Wildling

One day, after an early morning walk by the river, I came back home with this photograph, and the unexpected urge to write a poem. I did write the poem, and today, it was published by Strands Publishers, making my grey and wet Sunday feel all bright and sunny. It’s incidentally my first publication in India, which makes it even more special.

The poem is called ‘Wildling’, and it’s there below the two feisty swans, and online at http://strandspublishers.weebly.com/lit-sphere/wildling
I hope you enjoy it, this piece of my river.
Wildling
Morning has broken
                 
open, bleeding into the river.

The streetlamps are still on.

Two swans float up in unhurried hunger

for bread I do not have.

Twenty-two huddle farther up the river

asleep, their necks wrung

into their wings. A lull

of white feathers on which water does not stick.

Their river is always dry.

It is land.

My river runs by me

reflecting runners, dreams and detritus.

A life of moorings and unmoorings,

a mirror of semi-truths –

where the light of a dog-pissed streetlamp

looks like flecks of real gold.

I stand still, very still. Watching

my body ripple and quiver like a wildling.

A swan passes by and I shatter into pixels.

But I can wait, I have nowhere I need to be.

The waters will calm, I will patch together again.


(Please feel free to share the link on social media, or just with the person sitting next to you – Strands is a wonderful independent publisher, and really deserves the support.)

40 and Fiction

I turned 40 yesterday – and it turns out, 40 is a ridiculously good thing to be.

It started with an email the day before my birthday. The subject said ‘Fiction Commission’ and was from an editor in New Zealand who’d read my fiction online, and wanted to commission a story for her journal. I sent her a story called ‘Dugdugee’ which I’d whittled and tweaked for over a year, and within hours it was signed off, sold, and slotted for publication in September. 

THEN, I get another email from the lovely editor of Berfrois, a magazine I absolutely love, saying that they’d be publishing my story ‘Driving North’. The story was published yesterday. On my birthday! (I told you it was ridiculous.

AND finally, I got to wake up in Copenhagen with D and Chotto-Ma and a hundred sweet messages and phonecalls from all over.

And I thought, damn. I should’ve turned forty years ago.

PS. Here’s my desk today. A strip of green called Sonder Boulevard in the Vestebro area of Copenhagen. This city is so my kind of place! Next to me, D and Raya are on their fourth game of chess. 

And here’s ‘Driving North’ on Berfrois. This story surprised me with it’s journey – it was longlisted for the Bath Short Story Award and shortlisted for the Brighton Prize last year. It was subsequently published in Rattle Tales 4, a print anthology. And now, in this great new home.

Of course, you have to be nice and read it because it’s my birthday. Let me know what you think!

Love,
P

Sing, ring, ping.

Spin, grin. Sip, gin. Nip. The words you can scramble out of the six alphabets of Spring seem to fit the season so perfectly.

I stare at this new blue sky and smile and take in a deep breath. Everything is birthing. Things are coming out of burrows, tearing out of buds. If I didn’t hate ostentatious little phrases, I might’ve said they were leaving winter’s womb. I’ve just said it though haven’t I? Strange how you have to say something in order to say that you won’t say it. Suddenly it exists simply because you thought it should not, and in thinking so, brought it into existence.

Sorry, the season does go to the head a little. The air smells raw, like new leaves.

I felt like drawing. This feeling always comes in spurts, and I go hunting for paper and paint. Drawing, like photography, helps my writing; even if it’s only by letting me procrastinate better. It fills the space in between writing and not-writing. It takes me out of my comfort zone – I’m much less confident telling a story with a paintbrush than I am with a pen. Every time I draw, I’m like a child learning to walk, and that is liberating in many ways; I don’t expect much from myself. There’s nothing more beautiful than creating something without any purpose, without expectations.

I don’t like the outlines on the finished leaves; I wish I’d left them blurred. But I can’t change it now – I committed to the black ink as soon as I put it on paper. But I will, yet again, live and learn. And be reminded of how freeing writing is in that sense. You can rewrite a sentence till it’s as sharp or as blurred as you want it to be.

We all tell stories in our own ways – we might paint them, write them, freeze them on photographs, tell them aloud in a room, sing them in the shower. If you had to choose one, which one would you choose?

Did I tell you I started working on my first novel? I’m two chapters in, into what looks like a five-year plan. Do give me a virtual kick on the backside now and then, remind me that it won’t get written if I don’t sit the hell down and write.

