Tag Archives: #journal

Leather Notebook

My Rough Leather Notebook, An Escape From This World

My hands run over my notebook bound in rough leather, slightly wrinkly like my skin after a long hot shower. Its cover is dark black with speckles of shimmering silver flashing under the dappled sun. It looks like staring up at the starry sky on a clear winter night. It invites me inside, pulls me in like a portal to another world where I can write. Outside where the world is dominated by a plague, we stare at the virus trackers, of big red blotches filling the continents, growing bigger and darker. We see the numbers of cases and deaths increase. Only they are not just numbers. They are people who once had families and enjoyed life, maybe they had a notebook just like mine. Outside my door, the world is toxic, tainted and polluted but inside the notebook, my words are pure. Untouched by the chaos, unchanged by circumstance.

My hand slowly lifts the cover as I bring the journal up to my face. My nose fills with the smell of home, comforting and familiar. Old paper pages delicately rustle like leaves dancing when the wind makes them sway. Lines in a subtle sky blue streak across the page, straight and long, asking me to fill them. Asking me to forget, to leave behind all of reality and enter the realm of the imaginary. As I flip through, words adorn the pages of all different shapes and sizes. Some are crisp and clear like a high-definition TV. Others are smudged, smeared from wear and the sweat that drips off my hand. They look nothing more than dirt smeared on a creamy-white page. The pages look like the color of soy-milk, an off-white color with hints of yellow and brown spreading across the edges like food coloring staining water or red blotches on a COVID tracker. Flipping through the pages makes a rustling noise, not unlike opening a bag of potato chips quietly. The pages feel familiar in my hand, feeling like an extra layer of soft, supple skin embracing my hand, gluing my palm to the page like the journal is begging me to write. The smell brings me back to the good old days, as I reminisce of books filing a shelf, old and new the smell draws me in like the smell of fresh coffee in the morning or hot coca in December.

Then, the most extraordinary thing begins to happen as the world starts to fade. The lines between reality blur as my pencil touches the page. When I’m tired of the world, of sad news and coronavirus cases, I fall into my journal’s embraces. Away from this world I leave, the pages acting like my wings as I spread them and fly. Not looking back to say goodbye, I rise as I write.

The journal is my escape from this world when I need to mend. When the days are too short and the nights too long, when I fall back, the pages seem to catch me and lift me up. Telling me that if I write, everything will be alright. That it’s okay if I don’t wear a mask because I’m not leaving my house, they call me, say that I don’t need a plane to travel because this journal is the plane and I can go anywhere I want. It doesn’t even have to be real.

In the harsh world of the coronavirus, unemployment, and giant recessions, my notebook is my life, my world is my words. When counterintuitive reigns, when a positive test brings only negatives, I find my way. Not just a journal but a mentor, a friend, I can hang out with my journal without Zoom or a six-foot ruler.

The first word is written, from my brain, it travels to my left arm, towards my fingers. As I etch it into the page, once again the inexplicable feeling fills me. This is the point where the world of the real and the imagined separate, unable to tell what is fantasy and reality, everything becomes hazy.

As I stare at the vast openness of the space ahead of me, knowing I can fill it with anything fills me with joy. I wonder what will happen during this roller coaster ride because in these lines, anything can happen. As the point of the pencil touches the page, the story starts, venturing out into the unknown. I am full of excitement and joy to see what I can create.

Words just flow like water or liquid gold, the pencil dances across the page, as graceful as ballet. The page sings opportunity, the words spill secrets, the pencil whispers freedom and I, I remember to forget. 

My words build worlds; my pages build palaces. Once the story starts, it’s like a thundering waterfall, pouring, unable to stop. The words are like water, life-sustaining, delicate, yet mighty enough to gorge canyons and carve rivers. The power of the page lies on my shoulders, the power of creating a new world, any new world, now rests in me. A superpower anyone can achieve if only they thought to befriend a pencil and become part of a notebook.

This is the feeling of writing, of opportunities and freedom, of inspiration and wonder, of home and the unknown. And it is beautiful. No amount of words can express; no number of notebooks can explain this feeling of writing and filling a page.

In the world of COVID, of social distancing and being stuck indoors, writing is my way to explore. The notebook and I, are united as one. For me, it symbolizes light and life, shining like a beacon or a star in the night. Never extinguished, like the north star, it leads me back home, which lies somewhere inside.

This simple notebook, made nothing more of leather and paper, is the most amazing thing because everything once started with a word contained in a book just like the one under my hand.

Always with me, the notebook remains. It is there when I laughed and smiled so hard it hurt and it stayed there to dry my tears when I had my messy cries. When we walk together, the weight of the world doesn’t seem as heavy anymore, when I write my fears and worries, sharing it with my best friend, something happens that seems to make me mend.

