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Remembering a journey

The thoughts of a person who is writing are restrained by the speed of his own writing. It does not gallop like unreined wind. Instead it flows smoothly like a river flowing down a mountainside. It twists, turns and it follows different paths..but it never loses track of where it has been.

Silent Eloquence was born, five years ago – on 26th August 2004, as “a blog that celebrates the beauty and power of words.”

Life is a journey. You can choose to stay close to home or wander off to unknown lands. I chose the latter. Silent Eloquence – as I toggled between Silence and Eloquence – has been with me for the recent part of it. This post celebrates that journey, as I look at the path this blog took, through the lands covered, and the meanderings en route – the beautiful beaches, dangerous deserts, forbidden forests, wonderful waterfalls, unexpected avalanches and the peaceful valleys.

Five years can be a long time or a short time, depending on how you look at it. For me, it is a time where a lot happened. A lot changed.

As I changed, as my environment changed, as my life changed, this blog changed too. The topics I cover, the frequency in which I write, my tone of writing, my political sympathies and even my readers, changed. But I also realized that beyond all the superficial changes, there is the me that doesn’t change. No matter what you do to it – put it in a blender and smash everything to pieces – and there is that bit that just doesn’t disintegrate. The real me.

There is a reason I know that, and this is in the only “advice” I want to share with anyone who cares – try, try out everything out there that interests you. Sure, I have paid my price for it – instability, career with weird trajectories, friends spread out all over the world, family far away – but I have gained so much, so much more. Sorry for the digression, but I feel so strongly about it, I just have to say it, and repeat it. Experiment – some fail, some work. Learn and move on, to another experiment. Silent Eloquence has been a constant companion through all those experiments – a fellow researcher, an enthusiastic cheerleader, a harsh critic and most of all, a diligent documenter.

Yes, now, let’s look at that journey.

From early happy stories of Womad, “It was one of those days where I couldn’t care less who was around me – it was just me, the music and the dance – almost in a trance. And it was so packed and so hot – was almost like we were in a sauna.” and my take on a gal’s nite out at Cubanitos, the place that has the best mojitos in Germany, “I felt really truly at home here – at the altstadt at midnite – and it’s a great feeling!”

I transformed to:

I wish a smaller pain would be mine than that that haunts my burning soul
Anything else but the deep dark abyss that is my heart’s eternal home.

and:

Defying life, defying all,
I give up my life, in happy delirium
For in pleasure, we seek pain,
And in pain, we find our pleasure.

before getting, abruptly, but not accidentally, to:

I want to keep smiling till my cheeks hurt all over
I want to turn cartwheels till I fall down in a heap
I want to giggle and laugh like a little five year old
Who got the keys to the world’s biggest candy store. […]
I want to dance and have the whole world dance with me
In wild moments of celebration, that last till the end of time.

I went from an impressionable over-enthusiastic, over-energetic young girl to a cynical and tired I-feel-older-than-I-am woman and then back to a moderately-enthusiastic, a-tad-cynical (you can’t really get rid of the baggage you collect on the way), mother-to-be. I think it had a lot to do with the realization that:

life may be a box of chocolates, but whether you decide to eat ice cream instead is entirely dependent on you.

It may have been an internal realization. But many external factors triggered that.

I was in Singapore when I started this blog. During the course of our life together, I lived in Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, Nigeria and now, the UK. My jobs changed, oh what the hell, my professions changed – I went from an engineer to a banker to a strategy consultant to a wanna-be-entrepreneur to a private investor (very small scale and private, don’t email me for funding pls) and recently, a newbie writer. There are very few tangibles that have remained the same through the years. All those changed my outlook to life.

In Singapore, in 2005, I wrote about the PM’s exhortation to think out of the box, but felt compelled to add a disclaimer “The interpretations and implications are my personal opinions. If you have violent objections, please drop me an email or comment, and I would be glad to discuss this amicably.” And then wondered, “PS: I wonder if it is 10 years of living in Singapore that made me write that disclaimer..!

