Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"But," said she, "What does it mean?"

Read this one first in Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, and obsessed about what it meant for a while. What I loved most was that it was such an open-ended poem with so many little clues. A beautiful little jigsaw puzzle. Came across it again yesterday in a SAT Literature test, and nearly cried.

I don't think Emily Dickinson and I are friends. Not yet. But this one gave me a queer nice feeling. I'm putting it up as a tribute to when I unabashedly mulled over poetry and inflicted little bits of it on my friends. Nowadays, culinary endeavours are all I inflict.

I miss inflicting poetry. Here it is:

Part One: LifeXII

I asked no other thing,

No other was denied.

I offered Being for it;

The mighty merchant smiled.

Brazil? He twirled a button,

Without a glance my way:

“But, madam, is there nothing else

That we can show to-day?”

In passing, the SAT's critical reading section has some gems of literary passages from books that I've never read, and shall probably not read, thanks to the fact that they don't tell you where the passage is from. Now I call that cruel. I can't remember all the sentences, or the characters, or be expected to after I'm done with a ten-section exodus with some very nasty passages about the peopling of the Americas or the origins of snoring.

But the nice little passages, they make me smile during the yawnathon. They're another kind of jigsaw puzzle. More open ends.

I grew up on jigsaw puzzles, yes. But only because I beheaded all my Barbies. I had to.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The school magazine is useless, unless you turn the pages into paper airplanes.

As you will no doubt conclude after perusing the following article, I engineered it to provoke within my english teacher reactions of extreme annoyance. It's fun, rather. Irritating her, I mean.

That was two parts Sherlock Holmes (clear-cut and precise) and one part Priyanka Kumar(confused as hell).


It all started when I was told to submit an article for the school magazine.

Writer’s Block, like a Bollywood song-and-dance sequence, strikes when least expected. It smacks you in the face just when you are about to get down to chewing your pen and staring dreamily at nothing in particular. You discover you don’t know what to write. You have nothing to say. You feel choked, and could do with some hot soup. You feel miserable and very, very tiny.

I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t pen a twelve-line poem on nature. I knew I was in bigger trouble when I couldn’t write an article about global warming. I realized I knew nothing about global warming or nature, so I had better keep quiet about it. I fretted and fumed a little more, and made a very important discovery.

Writing an article for the school magazine is a daunting task. You have to make sure that you have pleased all parties who know you. Your teachers must be satisfied with the quality of your work, so it must be of a certain standard. Your friends must not disembowel you for using big words and shaming them, so it must be simple. The general public must not lynch you for writing four pages of rubbish just to annoy them, so it must be short. To cut a long story short, an article for a school magazine must be like the Japanese haiku – short, concise, and vague enough to make people think that you know what you are talking about.

And yes, the most difficult part is what kind of a literary masterpiece you give in. If you are writing a story, it must be a story that fits into two pages and doesn’t have a dog called Tommy in it. If you are submitting a poem, you have to make sure that it actually rhymes. If it doesn’t, you have to make sure it explores themes of disappointment and betrayal within the certified SFMP (Standards For Morbid Poetry) limit. You have to make sure that the jokes you submit induce an acceptable degree of laughter. You have to submit puzzles, riddles and crosswords with the correct answers. To top it all, you have to make it look like an effortless mission.

So what does a student do when faced with such a problem? Which corner does she cower in? And the most important question – WHAT does she write about?

I chewed on my pen more than necessary. I discarded one poem on examinations. I toyed with creating a cartoon strip. And I realized that I could write an article about writing an article. It seemed like a safe bet. Consider the average student, Student A, and her best friend, Student B, engaged in a conversation the day the school magazine comes out.

Student A: I wonder what this is? It’s called “An Article on an Article”

Student B: I don’t care. What do you have for lunch?

Student A (Running a practiced eye over the page): It looks like she’s written about writing an article.

Student B: I wouldn’t read that if I were you. What do you have for lunch?

Student A: No wait, it looks like she’s analysed the kind of articles people write for a school magazine.

Student B: She needs help. What do you have for lunch?

