Sleeping child

Last evening I was riding the government bus. While I was looking outside the window, something fell on my lap. It was a child’s head. I looked sideways. On the seats beside me, sat a couple and their 5-year-old. Of course, the five-year-old had fallen asleep and hence fallen on my lap. The parents looked embarrassed. They were trying to wake him up. I insisted not to. They were not from a well off family. They had gone to the city to buy groceries from the flea market. The father had an old worn off shirt while the mother had an ordinary saree. The child, however, was wearing nice denim pants and a red shirt. His sandals had fallen somewhere and they were looking for it. Meanwhile, the child kept sleeping. He was not embarrassed for being a poor guy. He was not embarrassed for dozing off in the bus on a stranger’s lap. He was a child in a true sense.

When their stop came, the father lifted him and took him off me. The mother followed with his sandals in her hands and groceries.

I kept looking at the sleeping child till they boarded off. 

I wish just like the child, we too didn’t feel embarrassed about who we are. Tough to do, I know, but possible.

Mistaken Identity

And then, as I stood there, the door behind me opened. A black, Arabic, pock-marked, elderly gentleman came into the room, and I knew instantly that this was the man I had been mistaken for. He had the quiet and unmistakable authority of being who he was, in real in-law. And my first shock was that I looked nothing like him at all.

I was younger, fresher, better looking. I had vigor and freedom. I wasn’t trapped by tradition. I was lithe. I could go any which way. I had many futures open to me. This man seemed weighed down. There was an air about him of one whose roles were fixed. He was, in the worst sense of the word, middle-aged; with no freedom, even to think independent thoughts. All this I sensed in a flash but realized only afterward. I was profoundly shocked to have been mistaken for this man.

Belonging, Ben Okri

Dungeon

All men needed to hear their stories told. He was a man, but if he died without telling the story he would be something less than that, an albino cockroach, a louse. The dungeon did not understand the idea of a story. The dungeon was static, eternal, black and a story needed motion and time and light. He felt his story slipping away from him, becoming inconsequential, ceasing to be. He has no story. There was no story. He was not a man. There was no man here. There were only the dungeon and the slithering dark.

Enchantress Of Florence, Salman Rushdie

 

(Featured Image- Prisoner of Chillon, Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix)

 

Nightmare

I was not able to sleep last night. There was a dream which kept my mind busy. A nightmare actually.

There is an ancient city. A citadel stands in front of me. I am a visitor, a foreigner. My hair is black and bag is green. I wear a rudraksha necklace. I have never worn a rudraksh
necklace in my life. Demons are walking past me, looking at me with curious eyes. They are eating human flesh while they walk past me. Human legs and human hands.

One thing leads to other and I find myself in a duel with a great 6 (or 8) headed demon.

He is black, kinda cartoonish with round, circular eyes and only canines. He is like a Disney monster. He has held me in his claws and is now playing with me like a ragdoll. I am getting a vertigo. My head hurts. People are laughing at me. They are cruel people, with cruel intentions. They like hurting other humans. Maybe they are monsters too, disguised under human faces.

My entire life comes in front of my eyes. I see my present self. I am sleeping, I can see. I can’t sleep and I can see that too. From my dream I see what’s happening to me. I can smell the sweat on my body and also the wet ground outside the window. It has been raining you see.

Am I seeing the dream or the dream is seeing me?

Have I gone mad?

It is too much to take. 

Tired of this tyranny, my brain forces me to wake up. It is 6 am.

 

Featured Image –  Kajuya Ajimoto (Walpurgis Night, 2007)

#13. First Rains

The sky has turned red and the first rains have arrived. Somewhere behind the clouds the Sun is sheltered, panting heavily.

Wind is fast, furiously running here and there making a lot of noise. A sudden mum has conquered the roads less taken and more. Some people have stopped their attempt of escape –which was futile anyway– and are now strolling, dancing slowly, hand in hand.  They will sneeze and cough later and they know for it is the first rain but they don’t care. They are ready to fly with the wind. Their hats and skirts are leading the way. The trees are hastily shedding the old pale leaves, naked and ready for the new ones. They shiver like everyone else. It is cold and clumsy everywhere. The city is no more a city and the dessert is no more a dessert. All is now one and one is all.

Those who have bunked offices and schools today, peep out of their windows, with hot tea and warm hearts. They are praying, thanking their stars.

The sky has turned red and the first rains have arrived. Everything will change. At least for now.

Featured Image- Rain Storm Union Square (Childe Hassam)

#12. Board Games

So, today I went to a food joint which cheered me up . No. It was not because of their food or great service (both of which was quite decent actually) but because of their thoughtfulness.

I always like it when food joints try to be different without overdoing it.

So this place, Kathi Junction which serves rolls and kebabs has a set of board games on a shelf. There was everything from Ludo to snakes and ladders to Chinese checkers to chess to monopoly to tic tac toe.

So while you wait for your order, you can keep your cellphones aside and relive your childhood.

There are a few better things than reliving your childhood.

#11. Hold someone’s hand, you will find support yourself

I have been greatly grieved recently. Over last few months, over a dozen people have committed suicide in my city. These are not farmers fighting for their lives or hungry beggars, tired of their lives. These have been young professionals in their mid twenties who have been jumping off their balconies at an alarming rate.

I feel not strong enough to write anything right now. I don’t know any of the deceased and I don’t know what their reasons were but I do know that no reason is big enough to give your life. There are people with all the reasons to die. But they choose to live. We have all the reasons to live and yet we find it difficult to do so. Escaping is never a solution, just an excuse.

When you feel weak, go to someone you trust and share. Be someone’s support and find support in them. Hold their hands and you will find strength.

So, here I am sharing an old Hindi song which gives me great strength when I need.

 

It is a beautiful poem which I am translating for you. I hope you find your strength. I hope you smile.

If you are helpless, be someone’s support
You will find support yourself.
Help a boat to the shore
You will find your shore yourself.

We need to live, smiling
Everyone has to bear his own pains
No matter how long the her path is,
A river has to keep flowing.
If you are alone, don’t stop
Get out and keep walking,
You will find a companion on the way yourself.

Life is always like that for everyone,
But someone smiles through it while someone complains
It is easier to persevere, difficult to live worrying.
There are flowers and thorns in everyone’s path
Which fate has distributed equally among all.
You will find your share eventually.

Not in town and not in a dessert
Not in farms and not in forests
The love is not even sold in the markets
Neither can you find peace in a shop
Whom you are searching,
Don’t look outside, you won’t find
Your loved one is within you.
If you are helpless be someone’s support,
You will find support for yourself. 

 

Until next time!

#10. Anger

Anger takes away our good words. Then whatever we are left with, mostly bad, we add those words and say things which cause hurt to others and regret to us. We must circumvent around our anger. When someone says something we don’t like, we should try to understand their reason behind it. It is always good to step into the shoes of others and feel how they feel. It makes us a better person.

(Featured Image- Anger, Robyn Nevison)

#9. Sedation

I am punishing myself for what I have once done. Punishing myself for writing poetry and living like a poet. I brought disgrace to my family. Brought unhappiness and misery.

When my father lay dying, I was afraid that he would tell me for the first time how unhappy I had made him. He was a powerful and a very influential man. How often he must have heard some unsavory remark about me and flinched Once I heard from someone that Father had blamed the sleeping pills that I took for the kind of writing that I did.

“She is sedated, she doesn’t know what she is writing,” he had said. He was wrong. I was out of sedation when I began to write. I rose like the sun and all heads turned east to look at me. That was being awake. This is sedation. The smell of cooking sedates me. The chatter of  my neighbors. The grocer’s voice on the phone. The crackle of mustard seed in a frying pan. I am wearing someone else’s skin. I am buried within this body. if only my husband would realize my predicament, he would let me come back to life again. There would then be laughter. And lovely books, filled with my happiness, coming out of the printing press every year.

– Kamla Das (Sedation, translated by the author from Malayalam)

(Featured Image- Women in hat and color, Pablo Picasso)

#8. I apologize!

Everything belongs somewhere. As soon as you place it anywhere else and don’t put it back, it looks out of place and that is when things start to look like a mess. If we tend a practice to keep everything back in place after use, we will not need hours to tidy our homes. Life is no different. As soon as –during our moment of weakness — we misplace an emotion, misbehave with someone, hurt someone’s pride or feelings, we must apologize immediately. We must hug them, look into their eyes and request forgiveness. If we don’t do so, if we are lousy with our emotions in our relationships, things start getting messed up. Immediate apology — and hence appreciation of someone’s hurt and pain — can save us a lot of time, energy and emotional damage.

#7. Scissors

I have a pair of scissors which I bought in 2010. Seven years and they have been one of my most loyal companions. They are blue on their finger holes and the blades used to be shiny and sharp for a long time. I remember using them on practically every piece of cloth, paper or anything else I was able to find. I have cut milk cartons and my beard with them and I have used them as bottle opener for my ketchup jar.

Tonight while cutting a milk carton I noticed patches of red on their blades. Red which doesn’t leave iron once it finds her. Red which kills its metal. The blades have gone soft now. They are not as sharp or fast as they once used to be. They seem tired of everything I have instilled on them over their lifetime. The effects are showing up.

They remind me of myself and of many others like me. Once sharp like a razor, we have been blunted by time and circumstances. We smile at things that once bothered us just because they don’t bother us anymore.

Pain is only felt till the limit. Once it is crossed, we become inert to the idea of pain. It becomes a part of our being. Same goes with defeats and failures. How much can one regret? How much can one whine and weep?

Yesterday, someone was telling me about them being in some sort of crossroads, about being hurt by others and stuff like that.

I sympathized with the person, hugged and then quietly walked into my room. I didn’t feel like laughing at the person or feeling sad about them. It is their life and they would figure it out. Funny thing, I don’t even remember what the topic of conversation was. I am just happy that I cooked some food tonight. Rice and some egg plant curry. I remember liking it a lot as a child.

Until next time.

#6. The Umpteenth time

There is this fable about an ant failing to climb a wall 17 times and then succeeding in its quest in eighteenth attempt. We all know that.

Now, a trick question.

What if the ant tries to climb the wall the 18th time or 19th or so on till a definitive number and fails? How long would it keep trying? Isn’t it just foolish to keep trying when it knows deep inside that its just an ant and not a spider and might not be made for wall climbing but for collecting crumbs of sugar or something else?

