Thanks to the exploits of The Boy on the word processor, the nascent blog post I wrote has been deleted.
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→
If you happen to watch TV at home during the holiday season, you will notice that along with festive tunes, shades of red and green, bells, parties, food, mall sales and lights, your thoughts will turn to another seasonal item on display in our culture: the romance fantasy. Continue reading Love, Romance and Escape→
There are many who will tell you they have no regrets in life. They lived their lives the way they meant to and every new turn, every new nook, every new bump need not have been lived another way.
Seriously? You mean to tell me that every time you made a choice you made the right one? You mean to tell me that your life had only one correct way of unfolding itself and this is it? This is the only one and it could have been no other way?
You mean to tell me that you have the confidence to have figured it all out?
It is one thing to not wallow in regret, to not waste energy on what cannot be changed, to let bygones be bygones. It is quite another to not realize that a nuanced life has potential for regret. Continue reading The Anatomy of Regret→
Imagine a moment in a story in which the protagonist finds his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. Imagine a story in which a woman falls in love with a guy through chats and comments and pictures and fantasizes about the rest of her lover in her mind. Imagine a story involving an online stalker who is everywhere and nowhere. Imagine a story of artistic melancholy where life feels fragmented and fake like a Facebook wall.
Would these stories be comprehensible to a reader without any online experience? As Lloyd Alexander has said, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” While our fantasies stretch beyond our imaginations, their raw materials have to have their foundation in experience. The sensibilities that the above stories depend on can only exist because our online worlds exist and we have some experience of it. These experiences can hardly be separated from the form and content of these stories. Continue reading Writing and online experience→
I was thinking of blustering Bounderby today, the industrialist character from Dickens’ Hard Times, always lecturing, always talking loudly, always right. I was also thinking of two other people, George Eliot’s Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch, the innocent idealist and her fraught relationship with Casaubon, the collator of facts, the inhabitant of dark libraries, the person obsessed with not just doing things but doing things right. Rather quieter than Bounderby, Casaubon is not just obsessed with facts but is always driven by a desire to control them– to collate, to classify, to categorize. His obsession with control translates in real life to squishing Dorothea’s world, the idealist who has not armed or protected herself against the facts and aggressive logic of Casaubon’s ordered universe.
Fictional characters are just that–fictional. Yet, if you’ve been around them, that is to say, read and thought about fictional people for a while, whether to create some or to analyze them, you suddenly get an insight into real people in a very personal way. Continue reading Aggressive characters real and fictional→
The reading police are coming for ’em young minds because they know what’s best.
Raja Bose, almost thirteen now, has another showdown with his mother. That’s because he is not as docile, as good a boy as his younger brother Sanjeev.
Raja insists on spending the long summer afternoons reading his story books. His recent favourite is the Famous Five series, stories of two boys and two girls and one big dog and how they solve mysteries during their holidays from boarding school.
Sanjeev, the younger one, is more clever. He covers his comic books as soon as his mom comes near the study table. The book he usually uses is a big, fat one that proves a very useful camouflage because the words in the title always pleases his mother: Mathematics Made Fun Grade 5.
They do have fun. The boys have exams to take, textbooks to study and carpentry projects to finish every week—mostly those stipulated by the school. Sometimes the carpentry projects are so complicated that the maid has to be sent to the local carpenter’s to do the intricate parts for a few hundred rupees. The carpenter is a good-natured young man, just a few years older than the boys themselves.
This holiday season I have “read” many real life stories on Facebook.
A group of girls in evening dresses with cocktails in their hands smiling at the camera in a line on the 31st. Groups of people on snow covered mountain tops with their hands spread out in a posture that says we have conquered the world on the 29th. A photograph of one of those same girls in an individual picture, more awkwardly taken perhaps right before she went out, but with the full limelight, with a heap of laundry visible in the background.
Pictures that enhance the beauty of people just a little bit. These are accompanied by status updates on significant days that mention happening places or exotic food or crazy things that people are up to. And comments. “too cute,” “awwwww,” “u guyz r too cool.” Continue reading Facebook and the person within→
I was at the Sacramento airport one bleak winter morning trudging up the escalator managing several scraps of paper in my two hands (ticket, baggage tag, ID to name a few) while balancing my roller-board with my elbow on the moving surface.
I am not a morning person from any angle and I always find early morning flights depressing, more so if they are preceded by long commutes in shuttles and long waits in the dark when you inevitably turn out the first passenger to be picked up by a van at 4 am.
So needless to say, I was yet to appreciate the beauty of the morning.
A small town with stretches and stretches of concrete. Shiny cars parked in the sun in clean parking lots with not a soul in sight. Plazas with huge edifices of departmental stores and chain restaurants displaying happy signs with overly happy mascots dozing in the sun with no one to see. Continue reading Settings→
Why is storytelling important? Why is it important to learn how storytelling works?
Never mind fiction. Never mind other people’s stories.
Never mind the manipulations of truth that we are subjected to everyday as news.
Never mind those stories that are silenced around us.
