Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sylvia Plath and I

Hurry up, and keep a 500-rupee note, the snake-charmer said to me, pointing to a box in his hand. I decided not to let my fear overpower me, so I shot back," Why should I? What's in it?" He crooked his eyebrows and twisted his face into an angry scowl. With swift motions with his right hand, he muttered some magical chants jerking the case open, and out came the snake hissing..

How crappy is this story! Priya grunted in disgust. The smoke rose from the cigarette, and she slanted the two fingers holding the butt, and jerked them into the ashtray. The ash fell in a single motion, as if it had been waiting for this disposition. The hand went up to caress her forehead, her eyes searching into the depths of the computer screen in a failed attempt to discover a path-breaking story she was determined to write. "You have to feel it, Priya. Writing might have become a business for some, but it still is an art. You are a wonderful writer, but only when you feel what you write! Right now, you're just running into a deadline and it won't do you any good, Priya. Are you even listening? Priya..." Jatin, her boss exclaimed as Priya walked out of the conference room.

But it wasn't that unfinished discussion she'd had with Jatin that was disturbing her. His words though had started to make sense. Words are like molding clay. You can rub the clay between your palms and make a cylinder out of it or you can mix it with water and dissolve it into a solution that can only be thrown away. Lately, she seemed to have been off-track from what she wanted to do. The number of relatives, friends and well-wishers had lessened and she felt like she was one strange person amidst a whole crowd of people who would smile and go past, but would not bother to know how she really is.

She was a successful writer, who was reputed in her circles, for her intense writing skills. Like any other girl in her late twenties, Priya was in a relationship with a corporate lawyer, who wanted to marry her and settle down. But Priya always felt that there was something lacking. It was only when she would write something dark or heart piercing that she'd gain some mental peace. Her boyfriend, Vinay tried his best to make her fall in love with him, but something was amiss for Priya and she could never really love Vinay though she had the utmost respect for his love, perhaps the only reason she could never call their relationship off.

Many of her friends, who though hardly knew her, identified her aloofness to be depression. A mentally upset person usually stays unhappy and feels incomplete, even when they have the best things in life, some had retorted when they could not handle Priya's "absurdity" any more.

Not that she had not tried. But it was so explicitly visible to her that she had accepted this incompleteness as part of her life. She had a life full of deadlines, questions and void. A void that had taken too much of her, so much that she felt nothing but emptiness. Her eyes drifted to the torn pieces of paper from the scribble pad lying on the floor, pieces she’d wanted to construct lives, characters, intrigues and moments from… now lay waste. Just like the life she’d continue to struggle through. She noticed Vinay’s letter amidst the cluttered pieces too, the letter in which he had declared that she was free of him, now that he had decided to leave. Or perhaps, he had finally set himself free, of her.

The thought brought a smile to her face, the hurt pride reminding her of a quote from a poet, who gave up her life, for death sounded more peaceful…. Sylvia Plath. If there was anyone who had lived in real terms, living through every moment of agony that life brought, for Priya, it was Sylvia Plath. And moreover, she is a misunderstood person in history; often called coward for her act of suicide. Priya recalled her graduation days, when she’d barged out of a subsidiary English class when the professor mocked at her assignment on Sylvia Plath, saying that it was nothing but a waste of time and matter. The smile widened, as she closed her eyes sinking deep into her couch, and hummed with a passion she’d hitherto not felt:

 I feel behind my eyes a numb,
Paralyzed cavern, a pit of hell,
A mimicking nothingness.
I never thought,
I never wrote,
I never suffered.

She felt better, all of a sudden as she finished reciting the verse from Plath that had been her favorite one. Light and breezy, her head felt dizzy and for a second she feared she had low blood pressure. Sipping some water, she walked up to the balcony of her rented sea-facing studio apartment on first-floor.  This void had a sense of contentment, she realized- something that even she wasn’t aware of. She looked towards the horizon, the sun was setting and the waves were jilting the rocks and swaying along the breeze. The evening had been relatively calm, with no one else to fight with or laugh with except her.

She opened the clutcher that had been binding her hair in a tight knot, releasing the rumbling riot of tension, the frustration that she’d been roping in all this time. Happiness or sadness is nothing but a state of mind. You choose what you feel, and no one can make you feel anything without you wanting to feel it. But what about those who claim to be yours, and then cheat you when you need them the most, she contested. The breeze kept blowing her hair from her shoulders to her face and back- like the waves rocking in the shore that lay ahead of her and she began talking to her own self, something she had consciously kept ignoring for a long time.

