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A Wound from a Dream

[From Prem Gilhari Dil Akhrot प्रेम गिलहरी दिल अखरोट by Babusha Kohli बाबुषा कोहली]

स्वप्न में लगी चोट का उपचार
नींद के बाहर खोजना
चूक है

होना तो ये था
की तुम अपनी दिल की एक नस निकालते
और बांध देते मेरी लहूलुहान उँगलिओपर
मेरी हँसली पर जमा पानी उलीचते
और रख देते वहाँ धूप मुठ्ठीभर

हुआ ये
की जीन परबतों पर मैंने तुम्हारा नाम उकेरा
वहांसे बह निकली कल कल करती नदियाँ
और मेरी गर्दन से जा चिपकी कागज़ की एक नांव

It’s futile to try and heal
a wound from a dream
when one is awake

What if
You had plucked a nerve from your heart,
tied it over my bleeding finger,
wiped dry the tears from my collarbone
and sprinkled fistful of sunlight there …

But,
from those mountains —
where I had carved out your name —
came rippling down the rivulets,
and left behind a crumpled paper boat,
on the nape of my neck.


Found this gem thanks to a lovely rendition by Rasika Duggal on a charming Youtube channel: Hindi Kavita

Special thanks to Atul Sabnis of Gaizabonts for assisting with “उलीचते”. I went to him with what I thought was the word, and what I thought was the meaning, and he went through hindi dictionary to find it out for me. Such is life with friends.

 

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To Tale or not to Tale

Is it better
to let a tale
be left untold
if telling it will
leave a scar?

Or is it better
to tell it
to a point
where the pain
of withholding
is no more severe
where it doesn’t exceed
the pain
about to be unleashed
by the tale

But if you kill a tale
before it’s told
to the last dot,
what you killed,
is it even the same tale?

Then again,
isn’t every tale incomplete?
because a complete tale
will never end
branching off infinitely
lingering on,
meandering,
pausing,
in a borgesian eternity

Can a tale be retold?
or is it reborn,
every time someone
attempts to retell?

Do you own the tale
you gave birth to?
or does it own you?
does it see you as a medium
and nothing more?
and when it dictates
do you rebel,
put your foot down,
and make it mend its ways?

Does it play you
as you play it in your mind?
does it try your limits?
or do you, test its?
and when,
the negotiation is over
and you lie down
happy, and tired
does it lose sleep
over its future?

Or does it believe
in its immortality
because unlike you
it knows,
it is created
from the same magical dust
of the remains
of the echoes
from that day
in distant future
when the first tale
was let loose
to enjoy its moment
of eternity?

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The Song of Tomorrow

I

We’re ashamed of our imperfect bodies,
but never, of our penurious souls,
our ill-gotten wealth,
or even how, we don’t care, anymore,
about where we’re going,
what we’re doing,
and what we’re not doing,
the thoughts that we think,
the dreams that we dream,
and the dreams that we don’t
anymore,
because someone told us
it’s too late for all that
that
we’re too old
but we’re never too old
to look at our bodies critically
to worry, to argue, to fight
about all that should have ceased
to matter
long ago

II

Age was supposed to be a two way street
of losing some agency, some agility
some enthusiasm, some urgency
but gaining wisdom, patience
weaker eyesight, but better vision
of knowing when to let it go
being immune to the petty
but, lately, the street
seems to have turned one-way
we worry about wrinkles
and grey hair, not grey matter
and slowing metabolism
and lost muscle tone …
accumulated years
as if, they are a liability
not an asset

III

We could just as well
replay the notes
in the back of our minds
our memories, weak as they may be
hold on to those notes, and chords,
and strange rhythms
our memories are darker,
but richer than of those
just starting their journeys;
our notebooks
messy and yellowed,
our maps, personalized
and dated

IV

But, we just want to go back
and re-live the same life
as if maps are enough
to move across space and time;
maps just reassure us
of a possibility of finding
that which could be lost
but lost, it is not, what we are searching
it’s just frozen, irrevocably
and that’s a good thing
for, when we try to thaw it
it always crumbles —
the moment time is turned backwards

V

The best way to preserve maps
is to never use them
and keep them folded
in the glove compartments,
in the old wooden cupboards
or just tucked somewhere
in the attics …
then they become records
of things worth living for, once

VI

We’re ashamed of our imperfect bodies
instead, we should be ashamed
of trying to go back
as if there is nothing
to go forwards, marching
into yet uncharted lands
with a calm acceptance
of disappointments on the way;
for our memories are rich with ‘em
that we still tell the tales excitedly
is the testimony to those maps
which we want to destroy, unwittingly

