There comes a time in your life when you realize you can’t blame others for all your ills in life. Like JK Rowling said, there’s an expiry date for blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction.
Not just your family, but also your circumstances. As a chronic procrastinator, I know this rather well. It’s never the ‘right time’ to do anything if you think hard enough. The root of procrastination is waiting for a mythical ‘right time’ in the future where all conditions will be perfect enough for you to carry out all your grand plans.
The truth is, there’s no such utopia. If you keep waiting and watching, you’ll just watch life pass you by, and reminisce about chances you should have taken, things you should have done… like someone said, the saddest line in life is ‘If only…’.
After a point, it doesn’t seem fair to even blame others for ruining your day. It doesn’t seem right to renege on your commitments to others because ‘life happened’. I don’t think everyone realizes it by themselves. For thick people like me, it takes someone else ruining my plans because they ‘had cousins over’ or ‘were going through a hard time’ due to which they can’t give me the results I need to base my work on.
And all of a sudden, you find you can’t maintain that air of professionalism when life is happening around you. Because ‘life’ goes from inconsequential events to things that have real-world implications. And you can’t always run to daddy and mommy who will make the big monsters go away and evvvv’rything will be alright again.
It’s hard, when you realize that you’re not exactly doing things right, but don’t have the right tools to do things the right way. It’s tempting to want to blame the whole world, blame your circumstances, blame your inexperience, blame your upbringing, blame everything there is other than you, when things go wrong and seem beyond your control. But as a close friend’s boss used to say, Excuses Aren’t Explanations. You realize you’re at a crossroad where you have the power to decide what you want to do. You can choose to stay where you are and whine, and you can afford to do that, you’re not necessarily answerable to anyone, people will understand, people will say ‘Oh, she’s just going through a rough patch’ or ‘Tch, circumstances… whattodo’. Or you can take the other path, where you put your responsibilities over your feelings, shoulder some extra burdens, put yourself through the grind. No one’s necessarily going to give you extra credit in the second option. You aren’t necessarily going to feel better by ignoring your feelings. If you take that path, it’s just because YOU feel it’s the right thing to do. You don’t do it for glory, you don’t do it for others. You do it just for your own satisfaction of a job well done.
And heck, no one’s going to even sympathize with you. They’ll at max call you a fool for biting off more than you can chew, when you had such an easy option in hand. There’s very little motivation for going down the second path.
But you realize after a certain point, that’s the thing to do. It disciplines you. It gives you and others a sense of predictability. But, more than anything, it enables you to take charge of your life when ‘life’ hits. You learn to compartmentalize. You learn to deal with trouble while maintaining the even tenor of your life. Because, too much of a derailment and you can just get stuck and find it hard as hell to get unstuck.
It’s the same sort of thing where you don’t pocket that five-hundred rupee note in the park because no one’s looking. Except that you don’t even have a concrete set of values to fall back on and feel good about your deed. I’m sorry, but professionalism doesn’t seem all that highly rated as honesty. Plus, what sort of a retard goes back to work the day his dog has a cold? So uncaring and cold!
And uh, it doesn’t end there. While you’ll be doing your duty and appearing professional, it doesn’t really entitle you to expect the same of others. You also are not supposed to sit around whining when others are unprofessional. Because if you sit around whining, you are being unprofessional.
Heck, it doesn’t make sense for you to base your happiness solely on how others treat you, or what they say or do to you. That’s just being immature, that’s just being a burden on others who have enough on their plates without having to treat you with kid-gloves too. In the thousand-and-one self-pity sessions while at NITK, I realized the truth of “Cheat me once, shame on you. Cheat me twice, shame on me”. You can’t run away from life because it’s unfair. This whole leftist utopian vision of life is not a recipe for happiness; quite the contrary. You have to learn how to make your peace with the rest of the world, because it’s just going to continue spinning even if you’re going to be standing still. There will always be people who aren’t as honest as you, aren’t as well-informed as you, people who will judge you, people who will make your life hell. You can’t give up on life just because of them. Because there are also those who will accept you, who will make you better-informed, who are much more honest than you can imagine, who will bring happiness into your life… and it’s a package deal.