So you see, I face the world with a radiant countenance. I go unread, and do not get lynched. Sometimes, I suppose Writer’s Block helps.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wasting Time Is An Art

I have two weeks to fill my head with the entire history of the world, keep it there, go to a test centre and try valiantly to darken annoying little circles in the correct order, then rest in peace. I think I shall stop using the internet for a while. It has taught me too many things about history.

Firstly, Genghis Khan had a grandson named Hulagu. After I'd finished laughing insanely at the name, I took a look at an ancient portrait of his. I'm not over the droopy little moustache and the pigtail as yet.

Secondly, Gothic architecture probably evolved as some kind of cosmic joke against God. However, it was used for cathedrals. So much for the dark ages.

Asian business culture. Japanese bankers before the Asian economic crisis took their clients to $500- a-person dinners at Tokyo's no-pan-shabu-shabu restaurants. The main attraction of these restaurants? Not the shabu-shabu (a beef dish), but the waitresses in short skirts and no-pan (no panties). Some restaurants kept the sake high up so that the girls had to stretch to reach it, and some had mirrors on the floors. The next time anyone talks about a business lunch, I think I may be excused for sniggering. The restaurants no longer exist now - you eat your shabu-shabu, bow thirty times, put on your shoes and scoot. What did I learn from this? That it is unfair to brand the Japanese as unimaginative. And that they shall never test me on Asian business culture.

Fourthly, Henry the Eighth, had he existed today, would be starring in a Fifty Cent Video.

I hate Wikipedia. It has corrupted me and wasted approximately four hours of my time - precious minutes that could be devoted to reading up on the civil wars in Mogadishu - or whatever else it is that I mean.

How I love this webcomic. And me hating math and all. Sometimes, you live a paradox.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Poem Written Long Ago.

The Making of a Storyteller

Story time.
Put on the bedside lamp,
And tuck me in well.
Now, if you please,

The beginning should have been better.
I think I’ll invent a new one.

The characters –
But I don’t like them the way they are.
So I’ll improvise.
The hero’s more interesting now,
The villain more menacing.
The story continues, weaving its tale.

I improvise all the time.

The plot thickens, but I make it thicker.
The pace quickens, but I make it quicker.
Then comes the nail-biting finish
I’ll add some more details, though,
And end it the way I want to.
The story goes where I want it to go.
It’s better that way, I think.

It’s time for me to close my eyes.
I can hear you putting out the light.
Then the door closes softly.
You think I’m asleep
But I’m lying still,
All athrill,
Thinking about that story.

When I’m grown up,
Whenever that will be,
I think I’ll write a new story…
Write it my way,
Just to show them all
The way it’s really done.

Technophobic Does Not Necessarily Mean Paranoid.

In short, my life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Bosh. And Blah. And Unearthly Hours.

I hate socialising.

The problem with having friends who have friends who have friends is that they are always out somewhere doing something. They wonder why you don’t join them, and ask you to. So you walk in a door you’ve never seen into a room that’s filled with people you don’t know, and being a competent, rational human being, you smile, say “What ho”, and survive.

Not me. I walk in, promptly get bothered because of the sheer magnitude of people (usually six or seven), feel shy, and discover I have no tongue. I am introduced, and I think of all the interesting things I could say, like “Hi, I just saved a monkey” or “I have a purple wallet”. I’d be interested if someone said something like that to me. I know I just have to smile and be polite, and settle down, and I’ll get along fine.

Instead of which, le idioteque Priyanka grins, mumbles something, becomes very interested in the d├ęcor of the room, sinks onto the bed, finds herself an insignificant little corner and demands food.

Four hours later, she walks out, heaves a sigh and scoots back home. So she doesn’t actually survive.

The funny part is, I can’t change this because I actually like being the girl in the innocuous corner. I like observing people, and I like the whole scene playing out in front of me. The funnier part is that most people wouldn’t call me an introvert. The funniest part is that I blame it all on my zodiac sign.