Love and springtime to you my friends,
Pia

White Christmas Brown

We spent December in Goa – and I promise to tell you all about that. But here’s something first:

I’ve just had my non-fiction ‘White Christmas Brown’ published in the rather fine Irish journal The Bohemyth. It’s a personal piece that travels from my school in Kolkata to life in England. It’s about identity (and what the hell that even means). And, it’s about being brown in a British Christmas.


I’d love for you to read it:
http://thebohemyth.com/2016/01/15/pia-ghosh-roy/

As always, I look forward to your comments and thoughts. Have a wonderful year, my friends! Here’s to more days of sharing this crazy, old space with you.

***

Tolerance

Soon after we moved to the UK, I started working with an ad agency where I was commissioned to write a limited-edition book, to be produced and published by a high-end brand. They wanted a book that would embrace people, celebrate individuality and differences.

James Stroud photographed the project, and I was left to respond to each image as I wanted – with a single word, a sentence, a page, an instinct. The photographs were stark, intense portraits of people. I worked from home: shut myself in a room with the photographs strewn all over the floor, and just wrote. Ma and Baba were visiting us that summer, and I remember Ma knocking on my door, putting a cup of coffee by me and slipping out again. I love that memory.

Last week Chotto-ma was sitting and flipping through the book and it made me think of how, since that time, so much, and so little, has changed. We became parents, I left my job to mother a little person who consumed my thoughts, we traveled, made friends, I wrote the first blog post, opened my Etsy shop, Chotto-ma started school, I started writing fiction, went back to work. Life expanded in directions I had not foreseen.

But there was something that, unfortunately, has not changed: the need for a book that urges people to accept others, to live and let live. In fact, there seems to be an even greater need for it today. It’s heartbreaking, it’s frightening, yet it spreads on and on. This cancerous intolerance everywhere you turn, in every newspaper you open. Sometimes subtle and under the skin, sometimes searingly overt. People dying for being different, being shot for the colour of their skin, or cursed for the religion they follow. Last month, a man was lynched to death in India for eating beef. What’s holy for me must be holy for you. What I know to be right can’t be wrong. On Friday night, so many innocent lives were lost in Paris, lives ended in a single evening. And days before that in Beirut. Baghdad, Kenya, India, what does geography matter? It seems like the darkest of times in many ways.

My heart has been heavy. And I’ve wondered many times this weekend what we’re unleashing, and leaving for our children.

I had written a poem for that book seven years ago. A book more commercial than literary, but with truths that still hold. And I thought I’d share it with you today.

TOLERANCE

I see you.
You’re foreign
Yet strangely familiar.
I may not understand you
I accept that, I accept you.

You are interesting
Because you’re different.
You have your own truth,
Sing your own anthem,
Follow your own tribe.

But our roads meet
Our stories merge.
We dance the same dance
Laugh the same laugh
Die the same death.

It seems so simple,
This thing called tolerance.
Funny how there isn’t more of it
On the street, in the shops
In our sitting rooms,
in our blood. 
 

© Pia Ghosh-Roy

Structo

On Saturday, I got this beautiful issue of Structo, with my fiction on its pages. I read an excerpt of the story at The Society Club in London where the issue was launched, and met some of the other wonderful writers. There were softly lit lamps, good people and Hemingway Daiquiri. All things right.

To everyone who’s asked, the issue is for sale from August 1, and you can pre-order your copy here (they ship worldwide, and you’ll be supporting a wonderful, not-for-profit effort to produce good literature): http://structomagazine.co.uk/store/

You can also pick up, or order, a copy from select shops in the UK. Or from shops in New York, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam. The list of shops/stockists are here: http://structomagazine.co.uk/store/stockists/

If you’d rather not make a purchase now, please wait a while – the online version will be available after three months, and is then free to read. I will post a link to my story here when that happens.

Thank you, always, for supporting, and reading, and following my work! I really appreciate it, you know.

Love, P xx

A year older

 

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota
James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

There’s been much said about what James Wright meant by the last line. For some, it means what it says – a wasted life, a regret. But in my mind, there’s never been any doubt that he meant quite the opposite. I can see him, lying in the hammock, his proverbial tongue in his proverbial cheek, gently laughing at those who rush and run. Laughing at those who think lying in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm is a waste of time. Because James knew, even then, that they were all wrong. That life was in watching a bronze butterfly sleep, listening to cowbells, and seeing the chicken hawk float home. And so he laughed and changed not a damn thing; just swung on his hammock as day turned to dusk. 

