A Non-binary Democracy

Wide-eyed, frequent-frowning Indian

I am not a permanent supporter of any politician or political party; for the simple enough reason that every single one of have successfully disappointed me more times than Modi has said “Mitron”. I happen to think the rational approach is to judge them on a case by case basis. This of course would not have been necessary if the all the political parties were in the habit of consistently sticking to their declared ideologies.

Funny thing is, not all the parties or leaders have an ideology or vision these days, unless you’re willing to consider “CPM bad” or “Lock her up” as visions for running a country. Is this particularly disappointing? Not any longer, it isn’t. I think people all over the world have collectively given up the illusion that politicians are selfless honorable people who have different but noble ideas about what is best for their constituency. We have…

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Amma & Didi – India’s beneficiary politics

Wide-eyed, frequent-frowning Indian

Following Narendra Modi’s demonetisation initiative in particular and over several past years in general, few Indian politicians have made as much of a laughing-stock of themselves as Mamata Banerjee has. However, if you were to mention this to her (which you really shouldn’t), I can bet she won’t appear the least bit perturbed. Because she and her kind figured out long ago what you know but still haven’t accepted – that in a country like India, the educated, socially aware, opinionated middle-class seldom votes in a block, and is too small to swing an election anyway. No, the real vote winners in an underdeveloped country of a billion plus are always what Donald Trump called the silent majority – the poor, the unemployed, the under-educated, the marginalised, the have-nots, the subalterns – whichever term you prefer.

Now then, how do you earn the votes of people who don’t have…

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The Definitive Guide to Creative Writing – I

Having written nothing more than occasional FYI emails in the office for the last six months, I’ve decided to advise people on writing. Before you smirk at that, please consider the number of times in the last two weeks that you’ve come across size-zero actresses talking against objectification of women or Rahul Gandhi talking about incompetent leadership.

So, having established that I’m no less qualified to to teach you creative writing than Mamata Banerjee is to teach painting and poetry to children, let’s get to it.

First off, what do you write? Now every other similar guide will tell you to write whatever you want, or even better, to write “what your heart wants to”. Yeah, right. Tell me, you remember that old blog you abandoned a year ago? The one where you wrote straight from the heart and managed 50 pageviews in 4 months? Yes, I’m afraid that shit doesn’t fly too well.

So, what do you write? Easy, you should write something that will get you the greatest possible publicity(never mind positive or negative) in the shortest possible time because let’s face it, that’s the point of everything nowadays. If that isn’t inspiring enough for you, let me give you some examples:

a. 13 reasons Marilyn Monroe was the greatest philosopher of all time.

b. Women are stupid.

c. Why you should teach your kids to hate Muslims.

And so on. You get the drift? You should pick a topic that adequately demonstrates your incredible intellect, and starts a discussion among people possessing an intelligence and capacity for rational thought that matches your own.

Believe me, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

You got all that? Good! Feel free to get started while I go do something useful and enlightening, like google Bruce Jenner. Or is it Caitlyn?

I’ll be back, I promise.

Ciao!

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Laini-Taylor-Daughter-of-Smoke-and-Bone

Having read the book, I’ll say two things up front. One – I want to go to Prague and have a bowl of goulash at the Poison Cafe. And two – I so wish all this was true. “All this” being “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” – The opening book of Laini Taylor’s fantasy trilogy of the same name.

The story opens and runs with Karou, a young art student in Prague who is beautiful, naughty (not what you’re thinking) and funny. She also happens to be brought up by and living with four “Chimera” – who are, well, monsters with part-human and part-animal features, and keep some kick-ass magic up their sleeves.

On an average day, Karou has a fairly normal life. She goes to her art school, hangs out with her best friend in this really creepy cafe and tries her best to dodge a stupid ex-boyfriend. Many of those days, however, turn way out of average when she’s sent on errands to distant corners of the world by Brimstone – the nominal head of the Chimera quartet, and her guardian/father figure. These errands are always the same – to go and procure various kinds of teeth, which Brimstone weaves into mysterious magical necklaces for some unknown use. All this goes on about as normally as such things can, until Karou suddenly finds herself and her clan under deadly attack by the Seraphim. The Seraphim are another kind of magical creatures – they are beautiful and handsome, have a pair of absolutely gorgeous wings, and wield swords like you’ve never seen in Game of Thrones.  After a..um, complicated(no spoilers) encounter with Akiva, one of the Seraphim, Karou begins to realise how little she knows of the things that have been going on all around her, in this world or some other that she has no knowledge of. And there, begins the main story.