I mean, what if the ant has had enough, gets bored and decides to move on? What if it forms an army of ants and invade Wonka’s Chocolate factory and succeed? Would it still be called a quitter?

Sometimes, isn’t “giving up” a wise decision? What would Newton say about this? What if he found that the wall was not interested in reacting to his action? Won’t even he just feel like stop pushing the wall uselessly?

Would it be “giving up” or simply “moving on”?

I am a dolt, but you are not. Do answer!

#5. Learn, not to believe!

He can’t imagine himself reading to his household; he is not, like Thomas More, some sort of failed priest, a frustrated preacher. He never sees More, a star in another firmament, who acknowledges him with a grim nod- without wanting to ask him, what’s wrong with you? Or what’s wrong with me? Why does everything you know, and everything you have learnt, confirm you in what you have believed before? Whereas in my case, what I grew up with, and what I thought I believed, is chipped away, a little and a little, a fragment then a piece and then a piece more. With every month that passes, the corners are knocked off the certainties of this world: and the next world too.

– Hilary Mantel (Pg No. 39, Wolf Hall)

(Featured Image- Carl Holsoe ‘Girl Reading in a Sunlit Room’)

My Work Elsewhere: Story behind this picture

A little intro into the part of my life where I get these kind of gifts every now and then.

Where I work, some passionate employees began an initiative four years back. In a nearby municipal primary school which is over a hundred years old (the teacher claims so), a few volunteers teach English and computer on daily basis without interrupting their job schedules (for free). I became a part of this initiative in January last year.

In the current academic session I look after standard one kids.

Recently, when the kids were not in a mood to be taught, I asked them to take out their notebooks and draw my picture. I will be honest. There are thirty five of them and even after seeing them every week for over six months now, I don’t remember their names. It is just tough. It was natural on my part hence, to believe that they go the same way about me.

Well, among many amusing and imaginative sketches, this one was by far my favorite.

The kid who is behind this piece of art is named Jeevan. I met him on his first day of school and what a scene it was. His grandma was trying to explain to me something in Marathi, which I was pretending to understand and this little chap was busy throwing tantrums (along with his shoes and water bottle) at me.

Unlike we uptight middle class kids who begin at nursery, then via kinder gardens (lower and upper) go to class one as an experienced senior, most children at government schools begin their education from standard one.

So on Jeevan’s first day, his grandma sat throughout my one hour and perhaps throughout the day right outside the school.  As far as Jeevan himself is concerned, he didn’t open his bag, didn’t bother to take out his notebook, slate or whatever else he had in there. Every time I instructed something, he simply shook his head left and right and kept his hands folded. He was in a position of defense with his water bottle in hand, ready to strike me if I moved towards him. His eyes stayed red and big and ready to shed tears at any moment.

I am of course not a trained teacher. I am also not a cute looking ‘Didi’ whose face might pacify an angry hotheaded child. I ignored him in that class after a while.

Next few weeks were no different. Neither did Jeevan speak a word, nor did he open his bag.

Then, monsoons came. Monsoons in Pune are as stubborn as Jeevan. Once they are here, they don’t go away easily. From June to September or October, there was not a single minute when it was not raining except for this one fine morning when the Sun came out and day was all bright and beautiful.

I went to school and on that day we had the following poem to read,

Rain Rain Come Again

We Will Play Another game

Rain Rain Do not Fail

Paper boats we will Sail.

I tried a simple exercise. I asked every child to make paper boats. Much like me, many of them didn’t know how to make one (don’t judge me). Jeevan was not one of us though. He was an expert and that was the first time he truly took interest in my class. Then, once everyone had a paper boat each in their hands, we began to act and dance and sang the poem.

During our third recital, suddenly it began to shower heavily. All the kids clapped. To them, this poem was some sacred mantra to call the rain.

That is where the boat in the picture found its place. Till this day, every time I enter the class, Jeevan and others start singing ‘Rain Rain’. Their teacher just giggles, sitting at her desk.

When I asked Jeevan about the use of colors in his sketch of ‘Anurag Dada’, he just laughed and said,

‘G for Joker. J for Joker. Z for Joker. Tumhi Joker Aaahat’

Actually, we have been revising Alphabets with spellings for a few months now and Jeevan intentionally says ‘G for Joker.’ and also ‘Z for Joker’ along with ‘J for Joker’.

It began with genuine mistakes on part of children and then they realised it was too much fun. When they are in mood, they simply come near me and start dancing and singing

‘G for Joker. J for Joker. Z for Joker’. In reply, I pick the kid up and put them in their place.

Jeevan loves this entire process. He puts his right hand on his hip like Amitabh Bachhan and sings

‘G for Joker. J for Joker. Z for Joker.’

Compared to my own versions of myself, I like this one way more. It is too good, isn’t it?

(First published on Youth Ki Awaaz)

#4. Pigeon in the room

Sunday afternoon. 2 PM or 3, I don’t remember sharply. It is not an important detail. I was laying in my bed watching some random stupid shtick on YouTube and my face was towards the wall. It is an important detail. I could hear pigeons fluttering around, flying in and out my balcony like they always do, searching for a papaya to poke their beaks into. How do I know that? Well, because I had kept a papaya in my balcony a day before. A day before itself, I got to know that pigeons like poking their beaks in papayas. A day before itself, I had taken precautionary measures. I put a thin hand towel over the papaya. Pigeons can’t be that smart, right? Not smarter than me of course (me being a human being after all), right?

I had won the battle even before the angry birds could announce it to their army. Anyway, coming back to the Sunday afternoon 2 PM or 3 ( I seriously  don’t remember and it is not important). I was laying in my bed faced towards the wall (important detail), watching some random stupid shtick on YouTube.

I put my headphones away for a minute to take a sip from my coffee that was kept on the floor nearby, behind my back. A pigeon, as creepy as the one in the painting attached, was poking its beak into my coffee mug. I froze in my bed. It looked at me and smirked. Yes, the pigeon smirked with its big red (or whatever color it was) eyes. Now I had my back against the wall, literally. I had nowhere to go. I had left the balcony door open. The balcony door of all doors. Six other intruders sat quietly on the railing. It had backup too. I didn’t. I couldn’t move, neither could I call for help, because the door that should have been open was closed.

The pigeon poked its beak again in the coffee, tilted its neck, made a bad face, sneezed and flew away. They all flew away with it. I was rattled to my heart. Was the coffee really that bad? Maybe pigeons don’t like coffee. Papaya they do.

(Featured Image- Oil Painting by Adele Renault)

#3. Stain on my white shirt

For many days I have had a classic oxford white shirt- my most favorite, fitting, a little shabby due to overuse- white shirt. Then one of these days, in the washing machine it met many red and yellow and green and blue clothes and when it came out, it was a changed shirt altogether. It had developed a little crush near its hem for the red underpants and a ‘stain of love’ given to it by the naughty blue office shirt. For days and months I mourned the stain and didn’t know what to do about it. It was a horrible stain- a stain like no other; a stain no detergent in the market claimed to remove- a stain of a lifetime. I put the shirt in the machine a couple of times and then left it to rot inside one of my dumpsters. There was no way I was ever going to get rid of that wretched stain.

“Oh my shirt! My beloved shirt!” I cried for days, watching ‘friends’ on my laptop, eating ice-cream and dark chocolates to forget my loss.

This  past Tuesday morning, I was cleaning up my closet and saw the shirt again along with the most loathed stain in the history of all stains. I put it in warm water with some regular detergent and left it to soak for around a day. Next morning I hand washed it and put it in some indigo water. It is drying up in the balcony right now and the stain is still there. God! I hate it so much!

A few years back when I first began writing poetry, a random person commented on one of my poems,

“You are a stain on literature. You can’t write and you should not try. Honestly, you suck!”

Now that I think of it, it is a good thing I am a stain. Not a blotch, a stain! I want to stay on the white shirt forever, slowly changing my colors but always sticking near the button placket. Hate me if you wish but you can’t put me away!

 

#2: The Vase

No. I don’t have a vase at my place. They are costly and I am poor. I can’t afford them. Not the ones I want. Not the crystal ones at least. *sigh*

It is the proverbial vase I wanted to give you. Take it, keep it, preserve it. It is a heartfelt gift. Just accept it already.

I wanted to bring you flowers. I really did. I even went to the florist who sits beside the Hanuman Temple. I made him cut 72 long stemmed red roses and put them into a bouquet, just for you. For a moment, I had this thought of adding some carnations too. And lilies. Would that be a good combination? I was not sure. The flowers were destined to die within a day or two. Maybe a week if kept in water. What after that? You would throw them away and forget me and my gesture. That would have broken my heart.

There were artificial flowers too that I had in mind. But if the flowers are not real, then what is the point of gifting flowers.

Hence, after walking to and fro in my balcony, I am giving you this vase. People will give you roses and carnations and lilies all your life. They will sound like they love you, care for you and maybe they would mean it.

I would be happily sitting meanwhile in your memory, getting refreshed, everytime you bring those flowers and put them in this vase on your side table. You would smile at my thought and you would thank me secretly for the vase.

Maybe you can gift me one too someday. I really can’t afford it.

#1 : Cleaning the flat

One of my flatmates recently left for brighter avenues, leaving behind his darker side for us. The main hall of our flat was a sight to behold. I won’t get graphic about things but let us say it was crap load of crap from ceiling to floor. It took us a week to muster the courage to pick up the broom. Finally, this past Sunday, we agreed that we can’t live like this. We need to sacrifice our weekend for a greater good.

First of all, let me start by saying, there was just too much stuff, here, there, everywhere. It was a revelation. Where was all this stuff, all this while? Anyway.

We began at 10 am. When we were done, it was 5 in the evening.

While straightening my back last night, it occurred to me.

Our lives are not much different than our flat. Too many unnecessary stuff is cluttered inside our minds. Crap load of crap that we carry are blocking the space for new, meaningful information. We keep piling up stuff, for days and months and years and then one day,

BOOM! The mind blasts. Too much to take. Life becomes difficult to live.

Only if we had cleaned our flat on daily basis, it would not have been that bad to begin with.

Only if we were a little wiser with our choices and decisions in life, we would not be feeling like a waste of space on the planet.

Sometimes, we complicate things, unknowingly, so much so that it takes an entire day or sometimes an entire lifetime to turn it around.

I met a British musician last year and he said the most wonderful thing ever, in his most British accent ever,

“Practice makes a man perfect they say. No, practice doesn’t make us perfect. It makes us better. If we practice goodness in our lives, we become better people. Become a better person.”

