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Archive for March, 2010

Here are ten simple things (among many more) that we all consider to be facts and never even think to question them.

What makes us believe they are set in stone even though not all of us have exactly seen them (happen) with our own two eyes?

The people who have knowledge of these facts (either by having witnessed them themselves or through scientific investigation) had the presence of mind to record it for posterity – be it in words as we understand them now or in ancient symbols and pictographs.

  1. No planet in the solar system other than earth supports life.
  2. Several ancient civilizations flourished around the world thousands of years ago.
  3. Early human ancestors were apes.
  4. Dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago.
  5. Plants release oxygen into the air.
  6. Christopher Columbus landed in America in 1492 A.D.
  7. No two people have the same finger print pattern.
  8. Mt. Everest is the highest mountain on earth.
  9. Among Emperor penguins, the males are responsible for hatching the young.
  10. The continents on earth are continually moving relative to each other.

What are we going to leave behind for our future generations?

 

  • Post Script: Friday, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day. Please wear blue that day – it may start a conversation, which will provide you with an opportunity to spread awareness.
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Children have very few needs. As long as they are fed and clothed, and know that they are loved by those they consider family, they are content. Nothing else makes a permanent dent in their peace of mind.

What changes as we grow older? For adults, at most times, so many parameters and variables become part of the equation that it gets logically impossible to be happy.

I strongly believe that every human being, adult or child, has to look for happiness within oneself.

Whatever the circumstances of your life, whatever the environment around you, it is still possible to be content. You know why? Because only you can define what “happiness” means for you.

Happiness is:

  • Coming across a good book at the library unexpectedly.

 

  • Finishing that pesky 14th hole on a particular golf course on par for the first time.

 

  • Finding the right blouse for those purple and green pants for which you’ve been looking for ages.

 

  • Coming across a pencil topper, in your teacher’s treasure chest, that is missing from your collection.

 

  • Acceptance letter to your number-one university waiting for you in your mailbox.

 

  • Learning that you’re going to be a grandparent soon.

 

  • Putting your feet up after a grueling day and switching on the DVR to watch your favorite show.

 

  • The richness of chocolate coating the inside of your mouth.

 

  • Watching the first rose bud of the season unfurl.

 

The list could go on forever. And there is no wrong item on this list. Why? Because it is your list for your bliss and contentment at any given point in time.

I think happiness is an instinct with which we are all born. For a baby, happiness is a full tummy and a dry diaper. The rest is white noise. As a child grows, that definition changes, but not by much. Love is the one basic essential for them to be happy.

It is not so simple for an adult. Is this because adults tend to tie down happiness with logic and rationality?

It is known that babies are born with an innate ability to swim, but as they grow older that instinct wears off.

Is that what happens with our ability to instinctively define happiness for ourselves? If so, can that be learned again?

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As a writer, what causes you to come to the realization that another revision to your finished (or so you thought) manuscript is inevitable?

Is it during a cosmic, enlightening moment that you discover the need to venture on yet another cycle of revisions?

Probably not! Most usually it is as simple as:

You’re crossing the road, minding your business. Suddenly, the wind shifts slightly (that only you can perceive), and boom, you feel a revision coming on – a revision that will suck you inside a deep hole and deposit you in a world full of variables and new experiences. You will end up feeling somewhat akin to how Alice must have felt when she found herself, not entirely by her own volition, in Wonderland.

Okay, so I exaggerate … but you get my point?

 

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In times like these men should utter nothing for which they would not be willingly responsible through time and in eternity.

                                                                       –  Abraham Lincoln

I have at least a hundred and ten places in the world, big and small, I’d love to visit one day. They are anywhere from Egypt to Ireland to Turkey to Japan to Greece — the list goes on and on. And most of those places have sneaked into my list because of the books I’ve read over the years.

Isn’t it amazing how the image you have of the world is shaped, among other things, by the books (or any printed material) you read? That realization makes the act of writing that much more daunting – forget about how hard the craft itself is.

When it comes to writing books, non-fiction has more rules. Authors of non-fiction are expected to be cognizant of the subject at hand, and they are relied upon to include only proven facts in their books.

Not so fiction.

When writing fiction for adults there’s more leeway, because they are capable of discerning right from wrong (that’s the general belief, at least).

Writing for children? That’s an entirely different beast. Books are one of the cheapest and most commonly used tools to help shape young minds. And children (I’m lumping everyone from babies to teens here) are more impressionable, and hence susceptible to persuasion.

