I Edit. It Makes Me More Human.

The best thing about having a personal blog – you can trash all the rules of writing :)

Just wanted to add this line. Shall begin my post now. Mark Twain is God for editors I would say. Here’s why:

The time to begin an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. ~ Mark Twain

So how does editing make me more human? For that, let’s get to – what makes me more human? You remember the phrase “To err is human. To admit is superhuman.” Since I don’t feel like being superhuman, I will settle for human :)

Editing makes me admit my mistakes. It makes me understand – I have a long way to go. It keeps me in place, lets me know where I stand. It makes sure I don’t get complacent with my writing ever. If I were to edit my earlier blog posts again, I would probably want to stop writing altogether. So there – editing also tells me how much I have grown. As a writer. As a person.

importance of editing your work

Image courtesy: Nic McPhee)

Because when I edit, I see my own emotions. I get to figure out whether I am confused or clear, angry or calm, whether I have depression or charm. When I edit, it’s like I am looking at a mirror. And a very clean one at that (HD too if possible!).

I write to teach myself what I already know (Duane Alan Hahn) . And editing is like revision. The more you revise, the finer you become. The finer your become, the better you are as a human.

I try to write well, often. And I fail at it miserably. I am now trying to improve as a rewriter. And I know for a fact that every good writer has a lot of trouble writing. Editing is what saves them. Every time. Like the Qs and Us sticking together all the time, writing and editing go hand in hand.

Edit. If you are a writer, always edit. Skip things you know people won’t read. Heavier, high on vocab energy words are easy to get attached to. Use them well but don’t get too attached to them – My biggest lesson while editing! Even the Bhagawad Gita preaches us to not get attached. Looks like what we see in editing is just the tip of the iceberg :)

Logic, clarity, reason, purpose, brevity, direction, a new lesson in every updated draft, love for writing and much more, which my brain eludes me right now (probably editing will do the trick) – is what editing gives me.

And that’s why I edit. It makes me more human.

Ending with Mark Twain again (his awesomeness just does not end) :

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~ Mark Twain

P.S – This is the 4th & final draft of the original piece of crap that I had written (every 1st draft is like that).

The things we don’t say.

“Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.” – Mitch Albom

True isn’t it? Or rather, “Things we don’t get to say”.

I have written & deleted more blog posts in between the last post & this one than ever before. Perhaps I was failing to realize what more those posts needed. Or maybe I knew but refused to accept it.

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I came across this quote & it set me thinking. It does effect my sanity to a level, when I have been silent for a while. And this silence is not the silence of the larynx. It is more like the silence of the mind. It stems not from not thinking but from thinking too much and then exhausting the thinking strength.

The haunting feeling shouldn’t be there. You could write.  But if you write to express, you would know it doesn’t work like that. You would know that there are a few conversations that need to happen between people, not visual editors of wordpress blogs :) . And problem arises not when there are no people with whom you can have those mind boggling conversations where great works of wisdom get transferred; but when the very few people with whom you can have those endearing conversations – make one way, incomplete conversations.

Incomplete conversations. That are left midway. Without so much as thinking that the other party to the conversation had to say something valuable. These are one sided conversations. Someone comes, talks, says a customary ‘Good bye’ & before you know it – it is over. It is true that sometimes people just want someone to listen to them, at the end of a grueling, exhausting day. But you know, if you are the one doing all the talking, maybe you should also remember that the one listening to you, might also have stuff to share with you.

And, if by any chance, the two of you are best friends, then it becomes a responsibility to let the other person have their say. If you cannot lend a ear everytime, you should at least, try to figure out the wrong times to ‘not lend a listening ear’. Because when communication becomes repeatedly one sided due to prolonged, one sided listening (done by the other person), that’s when ‘the things that we don’t say start haunting us’ thing happens. And sadly, not everything can be blogged / written and deleted / torn just to vent. Sometimes, people are crucial for conversations. And the right people (read : the only people we want to have the good conversations with). And conversations are things that keep every relationship going. Next time you wonder what’s wrong with that best friend who always used to listen to you; think. Did you make one sided, incomplete conversations, for too long a time? Probably yes.

