Spellbound and How!

I do only two things in life: read and write. I’m a slow, selective reader and a slow, lazy “writer”, who suffers from a chronic writers bloc. But life is long, so who’s in a hurry anyway! This is what I tell myself to silence the angry me within me when I’m stuck reading the same book for 20 years and don’t manage to write more than “What do I write today” for over 20 years (I just popped an anti-exaggeration pill into my mouth but it usually takes about 48 hours for the effect to tick in. So, please bear with me). Again, given the length of life in general, the time I take to finish reading a book should not and would not have mattered but for a tiny problem. I TALK about what I read. So, let me correct the first sentence of this paragraph – I do only three things in life: read, write and talk.

Let me explain to you how that’s a predicament. Love in the Time of Cholera is a book I have been reading forever now. The problem here is every other sentence I read leaves me spellbound. I sincerely wish it left me speechless instead. But no, under the effect of the “spell”, my tongue gets out of control and I start talking, irrespective of whom I’m talking about it to. Family, friends, neighbours, strangers, the milkman, colleagues, shopkeepers – everyone is aware of how A fell in love with B in the time of Cholera, even though they couldn’t care less. As I’m surrounded by wonderfully patient people, it didn’t matter for the first month. Life was as usual then: me reading about love sometimes, Cholera at other times and talking about both at all times. Gradually, things started changing. All the wonderfully patient people in my life realised that my monologue about love and the blasted Cholera was becoming a perennial nuisance. Neither would the book end nor my rant about it. They felt taken advantage of and took some measures to deal with it.

The other day, when I called out to my maid, she appeared with cotton stuffed in one ear feigning an infection. My otherwise-friendly neighbour sensed that I was about to get on to my favourite topic and immediately cut the conversation short to run as if she saw Cholera itself approaching! The kid in my neighbourhood looked like he was about to cry as soon as he saw me (Yes, children too were not spared). I mentioned “the book I’m reading” and my friends started talking about “that girl they felt like bashing”. Grumpily, I decided to take the book away someplace and read in seclusion. What I forgot was that there is a virtual world too! Click, click and boiinggg…I started sending pictures of my favourite sentences from the book. The poor dead author would never have imagined that the poetry of his soul would someday, in some other part of the world, become an e-nuisance. But who has ever been able to predict the course of life.

Unable to stop me, people ultimately changed their tactics and it worked this time. One day, my reading speed appeared to have increased drastically. I read about 10 whole pages in a day (unthinkable otherwise) and this continued for more than a week. In fact, the wonder of wonders is that the end of the book is now in sight! The heart-felt prayers of my social circle have a big role to play in the manifestation of miracles of this stature. Soon and very soon, I will finish the book and the world will know it, as that day people will hear a collective sigh of relief from all my family, friends and acquaintances (but only until I’m left spellbound by another piece of art!).

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Precious Bouts of Self-knowledge

The other day, I stumbled upon this sentence – To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom. “Easy peasy”, I thought, “Let’s get wise”. I woke up early the following morning, at 8:45 AM, with a heart full of resolve to get a peek into who I actually was. I cut my hour-long tea-time short by all of five minutes, quickly tidied up the room and sat in a neat little spot with a book and a pen to make notes, in case self-knowledge surfaced. I stared at the blank page for five minutes and then at the ceiling for another five minutes. Just as I was turning to my right to stare at the wall there, a speck of truth about myself appeared. I scribbled it down: “I’m not a morning person”. Then another piece of “self-knowledge” presented itself, “I’m not an evening person either”. That’s it. From there on, I was unstoppable. “Come to think of it, I start yawing by 11 PM, so that certainly doesn’t make me a “night person”. Mid-morning is when I’m too hungry and therefore irritable, so even that’s not my “best time of the day”. Afternoons are when I’m asleep and not exactly productive. I don’t even dream then. So even that hour of the day is, well, not “mine”. That leaves me with the lunch hour, which I thoroughly enjoy.”  That last sentence, I’d say, was of great consequence in drawing out deeper self-knowledge and eventually, making me wiser.

