Tag Archives: blogging

Returning

I once lived in a green, tree lined little oasis in the middle of a big, bad, smoky, sooty city where the train used to whistle by at all odd hours and the grass used to be lined with unopened buds of red krishnachura flowers from the gigantic trees after summer storms. It was as hot as it is now in the place I live, just as sunny and the house used to have concrete floors with big windows just as they do here where I live now.

But when I went back to see my green place after many, many years (the place I still see in both my dreams and nightmares), the trees were smaller, the roads narrower, the street dogs followed us with some suspicion. A painted blue (toy) swimming pool had replaced the patch of green we used to play on. It was the same place yet not the same place where the kids played in a nearby field with equal gusto.

Returning to this online space after so long feels the same. A place familiar, yet unfamiliar in ways that underscore both the passage of time and the ways one has evolved oneself. There are still some of the old familiar names, many still writing and so many that are new. The interface has changed and many of the old bloggers have evolved in new directions. Some, I see, have developed new insecurities about constantly writing for an audience and are feeling the pressure. Yet, the familiar sense of people exposing their thoughts as they come, from day to day or week to week is still here.

It still feels like a place I know.

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In the past weeks and months, so many thoughts have come and gone. So many moments that could have been framed, so many instants that could’ve been recorded that will seem different if recorded now, after layers added to memory via the intervening months.

Something is always lost by not blogging about it. Even the darkest moments gain some value by being framed for posterity.

Yet, as I reenter this space, I feel the passage of time not just on the topography of this space but on myself. I remember the old rush I used to get from writing a post and then immediately hitting the publish button. The number of hits and likes and ebb and flow and the slow dwindling of interest on the posts seem like the distant rumble of music from a far off island at dusk from the shore, gaiety remembered with fondness like late night parties on distant islands.

Time seems to pass faster in online spaces than in life (one hopes). Or perhaps this change I notice between youth and age is more a reflection of changes I could not record in the interim.

My dear device on which I used to write has almost breathed its last. I miss its frayed plastic, it’s partially functioning “3,” the comfort of my fingers traveling familiar distances to reach the keys. It was almost the only constant in my life through the ups and downs of these intervening years. In its place, I type now on a myriad new-fangled devices, none of which I have made my own yet. It seems like the old world of device monogamy is over and one must prepare for a life of complete device polyamory if one is to get with the times and survive.

Yet, though much is taken, much abides. This space survives and perhaps recording change can bring some permanence to slipping time.

Hoping to be a denizen of this space once again if life does not intervene.

Forever hopeful . . .

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Writer’s Block

Singapore
July 8, 2015

I have my word processor open but I’m thinking of the ants this morning. They are not the ticklish, harmless, black ants climbing all over the tabletop I wrote about earlier (from coke can to mouthwash) but a line of red ants on the concrete walkway that were crossing my path this morning. It was clean concrete which made the goal-oriented line of industrious moving red dots more well defined next to my memory of the haphazard black ants from last night.

Clean concrete makes me think of the dry, fresh concrete on the bathroom floor next to the window. It’s lighted up by the bright, dazzling sunlight of these hot, summer afternoons on this tropical island. The concrete is warm, fresh and clean and I know that if I were to put a drop of water on it, it would spread outward slowly absorbed by the hot, dry surface just like in those long summer afternoons in the Calcutta suburbs where the sun was just as strong. My mind flies back three decades to an oldish house in small-town India, to a courtyard with cracked, white, grainy concrete with green weeds growing out of the cracks and a vision of me hopping across the length of it to the kitchen at the far end because the sun had made the concrete too hot.

The blinding dazzle in that memory sticks in my mind. It makes me move to something more mellow and rather silverish, more than half-way across the world, to a bright winter morning in San Francisco as a whole dazzling white arch of concrete lay in front of me, spread out along the  sparkling blue bay along the Embarcadero against billowing white clouds on a spotless blue sky. Memories of desperate and happy times, of kindness and of friends make me wander to the point of almost no return and I am about to give up on this typing.