When I was young, I would stare at the clouds for hours with my school books open in front of me; Ma Baba kept the curtians drawn before an exam. And now, as I get on with this business of being an adult, I still find time to waste. 

It’s midnight now. July 22, 00:00 hours, the laptop tells me. Which means I’ve just turned a year older. Two sleepy voices, one big and one little, will sing me Happy Birthday in a few minutes. And there’s one thing I know for certain: I’ve wasted my life well. 


If you’re in London, and fancy joining me for a spot of time wasting, please drop by The Society Club in Soho on July 25 – I’ll be there for the launch of Structo Magazine’s new issue, and I’d love to meet you! Structo publishes a fantastic anthology of fiction and poetry, and I’m very proud to have my work in its new issue. I’ll be doing a reading from my story ‘Dancing in the Drawing Room’, which is part of the anthology (available online and in bookstores post July 25).

Details for the launch and reading, here, if you can make it!

Have a happy, wasted week, everyone!


 

Love

That’s my kitchen table this morning. There’s the apple cake I baked yesterday. My coffee. A yam I don’t know what to do with. A bowl of oranges. And linen embroidered by my grandmother long before I was born.

I just noticed how many round things I’ve put together there. Circle on circle. Spheres and orbits. I hadn’t realised I’d done that. I have a terrible cold – stayed up the night coughing – so I don’t know what I’m doing anyway, but there might be some subliminal therapy in circular things. Tai chi. Yin yang. Cake.

There’s something else circling around in my head. A poem Chotto-ma wrote yesterday. She’s been writing a lot. Suddenly, fiercely. Writing, writing, writing. Stories, poems, and a movie script called ‘The Blues’ where two lonely girls born with blue hair find each other and becomes friends.

This is her first poem, complete with her spellings. It made my cold better.

LOVE 
by Chotto-ma
Love is our 
own naicher.
Love is our
life.
Love is evrything.
Love is what
we like.

[Glossary: naicher = nature. We like to keep our spellings nacheral.]

Secondhand stories

There’s a secondhand bookshop that sits opposite the school where I teach a few hours of English every day. This is the shop I go to when I have some spare time, and spare change. £2.99 will usually fetch you a good book.

A few days ago, I found a ZZ Packer that I’d wanted to find for a while. It also had the right cover; for no matter what they say, covers matter. Every once in a while, when I’m reading a book, I crook a finger in from the top and close its pages. My finger curves like a comma, pausing the book as I mull over a sentence, a paragraph, a thought. At that time, I like to see a cover that doesn’t tell me much. A cover that doesn’t drag my thoughts to closure.

This cover didn’t try too hard. It just slanted it’s font in gentle enquiry, and left it at that. It didn’t try to show me a picture of Elsewhere. It left Elsewhere to me. I liked that. I also liked its blue; it looked like it didn’t fit in.

But I’ll tell you what I liked most of all. When I came back home and took the book out of my bag, something slipped out of its pages. It was a photograph of a little boy, with a date on the back. Just a date, and a summer month. No year. Not a hint of a year. As if the person who wrote the date liked to live in the present, in the now. The yearless date of a mind not weighed down by eventualities. Carefree. It’s summer after all, and the sand is warm and the sea blue.

My first reaction on seeing the photograph was one of sadness; someone had lost a precious photo of their boy. I not only had their book, but also a bit of their memory. But then, I thought of how things are meant to be. And the beauty of stories that travel; of a photo shared not on social media but passed down in a good book. I also thought of how strangers’ stories always find their way to my house, like our dining table – remember the initials on its underside? Only this time, the story had slipped out of a book of stories and landed softly on my carpet.
 

And so the sweet boy sits, in the August of an unknown year. And here we are, in the midst of another August. He could be five now, or he could be in University. He might live on the same street, or in a different hemisphere. Somewhere in my Elsewhere.

I want to know. I love not knowing.

The first, a first

It’s been a strange, wonderful week. Very full in many ways. My first reading couldn’t have gone better – thank you all for wishing me well. I took that with me.

And today, my short story was published in Litro. It’s one of London’s favourite literary journals, so the fact that it’s home to my first published story (and the first story I ever wrote) feels like a special thing.

The story is called ‘Well-brought-up’. Please read it when you can, and tell me what you think. Your responses are as much a record of this space as my thoughts are.

This one’s for all of you who told me I should write stories, and for all of you who come here to read what I write:

Well-brought-up