“Lunch hour” reminded me of food and the thoughts I penned next were “I love chocolate cake…but (and that was a significant “but”)…..but I hate it when it’s too sweet!! Bitter chocolate is exactly my flavor”. Now that explained why I’d never enjoyed the variety of chocolate cakes off the bakery next door (something I’d never been able to understand) – they weren’t exactly as bitter! Man, that was some self-knowledge, considering how often I’d fallen for yet another gorgeous chocolate pastry there only to find it inedible after the first spoonful itself! Thus wiser, I now haughtily walk past the bakery enjoying the merry jingle of the money in my wallet, which I would otherwise have splurged on another deceiving, not-so-bitter chocolate pastry.

A Sad Tale

It was a day when I was sad. So, I planned to catch a quiet corner in the house and cry a little. It had anyway been a while since I’d done that. It was not that there was no sadness in my life. It was just that somehow it was not intense and deep enough for me to shed tears. So, that beautiful Saturday afternoon when I was deeply and intensely miserable, I thought I’d cry and sob all my sadness away. I got a little happy at the thought of finally crying but then quickly stopped myself lest my mood changed. More so, because that day the ambiance was perfect. All the gloom of the world was with me. Firstly, I was alone at home. Now on normal days, that’s when I’m the happiest. But that day, I had vessels to wash. Gloom. Secondly, the internet was down. Gloom fermented into depression. Third came the shocking realization that my wardrobe already had the shade of green I had just purchased because it was “different”! My eyes began to moisten. But just as tears were welling up, something changed. The clock struck two. It was time. It was time to catch the next episode of Desperate Housewives. The re-re-re-run. Not a tear left my eye that afternoon. Vessels were forgotten and poor Mum landed up shedding tears when she returned. I was ashamed. But still without tears. Well, life moved on and sadly, I got happy the next moment.

Where The Mind Is Full of Fear

I’m a happy day dreamer. This isn’t only because the Moon happened to be in the friendly neighbourhood of Pisces when I was born, but also because I can’t dream at night. And my dreamless nights are a result of my owl eyes that refuse to shut from 12 am to 4 am. Those who know me are probably aware that I’m a wee bit of an insomniac. Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy and wide awake! It’s as if a clock in my body ticks off when the hour is “right”.

After much deliberation about these traits of mine, all between 12 am and 4 am, I’m beginning to wonder this is probably because I’m the chosen one. Although exactly WHO’s chosen me and for WHAT will still need many more sessions of pondering  from 12 am to 4 am, “forces of the dark” weigh high on my list of probable culprits. Isn’t my candidature to accomplish their chores obvious, considering that I’m anyway up when they are up and about? All I need is an eerie shrill in my already loud laugh. I should then do well as one of “them”. So “they” must be thinking. And therefore they must have carefully planned and started my “preparatory” phase years ago, when I was little.

Part of this “training” may have been my inexplicable fascination with witches. As a child, ignoring my faint heart, I had fostered a secret (and only) desire of spotting a witch some day. And spotting one right behind my house would have resulted in sheer ecstasy. I don’t know why. It maybe because that would have given me the feeling of nestling right amid the objects of my admiration: the wicked old witches! Their dusty brooms, pointed hats, pointier noses, dirty long nails and toothless smiles … I would have given an arm and a leg for a glimpse of any of these. At the start of summer vacation, one year during school days, I woke up excitedly, dressed up neatly and headed to the bookstore. There, I rummaged through the heap of books about fairies, giants, dwarfs, princes and princesses to pull out one that became my prized possession for many years thereafter. Not surprisingly, the cherished one had to bear a title as alluring as “The Girl Who Wanted To Be A Witch”! Now you must think what became of me when I grew up. The one word answer to that is: nothing! I mean, nothing abnormal. That’s because, gradually, my witch-ful desires started making way for the more normal ones. This may not have gone down well with the forces of the dark. Their hard work of many years may have been on the verge of becoming futile. It is then that they may have responded to the need of the hour and devised irritating plans of robbing sleep off my nights.

Little do they know that sleepless nights or sleepy ones, I’m not joining any army of the dark! Obviously, morality and goodness and their entire ilk stop me from turning to evil. Of course I’d like to believe that! But my fear of the dark also has a key role to play in stopping me from joining the Ghastly Gangs of Ghostville. They may lure me with witches and keep me awake in the night, but how will they deal with my chattering teeth and shuddering during their meetings in the dark? It’s like a smack in their faces! Let them do all they can, very fearfully (yet triumphantly, if you see it the other way round) I’ll eschew nocturnal adventures to stare at the ceiling from 12 am to 4 am. And now I’m even getting creative with my time in the night. These days I’ve started walking up to the window to stare at the outside. Just the other day I counted about 100 leaves on the tree there. In all, I’ve come to believe that in some cases where the mind is full of fear…creativity is the happy consequence!