But I am prodded back to the present by a common ping. One of those emails with “gentle reminders,” so common here, that says there is going to be a talk on carbonate, concrete and trash in the afternoon. What a coincidence!

There are a lot of talks here in this technological school I’m now a part of and this one is going to be on sustainability. Last evening, I was sitting in a packed auditorium at such a talk by a world famous architect (talking about his critique of the digital revolution and the way smart cities are being conceptualized and the panopticon) but when I think back on that talk now I see something else. He is tall and thin, clad all in black, showing us various aerial images of cities on a huge screen and what I remember now is that those cities look like cubes of concrete placed side by side in a grid no matter what I thought they were like then.

Cubes make me think of ice, for it’s very hot here, and how it feels to chew an ice cube from a cool drink. (Only they’re not cubes any more in drinks but cold, translucent, hollow cylinders with holes in the middle that you can put your tongue through.) The ceiling fan keeps swishing, slicing through air and there’s yellow fish in the pond right outside my window where a four hundred year old Chinese structure stands.  Except that there’s no ceiling fan here but it’s the AC making the noise and there’s no pond outside but an artificial rooftop garden where a random rooster keeps crowing because this is the office and that was home last night and one noise has blended into another conflating one place with another as I type making time collapse into itself like two videos coalescing into one another on the same screen with echoes of everything else that this screen has ever shown in the background.

I still try to write as my mind wanders from thing to thing, from place to place, from time to time as I cannot concentrate on anything except this shifting topography of the mind, of concrete images, of material things and physical sensations in random order connected by impulsive and tenuous links that come from I know not where.

Just like it isn’t easy to give up on an old bad habit, it isn’t easy to slip back into an old one. For the past few days, I’ve been trying to get back to blogging, which, as any blogger worth their salt knows, is more about the process than about the final product, about the ability to keep at it, the ability to give up your fears of exposing thoughts as they come, the ability to record life as it happens, the ability to go around framing experience and the final ability to distance yourself from what you see yourself as doing.

But in the final analysis, writing is, perhaps, about taming the mind which I’m trying to do even as I write these lines so please bear with me as you hear me talking to myself.

I try.

A coffee mug at the gift shop at the Singapore Zoo but that could be me.
A coffee mug at the gift shop at the Singapore Zoo but that could be me.

What Blog Is

Sometimes a blog is just what a blog is. The recording of a moment, a sudden attempt to capture what is by nature ephemeral, to grasp at the truth as though it can be held back as it slips through the sieve. Sometimes, a blog is just talking to yourself, catching something that made you smile, pouring out something that would make you burst otherwise, as is, half formed, half lived, half tested. For the heart is what it is. Continue reading What Blog Is

In Singapore: The Year of the Goat, 2015

The Year of the Goat, 2015, Singapore
Welcome, The Year of the Goat, 2015, Singapore

It is my nature that on festival days, I feel very restless at home. It doesn’t matter whether it’s traditionally a festival I’ve followed for years or a festival I’ve just been immersed in due to the accident of location or company but there is that smell in the air and that sparkle in the light around that just does not let me stay at home while the city decks itself in lights, crowds and festivities.

And so it has been with Chinese New Year this year.

So on Thursday, armed with a guidebook that says SINGAPORE in large letters on the cover, I get to the train station in the afternoon determined to reach Chinatown. I carefully tuck the guidebook away in my bag because I hate to have people think I’m a tourist.

Not a UFO. It's my train station.
Not a UFO. It’s my train station.

Before the long weekend for the Chinese New Year starts, several people already warn me that I should stock up on groceries because “Chinese New Year is like Thanksgiving in the US. All restaurants and stores will be closed. Make sure you buy some groceries.”

The streets had indeed seemed empty when I had paid a visit to the local mall to eat on Wednesday evening, a place which is always throbbing with life but was shrouded in an unnatural, quiet stillness with most shops and food kiosks closed. No exhibitions inside the mall, no crowds on the giant escalators, no salespeople standing on stools hawking smartphones.

