Friday, August 23, 2013

Fear of being a woman

Late last night, I was out at a friend’s gig, when I heard someone somewhere around me say ‘another rape, man; this time in Bombay’. I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘not again,’ and ignored it. I didn’t pause to find out more, I didn’t even pause to give it more than that first thought. As quickly as I could, I threw it out of my head.

This morning, on my way to work, I looked at my twitter timeline that was flooded with news of the #mumbaigangrape and as I read and read, I cried and cried.

I cried because I felt that girl’s pain (even if it was a fraction of it). I cried because I felt her fear. I cried because I felt MY fear. And I cried because I was ashamed.

I was ashamed that I hadn’t paid that comment last night any attention. I was ashamed because I threw away the thought that entered my mind. I was ashamed because I couldn’t even swallow or acknowledge what had happened.

I’ll tell you why I did it though- discarded the mention of that rape- no, it wasn't because I've become numb or indifferent. It was because if and when I let it sink in, the fear that goes down my spine is almost unbearable. It makes me want to go back in time to my mother’s womb, when they still hadn't figured out what my sex was. It makes me want to never do anything again. Never step out of the house, never dream, never dare to live. Because being a woman in this country, and to a large extent, in this world, is a curse. It’s one of those things that you just have to live with. As is the constant fear.

I ask my male friends, colleagues- do you know what it feels like? Most say ‘I’m sure it’s terrible,’ and make tsk tsk sympathetic noises (no disrespect to them). And some others honestly tell me with sadness in their eyes, that no, they can’t imagine what it feels like.

Well, I’ll tell you what it could feel like- it’s like walking in a lone street, in a strange country, where no one understands you or speaks your language, with your passport, your money and all that you consider yours in the middle of the night. All senses heightened, alert, knowing that you have to be extra careful until morning comes, and it’s safe again.

That’s what it feels like ALL the time for women. Except that there is no when morning comes.

We’re expected to be careful at all times. We’re expected, and do, watch our back at all times. Our sixth senses are on high alert, our eyes constantly making sure it’s taking in everything it possibly can in, and around, our periphery. Making sure there is nothing, and no man waiting to pounce at you, from the corner or from right out in front of you.

It’s so exhausting. It’s so nervewrecking. It’s disgusting, and depressing.

You put us on a pedestal and then drag us down. You make us the symbols of human future- the holy bearers of generations to come. And then you want to show us that in fact, you’re the one with the power- If you put us on that pedestal, then you can drag us down. You feel compelled almost, to prove to us that you’re superior.

I’m sick of it. Don’t put me on a pedestal. If I could give you my child bearing capacities, I would. If I could give you the empathy and the skill I have to bring up and nurture your children to carry forward your name into the future, I would. I’ll put you on the highest pedestal there is if you will leave me alone. I’ll put you on that pedestal if all that matters to you is that you come out glorious, more powerful and superior.

Please don’t glorify me, I beg you. Don’t call me holy, don’t think I’m better than you. I don’t want to live in constant fear of you raping me, taking away the only thing that you think will strip me naked and put me in my place. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ten things I’m terrified of in my 20s.

There are so many lists out there talking about the fabulous 20s, the puzzling 20s, and what have you. So I figured what’s one more. But this one’s about things that terrify me in my 20s about my future life.

1. I’m terrified that I’m losing out on time. Like the 20s are supposed to the best years- the ‘golden period’ if you must- where I’m paving, paving, paving the path for my soon to be illustrious future. And if don’t pave fast enough, I’ll never make that road, and then suddenly I’m 30 and then what will I walk on, omigod, I’ll be totally lost, and Omfg, omfg.

2. I’m terrified I’ll never live that travel dream I’ve dreamt of. People say travel young, travel young. And I’m terrified I’m making and saving all this money in my 20s only (not making that much money, actually) to forget the travel dream I had for later. I’m scared I’ll get caught up with other things like marriage, making money, and career paths.

3. Which brings me to... my career. I’m terrified I’ll never have the balls to do what I really want to do. I’m scared I’ll keep using the 20s to dream, dream, dream, stalling till the 30s, to do the ‘real thing I want to do’, and all that will end up being a sham because ‘logic’ ‘logistics’ or ‘reality’ will set in.

