Random Ramblings

#167 : #FaveFive – Book Siblings

When I was in my kindergarten, I used to bug my parents to bring home a baby so that I could play with her. Yes, I was that specific. I wanted a sister. A brother would be too difficult to handle, I reasoned apparently. My mother still laughs about it till date. God answered my prayers and I was sent a perfect package in the form a tall and witty human being – my sister. She is younger than me by 8 years, but that never translated to a mature relationship. We’ve fought just like any other pair of siblings, but at the end of the day, we are thick as thieves and  I miss her dearly.

The books I read during my childhood, upon me the kind of relationship I ought to have with my sister. Here are some of my favourite book siblings

  1. Jack Trent And Lucy-Ann from Enid Blyton’s Adventure series : My first exposure to fictional siblings. Lucy-Ann cannot just stay away from her brother and he doesn’t mind her tagging along wherever he goes. The beauty of an innocent relationship between siblings when they are young – This series and this pair of character would be the perfect example.
  2. Fred and George Weasley from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter Series – The quintessential example for siblings who just stick to each other no matter what. It is worth pondering if this nature of theirs can be attributed to the fact that they are identical twins. The need to elaborate about this pair diminishes from the very mention of their names.
  3. Thor and Loki from Norse Mythology– Loki is Thor’s adoptive brother and also is the trouble maker out of the pair. Reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology changed my perspective about the brothers. They are the perfect example of how not to behave with your siblings!
  4. Anjini, Binodini, Chandralekha, Debjani and Eshwari from Anuja Chauhan’s Those Pricey Thakur Girls – This is one relationship I wish to read upon. I read the sequel to this book – The House that BJ Built. These girls sound like fun and typically Indian. I ought to have the first book before reading the second.
  5. Mycroft And Sherlock Holmes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Works – Sibling rivalry at it’s best. ‘The Final Problem’ would my favourite work where Mycroft is featured.

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Random Ramblings

#166 : The search #MondayMusings

This weekend, the plan was to sort out a few things – The electrical wiring in my home, the bookshelf, my to read pile and my finances.

The Electrical writing – God bless my electrician to have sorted out the mess of a wiring some other harebrained electrician did. Can’t possibly thank them enough for giving me time to finish off Erich Segal’s Love story.  The frequent toggling of electricity had made it impossible for me finish off the work I carried from office. I was in no mood to do it on Sunday. However, the mess he left behind took up most of my time. I spent a good hour picking up cut wires, sweeping and moping off all the dust accumulated.

The Bookshelf – I still hadn’t arranged the pile of book I brought back from my mom’s place. I haven’t emptied my book shelf there yet. It’s been 8 months since I’ve been married and a piece of me still can’t believe that I ought to move everything here. I’ve left behind enough clothes, books and some of my accessories too. These books finally found a place below my tiny side table.

The To Read Pile – I have this habit of taking screenshots/pictures of books other people read and talk about. My social media feed is filled with posts about books. I had accumulated about 78 such photos. I decided to sit down and write it all down in my journal so that I can actually look up, buy and read. I had debated between making a note via Evernote and writing it down. Writing won hands down. The prospecting of using the beautiful ink pen and feeling it glide over the perfect journal I own seemed way too much enticing to give up on.

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The Finances – My mother has this habit of maintaining a journal to keep track of all our family’s investment. However, long gone are the times when she used to keep track of daily expenses. It’s become too tiresome to keep track of cash and card bills seperately. Her habit has rubbed off to me and given that I’ve been employed for the past 5 years, I decided to sit down and check my finances. I concluded that I needed an App or some way to track my money. Here are some features which I wish were available

  1. Picking up expenses from SMS alerts – I own an iPhone, iOS wont allow apps to read message texts unless I’ve jail-broken the iOS and installed the app as a system app. I do not want to connect my bank accounts by giving out my net banking credentials.
  2. Multiple account tracking – I need all my money in one place. Not that I own much, but I need to see what little amount is left cumulatively.
  3. Cash Expense – I need to track expenses into two categories – Digital expenditure and Cash expenditure. Having multiple categories like grocery, movies, food, fuel etc will really help.
  4. Receipt management – I have this habit of stashing away all receipts into my wallet. Would be nice to store them as photos before trashing them.
  5. Expense Report – Money in, Money out – Just numbers will do. Fancy charts would be a plus.
  6. Budget controls – I would like the data to shout out to me if I exceed the budget!
  7. Multiple users – It’s just essential if your partner is also working and you split the expenses.

If you look closely, I’ve not mentioned savings tracking to the list. Thank god for my financial adviser Mr.C Ravikumar to have partnered with an app development company to come out with the perfect savings tracking app. That app can help track SIPs, Insurance. stocks, Bonds. PPFs. RDs, FDs and what not! You name it, the app has it! He updates all the paper work done to invest on the app very regularly along with reminders to renew. I’d probably be all lost and confused trying to track complicated funds.

I couldn’t find a single FREE app for iOS which satisfied all this criteria! If you know of any, please do let me know!

PS. Thanks to Corinne @ Write Tribe/ Every Day Gyaan for inspiring me to write today 🙂

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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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