Time and again (and again and again)

May I introduce my pal through life, the one and only, the invincible, the ever-present …..”untimeliness”! Courtesy, this perennial companion of mine, the absolutely right things happen to me at the completely wrong time. I was first acquainted with this beast of a thing at a meeting where there were bosses and their bosses and their bosses. In such a setting, untimeliness landed uninvited, causing me to blurt something I shouldn’t have. Embarrassment followed and I resolved to be careful then onward. But what was I to do when untimeliness had taken a fancy to me. Thereafter, this happened and that, and each time was “untimelier” than the previous. Years passed and I resigned myself to fate to accept this unwanted, yet loyal friend. Bloopers had now become a mundane feature. This monotony however was broken in March 2014 when untimeliness reached new heights with the following monumental incident in my life. Let’s re-wind a little to last month.

Flashback: Some desires just refuse to ebb. I longed to see Goa. Everybody and his uncle had been there but me. And therefore the very mention of the place stirred something in me: don’t really know what it was – maybe pain or dreaminess or jealousy or joy or the pricking feeling of lack of company (because nobody was interested in going there again!!) or was it the pain of lack of company that took the form of jealousy and joy just happened to be around (God knows why!)? Anyway, the long and short of it was that something in me stirred at the very mention of Goa.

Moving on, one day, as my stars changed, the prospects of a visit to Goa emerged. Despite having been there umpteen times and sworn to never set foot there again, that too umpteen times (exaggeration under the garb of creative liberty and the like), my gal pals – Shraddha and Kajal – agreed to plan a vacation to Goa. I don’t know how I managed to sleep every night after we booked our tickets until the day we landed at the airport. Probably the dreams of beaches and party and food and an overall great time in Goa lured me to sleep. Seriously, that’s the only plausible explanation I can think of because my excitement had shot through the roof. The designated hour finally arrived and I reached Goa. And along came untimeliness!

As Kajal and I were loitering at the airport, waiting for Shraddha who was on the next flight, we chatted and ate and drank (water) and then went and got hungry again. Kajal said she could eat again and I too said I could drink again – only this time, I chose the wrong drink. No, I didn’t express my desire to drink beer or wine or rum or brandy or any blessed cocktail or mocktail or coconut water or even good old water. Upon setting foot on the shores of Goa for the very first time, I wanted milk!!!! While I was at my wits end trying to figure out what happened and why it happened, Goa shook with the boisterous mirth (means “noisy laughter”; always wanted to use this term) of my friends (Shraddha had arrived then).

Right drink (healthy, full of protein and what not), but such, I mean, SUCH a wrong time (Friday night in Goa)! Since then, untimeliness and I have inched closer, much to my chagrin.

Hapless romantics, writer’s bloc and some other things

It was a regular day, with my writer’s bloc at its very best. Usually, great writers are plagued by it for months or even years together. But for us amateurs, it’s slightly different. We suffer from it only when we put pen to paper. At all other times, there’s plenty about which we can write – a piece of prose here or a poem there is always buzzing in our head. In fact, our creativity is at its peak when we are the farthest from any writing paraphernalia. By that measure, a Monday morning on our way to work is when we are at our creative best! Now that’s when we can finish an entire novel in one sitting and (yes, you read it right – and!) do the groundwork for it’s sequel. (Actually, there’s something so special about Monday mornings and what one can achieve then, except work, that I’ll need to write about it in another blog.)

But it wasn’t a Monday and I was determined to write. I was just not prepared to spend another weekend staring at my blog window with a blank mind. And therefore, I started racking my brains for topics and trashed them sooner than I could say “yay”.  “What is life? Well, forget about life. Clothes? Not again! Shoes? Yawn! Intellectual cinema? Don’t know enough. Music? Ditto. Current happenings? Blink blink!  So, what do the topic-less unimaginative write about?!!”

