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.