The Future

Today is the 2nd of October. Its celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, here in India, and I hope, in the rest of the world as well. The ‘father of our nation’ as he’s called, Mahatma Gandhi, was born on this day 146 years ago.

Its a day usually involving looking back at his life, how he voyaged, along with the rest of India, through the troughs and peaks of the freedom struggle. Its a day usually involving a fair bit of reminiscing.

But let’s not do that. Let’s instead look forward. Let’s look to the future. I’d like to look to the future instead.

What does the future hold for me? What would I be like, what would my life be like 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now?

I honestly don’t have a damn clue.

IMG_20150320_195649You know how they say that its not good living in the past? Well, I believe its not good to look too far into the future as well. Just as there is no point in thinking too much about what has been, there is no point in dwelling too much on what, possibly, probably, is still to come. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and promise yourself you’ll get where you want to be, no matter what. No. Matter. What.

I am in one of those phases right now when I don’t know whether I should be enthusiastic about my future or not. I know what I want to be, and I have a very rough idea of how I can go about it, but I am honestly not sure about it all at the moment.

For me, the next three to four months are the most crucial months of my junior college life so far. I have my terminals towards the end of this month (for which I’m obviously not yet prepared completely), prelims (preliminary is the full form; they’re basically like mock tests before our final 12th Board Exams), and then the 12th Boards in late February, and will stretch up to late March. After that I have a couple of months off, not to figure out what I want to do next, that is kinda a little late, but just to take a breather before I plunge back into the fray.

After the next decade or so, I aim to see myself having a profession, of some kind, in the field of Psychology. Of course, writing will be my side-business, so don’t you people worry about me ever stopping writing 😀 I have been doing some research regarding careers in Psychology and Sports Psychology has interested me a lot. Other branches of Psychology that interest me are Criminal Psychology and Couneselling/Therapy. Are any of my readers here Psychologists, or do you have knowledge about that field? I’d love some advice or anything you have that could help in any way.


That was me contemplating about the past, present and future. What do you look forward to?

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Map Insipiration

In the map above, you can see the big green thing called “Shivaji Park”. That is a huge, open ground in Matunga, Mumbai, India. If you walk from my home, you’ll get there in about 20-25 minutes. Its been somewhere I’ve gone many, many, many times over the 17 years I’ve spent on Earth.

Since I was born, I’ve lived in the same home as I do now so I know this neighbourhood, and beyond, very well. Shivaji Park has been so useful to the people living in this area, the area itself is now called the Shivaji Park locality. There’s people who come to walk, run, exercise in the gym situated in it, walk their pets, eat at any of the numerous eateries that have sprung up around this landmark or watch the sea that is just a crosswalk away from the park.

There’s number of reasons why Shivaji Park is so close to me. There’s another garden close to it where my parents often go for their evening walks. They’ve been doing so for maybe 10 years now, and I go there often with them. Sometimes we ditch that place and go walk at Shivaji Park instead. One of my aunt’s house is 5 minutes away from this garden, and she has a beautiful dog, so I often go there just to goof around with him. And Shivaji Park is another 5 minutes from her house so after I’ve been to her place I’ll go to Shivaji Park to have a bite, or just sit for a while. There’s also a Crossword Book Store right across Shivaji Park, by the seaside, a perfect place to go and just read for hours on end. (Sidebar: Their variety and overall quality of books has steadily gone down over the years so its not that great of a place, but they’re still well-stocked.) And now, my college is 5 minutes away from Shivaji Park as well. Its like a triangle, college on one side, Crossword completely opposite, on the other side, and the garden and my aunt’s place complete’s the triangle. I’ve already spent a year and two to three months at the college I’m at and I will probably be at the same college for another three years, at least, so I’m going to be frequenting Shivaji Park a lot.

You know, the thing about Shivaji Park is that its one of those places that doesn’t change much with time. Like, sure, there’s gradual development in terms of infrastructure and all, but other than that every time you go there, it seems like the very place you’ve spent so many great moments at. Its charm doesn’t dull with time.

Its a great place to be at.

An Eventful Hour on the Bus

I had to wait for about ten minutes before the bus arrived. I was headed to the dentist.

Buses are usually full at that time of the evening. Between my home and my destination, a church was conducting a festival they conduct on a yearly basis for a few days and because of that, traffic was much, much slower than usual. Vehicles moved ahead by a metre or so every ten minutes; that slow.

