Random Ramblings

#165 : #FridayReflections – Of Reading Books and Elitist Behavior

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Beautiful photographs with books as subject seems to be the fad these days. Instagram particularly, is abuzz with ‘book lovers’ uploading ‘styled’ photographs of books. These photos typically center books with pretty covers processed along with rich looking fabrics or props or even merchandise like candles, key chains and Funko Pop. Long gone are the time when the adage – Never judge the book by its cover made sense. These days, the prettier the cover, the more the book sells or so its fast becoming. Then there are these PR events in the name of book launches which specifically happen in one part of the country as that part is known to have a hip crowd, which can potentially make the event go viral with live videos, funky selfies and what not.

As a matter of fact, it has become fashionable to carry around and read books. It has also become fashionable to put up a picture or status about the same. Eventually, that thread will contain a lot of comments which gush at books or probably some full blown argument will happen criticizing/favoring the book.

The direction at which the whole business of books and literature is heading, seems dangerously  elitist. Even the publishing houses prefect that very segment of people who are online and can increase their visibility. At the end of the day, it’s just another business where everyone wants to mint money.

Fair enough, but what of the experience of reading a good book? All this feels like gas inside a helium balloon. The balloon which stays afloat as long as the gas is still in there. It is err to stereotype that the beautiful cover, the promotions and the pictures are for books which aren’t that good, however, the point is that, not all people can be a part of this group. This is where the elitist behavior creeps in. If one hasn’t purchased or read a certain famous book or even a classic for that matter, they are looked upon with a tinge of mockery. It’s hard to differentiate between the pretenders and genuine bibliophile these days. Some people read for the sake of it while others, read to click pictures and boast about it.

The purpose of reading or writing or any other form of art of that matter, is to satiate the soul. That was how it was looked upon earlier. Unfortunate people who don’t belong to this borderline elitist group often wilt under the pressure and try hard to belong, thereby losing the very purpose of reading a book. Reading is not like eating, one cannot possibly acquire a certain taste over night. It takes time to read certain genres of books. It is okay to not have read a certain popular book. It is okay to read books which drives you into a different world. A world, one truly likes.

Note : This write was inspired by an article I read and a discussion that happened on Facebook. I’ve chosen to be superficial for the sake of leading a peaceful life.

Random Ramblings

#164 : Rare Book Collection – A Bibliophile’s heaven

It was just another day off for the likes of me – the working class. With all cleaning, dusting and shopping done over the weekend, I had a day for myself yesterday. As I scoured my social media feed for book recommendations, I stumbled across this article about a rare book collection shop based out of a garage in Chennai and la! My evening plans were made. After a quick call to the person running the shop about the direction and working hours, I set out with my husband with feverish excitement. We reached the place and the found the store locked. The watchman of the building offered to call up the store owner who lived in the same building.

As we waited for him to come down, I spotted a Premier Padmini (the car) parked a few. meters from the store. An octogenarian, clad in a simple white dhoti and a shirt walked up to us slowly with a smile and opened the store for us, beckoning us inside. Just as I stepped in, the smell of old books hit me with a blast. A simple parking garage was converted to a bookshop using a couple of steel doors. I fell in love with the place immediately. It was one big chaos with books literally everywhere. His smile widened when he noticed my dreamy expression. I timidly asked him if the books were for sale. With a throaty laugh, he replied that the whole place were for sale if I could buy it! Stunned by his reply I went about silently, picking and reading books in no particular order. I just couldn’t decide what to pick. There were books of all subjects – Literature, Poetry, Spirituality, Law, Politics and what not! After much deliberation I picked two Readers Digest condensed editions and one book by William Faulkner. The books were reasonably priced and he gave us a fair discount. Just as we were paying, I noticed that he was carefully pulling out a picture Ad of Raymonds featuring Nawab Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to sit down for a conversation.

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The owner of this shop, Mr.Govindraju is a qualified lawyer and has worked primarily in Personnel Department. He has been collecting books for the past 40 years. His craze for books began when Penguin Publishers first started publishing paperbacks which were affordable and easy to carry. He managed to collect all the books published by Penguin back then. He sold his entire collection few years ago, but has begun collecting rare books and editions not in print again now.  Upon prodding a bit he reveals that his sources are primarily hawkers who source books which are discarded.  His present clientele include people from all walks of life including students, established professionals and actors too. He collects not just books, but rare paper clippings, comic strips, magazines and articles.