As I moved and adapted to Germany, I wrote:

I like bratwursts (sausages) and potatoes. I like the carnivals and the Christmas markets and the intracity beer rivalries. And I like jogging by the Rhine. I can now successfully make the German guttural pronunciations. I can now stare at people in trams without flinching when they stare back. And I can be methodical and anal when it comes to details. As I stumble down the path to becoming integrated to this temporarily-adopted society, I wonder where all this will end.

still unsure of what lies ahead:

Is there really such a thing as a global citizen? Can you ever feel comfortable in several countries? Now, that I think is possible. The more relevant question is, as human beings, do we need to know that we belong to one country? Or can we be happily promiscuous about our nationalistic identities?

I was on a quest to find out. Netherlands was next on the trail. I ditched Silent Eloquence and wrote another blog anonymously while I was there. It was more practical stuff, such as (sorry, no links):

The first two days of our apartment hunting was just d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g! The best I could have said about those two days was that I must have lost at least a kilo! Haven’t you heard about Dutch stairs? They are steep, almost vertical and seem to go on forever. And at the end of this Himalayan climb, you get to see an apartment, which is well, ancient! Just because the apartment building was built in the 1800s, doesn’t mean the furniture can’t be new!

But it was not all bad. Eventually, we found a place we loved:

A lovely two bedroom place in shiki miki Old South! They say the best way to assess a neighbourhood is to check out the parked cars – I have a feeling that the car I hope to get is gonna significantly reduce the glam of our Oud Zuid neigbhourhood.

was followed later by:

Just in case you were wondering, that car was a beautiful new BMW, and it did reduce the glam of the neighbourhood. Oh well, I tried.

I guess that was just a phase where I didn’t feel comfortable enough with myself to share my thoughts freely. Spaces in Amsterdam are tiny, no matter how fabulous. Necessity made me learn to de-clutter my life, both literally and metaphorically. I realized the truth in what my father once said to me, “If you love something, let it go. It will come back to you, if it was meant to be. If it doesn’t, it was not yours to begin with.” Some things are always meant to be. They just are.

I came back. Back to Silent Eloquence, back to my life.

Africa was next, as I spent the better part of last year in South Africa and Nigeria. Terrible, terrible internet connections meant that I couldn’t blog much, but I had a lot more time to read, and African literature started featuring more in my reading lists and reviews. From Kapuscinski’s Shadow of the Sun, which I read

because I was on my way to Africa for the first time, I was alone and a bit scared of what awaited me in the dark continent and I mistakenly thought the book might make me feel better on the flight.,

I became a fan of Ben Okri, Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, J.M.Coetzee, Chimamanda Adichie, Waris Dirie, Laila Lalami, Chinua Achebe, and now am reading, Karl Maier’s The House has fallen.

UK, where I live now, is yet to feature in my writing. It will, soon enough. For now, I am absorbing and analyzing.

India, though I didn’t live there during the five years I wrote this blog, kept popping up here, starting from figuring out what it means to be an Indian – my definition was, “I think I am an Indian, therefore I am an Indian” – to indignant replies to ignorant journalistsNRIs moving back to India is not the solution to India’s problems and let this not be the scapegoat that everyone turns to when they need one.” to my sad realization that India still is not “A nation where I would feel safe. A land where all is fair and just. A country where people are more happy than sad.” But eventually, when you write about your own country, pride and nostalgia trumps everything else:

The quiet, thick rubber plantations, the tappers who toil almost camouflaged among the trees and even the queer smell of the drying rubber sheets are part and parcel of Kerala’s evergreen beauty.

Just in case changing homes were not enough, I travelled as much as time and money would allow, perhaps even to the point of weariness, as I realised :

There is something incomparably liberating in the incessant passing of the greens, the occasional cow on the field or the lone passer-by. I love the silence, when long forgotten thoughts are pulled out of my memory and restacked after much deliberation. No idea is too stupid. No thought is too random. I am the philosopher that I never get to be.

I met many interesting people in my travels. As I did on this blog too. Readers, commenters, fellow-bloggers – they have been the unexpected reward of my blogging journey. Five years is a long time to try and trace back, especially in this age where not many have maintained blogs for that time period. So forgive me, if we were blog-buddies once and I forget to mention you, it’s not about you. It’s just me.

