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

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? 

 

The Saleem Sinai effect :)

I thought it’s time I took a look at my blog, blew off the dust that must have gathered and maybe get it back in shape. Also, since it’s vacation and I’m practically jobless, it’s not like I can give the “I’m busy” excuse and ask my ‘inner voice’ to shut up every time it points at my blog and asks me to do something about it. And with some friends who keep asking me to blog, I hardly had an option.

To be honest, I can’t really think of anything much to blog about. So, to get myself back into the flow, I thought I would just write about the book I read last. I started reading ‘Midnight’s Children’ sometime by February end and, much to my relief and happiness, finished it a few days ago! Finally! It’s very slow, and boring, at times. I felt it had a lot of unnecessary details and digressions. If I were to read it again, I doubt I would be patient enough to finish it. But did I like it? YES! Would I recommend it to you? YES!

midnightschildren.jpg (150×222)

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is a book that was adjudged the ‘Booker of Bookers’ – the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first twenty-five years – in 1993. When I started reading it, I was curious. I wanted to know what made this book so great that it was given the Booker of Bookers title. As I progressed, I was confused. By the time I finished it, I wasn’t bothered. Whatever might have been the reason [for the award], whatever it might or might not have won, I loved it. I don’t know if it makes sense but I have a kind of bond with every book I read. Maybe not with the books I didn’t like. But with most other books, I do. Inspite of the way it irritated and frustrated me, I think I have ‘bonded’ with this book. And that’s what is important to me, as a reader.

Coming to the book, one point I strongly felt is regarding the implied focus of the book and its actual one. The title and the blurb/outline on the back cover lead you to believe this book is about the Midnight’s Children. My friend was reading this book before me and once, when I asked her how it was going, she said, “I reached Book Two (the book is divided into three parts) and yet, nothing seems to be happening.” I didn’t understand what she meant but once I started reading, I did. If you read this book, thinking it’s about Midnight’s Children, you might end up being very much disappointed. Because Midnight’s Children is just a part of it. Not even a major part, I’m afraid.

This book truly and totally belongs to Saleem Sinai, the narrator and protagonist, born on the exact moment of India’s independence, (and as a result, gifted with extraordinary powers). It is Saleem’s biography; one which he writes, and at the same time, narrates to his ‘mighty pickle-woman’, Padma. Saleem irritates, frustrates, confuses you just as much as he evokes your interest, moves you to laughter or tears and creates a place for himself in your mind. He can go on with his elaborate thoughts that are way too detailed and end up getting on your nerves. There have been many instances when I felt, “Why can’t he just shut up and get on with the story?” But then, that is how Saleem is, and after awhile, you get used to it…and the next time, you will be prepared for his rant. He digresses way too much but he is also adept (super-adept!!) at keeping you hooked (throwing in interesting bits about what lies ahead). He is one hell of a writer-narrator, I must say! I know it’s Rushdie who should be appreciated but, well, I think I’m too attached to Saleem to realize the difference. [And, anyway, when I appreciate Saleem, it’s basically Rushdie I’m talking about, in an indirect way]

Like I said, it’s Saleem’s biography. And he relates it in a very detailed way, including very minute facts. You get to know absolutely everything, right from the details of his grandfather’s marriage, his parents’ life before his birth, all the ‘unspeakable’ acts he committed, the people who changed his life, so on…until his death. I’d be surprised if you have ever read a biography more detailed than Saleem’s. And, I forgot an important part. Saleem, being connected to India by his birth, relates the country’s historical and major events in a parallel manner. Which is brilliant, I think! The work of a genius, in fact. The writing style is kind of unconventional (different would be an understatement) but I loved it, nevertheless.

I’ve grown to love the character and am so attached to him (obviously, I know, literally, everything about him!!). So, well, I could go on. If you intend to read this book at some point, go ahead. I hope you will have the patience it demands and love it as much as I did. Only advice I’d give is: Don’t read it for Midnight’s Children; read it for Saleem.

This is the most favourite quote from the book. I think it kind of defines the book, and Saleem, as well. And what I loved most about it is the strikingly beautiful truth it talks about.

                                                                 midnights-children-quote.jpg (200×366)

Intensely Lucky

While some books are a breezy read, there are some that move your mind…perhaps with a slight shudder or a tremor, or it may have the effect of a rough jolt on your mind. The book I’m reading right now falls in the latter category.

Since I moved to this new place in October, my mornings start with a cup of coffee and some time of peaceful reading, sitting out in the balcony area, while the neighbourhood wakes up around me. When I opened Lucky by Alice Sebold, one morning, recently, I never thought I’d have to rethink about the phrase used earlier: peaceful reading. 

LuckyLucky is not an easy read, not the kind of book you can breeze through. It tugs at your heart, firmly clutches on to your thoughts in a way very few books will. If I had to describe it in one word, I would certainly use ‘intense’. On the morning I started reading it, right after the first couple of pages or so, I was disturbed, pained and moved. Like, by those few pages, something had changed in my world.