No wonder I hate incomplete conversations, especially when they come from people who are very important to me. And more especially, when they keep coming.

You may not always get to do much about it, while being at the receiving end. Because it soon starts haunting. Because there are things you do not blog about. There are things you do not write and scratch. There are things that you cannot keep in your head for long. There are things – that you need to say. Out loud.

I wonder why conversations are so important for us. They keep us sane. They keep ghosts away from our mind. And most of these ghosts are very very stupid. Mitch Albom is very very right. Never let unsaid things nag you. They cause the worst kind of inertia. The inertia of silence.

“All that Matters” – INK 2013

There is so much I wanted to write about, when I thought that I HAVE TO write about my experience at INK 2013, Kochi. But now that I sit to do it, nothing comes to me.

Or, to be honest, so many things come back hurtling – that I cannot decide which part of it moved me most. Not to mention the beautiful town of Kochi & the amazing people who live there. (Btw – Did you know? Kochi (Dist – Ernakulum) has 100% literacy rate? Brilliant. Ain’t it?)

Whether it was the fact that I actually got to be a part of the Social Media team & live tweet the conference, or how grateful I am to Vaibhav (Social Media, INK) for making it all much easier for me, or how much fun it was to live through all the mayhem & chaos backstage because the beautiful show that we put up at the end of the day made it all worth it, or how awesome it was to meet old friends from last year’s INK & relive memories & make new ones, or how I met some wonderful new people who are going to be a part of my life for coming many days (Kayalyn aka Kalyani, that’s for you!), or how I realize how there are miles to travel & lots to learn before I come somewhere even close to the sheer awesomeness that emanated from each INK Speaker & Fellow.

Having had the opportunity to sit through the whole conference, I heard people who have aced their respective fields. And all I take back is – be it Art, Science, Education, Innovation, Literature, Social Work, any field; the only thing that matters in the end is – You & your heart’s calling. We had Blind Educationists, 17 year old artists, Graphic Designers, Tea Sommeliers, Musicians, Film Makers, War Photographers, Water watchers, Space scientists, Innovators and many more; all bound together by their passion for life & courage to step on to the ‘Road Less Traveled’.

While closing INK 2013, Lakshmi (Host & Curator) said something I knew always (I think we all know what’s best for us most of the times) but often used to ignore. (I bring you the gist. Was a bit short of hands to be taking notes :P ). She said – It is also important to be like the fallen flower, to not know things, to not be sure yet keep following the path. It is sometimes important to lend a deaf ear to your critics & admirers alike & only believe in what you truly believe. And then go do it.

INK. Helped me find ‘What Matters’ to me.

INK 2013

The stage at INK 2013 : ‘All that Matters’

“We may not always be good, bad or nice. But if we do what we believe, we will all find what matters to us.” … and perhaps, that’s what matters most. Finding what matters to you most.

 

What every Father needs to teach his Son!

This is a reblog. But I just couldn’t ‘not share’ this.

Someday I am going to have to have the conversation with my son. No, not the conversation all parents dread giving and all kids are mortified having. I enjoy making people uncomfortable so that conversation should be fun.

No, I’m talking about another conversation. The one that happens after I catch his eye doing what male eyes do well – following an object of lust. We will probably be out at the mall, because that’s what dads do with their sons, and I’ll catch the look. Maybe we’ll go to the beach and see it. Doesn’t matter where it is, there will come a time when I will see it. And then it will be time for this conversation.

*****

Hey, come here. Let me talk to you. I saw you look at her. I’m not judging you or shaming you. I know why you did. I get it. But we have to talk about it because how you look at a woman matters.

