Songs

Where words leave off, music begins

Songs are such strange things, aren’t they?

Some are mere wisps of sound flowing with the wind – to be heard, enjoyed and forgotten.

Some are acquired interests, growing on one with repeated listening, even though you might have wanted to throw something at the speaker on the first hearing.

Some don’t allow you to rest as mere audience, compelling you to hum along with the tune, dance a step or even headbang to the rhythm of the music.

Some have the power to enthrall you from the very first note, raising goosebumps – as your whole being seems to vibrate with their power – becoming obsessions, to be heard again and again. And again.

Songs, whether they seem to fit into one, or all, of the above inadequate categories, have this in common:
They never fail to re-kindle at least a little spark of magic in this seemingly-humdrum world of ours. 

Bedtime Reflections

Night

Lamp-lit shadows, a silent world,
A vista that twilight unfurled,
Soft and slow these fancies creep,
As tired eyes struggle for sleep.

Half-thought whims, memories of today,
Keep that elusive dreamland at bay,
A to-do list or a haunting song –
The words of which are remembered wrong.

Some idea that seems to guarantee –
Success, so convincingly,
The clause, alas! that weary feet –
Must get up now, to follow suite.

Else a half-forgotten story,
So suspenseful, or so gory,
That threatens a quiet, tranquil mind
Through imagined horrors of every kind.

Till weary eyelids finally blink –
One last time, only to sink
Into that blessed, restful sleep,
Which the worthy merit, and the wretched seek.

Written by,
Me

Home

DSC02670Home is the sight of the familiar, the known, the practised.
Home is the comfort of being in one’s city, traversing through routes so oft-travelled that conscious thought is unnecessary, shopping at stores where the eyes of vendors widen slightly in recognition on seeing you, reading one’s mother-tongue on every passing billboard and poster.
Home is the hostel where one’s sister lives, the college in which she studies – because they remind you of her.
Home is the apartment with no gardens and new, uncomfortable furniture that holds all your expectations of happiness – because it houses your parents, even if it’s located an ocean’s length away.
Home is the wisp of a song, the whiff of a scent, known in happier days.
Home is the clean, empty house waiting for a tenant, even if it taunts one with its echoing loneliness – because it contains too many memories of daily life lived, to be otherwise.
Home is the sight of a friend, the sudden help of a loved one whom one had thought lost forever, when most in need.
Home is the knowledge of self, and the self-esteem and self-knowledge that is a prerequisite for a happy and trustful nature to survive everywhere, and anywhere.

Success Can Change People – What Do You Think?

Kriti

Sometimes, it seems like nothing is constant anymore. The plot of land that has been lying unused for five years is suddenly transformed into a multi-speciality hospital in a mere five months. The chaiwallah, who’s been a fixture at the corner of the street since the beginning of time (or so it seems to me, having seen his white-haired head there all my life), is abruptly absent, dwarfed and replaced by a gleaming, brand new, multiple-starred, multi-cuisine restaurant. ‘Change is the only real constant in life’, is what I’ve always heard, but no amount of preparation seems sufficient to harden one’s mind against the shock one feels on encountering the proof of some kinds of change, that were once thought impossible. I felt that incredulous shock as I stood in one of the best hotels of London, staring at Siddharth after fifteen years.

Siddharth

Sometimes, it seems like all I ever do is pretend. Pretend to feel bored and cynical – as those are what make me ‘cool’, or so the herd of people around me informs me. Pretend to be superior to every new person I meet – as if my achievements and fame are enough reason to belittle the worth of everyone else, and raise me to the state of perfection. Pretend like there is nothing new in the world, that I know everything there is to know, and that there’s nothing which I can marvel at, admire or applaud. But the mask of pretence is a flimsy one, for all I think of it as being so securely in place through practice, as I discovered one day in July, when I saw Kriti – fifteen years, eight months, twelve days and five hours after I’d last seen her, and said goodbye.

