by Tulasi-Priya on Wednesday 25 January 2012

It’s been a week since I got my computer back from being repaired, and I haven’t written a new post until now.  I easily lapse into old ways of being. Recidivism, if you will.

The good news is, I’ve discovered what it is that makes me tick, narrative-wise. If you think I’m going to tell you, you’re nuts; it’s going in the book. I may find out something else about myself that will serve as narrative drive in the course of writing, but this one will do for now. I have Shanna Mahin to thank, for recommending The 90-Day Novel. I may be writing a memoir, but let’s face it, I’m really mythologizing myself. I think I’ve got the chops to write a passable sentence, so what I really need is to be able to tell it. Why I haven’t heretofore (I love old-timey, formal words that are small words smashed together: unbeknownst, nevertheless) is easy to see now: I was being held prisoner.

By whom? By my conditioned mind. This is not to say I’m out and about, but I now have a key. Or rather, I’ve always had it. It’s simply a matter of remembering (so easy to forget when you’ve been locked up for what seems like forever), and not being so cozy in my cell I fear to feel the wind on my face. The first duty of the prisoner is to escape. I locked myself in for the illusion of control. Or did a lack of self-control slam the door on me? One little question opened the door a crack, and I could smell the freshness blowing in: what are you willing to die for?

A friend of mine is in prison. He committed the crime, but it still pains me to see him suffer. His body is incarcerated, but his mind roams the universe. He writes long, voluminous letters, first drafts that don’t look back, just unspool like a ribbon of yearning and need and remorse over the miles that separate him from everything he once beheld but never saw.  The correspondence is not at all literary and I fear for his sanity sometimes, but damn, it’s compelling reading.

The Bhagavat Purana suggests that this entire material universe is a fragment of all existence, a sort of prison house for those who are in fundamental quarrel with reality. We’re here to try our hand at being in control, to play god in various petty ways and disguises. We keep bumping up against others who have the same idea. Some of us become model prisoners who eventually get released, and some of us keep throwing away the key when it’s given to us, trading it for cigarettes and girly magazines.

Some of us write: on the walls, dispensing wisdom and warning to those who come after us. Letters to those we’ve abandoned, seeking reunion and pardon. And some of us refuse to write, voices heard only in our heads in solitary self-confinement. But the worst is to not even realize one is locked up, to mistake bondage for freedom, isolation for autonomy. My friend in prison was not seen or heard from by his friends for more than a year before his arrest; he was already in prison before they closed the cell door. Now we know everything. He holds little back. At least, that is our hope.

To realize one’s bondage is a great impetus for writing. Every word is a knock against the wall of the cell, a pick tapping a tunnel through stone, an ear cocked in the darkness when all else are sleeping:

Can you hear me? I’m breaking out of here.



Leave a Comment

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

MacDougalStreetBaby January 25, 2012 at 5:10 am

I hear you and if you need a place to crash until you get back up on your feet, I’m here.


Tulasi-Priya January 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I’ll need a change of clothes and some identity papers, too. Thanks.


Harry iPants January 25, 2012 at 5:29 am

I’m happy for you.
I’m breaking out too. See you on the outside.


Tulasi-Priya January 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I’ll have to pick up the stash I buried in a field off of I-5. Need a grubstake to start fresh, y’know.


Sarah W January 25, 2012 at 6:44 am

Beautiful post, Tulasi-Priya—and something I’ve been trying to articulate in my own writing.

“To realize one’s bondage is a great impetus for writing.” YES!

There are prisons and prisons . . .


Tulasi-Priya January 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Some of the greatest writers have created their works while in prison, or at least started them. I’ve often thought that a stint in the pokey would be good for me, writing-wise, but it is an idle and frivolous fantasy. One tends to think in gloomy metaphors late at night.


Averil January 25, 2012 at 7:13 am

What a beautiful post. Sometimes I wonder whether I am in prison or simply too free.


Tulasi-Priya January 25, 2012 at 9:03 pm

It’s not for me to say, but for most, it’s prison. When you’re free, there’s no wondering about it.


Shanna January 25, 2012 at 10:25 am

FUCK YEAH TULASI PRIYA. This makes me so happy.


Shanna January 25, 2012 at 10:26 am



Tulasi-Priya January 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Hyphen not necessary. Almost nobody, including those who ought to know better (i.e, Hare Krishnas who get emails from me with the spelling right in front of them, spells my name the way I do, and I’ve given up caring. Some other variations:

Tulasi Priya
Tulsi Priya

And sometimes just Tulasi/Tulsi, which I do not like. *grrr*

Since the subject has come up, my name is pronounced similarly to Tulsa (as in Oklahoma). Except more precisely, it rhymes with “pull-me,” like this: tull-see pree-yuh. The a is silent, unless you are a Bengali, who will always pronounce it.

I’m starting to confuse myself here. Maybe I should post one of those little pronunciation thingies on my About page?


Tulasi-Priya January 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Thank you, Shanna. I have a regular flock of angelic writer-friends who have given me some very tangible assistance. Of the flock, I’d say that you, Averil, and MSB are the holy trinity. I am indeed blessed.


Shanna January 25, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Don’t get creeped out, but I love you.


Averil Dean January 26, 2012 at 9:58 am

Me too. You are the only person I know who’s ever referred to me as Saint Averil.


Tulasi-Priya January 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

A saint is a person who shows the way.

Averil Dean January 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm

If you’re following me, we’ll both be hopelessly lost.

august January 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Are there girly magazines on the outside?

Freedom never sounded all that good to me.


Tulasi-Priya January 26, 2012 at 8:22 pm

If you’re free, you get to have an actual girl, and not just a magazine.


august January 27, 2012 at 7:23 am

Worse and worse. What’m I gonna do with a -girl-?


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