Why Do I Write?

Good writers are concerned about their writing. Often to the point of anxiety. The worry spans many concerns.

Do I write well? If I do, how do I know? Does anyone read what I write? How do I know that someone is reading what I write? How many read what I write? Do they like what I write? Do they know who I am? Are those who read what I write smart as me, or smarter? Do they like me or do they like what I write? Should I write more or should I write less? Should I write for the masses or for the classes?

These and many other such concerns are a good writer’s constant companions. Different writers are concerned differently, with varying intensity of the concern, and apart for their other interests and intelligence, these concerns are what makes them good writers.

MacBooking

Recently, while writing On the Write Path, Amit asked if writing has value outside of its readership, and I said yes. He then turned the question over its head and asked if readership has a value for a writer (apart from money), and I said yes.

The value in both, the writing and readership is intangible, but is valuable indeed. Writing helps refine our thoughts, create expression, and plants the seed for a conversation. Readership creates conversation, broadens our thinking, enables us to write better. That’s how the cycle starts and keeps going on.

That, you will agree, is a very simple, insipid value statement.

What makes the cycle exciting is all the traps and the escapes that a writer goes through. Staring at the blank page, every writer, has questioned, at least once — Why do I write? While the answer to that question is yet to be discovered, the writer writes, and the question permeates the writing, even though no word will betray it. The writer waits for a reader. Or, waits for at least an acknowledgement, that a reader exists. The writing resonates with a reader. Reader acknowledges the writer. It feels like an answer to the writer’s question, but the writer is mistaken. The writer, in turn, acknowledges the reader. Writer continues writing. More readers arrive. The writer becomes a reader. Writes. Reads. Writes, again. The writer forgets the original question. A new question emerges — Who do I write for? A new trap. And new escapes. Somewhere, while all of this is going on, social compulsions attack the writer. Promotion, engagement, statistics, popularity. Multiple skirmishes occur. New questions are born (see second paragraph, above). New escapes. The writer becomes a warrior. In a few cases, the readers become an army. Some battles are won, some lost. Much experience is gained. Over time, a few from the army, desert. The writing continues. New readers are conscripted. The question — Why do I write — remains unanswered. It bares itself at its whim. Every other question is either answered or discarded as worthless. This one question, just refuses to get answered and go quietly into the night. And the writer continues writing.

All the writing, whether it is read or not, whether appreciated or not, becomes a value in itself, over time. The cumulative experience of writing and reading, that intangibly laces the words, curiously determines their placement, and stealthily deepens the meaning, is the value. Impossible to measure or define, but most easy to feel, right after we write. Part of this value accumulates to the writing, part of value to the self.

Perhaps, that is why I write.

The Book and I

The same wise man I referred to in my previous post is the reason I love reading. I have many books, and may I say — just like him. As I have said before, I haven’t read all the books I own. I’ve seen books go out of print, in my lifetime, so buying them while they are available makes good sense. It’s, what has been called an anti-library.

*

As I have grown, I have toned down my belief in books that are life-changing. There was a time I believed that. Apart from God himself (or herself, as the case may be), I believed Richard Bach and Paul Simon to be Gods. Perhaps, I still do, but I don’t pay as much attention to them. Amit recently shared a trailer of a documentary on Richard Bach. I liked it, but I am not sure I want to see it. God may, indeed, be a human.

*

Our Prime Minister, in a recent public address, exhorted us citizens to read biographies of great people. I took it up with some seriousness. And I am glad, I did. I am more than half-way reading a biography of a great person, and it is inspirational, to say the least. It is changing how I think. In a nice way.

113508: Kalilah-wa-Dimnah (Panchatantra in Arabic)

Kalilah-wa-Dimnah (Panchatantra in Arabic)

*

I have recently developed a phobia of publicly claiming books that I am currently reading. I discovered, I end up not finishing that book. And this is backed up by personal empirical evidence. So, this particular book that I am reading, will show up after I have read it. I am more than half-way through it. A little over 600 pages.

*

Superstitions, and all.

*

Books aren’t life-changing by themselves. We are influenced by what we read, learn, and assimilate. There may be an impressively life-changing book and we may ignore all that it has to offer us. Or we may find meaning in the trashiest of all books. And while Amit (yup, same guy as above) said this in a different context, I think its pertinent to this post:

It’s a sorry state of affair, two misdirected iconoclasts going after each other when they have a lot of common foes to go against, and common ground to build on. Good literature is beyond language. So is shitty literature. And thank [G]od for that! We’re richer because of the vernaculars, and because of IWEs. [Indian Writing in English] Give me more, not less … [Emphasis, and [Edits], Mine]

*

And while I have not been able to do justice being a member of a library, I am glad that they are doing a wonderful job of spreading the love of the written word. In an inimitable way.

