RSS Feed

Are you trying to write with a full-time job?

Posted on

Writing was like a home for me. It made me feel heard and safe. I wrote for academic, professional and personal reasons. I wrote researched articles, letters and journals. Anything could trigger me to write- a conversation, a newspaper article, a book.

Then I began to work full-time in a private organization. My job profile was supposed to involve a lot more writing, reading than I had been doing till then. But it turned out to be the opposite. I felt compelled to prove myself at doing stuff that weren’t related to writing.

When you try to prove yourself, you are already at a disadvantage. You want to work more efficiently, which also means at a faster pace than you are comfortable with. You don’t give yourself enough time to prepare and to reason your actions. You are just running in a certain direction, which after a point is not of your choice because you didn’t stop to choose. You are just trying to pick up speed.

Your heart is racing with excitement and anxiety. Suddenly time seems to be leaving you far too quickly. This excitment remains with you even after work when you mind is still involved in all kinds of permutations and combinations to get something done faster and better.

During the breaks that my mind is forced to take, I want to write but I find myself unable to put even one word on paper. I struggle. Struggle really hard to write after office hours. I try to get into a writing routine and support it with a reading routine. But none of these routines work out for me. I read for a few days, engage in bingewriting but that is it.

What I am missing here is that writing cannot happen with you heart racing as if you are running to catch a speedy train. Writing comes to you when you mind, hand and heart are in sync with each other, matching their paces. When your entire self begins to follow its own pace, its rhythm. Sometimes, you become aware of it. This awareness more often comes when you are well into writing, you know you are in the zone. The zone is that space where you work at your natural pace.

This doesn’t mean that your heart wouldn’t beat faster when you are trying to articulate something that you feel is leaving you forever. But that urgency in the heartbeat is not too far away from your pace. It will return to its natural pace sooner than expected.

So, if you are also struggling like me to write in the after office hours, then remember writing requires a calm mind and a steady hand that could be brought together into a rhythm to create a melody of your own.

And a little tip, a consistent reading habit after office hours definitely helps you to calm your mind and listen to the rhythm of your heart.

Reading The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Posted on

The opening line of the book amazes the reader. The kind of amazement wherein you fold back the book in your lap and wonder, what would be like to wake up as a vermin, not a monstrous one, just a vermin? what kind of vermin? You think about your body and its metamorphosis- its shape, colour, structure. When your mind is out of ideas, you pick up the book again. 

The story from here on sounds more unfamiliar than the idea itself that a human being is turned into the vermin. Probably because earlier wondering was the result of an unconscious acceptance of the metamorphosized state. Reader wants to agree with the writer and see what he is offering.

Gregor Samsa struggles so hard to get up from the bed initially to resume his routine. One wonders why this habitual routine is so important to him that he is trying to compel his strange physical state to get out of bed. What would be your first thought when you wake up to find yourself turned into a vermin? 

First chapter of this book makes you wonder how far away must Gregor Samsa drifted away from himself to follow his monotonous routine that his changed physical state, and discomfort is also not making him attend to his reality. 

Sometimes, we get so absorbed by our routine life that we forget to attend to ourselves. We look into the mirror every morning when we brush our teeth, then get ready for work. But that looking is not seeing, it is not attending to oneself. We lose touch with ourselves and let the days get by with a machine-like functioning, devoid of feeling- of the pain caused to us or the pain of the other. We learn to close ourselves to this pain and it eventually, takes over our joy too.

We know we have drifted away only when for some reason we try to find out what is going on within and we get no answer. This process actually gives us the first insight about how far we have drifted away. It is difficult to say how much the question ‘what for?’ would help us find ourselves once again. Forging ahead with the question ‘what do I want’ may lead us somewhere sometime, I think.

 

 

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

The White Castle: A Novel by Orhan Pamukh is about a scholar who was captured along with his shipmates by the Istanbul army. He managed to escape death by sharing his knowledge of medicine and stars. The book divided into 11 chapters takes you on a journey of the years this man spent in Istanbul first as a captive, then slave with the hope of returning to his homeland. When he becomes an instructor for his master, do the master-slave relations change? How binding is the master-slave relation and how difficult it must have been to nurture this very delicate thread of the unequal relationship? Aren’t all unequal relationships more difficult to nurture because of the manipulation it requires? To manipulate, one needs to make an effort. This again takes up one’s time and energy. I see my senior trying to throw his weight around but few listen to him and fewer still respect him. I see the agony he is in daily.