VII

The young, they need a lot more
to go on
they are building
the wall of memories,
don’t envy them that
you have tasted it all,
and more,
now you need less, and less
because you know the paths
that lead to dead ends
secret paths to sanctuaries,
you’re not worried about
getting lost
about being around
and being relevant
of sanity
of pimples and Ayn Rand

VIII

You know
that, some relationships never last
some people you thought
you cannot live without
never make it with you
meaningfully far,
and you still survive;
you know how to pick up the pieces
to stash the hurt,
to nurse a wound,
to weather the storm
that cliches are underrated
that everyone changes
including you
and that,
it’s a good thing
after all …

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Thoughts on Harmony

The other day, a friend, who has a good ear for music, in fact a connoisseur of Indian classical music, was commuting with me in my car. Normally, I am alone when I commute, and so I listen to audiobooks on my way. That’s pretty much how I’ve got any reading done at all, over the last few years. If one can call listening to audiobooks reading. There I go again.

So that day, instead of putting on the audiobook that I was reading, I decided to play some music. It could be pretty darn disorienting for someone to listen to Pamuk somewhere on the 133rd page of an extremely slow paced book. But then again, since I don’t listen to lot of music in the car, except for some bollywood numbers that my kid enjoys, or when I’m suddenly left with no audiobooks in the queue due to bad planning (which is, to be fair, not that seldom), right in the middle of commute. Now this friend of mine is little picky when it comes to music. So current Bollywood was ruled out. What I had besides that, were a few of my cherished Jazz albums. Couple of Mingus ones, and Coltrane.

lovesupremeSurely, I reasoned, no one can mind The Love Supreme? I mean, isn’t that a confluence of all that’s good about music? Like harmony, dissonance, melody, all employed to investigate spirituality.  I mean, it never occurred to me that it could just be my blind love. But later that the day, my friend commented that it was cacophony.

 

 

 

Yup. C.a.c.o.p.h.o.n.y. Something that dictionary defines as : “a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds.”

That got me thinking. Dissonance by definition is discordant, right? But harsh? And how much of discordance separates orchestrated/controlled dissonance from cacophony?

So I looked at the whole dissonance affair a bit. In a wikipedia article I found two very interesting bits:

In music, even if the opposition often is founded on the preceding, objective distinction, it more often is subjective, conventional, cultural, and style-dependent. Dissonance can then be defined as a combination of sounds that does not belong to the style under consideration; in recent music, what is considered stylistically dissonant may even correspond to what is said to be consonant in the context of acoustics (e.g. a major triad in atonal music).

[snip]

Most historical definitions of consonance and dissonance since about the 16th century have stressed their pleasant/unpleasant, or agreeable/disagreeable character. This may be justifiable in a psychophysiological context, but much less in a musical context properly speaking: dissonances often play a decisive role in making music pleasant, even in a generally consonant context – which is one of the reasons why the musical definition of consonance/dissonance cannot match the psychophysiologic definition. In addition, the oppositions pleasant/unpleasant or agreeable/disagreeable evidence a confusion between the concepts of ‘dissonance’ and of ‘noise‘.

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consonance_and_dissonance

So while, objectively, dissonance is discordant, when one listens to musical dissonance, the perception can very from pleasant to unpleasant. From beautiful to harsh. Indeed, cacophonous.

But that’s not all that I wanted to talk about, because that’s not all that came to my mind as I kept thinking about it — about the inability of my otherwise well ear-trained friend, to perceive the beauty, the progression, the poignancy of that (in my mind) superlative piece of music.

Indian classical music doesn’t much concern itself about harmonies. Sometimes when I think about it, I find it rather strange — something as refined as Indian Classical Music never exploring (at least seriously, to my rather limited knowledge) harmony. Indian classical music is predominantly individualist! So while it is ready to shade the dependence on melody that any early musical forms have, it tends to keep the supremacy of the lead singer/player intact. There is singer or principal player, and there is accompaniment/rhythm section. In modern times, there have been many experiments to explore harmony. Shakti comes to mind. But somehow, if you compare to either Western Classical (which has almost no improvisation) or Jazz (which is highly improvised — a property it shares with Indian Classical), on the complex harmony scale it seems to be just a hesitant attempt (and they had John McLaughlin!).