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A lot of people will try and tell you that a woman should watch how she dresses so she doesn’t tempt you to look at her wrongly. Here is what I will tell you. It is a woman’s responsibility to dress herself in the morning. It is your responsibility to look at her like a human being regardless of what she is wearing. You will feel the temptation to blame her for your wandering eyes because of what she is wearing – or not wearing. But don’t. Don’t play the victim. You are not a helpless victim when it comes to your eyes. You have full control over them. Exercise that control. Train them to look her in the eyes. Discipline yourself to see her, not her clothes or her body. The moment you play the victim you fall into the lie that you are simply embodied reaction to external stimuli unable to determine right from wrong, human from flesh.

Look right at me. That is a ridiculous lie.

You are more than that. And the woman you are looking at is more than her clothes. She is more than her body. There is a lot of talk about how men objectify women, and largely, it is true. Humans objectify the things they love in effort to control them. If you truly love a person, do not reduce them to an object. The moment you objectify another human – woman or man, you give up your humanity.

There are two views regarding a woman’s dress code that you will be pressured to buy into. One view will say that women need to dress to get the attention of men. The other view will say women need to dress to protect men from themselves. Son, you are better than both of these. A woman, or any human being, should not have to dress to get your attention. You should give them the full attention they deserve simply because they are a fellow human being. On the other side, a woman should not have to feel like she needs to protect you from you. You need to be in control of you.

Unfortunately, much of how the sexes interact with each is rooted in fear. Fear of rejection, fear of abuse, fear of being out of control. In some ways, the church has added to this. We fear each other because we have been taught the other is dangerous. We’ve been taught a woman’s body will cause men to sin. We’re told that if a woman shows too much of her body men will do stupid things. Let’s be clear: a woman’s body is not dangerous to you. Her body will not cause you harm. It will not make you do stupid things. If you do stupid things it is because you chose to do stupid things. So don’t contribute to the fear that exists between men and women.

A woman’s body is beautiful and wonderful and mysterious. Respect it by respecting her as an individual with hopes and dreams and experiences and emotions and longings. Let her be confident. Encourage her confidence. But don’t do all this because she is weaker. That’s the biggest bunch of crap out there. Women are not weaker than men. They are not the weaker sex. They are the other sex.

I’m not telling you to not look at women. Just the opposite. I’m telling you to see women. Really see them. Not just with your eyes, but with your heart. Don’t look to see something that tickles your senses, but see a human being.

My hope is that changing how you see women will change how you are around them. Don’t just be around women. Be with women.

Because in the end, they want to be with you. Without fear of being judged, or shamed, or condemned, or objectified, or being treated as other. And that’s not just what women want. That’s what people want.

Ultimately, it’s what you want.

Courtesy : Nate Pyle (http://natepyle.com/seeing-a-woman/)

The Anganwadi Teacher

It is a 13 years old story, a story that is still fresh and new. The way it is old and yet so new for me reminds me of my love for the smell of new books and the smell of old parchment at the same time! I guess memories are like that.

It was during the time when we moved from Kolkata to a small town in Orissa called Sambalpur. I wasn’t really keen on it but I didn’t have much choice and was probably not old enough to weigh the consequences this decision would bear on my life. And in a way it is good. Because, moving to that place has made me who I am today. So, no regrets there!

I don’t remember if I was apprehensive of new friendships or a new environment which was (and to date is) more conservative than the one I grew up in; might have to ask mom about it. But I do remember being freaked out for I had to learn a completely new language for my new school. Picking up a third language was compulsory and no one in my class had Sanskrit so I had to pick Oriya. Though, picking up Sanskrit would have been an equally big deal because I knew nothing about it either :P .. The worst part – 95% of my classmates had been studying the subject since the last 3 years and 100% of them knew the language! I had about a month to get the hang of it.