The gray sky looked ferocious now, dark clouds taking over the crimson sky, inch by inch, devouring every ray of color as it spread. Priya felt a sudden surge within her, and without a thought she hurried out of her flat onto the stairs and she almost skipped two, causing an imbalance in her weight and she fell down. Instead of cringing with pain, she burst out laughing like a playful child, who’d just realized how naughty she is. Her eyes twinkling of the mist in the air, she sprang up and rushed with open arms to envelope the world around her.

Her dupatta fell midway and she didn’t care to lift it and she ran wistfully towards the sea. Her arms spread like a bird, she felt like she was gliding towards the horizon, her legs as light as feather, guiding her to a sequestered home that she had found somewhere; somewhere distant. But the joy of finding that place was so intense, so momentous that she was close to tears. Tears fell just like the rain poured and the two waters blended into one, so perfectly that she didn’t realize that she was crying. She looked up at the sky, the gray clouds silently calming her senses with its own brute and she breathed deeply over and over again, as if she had just learned to breathe. Yes, yes she had. Never before in her life had she felt such an inferno, something that looked so destructive yet felt so soothing- so unbelievably peaceful.

The cool water pricked like tiny arrows onto her skin as she stepped onto the waves as they kept rocking roughly onto her. You are Liberated! "You are liberated!" She shouted, gulping down the tears as she cried. "I finally understand what she’d been telling me all this while.!" Sylvia Plath through her words had oozed out the truths of life, so effervescently that most of us would lose it so ignorantly. But Priya did not; in fact, she had finally understood how much of a winner she’d been in her life. She stood up, arming herself as she shook due to the strange eeriness that had surrounded her. The tingling effect that the revelations have, that one starts fearing one’s own vulnerabilities.

Now I am a lake. 
A woman bends over me, 
searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. 
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully. 
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands. 
I am important to her. She comes and goes. 
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness. 
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman 
rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

These lines from Plath’s poem Mirror concocted in her mind, like the church bells.
This was the first poem she’d read of hers while she was in school. As much as she’d tried, she could not understand it. She’d believed that she’d left it right there, but now when she re-iterated the verse in her mind, after so many years, she could see the mirror so clearly. So what, she ended her life? Only if even a handful of us could live through what Plath did..

With a reasoned timidness, she crept out of the waters and went back to the lifeless house. She changed into dry clothes and burned some incense sticks. Tonight she’d write about her life. And she’d end it with her success. Not because life would guarantee a perfect ending, but because the ending did not matter anymore. Sylvia Plath died not because she lacked the virtue of being strong, but because death seemed to be the only exit from the life she was leading for her to actually live, breathe and be at peace.

To live is not to merely exist. To live is to realize who you are, and this mortal body becomes a secondary entity then. Sylvia Plath was a misunderstood woman who chose death to life, not because she could not take it anymore, but because she was too ahead of her times. Because she knew too much which the world could, never in her  lifetime understand. She tried fighting the ignorance but treaded to choose herself than the world, which lacked the depth and the patience to discover what she already had in that short life of hers. But Priya would live, because she now had a motive to live: she would not end up being a misunderstood woman. This is what Sylvia wanted to hint at, in all that she wrote! Live till you find a meaning and purpose, without which existence is of no use.

Priya wrote on and on, through the night and when she was done she thought of Vinay and smiled, “The alliterations of life are twisted and thus are never really the same as much as they appear to be alike. These paths seem to be , and it is only with the passage of time that the variance is unveiled. I have also penned our love story, with the names and the places changed, and perhaps, with a better ending.” She stubbed the last cigarette with a determination and dumped it in the ashtray. She titled the manuscript “Paradise” and in the acknowledgement she wrote,

To Sylvia Plath,
Who, through her immortal words, inspired me to live again.

This post is part of the contest Ten words to a Story(or Poem).. on WriteUpCafe.com
If you liked this post, please do vote for me at http://www.writeupcafe.com/link/715/sylvia-plath-and-i 
Thank you WC! I enjoyed writing the story!


  1. Liked reading this little story. Loved the poems that you included in the narrative. Best wishes!

  2. Nice read. Thanks for reminding of Sylvia plath. I too remember reading 'Mirror' while in school!

  3. I knew it once i read the post. See you won!! \m/

  4. Yes, Plath can be the true face of life, the one which shows us the true meaning of life. Only you could have written such a short story, Priyanka. Good Luck for the competition. You are a winner for me.

  5. Ah! visited for the first time and seems you are a veteran blogger. Needs to learn a lot about blogging from you *shakes head in eagerness*

    Found the post a bit lengthy. But found the poem good in between. All the best!


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