That really led me to another thought lane. Growing up we’ve heard a lot in school books about “unity and diversity” and later on about syncretic culture, and various castes/creeds living “in harmony”, and so on. Are we romanticizing it? Is this harmony basically just an illusion at worst, and “live and let live” at best? Is this harmony like the polyphony in our classical music, where there is one primary citizen, and the rest are there only to “support in every which way” that primary citizen, so to speak?

No I’m not an expert on music. Anything but. Nor on culture, on Indian culture, even. And these are just threads that were started in my head as I pondered over that confusion, that judgement of cacophony. It made me wonder, are our ears not trained for harmony, much less dissonance? Are we too individualistic a culture (with exceptions like Bhakti/sufi traditions, and many more, I’m sure) to really appreciate harmony and dissonance? Is what we believe to be cultural harmony just disjoint themes playing together, oblivious to each other, or just tolerant to each other’s existence, but not playing towards a common goal, a larger polyphony?

I would like to believe it’s not so. For how would Europe, a much closed mono-culture, have developed both the appreciation and repertoire for Jazz and Western Classical Music, with harmonies at their core?  With Jazz one can understand it a bit, because Jazz did not originate there, and it was more of melting pot effect that it got adapted. But what about the stupefying harmonies of the classical masters?

And what about dissonance? Is it really anti-thesis of harmony? Or does it actually complement it. Our present day culture seems so much closed to any dissonance — not just musical. Did we reach here because decay or because it’s just a logical progression of an emphasis on one superior culture/idea/religion/race/tradition? Is our instinctive rejection of dissonance as noise/cacophony just a result of the internalized belief in fake harmony?

All these questions! And for all you know, it could just be my undeserved reverence for The Love Supreme. I sure could be little less touchy about it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coffee Time

I love the aftertaste of coffee. Okay, let me correct that, because for a filter-coffee-fanatic that I am, the prefix may be redundant, but not for the rest of the world (and for that so-called coffee loving culture called American), it seems. And one must say “filter coffee” when one means coffee – the real thing, not the abomination that you get when you force hot steams through burnt coffee beans; or worse, the so called “decaf” anti-coffee; or worse still, green coffee. Or that counterfeit coffee also called “instant coffee”. You get the drift. Yes, I’ve been called a coffee snob. Not just once or twice.

That said, I’m going to say coffee, taking umbrage in the famous Humpty-Dumpty’s contention:

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

So back to the point. I love the aftertaste of coffee; of good, not too sweet, not too bitter, well brewed, well blended (the traditional two tumbler method) with milk, coffee. That slight bitter aftertaste of coffee is something akin to an aftertaste of a torrid affair that, you knew, was too good to last, but still wouldn’t mind going through again, and again; because, well, that fleeting state-of-mind, that moment of being-in-it completely, is in the realm of the best that life is gracious enough to let us experience.

Yes, it’s probably just a chemical locha, but so is infatuation. And wars have been fought over the latter. No one complained then!

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The thing is, however much I try, I cannot get that from any other coffee preparations. The organically and shade-grown, purest breed fed-on-real-organic-grass horse-shit manured, sun dried, moon exposed, slow and mildly roasted, freshly brewed, super-gourmet, with pristine lineage, and all that jazz coffee (but finally brewed in a couple of mins, and sometimes using excessive force) doesn’t give me even a quarter of that, which I get from my locally bought, non-premium Arabica blend (50-50 Peaberry-Plantation, because I’m too lazy to try out the optimum ratio) brewed with a standard south Indian drip method, and a little bit of time, and care. And I still get called a snob! Go figure! Okay, lately I acquired a manual Burr grinder, but …

The south-Indian style coffee making does exert its price. For one, it’s not instant. Those old enough to remember the brief stint of the MR Coffee ad featuring Malaika Arora (and Arbaaz Khan was it? I, for one, never noticed): asli maza instant nahin hota (the real pleasure is not instant). One has to worry about the freshness of beans, how much you heat the water, how much you pack the coffee powder, what sort of milk you use, how well you can mix/aerate the piping hot milk and the decoction without letting it go lukewarm, and so on. Then, it doesn’t stay hot for long (unless, I’ve been told, you use Chicory, which, being an alleged purist, I do stay away from, if there is a choice). It doesn’t scale well. Add to that the post-operative care of the apparatus. But then again, torrid affairs come with a cost.

For me, this affair has now spanned more than a decade. And that bitter aftertaste lingers on. After every consummation.