To know more about what we spoke, please listen to the audio below! This conversation can’t be possibly transcribed.  Please do visit his store. It is totally worth the effort. You can reach him @ 044 24936152 or email renuka_govindaraju@yahoo.com to plan a visit. He simply wishes that his books reach a owner worthy of it.

PS. It’s my first audio interview. Constructive criticism welcome.

Random Ramblings

#163 : If We Were Having Coffee 

For starters, I’ve managed to kick the caffeine addiction and have switched to healthier and fruitier options. Baring the perfect cup my dad brews when I visit him, I hardly take coffee these days. More over it’s just hard to get that beautiful perfect flavourful filter Kaapi. Oh yes, I am a proud Tamilian who loves fliter Kaapi! 

Then I’d probably make you talk. That’s who I am. I am a listener. It takes time for me to be emotionally attached to a person within days of knowing somebody. 

Tell me about your dreams, I’d lend you a hopeful voice.

Tell me about your sorrows, I’d lend you a comforting shoulder. 

Tell me about your happiness, I’d celebrate with you. 

Let’s ponder over differences and similarities.

Let’s bond over mutual love for things. 

Beware, flattery and gossiping will not beg you anywhere! I’d rather close my ears and gulp down the coffee (or any drink). 

Oh and if you talk about books, I’d sit and talk all day long! 


PS. Just completed a week for write tribe’s festival of words! 

Random Ramblings

#162 : Writing a Short Story – Guest Post by Bragadeesh Prasanna

If I had gotten a dime each time this question is asked, I would have enough to buy a milkshake today. I mean, this is a question that is not being asked a lot. People just pick up the pen or open a word document and start writing. This is a very good thing.  If you want to become a musician, you don’t just listen to the masters of the instrument. You actually pick the instrument and practice it. I think it is necessary for all the acquired skills. There has to be enough practice and trial and error.

But before that, if you are planning to get into creative writing field, or to become a story teller, it is really important to read. You might have heard this often, in order to write, you should read. What does reading teach us? The different genres? The vocabulary? Or the use of the language? I guess the important part of reading is too, it makes us observe. Reading gives you perspective on how you look about things outside as well as inside.

So if you plan to write short stories, read a lot of short stories. If you plan to write novels, read a lot of novels. That is how it works. I would recommend “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver and then reflect on it and then if you still feel like writing, pick up your pen. You are good to go.

Have a Grand Opening:

I don’t mean to say you have to have a fifty car chase or a helicopter crashing on some mountains. Your short story opening paragraph is the gate pass for your readers. You need to make it interesting. This first paragraph should have your characters and the setting, at least partially and make your reader get intrigued. It can be anything. In his short story “Drive My Car” Haruki Murakami (You will be getting lot of examples from this author. He is my God Father. Of Course he doesn’t know it), starts off with a sweeping generalization. “Based on the many times he had ridden in cars driven by women, Kafuku had reached the conclusion that most female drivers fell into one of the two categories: either they were a little too aggressive or a little too timid. Luckily – and we should all be grateful or this – the latter were far more common. Generally speaking, women were more cautious than men behind the wheel. Of course, that caution was nothing to complain about. Yet their driving style tended to irritate the others on the road”

If you were a man reading this, you may have read it with a smile on your face and occasional nod. If you were a woman, then you may have found this little annoying. Either way you read it further.

Make your first paragraph count.

Characters:

Short stories need character of their own. With all due respect a man who goes to office everyday at 9 in the morning and return at 5 in the evening and his family history, should be only used in novels. Short stories do not have time and space for ordinary characters. For a short story to be great, you need your characters a bit more than ordinary. Like the blind man who teaches a normal man to draw cathedrals, like a man who befriends another man who slept with his wife, like a man who wants his friend to pursue his love interest because deep inside he feels that he is inadequate for her. The reason is simple. Short stories are short stories by word counts. You will have very less time to establish a character arc, so just make them bent at first and then straighten them up at the end. Or not.

Who tells the story?

Who tells the story is very important on how the story comes out later. If you are a very organized person, you will have corkboards with sticky notes with small markers which mention what happens first and in the middle and the end. But if you are like me, who writes with the flow, you should just chose how you decide to tell the story. You can use first person, it will help you divulge a lot of information of the character, his inner demons and secrets that nobody had known before and that will bring a certain kind of vulnerability to the character. Which means, the character will be more or less real. Unless you write, “I picked up the eye-liner from my cupboard and with a single stroke drew a perfect wing in my right eye. And it was my first attempt” Nobody will believe that, unless you are a fairy.

