Writing Rigour

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. – Agatha Christie

That’s the headline of a blog that I have followed for a while. For a few years now, the blog has been defunct; not the blogger. I met the blogger today; very much alive. Said blogger stopped blogging a few years ago. What’s the point, she said. When she stopped blogging, she did not explicitly ask this question. I know another blogger who did the same. She perhaps was asking different questions. I actually know of a third blogger. He stopped blogging too. His question — I have no idea. He went to the extent of deleting his blog. It must have been serious.

I have, I will confess, considered not blogging. But for the life of me, I could never consider deleting my blog. Good or bad, I cannot deny that this has been an integral part of my life. That, some of the followers of my blog bring up posts from several years ago in a conversation, is reason enough. (I tried doing an April Fool gag; fell flat on my face). There was a time when I wrote words that everyone most people liked. That’s not the case, now.

Not that words are foreign. They are still mine. I recognise them just like before. Just that the way they want to be together is unlike how they’d gather like obedient children; earlier. Perhaps, I am not a shepherd of words. Perhaps words shepherd me. Perhaps, that is why some of my recent posts are shite. Or, I have lost the ability to shepherd. The shepherding, notwithstanding — the words are mine and I am of words.

We have just lost the rhythm.

All I need, is to go to the dance floor that isn’t patronized by any one any more and do my silly dance. Where no one will see me. Where neither my words, nor I will care.  Salsa with adjectives and Samba with verbs. The apocalyptic dance. One writer in the world; no reader left. Is a writer made of readers or is a writer made of writing? Will a writer write if there is no one left to read? What defines a writer? The writing, or the readers?

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I told her today, my writing, in recent times, has achieved heights of mediocrity, not knowing, if that is a sense of achievement. But I have to write. Not because you will read. Not because you will like it. I have to write, because I have to write. Scribble.

125659: Wall Grunge

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No writer, if she can, should give up writing. Because every writer knows one thing (even if she cannot sense it) – she and the words are one. She may walk away from words. (Words are kinda stupid; they have no emotion – they will sit where they were last sat; where words should be – is a writer’s prerogative.) But there is no leaving. Even if she never writes them – she cannot escape them.

If you can help it – do not become a writer. There is no escape. If you become a writer; welcome to the club!

Crucial Curation

Those who have followed this blog for a while, know of my love-hate relationship with social media. I have been on and off social networks — as if I was punishing the networks — when I got upset with the nature of conversation and interaction that people on the network were having.

The network is inert.

Lately, without wanting to do so, I have been away from the networks. [To be clear, I do not consider WordPress as one of them]. It’s almost impossible to be on a network without taking sides. And if you do not take a side, variants of history’s accusations are hurled at you from all sides. Taking sides is worse; the enslavement is unbearable.

While this phenomenon is obvious and in-your-face on digital social networks, it is not limited to them. Shoot first and ask questions later is becoming the norm. Everyone wants to be the quickest draw in the West. And the East. And the North and the South. Amit referred to it as a left-right mud-slinging contest in a recent Twitter thread. It’s not. It’s fact-slinging. Apparently different types of facts. Alternative facts. Your facts. My facts. True facts. Baseless facts. Useless facts. (Yes, I have read people use these pairs).

We are fast losing the ability to discern between opinions, suggestions, ideas, rhetoric, humour even. All these, and more are being abstracted as statements, open for the rest of us to vilify, mock, abuse, and in general – demean. We do not have the time to pause and refer to context. And even if we had the time, where is the context? In less than three minutes we send eight tweets on seven different themes. How does a reader get the context? When does the reader get context?

There is also the question of the platform. Take Twitter, because I have mentioned it a couple of times now. Most of us readily blame the platform for this phenomenon.

The platform is inert.

