Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Writing is all about Eating Flowers, Sunlight

I was away for more than a month on book tour for You Beneath Your Skin.

Back home I thought the plants were drying up, but clearly not. The better half had been taking care of them. Other than, well, pruning.

Result: three pumpkin vines running riot playing tag in my tiny balcony, throwing out incandescent yellow blossoms as they climb up other shrubs, railings, pots.

(I come from a part of India that has figured out the art of not letting any part of an edible plant go to waste, so of course we eat flowers. Pumpkin flowers, to be exact. We eat the leaves too, but that's a story for another time.)

I'd returned grimy and exhausted from an overnight flight, but these pieces of yellow light brought back too much nostalgia. I washed my hands, and then out came a packet of chickpea flour. I mixed it in with salt, water, and a pinch of baking soda for a super-quick batter.

Harvested the blossoms, tore out their egg-yolk-orange stamens, dipped them in batter and let them slide into boiling oil. I settled down in the sun with a heap of crunchy tempura, eyes closed, and munched my way through them, sighing the while. They tasted like sunlit autumn afternoons. Memories flooded back--- my grandmother frying up a batch of them on a coal oven, a giggly friend making the flowers 'mate' by rubbing the stamens together-- Bollywood-movie-style, where kissing couples on screen were always obscured up by dancing, copulating flowers--of lunchtime squabbles fighting over who got the most, the hottest batter-fried delights. The smoky smell of a sooty kitchen.

That was what writing was like, I told myself.

No matter how hard the day, how exhausted you are, you pick up bright sparks of inspiration, and you cook them, you let your feelings take over, you place yourself in the feelings and memories of others, you chew them up and swallow them whole. It is about being Present. Seeing. Remembering. Doing things by rote because you've done them or have seen them done a million times, an exercise that is at once a chore and a game, old yet new, a delicate, transient thing that must be consumed whole, scalding-hot.

I've let the vines be for the moment.

Carrying (mixing?) the metaphor, a pumpkin has foolishly presented itself last week: hanging off a delicate vine so far above the ground, round with life, unaware or uncaring of the futility of its being fertilised and brought into this world. That too is writing--so many fruits brought into this world only to wither off and die, but taking form, regardless.

What does writing mean to you? Have you ever eaten flowers? 
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You Beneath Your Skin Damyanti Biswas
You Beneath Your Skin





1 comment:

Umberto Tosi said...

Writing means everything to me, but too often I act as if it doesn't. Cooking means a lot to me too and I do that more than write, actually. I've tried squash flowers and they are delicious in salads. I imagine pumpkin flowers to be delicious too after reading your enjoyable post, and pumpkin being a squash. Thank you!