Regrets

Regrets come in many flavours. From the lost aspirations to the broken relationships, from the silly ones to the life destroyers, people have plenty of things to regret about and reproach themselves. I’ve had (and still have) a fair share of them myself.

I regret not learning Hindi. I regret not getting actively involved in sports. I regret wasting time on online conversations when I could have spent that time working on my statistics homework (this particular one had very significant impact on my future career decisions). This list of regrets goes on.

Carrying these regrets was boggling me down and quite severely too. I constantly drifted into a pensive mode, evaluating my life choices and wondering where I would have been if I had paid a little more attention to statistic lessons.

It was James Altucher who saved me, my go to man for everything philosophical these days. He tells me regrets aren’t good for anything:

Don’t time travel into the past, roaming through the nuances as if they can change. Don’t bookmark pages you’ve already read. Today it starts all over again. Every tomorrow is determined by every today.

And that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I don’t have to know and I don’t want to know how things could have shaped if I had done some things differently. They also tell me people are more likely to regret things they haven’t done as opposed to regretting things they actually have done.

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Today’s here and I should work on preventing any possible regrets that I might cause myself in the future. And I shall do just that by posting this.

So, go forth and live a happy life, free of regrets and be sure to cherish this new found freedom.

A month of blogging – NaBloPoMo

Heyo. This time last year I was prepping myself to give a try at cracking NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a novel writing exercise for the weak-hearted who don’t quite have the drive to get started on writing a novel without external motivation. I tried my hand at it and I failed miserably. Going through whatever work I wrote last year, I realised I have plenty of things to learn and figure before I sincerely start on writing a novel.

So I thought maybe I should take it a little easy this year around, read more novels, learn the art of telling stories and generally keep myself interested in writing. Which lead me to NaBloPoMo — the event which I hope will persuade me to continue writing regularly on a schedule, help me improve on generating and incubating ideas as well as hone my writing skills.

So here I am, promising to post once every day (starting with this one) for the whole of November — that would be 30 posts in just a month and hopefully will be the change that reinvigorates this blog and my interest in blogging and writing.

I’ll mostly write about topics that I hope are worth thinking about a little and maybe discuss with some of you if possible. Do stick around for the month and we’ll have a jolly good time together, surely.

The kind, cruel eyes

The kind eyes, the cruel eyes, kind and cruel —
The kind eyes make you warm and calm and
The cruel eyes steal your breath away,
Causing distraught and wreaking havoc at ease.

Explicit in its subtlety and irresistible deliberately,
The eyes that know why they exist. Purposeful eyes
Trained to lure the uninitiated into a cynical trance;
To suck the soul out of the hapless stuffings that remain.

The enigmatic hazel browns are rolling around,
Forcing me into a vocabulary enhancing session:
Elegant, exotic, exquisite and extraordinaire.

The kind, cruel eyes visit me in every dream and daydream,
Wanting to eat me alive, only me all too willing.
‘Stop doing this to yourself’ I hear myself begging me but
The mindless drone doesn’t care, stealing another glimpse.

The kind eyes, the cruel eyes, kind and cruel —
Cruel they may be as they tease and tantalise but
Kind enough not to leave me for dead,
Putting me in a deep slumber, finally at ease.

Generating ideas and some more

If you are thinking you need to be creative or inspired to generate beautiful ideas, you are in the wrong. Because ideas don’t quite work that way. In fact, it is the exact opposite.

Many ideas to bigger idea

Firstly, you generate some ideas. And then some more. Over time, you slowly grow your creative muscle and get better at it. It’s similar to learning how to juggle. You don’t just became a world-class juggler overnight without any practice.

Luckily for me, I had James Altucher to teach me the importance of generating ideas:

But WHENEVER I’ve been stuck on the floor I knew the only way to kick into action was to start building my idea muscle again. Because it is in those moments that my brain had become smaller, damaged, and my idea muscle had atrophied. And from that moment it takes six months (on average) to 100% change my life around.

And that was when I realized the naked truth about creating ideas and its real impact on one’s life. And be warned that it can change your life – for better or for worse.

Jotting ’em down

Now I hope I have convinced you about the importance of generating ideas. But it doesn’t stop there. One of the (two) crucial bits people forget about ideas is getting them jotted down immediately and with vivid details.

Most people mistake their memory to be expertly good at remembering their ideas and they have unconsciously failed at the art of ideas right away. A good ideator (that’s a partially made up word :-)) is one who makes sure he has scribbled down his idea somewhere for future reference – no matter how bad the idea is – because he knows the value of ideas.