It has no means or the capacity or the intelligence to expose us any more than what we publish to the platform. The one thing that it has enabled — is give voice to everyone. In these times when voice is free, there’s a dash to be heard. Me, me, me! But no one listens, because everyone is busy talking. And one thing is clear: mostly, people are angry. And it seems like old anger, one which was voiceless so far. And it has become ugly and rotten.

Unlike the different types of facts, that we believe in, we don’t believe that there are multiple truths. We do not have the patience for any truth to reveal itself. Fleeting gratification appeals to our ever shortening attention spans.

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Jama Masjid, Kalburgai (Gulbarga)

Jama Masjid, Kalburgai (Gulbarga)

All is not lost however, as apocalyptic this post may sound: as long as you curate.

There are many people who are spreading joy (not by mis-attributed feel-good hackneyed cheesy-quotes on mushy-stock-images) but, by just being themselves, sharing life experiences. These are statements in the true sense. They carry with them, no attributes of opinions, suggestions, and such. There is no compulsion to engage. In this case, the consumption is the engagement.

That’s where curation becomes crucial.

This is not to say that we become unaware as citizens and humans. What’s wrong must be righted.

In the real-world. Not on Twitter.

Painlessness

It was a sharp pain.

Below the chest. Not exactly in the stomach. Somewhere in between. That’s where the intestines are, I suppose. Having majored high-school in Biology didn’t help, all that study, and I had no idea what was there; which of those many tightly packed organs was keening like a banshee. (Sorry, Mrs. SS!) My thoughts went back to my textbook from school, trying to remember the organic arrangement. Then, and I have no idea why, I realised I had been feeling the pain for a while; I just hadn’t noticed it. My thoughts shifted from what I was thinking, to the pain, and —without notice — like a ghost spirited away by sunlight: the pain vanished.

Just like that!

It took a couple of kilometres, to realise that I was very angry, when the pain started. Very angry about something that’s going on in the world that I live in. Very angry about how people are reacting to this thing. Very, very angry at all the name calling, the all too common spewing of venom all around me. Specifically, the bile-filled pit of 140 chars. And as soon as I started thinking about the placement of my organs, I wasn’t in pain anymore.

A while ago, I made a conscious choice not to go anywhere near that pit. And I haven’t ever, almost never. But it is all so pervading. It’s a big pit. Large. Huge. Massive. Enormous. It’s inescapable. And just like that, I left.

Not Twitter; I left the pit.

A Fine Divide

The medium is not the message. Sometimes, bits of messaging corrode the medium, all we need to do is clean the medium. It’s all clean now. I am away from the pit.

There’s no pain.

An Unfinished Thought

4958: Grand Ceiling

“How would you write about the end and the beginning…”

“Every beginnin…”

“…without a butterfly, caterpillar, window, sunsets, sky, clouds, linings or the tenses? No metaphors, no telling me what a great artist or a scientist said, no clichés, and definitely no fake quotes.”

“Whatever ends, doesn’t continue; whatever begins, continues.”

“Is that all? Would you write no more?”

“Well, if you took all my devices away from me, all my paints and brushes, deny me any decoration, then that would be all. In any case, there is nothing more to an end or a beginning. It is what it is.”

It’s over and it wont last
It ends, this is the last.
Only for that, it is the end
What’s new, at this end.

“You know what doesn’t have a beginning or an end?”

“What?”

“An unfinished thought.”

“An unfinished thought has a beginning, it hasn’t found its end, as yet.”

“But, if it is unfinished, how de we know where it begins and where it ends?”

“The very fact that it is un-finished…”

“Aaargh. When I began this conversation, I thought it would be fun. I’d like to end it now.”

The End

Arth: A Conversation

When we smile, do we hide a lot? Are our smiles honest? It begets the question, what is honesty, really? When we express ourselves the way we want to — it is honesty. When we express ourselves without intention, that is honesty, too. Is the smile a manner of how we “are,” or how we want to “be,” or how we want to be “seen.”

