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about writing and other such passionate matters

Archive for the category “A to Z Blog Challenge”

Claustrophobia

It’s Day 3 of the A-Z Blogging Challenge! What is this A-Z Blogging Challenge all about? An Aries new moon always inspires disruptive action of sorts. And A – Z Blogging Challenge was staring me in the face. As it is, it’s been a long time since I’ve really written fiction. I was missing my true love *wink,wink*. I attempted & completed A-Z Blogging Challenge in 2013 and partly, the following year (check out the A-Z posts by clicking on the A-Z in the category cloud). The past 2 years, I’ve been traveling up and down by the Mumbai local, 5 days a week. So, it’s inevitable that most of these stories – flash fiction – will be inspired by that daily commute. Drop in here, then, for your daily fix of sweet&spicy stories (from different genres) based on the 26 letters of the English Alphabet.

Read the previous stories here and here.

Read Claustrophobia below:

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CLAUSTROPHOBIA

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Hugging the doorway pole tight, she stood on the footboard of the Mumbai local which was her favourite place inside the train. Like the breeze that blew her hair all over her face, the train rushed forward, carrying its load of busy people.

She looked down. The adjoining track sped along in the opposite direction. Clumps of dried grass, bleached in the sun, dotted the ground between the tracks.

The strip of dry mud called out to her in tune with the wheels. Clang, clang, come, come, clang, clang, come, come. It looked so inviting: to just jump out and fall splat on the ground. The euphoria of freedom. All ties broken and unbroken, now redundant. Just one step forward.

She looked up. A fleet of birds fluttered upwards breaking free into the sky. The train slowed down as it entered into the station.

Women, keen to be an entrepreneur? My friend Cashmere has broken down the entire process into easy steps. Helpful for all. Check out her blog https://cashlash.blogspot.com/

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Binary Of Pain

It’s Day 2 of the A-Z Blogging Challenge! What is this A-Z Blogging Challenge all about? An Aries new moon always inspires disruptive action of sorts. And A – Z Blogging Challenge was staring me in the face. As it is, it’s been a long time since I’ve really written fiction. I was missing my true love *wink,wink*. I attempted & completed A-Z Blogging Challenge in 2013 and partly, the following year (check out the A-Z posts by clicking on the A-Z in the category cloud). The past 2 years, I’ve been traveling up and down by the Mumbai local, 5 days a week. So, it’s inevitable that most of these stories – flash fiction – will be inspired by that daily commute. Drop in here, then, for your daily fix of sweet&spicy stories (from different genres) based on the next 24 letters of the English Alphabet.

Read the previous story here.

Read the Binary Of Pain below:

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BINARY OF PAIN

GENRE: DRAMA

Vedana expertly patted the Avon concealer on the blueish red spot under her eye. Next, she applied it on the dark blue coin shape on her upper arm. Thank God for Nirmala, her trainmate, who kept up a regular supply of this natural-hued cream.

Sometimes, she felt like taking the knife from the kitchen and plunging it into her husband’s heart. Often, she fantasized about smashing his head in with the stone mortar. She fingered the black-beaded necklace she wore around her neck. A thread stronger than the Polycab wires in the ads on TV.

Almost impossible to snap.

Her marriage had begun with a hard slap and cut lip. The burden of young age and tradition had kept her tongue-tied at the pain. It moved from lip to eyes to arm to burns and whippings. In the other room, her in-laws listened but pretended not to. They’d rather have a home than be thrown out for speaking up for her.

She wanted to hate them for it but weren’t her own parents sailing the same sea with her brother?

She sought refuge in her job though her boss was less devilish than her husband by only a degree or two. A quick glance at the clock made her hurry. She picked up her bag and the S-hook.

In the tightly-packed-with-ladies compartment, Vedana sat in her usual seat next to the window, still fuming inside. Her bag hung down from the steel hook which she had suspended from the luggage carrier above. It swung sideways with every jerk of the train, hitting a standing girl on her cheek. Vedana day-dreamed about escape, oblivious to the wounded glances the young girl threw at her.