When my bus arrived, I wasn’t sure there were any seats empty but I had to get in because I was running a little late, and I had to get through so much traffic. Upon climbing in, I realised I was right and there was no place to sit. So I just grabbed one of the handles hanging from the rod attached to the ceiling of the bus, and stood in the aisle, as a few of the other passengers were doing. I assumed I would eventually get a place to sit when passengers disembarked on the next stop, or maybe the one after that.

The traffic near the bus stop wasn’t that bad, but after a kilometre or so, it got worse, and even worse after that. Vehicles were virtually standing still, for as far as the eye could see. In the opposite lane, though, cars were coming towards us at normal speed and traffic was pretty manageable there, even after the arriving lane had been reduced from two parallel lanes to one; the other one being used to divert traffic from our lane and reduce some traffic here. Needless to say, it was working about as well as a band-aid on a fracture.

I just looked around, at the people in and out of the bus. There were a couple of college-going guys quite like myself, sitting in the backseat and talking about some games and apps on the App Store, their compatibility, and their opinions on the same. There was another dude sitting at the front of the bus yelling into his phone, speaking about how he was definitely not going to pay “that asshole” INR 25,000. You know, in India, places are so crowded and people are by default and quite literally, very close, the concept of ‘personal space’ isn’t as elaborate as it may be in other countries, like, say, the US. People don’t mind if there’s other people looking over your shoulder and into your phone screen when you’re texting your girlfriend. Hell, they’ll tell you if they think you should be typing whatever you want to say in a more “conservative” manner. At least its this way in Mumbai, and after that shouty dude finished talking on his phone, a bald guy sitting next to him asked him, “Aaj kal aisa hi sab chalta hai desh me, sab paise ke peeche! (This is exactly what is going on in the world today, everybody is after money!)” The two talked for a good twenty minutes before the bald guy had to get off at his stop. They even exchanged cards before doing so. Friendships on the bus.

The bald dude was the last to disembark at his stop and the bus driver immediately started the bus once he had. There was a lady about twenty metres away, running towards the bus just as he started it. He must have seen the lady, but since she wasn’t at the stop, he didn’t stop for her. Lucky for her, the signal ahead just turned red so she caught up to the bus there and climbed in through the front door, which, mind you, is strictly meant for disembarking and only senior citizens/differently abled people are allowed to embark from there. She looked really tired but angry. As soon as she walked up to the door, the driver told her to, “Please, get in through the back.” She just climbed in to the front instead and started scolding the driver for why he didn’t stop the bus for her when he clearly saw her trying to get to it, back at the bus stop. The driver explained that he won’t stop for every other person on the road, the bus stops only on signals and at bus stops. She then threw the ‘but I’m a woman’ argument at her. At that point her net level of respect in my mind and presumably in that of most of the people in the bus, fell quicker than Kim Kardashian’s reputation. After a while she realised her arguments were losing steam and now that the bus conductor and a couple of passengers had also chimed in with the driver, she acknowledged she was outnumbered and outmatched by sitting down in a huff.

I decided not to plug in my headphones this time, and in retrospect, it was a fruitful decision since I probably wouldn’t have been able to write this post as well if I had.

Vignettes = Tough

What are vignettes? All I knew about them is that they’re those faded black borders that Instagram allows you to apply on your uploads. Well, today’s Writing 101 assignment tells us to write using vignettes, which apparently, are also short episodic scenes that together read as variations of the same theme.

Today’s assignment is tough.

***

I was confused at first. I didn’t know exactly what the assignment was asking me to do. I also didn’t understand the utility of this writing style. Yes, it grants repetition and therefore reinforcement, albeit of a dramatic kind, but I like to rely on subtlety in the kind of fiction that I like to write usually.

You know what? Today’s assignment is tough.

***

I’d never heard of this writing style before, nor do I ever remember reading anything written using this style. Maybe its just one of those things that are very rare. Like reasonably priced fast food these days. Sure, you’ll get fast food for ten rupees but then be prepared that that may or may not include diarrhea. I am NOT a fan of those odds. I am not a fan of this assignment either.

Because today’s assignment is tough.