It is well and good to keep books real. I’m all for it. Up to a point.

My problem is when books get gimmicky, all for the sake of sales or some other self-serving need of the creators of the book, and make the depraved characters in it look really cool. Is this really necessary?

Let’s say someone writes a book that has a strong subliminal message that it is okay to make a cheap buck by cheating someone else. And for whatever reason, that book goes out of print after only some hundred copies are sold.

Where do those hundred-odd copies end up? On bookshelves, where they will continue to live for a number of decades. Even if each one of them gets read by one child in each generation, that’s a lot of children brainwashed over the years. And they grow up into adults who affect more children by their beliefs, opinions, and actions. And hence the sphere of influence of that one book keeps growing.

Every book has a message in it, whether it’s an obvious one or not.

As a writer, the bottom line for me is: Would my conscience remain clear even if only one reader embraces the message in my book?

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If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe?  The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions. 
                                                      
~Author Unknown

What’s with us adults and political correctness?

When I read as a child, I was rarely bothered by the opinions that some of the authors seemed to hold that were in direct contrast with what I was taught or what I saw around me. I calmly chalked it up to one of two things:

a) The author didn’t know what s/he was talking about (yes, I was a confident – well ok, maybe just a tad cocky – kid).

b) The time period during which the author lived (I was reading a lot of English classics at one point) must lead her/him to bear such an opinion.

If I liked the book, I just kept reading it. The opinions expressed by some of the characters never lessened my enjoyment of the story itself, and I never sat down to analyze the intentions of those characters.

(I had much better and more fun things to think about: What new and weird-sounding-named snack is mom going to have ready when I go back home from school today; Is Steffi Graf going to beat Gabriela Sabatini in the U.S Open match tomorrow?; What fun things can we do this summer when all of us cousins get together again? to mention but a few.)

When I read the same books now, as an adult, some of the theories expounded in them raise my hackles. Why? Is that because, as adults:

  • Somewhere along the line, we have begun to take ourselves too seriously?
  • We have become intolerant?
  • We tend to attribute the author’s opinions to ourselves and that touches a nerve?
  • We have become so jaded that we cannot take anything at face value without analyzing it to death?
  • We have become vulnerable to hurt?
  • To take it a step further: is it because some feel responsible for all those masses who, according to them, don’t know what is best for them? So, they take it upon themselves to educate the others by telling them which books to read and which ones not to.

Or is it a combination of all of the above? What do you all think?

I never fully grasped the meaning of the adage ‘Every coin has two sides’ more than when I sat down to write this post. Please come back on Wednesday when I try to examine the flip side to today’s topic: responsibility of a writer.

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The one expression I would never voluntarily use to describe myself is: “Sugar Doll”. However, today, I’m willingly, and happily at that, declaring myself as one. Why?

My fellow writer and blogger Jai Joshi, who has quite a few awards under her blogger’s belt herself, has presented my blog with the Sugar Doll Award last month — my very first blog award! I was tickled pink, let me tell you!

I had just begun to blog a couple of weeks prior then. So, I left the award in Jai’s safekeeping until I found my feet around blogosphere. Thank you, Jai — your encouragement and timely words of advice are very much appreciated!

Also, thank you, my dear readers, for challenging and motivating me to do better with every post. I love it when I see you agreeing (or disagreeing) with the points of view I express in this space. That is why these days everywhere I turn, I naturally see subjects worth blogging. That is also why I feel I’m ready to accept this award.

As a recipient of this award, I’m supposed to do two things: 1) Reveal ten things about myself and 2) Pass this award on to another blogger(s).

Here goes my response to the first stipulation:

  • Gardening relaxes me – yes, even the weeding part of it.

 

  • I love to watch (never played it) cricket and can be an occasional couch potato, staying up all night to watch a close match in progress on the other side of the world.

 

  • To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. If you have just one idea that you feel compelled to share with the world, do what Harper Lee did: Write one solid book about it and sit back and enjoy, while your book goes on to make history. Sigh!

 

  • I love watching Korean dramas on T.V. They are clean and wholesome – you don’t have to be on the ready, clutching the remote, to switch to Food Channel or PBS guiltily every time a child passes by when you’re watching prime time programs on that channel.

 

  • I don’t enjoy (to put it mildly) shopping in the mall, much to the dismay of my family. Are you rolling your eyes at this point and going: “Is she kidding?” No, sadly, I’m not. I’m more of a “zero in on the aisle carrying the things you need and get out as soon as possible” person.