I later came to know he was on marijuana. Hell of a flutist by the way!

Here is to uncluttered lives.

This Christmas, Be Someone’s Santa!

 

Merry Christmas folks!

After a hard year, it is time we take a breath, hug each other out and celebrate. But for what? What is there to celebrate if the year was hard and times were tough. I say, lets celebrate to the end of this year and to the beginning of a new one.

Let us celebrate these enterprising lines by Shelley,

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

 

Let us celebrate the return of the only immortal, affable and authentic superhero, Santa Claus.

He has been busy collecting gifts for us all year long and right now as we speak, he must be hiding them for us to wake up, find them and warm the Christmas morning with our smiles.

I know what you will say.

‘Santa is a myth’

To that I would twist your earlobe and whisper,

*But you are not!*

Where I work, there is a tradition around Christmas time called ‘Secret Santa’. It is a famous concept that has its own meaning in different parts of the world.

Where I work, the concept goes like this,

A week before Christmas every person is given a random name from the list of colleagues and then, on a specified day around the 25th December, the person has to bring a gift for this random recipient. Everyone gets a gift and no one knows who put it on their desk.

Everyone gets to be Santa Claus.

Actually, everyone should be a Santa Claus. Gifts bring smiles, guaranteed!

Look around you. Make people happy. People who don’t belong in your life. People, who are not your parents, friends, fiance or foe. People who truly need you but you are unable to see them. Go out, remove your Ray Bans, touch them, give them your smile. But most of all, don’t do any of it expecting something in return.

You don’t have to be affluent to do that. Even a cup of tea to one person (who needs it) is enough, one little pet adopted is job done and one new plant in your balcony is mission accomplished.

All you need to do, is to be you. Humans. Happy humans. Touch lives. Bells will jingle.

 

#Doltology

My secret bond with Onions

I have a tremendously sorted, boring routine. I walk to my office every morning (yes, walk) and walk back home every night. There are no major complications, no major happenings, not even traffic jams. I know what I am going to eat throughout my day but worse still, I even know how the canteen food is going to taste when I try to savor it hoping for it to be toothsome, tasty and somewhat pleasantly surprising. There are two restaurants outside the office campus and in past one year, I have learnt the taste of every item on their menu. Hell, the waiters even give me credits these days, talk politics with me and stuff.

The saddest part about my life is, I hardly get to be sad. I barely get to think about how I am feeling, what I am doing with my life, whether I am in some sort of existential crisis or not. It is all just so routine and redundant.

This is where weekends come in handy. I cook at least once every weekend. It is not really much of anything, some plain rice, some cheap curry that gets ready sooner than a man pees, and maybe pickles.

During the preparation of this meal, I get to cut onions. Ah! Onions! Nature’s gift to the non-emoting bastards like me. For so many months now, I look forward to the weekends, to be able to meet my onions, to cut them, to be able to cry with them. I keep intact all my melodramatic self, all my emotions of sorrow and joy, that build over the week and let them flow as tears when I cut onions.

I know they are going to make me weep, sob, snort and cry; hence, I make every bit of this meeting useful. I rant about my grievances about the world, about my mediocrity in terms of claiming to be a ‘writer’, about people who never call, text or WhatsApp me (really, no one does). The onions listen, while I gently strip them, slit them into pieces, taking out their life in slow motion. In return, they give me my tears, much needed tears, which I don’t shed for the onions’ demise but are almost heartfelt.

Whoever said you can’t buy emotions must come to my place sometime and meet my onions, they come cheaper than a packet of milk.

#Doltology

 

My Work Elsewhere: Why Dylan Getting The Nobel Prize Is An Important Event In English Literature

God knows how much I love Bob Dylan. His songs are so many on my playlist that sometimes, it becomes embarrassing when someone else is in charge of my smartphone. Songs, that he wrote in different phases of his life, have helped me come through different phases of mine.

To be honest, my taste and knowledge in English music begins with Bob Dylan, travels through Joni Michelle and ends at Don McLean. Dylan has been the most dominant force, because I always thought that he was always a better songwriter than a singer. His songs have never been ‘songs’. They were poems, orated with instruments, that were tied to his arms, legs and head and the audience would be enthralled by the depth of those simple words more than the harmonica or the electric guitar. ‘Blowing’ and ‘wind’ were inconsequential words separately, but when he sang them together, “Blowin in the wind” became the quintessential debate of the century.

As poet Billy Collins commented after Dylan’s selection: “Most song lyrics don’t really hold up without music, and they are not supposed to. Bob Dylan is in the 2 percent club of songwriters whose lyrics are interesting on page even without the harmonica and the guitar and his very distinctive voice. I think he does qualify as poetry.”

More than Homer, Dylan’s case reminds me of Aesop. Thousands of Aesop’s fables are still prevalent in different forms, versions, languages, in all parts of the world. From ‘thirsty crow’ to ‘the boy who cried wolf’, Aesop’s simplistic lessons about life are timeless classics and have been included in every moral education curriculum of every country for young children. Even more so, most of his works have been modernised, altered and claimed by many anonymous story tellers and it is a common occurrence to find his work being sold in the market as Russian, Indian or Egyptian folktales.

Amusing as it sounds, Aesop, much like Dylan, was a story teller and not a ‘writer’, who went from village to village, told his stories to masses, in oral form.

In the last 50 years, I don’t remember a writer or a poet who has been so polarising and reachable to such a huge chunk of the world population.

I think, this separates Dylan from other musicians and dare I say, writers. His words have a far bigger appeal than any of the music that he has created. He has been poetic, prophetic even, when it came to saying things blatantly about wrongs and rights of societies. His intrepidity as a lyricist, inadvertently makes him a writer of highest class. And even more so, because, his words have made bigger impact on lives of millions of different ages, across the globe.

I wonder if any other musician, writer or poet has challenged his own limits and the limits of the society as much as Dylan did in different times of his life. At 75, his selection for the highest honour, pushes many more envelopes.

The amount of great work that likes of Murakami, Peter Cary, Hillary Mantel or Salman Rushdie have produced over the years is definitely commendable and awe-worthy but perhaps, here, the nomination of Dylan, a ‘mere song wright’ for the most auspicious and prestigious literary award marks a new turn of events. Perhaps, the committee wanted to broaden the definition of literature itself, and what better way than to seek the “Tambourine Man” himself?

It was meant to stir a controversy. But controversies are the catalysts for revolutions. And, revolutions bring changing times.

(Published at Youth Ki Awaaz, November 2, 2016)

The thing about passive men

Passive men are difficult. They don’t care about things until something hits them hard, something of personal importance. They need a reason of profit to get involved.

They don’t protest against the standing system until they have themselves suffered because of it or unless they have been offered a handsome reward.

Appreciation from friends and acquaintances, shout outs,  that often fills a man with zeal and breaks his lethargy, is not enough for these passives. It is because, they are not sleeping, their eyes are wide open and they are watching everything happening. Everything right and wrong. Despite that, they are simply too lazy or  free of care to do anything about any of it.

Fact of the matter is that it is so much easier to get a sleeping man out of his bed. A sleeping man wakes up just by listening his name called. He is ready to go, to run, to work, to stir revolutions. He just needs a call. But how do you get a waking man out of bed? They know it is time to get up, but unless the morning doesn’t serve them a purpose, they are fine lying down.

These men, passive ones, who see everything and hear everything and then say,

‘Well, why should I care?’

When their names are called, they ask themselves,

‘Who might be calling me? What might he want from me now? What is in there for me?’

Only when they get satisfactory answers to these self assuming questions, they might consider getting up, otherwise, they keep lying, comatose, seeing everything, hearing everything, doing nothing.

These daydreaming, awake, selfish sloths are sometimes the most useless members of the society.

 

  • Munshi Premchand, Sevasadan, 1932 (Translated by the Dolt)

 

(Featured Image : The Passive Man By Craig Freeborn)

A mother to her grandmother…

‘When you grow up, take me to see the films,” I said to my first son and he promised that he would. But adolescence comes burdened with inhibitions and secret complexes. it soon occurred to me that he didn’t wish to be seen out with his mother although I was young and more cheerful and disposition than all his friends. At 19, he started to work, being as proud  as I was, and not wishing to be dependent on his father who was always a struggler with his accounts at the first of every month. I sold my stories to the Kerala Journals for 25 rupees in order to remain independent financially. It is possible that I have written in all over 500 stories, writing them at night at the kitchen table while my family slept soundly.

Grandmother, I have tried my best to succeed. Just as you had to make the hundred rupee note go a long way every month, I have had to make my meagre talent go a long way. Two of my sons are young men with beard on their chins. One is plotting an institute to train politicians and other has stopped talking to me. You will wonder why? I asked him to study for his examination. What I felt 26 years ago when you chastized me for kissing my cousin,  he feels towards me now when I remind him of his duties as a student. Life comes a full circle, doesn’t it Grandmother?

Like I wished then that you were dead, it is perhaps his turn to wish a woman dead in order to be free. It is perhaps my turn to get a paralytic stroke and lie in the dark corner wishing for death and early release. Or perhaps, a heart attack that will settle my nerves forever and not for a mere driblets of time like the Valium 5 that I take to chaste my loneliness away. The only  fault the pill has is its capacity to strengthen the memory when you don’t want it to be strengthened. For instance, when I do not want to turn sentimental like the old, I suddenly remember how my son cried for a green shirt when he was a chubby 5-year-old and how good he looked in it when it was bought.

 

– A Letter to my grandmother, Kamala Das

Retelling the ‘thirsty crow’ story: What has changed?

 

Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

-Bob Dylan, Times they are a changin’

A couple of days back, I was telling Aesop’s ‘thirsty crow’ story to my kids. I told them about how a crow who was really thirsty, saw a pot of water and how it laboriously went about collecting and filling the pot with pebbles so that water could come up and and he would be able to quench his thirst.

One of my favorite characters in the class, Jeevan, who never speaks but is always very active, ran towards the cupboard and brought a Marathi book, which had retold the thirsty crow story with pictures.

In this story, the crow was looking for water, found a pot and pot had little water. Then there was a twist. The crow flew away, not to gather stones and pebbles but to a coconut seller. One kid was drinking coconut and after a while threw away the straw. The crow picked the straw up, came back to the pot, quenched its thirst and danced, twirling its wings.

