Drop Your Pants!

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It was a very tense situation. I’d never done this before.

“Drop your Pants!” The security guard yelled at me. This was going to be very very embarrassing.

I dropped the pair held in my hands right away. Whoever thought people would want to wear buff colored pants, let alone get caught stealing them? 

The Muse’s Farewell

>Once upon a time there was a girl. She thought of too many things, dreamed of even more. She believed in a few things, hoped for even fewer. She questioned too much, but answered all by herself. She smiled too much, but never knew if she was happy.

One evening, on a ceasing winter’s day, she met her Hero.

She never thought she would meet a Hero. He had wild dreams, and wilder ways. He cared not for things usual, but pursued things that others had no time for. He was her Hero and she cared not for what he was, because she knew only of what he would become. Her thoughts, dreams, beliefs, hopes, questions and answers, smiles were all for the Hero.

He called her his Muse. And she felt special to be his Muse. Was there any greater joy than to be an inspiration? The Muse and the Hero, they marched along that dangerous path of discovery and adventure. There were many ideas to be ensnared and many to be enslaved. He would conquer, she would guide. He would wonder, she would reflect. Life began to run, but time had slowed down. What was time but a construct of science meant to keep mere mortals on their toes? Why think of time when the imagination begged to explore other passions?

One afternoon, on a reluctant rainy day, she saw the first fall.

It was as if she had been knocked down a long flight of stairs and had collided with a solid wind. That solid wind had turned into a sea, that carried her and sank her, then brought her floating up to be charred by the sun and then calmed by the night’s tide. She could have left, but she stayed on. She didn’t want to be a bad Muse.

The sun rose and sank. Ships left harbors and charged into storms. Buds bloomed and leaves shed. Snow fell and fires burned. Something gave, everyone took. Seasons fled, time dipped into decay. She stayed in a corner, called when needed.  But she didn’t know if she was there because she was called or because she was needed. She didn’t even know if she was needed at all. She didn’t know if she was even wanted at all. Maybe there were others who wanted her.

She saw herself falling. She watched as her Hero fell. She tried to help her Hero rise, while trying to help herself from fading away. The Muse and the Hero stumbled and picked up, fighting and faring along. Sometimes she would watch her Hero, with real people and the real world and try to ascertain where she was. She would see the sun, from under the deep ocean and know not how far from the surface she was.

One morning, on a summer night’s end, she began to question. 

Does a Muse choose her Hero and make him a Hero? Or does a Hero find a Muse and give her the status of a Muse? Does anyone care for the Muse when there is a Hero? What does a Muse ever do to leave behind for herself, apart from the shadows of the Hero’s footsteps? Can a Muse’s only existence be to inspire and not ask for anything more? What does the Muse do after her Hero leaves for another Muse, for another life?
Was that all that was left of her being a Muse- being just a feeble spark on the dim horizon?

Or does every Muse fail when she begins to dream of her Hero turning into Pygmalion? Can a Muse never dream or hope, but only support those of her Hero? Could the Muse leave on her own accord or did she have to hang around till she was forgotten? Was there any greater misery than to be just a Muse?

She realized she knew all the answers, but didn’t like them at all. So she kept questioning till she was exhausted of all her answers and knew there was no escaping the questions. She asked till she couldn’t fight the answers, till she defeated the questions.

One wintry night, past some springs and monsoons, the Muse decided to cease to be.

She looked out of her window, and knew she cannot look outside anymore. She had to bid farewell to the Muse that had been for a Hero. She had to bid farewell to the caterpillar and the statue. She had to leave the depths of the ocean for the cliffs above. She had to stare at the sun straight in its face.

There were dreams to be chanced upon, thoughts to be given attention to. There were beliefs to be wrestled with, hopes to be given birth to. There were questions to be chased, answers to be discovered. There were seasons to be seen, places to be experienced. There were things to be done. There was time to be reclaimed.

There were swaying fields and dropped arms, cotton clouds and burdened orchard trees, fiery sunrises and unfettered souls, and other such inconsequential sights to smile for without asking why.

>What will you do?

>What will you do with this life of yours?
Make something out of it? Something is so many things. Which one is it?

Age will outlive you. Grayness will take over your life and hair color. Wrinkles will leave your clothes and impugn your skin. Dreams will turn into failed expectations. Disappointment will take over from hope. Compromise will rule over chaos. What will you do with this life of yours?

Turn it beautiful. With? Your answers and questions, and words. Yes, words. Words carry some weight. But how much will you change your life with mere figments of imagination given form with sounds? Will your words give you peace? Then you are easy. No point talking to you.

Those words. They will get you people. People will ponder and wonder aloud at the expense of your words. Your outburst will be their umbrella. You will be comforted by that thought. You will make more words to satisfy them and you, more for you. You will turn to those people with hope and anguish. You will call them your own. You will fall into an easy sleep and dream and remain in that limbo. You will fantasize and garnish that limbo with your words.

