Long Time, No See

I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging for ages now. A passing thought, a meaningful conversation, an interesting person or, as usual, a great book or a movie – there’s been so much to write about. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to actually sit down and write out what I had in mind. Why, you ask? Well, I wasn’t sure about it, in simple words. I had been writing in another ‘voice’ for so long (as part of my job) that I was worried I’d realise I had lost touch with mine. I was scared I’d just make a fool of myself. And, at other times, I was just plain lazy.

Thankfully, I have a bunch of friends who keep pestering me about asking me when I’m going to blog, so much that I decided to finally get down to it! Now that I’ve begun, the words seem to be coming a little more easily, this feels a tiny bit more familiar. Although, I have to admit, inspite of being over a 100 words into this post, I still don’t know what it is going to be about.

I left a place I called home for nearly three years (actually, it’s still home of sorts), to a city that has always been home but feels a little less so right now. While it has been nice running into all the familiar faces here, there’s also a strangeness that I keep sensing every now and then. More often than not, I find myself taking another look at these seemingly recognisable people, and I realise they aren’t who I thought them to be. Not anymore atleast. Or maybe, they never were.

It almost feels like I’m talking to them for the first time, getting to know them from scratch! Perhaps, it doesn’t sound all that bad. But I don’t think I enjoy the sense of detachment that comes with it. In fact, it’s also slightly scary. Kind of makes you look back at everyone you have ever known. And then, when you look at yourself, you see how much you have changed along the way, how little these ‘familiar faces’ know about you, how you are a whole new person yourself. So, maybe it’s alright for them to seem like strangers…and for you (me, that is) to rediscover anew a place you used to consider home for so long.

Long pause.

I’m sort of surprised at what I just wrote typed out, simply because it was nothing but a doubtful, half-formed notepad-926046_960_720thought until a few minutes ago! I don’t know if any of it makes sense, but this is precisely why I love blogging/writing (one of the reasons, atleast) – it has a way of unlocking something deep within that even I might not be aware of. Well, all I can say at this point is, it definitely feels good to be back here!

Ever had an epiphany brought about by your writing? Tell me more. 🙂  

Dear Library…

Come Sunday, I’ll be in a place I call ‘home’ in every sense of the word! The mere thought makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I badly need the change of scene.

Last night, while on the verge of falling asleep, I remembered something that I had wanted to write about. I read something a couple of months ago and made a mental note to blog about it whenever I found time. But then, I got busy (like always) and the ‘note’ was pushed off to some corner of my mind. Only to resurface as a half-conscious thought, last night.

I came across this article in The Guardian about libraries – how they were ‘in danger’ and about a campaign that invited readers across the globe to write “love letters to their favourite libraries”. The idea had an instant connect with me and I knew that I wanted to write one, too.

My love-letter is to a very special library, one that does not exist anymore. Sometime in 2004, when I was in 8th standard, our school campus was relocated. While the library was, technically, shifted to another place, it wasn’t the same as the one we had in the old school. That library will always be a part of my fondest and most cherished school memories, for reasons more than one.

So..here goes!

Dear Library, 

You might not remember me but I could never forget you. They say you always hold your first love as a dear memory. I think that applies for libraries as well. Atleast for a bookworm like me. 

You were my very first library (and love)! I remember getting a glimpse of your interior sometime when I was in 1st or 2nd grade. Since then, I couldn’t wait to get inside and check out all those books. Finally, when I did enter the room, a year or so later, I was on cloud nine! It was love at first sight!

Dimly lit, with a mysterious air that hinted at all the treasure troves (read: books) waiting to be discovered, you had an old world charm about you. I loved spending time there, amidst shelves and shelves of books. We used to have a Library hour once every week and I remember waiting for it so eagerly. Waiting to meet you, to explore all that you had to offer me. Crossing your threshold was like entering into an entire new world, a space where everything else ceased to exist. It was just me, you and books. Even the air smelt of books, old and slightly tattered, adding to the magic. 

You introduced me to Enid Blyton. I couldn’t get enough of Famous Five and the Five Find-Outers. I kept yearning to see more of you, and read more. You helped me take the first step into ‘Bookwormland’ and guided me along the journey, delighting me with the beautiful classics you held. I remember those years as a blur of Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, E. Nesbit (to name a few) and gems like Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna and Jane Eyre. 

