Thursday, January 12, 2017

New year, new Me(dium)

I started blogging here 9.5 years ago. It’s been a ride. I started out as a wannabe poet who shared his poems with an invisible crowd and eventually progressed to a wannabe writer who wrote on almost everything under the sun. I don’t think any of it is going to continue anymore. At least not here. What you're reading is my 1165th blog post and also my last one on this platform. It won’t be an overstatement to say that i’ve been quite active. I posted whatever i did—mostly short paragraphs, long paragraphs, random stories, pointers, movie reviews which weren’t really reviews, photo tales, etc—because i was writing for myself. I wasn’t really seeking an audience. If i did, i’d have cared more about typos, the space between paragraphs, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, the works. I might have even promoted my blog on Twitter/FB more. I was listless and so were my posts. Editing? Not for me. Not for this blog. First-shot-first-post please. Blame it on my impatience. Presentation was the least of my concerns anyway. Maybe that explains the anemic growth of this blog (322 followers and not counting) because people care about you when you care about them. I learned that lesson a bit too late. I once read somewhere that Stephen King doesn’t go to sleep unless he had churned out 5000 words. Ruskin Bond follows a similar routine on his typewriter. I am no match to these behemoths of discipline although i regularly try posting what i deem funny/interesting/morbid/awesome/etc. Anyway, the point is i am moving to Medium and will be writing there from here onwards. Why Medium? Because i think i’ll try to be more organized there with my prose and occasional poetry. I need a change that forces me to make sure i don’t commit silly mistakes in my lazily drawn paragraphs. Yup, i’ll never give up on my paragraph writing. For the record, i neither expect a legion of followers there nor multi-million dollar book deals. I'm moving there just for a change of weather. This blog will be here for good with all the posts from the past. Thanks for tolerating me (if you were) for this long and sorry for never responding (if you messaged) to your comments on my posts.

PS. I created an account on Medium last year itself but i was adamant on not shifting. In fact, posted something there to the same effect.
PSS. If we are what we eat, i am my words. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hitting the bullshit's eye

Chances are you must have either heard of or heard Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes. The words chosen by Streep not only condemned the bullying culture promulgated by the likes of Donald Trump but also called for confidence among the journalists. No surprise why the actress was all over the Internet from Twitter to Tumblr; her speech has to be one of the most watched events of 2017 so far. What’s interesting about this particular event is it tackles something with the level of urgency that’s required. Even the most intimidating breed needs a steady reminder. Within a few days, Trump will be occupying the White House and going by the selection of his cabinet, one can predict distaste in the not-so-distant future. Anyway, going back to Streep, her speech was magnificent as it delivered the message to the messagee without naming him even once. The kind of stuff that makes this messenger a pure legend.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Behind the seen

Cinema is an art form. Isn't that something we keep forgetting again and again? Too many gimmicks—ah, that's called marketing—can do that to almost anything. If you peel off the box office records, star fees, media shenanigans and other such worldly facets, cinema is bare and deceptive. All art forms are meant to delude us. Films are no different. Its ultimate purpose is to engage with strangers whom the filmmakers will never get to meet or know. That's the set canvas, be it for a stand-up comic who forces out laughter in the room or an Adele who commands silence when she performs. Audience is the ultimate common ground. Without an audience, there is no art. The tricky part being art is open to (mis)interpretations. Leonardo da Vinci might have spent 15 years at perfecting Mona Lisa but the world today is fascinated by her mysterious smile. Was this his original intention? We'll never know. What we know for sure—at least i do—is life remains meaningless no matter what. Being alive is like distracting a baby to make sure it doesn't get bored and cry. Art is the much-needed distraction here. However, the construct of cinema is unique not only because it's undoubtedly the most expensive art form out there but also because it involves so many people in its upbringing that you begin to wonder where cinema ends and reality begins. 