If you have an imagination, imagine what life would be if you were a cusp. And a Cancer-Leo cusp at that. I am no astrologer, but from what I understand Leo is the extrovert and Cancer is the introvert. Leo is the flamboyant, flashy leader and Cancer is the sentimental, wistful dreamer. So if I am a combination of the two, I should be some sort of Split Personality case, or, at the most, a dual kind of person. At least that would be a little exciting. Instead, fate chose me to be a very, very confused person.

So I blame my zodiac, and get away with being obnoxious at times and terrifyingly shy at others. That is not being a hypocrite. It is being an escapist. And it isn’t that bad either. At least I get the food.

I know I shall delete this entry after a week, because I shall realise that either I spoke too much, or that for once in my life I hit upon the truth. Or, I shall be undecided and decide to get rid of it just to save myself a headache. It won’t save me from socialising, though – I still don’t know why I hate that.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Blog Holes and Revelations

At the end of the day, I must face it. I care for my blog. I spend time changing the fonts and colours so that it looks pwetty. I add pictures so that people may look at them, stare enraptured, then heave a sigh and say “Oh well, now for the written stuff”. I think before I make politically incorrect statements. And yes, when I lie blatantly, like in the previous sentence, I allow serious consideration for public opinion and admit it.

A blog is a very tiresome thing. It will not behave like it should. It will either curl up and refuse to open, or, when it opens, it will declare war against your keyboard and make sure you have to click each link thirty times to publish a post that comprises three lines. It will behave like a spoilt, nasty baby and refuse to acknowledge the fact that you are capable of spelling correctly and inserting commas in the right places and putting a full stop after a particularly long sentence – things you have conditioned yourself to believe ever since you got a four out of ten on a school essay.

A blog can give rise to particularly virulent cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It comes out of its cyberwomb, sucks its toes impatiently till you have named it, and gurgles at its belly button till you have written the first few well-chosen words. Then it has you hooked. It makes sure that you come back once in a while, even if you don’t particularly feel like writing, because, well, others will read it, won’t they? And they must not be bored. It makes you return every few hours to check whether anyone has commented on your entries, to the point where you wonder how nice it would be if the number of times you checked translated into chocolates won, or free service from a Clean-A-Room facility. Or, for that matter, assassination attempts on George Bush. Worst of all, it paralyses your decision-making ability because it makes you think that people want to read something, and only a particular something, today. What do I write about? Do I highlight big words? Do I insert a picture of my pet pebble?

In fact, I believe blogs turn you human. It’s a paradox, because the human blogs – friendly, optimistic, hopeful blogs – aren’t really worth reading (what are Art Of Living courses for?). But the Other Blogs – quirky, unabashed, genuinely interesting ones – are in danger of evolving.

I always did prefer hairy simians.

Anyway, the reason my blog is making me inflict this entry on the world in general is that I hope the ones I enjoy reading don’t turn human too soon. I shall also endeavour, in an instance of extreme labour (with my tongue sticking out between my teeth and beads of ye olde perspiration trickling down my speckled brow) to save my blog.

I am not without hope. I have been politically incorrect today. Oh well, we all know how much of the world’s writing Georgie boy reads when it has nothing to do with four-footed bleaters.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Something that no one needs to know, but I've put it up anyway because I'm sadistic. So There.

If there is one male character from literature I could be, apart from Gandalf and Bertie Wooster and, in a roundabout way, Captain Haddock, I’d be Robert Kincaid from The Bridges of Madison County.

I know, he’s fifty-two when he finds the love of his life, who is already married, and then can’t be with her. He then goes away nobly and dies. He cries (only a little) in parts. He is rather good-looking and has grey hair. In short, he isn’t me.

But he spends his childhood writing down names of places on pieces of paper and tacks them to his walls along with picture postcards. Something I’ve done. And he hopes beyond hope that he’ll get to see those places someday. Something I do. Of course, I curse airfares and passports into the bargain, but let's overlook that.

He is a photographer who likes W.B.Yeats. I obsess about being able to photograph. And - gulp - I like Yeats.

He also works with National Geographic. He gets paid to travel all over the world, photograph things and write a little about them. I think I could deal with that.

When you can have a job like that, who needs unrequited love?

Iceland. A landscape exploding in fire and ice, and the first on my Robert Kincaid list. Don't worry, I'll get there all right.