4. I’m scared that as I leave my 20s, I’ll become the person I always scoffed at- the person that always knows everything. That super closed minded person that probably thinks I’m a hippie, but he really, was the loser that lacked imagination. I’m terrified I’ll grow older to become that fool.

5. I’m terrified that post my 20s, I’ll want more, but in the most limited way possible. That my lists will grow longer, but only because they’re growing tighter. ‘I want my man to be a funny, non-smoking, open minded, non chauvinistic, scuba diving banker from an exotic country, who is generous and spoils me rotten, but also respects my independence...’ Or whatever, you know?

6. I’ve already noticed a lack of risk taking between now and when I was 17, so what’s to say I won’t become a paranoid person post my 20s, who’s like, ‘oh I don’t want to cycle through this gorgeous park because you know, I might fall and scrape my knee and it’ll be hurt for a whole week and the scab will be so ugly..’. You get the drift.

7. While I’m aware of the fact that I’m getting older, I’m acutely aware of the fact that my parents are getting older too. It almost seems like the minute I turn thirty, I’ll have to start giving serious thought to how to take care of them and make sure they’re okay. The thing about this is that, I’m not sure I’m ready to ‘take care’ of anyone, much less my beautiful parents, who I’ve constantly relied on for guidance and support. The thought of that role reversing is scary, more so because I’m terrified I might not not be as good at taking care of them as they have done for me.

8. I’m terrified I’ll always be selfish. So, this one is a little different- I’m terrified of something I am right now, that I really want to shed, and I think I may not be able to.

9. On the whole, I’m terrified of my entire identity changing when I’m not paying attention. I know it’s silly (which part of this paranoid list, isn’t?). Some people say we all evolve every 7 years; that if you look back seven years earlier, you’ll realise you were completely different. Still, I’m terrified of my identity changing and not having control over it.

10. Most of all, I’m terrified that the 20s might wear me down. That the disappointment I might face in this decade might make me cynical. Worse, it might cause me to settle, settle for less. And become that person that only lives from car loans to house loans, paying EMIs on everything I own and touch. Living a perfectly staid life, one that no one will remember. Not even me, when I look back at it. One in which I wouldn’t have realised my potential. One in which I’m just sheep.

The thing is though, I’m glad I’m terrified of all these things. Because that means I’ll try my damned hardest to focus on what I’ve dreamt for myself and avoid settling for anything else. I might change my mind, and I might change some of my priorities. But if I manage to retain my love for life and never settle for anything less than what I dreamed of as a child, a time when my dreams where the least diluted, then I think I’m sorted.

Catalogue #talesofacat

Here's picture story for a change. Below is my little Kittle in all his flamboyance, and fame.

We've had him for 5 months now, having rescued him from the streets (bless the power of twitter). He came to us as a Valentine's Day gift and what a little crazy gift he's been.

This is two month old kittle, when he first came to us. Funny story insert- we were told he was female. We named the poor bugger Ella and called him 'elegant' 'lady-like', and 'beautiful'. Two weeks into it, a visit to the vet and we had come back broken-hearted that we had to rename him (I love that name, Ella). He's now Garfunkle aka Garfy, and hopefully the awful memory of the two week gender confusion doesn't haunt him forever.

Garfy's obsession with teabags. I'm pretty sure one day when we're cleaning the nook and corners of the house we'll find Garfy's personal storage of these (ew!).

He's a lap-claiming, roaring like a lion (not), poser cat (more posu photos to follow- he fancies himself a model I'm sure).

It's almost like he's asking to be photogrpahed. He has these photo faces, just ready, pouting even.

We watch shows on my laptop together, my Kittle and I. And he still fits in my palm- he's a chipku one this fella. One of the friendliest fellas I met. 

Sometimes I'm convinced he's a dog- he rolls around like one and begs for food, and is destructive around the house.

Sometimes I wonder if he's human- look at the way he's claimed my favourite beer chair.

And this is how I know he belongs with me :D

Thursday, July 11, 2013

25 Wise Life-Learnings

I recently found read some pretty cool 'Life Learnings' that made me smile, smirk, and sad in equal measures. I found myself nodding and agreeing with most everything, but here are the ones that hit home hard. 

Btw, I found this from a really cool website. Some of the stuff in there is worth the read. Especially if, like me, you're one of those introspective (read over-analy-zy) types!