***

So I recently wrote a preview to the new fiction story I’m working on. Its basically a small excerpt from the beginning of the story. I have promised my readers to publish a full chapter of it soon (I know, ‘soon’ is taking too long but I’m about to explain why, exactly). A funny thing happened the other day. I was talking to a friend and he told me he came up with an idea for a story. He thought it was cliche and really stupid. See, me? I don’t think there’s any stupid story ideas. Only stupid ways to present them. Every idea is a little baby in the beginning, it just lays there if you don’t help it around. You gotta feed it, make it bigger and stronger and then show it off to the world. So I told him to just tell me the idea irrespective of how it sounded. And it turned out to be one of the biggest coincidences I’ve ever been a subject to, in recent times. Turns out, that idea fits right into the story I’m working on. It supplements my story really well, and in fact, adds a great deal to the plot. Its an explosive idea, trust me. That’s why the story is taking a little longer than expected, since I am trying to integrate the two plots, make them cohesive while trying to split it up into chapters. You may have to wait a little longer, but I promise I’ll make it worth your while. So I was working on that story for a little bit today and then I remembered that I haven’t checked today’s Writing 101 assignment so I did.

That’s when I realised that today’s assignment is tough.


Well, that’s the best I could do with the vignettes. What do you think?

50 Words – In the Barn

Toy car in one hand, biscuit in another, he walked into the barn.

The stench of blood filled his young nostrils.

“Do it,” said his father, holding a gun in his right hand, sprawled across the floor, his chest bleeding out.

He finished the biscuit.

The gunshot alerted their dog.

When You Don’t Write

People sometimes think that writers have extraordinary brains, that their mind is constantly spewing up new characters, settings, plots, and they can write something novel every time they sit down to write. While that may be true for a very selective bunch of writers, I believe the most of us are humans. Like others, yes, writing is our job, and although its one that is also our passion, we do require breaks every now and then. So what do writers do when they don’t write?

They read, for one. I read when I’m not writing. That is probably 10% of what I do, though, when I’m not writing. I enjoy the little things. Like the fact that I just wrote my 101st post on this blog.

I also go to the gym, watch the telly, play a few video games now and then.

Its important to keep all parts of your body exercised. Writing is a way to work the mind, but physical exercise like walking, jogging, workouts at the gym and cycling is a great way to physically exercise the body. Its definitely good for your health and keeps you fit but it does wonders for your mental health as well.

I love to trek. Living in the city makes it difficult to do that half as often as I’d like. The family usually goes to hill stations like Lonavala during the holidays and there’s a lot of opportunities to trek up there so I make the most of those. I’d gone there earlier this year and I even made a post about it, and the admittedly crappy photos I took while there.

I like to cook as well. I don’t always get the proportions right, and that challenge is half the fun by the way, and I don’t cook a lot of different things but its a fun experience. Come over someday if you want to try my watery pasta, or overly cheesy cheese pizzas or puddle shaped rotis! “My mother and I tried making brownies once,” is what I’d say if you asked me “Do you bake?” The operative word being ‘tried’.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Coffee Update

Today’s Writing 101 assignment is to update my readers (that’s you) over a virtual cup of coffee (replace ‘coffee‘ with ‘tea‘ if that’s what you prefer) so as to let them know what the goings-on in my life are. I think its a good way to create that personal connect with your readers, one that not many other writing forms can create successfully, and, since I like to be casual in my writing, I feel quite up for this.

if we were having coffee right now...

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that I got drenched in the rain last evening. My 9 year-old sister and I had gone out to rent a movie from the store nearby. The rains have been on the down low these past many days so we weren’t expecting anything beyond the light drizzle but what we got was a full-blown thunderstorm complete with bellowing winds, raging thunder and streaky lightning.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that I have been going to the gym for about four months now (I think I spoke about this in one of my earlier posts as well) to gain some mass. I am genetically slim, my dad was that way too when he was young, and I gain weight very slow, no matter how much I eat. Its weird, but it has its upside: you have no restrictions on eating, whatsoever. I have also been taking protein shakes that, just BTW, taste like you mixed the world’s darkest chocolate with with the world’s most bitter medicine and added the smell of burning rubber to it. Absolutely awful. I don’t know how I’m going to finish the whole 5kg pack.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that I have been taking another writing course on Blogging U (for all those of you that don’t know already). Its Writing 101 again, but with a revamped look and new set of assignments, and might I say, I’m having a blast at it.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that I have been thinking about writing for some sort of website or magazine where I would actually get paid. I’m having a bit of a break from college since we’re through with almost everything in most of our subjects, there have been a lot of holidays what with the Ganpati festival and whatnot, and our terminal exams are nearing. So I have a lot of time on my hands right now, and my mom has been telling me to invest it in something beyond the blog, occasional studies, movies and TV shows. Something that makes me grow as a personal, and if it gives me some monetary benefit then that’s an added bonus. I would love to know if any of you guys know about any such websites/other media where I can contribute by writing.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that Manchester United play Southampton tonight and I’m looking forward to watching the match. Anybody else out here who’s going to watch it as well?