Go a little further and you enter the mind of a slave. How he thinks? What are his fears? How he acts? How he takes decisions? And in the process, he learns to suppress himself. He begins to live with whatever each day offers to him. His aspirations, his dreams, his plans are no more his. He only longs to return home and in this longing, he keeps living each day as it comes. Will he be able to return home? or Will he be able to make this land his home? This novel is a compelling read. The characters are portrayed interestingly. You can see their journey. Some parts of the novel are really vivid. It feels as if you are actually there.

If we say this book is relatable, we are opening up a whole plethora of questions. More so, because the book is situated in 17th century Istanbul. We feel we have come far away from this time and space. Have we really? Would it be too wrong to say that master-slave relation has remained and even strengthened in our time and space in a disguised form?

Let us just reconsider ourselves for a moment. What are your dreams? What do you aspire to be? Who are you? What do you want from your life? What is the purpose of your life? How do you spend your day? What are your likes and dislikes? Did you marry the person you loved? Our answers would tell us how close and far we are from being a slave of someone or may be ourselves?

Mahatma Gandhi had in 1909 in his book Hind Swaraj explained that true swaraj would be achieved when we live fearlessly. Fearless living means that we become the rulers of our life. We rule our mind, body and soul. We initiate action. We take decisions about our life. We are well aware of our strengths and also of our weaknesses. He envisioned an individual who could take charge of his/her life. Are we there yet?

 

When Words Come Alive

I read.

Re-read. 

Took a break. 

Days passed. 

And passed nights. 

I re-read.

But nothing. Words remained distant. Familiar but distant. As if I am looking from the small window in my room to a celebration happening outside. But my window is railed behind a fine mesh. So I could make out the figures and detect movement but cannot see it. I felt excluded. Imprisoned.

Desperately, I looked for the key.

I tried again. This time, I read what was written about it. Searched for clues. Words remained elusive. 

I talked. A friend responded. We talked. I saw a flicker of light. 

I wondered. 

And wondered.

Re-read. The mesh was unraveling thread by thread. Words were coming alive. The railing was disappearing. I could see the sky. And the celebration. 

I went to the door. I turned the key. It opened. 

I was under the sky. 

Saw the dance of words with plain eyes.

Words in their glory, dancing and prancing.

Oh! What energy!

Pleasant, fragrant wind.

Soothing and exciting at the same time.

Oh the words have come alive!

Exploring Possibilities with Mahatma Gandhi

Fear, violence and uncertainty of the modern life very often compels you to look for possibilities of engagement with our reality especially to make sense of it. There is a dramatic spike in cases of violence against self and the ‘other’ during the past few months of lockdown. Unemployment rate has also increased. There are fewer work opportunities available. Along these dark clouds, there appears a silver light of the strength of the human spirit and capacity. This is our hope. This hope has revealed itself in the form various individual initiatives towards self-sustainability.
In these circumstances, let us explore possibilities through a close reading of texts. By close reading, I mean read a text sentence by sentence and let out exploration go beyond the main argument and ideas to really know what is being said, how and why it is being said. What are its implications? Then examine its relevance by relating it to our lived experiences of fear and violence.
This exploration of possibilities would begin with an engagement with Gandhi’s philosophy. To understand the philosophy better other writers and concepts would also be explored through the process. More recent writings on Mahatma Gandhi would be included. Also, the group members can decide how far to go into a text and how to move on (which could be a good follow-up reading).

Structure of the Meeting

The meeting would be for 45 minutes to an hour.
A text would be read aloud by a member. After each paragraph, all members would contribute in terms of questions, observations, criticisms and interpretations. These will be discussed in some detail.There will be no homework whatsoever. However, if any member feels the need to look-up other sources to understand the text in hand, they are more than welcome to do so. They can share their sources with the group as well.A preferred group size is 10 members.
These will be weekly meetings. A proposed time is Sunday, 5:30 PM. This is negotiable.
Let me know if you are interested to dive in to a text from a purely academic perspective to explore possibilities for the present.

Men Without Women

Posted on

Title: Men Without Women

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Harvill Secker, London

Year: 2017

I just finished reading Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women. It is a collection of stories. There are in all seven stories. Each one with a distinct flavour and a lot of mystery.

What a master storyteller Murakami is! This book is about men without women. Each character in the story has loved and lost a woman. He is an amazingly thoughtful storyteller. This comes across in the slow pace of his stories. His words and expressions are rhythmically attached to each other and form sentence after sentence carefully maintaining the pace he has set for the story.

But what I enjoyed most were his characters. Such layered characters are a treat for readers. You are actually not reading a story but getting to know each of these characters and his study of these characters. They make the story.

