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Men Without Women

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Pleasure does not come Easy

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I used to wonder when some writers said that their urge to write is so great and intense that they can’t sleep, eat or drink. A writer can write in the middle of a party. If you don’t have such an urge you are not a writer.
Experiencing such an urgency is essential to be a writer. However, this urgency is nurtured. No one is born with it. What we often struggle with is to nurture this urgency.
To be a writer, one has to live the life of a writer. You know when you are living that life. You know it because then you breathe it. You obsess about writing. You think about it all the time. Your mind stays engaged endlessly with developing just one idea. The idea that emerged as a tiny dot. You build it into a thread. The longer the thread gets the more it occupies you. Once you have entangled it, you know it is times to write.
A writer is constantly moving from this state of disequilibrium to equilibrium. Reading makes this engagement finer and nuanced. That’s when the fun really begins.
You eat, sleep and drink your writing.
Achieving this stage is no fun at all. You need to really focus and become it- your writing. You have to identify with it so strongly that it becomes you.
It requires an uncluttered and meditative mind.
Pleasure does not come easy in writing.

Be the Change you Want to See in the World

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Yes, we have all heard it. Mahatma Gandhi said it and advocated it. I have thought about it many times.
Now, I seem to grasp it a little. Just follow your heart or your truth. It will never lie to you. It will never suggest you to harm anyone. That is a huge change to make in your self, especially when the world is going a slightly different way. It does make you feel like a lone warrior. Sometimes, one feels cornered too for saying what they think is right. Especially, when the wrong doer is an authority figure. While your peers are afraid to even show support towards you, you have to stand up for yourself and be on the side of right.
Now, I realize this is satyagraha. A non-violent protest, where you are just trying to be yourself even when others are not in agreement. Following my heart has had a strangely calming effect one me. I feel it is so because I am not longer repressing my wishes and emotions. I feel free. It is also strengthening my will and desire to listen to self. With this, I am becoming more accepting, open and non-violent towards myself.
Instead of focusing on the person who is hurting me, I am learning to focus on strengthening my will, my intellect and my body.
This is the change I want to see in them too. Once they learn to find their inner strength and follow their heart, they will become non-violent.

Tongue Twister or Thought Twister….. (The best way out of a difficulty is through it)

 

(This post has been contributed by Riddhi shah, a friend and colleague of many years. She also writes in Gujrati.)

I was playing with my 4 years old son yesterday. Playing various games with him is one of my favorite activities of daily routine, specially the language games. My son speaks and understands three languages, Gujarati, Hindi and English and he loves exploration of new languages. We were playing ‘tongue twister’, which is known for improving pronunciation.

Betty bought butter but butter was bitter so,

Betty bought better butter to make bitter butter better butter!

We enjoyed speaking the tongue twister with various methods and laughed a lot. It was great fun. After playing this game for some time, my son asked me about the meaning of the sentence. I tried to explain the meaning to him that one girl named Betty bought butter but because the butter was bitter, she bought another butter to add in the bitter one so that the butter will become better or we can say sweeter. After listening to the answer, my son was satisfied and got engaged in another activity. However, after some time he came back and asked, ‘but mama, if the butter was bitter, Betty could have either thrown it or add sugar in it, why did she add another fresh/better butter in it. What if the fresh butter will become bitter too? The entire butter will be wasted then?’ I did not have any immediate answer to his question. I replied to him gently, ‘you are right in a way, my son but there must be some reason behind Betty’s decision. Is it alright if I give you answer after a while?’ His agreement gave me some relaxation.

First of all, I was so amazed on my son’s question. He not only thought about the question but also tried to find solution as per his understanding. Child Psychologists believe that children till the age of five, cannot differentiate much between real world and imaginary world as adults do. Perhaps this is the reason, children can accept complex situation better than we adults. If the entire discussion can be seen with broader perspective, this tongue twister teaches us a lot.

Today, most of the people specially youth are very busy. Thousands and lakhs of people like me are running for something. Some towards their aspirations, some for their children, some for their needs and few might be running just because others are running, but everybody is running. I am also one of the participants of this marathon. We have everything except time. We do not have time to learn from our Past or to learn from the incidences happening around us. Hence, sometimes we do not pause to examine the bitter incidences around us or even in our lives rather we waste a lot of our time in preparing sweeter butter from bitter butter. The reason behind this is we limit our perspective in ‘busy life’ that we don’t think to throw the bitter one and start with the new one. A very well known physiologist, Mr. M. Scott Peck has written in his book, ‘The Road Less Traveled’ that the problems are never that huge as we make them. One requires a sense to look at them and understand them. Many a times we do not understand the problem and also we avoid the pain we might need to face while addressing the issue because confronting and solving problems is a painful process. He also said,

“Our view to reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.”