Honest to whom? To ourselves, of course, I presume. Then, what we project is immaterial, isn’t it? Or is it? I don’t know. What we feel, what we think, what we want to happen, what we want others to think about how we “really” feel is all about being “happy”, with our being, in essence, it seems. So, whether we really feel a certain way of being “happy”, or we expect others to reinforce our own “projected happiness”, to be really happy with our own existence… well, I still don’t know what begets what. “Aankhon mein namee, haseen labon par” [Translation: Moist eyes; yet a smile on my lips]— we all need someone to see that moist eye, somewhere hiding behind the smiling face, I guess?

Are our tears a call for action, from the other, in that sense? When we cry, alone, are we really hoping that someone sees our tears? Not true, always, in my experience. Crying alone has its value; its virtue. Cathartic, some might say. We are to be responsible for ourselves. I am not talking of the social diktat. We have to dwell, twirl, and spiral within all that we feel. Poets, the good ones, have done injustice, for we borrow from them, the meaning and structure of what we feel. I utterly dislike poets. I have perhaps, said this to you before. As much as I love them. The sense of my feelings never seem to be my own.

We borrow, where we fail to express well. However, in essence, the point is that there’s a form and meaning to the emotions that we all feel that these poets provide, so to speak. A vehicle, in a way. But that’s besides the point, no? Are our tears, shown or not shown, a call to action for the other? Well, we want to hide the best we can what we don’t want others, including our loved ones, to judge us on, at any point of time. Point remains – any emotion , when unexpressed, is what we appreciate much more when felt by the ‘other’. As for the expression of these emotions, through those vicarious, or through some ways external to us – like these songs from Arth, are just a channel. In some sense, I feel, it’s useless in way. Because, such oral and obvious expressions are not what we’re looking, for when we expect latent emotions to be really “felt” without specific ventilation on our part. When you lose your primary audience (you know who I mean) and that medium of conversation (with those channels cut off), these songs become your emotional anthems.

So, these songs are our crutches, in some form? They are, perhaps. But, given that these songs are so beautiful, I’d rather not attribute ‘crutch’ to them. But that that’s just me. So, when the lover asks, how could I ever burn those wonderful handwritten letters of yours, he speaks of the dilemma of the beginning and the end at the same time. But the sense of burning never leaves him, for even when he submits her love letters to the Holy Ganges, he speaks of lighting a pyre in that pure water. Purity of fire, meets purity of the Ganges.

“Him”; I think of ‘me’ every single time these words pass through me. Beauty of these words, somewhere, lies in the fact that it’s so close to the feeling of a sense of loss, that you feel, is not warranted. The connection, the emotion, the whole ventilation that goes through you, is what makes these songs immortal, at least as far as I’m concerned. Despite all the things we do in our regular lives, we live for those moments that remain with us. A letter, handwritten, garnished, conceived from start to the end, in the heart of someone that values us for “just existing,” for God’s sake, is something that cannot be burnt. That age-old paper, with that ink, lost in past, with those emotions buried within those strokes of ink, lends you, your life — today. And, that’s a big deal.

“Despite all the things we do in our regular lives, we live for those moments that remain with us.” — well said. I once said, that our lives are just a count of incidents. It’s the same, when you refer to them as “moments.” And, as most corny and cheesy memes on Facebook and Twitter will tell you, it’s these moments that determine our life. I disagree. Moments are so personal, they can never be generalised to a population. When, in “Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar” – he asks her to count the heartbeats of her young heart and asks for comparison with his own, that’s not his real question — he is seeking a sense of oneness; a sense of a shared, common existence. I go back to my question of the smile. In the song, in the last stanza, he displays braggadocio – but it’s not; he is as much scared in his expression of love as much as she is scared to admit it.