Ideas when on bed

The hardworking brain

Moving on, a lot of us get some of the smartest ideas right before we are about to fall asleep. It’s almost like our brain is doing it on purpose to taunt us. If you are lazy or imagine yourself to be able to remember the details of the idea when you wake up, you have lost it. The key thing to do is to keep a notepad nearly just for this worst-case scenario. Or you can use the notes app on your smartphone. Anything that works as long as you have jotted it down somewhere.

Ideas are social

If there is one secret most “creative” people have kept away from the plebians, it’s this. Ideas are insanely social. By that, I mean if you have one idea in mind, there is a very high likelihood of having many more ideas. And they grow so fast it is almost scary. But don’t be scared if you are jotting them as they visit you.

Sharing ideas

The other crucial bit people don’t realize about ideas is that sharing ideas is actually good and beneficial. I am going to let Seth Godin argue this point:

How dare we criticize an inventor or an author or a leader for, “stealing someone else’s ideas.” Ideas can’t be stolen, because ideas don’t get smaller when they’re shared, they get bigger.

Then again, there are two aspects of sharing: giving and receiving. Even as you contribute your ideas to the pool, you should also put effort in learning about others’ ideas. If you notice, “creative” people turn out to be one of the most vociferous readers out there. If you want an idea (ha!), here’s Steve Jobs’ reading list.

I guess it’s time to leave you on your journey of creating a thousand and one ideas. Good luck!

Russian Acrobatic Dance Festival

Last Friday, I attended a Russian Acrobatic Dance Festival in Chennai. It was free and fun. It was also an opportunity for me to exercise my photography skills. Without further delay, let me now allow you to enjoy the dance festival at no cost! (And please do forgive my photography. Still at amateur level.)

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The festival was organised by Indo-Russian Chamber of Commerce & Industries as an exercise of friendship and cultural exchange. The event was decorated by the presence of late actor Shivaji Ganesan’s son Ramkumar as well as the Russian Consulate General stationed in Chennai, Nikolay Listopadov.

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The event, predictably, began with the classical display of Bharathanatyam. And then a lot of peppy music and Russian acrobatic dance!

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It seemed the Russian girls were just too happy to be performing that you could almost never catch them not smiling.

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I probably wouldn’t mind attending the event again next year or so. It was a fun filled Friday evening after all. 🙂

The Hindu Lit For Life – Day 3 Reflections

I know it’s a little late to post about Day 3. I took a little break before I could get myself to write about it. Anyway, let’s get on with this.

Moral policing in Cinema

Possibly the highlight of the three day event, which was well illustrated by the bulging crowd at the start of the session (and not so at the end of it). Kamal Haasan was there, taking jabs at anything and everything that bothers him, from the redundant CBFC because of social media, educated intelligence being an obstacle to cinema, the populist game of the Tamil Nadu state government by capping the movie tickets and the commercial cinema that has no interest in civic responsibility.

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In his conversation with K. Hariharan, he remarked ‘Allegories are not present in (Tamil) cinema’ and that they use characters from life. And he has useful advice for a wannabe dictator — “Voices should be heard, not suppressed’. He clearly is not fond of the protectionist reaction, which he claims is ailing the industry.

The point of travelling

Travel writers Colin Thubron and William Dalrymple indulge themselves in the joys of travel writing and why it persists as long as it has. Colin was convinced travel is ‘one culture looking at another’ and this ignorance of the newcomer and their sharp eye towards minute details gives a vivid picture of the inhabitant, who most often takes these details for granted and wouldn’t have paid attention to it if not for the newcomer.

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Colin was also wary of using humour as a tool in travel writing. While humour can be a very useful source of entertainment, it can be dangerous if not used properly and comes across as condescending to the host culture.

Thoughts on sex and female sexuality

I must say I am lucky to have been in this session and getting a wealth of information about female sexuality, which would have remained inaccessible if not for the generous session from Naomi Wolf. Thank you for that, Ms. Wolf!

She has great concerns about how the sexual revolution, which involved an unleashing of pornography and the abundant sexual discourse, has not greatly benefited female sexuality. Her discomfort with discussing sexual pleasure among other things only made the session realistic and engaging — instead of a more harmful robotic delivery of a very sensitive topic.

There was a question put up by one of the audience – What’s the point of all these new info if she can’t exercise her right?. I think the answer possibly comes from Kamal Haasan’s session, where he is adamant a sudden overdose of freedom (relaxed censorship in movie making) would only have a detrimental effect — similar to children in a confectionery. Putting it in context, granting sexual freedom to the Indian women completely would negatively impact the feminist movement. Instead, this process should be carefully crafted, especially since our society is very conservative.

And a quote to remember:

Pleasure empowers women. Psychologically, intellectually and politically.

The majestic tigers of India

Valmik Thapar was angry (and I am saying that in the nicest way possible). He was calling for a way to end the bureaucratic, incompetent mess that is our Government. From the outdated laws in the constitution to the absurdly useless Red Tape, he was very happy to be tearing at them.

