Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wonders Of The Subconscious Mind

The subconscious mind works in strange yet amazing ways. If we pay attention, it can guide us through life better than any top-notch therapist. I am saying this out of personal experience. There have been instances where my subconscious mind has helped me figure out what exactly my problem is. Now, I am a person who doesn't believe in hypnosis, astrology and all that mish-mash (my apologies to those who do). So why am I saying this? Well, in the past few days I have had some experiences which have strengthened my trust on my subconscious.

My second (unpublished) series of novels had a paranormal love story. I call it my worst work till date which was inspired by an overdose of romantic novels, but that's another story. Paranormal isn't really my niche, so it was very hard for me to form a plot worth three novels. But upon reading my first book as a reader and not a writer, I discovered that I had subconsciously left some hints for myself which later helped me proceed with the story. In paranormal, anything can happen, but I wanted some concept about life and death. I realized on reading between the lines that my subconscious mind had formed that concept for me when my conscious mind had been clueless.

My third (unpublished) novel was about a girl who, being estranged from her family and having lost her best friend, start depending wholly on her academic performances and dreams to become a writer (and no, this character was not based on me). The tone was so depressive and the novel so dull that I couldn't even get my own father excited about it. The only good thing was the ending, which was full of hope. At that point of time, I myself was pretty depressed due to some mental pressures and therefore, it had started reflecting on my writing.

What I am working on right now is the story of a girl who is forced to resolve her differences with the people she hates the most. With this I am trying to go back to my original writing style. Incidentally, most of my characters are very similar to people I have met in real life.

Sometimes, writing your experiences down can be very beneficial. On reading them, it can help you reflect on your life. I think everybody should maintain a diary for themselves as it can help them give vent to their frustrations and emotions. So, maybe you should buy a notebook today and start writing so that you subconscious can start helping you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Return Of Dhinchak

A few weeks ago, I watched 'Band Baaja Baraat' at a local mutiplex and I was so entertained that I couldn't stop writing about it for days. The best thing about it was its un-pretentiousness. No fake accents, no short and unrealistic designer dresses, no jobless characters. In fact, the movie has two very well-rounded characters who are practical and believable.

But what also caught my notice was how much the word 'dhinchak' was used in the movie. The word is actually slang for flashy and 'local'. Let me explain with an example. If there were a party, a blue and white decor with candle lighting would probably be sophisticated, but a red and gold color scheme with electrical lighting all over the hall and sunflowers for decoration would be 'dhinchak'.

Why am I writing this. you may ask. It's because of a little incident that took place in my life some time ago. Today I will let you in on a secret- I am actually a very sincere and hardworking person. No matter how much I write like a rebel, criticizing social standards, I never really break rules unnecessarily. I try to be witty in my writing (I hope I succeed) but I am not very clever in real life and try to make up for it by working 24/7.

In school, my talents sometimes go unnoticed. There are people who aren't half as talented or hardworking as I am who always have things their way. They make a big fuss about whatever they do, but their work isn't always all that impressive. Some differences cropped up between me and these people. Since the twelfth standard students will soon be graduating, it's farewell season and we are all busy for the big day. The idea I had for the decor was very basic- red/gold color scheme, yellow lights to illuminate the stage, red and orange flowers and so on. We already have red curtains and chairs and so, it would be practical. But no, this is too 'dhinchak' for everyone. They want color schemes which are off beat (aka boring) and modern (aka Western). Huge investments are being made to hire curtains (everyone seems to have forgotten that we don't really have too many places to hang curtain) and money is also being spent in other places. But the problem is that nothing spectacular is actually materializing. What we have is somehow uninspired (and expensive).

Its not just the decorations that are suffering from this problem. Even the entertainment for the night mainly comprises of English songs. It is an unacknowledged truth that kids think it is better to perform English numbers. That's the safe thing to do because nobody will call you low-class or backward. But not always are these performances good. In fact, they are pretty bad most of the times.

