By Farzana Hakim
Hi, all. Welcome to February’s Thursday Connectors, with me, your host, Farzana.
Many of you may have heard my podcast on Write On! Audio from the 14th February. This coincided nicely with my birthday and, of course, Valentine’s Day. In it, I gave an alternative perspective on why diverse and contemporary love stories are important in today’s fast-paced and ever-advancing world. Making voices that are often forgotten and unheard in the literary world, is my mission. Advocating for these, to make them more accessible, is so important!
I believe cultural heritage in the arts and in writing brings enrichment and educates, as well as entertains. Although, in the podcast, I also explore the contradictions in relation to judgments, stereotypes and barriers I faced along my journey to have my novel, Sweethearts Of Ilford Lane, published, I wanted to reach out to as many of you to stress the urgency to write love stories like mine without fear and with freedom.
You can listen to it here. Please do let me know your thoughts!
Today’s Connectors are somewhat like that, too. My writers have explored love and hate and the many contradictions within this broad theme, creatively and in different ways. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and editing these for you and am sure you’re all in for a treat.
Our first Connector, a short reflective piece, comes from Akshitha Ramalingam. She gives us her take on love and hate relationships. Our second Connector is a short creative essay from Niema Bohrayba, which looks at loneliness in contrast to aloneness. We also connect with Shengj Zhang, who sent in a short story that fitted in with our theme of contradictions in love and relationships perfectly. Finally, E.M. Blake shares her relationship with certain aspects of nature. She also shares a beautiful image.
Grab a cup of tea and a biscuit and sit back and enjoy the Connectors!
Hi, Akshitha. Let’s connect.
Love And Hate
“Contrasting counterparts in consistent non-coinciding love, merely clashes to contradicting love-hate relationships.”
I firmly believe there isn’t something called a perfect relationship. This is because we’re all absolutely unique. So, when two unique souls with contrasting interests, characters, personalities and environments fall head over heels for each other and decide to join hands, that’s a celebration!
To construct a sturdy and stable relationship, all that’s required is unconditional love. A love which respects, honours, sacrifices and accepts the uniqueness of the other half.
Relationships are like crocheting your dream garment, with the crochet yarn representing the element of love in a relationship. The process isn’t easy. It involves inexplicable twists and turns, stretches and shrinks, loops and knots. If you keep going on this journey, applying patience, passion and faith, fruitful results will come your way. However, if you take your path for granted, or, going along with my analogy, let the temporary hurdles you’re facing cut through the yarn, your entire dream relationship could unravel; destroyed in one pull. Arguments, fights and pointing out each other’s faults, because of a few contradictory opinions, shouldn’t demolish your relationship’s fundamentals; the love at its heart. Of course, if it’s a toxic relationship and it turns out the chosen thread isn’t the one used for crochet, better leave it behind and start afresh!
Pick the right thread, tie the knot and, with unconditional love, face the twist and turns together. Then, what was once a wish will become reality!
© Akshitha Ramalingam, 2023
You can connect with Akshitha on her website: akshitharamalingam.com
Hi, Niema. Let’s connect.
Loneliness And Aloneness: A Perspective
We can experience loneliness at any point in our lives, and it can be caused by different things. It’s something that carries negative connotations and most people never admit to experiencing it, out of fear of being judged unfavourably. That said, the most profound experience of loneliness I’ve ever encountered was feeling lonely in a room full of people. I hadn’t expected it and couldn’t quite understand it at first. However, on reflection, this experience helped me realise that firstly, loneliness was the absence of meaningful connections with others and secondly, that I had absolutely nothing in common with those in the room (even though on paper I thought I did). Thirdly, quality connections with others are only possible when we truly know ourselves.
When I was first invited to the event, despite having an inkling it wasn’t for me, I allowed myself to be convinced that being here would be much better than the alternative of spending the time alone.
We’re constantly reminded (rightfully) that, despite significant advances in technology, many people are experiencing loneliness due to isolation; it can become quite debilitating. This, in turn, might lead us to believe that being around more people will solve this predicament. However, given the experience I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure that the solution is simply be around more people, any people.
And this is where ‘aloneness’ comes in.
I like to think of aloneness as spending time with myself; an experience I enjoy and consider to be necessary for me to unwind, feel grounded and tap into my inner peace. I didn’t always consider this to be the case; there were times I confused spending time alone with loneliness, because I’d been conditioned to believe we can only ever find fulfilment when our diaries are packed with social engagements and anything to the contrary is sad and boring!
It wasn’t until I cultivated a relationship with myself, and became clear on what matters to me in life, that my fear of missing out (FOMO) started to dissipate.
I also began to notice doing things that brought me joy, such as investing time and effort on my hobbies, tuning into the cyclical nature of the seasons and volunteering for causes I’m passionate about, all gave me a sense of purpose and, by default, brought more and more people on my wavelength into my life.
So, by combining a healthy dose of ‘me time’ along with prioritising quality connections with others, finding the courage to say “no” to the ones that weren’t right for me and doing more of the things that brought me joy, were the key ingredients that helped me reframe my understanding of loneliness and aloneness.
© Niema Bohrayba, 2023
Hi, Shenj. Let’s connect.
It’s raining again. It first appears visually, as thin, short lines on her window, followed by a calm drizzling sound; the raindrops rushing to their destination, finishing their life on her window.
She goes back to bed and stares at the window, which forms an angle to the dark navy sky. Now, she only feels the rain; its sound thrumming through her.