I’m telling you: there something about kaapi

 

His Own Fan: Review of SRK’s Fan

SRK has done it all — especially where double roles are concerned. He’s done the normal bread-and-butter ones. He’s done double role with reincarnation. He’s done a “not a double role” double role, where his character fakes a double role that his (character’s) wife falls for. But in Fan, he’s gone and surpassed it all. His character plays his (SRKs) own double role, and another character plays that character’s double role. And what’s more, one character loves the other character!

Okay, don’t get me wrong. I’m not panning the movie. Not yet. In fact, given his recent woeful run of “I’m a star so I’ll prove I can get away with anything” movies (two with Rohit Shetty, one with Farah Khan), I’m glad he picked up a script that’s not juvenile to begin with. It’s another matter that … Like I said, I’m not panning the movie. Yet.

 

 

What I’m going to do here is to review two halves. This is a double-role of a review.

Role 1:

First half. Gaurav Chanda, a Delhi boy — just like his God, the actor Aryan Khanna (the double role of real life SRK, who’s also a Delhi boy) — is known in his  mohalla for playing “Junior” AK (Aryan Khanna, not Arvind Kejriwal, although I’m not sure the choice of initials was accidental)  in yearly mohalla competition, which interestingly, seems to have the budget of whole ward completely assigned to it (AK?) for their annual talent competition. In the part time that he gets between watching AK movies, collecting his memorabilia,  he runs a cyber-cafe. Okay, runs is too generous. But still.

The year in question, he again wins the competition, and gets twenty thousand cash prize for it, with with he decides to visit his object of affection, to present his trophy as B’day present to Aryan Khanna. Predictably he doesn’t get to meet him. Just in time, for him, comes a AK’s spat with a rising star. And he decides to switch to next level of fanaticism, to meet AK. It turns all bad for him, with Aryan breaking his heart.

Again, I’m not panning the movie. This part is actually quite good. SRK as Gaurav is quite a performance. A bit over the top, but intended, and carried out well. The story is almost all believable till this point. Execution is tight. Excellent buildup, to interval. Maybe 7/10 all combined. And for SRK movie, coming from me, that’s seriously lot. And I had begun to feel hopeful.

Role 2:

Post interval, we start an year later, for some reason. That gap has changed Gaurav. No one has bothered to give us a peek into this transformation (except for the dramatic exchange pre-interval), from a broken, dejected, angry fan to a revenge machine. Not that it’s hard to extrapolate the emotional leap, but more importantly, a not-so-bright, starry-eyed, mumma’s boy turning into a very competent (in the dark sense, but still), at home in the foreign land (yes, we move out of India for some reason), smooth operator. No questions should be asked. This is Bollywood after all. You see, you got the warning as Gaurav mouths Aryan/SRK line: the real drama will start now. And so it does. As a catch-me-if-you-can saga starts, you even get a literal taste of it, for what seems like an eternity of a running chase, as the script decides to trade action for everything else. There is just not enough content to give justice to the build-up of the first half. And Fan falters, and runs around like a chicken with its head cut. Finally ending on a predictable note — the way most of the negative protagonist stories do.

As tight the first half is, the second is a contrast. It’s well paced, I give you that. But it’s vacuous. Show-offish. And ultimately underwhelming. Nothing much believable happens. We move from one foreign location to another. The story never catches up.

I’d give this half 4/10. And I’m really being generous here. Because there were no songs.

*

It’s a brave effort, though, all said and done.

Going without a song/dance/humor. Trying to stick to a semblance of a story-line, which is missing in the big star movies lately. Something that no StarKhan looked likely to bite at, given present 300 Cr race. For that I really want to applaud SRK.

But, if you really look closely, it is an SRK showcase, literally (consider this: the film has really no other actor with any meaningful role). Not just of his talent, but of his achievements from past, his legend, his “I’m the king” persona off screen. In a scene, in the second half, his manager/assistant/whatever tells Aryan, “woh (Gaurav) sanki hai”. He looks almost hurt. “Phir mein kya hoon?” he asks. Reminding us of SRK who has boasted in past of his pathani temper. You gotta take him as he is. Just as you gotta take Aryan as he is. Just you have to take lot of idiotic stuff in the second half.

Fan is SRK’s love affair with himself. Or SRK’s love affair with his own stardom. But for a king of romance, it’s hardly a tribute to his best. It’s just canonization of SRK the super-star/super-hero/super-ego. Through Aryan Khanna. It’s a triple role, if you see it from a certain vantage point.

