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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Shorts 3

This edition of Shorts contains two cue words from readers and one of my own. More cues for writing about are, as always, invited.

The third cue is the one I gave myself. The contributors behind the first two, in order of appearance, are:

  • Bishal, an undergraduate student at CMI, a year my senior. He is also a rare male among my fellow Carmelites -- an alumnus of one of the few co-educational Carmel schools in the country. His focus of study lies in Mathematics, and he edits an online English-Assamese Science/Maths magazine called Gonit Sora. In leisure, Bishal is spotted obsessing over superheroes, movies, the occasional anime, and beautiful women.
  • Arijit, the Head Boy of Hem Sheela in the term succeeding Nihal's and mine. A Xaverian and student of Commerce, Arijit has a keen taste for oratory and politics, especially political satire. He enjoys non-fiction literature, and is a steady source of world news for anyone who cares to ask. When not sending John Oliver videos and Onion articles to anyone who is online, Arijit is known to drool over Bengali, Punjabi and Mughal cuisine.
To all my readers, as always, I request feedback about my attempts.

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Petrichor

There is beauty to the nameless. Also, there is freedom in the lack of warmth and care and love. Sometimes, I think that to be free means to be cold and icy forever. The day you didn't listen to your mother who was worried that you would get a cold -- were you not free? Did you not live that day? Did you not sail boats, did you not hide your tears in the rain, did you not let the water seep through your smile and into your guilty gullet -- rainwater should not be drunk... acid rain... death...? Who cares? Wouldn't you die, if it meant you felt? Would you not leave, if it meant you loved? Would you not cry for a year to feel pure joy for but a day? Are standards so important that we must restrict the beautiful and define the transcendental?
I know three languages, and I could name you in only one -- and so you were home, heart, freedom, memory, soul. But then they had to go and find your English name. They had to define you in the language of slavery and classism and officialdom. They had to internationalise you, make you universal, viral across the internet as another 'relatable' post. And the moment they did that, you were no longer mine.
Yes, the word we use is perfect music -- but did we have to define what we meant, petrichor? Did we have to become public property, shared information, dictionary entry, spelling-bee question? Tell me, petrichor, were we not better without a name?

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Rahul Gandhi

Isn't he cuddly?
He is fair (them Italian genes, daadi-gasm!), light-eyed, dimply and a subtle demagogue -- perfect for Prime Minister. So why did he lose?
The answer lies in what we look for in our teddy bears -- do we want a runty teddy that makes squishy noises, or a big furry one that makes gurgly ones? We want our teddies like we want our demagogues -- unashamed in what they do, which is hug and befriend everyone, in every country, at all times. We don't mind if a teddy is a bit old and torn and scary, we still like the bigger teddy. We like confident teddies who are not timid to shoo away the green-white monster under our beds. We like teddies who can coo to the dollies and gollies of other lands and bring us many, many sweets (while calling them by their first names) -- and, most importantly, we want a teddy that is ours. We want our teddy unbeholden to their own Bearclans, and we want them to have bellies big enough to hide two-thirds of HoneyLand's cubs underneath. We want them to save moo-moos and hide Barbies away from bad things -- and RaGa Bear can't do any of this! He can only smile at ladybears and tell us that things will be okay! The janta no longer maafs their teddies for being squishy! We want gurgle, we want muscle, we want prickle, we want Mudi!
Sorry RaGa, but Mudi Bear is our chief. Isn't he bearfect? *glomp*

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Stone

Moulded beautifully in flow after flow, in a place where no man dares venture, there lives a solitary wall of stone. Millions of years ago it was soft tissue, throbbing with life, until weight and heat and time turned it hard, dark and, most importantly, potent. As a mass of living cells, the stone would never have lit the fires that it now could. It would never have conjured warmth and spark and war from nothing, like it did now. In losing the flow of life through its body, the stone gained the veneration that is due to the powerful.
As flesh that it was, it lived. As stone that it is, it is loved.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Shorts 2

As I requested in the previous post, my LoudSpeak Listeners have come up with more cue-words for me to write about. Admittedly, not all of these are very short, but compared to the 1500+ words of rants I come up with when left to myself, I'd say they were microscopic.