  1. It is a hundred times more difficult to burn calories than to refrain from consuming them in the first place.
  2. The cheapest and most expensive models are usually both bad deals.
  3. A good nine out of ten bad things I’ve worried about never happened. A good nine out of ten bad things that did happen never occurred to me to worry about.
  4. When you break promises to yourself, you feel terrible. When you make a habit of it, you begin to hate yourself.
  5. You can’t change other people, and it’s rude to try.
  6. If everyone in the TV show you’re watching is good-looking, it’s not worth watching.
  7. Whenever you’re worried about what others will think of you, you’re really just worried about what you’ll think of you.
  8. If you never doubt your beliefs, then you’re wrong a lot.
  9. Nobody has it all figured out.
  10. Whenever you hate something, it hates you back: people, situations and inanimate objects alike.
  11. People embellish everything, as a rule.
  12. Putting something off makes it instantly harder and scarier.
  13. Nobody knows more than a minuscule fraction of what’s going on in the world. It’s just way too big for any one person to know it well.
  14. Everyone you meet is better than you at something.
  15. Knowledge is belief, nothing more.
  16. There are not enough women in positions of power. The world has suffered from this deficit for a long time.
  17. What makes human beings different from animals is that animals can be themselves with ease.
  18. If you aren’t happy single, you won’t be happy in a relationship.
  19. “Gut feeling” is not just a euphemism. Tension in the abdomen speaks volumes about how you truly feel about something, beyond all arguments and rationales.
  20. It’s easy to make someone’s day just by being uncommonly pleasant to them
  21. Nothing — ever — happens exactly like you pictured it.
  22. It is worth re-trying foods that you didn’t like at first.
  23. Anyone can be calmed in an instant by looking at the ocean or the stars.
  24.  Life is a solo trip, but you’ll have lots of visitors. Some of them are long-term, most aren’t.
And one of my absolute favourites:

25. When you’re sick of your own life, that’s a good time to pick up a book.

Monday, July 8, 2013

When we find each other.

We throw these curve balls at each other
At incredible speed
Daring each other to catch
Or miss on purpose,

Like its a challenge
An impossible dream,
Thrown into reality.

The reality of you and me
The reality of us
The reality that flows like a river into the ocean,

That stops right before it meets
Only to be thrown back in,
Far far back

Into the memories of time
When immemorial people lived
And craved and died

A hundred deaths just like us
When we cried that day
When we cried that we had found each other that day.


Who does Money scream to
When it's passed around like a whore
From hand to hand?

Who does the Sun pray to
When its cup runneth over
And it needs advice?

Who does Smile grumble to
When its cheeks are red and jaws are burning
From a job overdone?

Who does Love complain to
When all it needs
Is someone to hold on to tonight?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You and I.

o baby
aren't you tired 
of the games we play,
You and I?

don't call me now
because I don't want to do
that tom and jerry thing,
not with You and I.

we speak in riddles
we don't speak at all
why do we do this,
You and I?

then we say too much
and hide it with too little
two little freaks we are,
You and I.

some days are great
some days so crap
i want to hit someone when i think 
of You and I.

we want to be together
we want to be alone
but confused is all we have,
You and I.

we push each other away
we pull a lot faster
but can we make it work,
You and I?

we don't have a name
and we're both just the same
maybe we're worth talking about,
You and I.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Headcase- potentially.

You know that thing when you can't concentrate, no matter how hard you try or what activity you pick? I've been wondering why that happens. 

I'm sure there are several factors in play, but one of the most significant things I've noticed is a faint tick tick tick at the back of my head. Almost like those annoying carpenters in your head when you have a hangover, but not quite painful. Not physically anyway. 

I think I've finally understand what the noise is. It's like a puzzle is going on in my head and there's a timer that's tick-tick-ticking. The funny thing is, most times I don't know what the puzzle is- could it be Unscramble or Chess or Angry Birds? I can't really tell- it's a hazy picture, as if it's a puzzle within a puzzle. First phase: figure out what kind of a game it is, and Phase Two- Then figure out how to solve it before that tick tick tick becomes a large TONG! and time's up. 

This is a TASK and really, I have no more to say on this subject, except that being this state makes me one of the most unproductive people I know. I'm literally useless during these times. It's like I'm sleep walking through my day/s.