Slowly, the notebook became my world, now more than ever. Because there are times when the world is tough, life gets bumpy, the road is rough. But the notebook is stable, it’s always there, whenever I need to get some rest or express myself, to help me get rid of stress, it’s always there when I need to decompress. Reminding me to let go, telling me to remember that it’s okay to forget the world.


Diya Kanduri is a sophomore from New Jersey. She has been writing poetry since fourth grade. She loves to read, travel, and spend time with her family. To read more of her work, you can visit her blog or her Instagram @diya_kanduri.

Just Write, It’s Good for You!

As I push back in my favorite armchair and read, I begin to hear the words rustling across the page in full surround sound:

‘Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence – this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”’

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.’

So begins The Joy of Writing”, a beautiful, evocative, lyrical poem by the Polish poet and essayist Wisława Szymborska who was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1996.

Reading has always given me delight and joy. Other than the numerous technical reports, journal articles and proposals I wrote during my 40-year engineering career, however, writing has come to me only in the past five years. I find myself increasingly drawn to it for the pleasure, comfort, and joy it brings.  Do others also find joy in writing? I wondered. Szymborska’s poem is to me proof positive that many indeed do.

Writing does much more for us than bring pleasure. An abundance of research supports the notion that it’s a very effective learning tool, helping students grasp, organize, and integrate prior knowledge with new concepts. It encourages active thinking and permits an exploration of ideas.  Well before I began my engineering career – when I was a student in high school – I realized that I had not understood something well unless I could write clearly about it. To this day, writing helps me think.

Writing is also an instrument of power; one of the best weapons available to anyone seeking to further a cause. Who hasn’t heard the 19th-century adage ‘The pen is mightier than the sword?’ History is replete with examples. Books can move nations. From Kabir Das to Rabindranath Tagore, from Shakespeare to R.K. Narayan, authors have left indelible imprints on our hearts and minds. Their words lay in wait to pounce on us, as Szymborska says, and once we’re in their grasp, they never let us get away.

I’m writing this article to suggest that you, dear reader, can exercise a different kind of power through writing if you choose – by wielding it as an instrument to heal yourself. Writing can be therapeutic.  Research by Dr. James Pennebaker and his colleagues at the University of Austin shows that writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way for as little as 15 minutes over the course of three days brings about improvements in mental and physical health. Their paper in the Journal of Clinical Psychology shows how “this finding has been replicated across age, gender, culture, social class, and personality type.”

In her article “Writing is Therapy,” Kate Hurley describes other research that suggests writing can improve physical wellbeing by boosting immune functioning as well as mood in patients with HIV/AIDS, asthma, and arthritis. She cites research that shows biopsy wounds heal more quickly in patients who keep a journal.  The concept is simple, explains Leona Brits: just write whatever goes in your mind, with no filters or judgments. “Don’t think if it’s wrong or right, if it’s nice or rude, or if you should be ashamed. Don’t use your mind, write from your heart!”

The use of writing to ease grief and loss is a well-known and popular tool. Books, how-to guides, and workshops abound. Harvard University’s Health Beat suggests just letting go and recording your thoughts and feelings, beginning with writing for 15 to 30 minutes a day for three to four days. They describe research that such writing has stronger effects over longer periods of time in helping individuals cope with grief.

Researchers have also identified the great social, psychological, and physical health benefits that come from giving thanks, especially in these troubled times, by keeping a gratitude journal; a practice as simple as writing one sentence each about five things you’ve experienced in the past week for which you feel grateful. These benefits “include better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness among adults and kids alike.”

Writing can be for everyone. You can write for yourself – to understand yourself better; to clear your mind or get something off your chest. Write to share your stories with friends or leave a legacy for your children or grandchildren. You can write for a multitude of reasons. You don’t have to write the next bestseller or elegant argument or cutting opinion piece in a national newspaper.  Some of my friends tell me that they can’t write, that they are afraid and unwilling to give it a try. My response to them is: if you can tell a story, you can write. If you can remember something from your past, you can write. 

Pick up that pen or sit down at that keyboard. Don’t worry about your grammar, punctuation, spelling, or style. 

Just write! It’s good for you!

Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community. 


Sukham Blog – This is a monthly column focused on health and wellbeing.  

Corona Chronicles

I have a confession to make: secretly, I was kinda happy when India went into a total lockdown on March 25. Come on, I was feeling only what your average overworked, stressed out middle-class working woman felt. The disease was bad, but I was happy to take my staycation.

But I was not going to laze through 21 days. I had plans – house cleaning, writing, being the light of my family, getting lighter … all that good stuff. 

Day 1: Woke up with a sense of awe. We were witnessing history! Realized that there was no newspaper. Worse, no housemaid. For 21 days. An icy hand clutches my internal organs. A week, I can get by, but three weeks? 