Kids liked the second story a lot more. Over the years, the crow has become smarter. Instead of flying gazillion times, filling the pot one stone at a time, hoping for the water to rise someday so that it can quench its thirst, the crow has decided to invest its brains and save effort and time for the same result.

Interestingly, the moral of the story in that Marathi book  was still

‘where there is will, there is a way’.

Maybe the ‘ways’ have changed. We must learn the new ways to stay relevant.

#Doltology

Paper boats we will sail…

Rain Rain, Come Again

We will play another game

Rain Rain, do not fail,

paper boats, we will sail…

Yesterday, for the second straight week, I was trying to make my kids memorize this rhyme. Most of them are new to the school life. They are hardly six-seven years of age.

We made paper boats, hence wasting a lot of pages from their precious notebooks. To be honest, THEY made paper boats. I still don’t know how a straight piece of paper becomes a boat. Sheer brilliance! Don’t judge me. I never flew kites or floated boats as a kid. Okay! Judge me!

Even though its been raining left and right here for last lifetime or so, every time I head for school, Sun comes out.

I don’t know Marathi beyond ‘Sagre basa’ and they don’t know Hindi beyond ‘Dada’. Both parties are quite limited in the knowledge of English language.

They were quite bored of this ‘poem recitation’. I literally begged them, on my knees (it became a bit melodramatic but that’s fine I guess) to sing it one more time.

And they did. And it rained. They roared along with the clouds. My lifelong dream of sailing a paper boat in the dirty drain water became reality.

I still don’t know how they make boats out of a straight pieces of paper! Sheer brilliance!

#Doltology

After The Dhaka Attacks, This Is What Terrifies Me More Than The Violence

The Dhaka terror attack was one like many others. Arguably, humanity in the 21st-century alone has endured enough vicious and brutal assaults. The recent massacres in Paris and Brussels are still fresh in memory. Given the standing that Bangladesh commands globally, unfortunately, it is safe to presume that the world would soon forget and forgive the incident and move ahead with more ‘important matters’ like the US presidential elections. The fact that Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation, much like Pakistan, any pain withstood by its people would rather be seen as redemption for those who died in the West at the hands of terrorism. The fact that the debate has now shifted to whether it was ISIS or locals, indicates that by the time India and Pakistan celebrate their 70th Independence Day, the Dhaka attacks would be a bygone event in our memories.

What pains me more, though, is something I read on the internet recently. An article in The Independent informed me about how those who could recite verses from the Quran were let go while others were killed. It reminded me about various documented incidents from the time of Partition when the people were stripped and checked for circumcision by both Hindu and Muslim communities. Of course, one checked for the foreskin while other had the opposite criteria.

My question is, what if a person who follows Islam doesn’t remember verses from the Quran? I am a proud Hindu but I don’t remember a single quatrain from Ramcharitmanas or any verse from Bhagavad Gita. So, if such incident is ever orchestrated by a Hindu outfit, will I be butchered? Or will I be marked as an ‘anti-religion’ agnostic despite being a firm believer in a higher power? Even if I were an atheist, should I be killed?

Of course, there isn’t and can’t be a justification for any terrorist attack. But the fact that few religious or political leaders of importance have said anything against this is a matter of great worry and sorrow. I feel a similar kind of grief when our ever-vocal PM stays silent after an incident like Dadri. Millions of innocent Muslims are suffering judgement from around the world and it is high time that something was said and done in the right direction by the people who matter.

The arguments might be that Muslims are a lot more stringent with their religious practices and ideally every ‘good’ Muslim is required to memorise his/her holy scripture, word by word. But, that is, in an ideal world. In an ideal world, though, terrorism should not exist, Donald Trump should still be contesting Wrestlemania matches (and not US Presidential elections), religious bigotry should be non-existent and well, Salman Khan should not be the superstar that he is.

Let me remind you that this is not 1947 anymore. In 2016, if some 20-year-old educated gentlemen are beheading and shooting people because they are not in agreement with their religious sentiments, then ISIS is the only reality that looms in future.

Recently, in his interview with George R.R. Martin, Stephen King said about the Orlando mass killing and I quote,

“As long as anybody who’s got only two wheels on the road can walk into a store and buy a fucking killing machine like an AR-15 or something, this is just going to go on. It’s really up to us.”

The words of King hold true for the Dhaka attacks as well. It is really up to us. Are we going to stay silent and pass on this lunacy to the generations to come? Apocalypse, in that case, will happen in the name of God, and the day might not be far enough.

(Youth Ki Awaz, July 5 2016)

When Pablo Neruda wrote me a poem!

June, 1968, I was living in Buenos Aires with Patrick, an Anglo-Argentine businessman whose passion was poetry. In the daylight hours, he was a senior executive at a foodstuffs conglomerate known especially for its English-style mustard. At night, and on weekends, he wrote sonnets and villanelles, many of which were published in literary journals in England. I thought that Patrick should experiment with free verse, and told him so, but he did not depart from meter and rhyme.

Even though I had won a minor U.S. poetry contest, my own efforts were mostly being rejected, but Patrick admired the energy of my poems. I was inspired by walking urban streets and by the lives of poets who had committed suicide. Patrick and I didn’t copy each other’s styles. We delighted in each other, but I can’t say it was love—at least, not from my side.

I can’t remember whether it was Patrick or I who first got the idea that we should have Pablo Neruda write an introduction to a joint collection of our poems. We were fearless and convinced that our poems merited the great poet’s benediction. My plan was to show up at Neruda’s doorstep, in Chile, and wing it. Patrick drove me to the airport and I flew to Santiago, a short hop of slightly more than two hours. From Santiago, I took a sixty-mile bus trip west to Isla Negra, where Neruda lived in a house by the Pacific Ocean. I was greeted at the door by Matilde, his wife. In my limited Spanish, I introduced myself as an American poet who had long admired Neruda. Would it be possible to meet him? Matilde informed me that he was not home; he had gone to a nearby quarry—his morning routine—to watch the workers excavate stone. She invited me to come back at one o’clock for lunch.

Nervous and excited, I spent the intervening hour walking aimlessly on Isla Negra’s rural roads. Though it was not actually an island, Neruda himself had christened the area “Isla” for its isolation and “Negra” for the dark outcrop of rocks just offshore. When I returned, promptly at one, Neruda (a burly man with an expression of inquiry on his face), Matilde, and a young woman were sitting at a round dining table. A place had been set for me. Neruda introduced me to the young woman, Teresa Castro, his literary secretary. A maid served us a four-course meal; I recall the main dish, a delicious fresh-caught salmon. After every course, Neruda ate several sardines as a condiment. This was his custom, his palate cleanser. The sardines rested, shiny and fresh, on a small plate, waiting to be demolished.

Third wives, in my experience, can be insecure. Although Neruda and Teresa spoke English, Matilde, his third wife, did not. To include her in the lunch conversation, and to put her mind at ease that I wasn’t there to steal her husband, I spoke Portuguese (I had lived in Brazil for the previous year) while Neruda, Matilde, and Teresa spoke Spanish. We understood each other, more or less.

We talked about my government’s refusal to let Neruda enter the U.S. As a member of the Chilean Communist Party, he could not get a visa. He was incensed. He had many admirers in the United States and invitations from prestigious institutions to give readings. He remembered fondly the one time he had been allowed to visit, when the playwright Arthur Miller prevailed upon the Johnson Administration to let him attend a congress sponsored by penInternational, in New York City, in 1966. Neruda and I talked about his career in Chile’s diplomatic service—postings in Burma, Mexico, Spain—and the abundance of objects and trinkets that filled his house. He said he couldn’t live without being surrounded by his “toys,” big and small. Finally, I broached the reason for my visit. Would he read a few of the poems that I had brought with me? To my delight, he said that after lunch he would take his customary nap and after that he would read our poems. If he liked them, he would write something for our book.

While Neruda napped, Teresa gave me a tour of the house, which, viewed from the outside, looked like a houseboat with random additions. Inside, it was crammed with collections of all sorts. Neruda’s obsession with the sea was on display everywhere. Hundreds of seashells lined the bookshelves and covered every tabletop. There were nautical instruments, ships in bottles, paintings of ships, teeth from sperm whales. Teresa told me the names of some of the figureheads—Jenny Lind, La Novia, Medusa—women carved in wood, in contact with the sea but oblivious to its dangers.

Teresa and I were close in age; we bonded easily. At around four o’clock, Neruda summoned Teresa to give her a poem he had written for Patrick and me. He had liked our poems! I read his typewritten poem with trembling hands. It would work perfectly for our book.

I conveyed my thanks, through Teresa, and she walked me to the bus stop for my return to Santiago. On the highway, a young man, also waiting for the bus, was listening to a news report on a transistor radio. I caught the words “Robert Kennedy” and “disparo!” Bobby Kennedy had been shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, in Los Angeles. He had undergone extensive neurosurgery, but he was not improving. I felt desperately far from home and wished that I could be with Americans.

When I arrived at my hotel in Santiago, that evening, Kennedy was still fighting for his life. Feeling vulnerable, I made a last-minute decision. Rather than fly back over the Andes, I would take a colectivo (jitney) through a pass in the mountain range to the Argentine city of Mendoza and fly the last leg of the trip, from Mendoza to Buenos Aires.

The following morning, I shared the back seat of the colectivo with a middle-aged man. A middle-aged woman sat in front with the driver. During the entire trip of nearly five hours, she talked loudly to the driver about how she was going to show up in Mendoza unannounced, surprise her good-for-nothing husband, and catch him with his new girlfriend. Her fury was boundless. She didn’t stop her tirade even when the driver had to negotiate patches of snow at the summit of the pass.

As soon as the colectivo arrived in downtown Mendoza, the woman screamed at the driver to stop. Then she leapt out, ran up to a couple holding hands as they walked along the street, pulled a knife out of her purse, and plunged it into the man’s back. For a few seconds, the three of us in the colectivo were frozen in our seats. The two women screamed at each other while the man lay bleeding on the sidewalk. Then the driver, my fellow-passenger, and I jumped out of the vehicle. Pedestrians stared in disbelief. The wife shouted, “This is my husband, the adulterer! I hope he dies! Taking up with this tart, he deserves it!” The other woman yelled back what I took to be obscenities.

It didn’t take long for the police and an ambulance to arrive. The jealous wife was escorted away, and her husband, still alive, was put on a stretcher and driven off in the ambulance with its siren blaring. Two policemen stayed behind to question the onlookers.