To help you break down this construct, let me list out a few inalienable truths about cinema:
  • When you visit a cinema hall, you believe that drama is happening on the screen. You can't be wronger. The real drama is happening on the opposite side of the screen; the side where people are munching overpriced popcorns and slurping sugar-drinks. Like you and me. We are the ones who got tricked into laughing, weeping, singing, dancing, screaming... along with the movie. Those on the big screen are cold professionals who know exactly what they are doing. Unlike you and me. 
  • A naive way of decoding cinema is to say that they put you in a dark room and rob you blind. Well, nobody held a gun to your head. And there can't be a greater metaphor for enlightenment when you are exposed to some never-seen-before realities in a given movie while you continue to remain hidden in the darkness of the crowd.
  • Once you settle in that comfy chair, it doesn't matter whether the movie is praise-all or fuck-all. You already lost the battle at the ticket counter.
  • The director is the first one to watch the movie. Even before it's made. There's no suspense in there for them. S/he somehow go through the routine of converting their vision into a reality. Challenging? Always. Boring? Maybe.
  • Light might be faster than sound but horror movies scare you because of aural reasons. It's the deep frightening sounds that make a film scary. The visuals play a significantly lighter role.
  • We'll never know why European (non-Anglophone) filmmakers are prone to playing obscure English songs in their movies.
  • We'll never know why beautiful stories get marauded by studios in their lame attempt at making locals speak accented English instead of shooting the film in the local language.
  • Like most art forms, cinema has unbearable masculinity sketched all over it. So much so even the words used in filmmaking have a bellicose tone: cut, shoot, action... as if a war is going on!
  • It will strike you sooner or later that the highest rated film on IMDb, The Shawshank Redemption (1994), basically has an all-male cast.
  • The masters of cinema are divided into two camps: those who love tea and those who can't do without coffee. You'll seldom come across somebody who doesn't belong to either or someone who has switched camps. 
  • The masters of cinema are nowhere to be found on Twitter. 
  • It's arrogant, if not stupid, of you to assume that you can understand a film in just one sitting. A process that took months, if not years, to condense into a (hourly) format merits a second sitting. Or even third.
  • Korean movies are best served raw.
  • Iranian movies are best served sincere. 
  • You must have heard how Hindi film industry is a safe haven for money laundering. Guess what? The same is true for Hollywood. The guy who hugely funded The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) is a major fraud in the finance world—how apt! There's no such a thing as clean money in cinema unless you are an independent filmmaker who has mortgaged his house.
  • Bollywood superstars (with the exception of Aamir Khan) face a strange dilemma: they can't afford to break their onscreen mould lest their fans denounce them. 
  • You can't watch a movie and then refuse to call yourself a voyeur. Nope.
  • Without writers, there is nothing on the table. Still, writers were rarely appreciated for their good work. So, over the past decade, we witnessed a chunk of these goodfellas move en masse to the television. Now, they are not only appreciated but also paid handsomely.
  • Those who prefer the front seats want to be the first to watch the movie in the cinema hall. Nothing else can explain that lingering stress in their nape. 
  • You may have never heard of Tarkvosky or his masterpieces but the finest filmmakers of our time have. And that's not it. A majority of them regard him as their ultimate inspiration. 
  • Genres are for textbooks. Everybody is capable of enjoying all kinds of cinema. Just that we don't take THAT risk. 
  • The nicest bit about cinema is it lets you judge it, not the other way round.
  • You may have watched a movie a hundred times and may even remember all the dialogues by heart but here's the thing: if you miss the hidden symbols, which are mostly visual, you are missing the whole point.
  • Cinema doesn't have a language as such but subtitles surely help.
  • Expecting cinema to usher in change in our wretched society is a lot like hoping God to show up during the interval.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

no empathy > forced empathy

There is a lot of stuff in the air but it's certainly not empathy. That particular element is clearly missing. Which is ironic given how connected everybody is nowadays thanks to the advent of online world. Maybe the overflow of information is causing this but the numbing process is remarkable. You read about villages starving in Syria and you feel bad for a while. You then read about the famine situation in Yemen and you feel bad about that too. Then you read some other news items that makes you lose faith in humanity. But when you're done reading and reacting, you realize how little you can do to help. No, not due to lack of means but due to lack of motive. For some reason, you've taught yourself that feeling bad is tantamount to helping others. A guilt trip alone makes all the emotional payments. This might be the excuse behind people turning against jokes of late. Offensive jokes, to be precise. Especially on social media. Especially when a joke is the most useless weapon of mass destruction. Especially when we know that taking offence is the easiest thing ever. For instance, i take offence to the way you breathe. I can't stand it. But then, it's not your problem. It's mine. If a person makes an offensive joke, it doesn't come with the caveat that others should respond. In fact, the best response to such senseless expression should be absolute lack of response. Nothing craves attention as much as a joke does. A so-called offensive one, more so. When you react, what you're basically doing is letting your self-righteousness get the better of you. Offensive jokes are often eviscerated for their lack of empathy. But that's merely a matter of perception, mainly because grandstanding doesn't let the offended party think straight through their heavy emotions. Just last month, people were screaming against the Supreme Court's decision to implement national anthems in cinema halls. The reason cited for this outrage was forced patriotism. When you arouse a mob against an offensive joke, aren't you unwittingly practising forced empathy? Besides, the greatest joke is the fact that we are getting riled up a silly joke—in the Internet Age where it's in abundance—that doesn't even merit our time.

