Culture Cul De Sac

Published: Sunday December 28, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday February 5, 2015 MYT 6:48:40 PM

The journey

In her last column, the writer hopes she has connected the dots that matter.

ARRIVING at a cul-de-sac is like receiving a swift, unexpected kick on the derriere.

We have reached the ultimate end of the road with this column. Just short of eight years, we have arrived at the destination, the dead end.

The greatest advantage of a cul-de-sac is that it forces us to re-consider our path. The one not taken. In this column we have been cruising in a comfort zone, of sorts. It’s regular, it’s safe in a sense and – most critically – it’s disciplining. Putting words onto a page, come what may.

Then again, Culture Cul-De-Sac has never been a sheltered zone. If I recall correctly, at the most I may have missed three columns throughout its life cycle. Every deadline that I have met meant that I had to sit that afore-mentioned bottom down every other week to ensure the piece was fit for publication.

One of the best things about this column for me, though not always, is that it has forced me to write. Fortnight after fortnight, month after month and year after year, without fail.

Naturally, some weeks were brighter, the pieces easier to write. When I knew exactly what I wanted to explore or say, or if I’d been inspired by a particular journey, incident or people I’d met, it was almost a breeze.

I’ve had to revise a lot, cutting down the word count instead of struggling to fill a blank page. At other times, I’ve spent days repeatedly polishing a piece and, as the editors will attest, have been at the receiving end of their harrying messages.

However, looking back and reminiscing about this constant in my life, no matter where I am, fills me with gratitude. With every piece I have written, this column has taken me on an unparalleled journey.

I write to learn.

And I have done so, from the places I’ve travelled to, the people I’ve met and the many varied experiences I’ve shared with you. With the deadline always at the back of my mind, I’ve been kept alert and curious, always seeking a provocative edge to the angle. To view it from another perspective, I’ve always been eager to explore opportunities. Not only personally, but also for novelty for the column.

Reflecting on some of my earlier essays, I can see I have grown as both a person and a writer. Each column has added to the moulding of me. I have written about family and friends, locations and events, more often than not the sum of my experiences has made me more complete. And the exercise has allowed me to articulate my thoughts better.

I’ve had the opportunity to learn a great deal on a variety of subjects, usually surprising myself in the process. Reading, thinking and writing has also caused me to change my opinions, shaping new thoughts and ideas through inspiration. In the words of Mark Twain, this column has also taught me to, “Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” And I hope you have, too.

I have written these columns in cafes, hotel rooms and friends’ living rooms, in between appointments and functions, at all hours of the day, through different time zones. Of the more than 200 columns, many are still my favourites: the piece on appreciating silence, another about a charming family who run a small restaurant in Crete, the one on watching the Goan monsoon.

In the course of this passage I have discovered the joy of meeting myself when I travel alone, talked of unfinished stories that must be told and found the extraordinary in the ordinary. I have defended selfies, mulled over migrants and marvelled at Italian town squares that foster community. Spaces, cemeteries and labels; furniture, gardens and the Victoria Sandwich; customs, rituals and traditions – these were some of my favourite subjects.

And when readers recall what I have written, that makes the effort all the more worthwhile. Every piece I write reflects who I have become. It’s about connecting the dots. And when other people get it, then my task is done.

Looking to new horizons, I hope the voyage has been just as, if not more, illuminating for you, the reader. As we usher in 2015, here’s wishing everyone a year filled with incomparable journeys, living extraordinary lives. And for more necessary jolts to kick us out of complacency.

Happy New Year!

Jacqueline Pereira will continue seeking unexpected encounters to counter the outmoded on Facebook at Jacqueline-Pereira-Writing-on.

Tags / Keywords: Writing, Learning, Reflection

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