So what exactly is wrong with 'dhinchak'? Is it better to do something uninspired in the name of sophistication than to actually put together something we are better acquainted with? Well, my idea are constantly getting rejected, so I can only wonder.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reading List For 2010

In 2010, a lot of people must have read Harry Potter and Twilight for the eleventy zillionth time. But it was the year I discovered the magic of e-books, aka instruments which enable you to read without having to add a few more bookshelves to your house. Following are the list of the books I read in the last on year-

1) The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks: The problem with all Nicholas Sparks novels is that they have tons of cliches that make you cry, so much so that I have started to think that Karan Johar is his lost cousin or something. But at the end of the day, these books, no matter how melodramatic and cliched, do make one cry and that, in my opinion, is something commendable. The Last Song is more famous as the Miley Cyrus movie, but the book has more sub-plots than the movie could fit into its run time. It is the story of a good-natured yet rebellious teenager who goes to meet her estranged father for the first time in years. A little bit of trivia- Miley Cyrus herself chose her character's name, Ronnie (short for Veronica) and it was because of her that Mr. Sparks named his protagonist Ronnie.

2) Three Willows by Anne Brashares: I have been a fan of Anne Brashares ever since I read the Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants series (every girl MUST read that series). Her novels don't have the best plots and are more about character development and observation of personalities. This book is a spin-off of the SOTTP series, with the characters of SOTTP making brief appearances. It is about three friends who were once like sisters but have now, somehow, drifted apart. Through varied experiences, they get back together and recreate the magic of their friendship. I use the word 'magic' because the simplicity, charm and depth of this book truly is magical.

3) Wings by Aprilynne Pike: Fifteen-year-old Laurel has a tumor on her back and wings grow out of it. With the help of her friends David, she dicovers that the wing is in fact a flower and a mysterious boy named Tamani tells her that she is a faerie from 'Avalon'. The story is about her coming to terms with two world she feels equally close to and two boys she can't choose between. I would rank Wings above Harry Potter and Twilight because it mixes the two of them and brings out something far superior.

4) Spells by Aprilynne Pike: Sequel to Wings. This book is actually better than Wings, with Laurel growing up to be a very intriguin woman.

5) Elixir by Hilary Duff: Yes, Hilary Duff is the girl who played Lizzie McGuire bvut if you read this book, you would say, "Maybe she should leave acting and stick to writing". Granted, it is not the deepest novel ever produced (it is a product, not an artistic endeavour) but it does keep the reader hooked. It is about Clea, a rich girl from a powerful family, who begins to see a mysterious stranger in all photographs taken by her.

6) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: This is my top book of the year. Clay Jensen, somewhat shy, California high school student, returns home from school one day to find a box sitting on his doorstep. Upon opening it, he discovers that it is a shoebox containing seven cassette tapes recorded by the late Hannah Baker, his classmate and emotional crush who recently committed suicide. The tapes were initially mailed to one classmate with instructions to pass them from one student to another, in the style of a chain letter. On the tapes, Hannah explains to thirteen people how they played a role in her death, by giving thirteen reasons to explain why she took her life. Curiosity and fear of exposure keep the people on the list listening to the tapes, and through the audio narrative Hannah reveals her pain, and her slide into depression that ultimately leads to her suicide.

7) Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger: I actually didn't read the whole of it. The plots are too long and confusing, even though they centre around the cliched idea of identical twins.