No matter what we feel about stories, or how much we hate reading stories, or don’t want to listen to stories, we are constantly subjected to at least one story. We cannot escape the one story that is constantly with us. Continue reading My stories→
I think that a lot of current attention on teaching and learning writing is focused on attempts at being successful and on how to write well. Not enough focus is given to understanding failure–why and how we fail to compose a piece properly. Continue reading How to fail better at writing (Part 2)→
A while ago I was trying to dream up a story. In the story, my young hero’s sister has an arranged marriage and moves to the United States from India. I could dream up the humdrum of the colourful wedding, of the bridal finery, of the perspective of the female protagonist’s reaction to the whole cacophonous affair. But as my mind travelled to the inside of this sister’s head, I drew a blank.
What was going through our sister’s head moving to a new country with a strange man? Did she feel powerless not being able to be the engine of her own destiny? Did she feel empowered by the social status that a good groom and a good marriage bestowed on her? Did she feel lost? Did she feel regret at not having pursued her studies or training further on her own? What would she do now? Continue reading Characters from the inside of your head→
As I noted yesterday, I’m not feeling particularly clever these days. Or as Americans would say, feeling particularly smart.
This was a source of great discomfort at first. Particularly since I’m here in the States now, where everything is so smart. You have smart phones. You have smart washing machines. You have smart apps for grocery lists. You might even see a smart car parallel park itself far outsmarting you very soon.
All this smartness makes a person feel rather dumb. But feeling dumb was not helping as I was trying to write. I was still the writer-frog staring at the big green leaf-blank page in expectation of the fly-words to come by when a thought struck me.
When everyone else is smart, perhaps the smart thing to aspire to is dumbness.
The morning was bright. Birds were singing in the solitary tree jutting out of the concrete next to his mezzanine floor apartment. Children were playing happily on the slides and monkey bars on the small patch of cemented park-like space in between his building and the next.
The little blind lane on which my parents’ flat is located in Calcutta is very narrow but by no means sleepy. As you pass by the other flats you notice a mixture of old and new buildings. The new buildings rise up perpendicularly–straight from the road–while some of the older buildings have benches made of cement in small verandahs adjacent to the street beyond which the actual rooms start.
As I walk by my eyes glance over the verandahs, the curtains slightly ajar or the doors half open. A woman sweeps her balcony behind the metal “grill” of the railing. A green curtain is half closed behind which I see an elderly man sitting on a wooden bed in front of the TV, his head hidden from my view by the wooden shutter. A section of an old painting shows itself on the wall through a half open door. Voices float out of the homes in various different sharps and flats. I hear pots and pans clanging in the background as the domestics talk loudly to the women of the house as they clean the vessels. A voice floats out. Someone practising singing at dusk with the singing master. [Still has a rather long way to go, I think, that voice, as I pass.] A dog with four newly born puppies lies curled up on a cement bench on a verandah waiting for the domestic help to come out with a bowl of rice.
How is it that you tell a story?
What stories do you tell? What stories get left behind?
A myriad questions come to mind when I try to think of a story. Or stories. To tell.
Ultimately, I stand befuddled in tongue-tied confusion. Wanting to tell all and able to tell none.
All those stories in my head.
Recently, I’ve been able to figure out why. It all dawned on me in a single moment.
I’m getting out of the train at the World Trade Center PATH station. It’s waves of people rushing out the doors stepping out with me meeting waves of faces waiting to get in. It’s waves of arms, legs, backpacks, boots, elbows, yellow caution lines and discarded metro cards on the floor (being trampled on incessantly by boots), a confusion of emergency phones on pillars, maps and defibrillator boxes all rushing at me in the crowd as I move forward.
Then, the feeling of moving up flights of steps and ramps and wide concourses, rising with the tide of people all the while saving my feet and elbows from getting jammed against suitcases on wheels and pointy heels and sharp corners of cardboard boxes. Finally the lightness of being deposited like a cork with the tide at the turnstiles.
Then moving up, and up, and up on the great escalators towards the surface from the bowels of the earth.
How do we react to the following writers who might be trying to say they’re happy?
Person A:Awwwww. How sweet. That’s the best thing ever! Red roses are my favourite. Person B:The flowers made me so happy. Person C:My felicity was assured by your gesture of goodwill expressed by the earlier mentioned red roses at my doorstep.
Believe it or not, person C’s do still exist amongst us in the twenty-first century.
But usually, in the everyday world, C’s are really A’s or B’s rather insecure about what to write or trying to get an edge over A’s and B’s. What else can they do? It’s a competitive world.
But no matter what their intention, what do these styles make us assume about the people behind them?
This is my space for idle speculation. What’s cool about speculation in this space is that it can be really idle in the true sense. My thoughts don’t need to be developed beyond the heated coffee shop conversation stage, nor need be backed by too much evidence.
From that totally secure vantage point, I decided to rattle around randomly through literary history in my battered, quirky time-machine gathering patterns that might tell us which way our stories might go in the future. Continue reading Where will stories go?→