our points of view based on the arguments provided and tried reaching a unanimous consensus. One spokesperson from each group delivered the groups ideas and then the other groups were given opportunity to expatiate on the issue and provide their view points if they deemed desirable. We did not go into a heated argument, but the discussion was lively, and I was more vociferous than I thought I could be.
At the end of the class my new friends and I exchanged our contact details and I felt for the first time full of beans at having gone ahead and taken the decision to be a part of this extensive, not to say nerve-wrecking course. The intimidations that had been a part of my morning saga having bidden adieu by then, I felt more at ease. As I reclined in the back seat of my car on the way back, the daunting façade of the BCL establishment seemed benign, and I felt happy.
Now here are some pictures I took yesterday on my cellular phone: