The other day I met an old friend in the market place and we were happy to see each other after a very long time. Our conversation went on for a few minutes and it was mostly about our family and friends. When we reached the saturation point and were about to say “Bye…See you” to each other he asked me how I was spending my time after my retirement. He was my colleague in a government college and he rarely read books other than the prescribed ones. I still distinctly remember the day when he proudly declared in the department that he had never read a novel in his life. I never bothered to show him any of my publications and he rarely took pains to listen to other colleagues who either praised or cursed my writings. Therefore, he was not sure of what I was doing after my retirement.

“I write,” I replied.

“Oh! Are you still doing that worthless job?” he remarked and said, “I don’t think one can write all the time”.

That left me thinking. He was right. How can one do the writing all the time as if the world has nothing else to do but wait for the full time writer’s effusions.

Back in my study, my brain was restless. Perhaps it was probing into the matter, the raw material my friend tossed before me. I closed my eyes, which I quite often do in my ivory tower, and I am no exception in the writing world. If I keep my eyes open then be sure that I stare at the ceiling. Almost all writers do this but no one ever described the ‘lead kindly light’ that descended from that height direct into the writer’s skull and directed the pen-pusher to do…what? Only the ceiling knows.

My day dawns when my grandson shakes me awake to knot his school tie and tie his shoe laces. That is usually around 7 in the morning and, during weekends and holidays, he never disturbed his grandpa’s sleep. When the auto driver picks him up to school, I climb up the two floors of my ancestral house. Surely the staircase is the best gym in the world, though I don’t reach the terrace to do any physical exercise. Then why? Just to say hello to my plants in my terrace garden.

Those wee little flowers of different shapes, sizes, and hues give me a colour carpet welcome and I delightfully feast my eyes on them. Every bloom nods its head as a sort of welcome cheer and my joyful face reciprocates every one of them. They know I am there to water, prune, and feed them. I know what they like and they know what I have with me. Only the hungry bees are a threat but they know that I love to see the flowers with their mother and not on the head of my wife. So they continue to buzz and do not scare me with their venom tipped stings.

By the time, I finish work on the terrace and reach my bathroom it is usually around 9 and by 9.30, I am at the dining table. Before I finish my breakfast, the voice from the kitchen instructs me to get ready for the morning market. I am a foodie and so I have no choice. If I refuse to play charioteer to my childhood sweet heart, then the old crony in her would play havoc with the items served for lunch. I prefer to see my plate with all sorts of lives from the sea, of course cooked with love. Lives pulled out from the earth or lives that have their umbilical cords rooted to the earth, if served on my plate though cooked would give me the jitters, and for two to three days, my mind would suffer along with the stomach. So I cannot say no to her under the pretext of writing and clearing the assignment backlogs.

As she grew old with me she needs my back to lean her head. Leaning on the chest and looking into each other’s eyes at kissing range have become things of the past.

My wife back into the kitchen, I enter my vast library and climb up to reach my study. Unanswered letters, uncleared assignments, yet to be proofread typescripts, the pile of books that await my comments sit snugly on my big writing table and scare the shit out of me. Time flies and by the time I decide what to take up first, lunch is ready. When lunch goes in, it calls for a siesta. Sister Siesta most of the time hands me over to Mother Sleep. I pull myself away from her when my grandson back from school rings the doorbell.

Oh, I have not even flipped through the two language dailies. I am a bilingual writer, you know. By sunset a distant cousin, a bosom friend or a well-wisher snatch away the lovely hours of the evening. Whenever I have a little time left free, I do some writing. Yet he-ho, I pass for a full time writer.

About the author: P. Raja
P. Raja
P.Raja (October 07, 1952) a son of this divine soil, Pondicherry, India famed for its spiritual heritage, writes in his chosen language, English, and also in his mother tongue, Tamil. More than 5000 of his works – poems, short stories, interviews, articles, book reviews, plays, skits, features and novellas – have seen the light through newspapers and magazines that number to 350 in both India and elsewhere. He has 30 books for adults and 8 books for children in English and 14 books in Tamil. Apart from contributing special articles to Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literature in English (London), Encyclopedia of Tamil Literature in English, and to several other edited volumes, he has also written scripts for Television (Delhi). He broadcasts his short stories and poems from All India Radio, Pondicherry. He was General Council Member of Central Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi (English Advisory Board - 2008-2012) representing the Pondicherry University. He is Editor of TRANSFIRE, a literary quarterly devoted to translations from various languages into English. His website: www.professorraja.comAuthor can be reached at [email protected]

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