Just wondering if someone else out there feels the same way, or if I'm just a potential headcase. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to love music today

Note: this is again an article from a writing course I recently did. Since I've laboured over it, I figured I might as well post it! It's a tad long, but that's because it's a researched paper, so don't hold your breath while reading :)

How to Love Music today.

“Music is the fastest shortcut we know to the heart. Nothing builds emotion like music.”

Kevin Roberts, Saatchi & Saatchi.

It’s safe to assume that love for music is eternal and universal, right? If that’s true, why is music piracy such a big issue in the world we live in today (it may shock you to know that the average teen’s iPod has $800 of pirated music*)?

So should music be free or paid? If music should be free, what happens to the artist? Do we (the consumer) know what we’re doing when we participate in piracy, by ‘stealing’ the artist’s music when we illegally download their work?

I work in media, where music is indirectly, but surely, related to my bread and butter. So these are questions I have often asked several people – from friends to industry heads- and the answer varies all the way from a “NO WAY if you’re a true music lover, you’ll pay for the artist’s work” to “hello, it’s already free- just go online and you’ll have what you want in a minute!”. Every time I ask the question, I’m left feeling puzzled and even more perplexed about what the right answer might be.

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find the same confusion and debate reflected on the page. There are people on either sides of the line. In fact, according to a recent article in the New York Times, a campaign in Manhattan had a bill board screaming out, calling for artists to make a tough choice: Artists For Piracy or Artists Against Piracy. The idea came up through a low-profile two-man Brooklyn band that was given this billboard space as part of one of their music deals with American Eagle. “When we were offered the space on the billboard, we were perplexed about what to do with it,” said Josh Ocean, 27, the band’s lead singer. “Since we started we’ve given away all our music for free, so just telling people to purchase our music somewhere didn’t seem natural for us. So we said, ‘What if we take advantage of this and open up a discussion about the new music industry?”

Still, from the likes of Bon Jovi to Pink Floyd, major record labels like Warner and Sony, to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), there are people shouting out from the rooftops for the piracy to stop. Iconic British band, The Beatles, even launched a video campaign in 2011 especially to communicate these sentiments.

However, in the ongoing debate, there are musicians like Norah Jones, Shakira, or Lady Gaga, who claim to not mind it. “"If people hear it, I'm happy. I'm not going to say go steal my album, but I think it's great that young people who don't have a lot of money can listen to music and be exposed to new things," said Norah Jones in an interview to Sky News.

Many artists even feel that the advent of digital music and the Internet have actually benefitted them. Whether it’s the spreading of previously unknown artists and genres through virals like Psy’s Gangnam Style or making cover bands like Walk off the Earth shoot to fame with their cover of Somebody, the Internet seems to have helped musicians greatly by liberating them from the chains of traditional recording companies. Some musicians, like FatBoy Slim even argue this from an artist’s wages point of view. In an interview, he says, “Artists get controlled by record labels. They make all the money. And today, we don’t need them anymore- to put it in simple terms, we can record the music, put it up on MySpace and it spreads like wildfire. That’s why most artists aren’t as worried about piracy as much as the big labels are.” It may be surprising to some of us to know that on a CD that costs around $16, the artist only makes an approximate of only $1.60**.

Still, some people think that it’s about choice- the choice that the artist has to release their music out in the open so it reaches lots of people quickly but not have it remunerated, OR charge for your music and possibly limit your audience. In an article by the New York Times, David Lowery of the bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker exaclaims, “Piracy is eliminating your rights as artists! Whereas, if you are for copyright, you have the choice to sell your work or give it away.”

But see, here’s the thing- I think we’re way off when it comes to the sides we’re choosing on this debate. Human nature is simple: we see something lying around, we claim it. If something is available for free, we almost never want to pay for it. The way I see it, the only way to battle that, is to work around it, not against it.

What I mean to say is, there is a step in between the extremes of paid and free, and we need to discover that. It may be important to note that for hundreds of years before the copyright law was invented we were doing just fine. We have a whole body of ridiculously beautiful art (be it music, paintings, sculpture) to show for it. So the answer really lies in understanding what art means to the artists and to their audience, and applying that understanding to today’s world.

As John Perry Barlow (lyricist for the hugely famous band, Grateful Dead, that defied all rules by letting people tape their gigs way back in a time when it was unheard of) puts it, “Art is a relationship. It’s not about property. It’s about the intention of your audience. There are a lot of ways to create value around that relationship.”