His call for including the passionate stakeholders at various levels of decision making only makes sense – but of course, the Government wouldn’t just agree with things that make sense!

The Writing life (or the lack thereof)

It is always exciting to get a little snoop into the personal lives of others (much less celebrities). And here I am, hearing Jim Crace plays solitaire instead of getting on with his damn work!

More seriously, both Jim and Samantha Shannon feels this prerogative of being writers is a burden — occasional feeling of not deserving to be a writer. They grew into realization that reviews and reviewers should be given their own space and that everyone has different opinions and be acceptable of the fact that not everyone likes everyone else’s writing.

I was greatly delighted when Jim noted Writing a bad novel is hard enough. It put a pleasant smile on my face. 🙂

It’s a wrap

At the end of the day (forgive me for the cliché), I was longing for more. I didn’t want this event to end and yet it did. I wasn’t presenting a tearful departure but it was awfully close to that. Wishing to take part in Lit For Life next year!

The Hindu Lit For Life – Day 2 Reflections

Let’s hear me talk about the second day of The Hindu Lit For Life. This time, I brought my classmate along with me for extra comfort and companionship. And it helped — I believe — to some extent — surely — it really helped, I am not kidding!

So, anyway, I grew smarter and wore a long sleeve shirt just to prevent myself shivering through most part of the event. And I am going to imagine that helped me fall asleep pay careful attention to the sessions.

I am going to make this reflection short and sweet because, well, I feel exhausted after two long days of intellectual exercise and I am missing out on some helpful sleep. And, Kamal Haasan is making his presence tomorrow!

History of the ancient India

Romila Thapar, quite evidently a veteran in the field, wasn’t in agreement with the colonial scholars’ opinion that ancient India (especially Indus civilization) was ahistorical and Indian past was oriental despotism. She said the question of whether there were any historical records is irrelevant and I am going to agree with that.

She also commented that Mahabharatha was an Ithikasa and was believed to have happened (with layers added onto it over time) whereas Ramayana was a Kavya and has had more literary aspects to it. She being an expert in this field should very well know about this more than I do but that particular comment was quite surprising to me. I imagined both these Indian epics have a grounded real version and I am only partially correct.

Adding onto that, she remarked epics are ‘repository of recording consciousness’ and not historical text. However, I do think epics give a general idea of the way of life in the ancient India. For example, the practice of polyandry by Drowpadi and the clan system in Mahabarath and importantly kingship politics that existed several thousand years ago — the current day politics don’t even match to that.

Despair for mega cities?

There was an unison agreement that the cities ought to be crucibles of democracy yet they are turning out to be crucibles of inequality. The advent of xenophobic vibe in Mumbai was a genuine cause of concern.

I however am not sure which camp I would find myself in if there was a similar movement going on in Chennai. The lack of effort from the urban migrants to culturally merge into their destination cities irks me occasionally. I am glad these irks are temporary — but only at the moment. I also find myself in a dilemma — because everything I hate about the migrants of my city was what I was doing in my four-year stint in Singapore.

Travelling in Tibet

Colin Thubron did well to tingle my senses for travelling. I feel I am missing out on a huge part of life and what it has to offer to me simply because I am not travelling.

Colin reminded me something I had known before – Tibetans leave the dead bodies out in the open to be consumed by the vultures. It is very much a unique exercise in the entirety of the human race, where people prefer and wish to be buried, cremated or even martyred. But not Tibetans, who manage to stay not larger than life and continue to show modesty and dignity, in their true ways.

Tall tales

Aswin Sanghi defined mythology as ‘a touch of truth with several layers on it’. He also touched on a point that I have been labouring for quite some time. That divinity are things that are yet to be explained; that it is an element of unknown.

Samantha Shannon seemed uninterested in censoring books, especially to children. She makes it a point that books are a safe place to experience what the children would experience later in their life. In a world that makes a ‘spectacle out of violence’, she thinks there is thrill from danger without needing to experience it first-hand.

Revisiting the history books

William Dalrymple made me re-realize what it feels to get back to the history books. Everything of value comes right from it and it is almost surprising how we manage to get away from it despite having it right under our eyesight. I am going to begin by grabbing the nearest copy of ‘Freedom by Midnight’ and hopefully finish it within the next month (February).

The great lie that is fiction

“Fiction is the great lie that tells the truth” claimed Dorothy Allison. Or so claimed Abraham Varghese that Dorothy claimed so. Whatever. The point was, Abraham showed what true passion can do — make you really mad that is.

He also left this gem about finding one’s voice when writing:

When you’ve written something that your spouse finds deeply disturbing, you have found your voice.

And I took his little advice for wannabe writers to the heart: Read, read and read. I hope to update my little reading wish-list and keep to it at once.