Think I simplified it to be black-and-white here. It’s never going to be perfect, like in theory above. Practically speaking, you’re never going to be able to be 100% professional in all your dealings. You try your level best to reach that level, and you’re also nice to others who don’t quite reach as high as you do, because, hell, life happens, and it’s quite possible one fine day life’ll happen to you so bad that you’ll be as unprofessional as the other, and would like nothing more than a little bit of understanding.
I realize I’m not making too much sense here, but well, atleast I’ve stopped blaming that on the time of the night I’m writing this post in I’m all grown up now!
Oh, and kindly, kindly do not read too much into every word I say here. If I’m blogging about something, it means it’s nothing to worry about.
Anyone who’s done a decent amount of reading, especially when young, fancies themselves a novelist. I am no exception.
I didn’t get to do much writing at school. Whatever little I did get to do, I revelled in it. Most of it was boring essays on pertinent social issues, and that didn’t seem to require much creativity, just repeating of oft-repeated catchphrases, themes and ideas. No one, simply no one asked us to write stories, much less grade us on its creativity or whatever.
It’s not like my peers wrote wonderful fiction. I knew one girl who wrote Poetry in her neat, slanting hand. It was about beauty, nature and all that was right and wrong with the world, all that was innocent and pure. She was rather serious about it; she even maintained a separate notebook for her poetry. And dozens of us wrote verse, which sometimes verged on cats on mats or dogs gnawing logs. Then there were those debate award winners who wrote serious stuff about the state of teaching, value-based education, banning of tobacco and alcohol and plastic bags.
But no one I knew wrote good fiction which I really enjoyed.
Well, there was one guy who wrote a really nice, funny story which won him a ton of awards and got published widely, but he was, and still is just someone on the periphery of my perception and memory, and always the sort who set lofty goals unachievable by the rest of us, so he doesn’t much count.
No one I knew back then wrote nice, cute, funny stuff. The few who tried would come up with rude references that we giggled at and muttered to each other, but it wasn’t universally funny. But then, that’s too much to expect of schoolchildren.
Or was it? All the children’s magazines I subscribed to had exactly such stories, experiences and other things by kids my age. I found them wonderful, wished I knew them personally, wished they were my cousins or classmates or some such thing. Nope. [Aside: There was this much-older girl called Gayathri Chandrasekharan who used to regularly have her stories or experiences or opinion pieces published in Gokulam. She wrote rather well, and I think I idolized her writing when I was in middle school. Imagine my grin of recognition when, many years later, I came across her name in the list of editors of Tinkle!]
So there I was, reading a lot of stories written by people my age, and whatever little enthusiasm I had to write anything original that wasn’t sapped away by the lack of opportunity in schoolwork was taken away by reject letters from Anant Pai and the editor of Gokulam.
I somehow never tried writing any sort of fiction. It doesn’t come to me at all.
The only attempts have been first vaguely and then strongly autobiographical. But there’s only so much you can fictionalize before it starts seeming extremely sad. And as time has passed, I’ve seen a lot that’d make for a much better blockbuster than the latest in Hollywood or the Indian film industry, but rules of propriety and privacy have also caught up, and I wouldn’t be caught dead fictionalizing any episode from anyone’s life.
And that brings me to where I am now. NaNoWriMo is on, and I have no decent story ideas. I wasn’t even thinking of 50k words, just one of those short stories that people all seem to dish out like Ganesh Darshan dishes out dosas. I sit and think and nothing comes to me. Glimpses of narrative structures flit through my mind, but don’t crystallize into anything tangible. I can’t even put my finger on what the narrative structure that makes me feel so excited is. Occasionally, a scene stays in my mind long enough, but I start to overthink it and kill it even before it’s born.
Oh, and plotline. What do I write about? Stick to what you know is all fine, but what do I write about, Tambrahmness? I’m not so Tambrahm, and frankly if I were to write stories where very sentence ended with a Maami or Vasudeva-Krishna-Eeshwara, I’d myself not read it. And, oh, well, I’m darned proud of my way of life and all that, but I’d rather not make a fetching virtue of where I come from or a caricature. Corporate life is a colossal no-no for reasons that are so no-no to talk about. And grad life…. meh. There’s a lot that can be exciting, but all those involve little anecdotes like your labmate from a culture with a majorleague work ethic who gets stumped when you ask them what they do in their spare time. And the rest involve technology, which everyone is allergic to.
