Wednesday, May 20, 2009
13 Breakfasts and Other Unwritten Memoirs
I've had this post, 13 Breakfasts, in my Blogger page for more than 4 months now, since January 11 of this year. I put it in here at Andy's suggestion, so I wouldn't forget. And I've caught glimpses of it pretty often since then, and every time, I think of Ramu, because 13 Breakfasts is his title, not mine. I'm just holding onto it for him until he needs it.
I'd gone over to Ramu's house with Andy for dinner, and after dinner, we sat around and watched TV, including "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa," which is kind of an Indian classical music version of American Idol (not to be confused with the show Indian Idol, which is different). (Sa re ga ma pa are the notes in the scale in Indian classical music.) Right before the third candidate was about to go on, the power went out, and even though Ramu had enough electricity in his inverter to keep the TV on, the cable was out. And by the time the lights came back on, it was late (and the show was over), and it seemed easier to spend the night, so I did on Ramu's second guest bed. (I didn't argue too strenously against this--okay, I didn't argue at all--because every time I saw Andy, he would mention some yummy thing that Ramu had made for breakfast, and I wanted to partake in whatever yummy thing it was that Ramu decided to make for breakfast the next day.)
The next morning, while he was making the yummy breakfast, Ramu told us a story about how when he was a kid, sometimes he used to eat 13 breakfasts. His father was a Brahmin, and there were many older women, widows, who his father took care of. Every morning, they would prepare food to offer the gods, and when the offering had been made, they would let Ramu have some. We could see him, this little curly-haired boy going from widow to widow collecting his breakfast, one after another, some fruit, some sweets, some porridge. And as he was telling us this, it was clear to me that if Ramu ever decides to write a memoir, Thirteen Breakfasts would be a perfect title. In fact, I even have the part after the colon ready for him. "Thirteen Breakfasts: Memories of a Banarsi Boyhood." I wish the title could be mine, but it is clearly his.
It got me thinking, though, about titles of things. It's been my experience all the way back to when I started writing that a title was there or it wasn't. Of all the things I've written, there have been titles I've liked--"Loving a Buddha," the name of my first published story, for one--and ones I haven't--"Mango Season," the title of my MFA thesis, which was an absolute last resort, after weeks (and months) of trying to think of something better.
And it made me remember another memoir title, that of a Fulbright friend who was doing anthropological field work in the mountains. Her memoir, she decided, would be called "Bad Hair Days in the High Himalaya: A Girl Anthropologist's Year in Kumaun." It's been almost 15 years since she came up with that title, and it's been more than 11 years since we've been in touch (a long story). But I think of her sometimes, and her hair travails and other things, and I wonder if she'll ever write her book.
I don't have any titles waiting to be used, at the moment. I wonder if I'm just the respository for other people's potential memoir titles, at least for now. I'm happy to keep collecting them, if anyone has any to offer.
Don't forget that tomorrow is the Blogathon Guest Post Day. Vera Badertscher's post will be up here, and mine will be up at A Traveler's Library.
I'll be back here on Friday! (20 days down, 11 to go, not that I'm counting.)
p.s. the photo doesn't have anything to do with anything, but I thought a Benares picture would be good, and this was one I liked.