That night, the full moon visited the Pleaides after the cyclone had crossed. All was calm again, and in the absence of artificial brightness I took a single clay lamp to my room to mark the occasion. To reinforce the rattling doors of my balcony, which had already invited a deluge earlier that day, a decorative item — an altar of steps — that had been stored outside had been brought in. The steps served their purpose as they hadn’t done in a while. They held up that little lamp, its reflection steady against the closed glass door. And I sat for as long as it burned in the quiet, storm-strewn twilight, and poems came back to me.
So the next morning, still utterly disconnected from any form of communication, I woke unto poems. I tried to be sensible. I thought of my deadlines first, the people who couldn’t reach me. I thought of all the things that would catch up with me the minute the networks started working again. But I could no more stem the torrents of poetry than I could the rainwater that had seeped beneath and between those balcony doors and creased the pages of the books I had left stacked on the floor.
I write to you pretending to be in another century, envious of writers who predated the Internet, or who were born early enough that they didn’t become usurped by it. What bliss to wake up in the aftermath of a storm to filthy floors and untallied damages and find myself just as calm as the climate, cossetted in fresh poems. Is this what happens to me when I have so little static around, when there are no tweets to click on or messages to attend to, when I can’t squander hours in idle browsing, cheating myself that I’m trying to find something interesting to write about?
Will the power come back in time for me to send you this missive? Even the most ambitious of writers of the past didn’t have the conceit of today’s. They didn’t know if their manuscripts would survive ordinary accidents, sabotage, and finally, the postal system. But — unlike I have all year, except for the boon of this column — they wrote anyway. And trusted.
I could not raise any potted plants this year, after the ones I had tended to died in last December’s disastrous floods. It was not that I was so attached to those that I couldn’t try again. Just that keeping plants is an indicator of heart-health. And mine was very small and stony and sad looking this year. In the interim, other forces took over my balcony: laundry, pigeons, storage, an altar that got its swansong on Karthigai Deepam.
The cyclone was the final coup in my efforts to reclaim the space. Now it stands completely empty, and full of potential. Will I dare to do it: to trust again? I will measure my capacity by beginning with things with thorns: bougainvillea, roses and cacti. Perhaps I only know how to parse the world in metaphor. But isn’t that too a way to look it in the eye?
(The Chennai-based author writes poetry, fiction and more)