If we were having coffee right now, I’d tell you that I am pretty active on Quora as well. Those of you who haven’t checked out that little place of wisdom, must do so immediately. Its basically a Q&A platform where anybody can ask and answer questions about absolutely everything. I was introduced to it by a friend and initially I used to answer questions related to topics like life problems, everyday psychology, English grammar and football. I guess my football answers were really liked by people and I started getting asked to answer football-related questions only, so now I am a most viewed writer in multiple football categories. I guess we had an assignment in Blogging 101 once to create identities on different parts of the internet along with our blogs, and I have something of an identity on Quora now, which you can check out by clicking here.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee right now?

To Cancer With Love

Dear Cancer,

To be honest, this is not something I thought I’d be writing today. Or for a lot of days to come. I have thought of writing something of this kind before, and even more so in the past few months and I have put it off for quite some time now, I guess because not many know you were once part of my life and I’m afraid to open myself up to the world like this.

You came to me when I was quite young. You were pretty smart in the beginning, giving the wrong signals to the doctors. But I guess you weren’t smart enough in the end.

I was too young to know what you were, what you meant, what you could and would do to me. But I could feel it all right. All those tests, those hideously bitter medicines, those endless rides to the hospital, back home and back to the hospital again, those painfully embarrassing butt injections, laying still for hours on end just to get a picture of my brain or something, that operation I underwent to get the catheter in my arm (if I think hard, I can still remember the sights and sounds of that whole thing, the blood over my arm and chest)  and waiting in the OPD for hours and hours for a visit to the doctor. Oh, and those awful spinal injections you threw at me? In the beginning I just pretended the pain wasn’t bad, but later those injections actually didn’t feel all that bad. So, Mr. Cancer, try harder.

I think it is evident that I was too much for you, since you no longer plague my body, but I think I gained more than I lost in the time I spent with you. I couldn’t have been the man I am today, had it not been for you. I’m being totally serious right now. I’m pretty sure there’s an alternate universe somewhere out there in which you didn’t introduce yourself to me and I’m a completely different person. And that may not be in a good way. I wouldn’t have met all those nice doctors and nurses, many of which I’m still in touch with, had it not been for you. I wouldn’t have met all those nice fellow-patients at the hospital had it not been for you. It may not have been fun to stay home when others go to school and run and jump and play about, but it made me who I am. So thank you for that.

You know, my mom always says that I am a very positive person. Whenever she tells anybody about you and me, she always lays a lot of emphasis on how positive I was through it all and how it was instrumental in steering me through those times. And I am positive. I look for the positives when people think there are none. Sometimes there really may not be any realistic positives, but then optimism can’t be classified as being realistic. I believe realism may get you far, but you need some optimism to get over the line. Optimism is a human trait, but ironically, not all humans possess it. I doubt I’d have been such an unabashed optimist had it not been for you. So thank you for that.

Its been close to ten years since you first stepped into my life. The first three of those were largely spent at the hospital and at home. You were like my second home during those years. School is supposed to be a second home for kids of that age but school was relegated to a distant third or maybe even fourth for me. I can’t really say whether I regret it or not since it wasn’t my choice in the first place, but I can say that if I was given the chance to change it, I would keep things the way they are. I don’t care that I spent two to three years of my seventeen and a half year old life in a hospital. I didn’t think that what I had was a big deal then and I didn’t care about it much. Once I was told I had “a disease”, the natural reaction for me was, “Okay, well, let’s get rid of it,” and that’s what I spent the next few years of my life on. I guess that was just ’cause I was too young to know better, and a part of me knew that “what I had” wasn’t strictly normal, but I just went with it, and I can say that I wouldn’t label that part of my life as a fall in my graph, so to say. If anything, its half of my life’s highlights reel. So thank you for filling the highlights reel of a guy whose remaining life events surely pale in comparison to the memorable experiences that you’ve given me.

I don’t regret having met you, but we should probably stay out of each others’ paths for the foreseeable future.

Yours,

Jai.

Appreciation

“A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.”