She asks herself if she has any particular attachment to the rain, like those creatures in nature? She imagines running in the rain. When she starts to gasp heavily, the cold rain is wrapped by her warm body and the smell of sweat. She greedily inhales the odour. Has she ever been tempted to jump into a puddle on the street, invading the moss and other unknown lives in the murk? She’s doing it to stop herself from thinking, the water creating a nagging lump of unease; its mirror-like surface reflecting the destructive instinct inside her. She pictures another possibility of intimacy with nature: inserting her fingers into the after-rain soil. The edge of the grass is sharp, the dew softening her palm. She pushes her fingers gently and feels the temperature of night, now enveloped by the rainy night.
After a while, her mind is driven to one of her favourite cinematic sensations: kisses during a shower. The shower drops are too heavy to stand on his eyelashes, but she compares her slightly closed eyelids to a canvas on which the refracted water bounces. The drops seep into their mouths, stirred by their tongues. Everything satin-soft.
Crushed by the sleepiness, she’s aware of her brain detaching itself because of the alcohol. The dim light urges her to fall asleep, its elusive light almost allowing her to empty herself into the rainy season. It comes to her that, just an hour ago, this same dim light was what allowed her to dance in the middle of noisy crowds and glassy bottles. All of a sudden, she wonders about which one is more real, but realises the silence and peace of this moment are the most tangible for now.
She opens her eyes, this time seeing an unstoppable sandstorm, the dry air battling for the water resource within her skin. Nothing can startle her any more. She’s crouching there, perfectly still, gazing into her old desert.
© Shengj Zhang, 2023
Connect with Shengj on Twitter: @ShengjZhang
Hi, Ellie. Let’s connect.
© E.M. Blake, 2023 – Superb Fairywren
High On Macca Quacker Mountain
I trace the cursive script inscribed on the tombs. The words are in a forgotten tongue. My fingers tingle.
Ghostly figures surround me, tugging my gangling limbs, caressing my tangled hair and chuckling in my ear.
I’m floating above the ground, straining in the awkwardness of levitation and doggie paddling. Swivelling, like a stirring spoon in a teacup, rain drop tears drizzle from my chin. I shudder, dizzy, delirious, daring not to breathe.
Did you know marine iguanas stop their hearts for up to 45 minutes so they aren’t heard by sharks?
Steadying myself, with measured inhales and controlled exhales, from the dreary cave of the mystical Macca Quacker Mountain, I swim east towards the splendour of dawn.
I’m Odette, a shimmering bubble racing to the sweeping clouds, searching fond and faithful for rainbows and pots of gold.
I’m Odile, making cliffs appear as meadows, spewing fire and ice, toad-ally submerged in the stillness of Frog Lake.
A gruff voice whispers, “We were created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Split into separate parts, we are condemned to searching for our other halves.”
Precious madness descends as the luminescence of the tumbling full moon embraces me. The stars inconsolably weep.
I’m alone on a hill, shooting arrows and dodging darts. I’m wounded by lies. A blaze burns. Stoke, fuel or extinguish it? The seething flames smoulder. The smoke strangles me. My throat constricts. I blink. The scarlet fury dies. In the embers, I spy a beast, permanently disfigured by spilled lamp’s oil. He yearns for the elixir of beauty and shuns pitying eyes.
An owl hoots as the fabric of the sky rips.
Night and day are torn apart. Troubled oceans flow through my veins. Eagles circle anti-clockwise around mountainous jagged coastline, swerving from Zeus’ thunderbolts. The bolts pour down like shards of glass on the wrinkled earth, cracking its frail skin. I kneel.
Memories crash into my consciousness. I fall off a lemony yellow bicycle into a puddle of gloopy mud, tearing my new Sunday dress and spraining my ankle. My foot swells like a balloon. My Cinderella silk slipper no longer fits. I fling it away. It’s not a boomerang and doesn’t return. I hobble, crawl, and pick myself up.
Day collides with night. It’s a hullabaloo of surreal wanderings, drowning in dreams, ragged breath, sleepless three ams, let me count the hours, how shall I toss and turn?
I’m roused from slumber by the cave’s sulky chill. I shiver and sit up. A superb fairywren, with crown and cheeks of sapphire blue, perches on my shoulder. He shakes his tail feathers, fluffs his iridescent plumage and sings about a mermaid, who’s soul is trapped in a silver locket.
The bird skedaddles to a tangled web of shrubs that thrive inside Macca Quacker Mountain despite not having the tenderness of the sun, nor the quenching sprinkle of nature’s showers.
Outside the cave, down steep rocks, upon dewy grass, pass brambles of wild berries and a clump of ferns; a bed of oysters lie among wet salty sand. I glance up at Venus and Mars, who pause to contemplate the rising tides. Distant waves wail. Their music falls, gaping haughty stretches, solemn, silent, overtaken by seagulls cheering “Hip Hip Hooray.”
© E.M. Blake, 2023
Thank you, everyone, for sharing your writing pieces here on Thursday Connectors. Next month, it’s Women’s Empowerment Month and I have some really empowering and strong female voices lined up, so keep connecting and keep on writing… And don’t forget to register for my ‘Hear My Voice’ workshops for women on the Pen To Print Website.
See you soon!
You can hear extracts from Showcase in our podcast. Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo or find us on Anchor FM.
If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for information, advice and support: pentoprint.org/about/advice-support
Making voices that are often forgotten and unheard in the literary world, is my mission. Advocating for these, to make them more accessible, is so important!