Verdict: Worth a watch, for the first half. But nothing you’d regret for having missed.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Elasticity of Memories

We all love to tell stories. And by that I don’t mean to speak on behalf of the writers, clandestinely smuggling myself into the group. On the contrary, I’m speaking on behalf of us non-writers, wanna-be-writers, poseur writers — everyone who does not seem to have a blanket license to tell stories. Irrespective of such a license, if there were one, we all love to tell stories to right people, and sometimes to the wrong people, much to a mutual displeasure. Still, that urge to tell stories is one of the things that makes us human.

But what separates those who just tell stories from those who narrate, who mesmerize us with their accounts of everyday banality, who make us listen spellbound, who make us laugh out loud, who make us cry, who make us want to say: if only I could tell a story like that?

Do those who reuse their memories, their experiences — in their writings, or in conversations over coffee, or with friends/family, or during random encounters on long distance trains, or just to kill time while waiting at a queue — color their memories with different palettes? Are we, the others, mostly bad painters who can’t for their life find the right colors, the right contrasts, the right textures? Or are our memories dull to being with? Are they colorless, and what is needed is not faithful rendering of those grey memories, but a keen sense of coloring, of dressing up the ordinary.

Does it mean, then, that the honest story tellers are bad story tellers (unless they’re blessed/cursed with very colorful memories)? Of course, I don’t want to accuse the masters of being dishonest, but maybe they are a little generous with the shade card of truth. However tempting it is to use that accusation, though, when we look at our own stories that we tell, again and again, over months and years, we’d probably see ample evidence of that same generosity on our parts. Art of story telling is the art of ever-so-subtly changing the details, of making memories more interesting than they are.

A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, ’till then
It will burn inside of me [1]

Is that deliberate? Or is that automatic? And like a story changes when it moves from one narrator to another, over endless replays of the game of Chinese Whispers, doesn’t it also change when it moves from one audience to another, even with the same narrator? Is it because our memories are elastic, and we make out of them what we want to, without even being aware of that distortion — an act of a subconscious will? Or is it that our memories are so fragile that to arrive in one piece they have to patch and re-patch themselves, like the poor people have to patch their clothes, all the times, to stop them from opening at seams, and elsewhere?

It is not like it’s only an individual memory that suffers (or shares) this fate. Even collective memories are just a common denominator of our changing, elastic, individual memories, already morphed into a reality-inspired-fiction. The thing is, our childhood memories are folk lores that we collectively chose to retell, subtly manipulated by the keepers of those lores. The keepers who, thanks to their unquestioning love, typically are biased towards re-tellings that shield us. Try telling your mom that her  memory of some instance in your childhood is not faithful, and you’ll see a sanctimonious hurt that will be hard to heal. But what is a faithful memory? Is there such a thing? And if there is one, is it an exception or a norm?

I tell stories from my past, often. And I’m sure if someone recorded and replayed them to me, I’d barely recognize the recorded memories.  But a retelling is not necessarily a better telling. It’s a telling that may show you in a better light, at the cost of the story that is too monochromatic. Do those who master the art of re-vitalizing memories put their stories before themselves? Does that selfless, and yet very selfish at the same time, act liberate their stories, and make them more charismatic, more alive? They probably do.

Meanwhile, those of us, who do not have that license to tell stories, must struggle with the banality of our retelling, and futility of our instincts for both authenticity and self-importance.  Like those wandering dervishes, we need to be the story we want to tell. Our memories are elastic enough to allow for that.


[1] Snippets from lyrics of Madonna’s Live to Tell.

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Meditations on Love, and Love Stories

Yes, love can die. it’s more fragile than hate which can survive a lot more. Unlike hate, which has got allies, love has to survive on its own. Especially love in real life, involving real people. The reel love is, at best, a harmless prank.

Unlike those love stories where we’ve to trust a stranger telling us that they lived happily ever after — always they, always ever after — as if, that moment, when the evil villain was defeated, and the prince charming and his beautiful princes took their vows, will last forever, no questions asked; unlike those love stories, that stop inexplicably when cohabitation begins, between two madly in love. Stop being told, that is, not being. In real life, love doesn’t come with an autopilot mode.

Or unlike those truly timeless love stories where, love becomes immortal by the virtue of being unrequited, because the evil villain wins, or because it’s cut short by untimely actions of time, real life love doesn’t have a ghost mode.

