WHY A RETREAT?
By Radhika Meganathan
More than 2 years ago, when I came back from US to India after completing a magazine internship, I had utterly lost the urge to write. Reverse culture shock (the transition from NYC to Chennai was very disheartening), myriad family issues and some disturbing health concerns had zapped my creative muscles. For someone who was earning close to Rs. 1 lakh a month, it was dismal to be faced with the sad CTCs offered to editors.
Thankfully, I had a portfolio of published books so I had enough assignments to keep myself afloat (and not money from Papa). For nearly five months since returning from USA, I was busy freelancing and kicking myself for coming back, when a MNC approached me for the post of a copy editor. It dangled a very attractive pay package, and fate was all but sealed – who will possibly have energy to write while battling umpteen deadlines in a corporate environment?
Let me tell you how a life in a nightshift KPO is. I was surrounded by MBAs and PGs, intelligent enough to be a good company and young enough to laugh a lot. Friendships were quickly formed, since you might not have much to do on a lean week. Meals are free, the company cab picks up and drops you at your place, and every month, a fat pay cheque is deposited into the account. Life becomes positively a bed of roses.
Oh, I forgot the thorns! Everyday, you battle deadlines... nerves are frayed, tempers run hot, and till the deadline is safely met, no dares to even move away from the desk. And if a deadline is missed... there are more enquiries and paperwork and phone calls to be faced with, IN ADDITION to the everyday tasks. So people generally are very careful not to miss a deadline... which means ... yes, non-stop work and worrying.
I won't say that I disliked my job. Copyediting was fine and fed my stomach but my Muse was starved. I left home when my Mom started preparing dinner and I back when the milkmaid deposited two milk cartons outside my house gate.
I never did anything about it, though… but I was always aware of that niggling voice inside my tired mind. “You need some rest” it would whisper, “Make some time for it. Or else….it will be too late…”
I was terrified about the "or else” factor… and anybody who has worked in a cubicle 10+ hours a day will understand the urge to relax in a place where the colours of earth soothe your mind. And that’s why, in August 2006, I chose Pondicherry. Apart from being a well-known (ahem) fun place, it also was located near the Auroville – that universal township existing in mystic tranquility.
And I decided to make it a writers’ retreat, because I wanted to find my lost muse. For some time, the writers’ groups I belonged to wanted to meet on a retreat and I thought, why don’t I do it?
Of course I didn’t know anything about planning a retreat. The only experience I have had before was planning family outings. Besides, with the help of Google and mobile phones, how horrible can your judgment be?