Each time I open a blank sheet of paper to write something personal and beyond work, I wonder what I should write about, or even if I should write anything at all.
I try to avoid topics that hit home. Or anywhere near my loved ones, because I don’t want them to get hurt. Who wants to read about depressing stories like child abuse, rape, incest, abusing women, manipulation, war crimes, drugs, depression, addictions, emotional / physical violence, which, unfortunately (or fortunately) happen to be topics that I want to write about, topics that are more familiar than I would like to accept, topics that I see reflected in some of the people I meet. I try not to. But instead I talk about friends, and emotions and family and falling in love. Those are stuff that people relate to. Right?
You wouldn’t relate to memories in your past where you watch a white ceramic mug smash against the wall, raining into a million pieces that reminded you of snow flakes in movies, nearly missing your mother’s head by inches, would you? You don’t remember your father kicking you when you were about 3, sitting on the floor silently absorbed in some toy or another, minding your own business, only to be kicked so hard that the force actually knocked air out of chest, leaving you numb with shock? No pain. Just shock and then tears, tears because physically, it had hurt. Your body would react to it faster than your mind would, and it rebelled by letting tears like rain roll down your cheeks. Not even a sob. Too proud, and only hiding in the curve of your mother, her curly hair wild, tears streaming down her face as she swooped down on you to hug you, to shield you from the monster behind her…. When your father’s friends were at your place, your mother slaved over the cooker and after he left with them, you cleaned up after them. You weren’t even tall enough to reach the sink to wash the plates so you stood on a stool. 15 years after, he still haunts your life, hits you, and pulls you by your hair and drags you along the room to set an example out of you for your mother and little brother. Your mother is helpless, and you can do nothing else but watch from behind the curtains of your childhood. At school, you got bullied by the other children and even the teachers, they hated you. You were a little chubby back then, and you realised that you liked boys instead of girls unlike everyone around you. They punished you for being you, beat you up after school, and wrote “PONNAYA” on your forehead with a permanent marker, and you walked home in shame with a broken nose, wishing that everything else that wasn’t broken inside you, to just break and disintegrate, so that there would no longer be a “you” that had to suffer. Wishing that you weren’t at fault for everything. Wishing that the pain would end….Please just let it stop! Please take me to my mother in Dubai. Tell her I am in pain. / I’ll do anything. Please don’t let thaththa come into my room tonight. But if I run away, he will use my sister. Why are my parents forcing me to marry my rapist? I’ll do it! But I’m scared. I haven’t had my period in two months. What’s wrong with me? No one will marry me. I’m worthless now anyway. No one can help me now… / You told me I had to prove my love to you and this is the way I had to prove it. But now there’s a video and photographs… My family will hate me forever. My neighbours will never look at me again. But you won’t show it to anyone if I sleep with your friends, will you? You said you loved me, but you don’t mean it. You don’t hit the ones you love. You don’t hurt the ones you love. You just don’t…. / Don’t. It hurts. I’m not ready. Please stop. Please wait for a few more days, I’m tired after the wedding. / It hurts… Please.. It hurts that you never sent me to school. I should have been out there like everyone else, learning and skidding my knees on the ground, and making friends. Not washing and cleaning for you and mom… Leave me alone. Stop threatening me! I will call the police if you don’t stop. / Should we call the police ? Ayyo, can’t be bothered. Not our problem. Increase the volume men, can’t hear anything over that bloody bugger shouting – Amma, anne amma, thaththata kiyanna mama ada yanne nethuwa oya mamath ekka heta yannan kiyala. Mage mulu angama ridenawa… Ah nangi, yamuda ape dihe? asai bung umba mirikanna.. ko balanna puka ahuwenawada kiyala – Ahu wenna ne bung, bandayen passe ona ekak puluwan. Ekita be kiyannath bene. umba samiya, eki thamuste ona welawata ready wenna ona. hondin hari narakin hari – geniyee man naraka miniha kiyanne epa..man umbata hamba karala mahansi wela titak biwwama thiyena rudawa mokadda?!
And the pages keep turning…..There are so many ‘you’s, so many ‘I’s and ‘he’s and ‘she’s in my stories. All of them real but none of them are criminals or behind bars. They are faces that walk beside you, on the streets, at the beach, park, school, bus stop… Its the face you smile and say good morning to at work and the face you say thank you at the supermarket. It could be the friend you knew when you were six or the person who gave birth to you at the receiving or delivering end of this chaos.
Its not easy. It never was.
The tools at the disposal of a storyteller are flawed. There are words that are ugly, deformed, and overused, forever a reminder that there is blood and pain at the ir origin. Love, for example, is a word. I could write the word love a thousand times over and it would mean something different to each of you. Is there a point in putting down words at the end of a blinking cursor and watching them spread over the pages like blood spilling out of an open wound? What purpose is served by writing about emotions that are too complex and overwhelming to be confronted by, when events are accepted as reality and characters are shaken off as fiction?
Love isn’t the only word that fails.
Hate does too.