Kriti

Siddharth. Math genius. IQ 127. Secret life : singer and composer extraordinaire. He was the perfect archetype of a geek – skinny, with big glasses and a pale-complexion. But there’s something about geeks that the common observer doesn’t realize – something more. They’re cleverer, wittier, funnier, more talented, more endearing – than people of the non-geeky variety. At least, that’s what I’ve always thought, having set Siddharth as my definition of the term. As I looked at him, and saw him stare back at me with the same look of shocked wonder that I was sure was on my face, I felt a ball of hurt betrayal lodge in that portion of my heart that still secretly believes in innocence, true friendships and happily-ever-afters. It looked like the world had taken my once-best-friend, and made him over into someone I couldn’t even recognize.

Siddharth

Kriti, my best friend. Junior by two years, but all the more bossy to make up for it. From the first moment I met her – a memorable occasion that occurred when I shifted into the house next door to hers at the precocious age of ten, and accidentally broke her toy kitchen set, earning a scold worthy of a university dean – she’s never failed to keep me on my toes: doling out advice (which was nearly always useful, to my chagrin), defending me behind my back against the taunts of other kids, guessing all my secrets despite all my efforts at concealment. I knew what she would see as she looked at me – the gelled-hair, the two girls with the figures of supermodels – all nearly draped over me, the black Goth clothes, the tattoos. I saw her look of bafflement, and turned away before it could turn to something else. What could I possibly say? In a way, it was because of her that my life had come to this.

Kriti

Can a person change so much so as to not retain a shred of their old personality? I’ve heard that fame and success can go to a person’s head, but that knowledge didn’t keep me from feeling hurt – I’d never even dreamt that Siddharth could change so much that he would allow fame to alienate him from all those whom he’d cared for in the past. Or was his character as I’d known it all a facade, a thin veneer that was torn away once circumstances made him an object of admiration and popularity? I didn’t know what to think. He turned away, and I was left staring at the burial of yet another hope last, another old beloved emotion dead, another step into that mire of cynicism that seems to be a side-effect of adulthood.
I didn’t answer the note that came two hours later – a request to meet him near the London Eye.

Siddharth

I dreaded, and yet longed to talk to her. For a while, it seemed like she wouldn’t agree to meet me; but then, she came. She came in her typical old-sneakers-and-jeans ensemble, looking nearly the same as she had back then, when we were neighbours in a small town in Maharashtra – but with her face leaner, the chubby fat now non-existent, more mature, confident and beautiful. Sometimes, one doesn’t realise the value of what one has, till its loss creates a void: an absence that cannot be filled by anything else. How many times had I thought of Kriti in the past fifteen years, in desperation and longing? Fifteen is a time for crushes and infatuation; one daydreams about actresses and models, not one’s too-perceptive, sometimes-irritating, tomboyish best friend. By the time I realised that what we had shared could have developed into something deeper, it had been too late.

Kriti

He wore sunglasses, and a hooded pullover. What ever happened to the faded jeans and red sweater? Had I thought that it would come to this, back then, when I’d urged him to take up music seriously, convinced his parents, and cheered him on at his first concert at fifteen? I had been proud of my friend, exultant that the world appreciated his talent as he deserved and before the consequences of his success could touch our friendship and taint it with envy, moved away. My father had got transferred to another state, and soon after, had passed away suddenly due to a heart attack. I had been too busy supporting my mother and younger brother to keep in touch with Siddharth, and even when my mind drifted to him, in times of unbearable despair, I had had no means of contact – the Internet not being in vogue then. And yet, I’d heard reports of his journey over the years, as he rose to international success, and had found quiet joy and strength to persevere in thinking of those old days of happiness. When had my memories of him started becoming tinged with an emotion greater than mere fondness? The hope of that something more had sustained me all those years, and the destruction of those dreams now, was unbearable. I just looked at him.
‘Kriti’, he said, ‘I’m sorry.’

Siddharth

I told her about it – how that glittering world took you in and forced you to either follow its rules, or get out. How I’d tried so hard – to find true friendships, genuine feelings in that fickle, glamorous life – and had nearly sunk in disappointment, to the point of depression. How no one could be trusted, how every action, every situation seemed calculated and mercenary, and how like a charade every moment was – the constant spotlight on every move, the rumours that sprung up out of nowhere, the brutal rivalries, the envy, the constant expectation. How I’d begun to act like they did, in order to protect myself, and in acting aloof and arrogant, actually gained acceptance into those circles. How I feared even now, that this act that I put on every day would take away all that I truly was, inside; that I would forget the thin line between reality and pretence, and become who I was pretending to be.  How I had thought of her so constantly over the years, as a reminder of what I truly was, as an assurance, that all was not just shallow glitter and lies in the world. How I’d wanted to meet her, again and again, and put it off, shamed by what I would seem like, in her eyes. How I loved her.