The pioneering cue-word contributors of this series are:

  • Sonakshi, a Physics research scholar from my college (CMI) who also happily turned out to have been associated with an activity from my far past -- The Statesman Voices. When not Physics-ing, Sonakshi paints and takes wonderful photographs, mostly natural compositions within the CMI campus. Since my first semester at CMI, she has been one of the regular supporters of my literary adventures.
  • Nihal, a recurring character in this blog, who I believe needs no introduction to regular readers. To newcomers: Nihal volunteered with the Students' Council of HSMS when I was already a member, in Class 11. In Class 12, Nihal and I earned the top posts in the Council, those of Head Boy and Head Girl respectively. Let's just say he wasn't as bad as I thought he was. Across time and space, though no longer colleagues, we remain great friends.
  • Ashmita-di, who I am yet to meet in real life. I know her through her mother who, as a teacher in HSMS, was instrumental to my short student life there. Ma'am introduced me to her daughter because she thought the interaction might be fruitful -- and so it was (only to me, I'm afraid) since Ashmita-di patiently reads everything I post and leaves me advice.
The following are my attempts at expanding their cue-words, in the order in which they are named.

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Pencil Box

Sometime in high school, I realised that if I wanted, my mother would buy me that fancy quadruple-decker that came with sharpener and eraser-case, and also magnet, compass, pinball, vacuum cleaner, AK-47. When changing schools in Class 11, she asked me to get a good pencil box for the new school, and I knew that financially, it was no big deal to ask for a properly swanky version of the utility (as long as I didn't ask too often). Yet the swanky pencil box never happened, for there was a snag -- I was way too attached to my (t)rusted free gift from Horlicks. For ages, I carried it through school years and board exams. I leaked ink into it until the stains wouldn't go, I hoarded pencil shavings and spent refills in it during my phase of making art with them; its lid was always the makeshift water holder when we 'legally bunked' class to paint charts for school events. My teachers and fellow students made fun of me for carrying it around and not getting a new one, leaving no holds barred including jabs at my socio-economic status -- and I wondered how I would have felt if I really couldn't afford a new pencil box, and how their behaviour contradicted everything we were taught in school about judging people by how fancy their things were.
Eventually, though carried to college and kept as a box for sketch pens and post-its, the old Horlicks box, now discoloured beyond recognition from the old blue-orange-silver and sports pictures, was finally too beaten up to hold its own against the most basic of travel bumps -- and, guilty of spilling all my stationery into my bag about twenty times (and being too small to hold new grown-up things like a stapler and binder clips which I'd never owned separately from my mother's stash before), the Horlicks box was replaced by a double-decker procured by Maa from Navalur -- a neutral-coloured one with an easily removable (as I promptly did) silly sticker. The new one now accompanies me on every academic trip, and is proudly set beside my pillow in ISI Kolkata, basking in glory that I know to be superficial. The old one sits somewhere in my cupboard in CMI, waiting for me to return to it, as we both know I always will.

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Debt

debt. noun.
noun: debt; plural noun: debts.
  • a sum of money that is owed or due. "Nihal paid off his debts to me for last week's Diet Chewda and juice". synonyms: bill, account, money owed, amount due.
  • (in -- debt) the state of owing money. "Nihal bought me ice-cream, so now I am in his debt for ten rupees." synonyms: owing money, in arrears, overdrawn. antonyms: in credit.
  • a feeling of gratitude for a service or favour. "I would like to acknowledge my debt to my friend and former colleague Nihal Singh, for being a steadfast sounding board in tumultuous times, for pushing himself to learn a new job, and succeeding spectacularly in cutting in half the phenomenal workload I had come to expect would be mine as Head Girl of HSMS. While a Head Boy did exist, sorry, buddy, but I underestimated you grossly. I underestimated you as a colleague and as a friend, despite having seen the lengths you go to when you put your mind to something (the poor Samsung Champ still weeps at times) -- jokes apart, while life in CMI and its ups and downs may put you out of my mind at times, you are remembered every time I rally a group of people to get something done, because the best times spent doing that job were as a team, with you. Lives do grow larger, with new knowledge and adventure, new achievements and pitfalls -- for that is in the nature of lives; and try as we may, friendships sometimes spread themselves a bit thin over life's ever-expanding canvas. Yet, a daub here and there via the occasional reunion is enough to prevent it from ripping altogether, given that we hold dear the insurmountable debt that comes with being comrades-in-arms and partners-in-crime, a debt that transcends all repayment, all definition, all clarification. As J.K. Rowling aptly writes (of the lead trio in Harry Potter): 'There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.' While I'd not go so far as to compare our adversaries in Council work with mountain trolls, I dare say that the daily grind and frustration of the rather thankless work we had was another of those friendship-cementing things Rowling mentions." synonyms: obligation, liability, gratitude, appreciation, thanks. "I learned much by working with you, and grew much in having you as my friend -- and so you have my lasting gratitude. As I do every year from time to sentimental time, I now wish you good luck for your life in the years to come -- and since there will be no better chance (I have probably exhausted my creative appreciation skills for the week), I wish you a happy birthday in advance. Thanks for everything, buddy! (Fist-bump)"
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Apathy

