Words and Airplanes

“Everything you can imagine is real.” — Pablo Picasso

It’s been too long. It’s not even as though my blog and I broke up or anything; quite the opposite; it’s always on my mind and I think of it with longing and affection. I guess with all the writing I’ve been doing lately, I just ran out of time to write anything for me, and I ran out of the inclination to try. I convinced myself that my life is much too dull, and I have nobody in it for me to write about; no husband, no kids, no friends, even, in this city that is just a cacophony of voices I don’t recognise, and no life outside of my work. I mean, I wake up, I write, and I go to bed alone at night. Who in their right minds would want to read about that? Over and over and over? Right? Right? I mean, tell me — even if you do love my words, and the way I spin them — tell me if you’d like to read multiple versions of my day. No. I thought not.

It isn’t just that I have nothing to write about; I also seemed to run out of words. I suppose one of the consequences of writing for a living is simply this: one day you may — unaccountably and unexplainably — run out of words. It’s like I use up all the good ones in the work I do for a living; the work that pays my rent, pays my bills, feeds me and my cats, and keeps me going. But then I thought, no, that’s not it either. Perhaps I’m just too tired, mentally; my brain gets squidgy after too many hours spent in this little room I so grandly refer to as my study; it’s like a candle that’s been burning for too long and is barely holding its shape, although you know it’s only seconds away from spilling out of its holder and onto everything around it.

Routine. I detest routine; I abhor it. I guess that’s why I do the work that I do. Writing in my home, working the way that I do, freelancing — it allows me to set my own routine. I don’t have to wake up to the sound of an insistent alarm clock (although, come to think of it, that’s what my cats are), spring out of bed, forego breakfast so I can drive somewhere to sign in with a key card in the nick of time, and then spend my day closeted inside a half-frozen cubicle surrounded by a sea of drones in their own half-frozen cubicles of hell, taking exactly 30 minutes to eat our respective¬†lunches in the middle of the day, all of us staring into our computer screens wondering all the things we can’t help¬†wondering.

That sounds like hell.

No, instead I wake up at half-past seven or so, these days, which is easier to do now that I’ve banished the cats from the bedroom, and I stretch luxuriously in bed for a while before padding to the kitchen to feed the cats, and make coffee, just the way I like it. My kitchen window faces an empty property next door which is completely overgrown and wild, and I look at it and imagine I’m somewhere near the woods (I’m blatantly not). I drink my coffee, usually in the living room with the paper, or at my laptop catching up with Facebook (which I’ll write about in detail later). Then I make breakfast, eat it, jump in the shower, and settle down to my day. It’s true that I arrive at work at 10 am or so, and make a habit of telling myself that I am at work when I am in my study, but it’s also true that on a slow day (what are those?) I can curl up on the sofa in the study and read, or listen to music, or even nap in the middle of my work day. So while freelancing sure has its ups and downs, I don’t think I’d change it for any other job in the world, unless it’s working as a lighthouse keeper in the Hebrides.

I’ve realised over the past two months or so – when I’ve been working so hard and writing so hard – that I can either spend time being social on Facebook, or I can work, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I cannot do both. This bugs me a little bit; I’m the queen of multitasking (self-proclaimed title) after all, and this shouldn’t be beyond me. But the truth is, ever since my professional writing career took off (around October last year), I have just been getting busier, and busier, and busier. I wake up in the morning filled with energy, and then waste far too much time putzing around my Facebook feed and getting drawn into conversations. By the time I settle down to actually write, it feels like a slog. I think it’s because I got addicted to Facebook for a while — and can you blame me, with my social life in the sad state that it is in at the moment — and I felt the need to obsessively check every notification. The more involved I got, the more I spread myself around Facebook’s groups — even accepting ‘admin’ roles in some of them — and the more friends and acquaintances I met and added, the more the notifications piled up. Now I’m on a self-inflicted Facebook break; I said I’d share my work on Facebook for a fortnight but I can’t be *on* Facebook for two weeks. I already feel a sense of relief, 24 hours into my break, and I’ve managed to write this post today, so clearly, this is the right thing to do. In the future, I think I will time myself and give myself half an hour to catch up with my friends, but no more.

I can either be on Facebook, or I can work. I would prefer to work.

Speaking of work, I’ve had a lot of pieces out this year that I’m proud of. For those of you who don’t know, I’m the South Asian Voices columnist over at Wear Your Voice. Check out all the things I’ve written for them, especially this essay that is the most personal essay I’ve written to date. My friends are urging me to send it in to the Best American Series in the essay category, and I’ve decided to do it.

For NPR, I wrote about how learning to make vadais with my grandmother helped cure me of my first heartbreak, and I wrote these two pieces about Marmite for The Kitchn. My friend Amy says I should be writing more comic pieces because I am apparently hilarious.

I also have an erotic literature column¬†over at The Indian Express; it’s incredible to have a column in a newspaper I grew up reading. I dreamed of being in this paper as a teenager. And look! Now I am.

Columnist Awanthi Vardaraj - The Indian Express - awanthi.com

My friend Naseem interviewed me for their newsletter, and you can find the entire transcript of that here.

If you want to keep up with all of the work that I do, my portfolio is a good place to start. It is constantly updated.

I am drawing a lot of airplanes lately. Airplanes. Mountains. Roads. I am looking up at the sky every time a ‘plane passes overhead. I have always said ‘yay, it’s a ‘plane day’ when I see an airplane in the sky, but now it’s a constant yearning need to leave. I look at my favourite photograph of Norway and want to just go. I sit at my computer, head on hand, looking longingly at photographs of the Hebrides. I look at birds in the sky and wish I could leave as easily as they do. They don’t need passports; they don’t need money; they don’t need a plan.


I dream of leaving. I don’t feel particularly trapped by my life, or stuck. I just feel wrong here, as I always have, all my life. I don’t belong here, and¬†I have lingered here too long.

I know one thing; I cannot stay.


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