But what will you do with your words? Sell them and buy a house? What will you do with that house? Set up a world and invite people to revel in it? Then what? Die with a last glimpse of the peeling paint that you fussed over so much? What will you be able to do with your death? Mark a tombstone and leave with an uncertain hope? A hope of being remembered and remembered?

What will you do with that life of yours?

The Salesman

>(This was written on 18th April 2010. I’m finally moving it from drafts to published in the hope that seeing it online will goad me to pick it up and finally complete it.)  

He lived with one mantra- Give each day your best. One day at a time. Fine, two. He woke up with one and went to bed with another. He woke up today thinking positive thoughts as prescribed to him by his spiritual quack. He suspected his quack suffered from some personality disorder or schizophrenia or some other mental mumbo jumbo for he changed ways as often as the weather changes its mind in Springfield. But he deduced that could come from what his quack called “transcending spiritual and metaphysical boundaries” or maybe he was just a big old oaf making much money selling out the inner gods. He stopped himself from thinking too much about it. He had a long day ahead of him and he really needed to get started.

His first customer for the day was a Mrs. Mamona Aergias. She lived alone in a single storied small house on the street behind the supermarket and opposite the theatre. He hoped this time she would listen to him long before dozing off on the table. He rang the bell. There was no answer for a full one minute, he counted. He rang the bell again, two in a row, and was about to complete a set of three when the door opened, and a face hidden behind layers of fat poked itself through the gap.

“Good morning, Madam. I hope today would be a good day. Here, have some coffee.” With that he nudged the door open and entered.

Mrs. Aergias eyed the coffee with distaste. She wanted to go back to sleep, but she could never refuse a free offering. She pulled her robe around herself, took the coffee and plonked herself on the couch and switched on the news. He sat himself down across her on another seat and thanked an unknown god that Mrs. Aergias was too lazy to go and get her TV repaired of the sound problem. All they heard was a low droning sound and watched as the reporter showed them a midget with a beard that reached his feet. The midget was apparently trying to set a record for growing hair that was five times his height.

“So, have you thought about it?”, he asked.

She shook her head distractedly.

“Well, let me go over it again with you Mrs.Aergias. What I have here is a thing that could solve all of your problems and make you a more complete, wholesome human being. You would do good not just for yourself, but for those around you. Dolorium1618 is the solution to all our problems. Imagine this, you wake up and have this severe pain plaguing your mind and body and soul. What would you do?

“Take a pain-killer”

Exactly. What if there was no pain-killer that killed it?

Mrs.Aergias shot him a look filled fury and dread. Why would the man just not leave her alone?

“I don’t know”

“See… There’s no real pain killer.”

“Ahh.. There’s no real pain then either,” she chuckled at her own marvellous wit and logical deduction. 

“There’s no real pain killer, but there’s real pain. There’s pain when you can’t hear your favourite talk show host bitch about the latest model. There’s pain when you have to stand an hour in line to buy your favorite brand of bacon. There’s pain when you want to talk but there’s no one around. There’s pain when you have to wake up every day and wade through life’s small, but plenty, futilities.

“The only way to deal with it is to embrace it. Pain will make you stronger by pushing you to act. By pushing you to harness your energies and channelize them in the right direction.  Hence Dolorium1618. Start with 4 pills a day, you will have to do something about the pain. It will wreak havoc inside you. You’d be forced to go out and about and seek help. At the same time, you will learn to accept it, understand it, make it your friend. How’s the coffee?”

“Not half as bad as I thought it would be”

“Do you think you want to come on our free trial programme then?”, he laid subtle emphasis on the word free, making it come out casually, as if it was part of the deal doled out to all customers.

Again Mrs.Aergias seemed to struggle between two extremes of wanting, and she knew she would succumb. She was a woman who would take death if it told her there was nothing she would have to do to be dead. He almost believed that she would embrace death more enthusiastically if it came her way because there was nothing to do after that, nothing that she knew of yet. And hence, it was even more important that he converted this one before she chose the easier way out.

– To be continued. (hopefully soon enough)

On Record: Samit Basu

This is my second official interview as such. And this time the man is Samit Basu, novelist, screenwriter, writer of comics and local monster, talking about his latest book Turbulence and writing among other things.

Snippets of the interview:

Samit Basu
Samit Basu

You’ve been part of quite a number of anthologies and collaborations. Which one was the best experience?

Collaborations – I co-wrote a comic, or graphic novel if you prefer, with Mike Carey, who is a writer I’ve idolized since I first started reading comics. If you haven’t read his Lucifer comics or his Felix Castor books, do so at once. For someone at that level, he was both incredibly generous as a collaborator and surprisingly nice as a person. The comic is called Untouchable, it’s a turn-of-the-century romance/horror story about a young Anglo-Indian boy’s twisted relationship with a rakshasi. It’s set in India and England, and starts this doomed couple, both outcasts, one caught between the different worlds of his parents, another caught between different eras and worlds.