Walking away from the crime scene, I passed a kiosk and saw the newspaper headline. Bobby Kennedy had died overnight, twenty-six hours after he was shot. I bought a paper and read the full story. My flight to Buenos Aires wasn’t until early evening. Saddened, my nerves frayed, I decided to pass the time by going to the movies. “Bonnie and Clyde” was the only movie playing that had an English soundtrack. I wasn’t in the mood for more violence, but I went to the film anyway.  Afterward, I found a taxi to take me to the Mendoza airport.

As I stood in line to purchase my ticket to Buenos Aires on Aerolíneas Argentinas, I heard American English spoken behind me. I turned to see two young men in dark business suits. Hoping to tell them what I had witnessed that afternoon and to talk about the tragic news of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, I suggested we go to the airport lounge for a drink. At the bar, I ordered a double Scotch. Both men ordered orange juice. “I would feel safer if we were flying on an American airline,” I said. “Don’t you want something stronger?”

“No,” they said, in unison. One of the young men explained that they were Mormons and didn’t drink alcohol. I had never met a Mormon before and knew nothing about their prohibitions or their worldwide missionary activities. I was still outside my culture.

Patrick and I never finished our book. I left Buenos Aires some months later and didn’t return for twenty-two years until, in 1990, my husband and I had tea at our hotel with Patrick and his wife. Both Patrick and I thought that the poem Pablo Neruda wrote for us was lost. He couldn’t find his copy, and I couldn’t find mine.

Patrick died in 2003. In 2014, packing for a move, I found Neruda’s poem filed among my grade-school report cards. At almost the same time, the poem was discovered in Santiago, by the Neruda Foundation’s archivists.

Roa Lynn and Patrick Morgan
were moored in these waters,
bewildered on this river,
hostile, florid, morose,
they go off to sea or to hell,
with an intensifying love
that bathes them in light
or plucks them from the algae:
but the waters rush on
through darkness, full of voices,
a rhapsody of kisses and ashes,
streets bloodied by soldiers,
unacceptable reunions
of grief and blubbering:
so much carried by these waters!
our pace and place,
the ferment of the favelas
and ghoulish masks.
Just look what the water’s carrying
up this four-armed river!

“19” [“Roa Lynn and Patrick Morgan”], by Pablo Neruda, from “Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems. Copyright © 2016 by Fundacíon Pablo Neruda. Translation copyright © 2016 by Forrest Gander. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

(Originally Published at the NewYorker)

The moment I stopped watching cricket

I was handed a plastic bat as my first ever birthday gift that I remember. Of course I didn’t go on to become a cricketer but the passion, specially for the entire cricket generation of 90s and early 2000s was immense as a child. From Saeed Anwar to Sachin Tendulkar and from Andy Flower to Steve Tikolo, I still remember some of the most trivial details and records of that era. Like any other Indian kid from 90s, I worshipped the trio of Sachin, Ganguly and Dravid. I could emulate the bowling actions of everyone from Kumble to Klusener. When I batted like Sachin, I would adjust my thigh pads while as Dravid I would make sure that I was sweating profusely.

The saddest day for me was when India lost the finals of 2003 WC. I felt sad because, day after day, month after month and year after year, the stalwarts of Indian cricket were getting old and their chances of winning THE trophy were slimming out. In 2007, the sorrow deepened. By the time 2011 appeared, I had somewhat lost my passion for cricket. I was still a fan, who rooted for my team but the crazy, shouting, pillow tearing kid had died somewhere. Other than Sachin, all my idols had more or less seen the sunset in their careers.

I remember I was in Btech first year and on the day of finals, April 2nd 2011, we had our physics practical exams of End Semesters. We, of course, bunked it and due to our no show, the management had to postpone the paper to next day. For the first time, I had painted my face in tricolors and sat on our mess floor, along with 1500 other freshers.

At night, after Dhoni had hit the final six and Tendulkar held the WC in his hands, the chairs were thrown on the tables and some collateral damage was done. Guys broke the water pipeline and bathed in their handmade rain. Somehow, I had gone numb though. I quietly went in my room, closed the door and cried. My hands trembled as I switched off the light, put my cell on flight mode and closed my eyes. Every whisker on my hand was standing at 90 degrees as I kept lying on my bed lifeless. It was a surreal moment, a moment I had waited all my childhood, for four world cups, nearly 16 years. It was in that moment, I knew I didn’t need to watch cricket anymore for I had witnessed the best moment a fan could ever have. A feeling that was beyond words. The noise outside, of boys shouting, cussing, bathing in the pipe water, banging the reception tables and jumping off the stairs continued in my ears as I slowly went to sleep. I woke up next morning and checked the internet once. Sachin stood by the Gateway of India, in a suit, holding the glorious trophy.

No, it was not a dream.

Joey Tribbiani was a genius! And no this is not your sarcastic post!

Joey Tribbiani was a genius! There! I said it! I would just quote him once and prove it!

The wisest thing Joey ever said was this,

Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t make it wrong.

Most of us have this tendency to dismiss an idea just because we have never heard about it or because it is beyond our comprehension. We hate change, specially in social circuits.

Take LGBT for example. For a century now, or even more, gay people have been facing various difficulties in our society around the world. Why? Because, it is seen against the nature. It is considered anti-biology. With passage of time, we now know that LGBT is not wrong. It is just a different way of things to happen.

Salman Rushdie wrote ‘Satanic Verses’ and it is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of fiction in history. Yet, it stays banned in Rushdie’s homeland, India and many parts of the world. Why? I don’t think even 0.1% of us Indians have read it or even know what it is about. We, just don’t want to pollute our minds with any new ideas that might prove our existing system wrong.

Everything, from toothpaste to computers, were opposed in the beginning. Galileo lost his life, trying to prove that he was not wrong. Raja Ravi Verma brought Gods out of temples through his paintings, making them accessible to all classes alike(please do read about it, great story!) but was ruined by the system and governments while he was alive.

I guess you get the gist. This one line by our lovable grown-up kid, is a straight up summary of the struggle that rationality has faced against the sinking pillars of the society.

The legend of ‘Kitaas’!

My maternal house was this giant campus in the middle of the town, where all the cousins, a dozen of us, have had our best memories from childhood.

It used to be my favorite summer destination despite being in the same town. It was basically a two-story bungalow with mango, litchi, neem, jamun(black plum) and various other trees in the vicinity of the campus. We also had many kinds of flowers and vegetables inside the well guarded, well-walled campus and also two cows and a giant shed for them.

The thing was, ever since we came to our senses, we were trained to be scared of one mighty beast called Kitaas. Every elder in my family who claimed to have seen it would describe it differently.

‘It has the tail like a langoor.’

‘It has giant claws with long nails like a witch’

‘It has eyes like a cat, glittering in the dark that can make anyone faint.’ and so on.

Every time mangoes went missing from the house or a dog was found dead,

‘It must be the kitaas’

It was so feared that no one(of the kids) dared to step out of the door after it went dark.

If someone was naughty or disobedient, they would be warned,

‘If you don’t obey, I will call the Kitaas and make it bite you.’

Every time our faith in the myth of Kitaas dwindled, a cat would die or a child would cry at night and we would quickly restore it back. There would be new stories with every new kid in the family.

‘Do you know, the kitaas has come back? This time with its wife and kids.’

Everyone treated Kitaas as if it was some sort of a Kraken.

Why would our parents and grandparents lie to us, we thought. For a large part of my childhood, I didn’t see a Kitaas. Then we grew up and dispersed in our own separate lives.

Nearly five years back, I saw a small, jackal-like thing (might be moderately harmful if attacked) eating mango peacefully near the back gate of that old house. I asked my Nani what it was and she told.

‘Tch. The Kitaas is back, eating our mangoes’

I felt sorry for the poor creature. I also felt relieved of finally seeing ‘Kitaas’ myself.

It was a cute funny lie that an entire generation told to an entire generation, just to keep them from going out at night. Of course, there were snakes and scorpions so in a way, the Kitas saved us.

It looked somewhat like a racoon. Might have been a racoon. But then, what do I know? I am a dolt.

Bonfires

‘Tell me Mr. Miyake, when you see the shapes that a bonfire makes, do you ever feel kind of strange?’

‘How so?’

‘I don’t know, it is like all of a sudden you get very clear about something we don’t notice in our lives everyday. I don’t know how to put it, I am not smart enough. But watching the fire now, I get a deep, quiet kind of feeling.”

Miyake thought about it a while. ‘You know, Jun,’ he said, ‘a fire can be any shape it wants to be. It is free. So it can look like anything at all depending on what is inside the person looking at it. If you get this deep, quiet kind of feeling when you look at a fire, that is because it is showing deep quiet kind of feeling you have inside yourself. You know what I mean?’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘But it doesn’t happen with just any fire. For something like this to happen, the fire itself has to be free. It won’t happen with a gas stove or a cigarrette lighter. It won’t even happen with an ordinary bonfire. For the fire to be free, you have got to make it in the right kind of place. Which isn’t easy. Not just anybody can do it.’

— Haruki Murakami (Landscape with Flatiron, 2000)

Is Being The CEO Of Apple The Only ‘Acceptable’ Way To Be Gay In India?

A few days back, in good humour, I called a (presumably straight) friend ‘gay’. He didn’t laugh and I nearly lost my tooth. We have not been on talking terms since. Interestingly enough, the same day, Tim Cook landed in India. The Apple CEO, and I am not making this up, is the only openly gay CEOamongst Fortune 500 companies.

But, psst, gay people are monsters, right?

They are so wrong and against the human anatomy and a threat to our great Indian culture and against every such blah thing in the dictionary that describes India. When SC upheld Section 377 in 2013, Christian communities, Muslim boards and various Hindu parishads showcased a great deal of our ‘unity in diversity‘ in their celebrations. Quoting one of the leaders, “This is a right decision, we welcome it. Homosexuality is against Indian culture, against nature and against science. We are regressing, going back to when we were almost like animals. The SC had protected our culture.”

I was nervous ever since Cook announced his visit. Would he meet black flags with ‘Cook go back!’ and ‘Cook you are sick!’ signs at Mumbai Airport? Would his John Laurinaitis (Google alert) like face be pelted with stones and coloured in cow dung (maybe ink)? Would the Mumbai Police be waiting with their giant bellies and long lathis to arrest or deport him from the airport itself?

It was like the journey of a Stark in Westeros. I sniffed blood at some point. Something would go wrong. He mustn’t return to Winterfell (or wherever he came from) alive, right?