Enters. My tuition teacher. She was (and till today is) an Anganwadi teacher and used to teach at the Anganwadi by the day & took tuition for the local kids in the evening. Some 5-6 kids upto age 7 used to sit in a small room which was the lady’s bedroom, drawing room, dining room, her own little world – everything. I was the oldest student out there, doing a crash course on Oriya.

That was the first time in my life when I took tuition for a subject. And having to sit with kids half my age was not a very comforting idea. These were the apprehensions I had in my mind when I went there and started my classes. After the first week of study – none of those remained. She was a fun teacher. Her one liners to the kids were hilarious. Even the students being scolded would crack up! She made sure I had fun learning the new language. And given its similarity to Bengali, it was not very difficult to pick up. But what was most fun was – how good she was at it. One may not have thought a simple Anganwadi teacher to be that good at advanced level Oriya literature but she was awesome at it. She saw to it that I could start reading and writing my own stuff after a mere month. And it never was rote and mechanical teaching. She let me be her aide at times and teach the younger kids :P … I would set them homework, correct their copies, teach them at times and sometimes, I took them for the whole one hour. Needless to say, I used to spend more time there than my scheduled one hour everyday. The 12yr old in me loved the teacher in me :D

I had a deal with mom that if I manage to procure 70% in my first ever Oriya exam, she would buy me something I had been asking her to for sometime. And she did … I took that gift to my teacher & showed it to her. That was one happy moment. This was in 2000, when I was in STD VII. I passed all my Oriya exams with decent marks in the 2 years of my learning that language.

She believes I could do it because I pick up languages fast & I like literature and stories. I believe I could do it because she was there, because she taught me in the best way she could. With her, I learned how much fun it is to teach little kids. But, my biggest take away from this experience was :

“Unlearning is so important for learning something new. Because I had nothing to unlearn, I learned my lessons faster.”

The Shiva Trilogy : Lessons for a Lifetime.

Amish TripathiMy midget of a brother always used to say ‘You love only double fiction’. He meant fantasy fiction. He is right. I have always found sheer joy out of fantasy fictions. But, the fantasy has always been like a background, a music that reminds you of its existence only when it stops and you miss the absence. The foreground has always gone beyond the explicable!

I have always been a die hard, huge fan of the Harry Potter Series. And magic was never my foreground. It just added charm; charm which you cannot really explain though :) . Read ‘And you thought it is just Magic’ for my HP rant. Because this post is about yet another gem that I came across. I had thought, I have the masterpiece of my life in form of HP. But then came along ‘The Shiva Trilogy’ by Amish Tripathi and blew me off!

This is the first mythology fiction I read and perhaps the best I will ever read – if Amish stops here (which I hope he doesn’t). My takeaways from the awesome series :

1) If there is one cool God, it is Shiva. He is someone you can really identify with and find traces of your own personality to be matching ones. In his indecisive moments, in his mistakes, in his childlike demeanor – you somewhere realize that God is a friend you discover in your own self.

2) Your God will always be an extension of your personality and beliefs. Comfortingly true. Even though the premise of this story is based in an Indian 4000 years ago, Shiva is like a GeNext God -  a God who smokes Marijuana, dances whenever he feels like, sings on top of his voice for his lady love, is a fashion disaster yet doesn’t give a damn about what others say, swears a lot (and thinks it is great because it means you are not afraid to speak your mind), even does PDA ! , is a fierce warrior who knows his game extremely well … and most of all, is someone who has never refrained from following his heart. He doesn’t sound like a God but he is a God I really love.

I learned that real Gods are not people you should fear. They are people who demand respect because of the who they are. Shiva deserves that respect because he is everything that I would want a good man to be – loving, full of life, passionate, impulsive and awesome at work!

3) Perhaps one of the most important lesson I have learned from this series is – Never be JUDGMENTAL. That there are many realities which co-exist and your truths are not same as someone else’s. It takes courage and an immensely good heart to let people be who they are. Sometimes, there are good people on both sides of the war. It doesn’t have to always be black and white. There exists a lot of grey in between; a huge expanse of it.