Finally, story always leaves you asking for more. It always makes you want to take it forward in your thoughts. Your engagement with it does not end with the book. After reading the story, you find yourself asking why was he in such a bad shape locked up in a house? Why did she commit suicide? or Why did her husband phoned him to inform about her suicide? Each story leaves you with a number of questions and you don’t want answers to them. You just want to live with them a little more.

Amazing book. A must read.

Our Expression in the Money Economy

I am in between translating an English text on Black Drongo in Hindi for my magazine for children. The text is informative and readable. There is this one sentence that caught my attention- “sometimes black drongo takes a free ride on a cattle”.

The phrase ‘free ride’ particularly got me interested. How commonplace has it become to use phrases like ‘free’ to describe a relationship between two organisms. It is two people sharing a space at a certain time and interacting with each other. Their moment and their relationship can not be described as a free ride or free anything.

It could be a fun ride. One could think about drongo’s perspective from above the ground. Or the feeling it could be feeling. Or how does the cattle feel about it. It’s just them being themselves.

Success is Trending

As I was growing up, my parents urged me to study harder. “Just be financially independent. I don’t want you to be a career-driven girl.”, my mother would remind me. She was worried if I got trapped in a bad marriage, I should have the financial stability to take my stand. She was also concerned about my wishes after marriage. She would say that although she earned but she gave all her earnings to my grandmother, who was very loving and gave everything to my mother before she even asked. That is mainly because she never asked. But my mother lived this pain of not being able to buy even trinkets when her peers could buy expensive saris and jewelry. She thought that my financial independence would let me fulfill my wishes.

She never desired me to be successful. In fact, she was very clear that I should not be successful. I should just be able to get by. Because I am a girl, you know. I have to get married and be a mother. Here, she set the bar very high. She trained me to be the best daughter-in-law and a self-sacrificing mother.

However, my commitment to my professional degree gave me a different perspective on my life. I worked and it got appreciated. This new found confidence in my skills encouraged me to walk on a path of creativity. My father used to say, do whatever you wish to do. But be the best in what you do. I found this desire to be the best at whatever I did. At some point, I was actually quite good.

My cousins and peers had the desire to be successful, which I could never develop. So, even today I am not successful but I am good at what I do. Success never attracted me.

However, success has become quite popular. Today, many people are discussing it. Successful people are talking about their success. They are not sharing success stories. They are telling you that they are successful. They are successful in spite of their educational failures.

This is new to me. I wonder what is the meaning of success for an academic who does not read well or write well. I found that a government job that pays well is the definition of success for an academic. Then I hear stories of humiliation by the hands of these successful people. I wonder what is this kind of success that is not creatively satisfying, that leaves you with a strange emptiness, which is filled by arrogance and violence.

Money and domination are the two ingredients of success. We got this definition of success from the colonial rule. We saw their success in the form of their ability to dominate us and acquire riches. This idea of success is not new. Empires were built and conquered for it. What is new is that my friend, my brother, my peer wants to be successful and dominate the world.

Can you see the implication of this success in our world today? Is this why grand old wisdom tried to show us the difference between happiness and success?

Happiness is so tacky and low standard. Success is trending.

 

Learning to Revise and Edit

Ever since I plunged into the write everyday cycle, writing the first draft has become easier. In the past two years, I have written several first drafts. These drafts are based on hours of research. However, once the idea is on paper, I seem to find it painful to revise it.

Once I get to it, I keep revising it. This revision is directionless. I feel like I am lost in a jungle of words and don’t know where to go and how. I also continuously doubt my decisions. The process stretches to months and years and most first drafts never make it to the editing table.

Editing is less painful and there is some direction. I would know more about its pain if I get more papers to the table.

Dear Readers, do share your learning and experiences with me to achieve this milestone in my writing journey.

 

 

How To Read A Book

I have been reading a book by Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read A Book. The book was first published in the early months of 1940. I am reading the revised version of the book that came out in 1972. This version is co-authored by Adler and Charles Van Doren.

A friend introduced me to a chapter from this book by a friend, How to Make a Book Your Own. In this text he advocates such a reading of a text that it enters your bloodstream and becomes a part of your self.

In my last post, I talked about my teacher’s teacher. An interaction with him informs you how well he has read the text that even after 40-50 years of reading it, he can quote from the book. I want to read a book like him. Adler discusses the steps to become such a reader. I read this chapter more than once. Inspired by his convincing and authoritative style of writing, I decided to buy the book.

This revised version of the book is even better. It is a fat book of 418 pages. It is a compelling read especially today when we are increasingly losing the capacity to read. I will write more about the book once I finish reading it.