Tuesday, March 26, 2013

DD's Travel Writing Bus - November 2012

Our writing mentor Dilip had suggested a couple of assignments way back in November when we met. The first one is the 'homework' piece and the second one is what we wrote during the session:

* Write a story (or part of a story) about a relatively young person (let's say under 40 years old) who will die soon. Only, s/he has no idea about this. You, the all-seeing author, do know: so write with that knowledge affecting your writing in whatever way it can or will.

My attempt:
He smiled. I looked around me, and then quickly, and sheepishly realised he was indeed smiling at me. I smiled back. Or at least that what I thought I did. 

The chaos surrounding us hardly seemed to perturb him. I marvelled at his calm demeanour and then was transported back in time to that muggy summer day in the March of 1999. It was my usual bus route and I was already running late for college. Maybe Professor D'Cruz would excuse me. Maybe he would forget about the class today. Myriad silly thoughts. Almost absentmindedly, I jumped into Bus No. 452. Double deckers always were my favourite. Climbing upstairs, I plonked myself on a seat at the back so that I could make my way down quickly when my destination arrived. 

I was buried in one of those novels when it struck me that a set of eyes were on me. A very intent gaze. Annoyed, I looked across my seat and was too stunned to look away. How did I miss seeing him at all? He was tiny, frail and covered in a bundle to keep him warm. And I kept thinking to myself it's so bloody hot.

The woman carrying him was impeccably dressed. Her burkha was neat and didn't show any signs of distress. But her eyes looked tired, almost vacant. She was probably a couple of years older than me. Young. Tired. Resigned. I watched them. Every time the bus swerved or hit a pothole, she clutched him a little tighter. 

Holy Cross Hospital, it was. That's where they got off. Their stop suddenly made sense to me. I saw them on that bus route once every week every day for the next two months. We never spoke, except once when I gave her a medal of Infant Jesus that my mother had asked me to give the kid. They were part of my day for those two months and Mum had heard about them and felt very concerned. That day, the burkha-clad lady mentioned how they had also knocked on all kinds of spiritual doors. Haji Ali to Mount Mary to Siddhi Vinayak. So Infant Jesus also was an added deity and much appreciated. He barely ate, she said. Never even cried when he was born. Too weak and they didn't know why.

Fourteen years later, we ran into each other at Holy Cross Hospital. I had to visit my ailing grandma and in the same ward, I noticed a familiar pair of eyes on me. He went about fidgeting with a cell phone - some game he was engrossed in - and occasionally he would look up and smile. But the figure on the bed next to him reminded me of the day I saw her for the first time on that bus. Lifeless, yet impeccably dressed.

He, of course, did not recognize me. She? Well, she could not recognize me.


The other piece we did during the November session was this and quoting Dilip here:
* I opened a favourite novel to a random page and chose the first two sentences I saw there. The novel is Bernard MacLaverty's "Cal" (which I thoroughly recommend, by the way) and these are the two sentences:

"Skeffington poured the contents of the bag onto the table and the others helped him sort the notes into piles. During the silence of counting, Cal felt it on the tip of his tongue to say that he had got himself a job but he knew that the next question would be "Where?" and he did not want to tell them."
Again, write a story (or part) that starts with those two sentences. Up to 500 words. 

My attempt:

Skeffington poured the contents of the bag onto the table and the others helped him sort the notes into piles. During the silence of counting, Cal felt it on the tip of his tongue to say that he had got himself a job but he knew that the next question would be "Where?" and he did not want to tell them.

His eyes were transfixed on the table. That's a look Skeffington had never seen before. That’s a look he didn’t want to see either.

Cal avoided everyone's gaze as he turned in his loot next. When he pulled out a tightly wound wad, something fell to the ground. He hoped no one had noticed but it was too late. Arthur picked up the chain with questioning eyes. The pendant bore a symbol he had seen before. Actually, a symbol everyone had seen and dreaded for far too long. A hush had descended on the room.

Skeffington stepped up to Arthur and the next set of events was a complete blur. Cal was on the ground wincing from a hard jaw-breaking slap. He tried to explain but the chief was in no mood to listen. The words 'trust' and 'betray' echoed in Cal's head throughout. He couldn't believe this was happening to him. His only crime was that he was born in enemy camp and he wished to broker peace between two warring factions. All for his grandfather's sake and just so he could bring his soul to eternal rest.

2 Replies:

BombayJules said...

You are a great writer J! Such a talent. Keep up the classes. I would love to write properly but I don't have the imagination for stories. Will have to stick to blogs - suitable enough for my short attention span....

~j~ said...

You just made my day/week/month! Thank you for your kind words, Jules. Though I still need to work a lot on my writing.

And honestly, your blog posts make for refreshing reading, so don't call yourself unimaginative.

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