4) The love between Shiva and Sati – ethereal and profound; as if it is not gravity but the strength of their connection which holds them together. Never afraid, never doubtful, ever accepting, only giving, and goes beyond all odds. They fight like a married couple and they make up for it like lovestruck teenagers. In a full room, they have eyes only for each other. Yet, at the battlefield, all they see is their target. That’s the kind of love I like. Not foolish, not childlike. Somewhat perfect!

5) Mythology is not to be taken at face value. Rather, everything you hear has to be taken deep into the conscience and broken down bit by bit and fractionally distilled. Then lessons be extracted from them. Dharma, Karma etc are beautiful words to understand and implement but it is all a waste if a good story doesn’t make you a better person!

Full of epic lines and moments, the Trilogy entices every reader I’m sure. Summing it up in 5 points is grave injustice but putting more of Amish’s awesomeness into words is something I am incapable of doing. It is said that God is in the details. If it is true then I am pretty much sure Lord Shiva resides in all his wonderfully detailed books. A perfect read. A perfect storehouse of lessons!

The Universe bows to Lord Shiva. I bow to Lord Shiva!

 

P. S. Never Give Up!

I realized one thing today. The things that I write down get reinforced as lessons. Had almost slept (laptop was shut). But then, I jettisoned my so precious ‘after exam’ sleep because I had to burn the post exam realization into my memory disk permanently.

I have always hated the post exam discussion with anyone else, let alone myself. But today, I ended up discussing my ‘Econometrics’ paper with myself for a whopping 5-6 hours. It was a silent regret spree perhaps. Reason – the exam went bad! Ok. A little bit of detailing. I did the Research Methodology paper quite well because I like the subject. And yes I hated Econometrics. And, didn’t pay much attention to it.

But, after leaving the exam hall today I felt like literally smacking my head. The paper was ‘easy’. That extra effort, that 30 minutes of extra effort could have done it all for me. Not that I didn’t have time. I had kind of ‘given up’ because most of the topic seemed too abstruse.

It is not about a bad paper. Not at all. Have had worse papers and exams in my life and I am sure many difficult ones lie ahead. The thing is ‘I gave up’. Shouldn’t have! It is a cliched line but yes – ‘Never give up because you never know how close you were to your destination’. True it is that practicals and not theories teach us the true lessons. Have had mine today.

P.S. Never Give Up… I did. You don’t! 

Image source - http://downthelegalrabbithole.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/never_give_up.jpg

And you thought it is just Magic !

When I think of Harry Potter, the first thing that comes to my mind is – Thank God J.K Rowling had this amazing idea. She gave my childhood a gamut of memories and emotions. There are many many who hate Harry Potter series. I can surely say – either they have not read any of it or seen the stories just through the movies.

Because, anyone who has read them will always know – that the literally BEST SELLING FICTION series has absolutely nothing to do with magic. Magic in Harry Potter is like that beautiful background music in a play. You realize its absence only when it stops. Just, when it comes to HP, the magic never stops! When not weaving magic through the wand waving, Rowling weaves magic through the beautiful emotions she has so aptly portrayed in the series.

Rowling mesmerizes me even today after all these years. I remember  being lost in Harry’s world, being at Hogwarts, having superb friends, being intelligent like Hermione, being brave like Harry, being the superb friend like Ron, being perfect like Dumbledore. The lessons that I have with me; all find their root in the 7 books! It is like the 7 books have 7 super amazing life lessons for me. Though the magic she used is so perfect and complete in every sense, what I learned from her was –