Kriti

Do you know that overwhelming feeling of relief you feel when you wake up after a nightmare and know that it was not for real? That was what I felt, as I listened to Siddharth speak of what life had done to him, and what he had made of it. In this world of changing perspectives and fleeting emotions, is it possible to judge anyone? Does success really change people, or are they all just going around pretending – to conform to the standards of some superficial rulebook? I looked out at the lights of the city, and thought that perhaps, the answer depends, not on what level or kind of fame you achieve, but on the type of person you are inside.

Disclaimer : All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is unintentional and purely coincidental.

Note : The above was a write-up for a creative writing prompt which was – the title of this piece.

The Deliverance of Dagny Taggart

My entry for the annual Atlas Shrugged Essay contest, on the topic “Choose the scene in Atlas Shrugged that is most meaningful to you. Analyze that scene in terms of the wider themes in the book.”

In one of the final stages of Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart stands before Francisco d’Anconia , and declares : “I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”(1042) This scene, with all its associated implications, particularly in light of all the events that lead to it, is the one I find the most significant in the novel.

The main theme of Atlas Shrugged deals with the struggle faced by every honest, capable man in a dystopian   world: the seemingly-endless fight against an evil which appears invincible, and the secession of those men of ability and action, in protest against the moral code imposed on them by that world. Through the eyes of Dagny Taggart, a representative of the ilk of able, proactive and efficacious persons – “the movers, the providers, the benefactors of mankind”(447) – Ayn Rand seeks to present the battle of the “men of the mind”(570) against the looters – those otiose masses which had lived off their rightful earnings for centuries and had condemned them to suffering for the sake of those very virtues which had enabled them to produce.

In the novel, Dagny Taggart is introduced as being the one “who runs Taggart Transcontinental”(24), one of those persons “who make [things] possible”(53), someone who has always lived only on the merits of her own actions, dictated by her own reasoning mind. Her life is devoted to the railroad, with her work being an expression of her love for her life and a symbolisation of her moral code. The novel revolves around her struggle – against the unworthy enemy which is ineptitude – “a gray spread of cotton that deemed soft and shapeless, that could offer no resistance to anything or anybody, yet managed to be a barrier in her way”(55), against the nameless “destroyer”(353) who seems to be causing the defection of all those men of ability who had built the new industrial world, and finally, against the growing sense of despair that her quest – to find the person with ” a consciousness like her own, who would be the meaning of her world, as she would be of his”(207), to know “[the] feeling that would hold, as their sum, as their final expression, the purpose of all the things she loved on earth”(207) – would end in vain.

In the first part of Atlas Shrugged, the movers are confronted by the “Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule”(75), one of the first policies implemented by the “moochers” in a bid to restrict and control the men capable of production. It leads to Dagny’s battle to build the John Galt line, so named in protest against the the fear and hopelessness with which people seem to face the world – a struggle to build the rail using Hank Rearden’s Metal, in recognition of its superlative quality and defiance against all baseless qualms; a challenge which, once overcome, seems to signify the end of all her struggles – in the form of the beginning of the “second Renaissance” (234) in the industries of Colorado. But this turns out to be a temporary victory, leading to the further issue of constraining directives by the looters, in an attempt to pillage the lawful profits of the producers. Thus begins “the field day of the little fellow”(324), the period when the industrialists begin to renounce their positions, their factories and properties, and vanish – leaving Dagny to struggle to identify the seemingly- incomprehensible reason behind their abdication.