I could never thank you enough for all that you have done for me. In so many ways, you made me what I am today. Hell, you might very well be the reason I write! Even though we had to part ways, I’ll never forget the time I spent with you, the happiness you gifted me. I know I never told you, but I love you; I always will. I believe you knew it all along. Every time I see the present library, or any library for that matter , I think of you and miss you. This is my way of trying to give back atleast a tiny bit of what you’ve given to me. 

Yours,

An ardent reader/admirer

Missing Bloggers

You put in so much of your time and effort into something that means nothing but boring work to you, and instead of a word of appreciation, all you get is rebuke! Sounds familiar? Well, I’m going through a similar situation at college and it’s frustrating. It has been going on for so long that I feel sick just thinking of the whole episode. This entire month has been depressing to the extreme. Big-time-BAD start to 2015, I say! I hope things get better soon! *Fingers crossed*

Anyway, my Facebook page tells me I haven’t posted in 11 days. I thought it was time I did something about that. And, here I am!

Sometime last month, I read a post by my blogger-friend, Manu Kurup, saying he intended to stop blogging. He said it would be his last post. And, sure enough, it was. He has deleted his site. He might have had his own reasons, although I don’t know what they were. Nevertheless, his post came as nothing less than a shock to me.

I don’t remember how I stumbled onto his blog but, well, someday, I did. I wasn’t a regular reader but I made it a point to catch up on his posts whenever possible. His writing style and thoughts were what I loved the most. We might have been strangers, on a personal level. But there is something very intimate and special about a person’s writing, reading what someone else has written. It’s kind of like getting a glimpse of their mind, a reflection of their perceptions. Perhaps, that is why I feel/felt a sense of belonging with all my fellow bloggers, including Manu.

When I read his final post, I was gripped by an emotion that I can only describe as “loss”. Something akin to what I’d feel if I were meeting a friend for the last time. While I do miss his blogposts, the experience opened my eyes to a fact I had never bothered to look at. Just like we take people for granted in life, I’ve been stupid enough to think that my readers and fellow bloggers will always remain the same. I never considered the possibility that they could also leave or fade off. Now that I’ve (almost) resumed regular blogging, I notice the absence of many blogger-friends who used to comment and support me. And I miss them all!

Anyhow, for those who have still hung around, this is a confession-plus-apology of sorts, to let you know I’ll try not to repeat the mistake! Keep hanging around! 🙂

Difficulties & Delights

I wanted to do a Christmas post. But then, my sister came over for a few days and I was too busy having fun with her. So…maybe, next year!

One of the ‘hazards’ associated with my course is regular (read: daily & multiple) assignments. Most of them involve writing. Recently, after submitting one such assignment, I got the comment that my article/report lacks the ‘joy of writing’. I was truly surprised. For one thing, whatever I might lack in my writing, I’ve always known it would never be devoid of the joy or pleasure. Secondly, I was startled because I realized that what the ma’am had said was true. That particular article did not have any sign of involvement. The reason was pretty simple – there was not much or no involvement at all.

I don’t know how it is with other writers. But I definitely find it difficult to write properly when I’m given strict parameters to follow. I lose the spark, the urge to come up with something creative if I feel restricted. Which is probably why my assignments lack the ‘connection’ that is so evident over here. It’s all the more frustrating if the topic is boring (happens always!).

I understand this is part of what I have to endure. But I have to admit, it’s annoying. Not to mention, draining. Forcing myself to write (about the least engaging stuff) when I don’t have the least bit of interest to do so…that’s no small feat!

On a different note, there is something positive that my course has made me realize. I seem to have developed an inclination and liking for designing subjects. As part of my course, I have been learning certain page-making and editing softwares. Even though I was sort of apprehensive, initially, I’ve come to love working on them. I never thought I’d be saying this. I’m amazed at myself, to be honest. It’s sort of challenging because there are so many intricate details to be considered, so many little things that matter. I enjoy the experience of putting myself into the work and trying to figure out the specifics. It’s actually fun. 🙂 It’s amusing that I’ve discovered such enthusiasm for this aspect while I find the writing assignments quite daunting. No wonder they say life is full of surprises!

