Saturday, October 30, 2010

In which I get Educated about Promoting the Self

The Alter-Ego chooses that moment to step out, in a foggy, shapeless smoke originating somewhere between the keyboard and me.
I start. "Who? What?"
It tut-tuts disapprovingly. "Have you forgotten me already?" Its voice, deeper than ever, always reminds me of George Clooney.
I heave a sigh of relief. "It's you. Don't change your looks so often. I get really terrified, being submerged in writing a horror story and all that."

Its jaw drops. "Horror story! Of all the..." I wish it would go away, it really creeps me out. "Try something comic, for a change," it says with a melancholy look. "But what's the use?"
"What do you mean?" I hate its superior-than-thou attitude. I almost don't want to know what it means.

"The writing is just a little corner of a wide world you know nothing about. There's a huge cloud of thingies you need to learn."
"Like what?" I hate, hate its tone. I know what I am doing and what I need to do. I hate the preaching.
"Self-promo, girl, self-promo."
"Self what?"

It snorts. "You're unbelievable. Don't you want people to come flocking to you and pull each other apart to get your attention? In other words, what do you do to promote your writing?"
"Oh, that. I do it so well. I post links to my Twitter and Facebook profiles. And oh yes! I almost forgot," I add with a nervous grin, "I am a member of Indiblogger community too."

It sniffs. Too loudly to my liking. "You mean you don't send countless mails to your contacts, friends, acquaintances, almost-acquaintances, ex-colleagues, neighbours, clients, passers-by and people who don't even exist about the articles, stories and blogs you write?"
"No... but I have a few links given in the 'About Me' page of my blog. I even have a 'My Links' page! Not to speak of one entire page dedicated to My Book!"
"Do you honestly think people are dying to know about you that they visit your 'About Me' page?"
"Aren't they? You're saying what I do isn't enough?"

A-Ego rolls its eyes.
I remain defiantly unconvinced. "Why? Why should I do anything more?"
"Because," it slipped into the tone of a patient teacher explaining to a child, "other writers are surging ahead. They are going to snatch the trophy before you even get started from here."
"Really?" I look around to see writers zoom past. "Then I must do something. Tell me what I can do."
"You should scream it from the rooftops."
"I am afraid someone might hear."

"How pathetic can you get. To give you credit, you do climb to the rooftop," I beam at this, "but all you do is whisper." The beam wipes itself out. "You pause at each plant on your way, pick up the fallen flowers, smell them, ponder over them, and stroll when you should be screaming, shouting, yelling and racing ahead."
"I like that, I mean picking the flowers and enjoying the fragrance... that's how I like to be."
"DUH." It hear it mumble as it straightens, "I think I am wasting my time." It makes one last attempt. "Why don't you, at least, post these links to your social networking sites several times over the week, instead of just once in your lifetime? Send a mail to a few people when you write something worth reading? Haven't you seen people do that?"
"Won't my friends call me a spammer?"
Its shoulders droop. "There. I can't explain any more. I am exhausted. Some day you will realise how right I was."

Are all alter-egos this snobby, snorty and sniffy?

"Let me tell you something else," it says in a tone that's no longer mild. "If this goes on, I may leave you. Like, forever."
"Ha," I finally get the upperhand, "you can't do that. You're my alter-ego. MY alter-ego."

It makes a sound like a forlorn sigh but its eyes gleam with mirth. "You can never say. One of these days, if I get a better offer, I may..."
This time it's my jaw that drops. The shapeless smoke begins to fade with a chuckle that reverberates long after it vanishes.

Snorty, sniffy, superior or not, I really think the fella has a point...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thematic Photographic - Savour

I thought I will not be posting anything for Carmi's Thematic Photographic Challenge this week. After all, there weren't any delicious-looking photographs lying around. Moreover, the pictures posted by others cover almost all the possible shades on the Savour spectrum - there was nothing I could cook up (umm.. literally) that would add something new to it.

Then came Sunday.

Veg Pulao

Monday, October 25, 2010

Of Blogs and Writing

There was a time, not too deep inside the trash can of my memory, when I began each of my working days with a spot of activities that had no relation to the work I was doing. I would take about half an hour every morning to "settle down." This half hour was devoted to luxuries like a cup of tea, catching up with friends, and... something I looked forward to every day: reading blogs. My favourite blogs were listed in my blogroll, and every morning it was a delight to see a few of them updated. There were some others which did not make it to my blogroll at the time, but were interesting nevertheless and would make for a read on a rainy day.

What a mix of reading they made! The bloggers, who hailed from India to Canada to Australia to the US, wrote about their passions, their professions, news in their part of the world and things I knew nothing of. I followed them for the wonderful way they demonstrated their points of view. Each had a unique style: the way they wrote, the words they used, the photographs they posted, even the fonts they chose and the way their blogs were laid out. For me, every read was a learning. I would pick up a phrase that was beautiful, a word that was new or forgotten, a thought that was inspiring, a piece of news that was fresh, a perspective that was fascinating, a memory that was pleasant, a picture that was captivating, a skill that was enviable, a comic that was hilarious or an idea that was thought-provoking. It was the writing, most of the time, that took me back to them, I could see no other reason for my returning to blogs that spoke about things I had no clue on. I would devour them, sometimes over and over again because I knew there was something I could take back from them.