As the plot unfolds, we see that alongside Dagny’s efforts to save the Taggart Transcontinental railroad is her increasingly-desperate crusade to find the inventor of the ruined motor, which she finds at the Twentieth Century Motor Company – “an entirely new type of motor that could have changed the course of all industry.” (303) This quest is shown as a part of her campaign to restore the world to a glory worthy of the men of ability; the absolute unwillingness to leave the world to the hands of the “worshippers of the zero”(937) – reflected in her despairing plea to those equals who surrender to the destroyer; the incessant cry of “Don’t let it go!”(603) – which is her petition to those heroes to stay back and help defend that which is “the best within us.”(14)

Through Dagny’s suffering, Ayn Rand seeks to show the suffering of the best among the heroes who are victims of the looters’ moral code – as she has “too much endurance, courage and consecration to [her] work”(714) to give up too easily. The torment she undergoes is greater than that of all the other strikers, because of her continual failure to accept the unavoidability of renunciation – “[the] total break with the world of [her] past”(979) – as the only solution to the moral crisis. Her capacity for tolerance dismisses all personal suffering as inconsequential, and though, like John Galt, she recognizes the wrongness in the world in the beginning of her career, in the form of the building of the San Sebastian Line, she considers the thought “Get out”(58): the concept of leaving Taggart Transcontinental, as inconceivable, and begins what she thinks is the fight to preserve the railroad, and all it stands for – the hard work and unfailing spirit of her ancestor Nat Taggart, as well as hers – not realising that she is working for his enemies.

The issuing of the “Directive 10-289″(497) acts as the breaking point of her tolerance, and she independently quits her work and begins her period of exile to “learn to live without the railroad—get the pain out of the way.”(560) Her search for answers is fruitless, because of her “certainty that the truth and the right [are] hers—that the enemy [is] the irrational and the unreal—that she [can] not set herself another goal or summon the love to achieve it, while her rightful achievement [has] been lost, not to some superior power, but to a loathsome evil that [conquers] by means of impotence”(563) – and she returns to her work to prevent the destruction of “the man who has an intransigent mind and an unlimited ambition, and is in love with his own life”(584) and to “maintain the last strip of [her world].”(584)

Her pursuit of Quentin Daniels – to stop him from quitting work on building the motor, leads to her accidental discovery of Galt’s Gulch and John Galt. In the latter, she finds the embodiment of all her values and the source of her motive power – “[her] love and [her] hope to reach [him] and [her] wish to be worthy of [him] on the day when [she] would stand before [him] face to face”(582) – and her battle becomes harder to fight, having heard the convictions of the strikers of the valley, but one which she is determined to continue, as she “cannot believe that men can refuse to see, that they can remain blind and deaf to [her] forever, when the truth is [hers] and their lives depend on accepting it.”(740) As a result, she does not take the oath, mentioned in the first paragraph, which is taken by all the strikers in protest against the exploitation they have undergone at the hands of the world, though “[it] has always been [her] own rule of living.”(671)

Having found Galt, the love that is “the greatest reward [she] can earn for the moral qualities [she has] achieved in [her] character and person, the emotional price paid by [her] for the joy [she] receives from the virtues of another”(946), her return to the world of the looters is accompanied by the torment of “the immensity of the hopelessness of finding him—if he did not choose to be found”(782). She continues fighting for her railroad; the thought – “There’s still a chance to win, but let me be the only victim”(916) as the only sustaining litany, when Rearden – her staunchest comrade in the struggle – abdicates, and she is the last of the heroes remaining in the moochers’ employ. It is then that John Galt addresses the world in the radio broadcast, in acknowledgement of his strike, and she unwittingly delivers him into the hands of his enemies.

“A sacrifice is the surrender of a value”(941) says Ayn Rand, through Galt’s speech, and she demonstrates how Dagny is faced with the conflict of having to give up one value for the sake of another – her love for John Galt for the sake of her love for Taggart Transcontinental; a conflict which cannot exist except in the world of contradictions created by the moral code of the looters; a conflict which makes her realise that “the heavy indifference she now [feels] for her railroad [is] hatred”(1017), when she seems to be transporting automatons who have no love for life, at the price of Galt’s life. Then she gives up the burden of slaving for the looters, by taking the oath in the scene mentioned – which represents the end of the unbearable struggle she has had to suffer for the sake of her rectitude, and her freedom and deliverance to the kind of world she deserves.

In terms of the wider themes of the book, Dagny’s defection paves way for the return of the strikers to the world, as she is said to be “the sole hope and future of Taggart Transcontinental”(713) and in her absence, the breaking down of the Taggart Bridge leads to the destruction of New York – which, at long last, signifies the complete success of John Galt’s strike.