I have Christmas & New Year holidays till next Monday. I’m planning to make use of it to spruce up this space. It is yet to be seen whether those plans will materialize or not. I’m hopeful, though. As always. *wink*

An Amateur Writer’s Blah Blah on Writing :)

“I think the writer has to be responsible to signs and dreams. If you don’t do anything with it, you lose it.” – Joy Williams

I didn’t get any particular sign or dream as such. Just a lot of complaints from my sister. And, maybe, one article which could possibly have been a sign – On Not Writing.

Whenever I resume blogging, I also make an effort to catch up on posts by bloggers I like/follow and the Freshly Pressed posts. Apart from giving me a sense of getting back on track, it also leads me onto thoughts I want to write about. One such post which I read (the last time I resumed blogging) was Finding your writing voice over at Wanton Creation. The reason for being drawn to it was: I had had the same line of thought and was planning to blog about it (which never happened, alas!). So, I was surprised to see a post on the same topic, with similar thoughts!

There is something I always notice when I read articles or blog-posts – the writing style. Even though I must have been doing it all along, it’s something that I realized very recently. It might be my passion for writing or maybe, just something I’ve grown to do as a result of my reading. Whatever maybe the reason, I’ve come to realize that the first thing I notice and appreciate about a piece of writing is the writing style, the way in which the writer has put forth his views. Also, I believe, that is what helps maintain my interest in the piece. However interesting a concept might be, I cannot bear to read on if I don’t like the way it’s written. Once I realized this, I was curious. Curious about what exactly led me to like a particular way of writing, what factors I looked for in a piece…and most importantly, what was my writing style, how would I judge it, how do people judge it? The latter’s a thought for another day, though.

It’s not easy to write something that engages a reader till the end. And it’s definitely not easy to make it good enough to leave a mark on the reader’s mind or provoke them to think about it. So, then, what draws a person to read a certain piece of writing (Note: I’m not talking about books here)? Let me list out 5 qualities in writing that do the trick for me:

1) Humour – It works every single time. Use humour to present your concept/thought and I bet it will get through to your readers. It works splendidly for me!

2) Simple yet compelling language – I would never want to read something that is filled with complex or generally unused words. That’s not to say I’d like something plainly written either. Attaining that balance between simple and compelling language  is tricky but I believe that is what could reach out to readers. On that note, let me also add : grammatical & spelling mistakes are a firm turn-off when it comes to reading something. (Not that I’m perfect at it!)

3) Keeping it personal – Now, this is a factor that ALWAYS draws me to a piece of writing – the writer’s ability to connect to the reader by maintaining a certain personal touch. Instead of an article that is completely factual and impersonal, I’d opt for something that has a personal element, an article wherein the writing seems to communicate to me, engaging me in what the writer is saying. In short, I should be able to feel that the writer is talking to me through the piece.

4) Short and sweet –  Never mind the ‘sweetness’, but I certainly do prefer articles that aren’t too long. It isn’t really about having time to read it. For me, it’s more about whether a long article will be able to hold my attention, whether it will be worth the effort. More often that not, I have strayed off halfway through a long article and just skimmed through the rest of it. So, the phrase “short and sweet” is highly relevant to me.

5) Flow of Writing – The way the concept is developed from one paragraph to another or, in simple words, the flow of writing is another factor that helps in maintaining my interest in an article. Disconnected or disrupted flow of thoughts usually make me leave halfway through the piece.

So, those are the 5 elements of writing style that capture my interest in an article.

What are yours? Do care to share.

Let’s Talk Books

Hasn’t it been quite a while since I last did some book-talk? Considering my love for ranting about books, I reckon it has been far too long. So, here goes. I read two books in the past nearly-two-months. ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown and ‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastian Barry.