Second person takes intimacy to another level. If you are writing about a story which has too many intimate details like a stalker and a victim, or a policeman tailed by an assassin or a break up, second person narration works like a charm. It has been the favourite story telling technique of the political leaders around the world. Pay attention next time, when they truly trying to get on your side, they talk more about what you do than what they are going to do.

Third person is a very tricky space, you need to have a lot of practice to do that. The common pitfalls is to make sure which character has the mike or camera in their hand, when your reader follows the story.

Dialogues:

This is an optional one. But if you think you are going to include dialogues in your story make sure the dialogues are not forced. If your story is about a driver who is driving a cab at the airport and covers double shift, make sure he sound tired. Use the words you use when you are tired. If you are writing about people who are not in your own social and financial status, research on the words they use and the witty comebacks they have. Even when you have a good plot, characters and an ending people would die for, if your dialogues are forced, people will lose interest.

“What did you have for dinner?” She asked.

“I had idlies” He said

“I had dosa” She said. This is bad dialogue. This can be covered in a single sentence which won’t bore people out of their minds.

Use dialogues in moderation. It will automatically become your strong point of the story.

Conflict – or build up – or simply the story:

So you have characters, dialogues and narrative technique but what are they doing? Where are they doing it? Short stories are something we come across every day. When you listen to gossips in office canteen or the excuse of your peon on why he was late, everybody is telling a story. It is how they string up the facts and add some more to make it more believable for you. The best of these story tellers always have our attention. This brings us to the way we structure our stories.

Hook – An opening or a hook. It can be a weird character or a weird setting. Anything to grab the attention.

Conflict – Something that disrupts the normal course of events

Exposition – Background information, back stories.

Complication – Make it tough for your characters

Transition – Let the characters put up or brave the complication.

Resolution – What changed at the end of the story?

If you think about any of your favourite movies or books, you will find them abide by this structure. Once you mastered this structure you are allowed to play with it, bring non-linear narration into play or you can even simply tell the story backwards. But you should know the structure.

Short stories are not about flowery language or bamboozling plot. It has always been about coherence. If you can tell a story in a coherent way that appeals the leaders, you won.

As said earlier in this long article, read a lot of short stories, write and submit to peer groups, gather critiques and then work on your short story. Any good short story you have read should have gone through numerous revisions. And that is how it should be. Don’t get bogged down if your plot is already a story. It is not about what is told, it is always about how different people tell the same story.

About Bragadeesh  

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Avid book worm, Brilliant Blogger,Published Writer – That’s how I know him! Oh and watch out, he is soon coming up with his second book. To know more about him, do visit his blog .

PS.On Day 6 of The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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Random Ramblings

#161 : A Letter to my Older Self

Hi,

Okay, starting with a ‘Hi’ sounds so cliche, but what’s life without a bit of cliches! I hope you are doing good and are staying positive. I’m sure you probably have a kid now and don’t have enough time to even think about being positive or any kind of emotion for that matter. Or may be nothing has gone according to the grand plan! Relax, it’s okay. You’ve learnt that lesson the hard way, don’t you remember?

Just refreshing your memory here, your plans after college went astray but you still made a career out of what you got and you kicked at it. A person whom you thought was your soul sister and best friend did cheat you and taunt you for a couple of years. You survived that. You survived living in a village working for a factory which didn’t have a proper restroom at all. You managed to work 10 hours a day, cook, clean and find time to write, all like a boss. You’ve held yourself together well all the time your heart broke piece by piece due to disappointment. It will all be right. Haven’t you learnt from all your lessons? Isn’t that what all life is about?

Listen to music, read that book. Clear off that To-Read pile. You need time for yourself as a person. Kids, work, in-laws, parents, sister, husband – all of them are important, but of them all you are most important. You need that inner strength to prioritize them all. That strength won’t jump from the sky and dive into you. You need to find that yourself. All the negativity that haunted you in your early twenties, you do need those again. Don’t succumb to it. It’s okay if you suck at adult-ing. Do you seriously think others are great? Your 26 year old self doesn’t think so. When in doubt, open this damn post and read. Yeah. Save the link, bookmark it, etch it off somewhere and remember to read it. You will surely need this kind of self motivation. Remember, you aren’t the type to be motivated externally. You need that internal drive. All would be well if you don’t cave in to the pressures of the mortal world, but if you do, please cheer yourself up. Motivate yourself. Doesn’t matter if shit hits the roof, you can always escape via the basement or something. There is always a way in the end. Just that you need to wade through the shit pile.