Leave and move on

Two of my flatmates are moving on—professionally. It's an interesting development for a number of reasons. Three being they are young, hardworking and have plans for the future. I'm sure they'll continue to do great. One of the awesomest things about Zomato is it trains you to be better at what you do by letting you dictate your path. You own up your shit. These are no corporate hiccups in place. Maybe that's why both of them come across as more mature than their age. After spending about half a decade with the company, you tend to an ambassador. I'm glad for them but i'm not sad for they are moving on in life.

Rewind to 2011. 

I quit transcription industry after spending 4 years as a transcriber. When i finally quit that godforsaken but fun job, i didn't have plans as such. I knew i wanted to do something related to writing but i wasn't sure. I had no clue that i'd end up interviewing film personalities, theatre artistes, writers, painters and their ilk soon. My colleagues were glad for my decision but they seemed quite sad on my farewell day. We hugged and never kept in touch. (It's not them; it's me.) I later figured out that they weren't sad that i was leaving them but because they were staying behind.

Friday, January 6, 2017

End point

Science has come a long way but there are certain events that it can’t really explain. It can’t tell you why you got a cold while having curd but are fine with ice cream. Similarly, it can’t give you an absolute reason why you’ve got a headache at any given point of time. It will direct you to a number of excuses why you are feeling that hammer inside your skull but it can’t pinpoint anything. If you skid off the planet, science can’t explain for sure why your plane experienced turbulence all of a sudden. I don’t know about you but whenever my plane shakes, i wish it crashes. Not explode, mind you. Explosion would be a killjoy. Crashing has that adventurous veneer to it. The only sad part about it being the fact that i might be dying with a bunch of absolute strangers who are screaming together in their final performance. What are the odds of you dying seated next to a guy you didn’t even exchange pleasantries with? And they said, you would die alone and sad.

Let’s pull out a bit here.

If at all such a tragedy (comedy?) takes place, wouldn’t it be fair to suggest that all the people who died together were soul mates? Think about it. If at all there is such a thing as a soul that escapes you at your demise, then my soul will certainly like to hang out with the souls of all the folks i died with. Soul mating time!

No, wait.

What’s the difference between a soul and a ghost?


Tongue twisted by time

I visited home last week and spoke to my brother after quite a long time. We last met during my wedding. So we discussed our usual topics—anthropology being our absolute favourite—and we ended up talking about the decline of languages in urban scenario. Throughout history, there have been long battles waged between languages under the garb of culture. A lot of languages died, some survived and the rest merged into something else. Even today, mother tongues tell us a lot about where we are and where we are heading. An existential method of looking at any decline is to say that nothing matters. Everything perishes after a while. True. But the problem is change doesn’t always happen for the good. We lose a part of something that’s bigger than we’ll ever be. Lingual bullying isn’t a modern reality and it takes place so slyly that one doesn’t even realize why ‘chup kar’ became uncool and ‘shut up’ became the norm. This contest of preference has been around for ages. Besides, there has to be a reason why Maharashtra is the only state in India whose official language (Marathi) has registered a decline in the census. But then again, we don’t care much about such things. To us practical mortals, language plays a key role in communicating our ideas and expressing ourselves better. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Signs, science and sighs

According to Yuval Noah Harari’s brilliant book Sapiens, the earliest human signature belongs to a person named Kushim. We are not really sure that it was a guy but going by the professional dominance men enjoyed in that era (not that a lot has changed since then; take this list—not even one woman on it) we can safely assume that Kushim was a male accountant. He signed his name centuries ago in Mesopotamia on a tablet. Isn’t a privilege? Even if the practise of taking credit or responsibility for something in text was in vogue before Kushim, only his tablets are around for posterity. No one else’s. I thought of him while watching The Accountant (2016), a movie that remains true to the art of storytelling despite so many digressions. While watching it, i was struck by how important bookkeeping is to our society. Numbers must add up whether you’re dealing with carrots or carats or for that matter, Jews. (Had it not been for the diligence showcased by Nazis in maintaining accounts, we wouldn’t have known Holocaust’s actual wickedness.) There are people who work in isolation and use calculator faster than you use your keypad and they are responsible for making every single paisa/grain/cartel accountable. Some may argue that computers are fast taking their place but that’s letting the machines get ahead of ourselves. The irony here being machines, unlike us, operate solely on our sign language.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Disfigure of speech


I am not sorry.