Add to your knowledge of foreign phrases & also read some beautiful poetry along with it, on my friend Prakash Hegade’s blog: https://itsphblog.wordpress.com/ 

 

Anahata – the Chakra of Love

What is this A-Z Blogging Challenge all about? An Aries new moon always inspires a disruptive action of sorts. And A – Z Blogging Challenge was staring me in the face. As it is, it has been a long time since I’ve really written fiction. I was missing my true love *wink,wink*. I attempted & completed A-Z Blogging Challenge in 2013 and partly, the following year (check out the A-Z posts by clicking on the A-Z in the category cloud). The past 2 years, I’ve been traveling up and down by the Mumbai local, 5 days a week. Most of these stories – flash fiction – are inspired by that daily commute. So, drop in here for your daily fix of sweet&spicy stories (from different genres) based on the next 25 letters of the English Alphabet. 

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ANAHATA – THE CHAKRA OF LOVE

Genre: Memoir

One is not at the railway station at this hour except as part of the usual crush to reach home after a travel that has taken up a better part of the day. So, here I am, sitting squashed, back to a stranger on the opposite end of a narrow stone bench that can barely hold one in comfort.

Interspersed with the local trains are the outstation trains. They hurtle past the local stations, carrying thrilling expectation of a faraway destination. The local-train-warriors, waiting on the platform for their ride, eye with disguised envy those long-distance travellers. Munching on Mumbai’s second staple – roasted peanuts – vadapav being the first, their ears are perked for the announcement of their train, their minds already having raced home.

I am going against the tide, against the peak hours. Responding to the call of a friend. There’s an air of excitement about our first meeting. We met online and our energies jelled. When it was time to meet, a book launch seemed the best site. After all, weren’t we ardent readers and writers?

We are just a train ride away from each other. The distance seems never-ending. The train chugs along, carrying me to meet my destiny.

Yes, our friendship is not long but it is deep.

Or so I thought.

Also check out my friend Dola’s blog where she is writing about the art of self-editing (you’ll find amazing gems there): http://shiuli.com/blog/ 

 

Zen and the Art of watching TeeVee

Indian television serials can test your patience. The other day I was watching one that has been on air since more than a year. The beginning episodes were interesting because it had an unusual storyline. Underlying it were the standard MIL-DIL face-offs that characterize most of the serials today. It had been a long time since I’d seen any of the episodes but I noticed that the character of the Mother-in-law (MIL) was as antagonistic towards that of the Daughter-in-law (DIL) as she was when the serial took off on air.

This was surprising because quite a few episodes had been devoted to the tele-family comprising of the FIL, MIL, the son and the DIL travelling together to a foreign country for participating in a cooking competition. Could one be faulted for expecting that such proximity would have led to thawing of the MIL’s antagonism towards the DIL especially since the DIL, being educated, had helped to make the trip successful? Apparently, such things do not happen in Indian serials.

So, here I am, watching this episode in which the archetypal cunning Elder DIL is provoking the MIL against the other DIL (the educated one – these serials can get complicated that way).

This is how the scene plays out:

The camera zooms in on the cunning E-DIL who mouths her dialogues with the appropriate twitching of eyebrows and curling of lips and once the dialogues are done, the camera focuses one by one on all the other characters present in that scene. First on the MIL, then the FIL, followed by the DIL, then the E-DIL’s husband and a couple of others that seemed to have joined the cast since I last watched this serial.

The camera then focuses again on the MIL and then goes back to the E-DIL’s face. This happens twice before the E-DIL speaks a few more lines of dialogue and then it is the MIL’s turn to talk. And during the camera-focusses, one should not be surprised to note that the expressions on the faces are completely unrelated to the happenings in that scene. This interplay of dialogues and the intense focus on the characters’ faces continues unabated and at the end of the episode not much action has taken place. Ah, but that’s not completely true. The viewers might have pulled their hair out in frustration.