  • Every time Harry fought Voldemort he was alone. There are some battles in life where it is just you and the opponent. You may have had as much help ( and you should appreciate it) as you needed, but the last step you have to take. No one else is going to do it for you. You have to fight your own battles.
  • Harry never saw his parents. His godfather died when he had just started growing on him. His best friends died. But the battle continued. And he won. Rowling appears to be a believer in the Karma Yoga. Like I do. No matter what happens in life, what situations you face, you have to always do your duty. In the battlefield of life there is no backing off. Can you please go ahead and say Gita was just a piece of magic? If not, even Harry Potter isn’t a piece of riff raff !
  • I have always been enchanted with the mirror of Erised – which incidentally is Desire spelled backwards. Absolutely loved the concept of ‘being able to see your normal reflection if you are the happiest person of the world’. But more than that, I was glad Harry could fight the temptation of losing his head to the charms of the mirror. I saw inspiration & perseverance. Rowling helped to be inspired at the tender age of 8. Rowling taught me that ‘our most desperate desires do nothing apart from wasting us’. No one else gave that lesson in a better way.
  • Dumbledore – the man who taught me the value of intelligence, hard work & choosing the Good over everything else in life. He taught me that importance of forgiveness, second chances, of complete souls, of love. Most importantly, he taught me how to value fellow beings. Rowling’s words through Dumbledore “Don’t pity the dead Harry. Pity the living. And above all, pity those who live without love.” They spell a life long lesson for me.
  • Snape ! My favorite character (I hated him till 6th part; like many others). He taught me the value of profound love. A candid confession with candor I make – if I fall in love, it would be like the way Snape loved. A lesson I learnt when I was 17; that which many adults seemingly fail to understand. As much as I try, I cannot captivate into words the plethora of emotions that Snape’s love story kindles in many a Potter fans. Here my words deceive me.
  • The most important lesson that I had came through Voldemort. It is – when you have a dream, relentlessly pursue it. Do what it takes to achieve it. But, also remember that if the achievements have come while you were on the path of evil, you will meet a dead end some day. May be you live 10 years or 50 years with the evil. But ultimately, there will be an end. There is no such thing as immortality of mortals. Yes. Immortality exists. But only through your deeds, ideas, thoughts.
  • While my life’s foundation was being laid, I learned that there is much more to life than power, ambition and success. There is love, friendship, respect, trust & a strong reason between good and evil.

And you thought Harry Potter was all about magic! It makes my belief even stronger – never judge a book by its movie or cover. True it is fantasy fiction. But it taught me more about life than any other thing could ever do.

There were / are people who did not like the way the book ended. Looking out for some important deaths were you? I am perfectly happy with the way Rowling ended it. Because, she has left so many loose ends. Many places the book could start again. And I would be the same enthusiastic reader that I was 11 years ago. And I would love nothing more than a book on Snape’s story. It would a worthy read.

Harry Potter is one story among many that grips children even today; 11 years after it took the reader’s world by storm, it still amazes me like never before. I still find different angles, I still cry if I read an emotional part, I still wonder what would it be like if there did it exist a world like this. But wait ! Who says it doesn’t? In the hearts of all those millions who have loved Harry, he still lives. His world exists, teaching a new lesson everyday. Even if Rowling would have killed Harry, he would have lived on; a fiction character that taught many a children the real life. Inspired to live life as Rowling rightly puts it –

 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death 

Thank you Joanne Kathleen Rowling for giving me a better childhood :) .

Rising & Shining !

In between my old notes, I found a new poem; had written it ages ago…

The weight of failure,                                                           
Seems too much to take
I wish to rise
A phoenix; from ashes & flakes…

Expectations, unexpectations…
Too abstruse to simplify
I’m still so mired..
All I want is to fly…

Yet, Thank you God so much
For the beautiful people u gave
Eternal bliss is the power of inspiration
No more I’m sad, no more I’m grave…

To err is human
I kept telling all
To forget is human too
I forgot during pall…

For all those who stood by
It’s a beautiful gesture
A thank you for things so many…
You make my life, every moment, better

The sheer faith you have
I would do it for you
Things will be more than better
Beautiful & Simple too…
Just for YOU !

…………………………………………………………

KEEP IT SIMPLE SILLY :)