It’s not often that I come to the computer with ideas as to what I want to write about. Rather, I sit at the keyboard and my fingers lead the way. This morning, however, as I settle down to write, it’s with the awareness that I have competition. Competition from the home-front. My mother who lives in the Middle East has been writing for a global e-newsletter, Charminar Connection, with a subscription list of a 1000 plus readers of Indian origin. Her essays are so good that several readers have emailed her and called her from Toronto, Saudi Arabia and Chicago to say she’s brought back memories of old times. My uncle wrote to her saying that he was having a bad day and reading her essay was therapeutic. So yes, I do have competition. Not surprisingly, I am glad for it.

My mother writes of her childhood, of her adolescence. Her essays show me a world that I have never known. They take me to a time where racing to pick raw mangoes the rains had felled was a childhood past time. She talks of times when extended families were so large, lived in such close proximity and were so close knit that one didn’t need to make friends outside it. Cousins provided ample companionship.

Mama sometimes uses Urdu words I don’t even understand. I haven’t a clue as to what they are because they refer to things that no longer exist in my world. And it sets me thinking as to how the nature of life, living and family has changed so completely. All in a matter of one generation. For me, the world she lived in as a girl, never existed.
We’ve always lived as a nuclear family, able to visit our grandparents in another state only during our vacations and as my mother points out, we don’t even know our first cousins too well. The way things stand today, not one of my siblings and I even live on the same continent. One generation. That’s all it took.

Mother’s essays take me to places and show me thoughts I wouldn’t know she had, had she not written them down. I wonder about the very nature of writing. What is it about a blank sheet of paper or a blank word document? Just as we are impatient to fill silences, are we also eager to fill in the empty spaces around us? Like empty spaces in our homes that we just have to fill with some knick-knack or object d’art? Or storage rooms that are choc-a-block brimming no matter whose house we’re talking about? I guess empty spaces, whether on paper or in our homes, allow us the privilege to express a part of ourselves and we are only too eager to do so.

I once wrote a poem called ‘Ask Me’ and it basically talked of how each one of us is filled with stories. Stories about ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts. Stories of who we are and how we become the people we are today. And it said that deep within us, we’re just yearning to tell our stories. To be asked about ourselves. To have an interested listener. Maybe that is why old people tell and re-tell their stories so often. Like writers, decorators, or painters in the midst of creating something, old people too are in a place where they can ‘be’, collecting their thoughts and rummaging through memories, versus hopping from task to task.

Maybe a generation later, my daughter won’t need to write down her thoughts or her stories. Maybe telepathy will be the way of the world and she’ll be able to transmit her thoughts just by eye contact or perhaps even by just thinking of the other person. Maybe she’ll be downloading her thoughts and it’ll manifest itself in changes around her without her actually lifting a finger to get things done. And perhaps she’ll be reading by osmosis; and eating only in supplement form. Far-fetched you think? Given all the changes that life has undergone since my mum was a girl, I don’t think so.