Ambitious as I am, I said, “never mind the blank mind” and began typing furiously. A string of loose words and lo and behold, out came an idea for a novel! I couldn’t believe my day. I quickly opened a fresh page, rubbed my palms together as a maestro would before a splendid performance and typed the first words of what I believed to be a dream come true. “The bulb of the tear on her cheeks grew larger, before it dropped to become only a wet spot on her clothes” (Girlfriends, please don’t go “ewww” at “wet spot on her clothes” and read on. Thanks!). The character of my protagonist was clear in my head – a maiden with a broken heart, who was determined to conquer the world! Agreed, very Legally Blonde-ish but……in my words!

The book was going well when suddenly, I realised that my mind has a mind of its own. Just when my protagonist’s boyfriend was supposed to break her heart, he mouthed the most romantic utterings!  What was happening? I tried change the course of the story to bring it back on track, but as a stubborn cranky kid, it just wouldn’t. After three hours of typing, I now had oodles of meaningless mush on paper. My main idea was left two hours and ninety minutes behind. What a price die-hard romantics have to pay! I halted with a screech before I wasted any more of my time and paper and thus buried yet another silly piece of writing.

From that day onwards, I’ve taken some corrective measures. I’ve reduced my rom-com movies to only three per week (from almost five earlier). I read romantic prose in novels no more than once (used to re-read it until it jerked a tear out of me). Reading poems is fatal for what I’m trying to achieve and therefore, I’m avoiding it like plague. I’m also trying to stay away from the colour “pink”. Although there’s no connection whatsoever between “pink” and “romance”, I thought now that I’m at it, let me at least grow up and leave “pink” behind, if nothing else.

I’m now eagerly waiting for the day I write a sci-fi action-packed revenge love  … er …. story, no love!

A ‘Recipe’ for Success

Somebody’s said ‘Dream big….’. Honestly, how many mountains does one need to climb to achieve that? So dreaming big  comes naturally to me. The same somebody, when he unearthed this profoud truth, also said ‘..and achieve them!’. Now, I think it were these three dreadful words that lead him down the dungeons of oblivion. No wonder nobody remembers his name. Unleashed dreams move beyond the farthest star in the sky. Achieving them is hard work. Ever met a fan of hard work?

Don’t get me wrong. I know people who are living their dreams. While I was no patron of toil myself, I certainly believed someday I too would achieve my dream. But it’s just the unglamorous pathway to ‘achieving’ that scared me. Big words flashed across my eyes. Focus. Dedication. Another one – Determination. As if these were not enough to scare the weak hearted, that one day I come across ‘Steely determination’. That was it. Off I scooted to the book store and fanatically started looking for anything that resembled ‘Short-cut to Success’. Rack 1, nothing. Rack 2, nothing. Rack 18, nothing. Rack 43, nothing. It took two hours and twenty minutes, a truckload of effort and Rs. 23.50 (the autofare from my place to the book store) to finally re-establish the fact that there indeed is no short cut to success. But since I was at loggerheads with ‘hardwork’, I was determined to defy every rule and find a short cut!

I’ve always dreamt of becoming a good cook. Frankly, there’s not much that separates me from my dream, but only a tweeny-weeny hurdle – I’ve got to first become a cook. My failures in the kitchen were as many as the stars in the sky. And each more fascinating than the other, leaving me wonder, ‘Really? How did I pull that off?” If you thought forgetting to add salt to curry was silly, what would you call forgetting to make the curry altogether after making the accompaniment? Yes. I’ve done it. The sight of my ‘caramalised banana in butter scotch sauce’ sent such shivers down my father’s spine that bravery, usually leading him to taste my cullinary experiments, failed him. But who was to give up? Thankfully, some disasters were averted in time when my mother’s experience proved more reliable than the recipe book. Like that one time, when I mis-read ‘milli-litre’ as ‘litre’ and was about to pour a tumbler of water to a handful of dough, Mother suddenly intervened like none other than the goddess of good fortune herself and saved my cake.

Well, after many failures, I finally (finally!) decided to tread the long, rocky road at the end of which lay my dream. Ever since I’ve realised there’s a learning curve I need to chart, I’ve gone back to the basics and the results aren’t too bad either. The other day, a friend my mine pointed out the the yummy doughnut she had had tasted like my cake-gone-wrong. Which means that now, my cake-gone-wrong is edible under some other name! I almost shed a tear of joy at this realisation. There’s such hope! My dream lives on and so does my effort.