Anthology wise, Electric Feather, the anthology of erotic stories edited by Ruchir Joshi. I wrote a story about a bunch of twentysomethings going back to Cal for a wedding and getting it on afterwards. It was lovely, because I got to write a kind of story I wouldn’t have done otherwise, have a great deal of fun, and people responded strongly – most people absolutely loved it, and others were deeply offended, and both responses pleased me greatly.

If you could be one of your superheroes, which one would you be?

Tia. I love her power, the ability to duplicate yourself and therefore essentially never have to make a choice again, because now you can live several lives and experience so many more things.

One book that you’d bequeath to your favorite niece/nephew.

I’d be a fairly sad uncle if I gave my favourite niece/nephew only one book. Lots and lots and lots of really good books. Do I have to bequeath them? That seems to involve dying. Must I die now?

One writer that seriously scrambled your brains with his/her dangerous and exciting ideas.

China Mieville

 

You can read the full interview here.

You can also read my review of Turbulence here or there.

How to Write a Book Review

I never thought I’d be writing book reviews, more so a guide to book reviewing. But thanks to a good man I know through Twitter and who shares the same liking for blogging and books that I do, I am now going to lay down a ten seven step guide to the art of review writing.

Disclaimer: This is meant for the simpler folks who don’t review books professionally and who have just started or want to start book reviewing.

1)   It is not rocket science: All you have to do is describe what you thought of the book. Did you like it, love it, hate it? What did you like and why you liked it? Since giving unsolicited opinions is such a great pastime for most of us, one would think reviewing books should be a cake-walk, right? Well, it’s not that easy but it’s not that difficult either. You just have to try and be articulate and let your readers/friends know what you thought of the book.

2)  Introductions please: It’s always good to start with a brief synopsis of the book. Jumping right into the details of the heroine’s sorrow at losing her grandmother might leave the readers a bit confused. Lay the groundwork first by telling people what you are going to review or talk about. Let them get a feel for the book before they get to your opinions of it. You can either take the synopsis from the cover or give your own version. A well framed description of the book can create a good deal of interest amongst your readers to continue through your review.  Drawing a few character sketches can also help you to progress better.

3)  Keep the butler out of it: Everyone hates spoilers, but thanks to human nature and its workings, we cannot keep from yelling about the butler who killed the cheating husband. Try to work your way through the review without letting on the secrets, the tricks that keep the reader turning the pages. This doesn’t just apply to whodunits and mystery thrillers but any and every book.  Try and evaluate as to which pieces can be given away and which should be kept to ensure that the reader gets his money’s worth from the book.

4) Let’s not forget the real hero: The author. The man/woman behind the scenes. I think this is where the true review lies- what you think of what and how the author wrote.  If you’ve read many books by the author you’d be more aware of his tools and devices in narration, of his style and his/her so-called USP. It can make for good reading if you can shed some light on it and let the readers know how the author bends words to move the story ahead, to bring elements of surprise or create something unheard and unseen before.  But here you too, you must know to exercise some restraint, keep it relevant and not go overboard with superlatives. You can say XYZ is the best, but it would be nice to know why you think so.

5)  Every read is an experience: With every book you pick up to read, you start an experience that will be unique to that book and you. There are books that make you laugh, shed tears, wonder, reminisce or the cogs in your head run at double speed. Then there are those that will make you frustrated, angry, sleepy, give you a déjà vu feeling and so on. Try to recollect that experience and consider it when you write a review.  Being objective in your review vis-à-vis the content, plot, and writing style is good, but a review can hardly ever be non-personal. I’ve personally seen that my liking for a book is influenced a lot by the time or frame of mind I was in when I read it. Try to draw the best out of that experience and share it through your review.

6)  Don’t get swayed by the lynch-mob: This is your review, your personal account of your experience with the book. Just because the book lies on the list of top 100 books of the century doesn’t mean you should like it or lie about liking it. Also, because everyone is trashing the book doesn’t mean you have to jump into the bandwagon.  Since you are not responsible for the sales of the book, neither do you stand to lose or gain anything by how the book is received, why not be honest with it?  There’s a difference between a recommendation and plain pimping, know where to draw the lines. Your readers can see through a dishonest review.

7)  Mind your language: Last but not the least, please respect the language in which you’ve read the book and are writing the review. You are not writing a review using a tweet or SMS, so drop the chat-SMS-tweet lingo. Please use healthy and wholesome words, not their chopped off vowel-less versions. You will not be penalized for using up many words or characters. Nothing is more off-putting than seeing chat/SMS jibber jabber like lol, cuz, u, luv, etc in a review.  And grammar, yes grammar. You want your reviews to be read and considered, letting your readers see that you have basic grammar knowledge will help the process.  Also, there’s spell-check if you’ve not noticed. As I said in the first point, it is not rocket science. But if you want to write a good review, a review that serves its purpose of helping a reader decide about a book or even just make for interesting read in itself, you have to know how to communicate.

I think this should do for now.  I hope this helps and you start spewing seven reviews a week. If it doesn’t, well, go read some other articles with 20 steps.

And for those who didn’t check the hyperlink in the introduction, this post was brought to you because of @prempiyush.

 

You can also read the post here.