Note : Page numbers are marked according to the 50th Anniversary Edition of Atlas Shrugged, published by Signet.

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

They’ve been made into a movie and video games. There are hundreds of fan sites and paraphernalia built around them. They’ve been compared to the Harry Potter series; an association which seems to have become the greatest accolade for any book, as well as the highest proof of commercial success. In light of all this fame, a review seems superfluous. You must have heard of them. But have you read the books?

There are some bestsellers which I’ve picked up, read a few pages – perhaps a chapter or two – and abandoned, in favour of more interesting reads. Sometimes I go back and finish them, sometimes not. There are other books which I’ve taken up, meaning to just read a paragraph or two, and found myself in the middle of, so badly hooked to what the next word is going to reveal that I start feeling lightheaded before I realize I’ve been holding my breath the whole while. This series is one that belongs to the latter category.

Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire. Harry Potter,The Boy Who Lived. Tweak the prophecy a little: None can live while the others survive. It does seem like the comparison with J.K.R’s work is warranted, doesn’t it? However, while Jo introduced us to the magical world, Suzanne Collins explores the theme of a post-apocalyptic world in which hegemony prevails. Dystopia is a quite popular topic with both authors and film-makers, along with alien invasions and robotic apocalypses. Why did this particular series make such an impression on me, then? Perhaps because it’s the first time I’ve been pulled into reading one on this subject. I’m not a fan of masochistic literature.

If you don’t mind spoilers, you can read a summary of the book here. If you do, I’ll tell you what the books are like. The first book introduces us to the world of Panem, where the city of Capitol rules over twelve districts. Seventy five years ago, the 13th district rebelled against the political system, and was wiped out. The Hunger Games is an annual event to remind the people of how much they are in the power of the Capitol (If this isn’t an invitation to rebellion to a population which isn’t made up of zombies, I don’t know what is. -_- ) Every year each of the 12 districts is supposed to volunteer two ‘tributes’ – a boy and a girl – between the ages of 12 and 18, who will participate in the Games: with the winner being the sole survivor. Yes, the ‘game’ dictates that they should either kill or be killed.

The story unfolds from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old living in District 12 with her mother and younger sister. When her sister’s name is called out as one of the tributes for the Games, Katniss volunteers to go forth in her place and what follows is a spine-thrilling account of her experiences, as she battles for survival. The author shows elements of distrust, uncertainty, bonding, loyalty and betrayal quite well, and is to be commended for the gripping plot.

The first book is well worth a read, but the other two books in the trilogy fell rather short of the ideal, in my opinion. Suzanne Collins manages to hold your attention, but the plot turns dark. It’s war. Politics. Confusion. Suffering. Gore. Power. Horrors invented that are guaranteed to give one nightmares, if you’re not the type who enjoys R.L Stine. A character introduced in a chapter is probably killed in the next. Fear. Pain. Suffering. Did I mention that already? But it bears repeating – there’s just so much of it throughout the tale. But the story does end on a note of hope: which is the most attainable form of happily-ever-after that one can expect in real life.

All in all, the trilogy would be more enjoyable if the author spent a little more time on character development and explanation of the plot. However, it is quite effective in showing one the horrors borne of war and dirty politics, as well as the tortures that the human mind is capable of inventing – and if you’re into that sort of reading, you may be pleased with it.

Standing in Another’s Shoes…

…and ‘seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.’ (Alfred Adler)

This, apparently, is all that the word empathy includes, as I discovered when I ran a web search on the above quote. A discussion of human sociability is not what awaits you in this write-up,however, but a dissertation of a humble, much-derided-yet-popular branch of creative writing : fanfiction.

Wait, don’t go to Google, I’ll save you the trouble. Fanfiction is the universe that has been spawned out of the obsession that certain books have aroused in the minds of readers across the globe, and which consists mainly of “stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.”(Wiki) If you’re more interested in the history of fanfiction, click this. If you want to know what I have to say about it, read on.

I’ve always loved reading. Now, if you’re a bookworm, I don’t have to list out the reasons – you know them; and if you aren’t one – well, nothing I say is going to convince you that I’m not the greatest kind of fool, for preferring a book to nearly everything else in this wide world of ours. So I’ll move on: the natural consequence of my love for reading is my love for writing. It is natural; when the beauty and magnificence of the world have been unveiled before you in the form of words, to express yourself through the same means is instinctual.

