Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kepler's Writing Group Member Profile: Kalpana Mohan

The More I Write

For the longest time, my husband and my daughter told me that I should start a blog in which I posted random thoughts and observations. I shrugged. First of all, my family could not advise me. And, I did not have anything interesting to say. My observations were puerile, my conclusions, unoriginal. Who in the world would want to read my musings?

Despite myself, however, I began writing. I gathered the courage to post my thoughts in a blog titled “If the World is Flat, Why am I on Edge?” It was strange. The day I started posting, ideas spammed my brain. Like Google Alert on Permanent PMS, I found myself increasingly on edge, tuning in to keywords, watching the world falter around me, bristling when something cramped my style, scouting the daily news with a sullen giggle.

When I received a postcard with semi-erotica splayed all over it, I started. Was my mailman flirting with me? Why, I wondered, did the postcard shout “Hello Bombshell”? My thoughts on the subject became a whacky post titled “Dear Victoria: Keep Your Secret”. Then, yet another day, I was in San Francisco taking public transportation from Russian Hill to Civic Center. I spun my trip on the Muni into a story about the charm of commuting with strangers from one point to another. My father’s fascination with the lunches I prepared for him simmered into an essay on our interactions during the four months he stayed with me after my mother passed away. Oh, and yet another time, I was furious about how I was treated at a consulate just because I didn’t look like Angelina Jolie in my passport photo. Then a few weeks ago, my pressure cooker burst in my kitchen. The mishap not only sprayed its gravy onto a video blog. It sprouted into a piece of flash fiction titled “The Nerve of My Myrtle” which you can read at the end of this post. Two weeks ago, a friend, a Saratoga councilwoman, passed away after complications from advanced lung cancer. I regretted that I had never really made an effort to know her better. I was amazed at the responses (on Facebook, on email, via telephone and in person) that the words of my post elicited. I could not believe how my thoughts resonated with so many women (many of whom were unknown to me) who said they wished they had taken the time to know the brave and accomplished young lady.

One thing is now clear, I tell you: the more I write, the more I have to write.

The Nerve of The Myrtle

“Rice today, again?” she asked me, her yellow-green leaves unfurling under the growing April sun.

“Why? You have a problem with that?” I snapped. “Not like you eat anything I make anyway. You always eat out.” I don’t like my crepe myrtle prodding me about my cooking.

I hurried back inside the house. I let the door bang. She must have felt the gust of wind. The nerve. This is the problem with everything I’ve tended to gently, adoringly.

She was a bare brown twig just a few seasons ago. Then she was ablaze every May, coquetting pink with everyone who drove by. But all on a sudden, she stopped coloring her branches. I fed her the same thing that I was feeding all my other trees. She began standing there, her claws up and out, an emaciated witch with her broomstick stuck in the mud. I don’t know what was eating into her.

I really didn’t care to discuss my culinary plans with a tree which decided to boss me around simply because I came out several times in the day to hang out in my front yard and get some sun.

On one of those recent mornings when I was out, I heard her bare-knuckled twiggings.

“What?” I barked. I can’t hold it in when I’m miffed.

“Oh, nothing!” she said, swaying a little, may be even sensing my prickliness. But I heard a crack rising in one of her branches. In the past, she had shaken so hard that she lost a glad-load of leaves when she found out I’d overcooked my cauliflower, again.

“The potato was perfect today. Crunchy-roasted. Spicy. Just enough salt and spice,” I said, to no one in particular, standing on my driveway.

“Goo-od.” She rustled the “good” with her fifth branch anti-clockwise and creeped me out, I tell you. Her gnarly sixth branch was about to ask me something.

“Whatttt?” I hissed.

“Heard your pressure cooker burst last week? Was that your third? Or fourth?”

“So? Think I can’t cook without one?” I challenged her, digging my heel into her bed.

“The world didn’t have pressure cookers. People just cooked their lentils for forty minutes or three hours. As long as it took. Pressure cookers are for people under pressure. Not for people like me. Don’t you understand? NOT FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. Which is why I am talking to a tree. Can’t you see?”

Just then a strong sheet of wind sailed our way and she shivered and I could swear she quickly bent over to tell my boxwoods something funny because they rippled to the right, all of them together, until seconds later I saw my miniature rose projectile-sputter and scatter its peach-pink flower petals all over my driveway.

The sprinkler came on many times that day. The water ran down my driveway and down the road until you couldn’t tell the tears apart from the real thing.


  1. Nice blog Kalpana! Absolutely fantastic last line: "The water ran down my driveway and down the road until you couldn’t tell the tears apart from the real thing." You know my highest compliment (can I steal that craft?). Jeanne

  2. Thanks so much, Jeanne! You know how much I respect your work and value your comments.

  3. Wow great ending! You must be giving pep talks to the Myrtle every day. While you are doing that I am crying over my husband wanting to pull out a beautiful plum tree growing by my fence.