Someone would be ticked. One reaction at least. Communal violence (lynching maybe), a hate speech, media channel debates. Something!

But other than a trifling Twitter ho-hum, nothing happened.

Read my complete article here.

(Published at Youth Ki Awaaz, 26th May 2016)

Why do I write? Self appreciation note of a dolt!

People often ask me, why do I write? They ask me how I get time to write despite my job and need to eat and defecate.Of course, I don’t have a reason for that. A writer should never have a reason to write just like a lover should never have a reason to love.

I am a boring person. Not that I was ever a crowd charmer, but now I have even stopped trying. If you try too hard doing something you are not meant for, you look like a loser.I like my corner couch in the office corridor with a cup of cappuccino more relaxing than wooing in a pub. When I am not writing I am enjoying the life as it is, looking at the birds, watching porn, getting lost in the city once in a while and taking a random stroll to a random stranger for a random talk.

I don’t know whether I write well or not. But I was definitely passionate despite being mediocre and mostly a reader of short stories and simple words instead of heavyweights like Shakespeare and Dickens. I never went for a literature degree. Never attended writing workshops. My vocabulary is worse than most secondary school kids out there.

I generally get rejected by magazines and other places where writers get popular. They say that they read my work, liked it, but they don’t have a space for me this time. ‘Keep sending, keep writing’ is what they generally end with. I have taken this as my slogan of life. Maybe, at fifty or ninety I would be good enough to be read by the world.

Some people who are kind and endearing, some known, some unknown, say that my work reminds them of Tagore and Bachchan, O. Henry and RK Narayan. I am not disillusioned by such comparisons. I remember how people would call me Wasim Akram when I was in the second standard because I was the only left arm bowler in the locality. I was also compared to Rahul Dravid once when I didn’t get out and didn’t make any run for nearly two hours.

But yes I have improved, mostly due to practice and because I love writing as much as I love the girl I love. Irrespective of how mediocre and imperfect I might be, I don’t write to become famous or to get rich (nor am I famous or rich).

I just write because that is what I do even when I am stuck in a traffic jam at the end of a shitty day. At times, when I see people getting popular, being read, receiving comments and people who are more resourceful than me in terms of talent and else, it makes me envious for two seconds. But it is only until I have not held my pen. To write and dismiss and to write again until I am immersed back into my world, where I am immortal and omnipotent. Where I am a god. God of small things and big alike!

I want to keep scribbling until the day I sit on my commode for the last time like the king of seven kingdoms. And the day I can’t even do that, I would better be dead.

Things Indians like to talk about

What do Indians talk about most? God, money, politics and sex emerge as the top four favourites in the one man public opinion poll I conducted last week. Of course, not in the order I have listed them. And with  seasonal variations. When a catastrophe strikes or things start going wrong, God tops. When all is tranquill, money manages to push God down to second place. Politics is a national obsession and gets better of both God and Money during elections. Likewise, sex, though it seldom gets the top ranking, manages to insinuate itself in most conversations whether it be about god and religion, money and status or politics and partibazi. Since most Indians have sex in their mind than in their groins, it finds more expression of speech than in action.

Another revelation that emerged from my field study in that whatever be the favourite topic of conversation, most Indians relate it to themselves. When talking about God or religion, they emphasize their own religiousity ot denigrate others as sanctmonious humbugs; when they talk about money it will be of their prowess in making it or the unscrupulous methods adopted by those who have more; when it is politics the undercurrent is always that politics is dirty business because it doesn’t attract cleaner people like themselves And when it is about sex, although it is others we strip naked, what runs through our tittle-tattle about it is the refrain that given the opportunity we could do better.

The ‘I’ is always triumphant.

  • From ‘Favourite Topics’ (15/06/1982), Khushwant Singh

What is your favorite song that always make you feel painful but you love it?

 

 

My answer to What is your favorite song that always make you feel painful but you love it?

Answer by Anurag Chaudhary:

‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ by Bob Dylan. I have been a Dylan fan ever since I started appreciating western music. Tambourine man got introduced to me rather late in that sense.

I started connecting with the song last year when I was going through an extremely rough patch in life. Everyone and everything seemed to work against me. I have realised over my tenure in the office of life that music stays with you till your deathbed. Even books don’t have this power.

Coming back to this song, Mr. Tambourine Man, despite being the founding song for the entire rock-folk genre, connects with the listener for its absolutely surreal lyrics that hits you at different places on your soul methodically.

The lyrics call on the title character to play a song and the narrator will follow.

It goes something like this, and it is a long one so I am just putting the first paragraph

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.
Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to

If you haven’t heard the song, please try it. It has been popularized by so many artists including Byrds and Judy Collins but I like the original Bob Dylan version a lot more.

Cheers! 🙂

What is your favorite song that always make you feel painful but you love it?

Sherman Alexie’s Top 10 Tips for Writers

Sherman Alexie is the author of 24 books including Reservation Blues which received an American Book Award in 1996. His first young adult fiction novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has sold over one million copies.

In the September 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine Alexie shared the following advice for writers.

1. Don’t Google search yourself.

2. When you’ve finished Google searching yourself, don’t do it again.

3. Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.

4. Don’t have any writing ceremonies. They’re just a way to stop you from writing.

5. Turn your readings into events. Perform and write with equal passion.

6. Read 1,000 pages for every one you try to write.

7. In fiction, research is overrated. But that means readers will write you correcting all of your minor biographical, geographical and historical errors. If you like, make those corrections in the paperback, but don’t sweat it too much.

8. Don’t lose the sense of awe you feel whenever you meet one of your favorite writers. However, don’t confuse any writer’s talent with his or her worth as a human being. Those two qualities are not necessarily related.

9.  Subscribe to as many literary journals as you can afford.

10. When you read a piece of writing that you admire, send a note of thanks to the author. Be effusive with your praise. Writing is a lonely business. Do your best to make it a little less lonely.

 

(Originally posted on Aerogramme Studio)

“They are trying to kill me.” Yosarian told him calmly.

“No one is trying to kill you,” Clevinger cried.

“Then why are they shooting at me?” Yosarian asked.

“They are shooting at everyone.” Clevinger answered.”They are trying to kill everyone.”

“And what difference does that make?”

Clevinger was already on the way, half out of his chair with emotion, his eyes moist and his lips quivering and pale. As always occurred when quarreled over principles in which he believed passionately, he would end up gasping furiously for air and blinking back bitter tears of conviction. There were many principles in which Clevinger believed passionately. He was crazy.

“Who’s they?” He wanted to know. “Who, specifically, do you think is trying to murder you?”
“Every one of them,” Yossarian told him.
“Every one of whom?”
“Every one of whom do you think?”
“I haven’t any idea.”
“Then how do you know they aren’t?”
“Because…” Clevinger sputtered, and turned speechless with frustration.
Clevinger really thought he was right, but Yossarian had proof, because strangers he didn’t know shot at him with cannons every time he flew up into the air to drop bombs on them, and it wasn’t funny at all.

  • Catch 22 (Joseph Heller)

While Reading -17

“What is this all about,’ asked Sai, but her mouth couldn’t address her ear in the tumult; her mind couldn’t talk to her heart. ‘Shame on myself,’ she said…Who was she…she with her self-importance, her demand for happiness, yelling it at fate, at the deaf heavens, screaming for her joy to be brought forth..?

How dare…How dare you not…

Why shouldn’t I have…How dare…I deserve…Her small greedy soul…Her tantrums and fits…Her mean tears…Her crying, enough for all the sadness in the world, was only for herself. Life wasn’t single in its purpose…or even its direction…The simplicity of what she’d been taught wouldn’t hold. Never again could she think there was but one narrative and that this narrative belonged only to herself, that she might create her own tiny happiness and live safely within it.”

– Kiran Desai,  The inheritance of loss ( 2006 Man Booker Award)

The Story of two birds…

Long long time ago, I once read a small story as a kid.

There used to be two birds. Even though they were born out of the same mother’s eggs, one went on to become red in colour while other was yellow.

The red bird would always eat red things while the yellow bird ate only yellow stuff. One day, the red bird saw an amusing thing, falling on the road, extremely red and beautiful with a little green tail. He quickly took it in his beak and started munching. It was nothing but a red pepper. Poor fellow started running for help, not knowing what had gone wrong in his system. The yellow bird saw him. On listening to his problem, the yellow bird (who must had been really wise) took him to his place and fed him a laddoo, a yellow coloured sweet.

The red bird looked at him and asked with amusement,

‘How can something that looks yellow can taste so good?’

And the moral of the story, if I remember correctly, was,

“Not everything that looks right, and that we want to believe is right, is always right.”

Well, not exactly. It is not important. Important is the fact that the story of two birds is being repeated.

We have started believing in what we are seeing. It is hard to say whether what is being shown is right or wrong, true or fake, but whatever is being shown is being bought by us.

What happened at JNU, is hard to comment at. I don’t have a TV and I use internet for watching more porn than news. Why? Because porn is more realistic than news these days.

Anyway.

We are so accustomed to this processed news over the years, that we have lost our abilities to think or comprehend. Everyone is having an opinion, but none is cooked on its own.

It is like food. We are so accustomed of processed, junk food that we have forgotten how to cook our own bread (subway reference! *teeh!*). Junk News, much like junk food, is readily available and tastes good. Who cares for health? Mental health, physical health, National health.

When Ravish Kumar came up with this imagery, even unintentionally, he said the truth. It reminded me of Don Draper’s letter about smoking in ‘madmen’. A glorious propaganda to sell the reverse psychology. NDTV tried to turn babyface from heel that one night (huge wrestling fan here) and it worked too.

And as he said, we have all become sick. We suffer from the obesity of our brains. It is sad. I mean, why are we all so angry? Those charged for sedition to those charging them and everyone else. We are all so angry and hot in our head. And most of us are just shouting. Are we this easy? Do we get educated for this reason? To be easily tricked into whatever anyone wants.

If we don’t agree, can’t we stay quiet and not speak or react? Why is it that hard?

Why is everyone feeling oppressed and in process becoming bully?

Our forefathers gave us freedom. Are we going to give our children, mental retardness?

Look who is talking anyway? What do I know? I am a dolt!

#Doltology

#Bonne Année!

Hi folks!

A very happy new year!

In 2015 I made quite a few french friends, hence a little french is oozing out of my system.

Also, the Paris Attacks!

Yeah, but never mind!