A year ago, in an attempt to improve my creative writing skills, I began writing fanfiction. This, I figured, was better than trying to write a full-fledged story right off; I speak from experience, which is attested by the vast number of plots that litter my hard disk, all still in the sad, embryonic stages. Fanfiction, on the other hand, was a safe starting point – the universe was already there, so I could experiment to my heart’s content. How difficult could it be?

Very, it turns out. For what I wanted was to write stories that would be about filling the gaps left in my favourite books, and for that I had to place myself in the proverbial shoes of the author, and do all that which the quote at the beginning of this post implies. What followed was a lot of research into the time periods, lives and trivia surrounding those writers whom I’d idolized from afar,and now, I find myself appreciating those favourite works of mine all the more: for the styles that the authors employed, the subtle observations made, the adroitness with which different issues are presented and human emotions manipulated. It’s awe-inspiring.

As to my writings, I’ve written several small pieces on L.M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, because it’s one of my eternal favourites, and attempted lengthy stories set in the worlds of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and Frances Hodgson Burnett. You can read them here. If you do, drop a review or two, it’ll make my day. 🙂

P.S : The above is the explanation for my laxness in posting on this blog. If you’re frustrated with the pace that the pearls of wisdom  fall from my pen here [Hah, you say. A girl can hope, though, can’t she? 😉 ] ,head over there.

  

A Lyric Of Hope

The significance of poetry, drama and romance is only understood when one realises, suddenly, surprisedly, between one breath and another on yet another routine day of one’s existence – how mundane and prosy life can seem without them. For those weary of repetitious actions whose purpose seems to amortize with time, it’s necessary, to figuratively strike a splint, to spark that zeal for living; living – joyfully, eagerly, prolifically. One poem that never fails to do that for me :

A PSALM OF LIFE
( WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN SAID TO THE PSALMIST)

    TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real !   Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

    Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Written By:
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.Hope

A Wilde Story

A Woman Of No Importance

A few weeks back, I discovered Oscar Wilde. As one who strives quite hard to belong to the ranks of the well-read, I agree that it’s indeed shameful to have ignored such a famed author for so long. In self-defence, all I can say is that I had looked him up on Wikipedia long ago, in order to get a list of the books he’s known for, but (*cough*) I thought his style of living may not have produced an oeuvre which I may have been interested to peruse.

Having said that, I found myself downloading his play ‘A Woman Of No Importance’ from the Gutenberg website some time back. (As an aside, I’d like to thank those guys – they’re doing a great, great job. Kudos.) Why? Because the title caught my attention, of course, as it would, of any feminist worth her salt. Outraged sisters of mine, calm down. The absolutely fitting last line of the play is ‘A man of no importance.’ [I wonder whether this will get masculinists on the warpath? ;)] The heading made me forget my prejudices against the author, and for once, I was glad I’d let them go.

A Woman Of No Importance is a play full of the epigrams which Wilde was (apparently) famed for, and being someone who enjoys witticisms and word plays of all kinds, I was delighted with the book. It’s a satire, and though the plot isn’t all that special, (watching it being performed may have been better than reading it, but not by much) the dialogues and quips were so worth the read that I found myself wishing that I’d thought of them. (Yes, I suffer from a bad case of hubris.) It’s a pity that those who seem clever are also shown as being cynical and on the wrong side of the ethical standard; and those with any good feeling – merely earnest. The characters are well represented, though, which leads me to recommend the book to all those with a well-developed sense of the absurd.

Examples of the kind of wisecracks that are a part of the play:
“It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about, nowadays, saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.”
“Nothing spoils a romance so much as a sense of humour in the woman. Or the want of it in the man.”
“But do you believe all that is written in the newspapers?
I do. Nowadays it is only the unreadable that occurs.”

The final verdict: I definitely want to read more Oscar Wilde. The Importance of being Ernest and An Ideal Husband are next on my list, and though I’ve heard of The Picture of Dorian Grey as belonging to the “classics” list of publishers, I’d like to know if the book is worth it’s fame, before delving in. Recommendations, anyone?