Basically no one finds the stuff I find interesting interesting. As for common themes like friendship, love, conflict, tragedy, it seems like no coherent plot can be woven about them.
And when I do get a plot, which comes after a dozen ‘inspirations’ from twice as many sources, I CAN’T SEEM TO WRITE IT DOWN! I can’t write dialogue for nuts, nothing I write sounds like actual people talking. Maybe I’m far too removed from reality to write anything that doesn’t sound like it’s out of a Wikipedia article.
The worst part, I haven’t done any real fiction reading in a long, long while it seems like, and it really tells on me.
I don’t much know what to do. I can possibly bruteforce it, try to sit down 9-to-5 and come up with something, but I have real work to do. It might work, because I know 80% of the blockade is in the mind, and telling myself to ‘just do it’ might just help.But then, real work stands in the way.
So what can I do?
I think I’ll deal with this in the same way I dealt with the times when I wanted to work on something cool, but couldn’t get any motivation going – I turned it into coursework.
Cue the screenwriting course at my university. Next quarter. Undergrad-level course. The syllabus involves watching atleast one movie a week, and plenty of reading, and a hands-on writing project that involves a script in three acts.
Let’s hope I have enough time to sit in on that class. Even if I’m not doing all the activities, atleast the knowledge and peer group might help.
Or so I hope.
Food-related title. The past couple of months have been all about food. I delight in eating, and have developed a most unhealthy habit of random cravings at unearthly hours of the day and night. I’m at some level thankful for these, because otherwise cooking for one would be torture.
The blogging itch has gone out of me. Over the summer it was because there was too much to do, and I had a life… now however it is because I don’t do much and I don’t have much of a life.
Strangely, that’s not something I’m worried about. I’m talking about the not having much of a life. [Not, mind you, the not-blogging. I am worried sick about that and wonder if the day will come when I can't string two words together]. Maybe it’s because I’m slogging at stuff I’ve wanted to work on for so-long-I-don’t-remember-how-long. Or because the folks I generally hang around with are also folks with no lives, and no one makes anyone else feel dissatisfied with their awesome quality of life where they get sloshed every Friday, fight lions on Saturday and code up a new OS on Sunday.
And oh yeah, there have been the usual ponderings on the nature of Happiness and suchlike things, but I shall not bore you, the impatient-reader-who-has-a-dozen-more-blogs-to-read with the dirty details.
I’m however wondering if my not-blogging is a cause for concern. I (used to) blog because I had/have an urge to share a point of view with the world. Microblogging, with its promise of instant reactions, is slowly eating that up . Or is it? Maybe the reasons lie elsewhere.
To start with, most if not all of the personal blogs I follow are more or less dormant. Their owners update them once in a while, but even that most times is of no consequence. I notice this very acutely in Google Reader. Previously, most of the stuff shared would be someone’s photographs, someone’s thoughts, someone’s experience, someone’s point of view…. but now the blogposts shared are more and more mainstream, the top-of-the-heap. No unknown-corner-of-the-Internet bloggers anymore. The shared stuff is something off HuffPo, or Terry Tao’s blog, or Ramgopal Verma’s dissyard of yet another poor reviewer. Or more likely a news article or a column. The only place where it gets atleast a level more personal is when the columnist is someone you know, or someone who the world hasn’t heard much of.
Maybe there is a good rational explanation for this phenomenon. First, I’ve stopped adding new blogs to follow for the past year and a half. And before that, my only means of adding was through the Google Reader recommendations, which I’ve now detoxed from… and at that point, I had a heavy leaning towards adding folks who wrote stuff I thought I needed to learn. And for some weird reasons (like getting a life, probably) the folks I used to follow don’t blog anymore.
There were quite a few frequent bloggers in my circle a while ago, when we were all in college. Now however, everyone seems to have found a line of work that’s satisfying enough, or bosses who won’t take kindly to being blogged about. And/Or they have no time to wonder about why India is going to the dogs, and they can’t stay up late reviewing that awesome book they just read… they have meetings in the morning. Or some such reason.