Contrast this with some other serials such as Homeland. Or Mad Men. One just cannot get enough of them (though Mad Men is somewhat beginning to grate). Snappy dialogues, snappier expressions, not a second of airtime is unaccounted for. The viewer gets drawn, willingly, into the action and lets it go, oh so very unwillingly, when the time is up, on tenterhooks, in anticipation of the next episode.

Does this remind you of writing? Of ‘clunky’ prose and unnecessary backstory when what the reader actually wants is some action. Action, which might not be actually physical, but anything that takes the story forward. Swiftly. Interestingly.

Asides:

Zee TV’s ‘Connected Hum Tum’ promises to be a reality show with a difference, in which six women have dared to bare all (emotionally) in front of the nation. It begins tonight.

And continuing with all things TeeVee, here’s wishing a very Happy Birthday to Alan Taylor who wrote for the HBO series ‘Deadwood’.

What has been your TeeVee experience?

Yin and Yang

Satin and sandpaper. Bling and minimalism. Spicy and bland. Bitter and sweet. Generosity and miserliness. Silence and gregariousness.

These dualities exist in nature. Some would call them opposites but it is also true that each exists because of the other. They are complementary forces and contain an essence of the other. How else would we appreciate the smoothness of satin if we did not first bear the brunt of sandpaper grazing our skin? The jarring garishness of bling juxtaposed against the sleek aesthetics of minimalism? If neem is bitter, does it not make us appreciate the sweetness of honey even more? Hence it might be quite correct to say that one is not better than the other. In fact, together they form a balanced whole. Like Yin and Yang.

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This applies to writing too. On one hand, we sit at the desk, penning down words on paper. We do this regularly (or at least some of us do), to a fixed routine, for a number of hours or till we have written a pre-determined number of words.

But this is not what writing can be restricted to.

Behind the actual act of writing exists yet another important aspect: the thought process which has developed through reading and observing and analyzing. And so, if we dedicate time to writing then it is mandatory to dedicate time for the behind- the-scenes activity, too. Day-dreaming, going on long walks, reading a lot, taking unscheduled naps and meditating are as important as the very act of sitting down and actually writing. Spending time with one’s self or going on what Julia Cameron calls it, “the ‘Artist’s Date’ which is more mischief and whimsy rather than artistic” are as important as the actual act of writing. When both exist, the synergy they create is harmonious and balanced. Veritably, yin and yang.

Are you able to balance the yin and yang of your writing?

XANADU – the magic of Mandrake

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The Sisters and the English subject teachers in the convent school I studied in were adamant that we, the students, should not read comic books. They were of the opinion that doing so would ‘spoil our English.’

And like good girls, we devoured the comic books in large quantities and with loads of guilt. We read them hidden inside the note books. We read them with our heads on the desk pretending to have a headache but reading the comic book hidden on the shelf under the table.

We read Amar Chitra Katha, Archie and the gang, Tin-tin, Commando war comics, Phantom and last but not the least, which was also my favourite, Mandrake the Magician.

As the name hints, it was all about magic performed by Mandrake. The gelled-haired, pencil-thin moustached caped magic maestro was the proud possessor not just of magic tricks but also a home named Xanadu.

To a nine-year-old mind, it was fascinating to read about gates to the house that opened only when the cars honked out a secret code. Voices without bodies gave instructions to friends on how to navigate the deceptive path. And it was not just about following instructions. A friend visiting for the first time was required to take a leap of faith, literally, to continue driving towards a deep chasm which closed at the very last moment. The final obstacle was a wall of stone that lifted just as one reached it to reveal the smiling host, Mandrake. This then was the majesty of Xanadu, Mandrake’s home, which was considered to be a safe haven for Mandrake who was the target for many powerful evil-doers. Hojo, a superlative martial arts expert, was Mandrake’s chef and lived in Xanadu. But when it is revealed that Hojo is actually the Head of the international crime-fighting organization, Inter-intel, then the mystique of Xanadu shoots up many notches higher for the fan of Mandrake comics.