The fact of the matter is that very few love stories delve into love, fulfilled over days, months, years, even a lifetime, surviving everyday the banal, the routine, the grotesque, the frustrating: the bad hair days, the mad days, the sad days, the days when words don’t come easily, the days when words won’t stop, when they should. Hurting words, only partly unintended. The sick days; the hectic days when sacrifices are tiny, too tiny to stroke your ego, too frequent for the ego miss, too insignificant to birth a martyrdom, too “on the line” to identify a martyr; days that fly by in a cluster; days when nothing seems to go your way, when no answers are forthcoming. No relief. No real escape.

Love, real life love, has to survive in the interstices between these mundane and crazy moments. It has to find a way to reinvent itself, creating an illusion of a timeless continuum. It has to find a way to grow, to strengthen its roots, to aspire for skies, to liberate, yet to be latched, by choice.

No wonder many love stories only survive when love is interrupted, or never has to face the test of life almost ordinary on average. Almost ordinary, but for the magical moments, like those fleeting sightings of the fireflies, on a dark night. But isn’t that dream — that impossible and yet entirely plausible dream — that makes love special? Maybe waking life is an illusion. Maybe we’re meant to be the dream.

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The Revolution Will be Tweeted

The revolution will be tweeted
quoted, retweeted
bookmarked, pocketed
plastered on the wall
liked, shared, pinned

No, you can’t
dislike
the revolution
not now
but it could be
upvoted or downvoted
questioned, and answered

The revolution will be trended
will be #foodporn’ed
#hashtagged
filtered
curated

The revolution will have
its fifteen minutes
of fame
and if lucky,
it will survive
as a buzzfed

The revolution will be whatsapped
it will bring a smile
to your otherwise dull day
a chuckle, or a shudder
if you are an intellectual
but it sure will be forwarded

No the revolution
cannot be deleted
once it is,
it is forever
relegated to obscurity
after the few hours of fame
there will be no epitaph
no grave, just a timestamp
revolution will live on
unfetched

The revolution will not be attended
it will be delivered to you
in any way you choose
push or pull, even digested
it will bother you
as a notification
in the right hand upper corner
till you’ll take a look
do the needful
without taking a step

The revolution will be branded
angel funded
Revolution will be irresistible
festive, unprecedented
it will be your last chance
while the stocks last
and if it doesn’t suit you
it can be refunded
hassle free

Yes,
the revolution will be monetized
valuated
taken over
restructured
patented

Yes,
the revolution will be changed

No,
it won’t be the change
it will just be
commented upon …

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The Illusive Cordon of Excellence

 

As an aspiring writer, your relationship with words is like a marriage struggling to keep itself afloat. There are good days, far and few between, long streaks of dismal days when you don’t trust the other. Although, in this case, one party can’t even claim sentience, the distrust seems mutual. And you tend, like in any strained relationship, to see yourself as the injured party, almost always. After all, words may not be sentient beings, but they hold an age whenever there is a conflict.

Sometimes I believe we kid ourselves that we choose words. If you look at evidence without the bias that comes with being human, you could quite easily argue that it’s the words who choose us. In his phenomenal work, the Selfish Gene, Dawkins puts forward a gene centric model to explain evolution better. Any meme could be seen as choosing the vehicles for their propagation.  The words choose us. We set arbitrary, and not so arbitrary (according to some of us, anyway) rules to restrict freedom of words. We believe we are enhancing the life of words. But more often than not, those rules end up hurting words. And then words revolt. They choose those who can break the rules, or choose rules that help them. Those who swear by rules are relegated to the forgotten footnotes of existence. While the words live on, way longer than any of us.

We live in a make believe word where writing can be taught. And yet, those who teach writing are struggling with it, just like the one who is learning. Maybe there isn’t anything more to it than practice, practice, practice. Then again, it’s not even remotely sufficient, just necessary. Or neither necessary nor sufficient. If we knew, all would be doing one thing. Thank heavens we don’t know!

Excellence, I sometimes think, is about hitting the target more often than others. Even masters come up with banal, awkward, even downright bad writing. And that assuming literary quality (and by extension, any artistic quality) is measurable, even partially objective.

The difference between good and bad writing — let me rephrase — the difference between good and the best of the bad writing, is tiny. To use a sports analogy, it’s the difference between good and bad timing. Between touching a line and missing a line. The masters seem to make the lines more often.

And yet, there is an endless playing field for those who can’t make those percentage, those cuts. Sometime, right in the middle of a mediocre field, one steps into the zone. Maybe by pure accident. Maybe, that day, the words decide to drop their defenses.  Even a strained relationship has its moments. That’s why we go on.