 

  • Custard Apples are one of my favorite varieties of fruit and I miss them sorely in the U.S.

 

  • I’m fascinated by the early Mughal period of Indian history. Would love to write a book set in that time period some day.

 

  • I’m not much of a poetry person. There are a handful of poets whose works I enjoy immensely, but I invariably prefer prose to poetry.

 

  • I love to play (shuttle) badminton.

 

  • Growing up, I was an out-and-out tomboy. Back then, if you were looking for me, you’d have better chances of finding me atop rooftops or among the branches of a tree than on level ground.

Phew! Coming up with that list was not an easy exercise, believe me!

Now for the second condition of the award — I would like to pass this on to Leigh Attaway Wilcox and Patti Joy Clark.

We all face challenges, big or small, at one time or another in our lifetimes. Most of us eventually learn to take them in stride and move on. However, some people go one step beyond: they decide to proactively do something about it, like sharing the experience they gained openly, so others could benefit from it. I admire that trait in people very much. Leigh and Patti are two such.

Go check out their blogs and you’ll see what I mean.

Thanks again, everyone, for being there and making writing – something that I already love – that much more fun and meaningful for me!

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Here are excerpts from some beautiful poems about words and thoughts:

He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his fame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

               – Life
by Emily Dickinson *

 

You say that father write a lot of books, but what he write I don’t understand.
He was reading to you all the evening, but could you really make out what he meant?
What nice stories, mother, you can tell us! Why can’t father write like that, I wonder?
Did he never hear from his own mother stories of giants and fairies and princesses?
Has he forgotten them all?
Often when he gets late for his bath you have to call him an hundred times.
You wait and keep his dishes warm for him, but he goes on writing and forgets.
Father always plays at making books.
If ever I go to play in father’s room, you come and call me, “What a naughty child!”
If I make the slightest noise you say, “Don’t you see that father’s at his work?”
What’s the fun of always writing and writing?
When I take up father’s pen or pencil and write upon his book
just as he does,-a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,-why do you get cross with me then, mother?
You never say a word when father writes.
When my father wastes such heaps of paper, mother, you don’t seem to mind at all.
But if I take only one sheet to make a boat with, you say, “Child, how troublesome you are!”
What do you think of father’s spoiling sheets and sheets of paper with black marks all over both sides?

               – Authorship by Rabindranath Tagore **

 

There is a quiet spirit in these woods,
That dwells where’er the gentle south wind blows;
Where, underneath the white-thorn, in the glade,
The wild flowers bloom, or, kissing the soft air,
The leaves above their sunny palms outspread.
With what a tender and impassioned voice
It fills the nice and delicate ear of thought,
When the fast-ushering star of morning comes
O’er-riding the gray hills with golden scarf;
Or when the cowled and dusky-sandled Eve,
In mourning weeds, from out the western gate,
Departs with silent pace!  That spirit moves
In the green valley, where the silver brook,
From its full laver, pours the white cascade;
And, babbling low amid the tangled woods,
Slips down through moss-grown stones with endless laughter.
And frequent, on the everlasting hills,
Its feet go forth, when it doth wrap itself
In all the dark embroidery of the storm,
And shouts the stern, strong wind.  And here, amid
Its presence shall uplift thy thoughts from earth,
As to the sunshine and the pure, bright air
Their tops the green trees lift.  Hence gifted bards
Have ever loved the calm and quiet shades.
For them there was an eloquent voice in all
The sylvan pomp of woods, the golden sun,
The flowers, the leaves, the river on its way,
Blue skies, and silver clouds, and gentle winds,-
The swelling upland, where the sidelong sun
Aslant the wooded slope, at evening, goes,-
Groves, Through whose broken roof the sky looks in,
Mountain, and shattered cliff, and sunny vale,
The distant lake, fountains,- and the mighty trees,
In many a lazy syllable, repeating
Their old poetic legends to the wind.

               The Spirit Of Poetry by H.W.Longfellow *** 

A thought went up my mind today
That I have had before,
But did not finish,-some way back,
I could not fix the year,

Nor where it went, nor why it came
The second time to me,
Nor definitely what it was,
Have I the art to say.

But somewhere in my soul, I know
I’ve met the thing before;
It just reminded me – ‘twas all –
And came my way no more.

               Life by Emily Dickinson * 

The above have been extracted from the following sources:

* – Emily Dickinson Selected Poems – Borders Classics Edition

** – PoemHunter.com

*** – The Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Black’s Readers Service Edition 

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