And… I think another reason for this death of personal blogging is the whole fear of putting more of yourself out there than is wise to. It’s perfectly fine if someone who will never meet you or wield any influence on you reads your blog, but if it’s your neighbour or roommate or coworker, hell no way! I wonder what can possibly be done to address this issue… I don’t want to choose who I don’t mind reading a certain post, but I want to choose who I don’t want reading something I wrote. This is something that I’ve been wondering about since I started this blog, and this doesn’t seem to have any sort of a solution.
Then there’s the issue of feed aggregators being so outdated in design that they discourage people from directly providing feedback to bloggers. How do you know how many people are actually reading you? How do you know what people think? Where’s the carrot? A few years back, the only way to read something was to go to the page. And it was more likely you left a comment then than now when you are skimming through a hazaar posts on your lunch hour to be bothered to go to the page’s link and leave a comment.
End result, it’s been ages since I read something quirky, personal and witty. Ages since I said “OMG, that’s exactly how I feel!”. Or felt like adding someone to the blogroll.
NaNoWriMo is happening. For the uninitiated, it is National Novel Writing Month, where you’re expected to crank out 50k words in thirty days. It’s an initiative to help budding writers put their procrastination aside. They even have these weekly meetups in coffee shops and all where they sit together to pep each other up and get a start on their magnum opus. Something I ideally should have taken part in. I had a few ideas for a novel which I really think I should crank out before the feeling passes, but I guess it’ll just end up one of those ideas that will seem extremely juvenile a year from now which I will definitely not take the trouble of writing. Tch.
* * *
All that selfish whining apart, these NITK alumni are a real inspiration. The Sparsh Foundation is a really great, noble initiative. It enables NITK alumni and others to donate towards the education of NITKians who need it. It’s really wonderful to see people around you, people you know, try making a difference to the world around them. It tells you that the world is not one filthy place you have to be streetsmart to navigate around, and care only about getting your lot together. It tells you that you too can – and should – stop for a moment and give someone a leg-up when they need it. Not because it makes you feel good and needed and all that. Because it’s the right thing to do. Srinivasan, Pranay, Jaggi, Radhesh, more power to you folks.
And the other is a friend of mine whose enthu for making things go from B-Idea to B-Plan to B-Blueprint to B-Startup to B-Product is boundless. Nitin’s always been into Bschool-type things for as long as I’ve known him that I wonder if he was fed Forex instead of Farex. [Yes, I'm aware there are differences between finance and other B-school things, but I'll do that the day the rest of you stop expecting me to fix your PC]. And he’s often channelled his desire to change things around him into a concrete plan that eventually does make a difference.
And his latest initiative has been the LGBT India Foundation. Read all about it here, and do give him your support, on Facebook or otherwise. It’s not only a brilliant idea which addresses a need our society couldn’t much put its finger on, it’s also a very brave move, one that might possibly change the mainstream perception of LGBT rights. For too long, the set of people who work in this domain has been limited to the Humanitiesy Artsy types, who make it a rhetoricky and grassrootsy issue, and have gone about the whole deal in a very ham-handed way, aiming more for noise and fireworks than building a lasting foundation of values, and who don’t do enough for the middleClassy types who value discreetness and status quo and family more than their freedom to ‘defy social norms’, wear bright pink ribbons in their hair and kiss in public.
There is this type of women or girls I keep running into from time to time. I call them Ms. Feather-light. This species is almost always camouflaged as the strong-confident-career types who can take the world with the tip of their swords. To the rest of the world. Some of them are pretty impressive looking, which is a very easy way to spot them.
I have this innate ability to get tangled with all the Ms.Feather-lights around. I do not give them attention and sing their glory. I do not like to let them decide when or what or how I’m spoken to, if according to their eyes I’m even good enough. Basically, I don’t give a damn! This apparently riles them.
These insecure females, need someone to blow them up and keep them floating. Someone to sing their tunes and blindly support everytime they do or say something ridiculous, just so they don’t realize how empty they are. Now I cannot decide if these are parasitic or the loony followers are, who cannot see these women for what they are.
My problem is this. All Ms. Feather-lights take it upon themselves or so I would like to think, that it is their responsibility to bring me to my knees and fall at their feet. They try every way, influencing my friends on how much head-weight I have, or even stick their leg out and make me trip and fall in academics or activities which I care about. Why do they want to pick on me everytime? And more importantly why do I get tangled with them time and again?