I grew up wanting to be able to write beautiful essays. I now want to grow old being able to write beautiful essays. The un-quenched yearning remains.
I have realised over time, that anything that needs my attention needs to be in medium doses – thus I have never like movies (tolerated murder movies, but wished they were a series) and stuck to tele / web series, never enjoyed novels – finished them after my peers had moved on to the third edition of the printed series (or others) – essays / stories / columns have however, always stolen by heart.
The crux is, my brain needs to chew cud after reading a piece and thus – essays. Beautifully written essays transport me and to those who know me, I have a high sense of imagery. A well drafted essay helps me recreate that world. Often after I have read my favourite essayists like Adichie or Steele I have done nothing but merely kept aside the book, perched myself on my favourite window sill and just stared at the neem tree outside.
As the breeze blows then, to me it throws back the words that were till then printed and now to be absorbed into the skin. Recollecting a line (that seems to just have been written for me) would make me shiver, rub my hands over each other, pull my knees close or maybe reach out for my blanket, but my eyes would be unmoved – it is as if the story was replying on the branches of the neem tree.
How did the author conceive the piece? Where was, she sitting? Was it in the subway with music plugged to her ears – I would wonder. How many “experiences” does one need to survive to come up with something as powerful as that? How many of it is true and for the part that isn’t how strong is the grip on the imagery that it merges on so beautifully? – my thoughts would echo (inevitably I would give out a sigh, at my inability to come up with such a piece). How does she better herself each time? How does he write such disjointed pieces and yet they all fit in like pearls in a garland so beautifully? How does one remain detached and yet just merge their identity in those black printed letters? – Maybe I will never understand.
Essays to be are the most difficult to write, and maybe that is why they are most beautiful to read. I remember being mesmerized as a child and that power still holds. From the mundane “self-study” essay books that the Indian education system has had to offer, to the criminal evaluation of the greatest crimes that my job has often made me read – each essay no matter how bad with description has always enthralled me. That is the beauty of an essay, you can go wrong with the words but if you can inspire the imagery you are safe. If the reader can imagine the author sitting in the same coffee shop that she describes, where she meets her old love and reminisces about unrequited love and Rumi’s influence on her life – no matter how misplaced the quotes of the poet are, the author is safe.
Writing this I also realised that I am biased towards women essayists, as I struggled to remember my favourite names – somewhere I couldn’t go beyond Adichie, Steele, Anita Nair or Jhumpa Lahiri – maybe because their strong feministic nature and choice of words appeal to me. Yes, there are modern ones but then again they try to simplify too much – that is the biggest folly you do with an essay. An essay should describe the thoughts, never the setting. The setting is the not the subject, it is a mere prop that should aid the reader to transport.
My mother taught me to read essays like a monologue drama performance, where it is upto you using minimalistic props / supports to transport your audience to an era where they cannot travel otherwise. I guess I found that conceptualization so appealing that I read every essay like that.
My English teacher from childhood, taught me the power of description through verbs instead of adjectives – let your characters speak of what they do, rather than you describing them.
To think back, the powerful ladies in my life helped me in turn to look up to the ones, they made me aspire to be.
For someone who believes that we are all part of a karmic circle, I hope to get there someday. That is what I wish I could write – beautiful essays of varied kind.
What do you wish you could write?