Upside: Had a nice long nap in the afternoon. Felt really rested.

Day 2: My mother was absolutely right – housework never ends. No point in slaving, you have to do it all over again … in an hour’s time. New rule: no one allowed to walk on the floor or change clothes. And if anyone wants to eat the rice, sambhar, rasam, veg fry, and curds, they could use their fingers and palms only – no plates allowed. 

Upside: Have started watching re-runs of re-runs old shows.

Day 3: A day of realizations.

  1. My neighbor’s baby has colic. My neighbor has a baby. Really? Just exactly, who is this neighbor?
  2. A family that stays at home eats too much. I have to cook often and in large quantities. Ergo, more dishes. Aaarrrrgggh!
  3. Love my family. I just don’t want them around all the time.
  4. Eating healthy when confined to the home – an oxymoron. Also, how long will my stash of snacks hold out

Upside: Discovering the joys of binge-watching.

Day 4: I hate housework. I-HATE-HOUSEWORK. Once this lockdown is over, I’ll burn the house down. Finding it hard to binge-watch Friends and Big Bang Theory while wondering – ‘Who the h**l is doing their dishes and cleaning their apartments when they are at that d***n coffee shop or the Cheesecake Factory?’ This thought sucks the fun out of watching the shows.

Upside: Begun reading a book … more than a page at a time!

Day 5: Going to commit murder. A man in the next building keeps singing off-key and loudly along with his stereo. Hoping his family will do him in themselves. If they can’t, I volunteer.

Hearing about immigrants in cities trying to go home. Terribly sad for them. Okay, I’ll admit – my suffering is small potatoes. By the way, do I have enough potatoes?

Upside: Gave myself the day off. Read a wonderful thriller.  

Day 6: Dying of housework. Wiping all the torches, electric lamps and burned out bulbs, even gas stove – but no genie. I now know who I love the most – the maid. If anyone offers to bring my maid back in return for my family … well, I guess that’ll never happen (sob).

Sick of Friends. For just how long did this show run?

Upside: Today, a resident set things up so that we get veggies and milk packets every morning. Yay! 

Day 7: Today, my husband went out, as a volunteer for shopping for our apartment complex. I suspect he was just itching to get out of the house. When my hunter-gatherer returned from the mythical land called Outside, I made him give a step-by-step account of the entire half-hour trip. It took 45 minutes. A highlight of today.

Huge Upside: Husband took over the dishwashing duties. 

Day mmm-hmm: Missed a few days of journaling. Hell, missed a few days of life – got my dates wrong. I cheered when I found we had a couple fewer days to go of the lockdown. I have gone from being merely grouchy to being depressed as well. 

Upside: ?????

Day something or the other: Today, my husband got another chance to escape … needed salt! Bit down hard on a pillow and stay that way to prevent myself from asking him to buy a ton of snacks. 

Day sometime-during-week-two: Am all weirded out. Vocabulary stunted as we use only the words Corona Virus, Covid-19, lockdown, self-quarantine, shut up, and how the hell should I know. Still hate housework, but we now have a truce going. I’ll sweep, but the corners have to fend for themselves. If my boss can’t deal with it, she can do the work herself. Oh, wait, I’m the boss. Dang it.

Upside: All of us are healthy. We are all home, we are together. Watching TV footage of all the migrant laborers trying to get home – heartbreaking. Hunger and uncertainty in the camps – scary. And sick people in overflowing hospitals and the deaths … at least we aren’t going through that.

Day end-of-week two: Identified new syndrome – Lockdown-Induced Writer’s Block. Wonder if people will still be interested in the same things post-COVID. Still can’t get over the unreality of the situation. Is this lockdown a waste of time, or the best idea ever?

The mood around town is strange too. Most people are taking it as a time to relax. Some are going out anyway, once or twice a day. There is some seriousness but it’s not all gloom and doom. 

Summer is in full swing. The heat is killing. It’s enforcing the lockdown better than the fear of Coronavirus.

Upside: Birds are singing like gangbusters. We’re seeing bulbuls and parrots far more than before.

Week 3 beginning day-(Name starts with M or something like that): Conflicting feelings:

Happy because I’ve Corona eyes – dark circles are completely gone.

Upset, because I’ve Corona hair – shaggy and roots are showing.

Day Wed/Thurs. Week 3: Yay, only one more week to freedom. I am feeling far more upbeat than before.

April 15: India’s lockdown extended until May 3.

Hell, I’m putting all activities on hold as I concentrate on saving my sanity.

Good luck to you too!

Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana, USA, to Mysore, India, and inhabits a strange land somewhere in between the two. Having discovered sixteen years ago that writing was a good excuse to get out of doing chores, she still uses it.