The Goat Lanterns at Eu Tong Sen St. and New Bridge Rd.
The Goat Lanterns at Eu Tong Sen St. and New Bridge Rd.

Continue reading In Singapore: The Year of the Goat, 2015

My Writing Process

This post ought to have been left blank because I realized that I have no process. Or perhaps there is no process.

Except that process where you have shown perseverance in spending time glued to the chair at your desk, tearing your hair (if you have any left), sighing in despair, pacing up and down the floor and sitting through the bouts of time when there has been no writing.

I realized also that you must have reached a goal, albeit set by yourself, weekly or monthly, of a number of pages/words that you decided to write, even if the writing was all gibberish, to have started thinking about a process.

The gibberish is an important ingredient to start with.  It is the one that might or might not lead to magic.

Unfortunately, I have realized through the years that there is no magic in the world that you haven’t produced yourself. But try enough times and you’ll see that for those who know how to look for it, lo and behold! “Zim zam zambowe/ Magic comes from nowhere!” (so sings the wise, white-haired, white-bearded sorcerer from the Indian children’s show Chota Bheem).

The sorcerer with Chota Bheem and his gang. The image is linked to the the image url. Thanks to The Boy for locating this image.

The following steps are solely how it happens with me. I’ll be very glad to hear how it happens to you. Continue reading My Writing Process

Tales by The Boy

Thanks to the exploits of The Boy on the word processor, the nascent blog post I wrote has been deleted.

Mischief by H. Brückner. Print showing a boy and a girl pouring ink and water on papers they removed from a desk and placed in a wastebasket.

Various experiments were performed by The Boy on a solitary sentence I had churned out after almost half an hour’s worth of staring at the screen when said boy decided to alter words here and there to check the various colours in which a spelling and grammar check was going to underline words.

Several minutes were spent finding words that were not words so that the underlining could happen effectively until we discovered that it isn’t easy to misspell words when you badly want to. Then fonts were changed and clip art inserted and magnified to fill the entire screen until the sentence was edited beyond recognition.

Hence, on the palimpsest of my poor, solitary sentence, having run out of ideas, I had no option but to regale you with stories by The Boy himself. Continue reading Tales by The Boy

Freshly Pressed! Times 5

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my email! I’m going to be Freshly Pressed for Writing Memoir on Social Media.

Freshly Pressed
Freshly Pressed

I must acknowledge my debt to two people for the post: Cheri Lucas Rowlands (who also happens to be the editor who chose the piece) whose recent post brought to my attention The New Yorker article by Dani Shapiro I talk about and The Boy who blew the bubbles that turned into Writing Memoir.

Please like me on my Facebook page because, well, there’s stuff that I can do on Facebook that I can’t do here on the blog. Continue reading Freshly Pressed! Times 5

Writing Memoir on Social Media

I’m doing something in the room and The Boy walks in stealthily from behind me and suddenly there is a shower of bubbles in the air and lots of childish laughter. I turn my face and I see a host of bubbles floating up and up and up towards the light, their shiny surfaces catching the light and turning them into iridescent rainbow hues. It’s hard to tell how each bubble will float away, where it will stick and when it will burst.  But together they transform the room.

Actually I’m not just sitting here doing something. I’m writing yet another blog post. It isn’t unusual at all, while I’m writing, for a childish face to peek in and insist on typing a word or two or close a window or want to check out a blinking light below the touchpad. But bubbles? They are new.

The bubbles floating around me make me think of a lot of writing I’ve been doing lately. Light, beautiful, polished, iridescent and ephemeral.

What really has been the end goal of these pieces? To live for a bit, to catch the light, to stick in someone’s mind for a moment and then to disappear? To float directionless, to dazzle and to die? Continue reading Writing Memoir on Social Media

Thrift Stores: Memories and Things

I have this gigantic beige coat that has been lying unused a long time in my closet. It’s humongous with a gigantic aura of fake fur trimmings. It is certainly at least a size too big for me. It makes me look very well equipped for a trip to Antarctica whenever I get into it.

