That blank piece of paper continued to stare back at me condescendingly, as though I was doing it injustice by refusing to let ink touch it. Yet, I refused to write. Not a single idea worth being mentioned came to mind. At that point I grew apprehensive regarding whether I even possessed an iota of the qualities necessary to be a writer. As I sat there completely lost in my thoughts, a sudden silence pervaded the room. The indistinct murmurs and quiet tete a tetes came to an abrupt halt, as everyone heard the sound of footsteps echoing across the corridors of the barren hall. Soon enough, a man emerged through the doors, casually dressed and wearing a smile beaming with enthusiasm.
“Hello everyone. I’m Doctor Sivaramakrishnan Murali.”
With those words, the writer’s workshop had begun.
For three consecutive days, Doctor Murali exposed us to the literary utopia that inhabits his mind. The erudite professor, writer, poet and painter now became our teacher and critique in the short span of time we shared with each other. We sat there, imbibing Doctor Murali’s lecture, as he shared with us his vast knowledge about the different literary geniuses and masterpieces throughout the years.
The true climax of the workshop was when Doctor Murali gave us the chance to let our creative juices flow; he assigned everyone the task of composing either a poem or a prose. However, the challenge of the task lay in the fact that we were to incorporate the theme of ‘rain’ in our works. What may have been a challenge to others was an opportunity for the writers in this workshop. They saw this task as a chance to not only to let their imagination run wild, but also as an opportunity to enhance their writing skills with the aid of Doctor Murali’s expertise. The writer embedded in all of us, the students of Kodai, of the American College in Madurai and the remaining esteemed guests of the workshop, unleashed as we begun to brainstorm and write fervently into our notebooks. From every corner of the room, you could hear all the writers constantly scribble away at words as they attempted to channel their thoughts and feelings into ink and paper. Even I, who at the beginning of the workshop felt skeptical about being able to produce a single respectable piece of writing, was slowly beginning to see the stories taking shape in my head. Before I knew it, I was looking down at a piece of paper, completely written over in illegible handwriting and interspersed with random blotches of ink. But amongst those undistinguishable words and sentences, was a story waiting to be told.
After finishing and having had Doctor Murali critique our work on the first day of the workshop, our compositions were randomly distributed amongst the people in the room the next day. However, the writers or poets of their respective compositions remained anonymous; no one had any clue who wrote what. One by one, everyone recited the works that were handed to them, and expressed their interpretations and honest opinions. Soon after the ideas were exchanged and thoughts were articulated, the unknown owner of each work was revealed. It was fascinating to note how no-one could have made any connection between the work and its writer without having had previous knowledge about it. Through their words, every writer revealed a side of themselves that no one would have ever assumed by merely looking. Through their poetry, we were no longer looking, but were seeing. We were let into their thoughts, their emotions, their feelings; we were let into them. It was an intellectual journey, as we explored each others’ minds and kept on moving from one to the next. It was at that moment, that I truly understood the power of the English language.
Soon enough, the third and final day of the workshop arrived. It was more relaxed compared to the previous two days, as everyone had already finished their compositions and edited them to their satisfaction. The hours of the final days of the workshop went by like minutes as everyone got equal opportunity to converse volubly with the main speaker. The end of the workshop was marked by the launching of the Kavithaliya, a magazine consisting of all the works written by the participants of the previous writer’s workshop. Following a final speech by Doctor Murali, and a note of thanks to all those who were responsible for this workshop, we all proceeded to the courtyard outside of the library for a group photo. As I sat on the ground, positioning myself for the photograph, I could not help but take one last look of everyone who had participated in the workshop. Suddenly, all those faces, those I had never seen, and those I only ever saw in the context of a classroom, had become so much more recognizable to me. Unfamiliar had now become familiar. It was as though we were all connected by some sort of common bond, and the truth was, we all did.
On a final note, all the students of the Writer’s Workshop would like to thank Mr. Sudeep Ghosh, Mr. Peter Strange, Mr. Hadden, Mr. Paul Love, and of course, Dr. Sivaramakrishnan Murali for making this workshop possible.
- Mahwish K. Mahbub, Grade 12