It Couldn't Happen To Him- A Short Story

Sandip was standing in the balcony of his home. Suddenly, he saw people, young and old, running helter-skelter in the street below. He did not react. In the three years he had spent in Srinagar, he had understood that such sights were common in Kashmir. In the beginning, he had been a little apprehensive about living in a place like Kashmir, but now he was used to the terrorist activities around him. He had even started going easy on his armyman father for pulling him out of his Delhi school and bringing him to a place like Kashmir, instead of, say, Goa.
This was Kashmir. Things happened everyday. People got used to it. It was a lot like watching the same horror movie again and again until it inflicted no more fear.
The only difference was that this horror movie was much too real. It could not be contained in the screen of any multiplex. It couldn’t be contained even in thousands of newspaper headlines. Thousands of people had reviewed this horror film, and none had given it a positive review.
Sandip sighed. His breath made the air around his mouth for up.  He went back into the house. This was probably the fifth time he was seeing terrified people running down the street. He sighed. The air around his mouth fogged up a little. Slowly, he wandered into the TV room and switched on the television.
A certain rock star from a certain rock band was singing a certain song. He listened absent-mindedly. Then he started feeling thirsty. He wasn’t going to get water himself. What were sisters for? “Sameera! Water!” he called out, without even shifting his gaze from the television. As the song blared, he dreamed of the day when he would be back in Delhi and would be able to go to a real rock concert.
He got bored and changed the channel. Tom and Jerry was on. A loud shriek coming from the street below pierced his ears. He drowned the sound of the frightened shriek with the sound of Tom flattenning poor Jerry with a frying pan.
His water still hadn’t come. “Sameera! Water!” he called out again. He was not a child anymore. He did not have the patience to watch Tom and Jerry for too long. He turned to a news channel. Ah! So there had been a minor bomb blast. Oh, so the blast had been in the nearby market.
“Sameera! Water!” shouted out Sandip, more frustrated by now. Sameera had gone to get potatoes hours ago. She should have been back by now. There was no way she wasn’t home. Why was she not answering?
He got up and angrily marched to the kitchen. If Sameera was not going to bother, he would just had to quench his thirst himself.
As he poured water into a glass, he thought of what was going to happen now. On Monday, he would observe a minute of silence with all the others for all those who had lost their lives in this particular bomb blast. He would have to take an oath to fight terrorism, even if he had no idea how to do so.
But he knew that no minute of silence and no oath could stop what was happening. That was why people were still losing their lives. But that did not matter to Sandip. After all, terrorism could not touch him. Being victimized by terrorists was something that happened to other people, something distant. He had never been in the wrong place at the wrong time. What were the chances that he would be even in the future?
Realization and comprehension struck him like a fatal bolt of lightning.
Sandip’s legs must have started shaking, because all of a sudden the kitchen seemed to be swaying from side to side. He could hear his own heartbeat and feel the gush of adrenaline and blood through his veins. A dizzying array of thoughts made it impossible for him to think rationally. He was breathing hard. Reflexively, he ran to the door and opened it with more force than necessary. The next thing he knew was that he was running down the stairs.
Once he was out in the open, he started running towards the market. The others were running too, but in the opposite direction. He fought with all his power to push back the crowd and move forward. The sounds of hurrying footsteps, terrified shrieks and police jeeps merged into one common blur. The only sound he could hear was that of his own accelerated breathing. As long as he kept breathing, he could make it to the market. The market.
He tripped on a stone and fell down. His chest touched the ground first with a loud thud. He tried to plop himself up with one elbow, but his incoherent thoughts made it impossible to do so. He let himself lie on the ground. He knew it was already too late.
Sameera would never come back home with a bag of potatoes. She would never walk in through the door ever again. She was gone. Gone forever. Terrorism had finally touched Sandip.

(The above story was the first prize winner of the Navi Mumbai Seaside Rotary Club Youth Festival- 2009)

Dr. Neil Thackeray's Discovery Of The Past- A Short Story

It was the year 2250. But who cared? There wasn’t much of a population left, anyways. Nobody knew for sure why the species on the earth had disappeared. In fact, nobody was even sure how many species had existed once upon a time and the only reason that they suspected that there must have been a time when there were billions of creatures, especially human beings, on earth was because they had observed that living beings had the tendency to mingle and survived only if they had company. However, suggestions flowed in everyday.

On 16th January, 2150, the remaining inhabitants read a news alert in the skies. People did have some idea about newspapers, thanks to one or two time capsules that had not been destroyed be natural calamities and large-scale nuclear war, but who could read news in a paper these days. There weren’t enough trees left to make newspaper out of.

So, the news alert had been issued in public interest by the Narkisian government (by the way, Narkis was a tiny island in the Indian ocean which had remained undiscovered for millions of years and after discovery, had been inhabited by people who refused to adopt to the violent and destructive ways of the 21st century world. Now it was the only country which had a population of over a thousand and claimed to be the most populous country in the world). Dr. Neil Thackeray, who was one of the few people who had acquired higher education after most of the land had been submerged in the ocean and there wasn’t enough space to erect school and college buildings, had thought of a new reason for the extinction of the majority of the population in the world.

It was pretty simple. Governments had existed till the nineteenth century, and even though all governments had been brought down due to their repeated poor performances and the world was now in total chaos, it was known that governments had once been a symbol of power. There had been governments who had tried to take their country to the top, even if it was at the cost of other nations. It could not be determined if this was right or wrong, because the time capsules that had remained had suggested that everything had once been fair in love and politics. But there was one problem- the powerful countries of the world had not necessarily the ones with most resources. They did not necessarily have the largest quantity of oil, or the densest forests or the richest biodiversity. The news alert was complete with the definitions of the words oil, forest and biodiversity because people had no idea what these things were. So, continued the news alert, the powerful countries had tried to capture hold of the nations which had resources. Now this was not a case of two kids fighting for a teddy bear and so, the destruction was not limited to pulling each other’s hair out. Instead, it was a cowardly war in which destroyer did not need to look into the eyes of the victim but just had to zoom past vast lands in helicopters while causing showers of highly-reactive white phosphorus.