Today, more than ever, you’ll notice that this relationship is a two way street. Gone are the days when simply throwing out a piece of music at the consumer is satisfactory to them. Today, engaging your audience whether it’s through a live gig, innovative merchandise, collaborative music videos such as Miley Cyrus’s, and even twitter activity (don’t you love it when you can interact it with your favourite artists on social media!) seems to be an important step to building and maintaining a relationship with them. The idea is to make a fan out of an audience that is evolving, and to let your audience feel like they have a part of themselves invested in you and your art.

Once we have begun to understand the value of this peculiar and dynamic relationship between the artists and the consumer, we can begin to start looking for solutions to apply to this problem of music piracy. One such way of looking for a solution is to look for solutions based on access and ownership. According to a study done in 2012 by YouGov, almost 55% of young people (16-24yrs) today are satisfied with just accessing music and they aren’t really worried about owning it. This is less true for older people (only 12% prefer access to ownership), but then older people are also not so much the people who are downloading illegally anyway.

So keeping that in mind, solutions that allow for convenience and accessibility, such as (an online radio of sorts) and Pandora or Spotify (a peer to peer music sharing service) seem to be a step toward bridging that gap between legal and illegally consumed music. Says Sean Parker of the Napster fame (now on the board of Spotify), “The distribution model for music is broken. You have to accept that the war on piracy is a failure. Spotify allows for unlimited streaming on your device while the content is still locked- it can’t be moved to another mobile device. Still, you’re listening to a music library that you choose and love, and maybe even addicted to, so soon enough, you’ll want to keep some of it or all of it. That’s when you realize that if you want to own it, you’ll have to subscribe and pay for it, or buy it.”

So really, unlike solutions that say pay, pay, pay, ideas like Spotify allow the user now to choose between what they want to access and what they want to own by paying for it.

My point overall is simple. Music, now more than ever before is one of the most important parts of our lives (especially given the kind of access and exposure that we now have to it), and music consumption is also at an all time high. There is no need to convince people to have music in their lives- it’s almost a default setting within most of us. The love and need for music is already there, so it’s not really a case of the music lover (one who pays) vs. the music non-supporter (the pirate). In fact, the 'pirates' probably download as much as they do, because they love music much more than the average music consumer.

So there is no need for a war between free and paid. What is necessary is for the world to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that the way music is consumed today has changed. So really, the solution is to understand what people want, how they want it, and giving it to them in a way that is most fair to both the artists and the audience. If we, as a society, work toward opening conversations about how to make and spread music without imposing hard-bent rules on people, there might actually be no debate on how to love music the right way.

*Source: technology/
 **Source: Almighty Institute of Music Retail

Friday, May 24, 2013

Relationship Power Play

Remember that song Quit Playing Games With My Heart? Yes, the Back Street boys one- don't pretend to not know it- you know you know it. In fact, like the rest of us teens who grew up in the 90s, you probably know every lyric and every ummm baby, nanannaa... oh yeaaah! Besides how could you ever forget that cute-as-hell Nick Carter (I don't know how I thought that- now I feel like taking a scissor to his hair and asking him to grow a pair)?

Yeah, so the first time I heard that song it meant something completely different than it means now, more than a decade later. Then (I was probably 13/14), it was just a song with someone else's heartbreak and the song and it's tune, and the band of boys were cooler than the lyrics. A few years later, with a real heartbreak up my sleeve, it meant relating to it a little more (although it was still too a peppy pop song to really feel it, and a ballad-like one like the whiny Alllll By Myseeeeeeeeeelfffff was more effective with the water works more than a BB song).

Anyway, coming to the Now- that song, or at least that line means a whole different thing- it's feels like they should sing Quit Playing Games with my Mind

It's all about Power Play these days, isn't it? I don't know if it's just me (and my fabulous and infamous bad luck with men), or if it's the age (late 20s and you're more jaded), or if it's the place I live in (Bombay with it's really screwed up artists and actors and what not), or if it's a combination of all three. But the thing is, these days I seem to be running into people who just want to get into a relationship to make themselves feel like they're in control.

