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Posts tagged ‘writing’

A dry spell

The oasis of thoughts is running dry

Unkind is the trajectory of time

Between dreaming and doing

Imagination has sketched a fine line.

Remembering August 6th

Today marks the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and continues to send shivers down the spines of those that dare to reminisce. 64 years later, the world is still a cradle of hatred, cruelty and destruction.

Although we probably had our first tryst with World War II in 6th grade history textbooks, I deeply encountered the implications of war, weapons & death only in 9th grade literature. It tragically transformed historical numbers, facts and figures into real people, emotions and scars.
A doctor’s journal entry for August 6, 1945

The morning stretched calm, beautiful, and warm.
Sprawling half clad, I gazed out at the form
Of shimmering leaves and shadows. Suddenly
A strong flash, then another, startled me.
I saw the old stone lantern brightly lit.
Magnesium flares? While I debated it,
The roof, the walls and, as it seemed, the world
Collapsed in timber and debris, dust swirled
Around me – in the garden now – and, weird,
My drawers and undershirt disappeared.
A splinter jutted from my mangled thigh.
My right side bled, my cheek was torn, and I
Dislodged, detachedly, a piece of glass,
All the time wondering what had come to pass.
Where was my wife? Alarmed, I gave a shout,
‘Where are you, Yecko-san?’ My blood gushed out.
The artery in my neck? Scared for my life,
I called out, panic-stricken, to my wife.
Pale, bloodstained, frightened, Yecko-san emerged,
Holding her elbow. ‘We’ll be fine,’ I urged –
‘Let’s get out quickly.’ Stumbling to the street
We fell, tripped by something at our feet.
I gasped out, when I saw it was a head:
‘Excuse me, please excuse me –‘ He was dead:
A gate had crushed him. There we stood, afraid.
A house standing before us tilted, swayed,
Toppled, and crashed. Fire sprang up in the dust,
Spread by the wind. It dawned on us we must
Get to the hospital: we needed aid –
And I should help my staff too. (Though this made
Sense to me then, I wonder how I could)
My legs gave way. I sat down on the ground.
Thirst seized me, but no water could be found.
My breath was short, but bit by bit my strength
Seemed to revive, and I got up at length.
I was still naked, but I felt no shame.
This thought disturbed me somewhat, till I came
Upon a soldier, standing silently,
Who gave the towel round his neck to me
My legs, stiff with dried blood, rebelled. I said
To Yecko-san she must go on ahead.
She did not wish to, but in our distress
What choice had we? A dreadful loneliness
Came over me when she had gone. My mind
Ran at high speed, my body crept behind.
I saw the shadowy forms of people, some
Were ghosts, some scarecrows, all were wordless dumb –
Arms stretched straight out, shoulder to dangling hand;
It took some time for me to understand
The friction on their burns caused so much pain
They feared to chafe flesh against flesh again.
Those who could, shuffled in a blank parade
Towards the hospital. I saw, dismayed,
A woman with a child stand in my path –
Both naked. Had they come back from the bath?
I turned my gaze, but was at a loss
That she should stand thus, till I came across
A naked man – and now the thought arose
That some strange thing had stripped us of our clothes.
The face of an old woman on the ground
Was marred with suffering, but she made no sound.
Silence was common to us all. I heard
No cries of anguish, or a single word.

Poetry at its finest

While reading The Motorycle Diaries, I came across this hauntingly beautiful poem written by Otero Silva, a Venezuelan poet and novelist born in 1908:

I heard splashing on the boat
her bare feet
And sensed in our faces
the hungry dusk
My heart swaying between her
and the street, the road
I don’t know where I found the strength
to free myself from her eyes
to slip from her arms
She stayed, crying through rain and glass
clouded with grief and tears
She stayed, unable to cry
Wait! I will come
walking with you.

Keep Off The grass

I finally found, read and loved a book that hasn’t been extensively reviewed (yet) on the blogosphere! If you aren’t already enticed by the title, get a load of this: an Indian investment banker on Wall Street, born and brought up in the US, decides to quit his million dollar job to go to India to find his roots. He enrolls himself at IIM (Indian Institute of Management) Bangalore, and what ensues is a hillarious chase of answers, grades and weed. 