There are those that are blinded by light, and those that are afraid of the dark, and then there are those whose eyes are forever closed to external stimuli -- not the physical eye, perhaps; no, there seems to be no difficulty in paying the rickshaw-puller, answering emails, fixing a meal, making the bed... and at some point paying the rickshaw-puller again -- but the eye that can find light in souls brighter than one's own, the eye that can selfishly pick out the dark souls to shun for the fear of losing one's own brightness, is glossed over in disuse.
These curiously afflicted ones are creatures of the twilight -- they have minds like empty fields, where unfounded machinations grow. They create emotion for sport and necessity (for they have forgotten how to feel them), to store and use in perfect wisdom. Warmth and touch and ice and flowers are all products of the machine that churns out existence, cog grinding on dreary cog, gliding on the vast knowledge of all that is to be felt in order to be human, in order to make others feel just enough to let you live. There is routine, rules, destinations, deadlines -- and so all can see -- but deep beneath the surface of the creature's mind, unseen to all the world, a perverse glory begins to fester. The creature that is stoic to the world swells inside, the glory of knowing all rising until the superficial joy of understanding the known no longer excites. The shoulders stay squared, the chin stays up, the eyes stay bright and the smile shines like there's no tomorrow -- for so the machine crafts the creature's skin, for so the machine knows the creature has to be -- and so the creature lives, quietly swelling with the glory of impervious nothingness.
At times, of course, there are breaches -- holes that break containment and let in frivolities like seeing, believing, liking, loving, dissecting, debating, understanding -- they are quickly filled in with wisdom, of course, for they are no match for the machine and all the things it knows.

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Much thanks to the cue-word providers, and I hope I have done justice to your ideas. As always, more ideas are invited.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Shorts

This post is based on the idea of abstractly expanding from a single word or a short phase taken as cue. It is part writing practice, part slice-of-life commentary. For the first post of what I hope becomes a series, my cue words are 'hope', 'love' and 'hurt'. More cue words are invited from readers.

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Hope

I hoped that these were the voices. I hoped that it meant nothing. I was sure that, on thinking rationally, I'd change my mind. But no: this was real, this was starkly true. This was happening. It wasn't the voices, it was me; and, try as I might, I wasn't about to change my mind.

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Love

There are some people who do not always love the same. They love in bits and pieces, because they know bits and pieces so much better than they know the whole and the healthy. Their love is post-apocalyptic -- it comes in urgent bursts and goes in apathy; it is true when it is the need of the hour, and a sleeping giant otherwise.

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Hurt

My body hurts, my mind hurts, everything I ever knew hurts. I'm not telling anyone about this and it hurts, it hurts that I'm not allowed to hurt, that if I hurt I'm going to be made fun of, that the ideas of what it means to be strong are so strong and so wrong that the strong are right and those who hurt are wrong. Wrong, because they are of no use. Wrong, because the world will not notice them gone. Wrong, because when you go to sleep, tired, your heroes stand guard -- and these heroes are never wrong, never hurt -- they are, always and forever, strong.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Journeyistics

My latest wallpaper is air-travel themed. Keeping with the new standards it is 1920x1080, and as usual the full-size file is available on request.
Wallpaper 64 : Journey (Air)

There is extensive use of stock photos in this one: the planes are directly from stocks, and the trails are traced with help from stocks. The figure on the left is built from two stocks (a person with backpack and trolley bag, doctored to have a bigger trolley obtained from a different stock figure) and then edited manually (ye olde brush and eraser) to look, um, vaguely familiar. The picture in the middle, though, is not at all a stock and is built from scratch using only brushes, gradients, filters and shapes/paths, etc. ie. entirely in Photoshop.
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