Did these comic books have an adverse effect on our language? Can’t say for sure, but they were providers of quick shots of magic is not what anyone can dispute.

Did you have a favourite comic book character, too?

ARE YOU WORD-WEARY?

WORD-WEARY

WORD-WEARY

There are writers that can churn out 500-1000 good words or more as soon as they sit down to write. (Really?) Then, there are the others who need to think and compost their ideas and words for hours (days? years?) before they are ready to cut the umbilical cord and release them into the world.

If one belongs to the latter category, then birthing new words everyday continuously for 30 days can be an excruciating challenge. Dipping into the well (which is how Julia Cameron refers to the creative self in ‘The Artist’s Way’) unceasingly, can lead to its depletion, making us ‘word-weary’. The added onslaught of media distraction in our lives makes us lose our train of thought and adds to the word-weariness.

Word-weariness robs us of our enthusiasm for writing and the words we churn out half-heartedly sound as if the burden of the world rests on their shoulders. We wish we too could crawl into a cave like a hibernating bear and refresh our writing souls.

The Artist’s Way offers a tool called ‘Media Deprivation,’ which was known as ‘Reading Deprivation’ earlier. As the name suggests, one is required to deprive oneself, for one week, of reading and of all kinds of media that is a constant source of distraction. No reading, no email, no texts, no internet, no surfing, no social media. Also, no television and no radio. A word-detox, of sorts.

If it is not possible to completely switch off, try to be de-plugged for a major chunk of time. This step, The Artist’s Way promises, will allow you to open yourself to ideas and inspirations.

Do you wonder how you will fill in the days if you are off-media and off-devices?

Some take up dancing classes and others pottery. Some explore gardens, parks, museums, and art galleries. And, some write.

What will you do if  you are word-weary?

 

The Adorable Vamp – Helen of Bollywood

In the late 60s and all of 70s, no Hindi film was complete until a dance number (called an ‘item number’ now but a ‘cabaret dance’ then) by Helen was included. Helen with her exotic wigs, feathers, paints, beads, sequins and alluring makeup brought a sense of style and sensuousness to her performances which were never lewd or obscene.

The story of Helen began many years ago when a young woman and her three kids escaped from Japanese domination in Burma. Through wilderness and villages they travelled, foodless and penniless, till they reached Assam. There they rested and recouped and then shifted to Calcutta. The young woman, who was a nurse, could barely manage to support her family on her meagre salary. This is when they shifted to Mumbai and her young daughter took up bit roles as a chorus dancer in movies. This young girl named Helen Jairag Richardson, got her big break in 1958 when she performed the song, “Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo” in Howrah Bridge.

From then on for almost thirty years, she ruled the roost as the Vamp with the golden heart all the while performing what was termed as the “Cabaret Dance” in all the movies that came out of Bollywood.

What is the secret of her long-lived success in the film industry?

Besides her looks which were very different from those of the demure, conservative heroines of that time, the lyrics of the songs that she danced to were musical and in good taste. In sharp contrast are the dances and songs of today, where the top heroines of the country gyrate to songs with unambiguously offensive lyrics and body movements that make the viewers go red in the face with embarrassment.

Besides dance numbers, Helen has done many character roles and even won a prestigious film award for her role in Lahu ke Do Rang.

Helen has appeared in over 500 films. She is often cited as the most popular dancer of the item number in her time. She was the inspiration for four films and a book. A book about Helen was published by Jerry Pinto in 2006, titled The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, which went on to win the National Film Award for Best Book on Cinema in 2007. In 1998 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Filmfare.

It has been an interesting life and Helen, now 74, has been quoted as saying that she lives in the present and that is the secret of her serene and peaceful life.

Below are videos of a couple of her popular numbers. Enjoy.