First shout out goes to Srijith. He, after all, introduced me to blogging and let me try it out on his blog. Hyde’s cynicism annoyed me enough to keep writing in the early days. Nanopolitan, OneMoreReason, Varnam, Venkat, Nimbupani, BalancingLife, Vulturo, WindySkies, Pramod and SurrealReality were some of the early readers. Chakli read my blog even when no one else did. Desipundit and Blogbharti encouraged me with links. Mridula, Shobana, Shamly, Al-avalathi, 30in2005, Sig11, Girlwithbigeyes, NishantH, Witnwisdumb and SandsofChange came by at some point. You all made my journey enriching, in ways I couldn’t have imagined. A standing ovation to you!

What is life without love and family? The blog, after all, started as way to cope with the sudden loneliness that comes when a husband moves a few thousand miles away. I pined, “My life begins at 2.30 pm!” because there was a time difference of 6 hours that separated us, “its a funny comforting feeling – knowing that he is awake too and that I can mail him or call him or chat with him if need be…” . I wrote:

The silence is broken only by the sporadic typing on my keyboard and the incessant ticking of the clock on the wall. An occasional car on the street claims to create some noise around me. Yet it is the silence that is deafening.

That didn’t last long, I was in Europe soon after. But that moved me farther away from home, and the rest of my family. About ten years after I moved out of my parents’ house, I admitted:

My father would fill ink in my crooked Hero pen every morning before I went to school. First it was because I used to get ink all over my hands. And after that it was because he didn’t realise I had grown up.
[…]
On most days, long after the alarm has gone off and after many angry faraway shouts from my father, I would still be sleeping. My mother would make her way up the stairs to my room. She would kiss me on the forehead and I would wake up with a smile. Even now, when I wake up in the morning, I often think of my mother.

and my parents finally got to know, for the first time ever, that behind the facade of fierce independence, there was still a little girl who wanted to say:

I miss you. Terribly. Every single day. And it doesn’t get any better just because I am all grown up. Nor do I get used to it just because its been a long time.”

A short story I wrote following that train of thought, “Check-in”, was my first one to get published.

Srijith and I did the long distance thing again, when he went to the US a few years later. I learnt that I will never learn to cope with it:

Some things are never said, no matter how easy they should have been. Telling someone that they are the center of your universe is one of them.
Some things are never easy, no matter how many times you have said them before. Goodbyes are one of them.

There are things you just can’t do and then all you can do is quit trying. By then you know where your priorities lie and what you need to do, as clear as the bottom of a lake when a sweltering summer drains all the waters away. The new found clarity reflected in my writing:

If you can cross every mountain, swim every sea, just to see someone smile, that’s what they call love. If you can give up all that you held dear and fought hard for, just for a glimmer of hope that it might make someone else a little happier, then it must be love.

And for the things you can do nothing about, I discovered fiction. I wrote about how a little bird left the nest the mother-bird had painstakingly built, and concluded:

I smiled at the cruelty of nature and the inevitability of her rules. And I shed a silent tear – for the goodbyes I have said in my own life.

The same cruel nature, though, works in mysterious ways, as I recently tweeted:

The inside of my tummy must look like a football. The kicks seem to go on and on. Not to mention the occasional head butts.

It is handing me the chance to build my own nest, as I look forward to the next phase in my life and my new beginnings.

The journey has been long and arduous. It has also been beautiful and unexpected. If you have stayed with me through it, or been fellow travelers during some parts, a big thank you to you. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.

I hope you stay on. After all, it is only the beginning. There are, for better or for worse, many more miles to go before I sleep. So, stay tuned to Silent Eloquence and be part of the conversation – let me know your tucked-away thoughts, your silly scribbles, your cutting critiques and your daily doodles.

Surya has not left the building.

Posted in Catch-all on August 26, 2009


18 Responses

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  1. Divya says

    A very nice recap of 5 years! I must tell you though, you were always a star for me, even in NTU and of course now after all these years of your journey of life! Keep blogging!

  2. Surya says

    Thanks Divya. Am flattered..=) Think you have been one of my most regular readers and insightful commenters. thanks for that too!

  3. Vijay says

    Amazing post! Captures the journey very well.

    Loved your short story. Don’t remember reading it before on the blog. You sure have been hiding a gem. Kudos!

    Looking forward to more –

  4. Surya says

    Thanks, Vijay. Am glad you like it =)

  5. Purnima says

    “Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen.”

