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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Home is Where The Work Is: Writers and their workspaces

As the COVID-19 pandemic makes work-from-home the new normal, a look at the work spaces of people who have always functioned in isolation -- writers. Anita Nair writes on finding space for a dream and a best friend.

Written by Anita Nair | Updated: June 4, 2020 1:52:18 pm
anita nair books, writers and their workspaces, covid19, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, corona, On good days and bad, I would close the stable doors and sit at my round table and write. (Source: Anita Nair)

A Room in My Heart

I had a dream. Of a room filled with books and a place for my vinyl collected over decades, paintings, plants and my thingummies. Of a room where I would sit at the round rosewood table from my grandmother’s home and write my stories. Of a room where if I raised my head to shape a thought, I would gaze at the trees outside. It was a nice dream to locate myself in those years when my apartment was crawling with houseguests through the year and I was scrambling for sanity. Eventually, I had a mason build me a brick bench and table under a giant avocado tree in the tiny enclosed garden and it was there I wrote. When I proof-checked a manuscript and needed artificial light, I did so sitting in a chair in the bathroom which had become my de facto working space.

In 2002, we began building our house in a gated community in what was then rural Bengaluru. I was drawn to the place because it really was in the back of the beyond and was filled with trees and birds. And so, the room that my family refers to as the study, the staff refers to as book-room, and a friend calls lovingly Lindaji acquired shape. I had started avocado saplings from the old tree and these were planted so they would grow to cover the room I had marked as mine. My superstitious self needed the avocado as a harbinger of literary fecundity.

anita nair books, writers and their workspaces, covid19, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, corona, I was drawn to the place because it really was in the back of the beyond and was filled with trees and birds, writes Anita Nair. (Source: Anita Nair)

For personal reasons, we had to move in April 2003 when the house was still a work in progress. In fact, we — my husband and son, my parents, and a four-month old puppy — lived with about half a dozen workers on site. The library [as I called it in my head] alone was exactly how I had hoped it would be. White stable doors atop which was a cloudburst of multi-coloured glass panes; walls painted a particular deep luxurious pink (a shade I had fallen in love with at the Uffizi gallery in Florence), books in the floor to ceiling bookshelves, plants on window sills, paintings on the walls, a gleaming wooden floor and my grandmother’s round table. Every element was perfect except that I found that I was unable to write in there. I had never ever had a room of my own. My working spaces had been wherever I could find a flat surface to rest my notebook. The library seemed too pristine, too grand, too removed from who I was and the nature of stories I wrote.

anita nair books, writers and their workspaces, covid19, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, corona, The library seemed too pristine, too grand, too removed. (Source: Anita Nair)

Over the months, clutter crept in. Books flowed out of the shelves and were stacked on the floor. Music filled the room and the floors grew less shiny. And the words began to emerge. On good days and bad, I would close the stable doors and sit at my round table and write. When my shoulders ached, I would sink into my father in law’s easy-chair and rest.

The room had become my best friend. It was where I began and ended my day.

Anita Nair is the author of several novels, including, most recently, Eating Wasps

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