WHAT IS YOUR USP, YOU UNABASHEDLY STUPENDOUS PERSON?

In the 40’s, advertising companies did a survey of all successful campaigns and discovered that they all focussed on the USP of the product.

The Unique Sales proposition or the Unique Selling Point of the product referred to that particular property or quality which induced buyers of the similar product of another brand to give that up and make this one their own.

This concept became so popular that even companies began to develop a USP.

Some popular USPs, which most of us are familiar with:

DeBeers : A diamond is forever.

Avis: We’re number two. We try harder.

British Airways:  The World’s Favourite Airline

Which list (certainly, it is not exhaustive) brings us to a person:

Michael Jackson: “The King of Pop”, which leads us to the question:

‘What is your USP? What makes you that Unabashedly Stupendous Person? Knowing what your USP is makes it easy for you to sell yourself to yourself.

Yes, go back, read it again.

In a world where we are bombarded with images and words that try to prescribe to us how to become the Perfect One, we forget how stupendous we are. We chase after a media-promoted ephemeral image that promises to make us feel happy and / or successful.

If you have forgotten how an UNABASHEDLY STUPENDOUS PERSON you are, here are four quick steps to remind you:

  • List down your strengths and all those things you excel at. Wait, don’t answer till you have paid attention for three days to all that you do everyday. You might begin to see yourself in a different light.
  • What are your weaknesses? Don’t waste time trying to make them into your strengths but do try to minimize their power to make you feel less than you are.
  • Are your eyes and ears open to the opportunities that are available to you to make your even more stupendous? Think as big as you can.
  • Innovative and carefully bold thinking will help you negotiate the treacherous threats that could hamper your path to becoming the best you can be.

 

So, are you being the Unabashedly Stupendous Person you can be?

 

 

 

THREE TERRIFIC TIPS TO GET MORE WRITING-TIME

In today’s times, the glut of techno-information has made time a precious commodity and it is easy to let it slip from one’s fingers if one is not careful to make the most of the time available. Here are three terrific tips to follow if you want to make more time to write.

1)      WAKE UP EARLY

The day is always full of must-do lists which even at the end of the day are never completely done. Add to it the distractions of the electronic world and social media and the day is over before you know it. Making time for writing in such a scenario feels like an undeserved luxury. Waking up an hour or so early before the rest of the world starts making demands on your time might be the best way to get the writing done. At night, keep your writing stuff such as your book, pens or pencils ready. Also keep ready the topic of your writing, whether it is a prompt or a story you are already working on. If you write on an electronic device make sure it is not connected to the internet. I’m sure, like television, even social media is on 24×7, but you don’t want to spend your precious time aimlessly. As soon as you wake up walk towards your already set-up table and start writing (no, you don’t get to check your phone before you begin).

2)      DELEGATE

Household chores are never-ending and exhaust you physically. If you have a full-time job, cooking and cleaning after you come back from work could tire you and the fatigue could dampen your enthusiasm towards writing. If you are a SAHM with small kids, you might be exhausted at the end of the day to even think of writing. The solution is to delegate all those jobs that do not need your specific input or presence. So, hire whoever you need for the chores, in order to make time for yourself.  If it’s a baby-sitter for the kids or a part-time cook or even a catering service, go ahead and order them. The free time that will be released will help you write better and more.

3)      PLAN YOUR TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook, Twitter, Google plus, Pinterest… the list is endless. Pick out the ones which you are active on and spend time there. The only caveat is to make it a well-organised mode of spending time. Plan in advance how long you are going to be in each social media and what you are going to talk about. Use a timer if you must. If you are a blogger, make a plan to comment on other blogs on the day you make a fresh post. Rerweet interesting tweets on Twitter, ‘like’ and comment on interesting updates on Facebook. But all to a plan,if you don’t want to wonder where the hours of the day have disappeared and with no writing done.

What methods do you use to make time for writing?

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