Wonderland

Wide-eyed wonder and unconcern
Odd things to see, stranger to learn.
To wander in, and roundabout,
Free to ramble, nowhere bound.

Curious Alice, young and blithe,
Whither is she headed, tonight?
A toss of the head, a skip and jump,
To Wonderland once more she’s come.

Creatures abound, in eerie parody,
With a peculiar vocabulary,
Rules of a dream – if dream it be –
Shifting on each passing fancy.

Ask the wind blowing from hither to there,
Is there enchantment to be found somewhere?
Fanciful, wonderful, brilliant magic –
Crazy and zany and without logic.

Then pray, that so blessed could you be,
That, someday, you would get to see,
Those wonders read and dreamed about,
With every hope craved and sought out.

Written By :
Me.

P.S : When I was unreasonably and extremely obsessed with Alice in Wonderland : The Movie.

Facebook Shutdown : Calamity or blessing?

First off, if you expect the usual arguments for and against social networking (conducted with Facebook as an unwitting model: the curse of prominence), then the title is misleading. For, that subject has already been debated, dissected and thrashed enough, in my opinion. No, this write-up is in response to Charlie White’s(of Mashable) words, disclaiming the rumours that Facebook is set to shut down on March 15th – “The fact that this absurd hoax spread so efficiently makes us wonder: Will people believe anything?”

Since that is a question that has been plaguing me quite often, of late, I decided to rant about it here (And, in this case, I know there are people out there who feel the same way I do – thankfully, Gen Y is not as nonsensical as the majority’s behaviour implies.) Yes, there are those who use Facebook (AND Twitter AND MySpace AND all those networking sites which I’m too lazy to mention) as a virtual washing-line to air out their dirty linen, but the more sensible crowd does know how to use social networking in its most advantageous capacity. I do not quibble about how people use the Internet – except when I wonder, exactly how much is the intellectual level of the former group deteriorating? Sheep-like tendencies aside, what if they act in ways harmful, not only to themselves but to others as well?

This isn’t just a silly notion of mine – it’s horrifying when one reads of people committing actions, which are so absurd as to seem laughable, but are carried out by them in all seriousness. For instance, I read about some kid who wants to become a vampire (No doubt, lured by the “good looks, super powers and invincibility” of that breed, being sensationalized in teenage fiction so much , nowadays. That subject merits its own rant.), and towards that goal, has started drinking her own blood, since that seems (to her) to be a logical way of going about it! She plans to turn her boyfriend into one, by getting him on the same bloody (pun intended) diet (The unsuspecting public always suffers unduly. Poor guy.) Then, there are all those specimens of humanity, whom one reads about in the papers (with frighteningly increasing frequency) who can’t seem to differentiate between reality and fiction – and act in ways which put the most melodramatic, fantastical stories to shame.

Is this just another side effect of free information being available to children before they’re ready for it? As we move towards greater technological, scientific and cultural progress, through all that “specialization” in our thinking, (wherein we accumulate loads of knowledge, but not wisdom.), are we losing out on basic common sense? Are we truly becoming so gullible, naïve and well, stupid, to accept everything presented to us as true, without bothering to use our heads?(The doubtful veracity of free information and total dependence on technology comes to mind.) It would be nice to get answers to these questions; it would help resolve what our attitude towards such an event (as suggested by the title) should be, if it should ever occur. -_-

Springtime Madness

Wild impulses, unbridled glee,
A singing heart, mind soaring free,
Joy, that has no end or birth,
Elation spilling o’er as bubbling mirth.
Laughter filled days, ennui forgotten,
Fresh, new ideas cropping up unbidden,
A deluge of feeling that makes one long –
To dance a jig, break into a song.
What is this causeless, annual gladness?
I think of it as springtime madness.

Written By,
Me.