How true it is, isn’t it? But are we born with these maps? Not really, we have to prepare these maps and it needs to be constantly changed with time and need. But unfortunately, the young generation today has stopped preparing their own maps and that is why they are lost in their own circle. We have forgotten that there are multiple ways of making bitter butter better. And sometimes mindlessly adding more butter may result in all the butter being wasted.

I think I am also lost while writing, experiencing a bombardment of thoughts from all sides. But fortunately till I have completed this blog, my son has forgotten his question. Again I am relaxed as I really do not have an answer to his question.

Was this tongue twister or thought twister? Very COMPLEX ! Anyways you also try to play with this tongue twister tonight ….

Betty bought butter but butter was bitter so,

Betty bought better butter to make bitter butter better butter!

Link to her Gujrati article http://sharingthoughtsriddhi.blogspot.in/2017/05/tongue-twister-or-thought-twister.html

 

I killed my brother!

I certainly as a doomed child

On my birth, my mother cried

I certainly was a doomed child

On my birth, my brother died

Ah! I certainly was a doomed child.

 

My mother was not allowed to feed

Sisters were not allowed to pay any heed

My father obviously did not care

Relatives gave venom of their share

Strategies to kill me were also tried

Yes, I certainly was a doomed child.

 

They say I competed with my brother

Came to this world and sent him to the other

But my bond with him is deeper than their

Even though he is no more here

They asked for him but could not get

I got him but lost to death

 

We touched each other

And played together

We talked with those unsaid words

He said he feared the outside world

I said I wanted to see that world

The world of light, the colourful world

 

But am happy you are not here my bhai

This indeed is a cold-scary place

The lights here are too bright for the eyes

Colours are all in shades of red

 

How is the writing challenge going for me?

Aaaahhhhhch
I have nothing to write and thats why I am writing on such an inane topic. My challenge is to write 500 words….only 500 words everyday, but I have nothing…no topic…How can that be. I am generally a talkative person. And thats why I have decided to write on this. Truth be told, even this is not my original idea, people had to suggest me that why don’t you just write bout your mental state. Yes, why not!
So, what am I going through, I have this fear about what will I write, right from the morning when I get up. I think about it whole day, its like a nagging mom after you whole day. Not all days are like this though, I wanted to write a story, which I have finished in two days (hope you guys read it) and I write my notes., which thanks to the challenge are written more promptly.
So many a days it is not a problem, but some times it is. Why is that so? We never have to tell ourselves to at least speak 500 words to get into the habit of it. What is so unique about writing. Here is my analysis:
The sense or dearth of an audience: We never sit alone in a room and talk to ourselves, hoping that later on, somebody would hear it.We speak get response and move on.
The pressure to be original: While talking most of the conversation is about here and now and it is not getting recorded, nobody would later on say “Hey Richa, why do you everyday talk about the tortoise in your house” Well I talk about the tortoise to people who are interested in it and want to know what it ate today and we can talk about it everyday. Writing is always impersonal in that sense and you cannot be repetitive. also you cannot write what Jug Suraiya wrote about. Well you can talk about that without any hassles.
The need to be correct: See written word can be read (Ha ha ha), even if it is stored safely in  my laptop, it can be read. (But in this case, I am putting it on the net, so available to everybody who may be interested can read) So, I have to write and then read it and correct it and read it again. I may still be way off from being correct, but I make an effort and that makes the process way more formal then ……well!…..talking.
The need to organise ideas: Since we are talking in comparison to talking or oral communication, you may say, “well thats not unique you have to organise your thoughts and ideas even for talking”. well, thats true but still while talking it is possible to correct yourslef, go back, reiterate the whole point and then link it to your argument. that cannot be done with writing. If you do that, you may end up with a piece of writing will probably no make sense to you yourself, if you go back to it a few days later.
I am sure this is a very preliminary-superficial analysis but it in a lay person’s words places it why writing is not easy.
Happy writing to you and me…
cheers!