For anyone who has read the earlier books by Dan Brown, Inferno won’t be particularly impressive, I believe. The twists and revelations lack impact. By the end, even the basic plot seems a little vague and over-the-top. Also, unlike his other books, I felt this one had some parts which just didn’t make sense to me.  Inspite of the fact that it is an action-packed thriller which takes you through a beautiful city (Florence), always offering new bits of information and keeping you engaged, I have to say that I didn’t feel an affinity towards it. One possible reason might be the repetition in the main elements that define a Dan Brown book – the 24-hour time span, the action, the narrative, the basic thread of the plot, the interweaving of history, art, places and facts and even the outline of the main characters. Some of the situations failed to excite me solely because of their repetitive nature. Inferno is definitely not going to be on my list of favourites.

Coming to ‘The Secret Scripture’ (a critically acclaimed novel by Sebastian Barry) , it’s a book that surprised me. When I started off, I instinctively knew that I’d find it slow, intense and a tad complicated. Not an easy-breezy read, that is. I wasn’t wrong. I found it sort of dull. I kept expecting it to wear off. But, even when I was halfway through it, the dullness persisted. The book failed to draw me into it; I just didn’t feel that urge to go on reading, to know what was going to happen. That’s when the surprising element of the book came into play.

Sometime towards the second-half, the characters started ‘coming to life’, their situations gaining an intensity I hadn’t perceived till then and I could sense myself feeling for the characters. Towards the end, I was very deeply into it. So much that I couldn’t help feeling a bit reeled by the climax, taken aback by the sudden developments. When I began reading The Secret Scripture, I had my doubts about liking it. But, now, I still think about the characters and their lives, long after having finished the book. Do I need to add that I absolutely loved it?

“It is very difficult to be a hero without an audience, although, in a sense, we are each the hero of a peculiar, half-ruined film called our life.” 

[A note, in case you decide to read it: Have the patience and perseverance to go on reading even if you find it slow initially.]

The book I’m currently reading is the latest book by Khaled Hosseini – ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. It’s amazing, so far. It is emotionally intense, bit more than the previous two books. Or maybe it’s just because I’m too deep into it. Anyway, Hosseini has outdone himself, once more! Another thing I loved about it is that there is a change in the narrative, the way the story is told. More about it, once I finish.

What have you been reading? 

 

(A bit of) Straightening Up :)

Apparently, one post was all it took! I already feel like I’m back to blogging.

During my active-blogging-days, I used to go through each day, see everything partly through a blogger’s eyes. I used to always be open to wandering thoughts and ponder over how to write it out. Each passing thought or incident went through a sort of scrutiny, just in case it was something I could blog about. And, I seem to be back to that stage now. I keep thinking of what I could possibly blog about; I write down interesting sentences I build up in my head, jot down random thoughts; I observe people, places and situations much more closely. Do note that this happened just hours after my previous blog post. And, then, it struck me…I feel like I’m back on track. Almost, I suppose.

The past few months were much like a whirlwind of activities. March was my last month at school, as a teacher. And I was completely caught up with everything. Completing portions, spending time with the kids, finishing up the tasks. It was quite hectic but I didn’t really mind. Probably because I knew that I wouldn’t get to experience it again. April was more of a roller-coaster ride. I finally got to Bangalore (a place I’ve had in mind for the past two years!) and before I knew it, everything had fallen into place much more perfectly than I had expected to. I’ve almost settled in with the new atmosphere, place and people. Like any roller-coaster ride, I also had some down-times, instances when I was emotionally low. But then, I know it will pass (even though it seems to be taking its own time in doing so).

The only writing I did in the last few months was in my diary…the normal rant about incidents, emotions, day-to-day events, random thoughts. Even those entries were not regular. Still, I kept at it. For the sake of the joy and solace it gave me every time I wrote something.

A week or so ago, while writing out about the day, I realized that it had been ages since I wrote a poem. There was a time when I used to have books/diaries filled with poems and now, I can’t remember the last time I wrote one! That’s when it struck me that I hadn’t really been writing, in the true sense of the word. Whatever writing I did in the diary barely helped in keeping the spark alive. It felt like I had been trying to keep myself just alive, barely so…and not nurture it back to life completely. Like managing to stay afloat but never taking the effort to reach ashore.

So, now, I need to get out of the rut and..well, write. For real. 🙂 Thoughts and ideas are always welcome. (I could seriously use some help!)

What does writing mean to you? What does it do for you? 🙂