Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Talk about where you were going the day you got lost. Were you alone? Did you ever get to where you meant to go?”
My first poem came to me, as a series of words, when my father was driving my mother, my younger brother and me to the supermarket. I was 6 years old at the time. I tossed the poem around in my head for a while before I turned to mother as we walked toward our car with bags of groceries in hand.
“Amma, I wrote a poem. Would you like to hear it?”
“I was lost in the city, a policeman found me…”, and I continued to recite my masterpiece. I don’t remember it much, except it ended with the policeman returning me home safely to my relieved parents and sleeping brother.
When I was done, my mother asked in slight disbelief, “Where did you read that?”
“I wrote it, Amma.”
The next thing I remember is her sitting me down at a table to help me put to paper the words that had been marinating in my brain through our trip to the grocery store. We titled it “Lost in the City” and, in a couple of weeks, it was published in the Young Times, a popular children’s and young adults’ magazine in the Middle East. It was published alongside a picture of me, one of my favorites; my short hair neatly combed to one side gleams in studio lights. I wear gold hoops in my ears and a white and blue summer dress with seashell motifs. My eyes are bright, with a hint of an impish smile. As I look at the picture today, I see they are full of promise, full of hope.
Since then, I wrote several poems and pieces that always found themselves in some publication or the other, thanks to my very proud and supportive parents. I really felt like I could write for the rest of my days, but the life reared its numerous practical heads and clouded my judgment, already influenced by societal and familial expectations. I made a compromise. To society I said, I choose a noble profession, and to myself I said, I choose a creative one. I picked architecture.
But architecture school had other plans for me. And as if the pain and suffering of it the first time wasn’t enough, I decided to do it again, and the second time around, it was worse. Bricks of failure crumbled down upon me, and I worked long and hard to rebuild and salvage the walls of my identity. When that was done, I went on in my new life.
And then I found theater. It called to me, beckoned me shamelessly and I followed it to the edge of my world until I fell off the edge, into the unknown. However, very much like in a dream, I was on my feet again, dabbling in this and that to find meaning and money in life.
And then I made a trip across a few ponds to the United States. New partner and no job meant a different life, and as I scrambled and grasped at straws to put together a picture of a life that I felt I could lead, I turned around and saw that the past was like a lone house in the distance that would disappear with a few more steps. I held my husband’s hand and trundled along, for it was the complete picture that was more important at the time.
Today I’m trying to fit a piece in my hand that says WRITING into the jigsaw puzzle of my life. Somewhere there are pieces that read ARCHITECTURE, THEATER, MEANING, MONEY, Ph.D., TEACHING, URBAN DESIGN, and so many others that make my head spin. I look around me, but don’t recognize these surroundings. I am truly lost in the city of my constructs of image and identity.
Now would be a good time for that policeman to come by and take me home by the hand to family with open arms.