VisionAvengers: Age of Ultron

The weird-looking dude in the image above is ‘Vision’ from the second installment of the Avengers franchise, Age of Ultron. He is basically a God, armed with the yellow ‘Mind Gem’, the one you see sitting pretty on his forehead. This movie didn’t fare as well with the critics and audience than its predecessor, but there still were some amazing moments and dialogues scattered here and there throughout it, and the moment Vision let out this piece of wisdom was definitely one of those.

Nothing lasts forever. As hard as that may be to accept, it is true. It is a heart-breaking revelation sometimes. To be honest, we all know it, and there’s no meaning in thinking or worrying about it because nothing’s going to change that. Instead, enjoy it while it lasts. That’s the least you can do. Its the least you owe yourself: making the most of what you have. Don’t make yourself regret it after it’s gone.

Make that phone call, drive across town to meet that one person, do what you should be doing before you realise you can’t do it anymore. Seriously, I’m not even being opportunistic or over-the-top here. Just do it, quite literally.

A Desk, A Noisy Classroom and the Cinema Hall

Writing is a funny thing. You may write about world peace, or about harmony or getting along with one another but you may be writing it in the middle of a war, or in a busy cafe. Roald Dahl wrote about murderous giants and horrid witches from a quaint little yellow hut by his house.

They say home is where the heart is. Going by that, I guess its fair to say that we write best where our heart really is. It could be a little hut by the house, like it was for Roald Dahl, or it could be our desk. It could be a bench in the park or our bed. It depends. Sometimes I can’t write in the same place all the time. I need a change of scenery. Some fresh air and different sounds. Different kinds of sensory stimulation. That’s what I need sometimes. I need some sort of stimulation to get me going and keep me clacking away on the keys. It doesn’t matter if I’m typing half-rubbish – I can always weed that out later – the important thing sometimes is to keep writing.

One sort of stimulation for me is music. Like most of us, I prefer different kinds of music for different situations, moods and needs. While I’m writing I usually go for instrumentals. That way there’s no words in the music that get in the way of the words in my head. There’s a lot of old-school instrumentals that are really soothing, and they do the job no doubt, but even modern fast-paced soundtracks are extremely effective. There’s Brian Tyler’s Into Eternity from Thor 2, the main theme of GoT, all of Steve Jablonsky’s amazing works in the first three films of The Transformers movie franchise, Michael Giacchino’s Enterprising Young Men from the new Star Trek franchise, Hans Zimmer’s Like a Dog Chasing Cars from The Dark Knight, and many more (comment if you want more, I’ve got loads :D).

But what if your writer’s heart isn’t in any singular place but in writing itself? Well, then you’re like me. I’m that sort of person, that if I get an idea to write, an impulse of even a minor plot device that I just feel I want to use in a story, I’ll start writing it.

I often write on my desk because I’m home when I get ideas and my laptop is lying on my desk and I’m too lazy to carry it elsewhere. When I’m not home, however, and I don’t have the laptop close by, I use my note-taking apps or even Microsoft Word, on my phone.

Once last year I was sitting in this really boring Hindi lecture at college and I was doodling Iron Man’s armor, and Captain America’s shield and The Flash, when I got an insane idea for a story. So I whipped out my Hindi notebook and I just started writing. Another time, I was watching a movie, it was a really cheesy Hindi one. I don’t even remember the name, except that Ranbir Kapoor was in it. And I wasn’t really into it; I’d gone to watch it with a bunch of friends and we were all cracking up at how silly it was and then I got one of those out-of-the-blue ideas to write again. I didn’t have a phone then so I took one of my friend’s phones and I started typing in one of the note-taking apps he had and thought I’d email it to myself or something. Hilariously, in a hurry, I didn’t save it properly so I lost about 1500 worth of story material.

Again, I can’t always write anywhere I feel like. There’s a lot of times that I force myself to sit down and just write, because I haven’t written in a while. Sometimes when the gap between writing sessions increases, it just gets harder to squeeze out some material. I guess the place where we write can really influence our writing. The ambiance, the disturbances, or lack thereof, can all reflect in our writing.

In the end, though, I believe it doesn’t matter if we write in your office, or on the toilet, in college or in the train. What matters that we write.


Those were my thoughts on writing and the places where we write best. Where do you write best?

Also, below you’ll see a short poll about the different kinds of posts that I write. What kind would you want to see me write more of, or what kind have you liked the most on my blog? Please fill in the form and help me out to know what my audience likes best, and I’ll write accordingly!