Which, by the way, is such a retarded concept. If you're not in control of yourself and your life from the start, then how the hell do you expect to be in control when you've added another whole human being to the mix? In this kind of relationship, one of two kind of mind games happen (or god forbid, both- in which case you must really have it bad)- 

a) the guy is completely into you, and he is fully and absolutely involved and invested in your life (which you love- who doesn't love the attention?), and then suddenly, BAM! the guy expects to mind control you. He will tell you what to do and what you can't/ shouldn't do and then next thing you know (slowly but surely), he thinks he owns you and your mind, and it leaves you wondering if it's he's completely lost the plot and/or if this is his way of validating his painful existence. 

b) the guy is into you- sometimes SO much and sometimes it's all meh, not so much. Aloof be-th his middle name-th, and he's cat-and-mousing you all over the place. This kind of guy will give a little, take a lot more, and then disappear for a bit. Sometimes he'll give a lot and before it even fully reached your hand, he'll snatch it right back. He'll be more inconsistent and undependable than the weather in New York. He'll have you guessing alllll the time, and this way he'll be on your mind all the time. The idea is that he has all the power. He'll be nice when wants to, and highly ambiguous when he wants to. Mind you, he'll very rarely be mean directly, so you can't point any fingers at him, but he'll make sure he's playing those games with your brain all the time, because you see like the other guy above, he too needs to do this to feel powerful, in control and good about himself. 

Why is power such an important part of a relationship? Don't get me wrong- the above two examples of men, they could just as easily be women (although I've honestly heard of rarer cases with women)- greed for power and being in control is gender neutral. But I realllly wonder- why is the world so hungry for power- whether it's politics, at work or in bed? Doesn't real power come from within yourself? Do you have to make someone else feel small in order to feel like the more powerful one? 

All I can do is roll my eyes, and stay as far away from these power plays as possible.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Black and white.

How do you separate the small from the big?
How do you ask for something that is not yours?
How do you scream when your voice is borrowed?
How do you stop losing against yourself?

Where is the sane whisper?
The sound that cuts through the silence
And burns the cob webs?

That sounds like your mothers voice
So gentle so deafening,
So quick and free.

That abracadabra to your problem,
The free in your spirit
The moo in your cow.

Dreams get spun by talking to yourself
Under the shadow of a tree
That's green and amber.

Where are my dreams?
Where is the tree?
Where is the shadow that I need?

I could cry and cry,
Till my throat is sore,
And my eyes are red
Like the sun that's screaming for release.

Because black is black,
And white is white,
And the grey is just a color

Made up by the mind,
To take you all the way
Into a fog

That is so thick and
Deep and colorless as water
Till it's all just a never ending ramble.

Find me my voice or my shadow
And my black
Or my white.

I write because I cannot not write.

This was assignment #2 of the course I'm doing- which asked us to talk about how our identities as writers connects with the identities of other artists/ writers.

“I write because I cannot not write.”

This is how my conversation with my writer friend had begun one random Saturday night. We were three of us friends hanging out, of which two of us were writers, and the third, a banker. I’m not sure why or how we began that conversation, but an hour or so into it, I think Banker Man was wont to throw in the towel, and run to Far Far Away. Here’s why- what we talked about that night, with a sense of absolute urgency, was how when the writing urge takes over, there is no going back. It’s a visceral feeling… almost as if someone had taken over your body and there’s no way you can ask it to pause.

It’s pure passion.

My observation this week, across the many articles I read, was exactly that. Every single piece I read came from a place that was personal, and really felt. Writers, as is the same for all kind of artists, have one big thing in common- the dire need to communicate what they feel. They say the world is split into left brainers and right brainers, and if you believed in that theory, you’d see that the right brainers are more ‘feelers’, rather than ‘reasoners’.

I’m certainly not saying that all artists, or writers, are loons who don’t believe in logic. No, no. I’m merely suggesting that they are people who feel first, and reason after that. Feeling is instinctive to them. And expressing that feeling becomes the next step- whether it’s through a painting, a piece of music, or through carefully designed language.

For me, and for most writers I know (including the ones I read today), this need to express is almost a burning desire. It’s sometimes not even voluntary. My favourite proof of this to myself (so I can tell myself that I’m not going completely crazy) is a TED talk I heard by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the famed ‘Eat, Pray Love’). Amongst other things writer-related, she talked about the existence of a muse. The muse, she said, was an extension of yourself, or perhaps, it had nothing to do with you at all. It was just someone with all that ‘talent’ that came to use your body to express its creativity. She talked about herself, and several other writers in history, who had said that this sometimes inexplicable urge to write, felt like someone or something had possessed you, and you had to let it do its job.