*

Grudge not the unread book. Each one of them has something to say. It’s just foreplay for now. Those inanimate pages will express themselves, when the time is right.

*

Meanwhile, embrace what you are reading. May there be a union of what you seek and what is on offer.

History’s Freedom Struggle

The number of blogs (not posts) I write, has increased by one. I’ve started a new blog to redeem old historic texts from the grips of scanned PDFs and machine OCR’ed text files. The blog is at History Telling: Open; a take on His Story Telling; a blog which I have maintained for some time about history, of posts that are mine. History Telling: Open (aims to be) a collection of all open-source resources related to Maratha History between 1600-1820. Most of this content is available on sites like Archive.org and Project Gutenberg, and other OS sites. So, I am not creating any new content on this site. However, the idea is to free this content from restrictive and unfriendly formats and offer an accessible way to consume this content. When you think of the disparate sites that host open-source content, you cannot but imagine, why there isn’t a design-oriented way to present it all. As an example, I suggest you have a look at UNESCO | Women in African History. I think that this is a wonderful example of design, presentation, context and content. I’ll get there, some day. For now, I am a lone wolf. And since I have all the time in the world, this blog will progress, slowly.

Histories, unfortunately, get locked down to the languages in which they are written. So we end up knowing only the popular, generalised, and biased versions of it. It is true of Maratha history, it is true of so many other histories. The written word needs propagation, and that in turn, often, means, translation. But translations have lenses, perspectives, and cultural connotations.

“Anthony Burgess once wrote: ‘Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.’ Each language has gems waiting to be retold.” : Lost in Translation: The Fine Art of It | Swarajya:

I am extremely grateful to the various sites that are the source of this content, and I will make it a point to contribute back as much as possible to these sites.

What is love? : #Anthem 2

I am continuing the #TenAnthemsChallenge that Paul offered, us bloggers. Here’s a quick context about this challenge: Due to an English education, I don’t read/write my mother-tongue very well. English happens to be the language of communication, Hindi, my national language, happens to be the language that I use to think and feel, Marathi, my mother-tongue, unfortunately is the language where struggle, yet find myself.

2525: Garden

Flashback

I am somewhere in college. It’s vacation time, or teachers have gone on strike. Irrespective, the college is closed. I take of to my Aunt’s place — an industrial town. My aunt’s husband, my uncle, works there. Absolutely nothing beckons. If there was ever a definition of being lazy, this was it. I have absolutely nothing to do. The town I live in revolves around the factory that the town survives on. There are sirens going off; life in the town revolves around the shifts. The factory never closes down, because the furnace never sleeps. Unlike me. I sleep all day long and indulge in laziness.

Except, when I play cassettes of Marathi songs in the hot afternoon.

My aunt has finished her chores for the day. I even help her out, somewhat. in the boombox, I insert a cassette, and play a song. I ask my aunt, what the song means. Some words in that song do not belong to my vocabulary. She explains the meaning. She is smart enough to give me the meaning without context. I build my context. I ask her, did I understand it right? She says to me, you have understood it in your own way.

The one song that I play over and over is a song of love. The kind of love that normal human beings will never experience. I ask my aunt the meaning of each and every word, hoping she will give me a context. She answers all my questions, without ever giving a context. I end up making my meaning for that song.

Flashfront

It is a song that is the epitome of being in love; of the expression of love.

I dare not translate this song, like anything else that I dare not translate. So I Googled the “translation” of this song. I made a few edits, and here is what I can offer you as the essence. But, what follows is so much less than what the song is all about.

All the directions seem foggy on such an evening
As the moon is rising in the sky…
On this lovely moon night my sweetheart is with me
And my emotions are overwhelmed

Both of us are speechless in a sweet puzzlement
Like confluence of rivers, (we have) become one
The air is filled with the fragrance of “Raat-Ranee” flowers
And the flowers of love are blossoming
Can hear the romantic songs play
Even though there are no words in the song

Unknowingly we are tinted with evening glow
By playing the strings in heart …
By singing the duet and by becoming one
Let us show our true love …
By becoming one; let’s show our love
The romantic picture is visible in impressive colour combination
Even though there is no paintbrush.

All the directions seem foggy on such an evening
As the moon is rising in the sky…
On this lovely moon night my sweetheart is with me
And my emotions are overwhelmed

And the only reason I add this translation, is that some of my readers will not understand Marathi. The translation you see above does less than 1% justification to the intent and feel of the song that you heard. Yet, I hope, you all can feel the same sense of pure love that I feel when I listen to this song.

I am proud that I am born into a family that descends from great artists, poets, warriors, and administrators; it is unfortunate that my English education distances me from my heritage. It’s late, but I am making amends.

Paul, I have to thank you for this meme. You are extracting some amazing stories.

Flavours of Funny

Funny has two flavours.

One that makes and one that tastes.

We can be both, but we are not necessarily both.