“He is seeking a sense of oneness”. Hoping. That’s what a lover ends up hoping for, and hopes for it to be the truth. I sense; a sense of optimism mixed with romanticism, with a purport of really knowing what the other person feels. You only know if it’s what ‘you hope for’, or ‘is the truth that’s being hidden behind all these facial expressions of casualness’; if you’ve really gone through it with a person yourself. Depending on where you are in any relationship, you could be anywhere in the continuum of possibilities — hope to reality. And, when things in reality don’t really converge with hope, then, you end up blurting out – “vo jo apna tha vohi aur kisi ka kyun hai, yahi duniya hai to phir eisi ye duniya kyun hai, yehi hota hai to aakhir yehi hota kyun hai…”. [Translation: That which was mine, why is it someone else’s; if this is how the world is, why is the world like this] Sometimes, it’s all about hope. Even in despair, poets find a way to find hope. Even if that knock on your door is in your imagination, you seek to open it. Oughta learn?

Are you in love?

A lover is always in.

Haha. Good one, mate. I expected another word to end that sentence of yours. But, by the stroke of slashing that word, you have described a true lover. Love is not about being loved. It is about being “in” love.

Aah, there’s my clue! Did you notice that we have two words – “Lover” and “beloved”. Loving is the action, and that’s the only one that you’re responsible for. Being a beloved is not in your hands. So, yeah, Love is about loving. As for being loved, well, keep hoping. Being loved is not in your hands. So, all you can do is love. And, being beloved? Well….

I like that. Being in love, i.e. It was Voltaire, if I remember well, who said, “it is better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all.” And I reiterate — I like being in love. The sheer essence of the feeling makes my world go round (or around, whatever the word is). May there be more who seek love, in the true sense of what it means (and that needs to be discovered, for who knows, what love really means.)

You said it – “Who knows what love really means”. ‘Koi ye kaise bateye ke vo tanhaan kyun hai,..’ [Translation: How does one know if another is lonely]. Who knows whatever ‘whatever’ means. In the end, like Jagjit Singh says… ‘Aas jo toot gayi, phir se bandhata kyun hai…’ [Translation: Why do you try and bind the hope that is broken] – It’s all about hope, mate. Whenever I listen to these songs of “Arth”, I get a sense of melancholy and hope — in love, combined, if it makes sense; that’s what matters, immaterial of the possession of that ‘you’.

I see you, and this thought comes to my mind…

~o~

PS: The above post was a “live conversation” that occurred on a shared Google Doc that I had with Ashish Bhagwat. We were together, facing each other, as this post developed. Before we started this “experiment,” we talked of much, and as a blogging experiment, we had a ‘digital’ conversation. The conversation was centred around the songs of the movie — Arth. No edits were made. This post was linear; one paragraph by him and the next by me. His conversations are in italics; mine are regular. My blogging experiments continue. If you have an idea, let me know: we should experiment more.

Ashish Bhagwat - Co-blogging

Ashish Bhagwat – Co-blogging

No Bucket; No List

It’s a good thing I believe in rebirth.

Partly, because I have been brought up believing in these tenets. More-so, because I find there’s value in it. We spent all of yesterday visiting historical places; we, is a couple of friends and I. The original idea was to visit one fort, slightly binge on the wonderful seafood available at this town that hosts the coastal fort. We ended up visiting three forts in the vicinity.

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I saw The Bucket List, a while ago. Given the actors, I loved the movie. I could not relate to the movie, much. I didn’t quite get the bucket list. I know what it means, I didn’t get the why.

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Very few of us have the privilege of doing what we want, when we want to. Most of us have to work for a living (which is a conspiracy theory, in itself), and we are offered slices of time to do what we want to do (as against what we need to do). That slice occupies most of our attention. What we would otherwise take five week-days to do, we cram in a weekend. It’s like a game of tag. Or GTD. Needless to say, the weekend list is longer than the other five days. And we play a game of touch and go. It becomes a challenge of checkboxes that we can strike-out.