According to Dr. Neil Thackeray, people had been warned. Given the fact that pure air was scarce now, it had taken a lot of courage and money for him to embark on the greatest archeological journey of all time in which he had drilled through the bed of the Pacific Ocean to obtain the last time capsule man had found. This time capsule was made of something which Dr. Neil called ‘non-biodegradable cloth’ and it was nothing short of a miracle for it to have stayed in shape for hundreds of years. This time capsule had books in it. Yes, real books, something which were a source of novelty for the 23rd century world. At the back of each book, there was the same inscription- National Council Of Educational Research And Training, and so he assumed that these books had been read by people of educational unit. Upon reading the Geography textbooks, he discovered that students had been told that resources were depleting, global warming was everyone’s concern and glaciers were melting. Alas, they had not been warned of one thing. While they were busy thinking that these things would only affect the future generations, they had no idea that their ignorance would lead to their imminent extinction. Before the future generation even came into existence, the big and powerful countries bombarded all the countries which still had some resources. This led to the third World War, and the destruction caused by nuclear weapons destroyed and decimated whole communities and most reserves of resources. That was, as Dr. Neil put it, the end of the world. Most people had not seen this coming, because they had not studied political science or history or environmental studies, because they thought becoming an investment banker was more financially viable.

So, now the world was nothing like it had once been.

On 27th January of the same year, another news alert appeared in the skies. Dr. Neil was beginning a new expedition. He was officially the bravest man on earth. Given the sheer lack of oxygen, water, artificial pills called ‘food’ and many other such necessities, it was a matter of great risk to set out on such a journey. So, Dr. Neil became an overnight hero of the 23rd century world.

Nobody knew what had motivated Dr. Neil, but that was because mankind had forgotten the meaning of the word hope. Hope never leaves mankind and Dr. Neil Thackeray knew that well. He so embarked on another great adventure in search of hope. It took 190 oxygen cylinders, 7 million glasses of artificially made water and a lot of will power to complete the 100 mile long journey, upon completion of which, he found what he was looking for. It was another time capsule made of artificial fibers and inside, he found a textbook. A miracle, he thought, for paper to have stayed for so long without getting decomposed. But then again, Dr. Neil Thackeray was not just a man of science but also a man of faith, and he knew that evidences of hope could stand the test of time. Either it was that, or it was the fact that the chemical composition of water had changed in the past hundred years, perhaps making it suitable as a preservative for such time capsules.

At first, Dr. Neil was disappointed, because this was a textbook like the ones he had found in the last time capsule had discovered. All he saw was printed letters he had read already. Just another mass-produced manuscript. But the discovery lay not in the part of the book that could be called mass-produced, but the back page which had a unique creation of the owner of the book. After treating the back page with isotopes of various elements in his tiny temperature-controlled laboratory, Dr. Neil could finally see clearly the inscriptions made by the owner of the book. Now, this owner had possibly never paid much attention in class because the back page had more notes than the main pages. But what he had recorded was valuable, and Dr. Neil knew what this value was about.

At first the inscriptions seemed like poems. But upon more extensive research on the time capsule, he found a punishment note for bringing electronic items to schools and what he called a CD. He spent months trying to obtain permission from the Narkisian Archeaological Society to use the sole CD player that remained. After a lot of negotiations, his wish was granted. He had a little trouble figuring out exactly how to operate this CD player, but later he realized that it was nothing like the complicated mumbo-jumbo of entertainment devices today. All he had to do was push a button and insert the disk. Thankfully, human ears still worked. He listened to the CD again and again, as melodious voices crooned.

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

The line which caught his attention wasThere's a choice we're making, We're saving our own lives’. How true these words were. If only somebody had paid attention to them. If only they had understood that they were being warned by the most subtle of ways. If only they had seen the ray of hope and taken a detour to go towards it.

He listened to another song too.

We shall overcome, We shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday,
Oh, Deep in my heart, I do believe,
That we shall overcome someday.

Upon listening to this, Dr. Neil smiled without humor. This song of hope must have been sung by millions, but did anybody truly believe that there was a chance of overcoming if only they changed their habits.