Lucky is a memoir by Alice Sebold, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed The Lovely Bones. If you have read The Lovely Bones, you will know how powerful Sebold’s writing is. It is bold, open and distinct. No tough words or phrases, nothing complex. She does not use subtle synonyms to describe a situation; she says it as it is, plain, straightforward. Lucky recounts her experience of beingalice sebold raped when she was in her freshman year at college and goes on to describe how it changed the rest of her life. The book was all the more disturbing for me because of the fact that it’s not merely a story; it details exactly what a young girl went through, for real.

Sebold has portrayed the emotions and situations so intensely that I couldn’t help but feel the 19-year-old Alice was a part of me. I could feel her pain and confusion, the joys of friendship, the problems in her family… Her writing is intense, it pulls you into the book, implores you to try and feel what Alice must have gone through. I had loved Sebold’s writing style after reading The Lovely Bones. And it’s no different this time.

Lucky is a powerful book; a raw, intense read. It has moved me, touched me…and, like The lovely-bonesLovely Bones, I know this is one book that will fail to leave my mind. Highly recommended. And, if you haven’t read The Lovely Bones, that is yet again another highly recommended book.

Some lines I really loved, from the book.

“I live in a world where two truths coexist: where both hell and hope lie in the palm of my hand”

“Since then I’ve always thought that under rape in the dictionary it should tell the truth. It is not just forcible intercourse; rape means to inhabit and destroy everything.”

 

Just Another Perfect Day

You know what I hate about my work? Not dislike or disapprove. But truly hate? The fact that it has robbed me of time for myself, my

At work, this is how I’ve felt every day of the past one week…(for different reasons, obviously)

passions and people who matter. I don’t remember when was the last time I got to be by myself, just enjoy some solitude and peace, doing what I feel like. I can’t recall when was the last time I spent a truly happy, relaxing weekend by myself. I miss writing, blogging and reading. I miss the touch of my books…the feel of pen running over paper…the exhilaration of fingers falling over the keys and forming coherent words on the screen. I miss spending time with friends, talking to them.

Last day, I was writing in my diary after a long time. And I realized how much I miss writing. It has been a long time since I wrote out what’s in my head. And my head’s never devoid of thoughts, I’m sure you know. It was never (and never will be) the lack of thoughts that caused this gap. After a tiring, draining day at work, there’s only so much energy in you…and the time and zeal are so not enough to help me stay up.

But I noticed something very surprising, during the past two weeks. Almost every day after my previous post, my daily stats have crossed the usual numbers. Which is super-awesome…and inspiring, in some ways, since I’m getting a good number of visitors when I haven’t posted in around 2 weeks.

Today morning, after a long, long time, I’m alone. My roommate left for work by 5:30am, after waking me up. The others have gone home and will be back sometime today. Taking hold of the awesome opportunity, I got up early. After finishing off some chores, I thought I would sit out in the balcony area and, perhaps, enjoy the morning. Sunshine, breeze, clear blue sky (after a heavy rain). And, coffee. But then, that’s what I do every morning. And so, for a change, I’m listening to some awesome music and letting out those pent-up thoughts of past two weeks (some of them, that is).

I have been through a super-difficult week at work. It has taken a toll on my happiness and peace of mind. At a certain point, I was almost on the verge of quitting. But then, I wondered, “Is this all I can endure? If I don’t have the strength to go through something as silly as work pressure, how can I ever be able to live through life?” And I had made my decision. It’s true that I miss a lot of significant things. But I know that this will pass… Passion is not something that leaves you one fine day. If it did, it wouldn’t be called passion. Like I’m doing now, I’ll always come back to what means most to me. How could I not? When this is what makes me ‘ME’ – the power to put
crazy thoughts into words and the nerve to put it out in the open for all to see.

[About to hit the ‘Publish’ button, and I think : “Whoa! That felt great. Brilliant way to start the week.”] 🙂

Cruel Twists

I had wanted to blog today morning, but got busy with work. In fact, I got this thought while brushing my teeth, and since then, I’ve been thinking of writing it out. While walking to work, I thought about it, mentally jotting down what all I wanted to write about. Surprisingly, I got another touching thought after I reached office. I did try to write it out, but got busy with work. And that’s again something to talk about! 🙂

So, before I get into the actual thought that triggered this urge to write, let me tell you about a news item I read today morning. If you have noticed, we read a lot of stuff each day; a lot of articles, information and random facts cross our mind. But there are some that stay, that touch your mind enough to make you think! Today morning, while going through some  news updates, I read an article. It wasn’t the first article I read, but it was the first (and the only one, I think) that moved me. Obviously, why else would I be blogging about it?

So, I started my day at work, feeling emotionally moved by this news item. In a country where deaths, accidents, injuries and mishaps play prominent roles in newspapers, this might not be unusually shocking or anything. But when I read it, I kind of imagined myself in her situation, then in her parents’ situation. She was (it feels weird saying ‘was’) my age…and she had got placed in the same company as me (remember the campus interview, the job I decided to let go?). Meaning, I might have met her if life had taken a different road.

Life twists and turns…

She was supposed to be take part in a TV show later this month. It’s easy to say life had other plans for her. But very difficult to come to terms with those plans. Sometimes, life’s twists can be so cruel. This was the one thought that kept ringing in my head, when I started work today morning. Kind of like a reminder that the next moment can be happy, shockingly disastrous or just normal…that all I can do right now is MAKE MOST OF NOW! 🙂