Because of the recent snow storms slamming the North East, I took the coat out at last a couple of times this season. I noticed that a tag  under its collar says L.L. Bean. Yet, I vividly remember the day I bought it at a store in Florida which is as far as it could be from a nice outerwear clothing store such as L.L. Bean or Burlington Coat Factory.

Having always lived in tropical climates, I was stumped a few years ago when I was due to visit Philly at the height of winter from Florida, where I lived then, for some interviews at a conference. I realized that nothing I possessed could match the kind of cold I might have to face up North. Knowing I’d never use the coat beyond the day or two, I visited the town thrift store to look for something suitable.

Image by brina_head on flickr

It was a biggish store with vast spaces full of clothes on hangers hung on rails with bright natural light coming in through the windows. Almost all the clothes there were either cotton or made of artificial silky material that hung on the hangers with slumped shoulders looking like they could be crumpled into little balls if needed. Continue reading Thrift Stores: Memories and Things

Is blogging bad for writing?

Do you want to become a good writer? Keep writing! Practice makes perfect.

Or does it?

Keep writing is usually the advice new writers are given to help them launch a journey onto the uncharted waters of how to write well, a practice that doesn’t usually have any proven rules of success although there’s plenty of advice going around.

I realized that as in every good thing in life, blogging too comes with its own share of pitfalls. Where there is opportunity for improvement in writing, there is also a need for tremendous caution.
Continue reading Is blogging bad for writing?

Home and the Blog

What does my blog mean to me?

Many a time, as I’ve sat by myself at night when the sounds of the day have quietened down and noises of the night have become louder, such as that of the whooshing of the AC, or thud of the softly falling snow or rain, the zzzzzing of the ups and downs of voltage brightening or dimming the tubelight or the buzzzzz of a single mosquito trapped in the mosquito net, or the dulled sounds of boats in the fog or the frogs croaking outside with the glow worms, depending on which part of the world I am in, I’ve wondered what the blog means when the writing has or hasn’t come.  Continue reading Home and the Blog

Of bloggers, Birbal and birds: How to make yourself heard

An old post revisited

How many of us bloggers are out there?

A mind-boggling number very hard to grapple with for sure.

Our sheer numbers  reminded me of a well known tale of Akbar and Birbal I came across recently on my flight back to the US from India. It was a version of the story in animation adapted for kids which I watched on the screen trapped in my little space in the sky.

It goes something like this: Continue reading Of bloggers, Birbal and birds: How to make yourself heard

Requiem for a yellow leaf

My way of life
Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf;

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.

It was a highly dreaded day of bitterly anticipated cold, of polar vortices and chunks of ice on the water. The Hudson had frozen over like I had never seen it before next to New York City probably because they’d been breaking the ice with machines further upstream. Continue reading Requiem for a yellow leaf

Freshly Pressed!

Freshly Pressed
Freshly Pressed

And I am now featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed! Hope this post generates some more good discussion. Do Bloggers Have Choices?

The following posts were featured in the past. Can you figure out some commonality between them?

My Blog Audience

Sounds of the Blogosphere

Characters from the Inside of Your Head

Social Media and Sharing Reality

I was walking around West Village yesterday when I turned a corner. It was not as cold as when the polar vortex had assailed us last week. Yet it wasn’t as sunny as the day before here in Manhattan. In fact, it was pretty foggy even for a winter’s day.

The fog on a different day seen from across the Hudson.
The fog on a different day seen from across the Hudson.

The fog was making striking patterns in the sky as it swirled around the tall buildings making them look like slim black mountains or gigantic arthropods with their front feet buried in the fog and their antennae pointed towards me as they looked down from their lofty heights.

If you knew the landscape in these parts, you’d know that those antennae were really enormous cranes or pullies perched atop the terraces. The World Trade Center, the most gigantic arthropod of all, stood like the leader of the pack looking down from the foggy heavens like a creature from the myths and legends of yore.

It was a day of epic poetry about cities and civilizations and battles and  mountains and fog and about the rise and fall of civilizations past and present.

Then I turned that corner suddenly and encountered a strikingly different sight. Continue reading Social Media and Sharing Reality