Keep off the grass - Karan Bajaj

Keep off the grass - Karan Bajaj

Obviously, the IIM turns out to be completely different from typical B-schools in the US and elsewhere. Samrat Ratan, the protagonist, once a Yale valedictorian and a big-shot banker, is pitted against the super-brained IITians from the country, only to discover that mediocrity has its own virtues. His constant struggle between his American upbringing and Indian roots initially finds no solace in the rat-race of grades and jobs, until he realizes that relationships are what really matter. 

In his quest for happiness, Samrat meets Sarkar and Vinod, the former an incredibly smart guy with not a care in the world, the latter an army officer who lived through the Kargil war. Sarkar’s is a very enticing, twisted character, never without marijuana, alcohol and smokes, and with a simple, life philosophy on wasting away:

I think suffering is the fate of the human soul, and in its acceptance is happiness. Really, why wouldn’t there be suffering when death is the only real certainty in life? It’s like trying to enjoy a movie when you already know the climax, and a sad one at that. I guess this inevitablility of doom is the reason why there is an unknown vacuum in all of us, a vague sense of dissatisfaction. […] Somewhere in IIT, I think I figured out that I would embrace the doom, in a slow, deliberate destruction. Kind of like a moth slowly flirting with the flame instead of being surprised when it is thrust into it by an unknown force.”

The IIM adventure is complete with a prison-stay, a stint in the hinterlands of India, a freaky experience with hermits in Benaras and a meditation course in the Himalayas.  Of course, each adventure is tripled by getting stoned on endless joints, and in his defence, Sarkar has a rather valid argument:

“I smoke it in protest man – Marijuana exists naturally as a plant . Who is the government to ban God’s creation? It’s like me wanting to make potatoes illegal because I don’t like their taste.”

Karan Bajaj, the author, a BCG management consultant and an ex-P&G brand manager, did a fantastic job of bringing to life the atmosphere of B-school in India. I must admit that I got so absorbed into the book, I forgot for sometime that it was only well-crafted fiction. There is no dirth of wit, humor, sarcasm and irony on any page.

If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a student, or if you’re looking for something to make you laugh out loud, this is the book for you! Get your copy and tell me how you like it.

Under the night sky

She walks the lone road,

Silence stinging her senses

Like a cold wind would sting

Her bare skin,

But the night is still

And dark, and the sky is dark,

Embracing the dainty arch

Of the new born moon,

As though it were created to protect

The moon alone, and nothing below,

And no stars shone

Upon the silence of the night. 


She walks past a house masked

By dull peeling white, the smell

Of rust, and autumn in sight

In a garden, brown and bare.


She walks through the night

Till she reaches the end

Of her road, the end of all life,

And peers through the sky above

At the morning light, at the first rays

Of the rising sun.

A new horizon?


Teacher Man

Frank McCourt has given a new dimension to teaching in this non-fictional account. He writes about teaching and learning and teaching to learn and learning to teach.

McCourt’s journey is rooted in Ireland, from where he seeks to rise in the minds and hearts of the students in New York’s public schools, through his unconventional, inspiring approach to teaching. As he explores his own identity, he accepts that teachers don’t have all the answers, and that is only human. His creative writing class reads and sings cooking recipes, his English class discusses Little Bo Peep!

Even when we don’t relate to the Irish life or the NY adolescents, we end up becoming a part of the Teacher Man phenomenon. The racy, decryptable writing makes you belong in McCourt’s classes. His humble, inquisitive approach to teaching makes you want to learn, as though it comes from choice and not force.

Great teaching, great writing and very inspirational. If you’re a student, it will give you a new perspective on learning. If you’re a teacher, you’ll want to follow in McCourt’s footsteps. If you’re neither, you’ll want to become either one. Go read it, while I try to get my hands on Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis.

RIP Frank McCourt aka Teacher Man [20th July, 09].

The 3 best graduation speeches

Words can be ‘weapons’ of mass inspiration, especially when the right ones are found at the right moments, moments which tend to define the rest of our lives. The following three graduation speeches inspire me most as I prepare to undertake the journey that lies ahead.

One. Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, to the Class of 2005 at Stanford.

Two. Chetan Bhagat, an IIT grad and the author of Five Point Someone, at Symbiosis (India) Convocation 2008.

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Read more

The Arabic Language

Arabic has long fascinated culture-seekers and artists from the west. The language is reminiscent of an ancient setting, and has a crude, poetic aura about it.

Despite all the unconventional stuff I fancy myself doing, I never thought I’d be learning Arabic someday! It’s an absolutely brilliant language, though the non-artist in me can barely do justice to the creative strokes of the Arabic alphabet. I learnt my first few today (alif, baa, wow…), together with some introductory greetings (sobah-ul-khair, masaa-un-nuur) so often heard and ignored in hindi movies.

Here are some interesting facts about the Arabic lingo:

  • Arabic is written and read from right to left. In fact, books and newspapers are binded on the right, unlike conventional reading material. Check out the front cover of my Arabic textbook and notice the right-binding.

  • All letters are connected when writing in Arabic. Unlike English, this does not vary by handwriting. For example, in print like this, the English letters are all disjointed. In Arabic, even in print, these letters are connected. There are a few exceptions, those that are not connected to other letters; my instructor calls these ‘selfish characters!’

  • Arabic characters / letters have different shapes, depending on where they occur in a word (beginning, middle or end). 
  • The Arabic script has 2 distinct layers of writing. The layer below comprises the consonants, and is topped by a layer of vowels. This layer of vowels, however, can be seen only in elementary textbooks and religious scriptures (Quran). It is eliminated in daily Arabic reading. Apparently, with continuous practice, people can easily identify words, even without the vowels (there are only 3 vowels in the Arabic language). It sort of holds true for English too I guess. I’m sure you’ve read one of those emails with words missing vowels and found them easy to decipher.
  • Like Hindi & Spanish, every object is either male or female in Arabic. 
  • Every letter in Arabic has the right to pronunciation. There are no silent letters.
  • Arabic closely relates to Sanskrit and Urdu, and has a whole bunch of Hindi-like words. It also loans vocabulary and sounds to Spanish, Malay, Turkish, Indonesian, Bengali and Hindi.

That’s about what I’ve gathered so far. One day into the lessons and I’m in love with the language already!

The Blogosphere – my second home

What started as my lonely little space on the world wide web has integrated into a community of bloggers-turned-friends, rather fast. Well, virtual friends. It took me a while to realize that the blogosphere is full of some amazing people, writers, acquaintances, readers, visitors, even stalkers!

I am very honored and rather touched to receive my first ever set of blogging awards today, from a fellow blogger, Nikhil.

Thanks Nikhil! Blogging friends forever indeed! 

Honestly, I’m not too sure what the 2nd award implies. Oops, honesty I suppose.

I’ve seen such blogging awards on some blogs I’ve visited in the past, and today, when I finally became a recipient, I started to explore the origin of these awards. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much, except the blogs of fellow award winners. So now, I’m quite convinced that someone, somewhere, woke up one morning and thought of creating a way to appreciate the efforts of bloggers who kept him entertained on mundane days, informed on busy days, and connected on lonely days,. A way to strengthen blogging bonds among blogging friends in the blogging space. What a noble thought, Mr-blogging-awards-creator.

Oh, I did stumble upon the following rules to keep the blogging awards rolling:

- Only 5 people are allowed to receive this award.
– 4 of them must be followers of your blog.
– One must be new to your blog and live in another part of the world.
– You must link back to who ever gave you the award.

I hereby pass these blogging awards to:

Aadil, whose poetry inspires me.

Neilina, whose words are innocent and honest.

Akanksha, a childhood friend who I reconnected with on the blogosphere.

Now that I’m sort of caught in the moment, thanks to all you people for reading my blog, for all your comments, and your invaluable words of appreciation, warmth, wisdom and encouragement. Gracias. :)

Wordle: Funky text designs

If you’re bored of monotonous looking text, or just plain bored, check out Wordle. You can write a bunch of text and it’ll convert the text to some funky patterns, with the words repeated more often appearing more prominent. I spent all of last night playing around with it! I’m considering using it for my presentations soon.

The good things in life.


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