Open Your Eyes

It’s a cold, damp day, the wind blusteringly announcing the onset of winter. Safe in the warm confines of my house, I look outside and observe the wind trying, vainly, to find a weak point in the structure, to enter and cause havoc. I’m lost in deep contemplation of the mysteries of life, the workings of fate and the secrets of the universe, which is why it takes a considerable amount of time for the consciousness of my surroundings to sink in, and for me to realize that the object upon which my eyes have been fixed, has been unblinkingly staring back for the same period. My interest aroused, I observe that she (I take a certain liberty here, in stating fancy as fact, as will become evident later.) shivers in the cold, and I’m drawn by a feeling of pity and some curiosity, into peering more closely out of the window which separates us. All that I can see is her profile; she watches me out of the corner of her eyes, and I hope against hope that I can understand her unspoken words. For no apparent reason, she turns away suddenly, and I move closer cautiously. Her proud back quivers, and I see her hands clutching a branch for support. I wish to offer comfort and shelter, if she will accept, but my wishes are in vain. An extraordinarily strong gust of wind makes me blink, and in that instant, she has disappeared.

Moral of the story: An idle mind leads to much ado about nothing.

P.S: If you haven’t guessed, the subject of the above is shown below.

Fairy Tale Retellings

Yes, I like fairy tales. They’re idealistic, moralizing, fantastical and strange; and perfect fodder for imagination. Tales of princesses, magicians, witches and sorcerers; legends of intrigue, enchantment, splendour and glory; fables of dragons, voodoo, spells and wishes. Those abbreviated stories heard in childhood, served just to imprint those eternal messages in our minds – Truth always triumphs, Evil never goes unpunished et al. And, of course, the fate of do-gooders – the proverbial ‘happily-ever-after’. But what of the nuances, the plots, the characters of the stories, themselves?

Perhaps that is what makes retellings seem so much more interesting than those anonymous originals. For instance, the Once upon A Time series. You begin, with scant curiosity perhaps, with the confidence gained from knowing the plot beforehand. And yet, you find yourself being surprised – by the style of narration, by the twists in the tale you thought you knew, in the very characters of the protagonists which you had never thought to consider. The stories become new.

Intrigued? Try Cameron Dokey’s Belle (Beauty and The Beast retold), Golden (Rapunzel retold),The Storyteller’s Daughter (The Arabian Nights – Shahrazad’s tale retold),Wild Orchid (Mulan retold) and Beauty Sleep (Sleeping Beauty retold). And then there’s Robin McKinley – Beauty and Rose Daughter(Beauty and The Beast retold) and Spindle’s End (Sleeping Beauty retold).Alex Flinn’s Beastly and A Kiss In Time are modern retellings of the same, and Jessica Day George’s Princess Of The Midnight Ball of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. And Shannon Hale’s The Book Of A Thousand Days is a retelling of Maid Maleen, which scores quite high on humour, so you may want to read it(Even if you’ve never heard of the original.)

Need more encouragement?

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Albert Einstein said it.
You know what to do.

Reincarnation – Suzanne Weyn

Being a reader in the 21st century burdens one with quite a lot of cynicism, for, if one devotes a considerable quantity of time to reading all the kinds of books there are and have been, it isn’t long before all the genres, plots and styles are traversed. The element of surprise being lost, anticipation dims; and one feels weary of reading the same phrases, descriptions and situations over and over again – and it begins to seem as though all those worlds which had seemed out-of-reach, have already been explored, and there remains nothing new to be seen. [Oh, how bleak the world seems, with these words!]

Having attained the aforementioned state, it came as a pleasant surprise, to find a story – a love story, at that, which did not seem cliche’d. Suzanne Weyn’s Reincarnation is a story about star-crossed lovers, but (before you accuse me of contradicting my own words) what sets it apart from the multitude of other such tales, is the unique style in which it is presented.

The book is about two lovers, caught in the cycle of death and rebirth, right from the beginning of time (The Stone Age, to be precise.) The novel does not contain one story; instead, it’s a series of stories following the lives of the protagonists, threaded together by the bond which spans across lifetimes (No,don’t worry,it actually isn’t as sugary as it sounds.) As they are born into different times and ages, in different races and civilizations, with different names and faces, the reader begins to see the patterns which define them as individuals – for instance, after a few rebirths, one can see that the heroine invariably has a melodious voice in each birth, while the hero has a talent for writing. The story presents quite an interesting challenge to the reader, to pick up the clues subtly sprinkled about – a story which asks you to use your grey cells to get your bearings, and not merely drift along.

All in all, the subject of reincarnation is shown very neatly; though the breaks in the story (whenever they die,before being reborn -_- ) may put off followers of pure romance. For those who’re tired of the usual, however, this would definitely make an interesting read.