Remember, Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

With love,

Your 26 year old self who is not great at anything or doesn’t believe in catching up with the world!

PS. On Day 5 of  The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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Random Ramblings

#160 : A Day-Dream

I woke up with a start as I heard the sound of footsteps. I peeped out of the slightly ajar door. Sigh. It’s just mom moving around, making sure we all get our morning fix of caffeine. If only I can sleep without waking up at the slightest sign of disturbance. How does she sleep so well? That sleepy head sister of mine!

It’s so cold! Why does she have to sleep with the AC In full blast yet snuggle inside that big piece of cloth. Can’t she turn down the AC or something? I thought that could be done. Would be a good idea to go snuggle next to her then.

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I woke up with a start again. What was that noise? Looks like some one is at the door. I ought to go stand next to mom! I jumped out of the bed and walked towards the door.

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That sound again! But hey, I think it’s coming off from beneath the bed. Ah! Must be the black thing that she caries around all day. Just as I dive under, my sister flings her hand down to retrieve it. I should probably check it out later, that device needs to be scrutinized!

She wakes up and stretches out and smiles at me. Ah! It feels all warm and fuzzy when she gives me one of her sleepy smiles! She swings her long legs down to come kiss me as I return her kiss sloppy! I lick her all over. She rubs my fluffy mane and frowns slightly. Oh no! She is probably thinking of dumping me in the shower! She lifts me gently and carries me to the living room. I love it when she does that! It’s time for our morning fix of coffee. Hey wait! Is that the smell of potato being cooked! Yaay, what a treat it is going to be for food today!

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Trrrrrrrrrrrrring came on the alarm sound! The clock read 5.45 AM and I woke up from the dream. It had all been a dream. How I wish I had a dog whom I could pet as soon as I woke up! I’ve wanted to own a dog ever since I was in class 3. Practical difficulties continue to prevent me from adopting one. Owing a dog is like day dreaming to me. It can’t possibly become a reality.

PS. On Day 4 of  The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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Random Ramblings

#159 : Thuvarasi – My experience of working in a village

Fresh out of college and eager to pursue core engineering, I joined an automation start up which unfortunately shut shop in a very short period of time. Then came an opportunity which I couldn’t refuse really – A chance to work for a factory from scratch. Only catch – the factory was in a remote village down south. Having born and raised in a city, the prospect of living in an area which was 20 years behind time didn’t entice me, but the thirst to prove myself overtook my qualms.

I boarded the train and reached Tirunelveli town – This was the nearest town which had a railway station and other facilities. The weather was much harsher than Chennai. My company representative picked me and escorted me to the guest house. I was then transferred to a ladies hostel where I stayed for about 7 odd months. I travelled an hour and half every day twice. The factory where I worked was 27kms away from the hostel. People flat out refused to give house for rent to us – Working breed of Chennai women. That didn’t deter us to return.

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(The white shed that you see, the top view, is the factory which I worked in)

Here is what I ,

  1. Diversity – It’s like being in a different land. My dress, my hairstyle, my shoes and my general demeanor always earned a second look or  a stare. How often do you see a woman sporting shirt, trouser and safety shoes smack in the middle of a village, arguing in English with men twice her size. You get the drift….
  2. Culture – The people are as conservative as the whole concept of being conservative can get. Being seen with a man other than your blood relative or your spouse is completely frowned upon. It shocked them to no bounds when I climbed structures, standing as an equal to male supervisors/managers and discussed technical stuff.
  3. Hospitality – I attended a couple of weddings while I was there. The most comical part is that, they take offence if you don’t turn up, upon being invited. Like serious offence. It’s something you don’t want to do. However, when you go, they treat you like god re-incarnate. It’s such a warm and fuzzy feeling!
  4. Food – The village where I worked and the town where I stayed were both famous for spicy non vegetarian dishes. For a vegetarian who wasn’t accustomed to liberal usage of garlic, the food was a night mare. Of course, I managed to hunt down joints which would serve food just the way my taste buds demanded.. Oh and they even have a place which serves Pizza.
  5. Caste Politics – This is something which shocked me. Having grown up in a environment where no one bothered to ask which caste I belong to, it was utterly surprising to witness such questions being asked without a hint of deliberation. That division, the prevailed treatment, the communal tension – the whole mile which our politicians shout out and debate on new channels – I’ve seen them all.

Work-wise, it turned out to be the best part of my career till date. One happy experience in spite struggles.

PS. On Day 3 of the Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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