I’m going on and on about this passion, and this need to express feeling, because not only is this the one thing that identifies us as artists or writers, but it’s perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind as we write or express. It’s our USP. Indeed, it’s the ‘research’ to our business- Looking deep within ourselves, and our experiences and converting it into words is what we do. Like Hemmingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

It’s almost like we’re in the business of converting our emotion through expression, while touching the hearts of the world, and saying to them, “You felt this once too, you remember?”. Because you see, all emotions, all feelings, all thoughts, on one level or the other, are universal. At some point in their lives, everyone has felt something you’ve felt, and making them feel this once again through your expression is the goal. That is why expressing these feelings, ideas, and emotions in their purest forms are essential to us and to our success. It is the gift that has been bestowed on us right-brained people to give to the world- especially those logic-driven left-brained people who sometimes are in desperate need of getting in touch with themselves!

Even personally for us as people, it’s therapeutic. Sometimes the pen and paper become our shrinks. They let us channel our questions, our surprises, our grief, our happiness. What I’ve discovered (much to my surprise), is that it’s not always related either. For example, I don’t necessarily write angry or sad poetry or prose when I’m in a negative state of mind. In fact, the book that I wrote last year, was written during what was probably one of the hardest phases in my life. And yet, the book talked about sunshine and happiness. I’m beginning to think that maybe that was my way of letting myself hope.

Whatever it may be though, it’s important for a writer to be real, to delve deep, call on himself or his muse, to come spew out the story that needs to be told. Notice I said, needs to told, not should be told. Grammar, style, or other rules of writing, are merely different tools that help with your craft- just as the pen, keyboard, or paper do. The real secret to being a successful writer is to tell a story that needs to be told; indeed, a story that needs to be read.

Because you see, you cannot not tell it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Stay, please.

You pull me closer,
Closer, tighter,
You snare me in.

And then you throw me
Push me, question me,
Challenge me to
Walk walk walk
Away from you.

And I'm sick of it,
But I'll come back.

Because you take me,
Make me,
Forsake me,
Oh, you make a fool outta me.

How can I hate you
And love you,
In the same breath?

Huff puff we go.
Stop start,
Stop start.
Oh god dammit,
Stay for a minute.

Just stay
Won't you?
Don't stay for me,
Or you.

Stay because
You just can't leave.

On Writing

So I finally decided to get my act together and do something about the writing (see this for more context). Apart the renewed push I've had to give Bacon Bits (the book I've written, for those who don't know), I've also enrolled myself in a cool course online. Ya, ya, no need to giggle at the mention of online certification, because, a) I'm not in it for the certification I actually just want to learning anything it'll teach me to better my writing b) It's a pretty cool course that's being taught by faculty from Ohio Uni and the website offers a whole host of cool courses by some pretty rad universities and faculty ( if I've managed to intrigue you).

So, anyhoo, since all this writing is coming out anyway, I figured I might as well post it out here. Here's the first of the assignments that asked us to describe ourselves as writers. Enjoy, and for those of you that are more proactive and cooler than the rest, leave me some comments :)

The three times I met the writer in me.

It was the summer of 1994. It was hot. It was so hot that the adults in the house insisted the children wear nothing but flimsy, white petticoats, so that they didn’t have cranky kids on their hands. It was my favourite place in the world. We were spending the summer at my grandparents’ house in Udupi- a small, south-west, coastal town in India, which almost kissed the Arabian Sea.

My story begins here. I was nine that summer, and like most summers, my parents, tired of having to deal with two kids all year, had shipped my sister and me off to my grandparents’ house. To my nine year-old mind, there was no place more beautiful than their house. It was constructed badly (or so I kept hearing the big people say), with no running water (only a well), hardly any room for natural ventilation (although it was a humungous house), and almost no natural light entering it. But I loved the darkness of it. Actually, more than the darkness, I loved it for the little shafts of light that came from small glass planes in the otherwise tiled roof. The dust mites would catch the light and dance all around it; I could almost hear the music that they were making with the light.