Monday, January 2, 2017

I want to...

I don’t really believe in jotting down New Year resolutions. Not for lack of trying but the concept loses its hold within weeks, if not days. At least that has been the case with me. Before you realize it, the initial thrill gives way to drag. If there was a way to continue feeling the way we felt on 1st Jan, then things would have been completely different. Sadly, that ain’t the case. If it was, i would have gained a book or two instead of gaining weight in 2016. Anyhow, there’s no harm in thinking out loud what one really wants to accomplish in the coming days, if not weeks.

Spend more time on reading. I genuinely upped the scale last year by sitting through short profiles, long essays, longer stories (fiction as well non), endless parables, enlightening anecdotes and some books. Perhaps it’s high time i covered more books this time around. My problem with reading is i’m not a fluent reader. I read a page and if i come across even one doubt, i google the shit out of it. That’s a literal getting stuck in a black hole scenario.

Invest more time on writing. Again, i raised the previous limits by wording my thoughts on several platforms. I was pretty decent at updating my blog too, if one excuses the miniskirt versions of blog posts. Similarly, i was active on Twitterverse except for the 3-month break i took in March-May. In 2017, i want to do productive writing and complete those two stories i should have completed back in 2015!

Prioritize before it’s too late. I’m 30 and not getting any younger. I should see things clearer by now but that’s not happened yet. Although i’m not fond of the C-word, one must know what they are aiming towards. A set goal—with respect to time, of course— has to be in place. It could be for anything from doing something on a professional level to attempting something on a personal level irrespective of the result.

Be healthy. I’ve got way too many health issues for someone my age. Frequent headrush, migraine and acid reflux are three of the prime villains but there are many more under the surface. I need to get going. Like for real. Sedentary lifestyle, where entertaining stress is the only known workout, won’t help in the long run. Speaking of which, i got to run. And put those running shoes i ordered last year to work. 

Embrace positivity. For years, i’ve been the patron saint of pessimism. If you ask me whether this/that can be done, my answer is seldom yes. I hate uplifting my hopes and then disappoint others. Perhaps it’s time to embrace optimism and see the light without moving towards the tunnel’s end.

Loosen up a bit. No, no, i’m perfectly fine with my won’t-drink-can’t-smoke-no-nothing policy. No doubt i consumed a lot of painkillers in 2016, i’ve noticed that my otherwise conservative outlook has eaten into my spirit too. If i’m not mistaken, one tends to become boring (because you avoid people who allegedly enjoy life) and rigid (because your OCD doesn’t allow you to relax at all) and pitiful (because you’re leading a cleaner yet unhealthy lifestyle) when you are like me. 

Sleep sounder. I don't know how but i must ensure i go back to the short-lived routine of sleeping by 10.30pm and waking up by 6.30am. 

Adhere to silence. Although i went quiet on social media back in 2010, my real world persona continues to be that of a person who isn’t comfortable with silence. Small surprise why i not only end up striking conversations all around me but i’m also the one who’d say hello first. I guess i’m the only person on the entire floor who talks to the security guys! A bit of restrained wordlessness won’t hurt because i'm tired of making others comfortable.

Believe. And go against the very first sentence of this vain blog post.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Singular and plural forms

Compared to Mumbai, Delhi is the kind of city that would require loads of goodwill (read: great PR) to be accepted. To an overwhelming majority, it's the kind of place that is still associated with show-sha-ing and classism. On top of that, the burden of 'rape capital of India' has done irreversible damage. To make things worse, Mumbaikars are known for their let-me-help-you attitude whereas Dilliwallahs... well, let's not go there. If you ask an inhabitant of the capital city, they'll squarely put all the blame on places like Gurgaon and Noida. Delhi NCR ensures this reaction. Apparently, great things happen in New Delhi whereas all the evil stuff carry on in the rest of the NCR. It's naive to tag a city something—savoury or not—based on a few reported instances but the problem festers after the media has done its job. Regardless, there is one story that none of the journalists have mentioned so far: the usage of the word 'ladies' in the two cities. In Delhi, women shamelessly cut public queues using that word. In Mumbai, men use that word to inform others in a crowded train compartment that there is a woman among them and they should provide sufficient space for her to stand. Grammar be damned, civility triumphs when that happens.