Friday, February 14, 2014

a memoir writing workshop by Cheryl Strayed, conducted by Literature Studio | is that a beginning for me?

The past always lights up our path I feel. Whatever way we decide the light to take us, but it's always the past experiences that mould our resilience, analytical capability as well as emotional quotient. The most powerful moments from the past always keep coming back and drowning you with an overwhelming intensity. I have not been talking about the past for some time now, even the mandatory new year post was given a miss this year. I just could not bring myself to write about how the new year makes me feel or how I try to cope with it. It was the last day of the year 2009 when Mithi, our daughter left us and each new year has been a challenge since then. No I don't get depressed, but it does make me go back to those times more than ever. I started writing this blog when she was with us, writing about the present situation, however sad or painful, is easier I now realise. Back then, I thought this is the bravest thing I am doing by sharing my struggle with the world. I even thought it would make the readers sad but then many people wrote to me saying they find strength by reading the posts here. Although they cried sometimes reading those everyday struggles of a child, and a mother as well. I understood what they meant.

And then life changed, I forced myself to get busy with so many other things that the past just stayed with me like a secret, to be shared with only few, if needed. Although I wanted to write about the experiences and my own journey through that, I couldn't deal with how forcefully it comes to me when I try to pen it down. I never understood why, because I have been writing about the wretched struggles in the past.

I got my answers, at least a few of them, when I attended a memoir writing workshop by Cheryl Strayed. My friends Vijay and Vibha (from Literature Studio) invited me for the same. I had little idea what I am headed for. But let me tell you about Cheryl Strayed first. I had come across this column by Dear Sugar in the past and had found her insightful advises really genuine. Now that I always felt these agony aunts always come up with superficial advice to funny people in our news paper and magazine columns, this one seemed like she had seen life in true sense. I could not point a finger how and why she sounded right but she was someone who had lived all shades of life, has related well to others, has connected with human soul and has observed those inevitable patterns of pain, suffering and healing in her life. I had no idea what sugar had experienced or where her perspective came from. Later I forgot about this column as there was too much to handle on my own plate. I never knew who this sugar was.

This workshop was a pleasant surprise when it started. An author whose work I had not read came across like a warm personality and started the workshop quite casually. It was when she mentioned she was the anonymous writer of sugar columns, I started getting a few glimpses of what all she wrote. And then she told she had written this book Wild which was about a solo trek she took after her mother had died. I could relate to what all she spoke and could very well understand why she took 20 years to write this book after the real experience. A memoir of a solo trek that she took after her mother's death. A powerful story of grieving, healing and bringing life in perspective.

And then she gave us all a few exercises. It was a class of 15 and everyone wrote a few lines, some of them shared what they wrote, some kept quite and I was quieter than the quite ones. She had told us to write about overwhelming moments, about talismans and about the people who touched us. It was only one thing that kept coming in my mind and that was so overwhelming to be shared with a straight face.

But I felt a clarity in my thoughts after hearing Cheryl sharing her experience. She also felt that the same trauma kept coming back into her writing for the initial years. And that it's okay if it happens like that.

Thanks to Literature Studio and Cheryl Strayed, I will be a bit more liberated from my cobwebs probably. Sharing will be easier and the craft of writing, weaving a story, creating a meaningful memoir will be better. Amen. 


  1. Hi Sangeeta, It is so heartening to see your transformation from long back to till now, I dont know if you recall that I had started reading your blog just at the time around beginning of 2010 and from then to now it has only strengthened my opinion that you are a strong person, and I understand very clearly when you say that you have kept yourself busy, i have followed each of your activity whether it is your cyclothons, trekking, bird watching or cooking. It sounds so easy when we say you are strong, but the amount of layers of grief which lies beneath waits for a catharsis and I am sure this literature studio will be just that for you, I am a mother and I totally totally know how strong one has to be , to be like you. Hugs and take care, Many more new experiences and success to you...

    1. Thank you R. Yes I remember each one of you and feel indebted for ever. Just that I never say it here loudly. I know you understand.
      Thank you again.