Smart people (and I am getting there) become curators. There’s an acknowledgement about how much can be achieved, given the constraints. It seems, the trick is not to speed up, but to slow down. Resignation is not necessarily a negative word. It is positive in your own personal sense of acceptance. The remainders, I leave for my next life. There are experiences that fill our hearts so much, that we would explode. But if we never gave them time to fill our hearts, we’d never know.

View of Revdanda Fort from Korlai Fort

View of Revdanda Fort from Korlai Fort

Lists also tend to deny us experiences that we would otherwise have. For we focus on the list and our blinders take us where the list takes us. We tend to see nothing else, when we focus on the list. Climbing up to a fort, climbing down a fort, we ignore our heart beat; we focus on completion; we never sense the lives that made that fort; which is why we climbed, in the first place. We are losing much as we strike off an item in a check-list; we are losing even when we seek an experience.

Some of us may have specific ambitions. For the rest of us, there are no rules.

We have to be just out there and allow life to do what it does best. Allow a life.

One of His Many Books

I want to read Demian, by Hermann Hesse, again. It has been a few years, since I read it. And as I was cleaning the shelves today, this book just called out. It will have to wait, as I finish the book I have on hand. But Demian is next.

IMAG0418-01

This is a book that I did not buy, borrow or steal. It is an inheritance.

I remember seeing this book on my father’s shelf. As a child — I must have been 10 or 12 at the time — this book scared me, because of its cover. That expressionless face, with those empty marble-eyes devoid of focus; celtic-like tentacles flowing out, where hair should have been. The stony under-eye-textured face, and those tentacles again, that slid dreadfully to the back cover creepily intertwining a screaming skull. In my immature mind, Demian was another word for a Demon.

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Years later, when I first left the country for a long-term assignment, fifteen years ago, I took this book with me. I remember the time, when, with much trepidation, I opened the book; my childhood fears still alive and begging me to close the book. In a foreign country, alone, afraid, adventurous, audacious, and animated at the same time, I added to the excitement and the fear, and opened the book. At the end of the two-page prologue, I discovered:

The life of every man is a way to himself, an attempt at a way, the suggestion of a path. No man has ever been utterly himself, yet every man strives to be so, the dull, the intelligent, each one as best as he can. Each man to the end of his days carries round with him vestiges of his birth — the slime and egg-shells of the primeval world. There are many who never become human; they remain frogs, lizards, ants. Many men are human beings above and fish below. Yet each one represents an attempt on the part of nature to create a human being. We enjoy a common origin in our mothers; we all come from the same pit. But each individual, who is himself an experimental throw from the depths, strives towards his own goal. We can understand each other; but each person is able to interpret himself to himself alone.

~ Demian, Hermann Hessse, translated by W. J. Strachan, Granada Publishing Limited, first published in 1960; last reprint in 1976

This concluding paragraph of the prologue was hopeful, and frightening at the same time. The original fear had manifested itself, and I felt the presence of new invisible fears. What lies ahead; in the hundred-and-fifty-odd pages that I am to read? I can never know. Leaving the safety of home, when I asked my father, if I could take this book with me, he seemed happy as he handed the book to me. I remember little now, but perhaps, he was smiling. I think he knew that this book terrified me, as a child. But, if he was smiling, it wasn’t because of the irony, it was, perhaps because he sensed that it was the right time for me to read the book.

This book is unique, for me, because he never signed it; it is bereft of his marginalia. There is a small pencil-scribble on the first page. Top-right. ₹9.50. That’s what he must have paid for the book. There is nothing to say that this book was his and he read it, other than the fact that I know he did. Only a few sticky-notes (mine; I dared not enter marginalia in a book that did not belong to me; even now, I do not) stay glued, neatly above paragraphs, where some questions terrorised me. And this fear was different. It had nothing to do with the cover. It became real. I hoped that I’d have a conversation about these questions with him someday, but we never found the time. And without a spoken or a written word, that sudden day, his books were bequeathed to me and my sister. And we had to find our own answers, since that day.

Time passes. Our questions change. And therefore, our answers.

It’s time for Demian.