    Every single time I steal idleness, I get to see a new post here. Thank you!

    “Some things are never said, no matter how easy they should have been. Telling someone that they are the center of your universe is one of them.
    Some things are never easy, no matter how many times you have said them before. Goodbyes are one of them.”

    Thanks for these words. Thanks for all your post. And knowing what it takes to have a journey like this, my heartiest congratulations and best wishes.

  6. Nikhil Narayanan says

    Half a decade and not just five years.Congratulations.
    Keep writing.
    Surprised and honored by the mention. :-)
    Best wishes
    -Nikhil

  7. Vidya Sreeram says

    Hello Surya,

    I am Vidya, an unknown fellow traveller of this blog. Many of ur writings have made me nostalgic and felt as if someone is telling what is in my mind.
    Even this post was truly remarkable.
    Keep writing and may the new beginning in your life be a truly rewarding and blessed experience to u and Srijit :)

    Take Care
    An unknown friend
    Vidya

  8. Surya says

    “Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen.” – Very nice.

    Purnima, Nikhil, Vidya: thanks =)

    I had no idea I had an unknown fellow traveller! Glad to see you here!

  9. lunte says

    midway through the post, i feel a sudden overwhelming urge to comment but then i realise i’m at a loss of words… it’s been almost three years now that ‘ive been following you along this journey as you “flow(ed) smoothly like a river.” i enjoy(ed) travelling alongside you.
    from delhi, with love
    ps – opps, where was i? i need to get back to where i was? oh yeah, there, now let me continue reading……

  10. Surya says

    Thanks for sticking around, Lunte =)

  11. raj says

    I accidently stumbled upon your blog when googled on some topic. I have read few of your posts and I am very impressed with your writings. I too have started my own blog few months ago , but stopped blogging last few weeks because of workload & laziness (may be lack of ideas is the real reason :-).

    Congratulations on your 5 year journey on this blog. Good Luck and keep it rolling!

  12. Shobana says

    Surya…Congratulations to completing 5 glorious years of blogging! You have such a good way with your words, and I love reading your posts. So many things you said is so true. Keep writing!

  13. Surya says

    Raj, Shobana : Thanks =)

  14. riot says

    Surya,
    Congratulations on five very cool blog years!

    I have been away from blogging for a while now. I woke up early this Sunday and for no particular reason decided to catch up on my blog feeds. As always Silent Eloquence was my first stop. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I will have to say this, your posts are always an inspiration. I think my eyes went all misty on me reading this post. I quickly blinked it away. Can you hide this comment if possible : )

    And I am going to take your advice very seriously……. “this is in the only advice I want to share with anyone who cares – try, try out everything out there that interests you. Sure, I have paid my price for it – instability, career with weird trajectories, friends spread out all over the world, family far away – but I have gained so much, so much more”

    I wish the wanna-be-entrepreneur and newbie writer all the success. And many many more blog years of Silent Eloquence.

  15. Meetika says

    Hey there,
    i don’t how i stumbled upon ur twitter a/c but i’m glad i followed silent eloquence..wanna msg. u directly but cudnt find the way out…anyways i truly loved ur style, though i’m still exploring ur blog but for me u r a true writer cuz i not only enjoyed ur 5 yrs. journey but felt as if i moved along with, kudos!! …it’s a pretty easy read but touches u deep down… & hey hey hey it’s my pleasure to follow u, a like minded person & be friends with u cuz even i feel that way..”the woods r lovely dark & deep and i’ve promises to keep….miles to go before i sleep”.
    ~Wish u all the good luck & Godb less the child & the mother-to-be…take care.
    ~Meetika. (PS: my twitter a/c is by the name msri22)

  16. SilentOne says

    I used to drop by often too, from Venkat’s blog. I did not comment much and then lost touch, somewhere along the line..
    You are in UK now ?? Woah, i sure have missed out on a lot. I am in London.

  17. Deepa says

    Awesome writing Surya..Enjoy motherhood..

Continuing the Discussion

  1. 10 years | Silent Eloquence linked to this post on September 18, 2014

    […] 10 year birthday. It was on 26 Aug 2014. If I had time, would have posted the sequel to this Remembering a journey. Watch this space for the part II. Coming […]



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