On 19th July, 2254, Dr. Neil Thackeray received a news alert saying that he would be getting a Nobel Prize. This was a news Dr. Neil would have liked to receive in his beloved laboratory, but since resources were too scarce and mass communication was the only option left, he received this news when he gazed at the sky along with 1003 other inhabitants of Narkis. This Nobel Prize was not for his scientific or archeological contribution, but for his extensive research on the subject of hope and role of music in spreading hope. Dr. Neil never received his Neobel Prize. There was no way to get to Jurrava, another island in the Indian Ocean which had remained after the huge landmass it had once been part of had drowned. Two days after becoming the first person to have done anything worthy of such an honor as the Nobel Prize, Dr. Neil died due to complications from having spent too much time in the new variety of water. His death prompted research on the harmful effects of chemically-altered water on human health. His five fellow scientist could only be happy that he had lived up to the age of thirty in a world where life expectancy at birth was twenty-seven years.

Open your heart, Open the door

My grandfather almost missed his own wedding. The story behind this is actually pretty funny. He was still very young, about seventeen maybe and somehow thought a game of football was more important than a wedding. About an hour before his wedding, he met with the village football team whose goalie was at home with a bad bout of diarrhea. They asked him if he could act as a substitute and he happily obliged. Never mind the young bride and her family that were going crazy waiting for him.
The player’s gene got passed down to my father. As a kid, he spent less time at home and more time fraternizing with monkeys on trees. When monkeys and fruits got boring, it was time to pick up bats and racquets. Today, he proudly declares to the world that he spent at leats five out of his first twenty years playing dome sport or the other.
The, it was ,my turn. As kids, I and my friends ‘invented’ all sorts of games. The ones I remember clearly are Advertisement (one of us had the den and the rest of us had to get past him by saying the name any commercial product beginning with a letter of his or her choice) and Chocolate (a variation of hopscotch but with a different grid which resembled a giant chocolate bar). But then I entered my teenage years and in the ten or so years that had elapsed between my childhood and late adolescence, something had clearly changed, and it wasn’t just my ability to invent games. Tall buildings had come up. The Japanese and Americans made a big business out of video games. TV went from bland black-and-white to addictive technicolor. Trees had been razed and so monkeys were off our friend list. In fact, our friend list was not in our mind but on a Facebook page.
So was it possible for me to miss my wedding for a football match or play all the time?
The question, seemingly simple, actually has many answers. Some would say that some of the abovementioned tall buildings are premises of sports clubs, and if I wanted to play, I should just go and join one of them. In the wake of India’s brilliant performance in the Commonwealth and Asian Games, it is clear that sports in India are moving towards a brighter future. Plus, judging by the participation in all the marathons, maybe it’s true that people love to use sports and physical activity to work for a social cause. Considering all this, is it fair for me to say there is no scope for me to play?
It is. You see, the viewership of one IPL match does not match the number of people playing cricket themselves. People are happy to pay for a gym membership but somehow find it impossible to play a game of football with friends. Children and teenagers are so addicted to video games and the Internet that the outdoors has taken a backseat. Plus, the government seems to be so busy raising malls in the cities that parks and gardens have slipped it’s mid.
The last resort for those who really want to play outdoor games is school. It’s true that schools and sports clubs are promoting sports, but do they do it without bringing in a tinge of competitiveness into the players? It’s hard for me to decide whether it’s possible to go back to a time when ‘playing’ was about rushing out into the open air and indulging in a simple game of hide and seek. With the amount of academic pressure students face these days, it is also no surprise that some parents forbid their children from playing when they hit their teenage years.
Now, I have a question for you- do you know what Don Hatachi Fugdi, Khurghodi, Bhorbhendi are? A few days ago, neither did I. But now, I have found out that these are the names of outdoor games played by people in India in the olden days. It is while playing these games that our ancestors managed to create the India we live in today, so why do we say that children won’t be able to have a bright future if they enjoyed outdoor games? Having given my message to the parents, I also have a message for the children- chuck your play station away, switch off the TV, and come out of the house. If you can’t think of a game to play, just make a grid and start playing hopscotch. Very soon, you will be revisiting happier times of your initial childhood, when you invented games by yourself and life outdoors was more appealing that cramming notes to get marks or staring at a screen flashing bright pictures.
The outside world is calling me and I must go. I shall now walk outdoors and play a mindless game of chase. I hope you will too.