 

My last post was nearly a month and half back and since then I have been in the Walter Mitty mode. Zoned Out and bored of life.

Nothing new happened in last 4 days either, with all due respect to the new year.

The calendars are also not out yet, but when they are, they are going to be the only new things this year. And the journals, and the movies.

But what about us? Me and you? Are we going to be someone else? Someone better?

There is a famous line from great Urdu Poet Ghalib, that translates to,

“This year just passed in counting days!”

Don’t give me that eye! I don’t know! How can I? I am still a dolt!

One about the dying laptop and a dying heart…

The dolt is back. It has been a busy two weeks for me. A little bad health and too much run of the mill stuff here and there. Besides, my bff, the only person I trust in this world, my laptop, is dying a slow death.

The adapter has stopped adapting, keyboard doesn’t ring well these days, touchpad has gone a bit too touchy and worst of them, my lappy has developed a temper of its own. It heats up and shuts down on its own, like a girlfriend. Thanks to it, I don’t miss having a girlfriend.

Hard times folks! Hard times! Maybe, I will have to let it go. Maybe it is time for me to move on. It is not easy you know. 5 years. I might cry when we part. I know it would die and I can’t do a thing about it.

Besides, the dolt was a bit scandalized by the current world affairs.

In a matter of two weeks, so much happened, good, bad and ugly that it became hard for me to comprehend things.

I have never seen the world outside India with my own two eyes. Once went to Nepal because we don’t need a visa for Kathmandu and we can totally reach Nepal by a bus. So, that is that.

But, in my same two eyes, the biggest dream, if there was one, was to visit Paris, to know the city in all its beauty. It is hard to put in words, what Paris meant to me. And then this happened,

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Of all places, ISIS decided to burn Paris, the city of lights, the city of love.

You know, right before the attacks happened, I was about to write a post about Aung Suu Kyi’s victory in Myanmar. How democracy had won, how humanity had triumphed. And while I was in the middle of the draft, I saw this news on TV. It broke my heart. It has been the worst heartbreak since Lesnar ended Taker’s streak at Wrestlemania. (Yes, I am comparing a scripted match with a brutal attack against humanity. Don’t judge me for that.)

Yet again, the beast of apathy had outperformed the one that should have won. Yet again, humanity was lying down on its chest in front of those who never should have existed in first place.

But something even worse happened that day. Something that had happened even after 9/11. Actions of a certain group that uses the name of a religion to cause terror, had made the entire religion a terrorist. At least, that is how it was perceived. Suddenly, entire human race started hating Muslims, all over again.

Every time one human hates another human, humanity dies. Every time one human kills another human, humanity dies. And, every time humanity dies, my heart dies a bit. A part of it disappears, diluting into the blood that run in my veins. Maybe, every true human being, who is made of empathy feels the same.

I am watching humanity die and I can’t do a fucking thing about it. Just like my laptop. As Anonymous said once, “Helplessness is the worst feeling in the world.”

I am not too old. But I have seen so much apathy and hatred in my young life that my eyes feel tired. My heart feels a little less. Maybe I am the only one who feels that way. But don’t get offended. My feelings and my opinions do not matter. What do I know anyway, I am a dolt.

#Doltology

While Reading -16

“You sold a story last week,” said Pettit, “about a gun fight in an Arizona mining town in which the hero drew his Colt’s .45 and shot seven bandits as fast as they came in the door. Now, if a six-shooter could—”

“Oh, well,” said I, “that’s different. Arizona is a long way from New York. I could have a man stabbed with a lariat or chased by a pair of chaparreras if I wanted to, and it wouldn’t be noticed until the usual error-sharp from around McAdams Junction isolates the erratum and writes in to the papers about it.”

  • O. Henry (the Plutonion fire)

Why I Write: 23 Fascinating Quotes from Famous Authors

I.

“I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.” – Sylvia Plath

II.

“Writing is my way of expressing – and thereby eliminating – all the various ways we can be wrong-headed.” – Zadie Smith

III

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” – George Orwell

IV

“I don’t know why I started writing. I don’t know why anybody does it. Maybe they’re bored, or failures at something else.” – Cormac McCarthy

V

“Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.” – Nicole Krauss

VI.
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor

VII.

“I started writing novels while an undergraduate student, in an attempt to make sense of the city of Edinburgh, using a detective as my protagonist. Each book hopefully adds another piece to the jigsaw that is modern Scotland, asking questions about the nation’s politics, economy, psyche and history … and perhaps pointing towards its possible future.” – Ian Rankin

VIII.

“Why am I compelled to write? . . . Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger . . . To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit . . . Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.” – Gloria E. Anzaldúa

IX.

“I don’t remember deciding to become a writer.  You decide to become a dentist or a postman.  For me, writing is like being gay.  You finally admit that this is who you are, you come out and hope that no one runs away.” – Mark Haddon

X.

“Because I can’t seem to escape it. It’s a way for me to address and counter my questions about what it means to be human, or, in my case a Dominican human who grew up in New Jersey.” – Junot Diaz

 XI.
“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.” – Harper Lee

XII.

“So why do I write, torturing myself to put it down? Because in spite of myself I’ve learned some things. Without the possibility of action, all knowledge comes to one labeled ‘file and forget,’ and I can neither file nor forget. Nor will certain ideas forget me; they keep filing away at my lethargy, my complacency. Why should I be the one to dream this nightmare?” – Ralph Ellison

XIII.

“Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.” – Anaïs Nin

XIV.

“That’s why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. You can’t control life, at least you can control your version.” – Chuck Palahniuk

XV.

“In the big picture I write for an audience of people I’ve never met. By the final draft I’m looking for anything in the prose that’s prospectively boring to strangers.” – Lionel Shriver

XVI.

“I write because I love writing. I think I became a writer in order to explore my ideas and responses to the world around me, which I often found it difficult to share with others. Also I liked my autonomy, and a writer can choose his or her own working hours – midnight to dawn or whenever. The difficulty of becoming a writer never bothered me. I knew it was going to work for me sooner or later. And if you’re a writer you don’t have to retire but can keep on doing the thing you love till you drop off the chair.” – Alex Miller

XVII.

“Writing eases my suffering . . . writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.” – Gao Xingjian

XVIII.

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” – Gloria Steinem

XIX.

“I write with a sort of grim determination to deal with things that are hidden and difficult, and this means, I think, that pleasure is out of the question. I would associate this with narcissism anyway, and I would disapprove of it.” – Colm Tóibín

XX.

“I believe there is hope for us all, even amid the suffering – and maybe even inside the suffering. And that’s why I write fiction, probably. It’s my attempt to keep that fragile strand of radical hope, to build a fire in the darkness.”
– John Green

XXI.

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” – Roald Dahl

XXII.

“That is why I write – to try to turn sadness into longing, solitude into remembrance.” – Paulo Coelho

XXIII.

“I just knew there were stories I wanted to tell.” – Octavia E. Butler

(Originally on Aerogramme Studio)

Booker after 78 rejections on Debut- Story of Marlon James!

This is the best thing I have read this morning and this is the best thing I will read this whole month. As a wannabe writer, few things are more inspirational.

A TV show in India has a tagline, “Kuchh Bhi Ho sakta hai!” which means “Anything can happen!”

Now if this can happen, hell yeah, anything can happen!

The Guardian reported,

Marlon James, the Jamaican winner of this year’s Man Booker prize for fiction, has revealed that he briefly abandoned writing after his first novel was rejected nearly 80 times.

The author told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he had not slept since A Brief History of Seven Killings was announced as the winner of the £50,000 prize at a black-tie dinner at Guildhall in London on Tuesday night.

Despite the success of his latest novel, which the Man booker judges described as “an extraordinary book” after a unanimous decision, James said he thought the publishing industry had not changed that much since his first book was repeatedly turned down.

“There was a time I actually thought I was writing the kind of stories people didn’t want to read,” he told Today. Asked if he had considered giving up writing, the 44-year-old writer said: “I did give it up. I actually destroyed the manuscript, I even went on my friends computers and erased it.” He said he retrieved the text by searching in the email outbox of an old iMac computer.

James is the first Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker prize, taking the award for an uncompromising fictional history of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976.

The chair of the judges, Michael Wood, admitted that his mother would “not have got beyond the first few pages because of the swearing” in the book.

Asked about the “bad” language in the book, James said: “Bad is relative. I’m writing about a lot of violent, not good people and I think the story called for it.”

He described his approach to the book as “educated guess” work about Jamaica’s history. He said: “A lot of it is based on true events, but quite a bit is made up and that’s part of the reason for the book itself, because there is no history.”

James was asked how he could write about the island while based in Minneapolis. He said: “I had to have the distance of a journalist. My editor is a non-fiction editor, funnily enough, and I wanted a non-fiction editor because I knew to a huge extent I was being a reporter for events that I don’t really know about. I think it called for that kind of impartiality and distance.”

He dedicated his win to his late father with whom, he recalled, he used to have Shakespeare duels as a boy. “Who can have the longest soliloquy … just imagine a father and son in a Jamaican rum bar.”

The bookmakers’ favourite this year had been the US writer Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life. The other books on the shortlist were Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island; Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways; Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen; and Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread.

Wood’s fellow judges this year were author Frances Osborne, wife of the chancellor, George; poet and novelist John Burnside; journalist Sam Leith; and critic and broadcaster Ellah Wakatama Allfrey.

Writing Tips from Booker-Prize Winning Authors

Eleanor Catton, winner in 2013 for The Luminaries
“Read everything. You can learn from everything that has a narrative—books, of course, but also films, TV shows, computer games, advertisements, conversations, speeches, articles, the news. Read things you don’t like, and try to figure out why you don’t like them. Ask ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ as much as possible, and don’t be content with an easy answer.”

Hilary Mantel, winner in 2012 for Bring Up the Bodies and in 2009 for Wolf Hall.
“Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their world. People don’t notice their everyday surroundings and daily routine, so when writers describe them it can sound as if they’re trying too hard to instruct the reader.”

Howard Jacobson, winner in 2010 for The Finkler Question
“The thing a writer will always tell you is you must write about what you know and that’s advice that must be heeded; you start from what you know. But the truth is we all know more than we think we know. What we know is not just the basic facts of our life. Because sometimes we have secret longings and yearnings, we want our life to be different, we wish the world were a different place. And part of what you’re doing when we are writing is you are describing our own experience of the world but you are also making the world different. It’s a wonderful thing to write because you are like a kind of God.  You are creating this world; your world and yet not quite your world. Writing is always reality up one, up a notch.”