One cooks, one eats.

One can eat what one can cook. Not always, though. It’s always better when someone else eats what we cook.

A friend refused to come to my place ever, because he discovered that I cook. I am now referring to ‘real’ cooking. Like food. He is afraid of dying of food poisoning.

That is funny.

I tried to be funny once. I wrote a post.

Tried.

You are funny or you are not.

Perhaps you cannot always be funny.

Or, once you were funny, now you are not. Maybe you will be funny later.

What you cook remains the same but their tastes change.

Maybe you will cook differently in some time.

Maybe it will appeal to the new tastes.

Maybe not.

What’s important, is the food.

Not whether you cook it or eat it. 

One who eats is as important as the one who cooks.

The kitchen needs the dining room. And vice versa. 

 

Up in the Air

There’s too much of more. There’s a new fanatic in town, and her exposed argot has more words that end with -er.

Faster, smaller, thinner, longer. Sharper. And the sorts.

In Victor Hugo’s apt words, however, argot is the language of the dark; a language of misery.

Here’s a blurred photo.

1787

It’s blurred. You cannot see much detail. There is hardly any specificity in the image. What does this mean for the image? Not for the photographer (that’s me, and I do not care much about what you think of me). Does it become a bad image because, alas, we cannot see the twist and the weave of the fibre that makes the thread that have revolted out of the binding Rexine?

A friend would take up this argument and talk of test cricket and the T20 format.

I’ll digress. If you don’t want to, skip the marked section.

<Start Digress>

I quit Flickr Pro and moved to 500px because it was a suggestion by a well known photographer. I hated it as soon as I saw the “top” photos. They just do not seem real to me. 500px is a muscle show of post-processing. Not that post-processing is bad. I use it all the time. I was looking for a word when I was discussing 500px with a friend. I didn’t find it then, I have it now.

Synthetic.

Over the years, the 500px platform went through a number of revisions and changes, growing together with technology and photographers, and keeping focus on the highest quality photos. Via 500px  (emphasis, mine)

500px offered a way to sell photographs, but I was not (and am not) interested in it, anyway. I’ve (mostly) quit 500px.

</End Digress> 

There is no doubt that our tastes are changing, our attention spans diminishing. We have lesser time for our friends and no time for ourselves. Enough research floating around to prove that. 2831215 is the phone number of the travel agent of my first company. This was when mobile phones didn’t exist. Now, I don’t even remember my fourth travel agent’s name. Hell, I don’t even remember if I use a travel agent anymore. I have to remind myself to add keywords to her address card. My choice of keywords defines what I will forget about her and what I might use to search for her. It’s exhausting, in a way. Her’e a worthwhile exercise – how many mobile numbers (of close friends or family) do you know by-heart?

I need to travel a bit. But I digress. (I should have warned you)

Adobe recently announced that the Creative Suite will now be cloud-based. To make the news worthwhile they included some super sharpening tools to the CS. (Now you know what triggered this post)

Apart from the irritating plugin that I *have* to use with browsers, I do not use any Adobe products because of their bloated sizes and prices. But this post is not about Adobe, at all. Software is a tool; it makes sense in a way that you use it. I find arguments about tools pointless. As long as you do your work well, the tool doesn’t matter. Hammer vs. Pestle. Mac vs. Win or Can vs. Nik. Same difference. 

This post is about simple questions.

How much sharper do we need our images to be? How slimmer should our phones be? How faster should our computers be? How much thinner should our laptops become?

And while the inanimates around us become more ‘-er’ and ‘-er’, what about us?

What ‘-er’ should we be striving for?

A French View

My blog-addiction was under control for a while. Gladly, I lost control.

Defying concern that the folks at WordPress might actually limit the number of blogs I can have, I have started yet another blog.

A View from the Top

This one is interesting. I have started learning French and have chosen not to attend classes. Yes, there are other sites out there (and I’ll link to these resources as I find them — and as my need to learn more French grows), but they are mostly structured — usually in the same way. Greetings, family, check-in to a hotel, ask for a taxi.

What if I am not travelling to France or a French speaking country? What if I want to learn to write poetry in French or watch French films without sub-titles? What if, I want to write a blog in French?

This one is a double experiment: Learning the French language and Exploring how you can learn a language through Web 2.0 — through people who are learners or teachers or just plain old you and me (who know or are interested in French). I plan to leverage all possible Web 2.0 means to learn French. Twitter. Facebook. Goodreads. Blogs. Google (I have been warned against translate.google, though).

I believe in the Web as it is today. I think I’ll learn well. I may not learn it quickly, but it will be a fun experience and more-so — a very fulfilling experience. In any case, I do not have a deadline. I am not going to France soon (but hey, I already have learnt useful French phrases).

So if it sounds interesting (whether the experiment, the language or the experience), I’ll be Learning French