Written by A. Das Sarkar. — Grief is an unwelcomed teacher who inevitably comes knocking on each of our doors. The question is not, do we answer? But, how?
When I lost my mother, Maa, I felt rudderless. More than my mother, she was my best friend, my teacher, my most heartfelt cheerleader, and the safe harbour from the stormy uncertainties of life.
Navigation of my grief took on many forms; from self-destruction, to anger, to escapism, to begrudging acceptance, only to turn on a moment’s notice, into hopelessness and the numbing that came with it.
And then I went back.
Along with my father, I returned to my place of birth, my motherland, Kolkata, India, after 17 years, to perform my mother’s last rites.
And I began to remember again.
I remembered all that gave me joy when life was uncomplicated. Like play and imagination. And the freedom of expression I felt through my writing and art, and how those moments brought my mother delight, on my behalf. She was the one who introduced me to the world of storytelling through all the books she would read to me. Along the way, I had forgotten and put those childhood things aside.
I returned back home to Toronto with my bag full of memories and ready to remember, once again.
A simple Google search turned up offerings of free creative writing drop-in workshops at various Toronto Public Library locations. No commitments. No writing experience needed.
So, on a cold, dark Tuesday evening on February 26, 2019, at Evelyn Gregory Library, conveniently located on my way home from work, I entered my first Toronto Writer’s Collective’s (TWC) session. Unsure and nervous, I was halfway in and halfway out, the door.
But I stayed.
Being able to write with others, listen to their stories, and share my own, was the opposite of escaping. It was embracing and cathartic. Even through the pandemic, with the help of Zoom, some amazing, dedicated facilitators, and TWC’s commitment to its participants, we continued to write, share and embrace.
TWC published two anthologies composed of the writings of their participants from the Write On! program they offered (again, for free) during Fall 2019. We, participants, had the chance to hone a piece of our writing through the mentorship of a published author. These anthologies will be launched at the upcoming Toronto International Festival of Authors, from October 22 to November 1, 2020. When I began to write with the TWC, I could not have imagined this to be my journey. I even had the serendipitous opportunity to meet Toronto’s poet laureate, Al Moritz, because of the TWC. It has all been a profoundly humbling and exciting experience.
Beyond joy, I found healing in the boundlessness of a blank white page. So, when grief asks me now, how will you embrace me? I say, Why, I will write.