Anne Enright, winner in 2007 for The Gathering
Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.”

Kiran Desai, winner in 2006 for The Inheritance of Loss
“After a point you can’t go on perfecting something and polishing it and making it better, because you lose something in the process, the freshness of it, and I realised that even if it wasn’t completely perfect I had to leave it; it was enough–I couldn’t work on it any more. It’s a balance; if you perfect one thing you lose something else, and that’s the stage where I think you have to know when to stop.”

John Banville, winner in 2005 for The Sea
“When young writers approach me for advice, I remind them, as gently as I can, that they are on their own, with no help available anywhere. Which is how it should be. Like Popeye, I am what I am.”

DBC Pierre, winner in 2003 for Vernon God Little
“Flowing dialogue has to be balanced with letting readers know which character is speaking; but dialogue with too many “he said”s and “she said”s is irritating. It’s a perennial challenge to clearly identify who’s speaking without lumbering the exchange with repetitious words. While the beginning of a dialogue should firmly show who speaks and who answers, if the conversation continues you will need some new tools to keep it natural, unobtrusive and rhythmic.”

Yann Martel, winner in 2002 for Life of Pi
“Any writer will be happy and good only if they know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. You have to play around until you find something you’re comfortable with.”

Peter Carey, winner in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang and in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda
“First, turn off your television. The television is your enemy. It will stop you doing what you wish to do. If you wish to watch TV, you do not want to be a serious writer, which is fine.”

Margaret Atwood, winner in 2000 for The Blind Assassin
“You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.”

Ian McEwan, winner in 1998 for Amsterdam
“I think of novels in architectural terms. You have to enter at the gate, and this gate must be constructed in such a way that the reader has immediate confidence in the strength of the building.”

Arundhati Roy, winner in 1997 for The God of Small Things
“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic.”

Roddy Doyle, winner in 1993 for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
“Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph, until you get to page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job.”

Michael Ondaatje, co-winner in 1992 for The English Patient
“Very early on in my writing life I realized that if you’re going to write, the last thing you should think about is an audience. Otherwise you’re going to give the audience what they want as opposed to what you want to do or discover. The act of writing is so difficult anyway that you don’t want to add to it the imagined sense of five hundred people in a theater listening to you, or watching you, waiting to see what you do, like that Monty Python sketch about watching Thomas Hardy write his eleventh novel. ‘Oh no, he’s doodling again.”

Ben Okri, winner in 1991 for The Famished Road
“Storytellers ought not to be too tame.  They ought to be wild creatures who function adequately in society.  They are best in disguise.  If they lose all their wildness, they cannot give us the truest joys.”

AS Byatt, winner in 1990 for Possession: A Romance
“The more research you do, the more at ease you are in the world you’re writing about. It doesn’t encumber you, it makes you free.”

Kingsley Amis, winner in 1986  for The Old Devils
“If you can’t annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.”

Thomas Kenneally, winner in 1982 for Schindler’s Ark
“My aphorism is ‘only begin.’ It’s hard to do if you have a job, but if you can find the time to write a number of days or nights a week, even if it’s just five hundred words – that process will help free up your subconscious. And that’s where so many good ideas come from, so many good characters, so many good connections between characters, so many great plot ideas.  You’ve got to use your conscious mind to refine it all, but a lot of good material comes from the unconscious, and to engage the unconscious you have to write a number of times a week to get the sub-conscious stirred up. I’ve got this idea that all the great stories are in our subconscious somewhere and they’ll come out if only we give them a chance.  Getting it published in the present climate is the heartbreak, but there’s always Amazon.”

Salman Rushdie, winner in 1981 for Midnight’s Children
“I have a rule that I offer to young writers. There must be no tropical fruits in the title. No mangoes, no guavas. None of those.”

Penelope Fitzgerald, winner in 1979 for Offshore
“I believe that people should write biographies only about people they love, or understand, or both. Novels, on the other hand, are often better if they’re about people the writer doesn’t like very much.”

Iris Murdoch, winner in 1978 for The Sea, The Sea
“Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one’s luck.”

Nadine Gordimer, co-winner in 1974 for The Conservationist
“What is the purpose of writing? For me personally, it is really to explain the mystery of life, and the mystery of life includes, of course, the personal, the political, the forces that make us what we are while there’s another force from inside battling to make us something else.”

PH Newby, winner in 1969 for Something to Answer For
“Whatever large ideas the novelist may have about his message, he is not a novelist unless he remembers why people read fiction, and presents characters and situations in a vivid way that will interest readers who are not primarily interested in his message. This is (to give it a grand term) the art of fiction.”

this post originally appeared on Aerogramme Writer’s Studio

While Reading- 14

She had talked of this at length with Kadambari—Mrs. Dutt: Why should it not be possible for these freedoms to be universally available for women everywhere? And Mrs. Dutt had said that of course, this was one of the great benefits of British rule in India; that it had given women rights and protections that they’d never had before. At this, Uma had felt herself, for the first time, falling utterly out of sympathy with her new friend. She had known instinctively that this was a false argument, unfounded and illogical. How was it possible to imagine that one could grant freedom by imposing subjugation? that one could open a cage by pushing it inside a bigger cage? How could any section of a people hope to achieve freedom where the entirety of a populace was held in subjection?

  • Amitav Ghosh, The glass palace

Lost Humanities!

Young boy washed up on the beach.

Young boy found lying face-down on a beach near Turkish resort of Bodrum was one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach Greece.

  • The Guardian

In a tragic case,the parents of a seven-year-old boy who died of suspected dengue after allegedly being denied admission by two prominent private hospitals in New Delhi committed suicide by jumping from a four-storeyed building in south Delhi’s Lado Sarai.

  • Indian Express

The first bit is a news which shook the entire world and the souls of every human being who read it. The second is a small time news from a small suburb near New Delhi. Where the first case was shocking, the second one was shameful.

A 7 year old child gave in to dengue after his parents were unable to find a hospital bed for him in 24 hours. They rushed from one big hospital to another, each being around 3 miles from one another. The middle class young parents of Avinash (the kid in the picture) were denied a place for their child and finally when they were granted a bed at Batra medical facilities, it was too late and child died in a couple of hours. This news came in light because, after the incident, both his parents, Laxmichandra and Babita tied their hands with each other and jumped from their terrace, leaving a suicide note behind. The government has questioned the conscience and duty of doctors in the case.

As far as Aylan Kurdi case is concerned, there is some mist around the situation. Some reports have adjudged his father as the real culprit claiming that he is a people smuggler while others blamed the Dublin regulation.

Whoever was the culprit, humanity lost.

Whether it was Aylan or Avinash, they died because of sheer apathy, negligence and lack of responsibility in our society and not by the fault of one person.

Here in India, the dengue death case is heavily discussed on every big news channel. It will go on for a few days and then, some other news would be in news. Avinash and his parents would fade away, like a news.

Aylan will have a bigger legacy, as it deals with a much more serious global crisis. There is already a Wikipedia page about him. He will be remembered as a face of failure on part of European nations and debates will go on for months.

While the hoopla around these two children will be discussed in the respective media, apathy will be victorious, politics will be powerful, blames will be thrown, responsibilities will be rejected and humanity will mourn. Then, life will move on.

As George Carlin said once,

“The planet is fine. The people are fucked.”

But I am a dolt. What do I know!

6 Things You Should Always put on your Resume!

There are things you should show on your resume and some you should not. It depends a lot on the nature of the job and many other factors.

But, there are certain points that you MUST ALWAYS PUT ON YOUR RESUME whether you are an IT professional or a writer.

Contact information.

This may seem obvious – but candidates sometimes forget to include basic information, like their email address, or they bury it at the very bottom. “Include your name, phone number, email, and URL to your LinkedIn profile right at the top of the page,” says Nicole. “And you don’t need to include your home address.”

Executive resume writer Mary Elizabeth Bradford suggests including just one phone number and email address. “Some people will include their home and cell numbers, for example – but I find multiple contact choices to be confusing. Make it easy for your reader to understand how to contact you.”

Keywords from the job posting.

You’ll want to include (without making it look like you did a lot of “copying” and “pasting”) some keywords and phrases from the job posting. This is especially important if the employer uses a resume scanning system.

Accomplishments and achievements.

Employers need to know what you’ve done to contribute to the growth of your department, team, and company in order to determine if your strengths align with the needs and responsibilities of their company and the job opening, Nicolai explains.

Your career narrative.

“No matter if you are constructing a functional resume or a chronological resume, some kind of professional history is critical,” says Bradford. “But make sure your story makes for a more interesting read.”Allison Joyce/Getty ImagesMetrics are a great way to prove your achievements.

Metrics.

“Employers need numbers to be able to fully evaluate the scope of your bandwidth,” says Nicolai. “No position is exempt from measuring results. And metrics help employers determine if a person is capable of leading a team, managing clients, or growing the business.”

Metrics are also a great way to prove your achievements.

Relevant URLs. 

Depending on the field or position you’re applying for, it may be useful to include links to your work (articles you’ve written, websites you’ve designed, photographs you’ve taken, etc.).

“Candidates need to show up on paper as though they have already been screened by a recruiter,” Nicolai says. “Today, recruiters and gatekeepers are stretched to the gills and do not have the time to conduct lengthy initial phone screens to understand detailed specific information.”

Knowing that, your goal should be to include enough information using as few words as possible, says Bradford. “Less is more in most cases and writing ‘too much’ is generally the most common mistake I see. You don’t want key attributes getting lost in a sea of information just because you have ‘seen and done it all from the bottom up.'”

Use your ideal career position as your touchtone and write to that, she suggests. “Accentuate the skills, abilities, metrics and leadership abilities that make the best case for you being in that next position and minimize the rest.”

(originally published on Business Insider.)

9/11- then. now. forever?

Yesterday was the anniversary of one of the most dreaded day in human history. Many lost their lives, many lost their loved ones and many lost their will to live.

But, more than anything, September 11, 2001 altered the attitude of the world towards Muslims. An entire community, that comprises around 40% of world population, suffered a fate which can not be explained in words. They still suffer.

A thread on reddit has been created which brings forth unheard stories from survivors and rescue teams. The question was directed to the Muslims of the world—how much did your life change after 9/11?

Response to the thread was overwhelming with hundreds of people sharing their heart.

Some of their experiences, I am sharing here. The thread can be found here.

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