The Act of Writing

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October 3, 2016 by The Citron Review

by Mona Dash


I imagine you come here with expectations. You want to hear tales, of the sari, of the mango, of cow hooves kicking up a dry dust you will want to wipe off with a scented handkerchief. You want to hear of lavender, of turmeric, of jasmine soothing the hot summer evening in a distant tropical country. You expect to be told stories of a certain woman, a certain man in a certain way. You want to feel, but nothing beyond the ordinary, nothing you cannot stomach along with a thick steak, the knife a tad bloody from the rare meat.

Prepare then to be annoyed. Prepare to shake your heads at the lack of clichés. Prepare to throw away the book even. Prepare to be angry that anyone can write these stories nowadays, and no longer is it the right of the powerful, the strong, the erudite. That anyone can now take up a pen, a laptop and float words on the page, dipping into history and geography and creating; creating that which needn’t have been, or having taken form deserved to be demolished.

The story I want to write may be nothing you expect, or may be everything you desire. I don’t know yet you see. I can write about the place I am from, the shores I arrived at, the people I met. I can write about the accidents, the tragedies, the way people lost breath when they didn’t expect to, or were maimed and silenced. The blood which flowed when people attacked others, their homes, their bodies. Inspired by the books on war, I can, for example, write about gas chambers or the site where a nuclear bomb ripped the soil and its heart, or through the eyes of a little child whose parents kissed, and were shot before him. Except that it has been done before, in ways fourscore and one.

But why, I can fly across continents and write about modern wars, the one where planes drove into tall, proud towers, the one which is continuing everyday as delusional youth wield axes and knives or guns or strapping explosives on, aspire to explode and achieve heavendom, annihilating innocent people. Moved by the video of the civil war and watching neighbours bomb the Stari Most, I can explore strife in stranger countries. I can write about the betrayal and naivety which led to foreign countries ruling my own, but that too has been done; the red and blue flag has been replaced a million times by the tricolor and evil has always been shown to be white.

There is so much to write.

But yes all that has been written before and I want to write something new, infinitely precious. So let me do this, a simple tale. A story told in three days.

Day 1: the world will be made, love will be found, love will be had, and creatures sing, dance, collude, procreate, collate. Trees will grow so tall as to never let anyone live without a roof on their heads. Crops will grow healthy and fruits will ripen and burst. Birds will sing timelessly. Lovers will never be jealous and fathers will never be cruel and children will never die. Words like harmony, beauty and happiness will take form. You get the picture.

Day 2: there will be more of the same, but snakes will hatch out of giant eggs, grow, mate and slowly slither into lives and loves. Monstrosities will take concrete form, and not wander nebulously as before. Atrocities will be committed and while there will be villains, heroes will stand tall. Our eyes will glisten over when we see men helping children, women helping older frail men, black, white, and brown singing together. We will remember humanity. You are getting what I mean, don’t you? I don’t need to explain further.

Day 3: and day 3, the last day. Everything will fall. All the stories I have said before, all the words I have embellished into poetry, into songs, all the tunes I have hummed and taught others. Everything will perish. Whether from fire licking us, or water submerging our lungs, or the moist wet earth softly smothering us in her everlasting hugs. Everything will give way to nothing, to the zero, the completeness in the circle.

Will that be enough for you? Will it meet your expectations of a writer; a woman, a man, a criminal, a lover, an individual, a communist, a terrorist, a believer, a mother, a friend, a foreigner, a nationalist, or whoever else it might need to take up the mantel of the pen? The scourge of the word for our senses to react? Or will there be more demands from you about the perfect story?

My friend meanwhile implores me to write about happiness. About lullabies, about women who are nourished physically and emotionally and spiritually so in return they can give, and give. Of men who are made so strong, they can protect, they can be gentle. Not of these wild-eyed bare- breasted hysterical women and angry spitting men, given to lawlessness and eager to jump into the curving waters of the mighty rivers.

But, wait, let me write. Allow me my writing.


Originally from India, Mona Dash has been living in London for the last fifteen years. She writes poetry and fiction. Her first novel is Untamed Heart (Tara India Research Press, 2016) and her next collection of poetry is to be published by Skylark Publications UK. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing (distinction) from London Metropolitan University. With a background in Engineering and Management, she works in Technology sales, and remains hopeful at

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IMAGE CREDIT: Jill Katherine Chmelko. Protest Road, Winter. 2019.

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