Why: Because Katie Gard reminded me that I promised to do this if I took on the AWW 2013 challenge.
Current word count: Somewhere between 31,000 and 32,000 because I haven’t typed in everything I have written and the word count tends to double when I do. Usually.
Process: I write the most important bits of dialogue, action and description in the scene down on paper – enough to keep the scene going and moving into the next. Then I type it into yWriter5 which helps you organise everything by chapter etc and when I type it in, I add all the rest of it like description, more slang, more action with the previously written bits acting as reminders for what more I want to put in.
Inspiration for this scene: This is a flashback to put Nivi (a major character)’s backstory into a bit of perspective and explain who her mother was as a person. It goes a long way towards explaining Nivi and her father. But I didn’t think of it till I was suddenly having more of reason to buy and wear saris myself than usual – apparently more people were getting married. I like the texture and the bright colours, I like to play with the material and to drape it and it occurred to me that Rohini, Nivi’s mother, was probably much the same and would always have worn saris though in this scene we are mostly discussing the saris you’d wear for the evening or for formal occasions. And I didn’t intend to really do it this way but I like that I have juxtaposed something beautiful with something most people find distressing.
Book cover: I cannot be the only writer who designs their future book covers, surely? This took all of five minutes to do and I love it. Future publishers, please take note.
Onwards to the scene (all copyright and publishing rights are reserved by me – see copyright notice at end of page):
She had been seated on the chair, her knees together, the edges of the white dress she had worn barely covering them. It had been hot. The sleeves on the dress had been irritating her. But she had known that she had to sit there and wait till someone told her otherwise and that she was old enough that others expected her to do as she was told so she had contented herself with merely swinging her legs back and forth, her feet barely touching the floor with those shiny black shoes and white socks she had hated on them.
All around her, the adults had bustled around, chatting, gossiping, fanning themselves in the heat of the crowded room. White saris and sarongs had been everywhere, the georgette, chiffon silks and cotton though she hadn’t known all those names for textures, weights and materials back then, rustled past her. All of them differed, styles here, the cut of a jacket there, a method of draping, a lace motif, a subtle pattern.
It had been the first time that she had been truly aware of the fact that there were different shades of white in the world. The shade where the white was so pristine it had been newly bought for the occasion. The shade where it had been put away carefully packed into a plastic bag in a cupboard somewhere brought out rarely. The shade that changed as you dragged eyes across it because it had been worn and cleaned. The shade where in the heat, the sweat stains on a tight fitting jacket were going to be hard to get out later, leaving a tell-a-tale light yellow brown tinge on the edge of the seam.
She noticed it because her mother had never worn white saris. Her mother had worn bright colours, silks fanning out in miniature rainbows of various colours, all soft and light to the touch because her mother had never wanted to be weighed down by anything. She had remembered and still remembered her mother standing, draping silk around her, folding, pleating, pinning bits in place and somehow ending up with the finished look she wanted. How there had been much deliberation and how she would sometimes call Nivi in to sit on the bed while she had pulled her favourites out of the cupboard and suddenly on the bed Nivi was surrounded in a sea of soft textures, bright colours and the scent that had always unmistakeably been her mother’s.
Her mother would have stood out in the sea of white. She had always been easy to find even in a crowded room. If you hadn’t been able to see her bright sari, you had always been able to hear her laugh. Nivi had always been able to find her. But she hadn’t been in a brightly coloured sari in the room that day as Nivi swung her legs back and forth. Her mother had been in the brown box and Nivi had not seen her, would not see her again. Her mother had never liked brown and she knew she would not have liked to be in brown.
She hadn’t wanted to remember bright colours right then so she had started listening to the adults around her. They had been chatting all the time but they seemed to think she wasn’t listening so she had kept looking at the floor while she had paid attention.
“Did you know her?”
“No, not that well. But I heard, you always knew if she was in the room with you or not.”
“Ah, yes. Here, is that the daughter?”
“Where? Ah, yes. That’s her.”
“No! Dont tell lies. That’s her?”
“But she doesn’t look anything like the mother,no?”
“No – I know – she doesn’t, no?”
There had been a silence for awhile that she had not been able to understand. “She might not be – I suppose?”
“She is the daughter, though.”
“Her daughter, yes -”
“Ah, I see, his-”
“Ssh. I didn’t know she was like that?”
“What else, men? You think she wasn’t? She always had to be the center of attention – those ones never stay with one when they can have several!”
“But here, it’s Sanjeeva, no? He is big in the party.”
“That doesn’t matter, no – once they were married then he isn’t that important to her – don’t you know how she died?”
“In the bomb blast, no?”
“Yes, but what was she going to rallies for, men? She had no business going, no? She wasn’t interested in politics – that one had no brains.”
“To see the boyfriend.”
“I am telling you, men.”
“So then, he must know, no?”
“Of course, he knows but do you think he is going to say anything? Major scandal, no?”
“Aney, aren’t you sorry for her?”
“No men, duwa, the daughter.”
There had been another silence again but this time she had known that they were looking at her, suddenly far more engrossed in her stupid black shiny shoes and white socks than she had ever wanted to be.
“Ah, yes – not got the mother’s look but a sweet child, no?”
“Well, if she isn’t his, then she won’t have any brains either.”
“But true, no? Sanjeeva will keep her of course, he can’t not do that but still…”
– Excerpt from Sedition (WIP) (c) Marisa Wikramanayake, 2013