As time passed, more blogs were added to my blogroll. Some were removed because they, seemingly abandoned for months by their authors, sedimented at the bottom of my blogroll.

Though the attention I pay these blogs has now come down - I may not visit daily - the fascination with them remains. I still read and ponder over them, delight in them and learn from them, like a child with a new toy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Proud Mamma brags

A few days ago my almost-five-year-old, who has been taught at school to read single-syllable words, read the following, slowly, taking his time with each syllable, adding them together and coming up with excellent results:

His grandparents were delighted, I was proud.

And thus we have merrily sailed into the term-2 of school. Whew, Sigh, Wow and all that, and then some.
He has now mastered the upper and lower case English alphabet with minimal confusion (he now only confuses 'b' with 'd'.)
In Mathematics, he has learnt to count till 100 (though at times he falls back to 30 after 69 and this goes on in an infinite loop till someone nudges him out of it). He also distinguishes which number among two is greater. He knows how to spell the numbers (in words) till ten, except 'eight', which is slightly confusing anyway.
Once the English confusion was out of the way, he began to attempt Hindi. He has been taught from 'अ' to 'अ:' but still forgets some of them. His teacher isn't worried, she says "let's give him some time." Fine by me!

Thus speaketh a Mother who had posted this blog exactly an year ago, trying to hide her terror between the lines of the post. So much has changed since then. A year ago, I thought it impossible for a child to read three-letter English words, even at the end of Kindergarten. The least I wanted was for my son to properly identify the alphabet. I would not have believed it, had you told me that today he would read simple sentences like:
This is a car.
These are eggs.
The fat man in the van has a fan.

Oooooh I am loving it, watching him piece together the syllables and read the sentences, with the triumphant expression of pronouncing a verdict.

Still months away from completing KG, he amazes me when he says that the greater-than symbol ('>') is a crocodile who likes to eat the larger number. He doesn't get the symbol wrong even once as he ponders over the numbers on either side and draws the sign between them, the crocodile's mouth open towards the larger number. He also knows what '=' means.

He spells and writes his name, and a few months ago he declared that 'cycle' was spelt as 'SKL.' Can't blame him - I have no clue why 'cycle' in reality has such an unbecoming spelling. He looks at the word 'clever' and says it should be read as 'clay-ware'. I have no objection whatsoever! He has his phonics right, something the people who made up these words apparently didn't have.

He was not exposed to English before he started school, so it's a delight to hear him speak the language to his non-Malayali friends, though the grammar is not too perfect. Even his toys sometimes speak English: the other day, I overheard his clay dinosaur tell his other clay friends, "Let's go and eat somebody!"

Do I look starry-eyed? Can I be excused?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Freedom at Midnight

Yellowed pages ready to tear at the slightest provocation.

A carefully scribbled signature of a person who had just started owning books and marking them to show ownership.

A date written beneath the signature, possibly that of purchase: 25/6/87

The story of a slice of history that needs to be re-read time and again.

Cool breeze on a warm afternoon.
The book slips from my hand as my eyes droop.
The papers flutter and close, stopping at the title page.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

As the Games leaves for Glasgow...

... all I can think of saying is, "Whew".

After what happened just days before the Commonwealth Games was scheduled to start, after enduring so much of shame to last a lifetime, reaching even to the point of having foreigners blast the entire Nation on its account while we could do nothing but hang our heads in embarrassment, athletes pulling out, organisers threatening to call the event off etc., it was no surprise that every single Indian had his or her fingers crossed on the day of the opening - our only prayer had been, God, let it happen without any glitches, we don't ask for a world class event, we don't ask for a lot of medals, just let it start and end without any more mistakes.

A wave of relief spread across the country prior to the Games when Field Hockey Canada posted these pictures on their Facebook profile, followed by Team Wales and others. Our Army stepped in to fix the footbridge that had collapsed. Things went on in a war footing and yes, we managed to save ourselves by a hair's breadth.

Unlucky I was to miss the grand opening ceremony, and had to be content with reading text messages about the magnificent programs and watching highlights a day later on youtube. The relief and pride were evident in the messages I received from my friends.

The few complaints that trickled in as the Games were underway were of no concern - after all, those happen everywhere that an event of this magnitude takes place.

My relief at an event well done slowly gives way to Gratitude...

... to everyone involved, who dropped everything and rushed to clear the Nation's image when all some of us could do was writhe in shame.

... to everyone, here and abroad, who placed their trust in us, and came forward to show their support in spite of everything, through their presence, their encouraging words and every little gesture. I have no words to describe how much we appreciate it.

... to people like my friend Nikhil, who held steadfast in their belief that 'everything will fall into place in the end' even when the rest of us screamed in fury.