It was by one of these shafts of light that I remember writing for the first time. It was a fake newspaper. Why, you ask? Well, because I was nine, I had nothing to do for ninety days of summer, I read a lot of books, and I suppose my curious mind wanted to see if I could replicate something, and a fake newspaper seemed like a stellar idea.

I remember my father reading this paper, and I remember a grin on his face- growing from a tiny change of lip shape, to a really big smile that reached his eyes and becoming pride.

“You wrote this?” he asked, with disbelief in his eyes.

When I nodded, he hugged me. This is probably when I knew that maybe, just maybe, this was something cool I could do. That maybe, just maybe, I have this other cool person living in me- my writer.

Sixteen years later, in the summer of 2010, I was sitting in a café in Bratislava, Slovakia. I was on an all-expense-paid trip to Europe (yes, you read that right- it was a real free trip that I had actually won through a contest). And this was when I had the pleasure of meeting the writer in me again.

So, here I was, at The Café (apparently the Slovaks weren’t too innovative with names), taking a breather from the wild euro-trippin’, sitting by myself with my journal. I was trying to encapsulate the last week of being in Europe (Prague, Munich, Budapest); telling the story of the amazing people I had met so far, when suddenly, I had the inexplicable and the irresistible urge to abandon what I was writing, and write another story- one that had been in my head for a long time.

To set you a quick context to this- Post that summer of discovering the writer in me, I had continued writing, with starry-eyed dreams about becoming a novelist. But as I grew older, my writing dream became smaller and smaller. Making money and having a stable life became the priority. You see, my father was an artist, and my mother a designer, and although they had lead creatively fulfilled lives, the regular monthly paycheck was missing. Over the years, I realized I wanted a more stable life than theirs, and urged the practical part of my brain to take over. I finished university and promptly started working in a space that would bring me a great paycheck, although it had not a thing to do with the thing I was actually cool at. My writer must’ve have been rolling her eyes.

However, that day in Slovakia, armed with the journal in my hand and that idea in my head, the Writer in me re-emerged, and hijacked me. I don’t know what inspired her to make the grand comeback- it could have been the place, it could have been the starry sky above; hell, it could’ve been that she was just tired of being ignored. All I know is that she jumped at me with a force and a precision that hardly left me a minute to recognize or acknowledge her.

I wrote like a person possessed that evening. I began on a new page of what was an almost empty book, and wrote, wrote, wrote. About thirty pages in, I remember my hand aching, and wishing I had had the foresight to bring my laptop- a word processor would’ve been a great solution to beat the angry marks that were developing between my thumb and my index finger. But she (my writer) couldn’t give a damn about the physical stress she was causing. She just partied on.

Fast forward to a year and something later. The year is now (end of) 2011, I am in New York- the city of dreams, where I have come to spend the two month break I have taken from my life, to write the beautiful novel I started that day in Slovakia. Where, in fact, what actually did happen, is that I’ve ended up with a big, fat, broken heart.

I had quit my job, and invested all my savings to go to New York to finish my book (I’d realized that travel inspired me like nothing else). I was on a roll. In the first three weeks, I had worked laboriously, punching out an average of 4000 words a day. I only had the last leg to finish.

One chilly morning, my boyfriend (who I lived with in India), called me to tell me, very abruptly, that he needed to leave. Both me, and our life together. I could hardly process the words rushing at me across the phone from India. It was almost as if the physical distance between us made me not fully comprehend what he was saying. I spent the next three weeks wandering, lost, and unable to understand what was happening around me. I was in a new world, with new people, and a new situation that I could not comprehend. I was that girl sitting on a bench in a park in the rain, whose tears and the rain on her face looked the same.

My world felt torn in the middle. I was lost. And my book, my words, my story were lost with me.

My last day in New York I met Gina. If my writer could have a face, it would be her.

I met Gina at a coffee shop, sitting by herself, painting little nothings on a piece of cloth. We started talking across tables. She was from the city, and wanted to show me around. As we walked across Upper Manhattan that day, we talked about nothing in specific and everything that mattered- we talked about how the November light was fading so quickly across the yellow and crimson trees. We talked about the tall, never-ending columns of a church we were passing by. We talked about a squirrel that was running through a patch of grass in a park.

Without meaning to, I started thinking about how I would describe this. I started imagining what all of this would look like as words swimming on a sheet of white, white paper. My writer came back to me that day, to rescue me from myself. I realized that day, that my writer and me, we’re one.