While this is a book almost entirely about all things magical, the parts I enjoyed most are those where the normal and magical worlds in the book got violently mixed up. Taylor does a fairly good job striking a balance between the dramatic and the casual banter. The plot and narrative do get strained on a few occasions, but like with any good book you’d find yourself skipping those parts quickly to find out what happens next. One thing that is sure to touch you is the loving, intimate portrayal of Prague, with vantage points varying from shady alleys to tall church spires. And finally, the best thing about Laini Taylor’s book is that it doesn’t just run away with imagination, it makes you run away with your own. The vivid detail of things in the book makes you think up magnificent things in your head – angels, mosters, mythical battlefields and  a lot more.

This book, is fun. 

The Empty Notebook

My girlfriend gave me this beautiful notebook and a nice Parker a few months back. I have occasionally used the Parker. Mostly to scribble my name on the various secondhand novels I bought from College Street. The notebook, this beauty with its faux-worn pages and artsy green cover, is lying empty except for a quote I scribbled on the first page with, yes, the Parker.

“There is a pleasure sure in being mad which none but madmen know.”

That’s by John Dryden, to save you some Googling.

Anyways, this isn’t about the quote, or mercifully, Dryden.

This is about the empty notebook, and the Parker.

To come straight to the point, it’s lying empty because I’m afraid to write in it. I’m not exactly a writer you see. No offense, but just like most of you I just kinda tap out whatever random shit comes into my head. And, well….ink and paper is so permanent you know. I can’t delete a sentence. I can’t do a CTRL+A & DELETE and start over. I can’t close the page clicking “Don’t Save”. I can’t hide it with a password. I can’t just remove it after a month if I realise it was just the Old Monk talking. And then there’s that eternal question : whether what I write in it is worth reading or not.

Yes, a computer and especially the internet makes cowards of us all. I don’t have a sales quota to fill. I don’t have fans to live up to. To tell you the truth, if anybody ever reads that notebook, it will be accidental more than anything else. And yet, I’d rather leave it blank. I’d keep it for such a time when I’d something magical, and brilliant and BIG to write in it. In other words, I’d basically leave it alone for a really long time. Because unlike this here blog for example, I can’t take back whatever I say there.

If you find that contemptible, take a pen and write it down on a piece of paper and stick it on your wall. Go ahead.

 

Book Review: The Lovely Bones

Lovely Bones Cover (film tie in)

Once in a while you come across a book that feels like a reward for all those hours you have spent reading, reaffirms your faith in a lot of beautiful things, and probably also makes you a slightly better person than you used to be. All those might seem to be quite unlikely feats for a book that is little more than a narrative of a teenage girl’s life and observations, but Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones” pulls it off with near perfection.

We hear the story from 14-year-old Susie. Susie Salmon – like the fish, she tells us at the very beginning. Susie tells us how she was raped and murdered by a neighbor while taking a shortcut from school all day. After her murder, her spirit arrives at her own heaven. It’s from there that she looks at her family and friends trying to cope with the loss and pain, and struggling to carry on with their own lives. In her own personal heaven.Susie tries to cope with the longing for everyday things that she can no longer have, and the sight of her friends and family slowly but painfully trying to build themselves a life in which she is no longer physically present.

From such a thin plot, Alice Sebold weaves a story through the eyes of Susie, and through the lives of the other characters. Its worth mentioning that none of the characters have anything strikingly remarkable at all. If anything, they do seem a little typecast. There’s the cocky sister, the grief-obsessed father, the struggling mother and even the obligatory immigrant classmate. What makes them, and consequently the story unique is the disarming innocence and intimacy that Susie colors her observations with, and the infinitely human qualities that we see in all of them.  They are all very ordinary people, and like ordinary people they struggle with things and make difficult compromises in their attempts at  dealing with this sudden tragedy. And when you read on, like any master storyteller Alice Sebold makes you feel their pain and loss, makes you smile at the small, occasional islands of happiness they find in a sea of grief.

Without giving away too much of the plot, a special mention has to be made of the small personal heaven Susie finds herself in. It’s a beautiful, personal, and completely secular heaven, which strangely makes you wonder what your own might look like. Perhaps my opinion might be a little biased by the fact that there are plenty of dogs in this heaven, something that has an intense personal appeal to me, but hey, judge for yourself. If you Google around a bit, you’ll find quite a lot of scepticism about the complete lack of any sort of divine presence. Perhaps I’m just being the atheist that I am, but in my opinion that is exactly where the book goes beyond the ordinary and the predictable into something surprisingly close to spiritual.

In the beginning I talked about reaffirmation and faith. The story of 14-year-old Susie Salmon is full of the same lessons we keep learning and forgetting: that it is okay to make mistakes, that forgiveness is better than revenge, that it is better to love than to hate, and it is infinitely better to accept, than to judge.

If only we remembered….