Thank you, Delhi.
Thank you for adjusting your lifestyle so that the Games could take place without hassles.
Thank you for being uncomplaining about all the hardships you had to endure in the name of security and other reasons related to the Games.
Thank you for Booing those who deserved to be booed, and cheering our friends and rivals alike.
Thank you for giving our visitors a good time.
Thank you, Delhi, for making all of us proud.

(Mr.Kalmadi has thanked all the others involved in a detailed narration that lasted almost as long as the rest of the closing ceremony did, so I do not list them here... )

Go Glasgow!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Do you have any answers?

The questions have lost some of their beauty and innocence because of my crude translation...

1. Why is it that boy lions have long hair and girl lions don't have any hair, whereas it is the other way round in people?

2. Why is Ganesha's head the same colour as his body? Shouldn't it have the colour of an elephant?

3. What did the little elephant's Mother do when the Gods took away her child's head to attach with Ganesha's body? (God, I swear I never thought of that!)

4. If Z is spelled as 'Z-E-D' and B is spelled as 'B-I', what is the spelling of A?

5. Where does the cow get all the milk from?

6. This one's a gem. He was watching Walt Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. When the handsome Prince comes upon Snow White suddenly, she runs inside, alarmed. When I explained that the girl ran away because she was surprised and scared, the simple and straightforward question comes: "Why did she run? Why didn't she just ask him, 'Who are you?'"

7. - "How many Gods are there in this World?"
    - "I don't know. A lot."
    - "Tell me how many!"
    - "Ten thousand and one."
    - "Ok. Now tell me their names."

8. "What will happen if we eat the Moon? Will we become the Moon?"

9. (Don't ask what made me explain tides and waves to an almost-five-year-old, but I did, and this was the result:)
"Why is the Moon pulling at all the water in the ocean? Is she trying to drink it?"
"If the Earth wasn't pulling it back, would all the water fly up to the sky?"

10. Hearing me call both my Mother and my Mother-in-law as 'Amma', he asks me, "How come you have two Ammas? I have only one. I want two Ammas as well!"

PS: Can anyone help me with the answers?

[Promote on Indivine]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Mangalore take-off

No one can enter or leave the mountain-top airport at Mangalore without being affected by a string of emotions.

As we climb to the airport by road, we brace ourselves for an awesome view during take off. But not for a moment can we forget the price that Awesomeness often comes at; the tragedies and dangers that the table-top runway conceals.

The small aircraft seems to take a deep breath before its jittery, noisy, unsteady lunge across the runway for the lift off.

As the plane ascents, the terrifying gorge comes to view where a small human error in judgement had claimed lives just months ago. There is no sign to remind us of it, in case we do need reminding - the remnants of the disaster have long been swallowed by the ravine. Only a vague uneasiness remains in the viewers' searching eyes. Yet, if for a moment we're willing to forget the tragedy, we can allow ourselves to take in the breathtaking view as the aeroplane makes a turn above the cliff and heads towards its destination.

As we complete the turn and proceed on our way, I look back at the receding gorge, surrounded by green mountains, calm and ominous, now resembling ant-hills with a dash of pale green sprayed at the top, and could not but heave a sigh of relief that we're leaving it behind to its unpleasant memories, and say a quiet prayer that there occur no more errors - human or divine - and that it holds no more tragedies on its lap.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waiting for Spring

A few...
... dashed memories
... foiled wishes
... scattered dreams...

Winter followed Autumn, and soon came Summer. There was yet no sign of Spring.

He would walk the street, jacket pulled over his shoulder, seeing everything but taking nothing in. The newspapers screamed out the changing face of the world. He would look around, searching the crowd for a well-known face. Strangers they were, and they always will be. They spoke languages he knew but bore no significance to him. They talked, shouted, bargained, fought. He paid no heed to his surroundings. He scanned the sky for a sign, the earth for a path.

The Fall... of Snow, of Leaves, of Rain.
Heat. Lightning. Thunder.

There were always signs, there were always roads. But none were intended for him.

He stopped.
It was smooth, beautiful, soft and luring. He glided towards it without knowing why. Without even asking himself why. It was beckoning him, as it did many others.
They flocked towards it. He followed.

He was way too into it when he snapped awake.
Quicksand. Everywhere.
And they were all sinking into it, watching each other disappear.

Not that it mattered. He would not want to escape.
Not as long as Spring refused to arrive.

The flowers that withered would never bloom again.
The leaves that fell would never be green again.
The trees that were skeletons would never be covered again.
The rivers that dried up would never see floods again.

And still, Spring evaded the streets.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Father ...

He engineered Independence.
He lived by the principles he advocated.
He led the country in a relentless fight - by redefining the word 'fight'.
He brought the British to their knees.
He gave his life to do it.

He was the only answer to India's greatest problem. Then, and since.
No one before or after has been able to bring the nation together by sheer force of will.
He gave new meaning to Sacrifice.

When his followers were required to prove they were worthy of him, they failed him. "Everyone cannot be a Mahatma," they claimed. They split the country and tore his heart.

Perhaps only time that he lost the battle with his own.