Saturday, July 23, 2011

Things I'd Like To Do Before I Die

I am not the average fun-lover. I don't like loud, noisy fun which involves a lot of fun. I have never been a purposeful rule breaker and rebellion just for the sake of it doesn't interest me. So, when I asked some of my friends about what they would like to do before they die (I know it's a little premature to be asking such questions), their choices were clearly different from mine. Almost all of them had bungee-jumping on their list and one boy had surfing (I can at the very least give him some points for attempted originality). At the time, I hadn't really thought about what I wanted to do, but once I got the answers I knew what I did not want to do- try adventure sports which have me hanging by ropes or falling from a height of thousands of feet. Now, there are several reasons for this. Firstly, I have an issue with heights. I feel uncoordinated at heights, not exactly scared, which is bad because it is fear which can be overcome, not poor hand-eye coordination. Second, trying an adventure sport isn't exactly doing something for me. If you have the money and no fear, you can pull of the stunts and you're not really achieving anything, but that really is just my point of view. If I had to do something, I would probably choose deep sea diving because I am okay with water (as long as the sharks and whales stay away) or maybe parasailing because from it looks less scary than other height-related stuff.

Later on, I started thinking about what I wanted to do in my life and the answers just kept coming.

First of all, I want my own book to be published. Preferably it should become a bestseller. Ideally, I would love to become a novelist, but I am practical enough to know dreams don't always come true. So, it is my dream to have just one book written by me out there. This desire is probably just a manifestation of my dream to be remembered after I'm dead. Perhaps someone in the twenty second century will find a dusty, dog-eared manuscript during an archaeological excavation and see my name on it. But most importantly, it stems from the desire to achieve something by doing what I love, what I'm good at.

Secondly, I want to travel. My aim is to travel through at least one country in every continent. Right now my list includes Italy, Greenland, Pakistan (the Kashmiri part), New Zealand, Congo/Morocco. As far as Antarctica is considered, well, I never really thought of it as a real continent. My father has great luck in travel. Hid work has taken him to almost every country in Europe and North America. Hopefully, I will travel more than him.

I want to meet my favourite authors. That could prove to be a problem because most of them are dead, but Ann Brashares is definitely on my list. She is an American writer and what I love most about her is that she writes stories for girls which have nothing to do with the perfect man and the perfect pair of shoes. They are real, relateable stories about school, college, love, friendship and life in general.

Last but not the least, I ant to live freely. Ask any of my friends and they would probably say I am the most tied down, serious person on the planet and they would probably not understand this dream of my life, but they should. I like living alone or with people I love. I don't necessarily need to be surrounded by others. If that makes me cold, so be it. If I ever get too competitive, it is because of my own ego, not because of what someone else says. I like taking responsibility, which is not exactly the coolest thing to admit at my age. I like not living like the other kids do, I like not having to conform. I like the fact that I am obsessed with 70s counterculture and not the present pop culture which I don't totally understand. I know that at some point, I may have to change. I may have to learn how to be friendlier in public, to feign interest, if not for myself then for somebody else, but my wish will always be to live the way I want to.

Somehow, I think jumping off a cliff with a harness and a rope would be easier than to do all things I want to do in my life, but I think I'm willing to take the chance.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The History Of Storytelling

I have always wanted to be a storyteller. It's true that lately I have been doing more of non-fiction, but my long term goal is to become a great novelist. But the thing is that the art of storytelling keeps changing. Over the years, plots, characters, settings and other such things have undergone transformations, with every era having a characteristic style of storytelling.

The oldest variety I can think of is that of fables and fairy tales.  They represent an ancient yet timeless world, where anything can happen- animals can talk, people can fly and you can wear glass slippers without wearing them. Although they are mainly read out to children, they can be fully understood only by the mature. They not only have hidden meanings, but there are stories behind their origin as well. For example, the Panchatantra were said to be written to educate three ignorant princes the 'wise way of life'. Perraults's Cinderella has this moral attached to it which despite not being the ideal teching to impart to children, is quite true- "Without doubt it is a great advantage to have intelligence, courage, good breeding, and common sense. These, and similar talents come only from heaven, and it is good to have them. However, even these may fail to bring you success, without the blessing of a godfather or a godmother." Soma may interpret it to mean that our virtues are meanigless without someone taking us under their wing, and others may take it to illustrate the importance of well-wishers in our life.


Cinderella at the ball

Panchtantra
Then comes the kind of storytelling which is reflection of a time gone by. One good example is that of Jane Austen's novels which mainly have to do with the obsession with marriage and money in her time. Sometimes, novels are written to depict a present which is better than the one that actually exists. They can also be representatives of a society which longs for change, say for example, Premchand's 'Godan'.


Pride And Prejudice

One genre that has been very popular in the last, say, fifty years, is that of crime novels. I have never really been a big fan of them. To me, they can be called 'pulp fiction' with a little bit of foreign intelligence, a gorgeous protagonist and some sleazy action thrown into the plot. But I understand I shouldn't generalize. Anyways, the truth is that many crime novelists have a steady career which spans decades and also make a lot of money. This only shoes that readers of today like fast-paced, action-packed books. They don't like to read through pages of interpretations and analysis. This is connected with the lifestyle of today. People don't have much time and unless you can get them hooked, you can't appeal to them.

Last but not the least, teenagers of today seem to like nothing but paranormal fiction. Most internatonal bestsellers in the last ten years have to do with vampires and magicians and fairies. Even though some of the subject matter of these books are questionable, there is no duobt that they make teenagers pick up books to read which is a good thing.

I can plan to be a storyteller today, but byt the time I actually become one the world and it's tastes would have changed. Acoordingly, I will have to modify my skills. Hopefully, I'll be able to do that someday.