Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chapter 1: A Reunion And A Resolution

The tentative title for now is "Finishing School". I though it apt, though i know that is a girls concept but I am really bad at titles...if any of you can suggest a better one I'd be glad to oblige. For the last one year I have been hunting for a name for this blog than "Jiby Starts Blogging" but it eludes definition...i think i may leave it that way forever. Well to start off, here's the link to Chapter 1 . Have decided not to crowd this personal blog with this stuff. The writing took me 5 hours and 2400 words, i am exhausted but glad i stuck with it. With that kind of time and words I would have had 6 posts on this blog and kept it ticking for more than a month. I never expected to begin this kind of serious writing until I was 30, if at all I got to it...glad the process has begun four years earlier.

As you read you may wonder who these characters are...you may have come across a few similar people in my earlier writings. I will talk about them in detail when I conclude this novel. I decided i couldnt approach this like a short story and a lot of planning had to happen ahead. Found this real helpful resource on the net. I now have a lot of it falling into place but not all of it...but i guess that shouldnt bother me. Selecting the number of main characters whose lives play out troubled me. Most novels have two or three main characters but i find mine having 6 and more worrisome is the problem of developing them simultaneously. Would I be able to do justice to all of them or would I leave them half-baked in its wake? The other problem is the worry that so many characters will crowd the plot and pull in different directions. I guess we will all know soon.

For a few spaced out chapters I think I should leave it open to comments to get your feedback. There must be a galore of factual inconsistencies and blunders in the plot. I am treating it as a first draft. I would be glad if some of you have the time to take the trouble of noting them down and letting me know at the end. Well enough of my ranting here. Hope to do justice to your expectations. Thank You all for the encouragement.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Novel Madness!!!

So what next? That is the question i have been asking myself with regards everything...the future, the blog, the career, et al. Having written that story I was tempted to begin writing another one. The story was the second one I have written in my life, the first was in malayalam...its either inside one of my ias history texts i left back in india or lost. I will have to wait another 3 months when my sis visits India, to find out if I still have it. Anyways the National Novel Writing Month is here and I have decided I am going to write a novel in the next 30 days. Now you guys must be wondering why I would shoot off my hip and let everyone know before I have even penned a single word to it. The reason is purely psychological - it is to put pressure on myself so that I actually sit down every day from this moment on and write one chapter a day and post it on this blog. I wonder how decently it would turn out and hurried the novel would look if I manage to finish in 30 days but for now thats the least of my concerns. I will be disabling comments until its all over.

Actually about 15 years back my childhood buddy, kichlu and i began writing a book on the lines of The Hardy Boys, we called them "The Fidswilliam Boys"(lol!) but after 6-7 chapters we realized the story was developing "quite" similar to a Nancy Drew one we read then, if i remember right called the "Mystery of the Missing Mannequin" or something similar and we gave up. The funny thing with writing stories, i wonder how other people do it, like they fix the story outline and then proceed but for me the story develops as i write it...even I have no idea what should happen next. I have spent the last 2 weeks scratching my head, wondering what theme to take up. A few ideas came up but got nowhere. I even searched on google for "How to Write a Novel". I read The Alchemist just a few months back and was surprised the book couldnt inspire me as much as i expected maybe coz of the fact that I had set course on a journey akin to the young shepherd a year back. But one line in the book fascinated me, If you dont listen to your heart, soon the heart stops listening to you. I have this gut feeling that if I dont try this novel thing out now, my life will soon go on the same track of moneyed madness that I had so much difficulty in coming out of last year.

What to write? I had this story idea of an American who travels to India for a vacation, fumbling into a lot of intrigues, finally falling in love with it, taking his family there and their struggles with assimiliating into the culture but I got scared at the thought of it falling into cliches. Maybe I will take it up later. And then I had this idea of a family story, set across generations from tales I heard of my grandma speak and from the biographical descriptions of some ancestors in the Kattakayam Kudumbacharitram book that was recently published but I have decided anything I write in fiction about Kerala has to be in Malayalam first. Though I havent written anything I have this belief that I can write better in Malayalam than English. As of now I am focussed on a story about schooldays. School is something I still relate with, blessed with a huge repertoire of memories from then, and an interesting array of characters who are still an integral part of my life to some extent. I am wary if the final product will mimic Tom Browns Schooldays, a masterpeice I last read 12 years back. What amazed me most about that novel is the timeless quality and universal appeal of that book. Even 150 years hence, the story of Tom Brown and Jimmy East, the two main characters of the book is one, every child identifies with and lives through, every day in school.

As far as life goes, i am in hiding. Only my closest friends have my number, i hate speaking to my parents coz I feel like a total loser as I go about bashing all their hopes of me finding a steady career, and thankfully all the nagging my sister does is insisting i wash my dishes and watch movies with her. Anyways the next 30 days of November promises to be an interesting time if i manage to keep the novel afloat. If by any chance I loose steam midway and give up please dont hold it against me...that certainly would be embarassing after this loud declaration of intent here. As I wrote the last line i couldnt help remarking here that except for writing on this blog every other challenge I have taken up over the last 2 years I lost. Discipline. The one thing I lack and what I need most now. Coz if I can pull this off I think I will gather the guts to write a script. And the magic that newcomers can do to films these days. Looks what James Albert did with Classmates!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Unlike The Kite…

The kites soaring in the sky made a pretty sight. The thought that he had never flown a kite embittered him, but seeing the city where he never saw birds, now looking like a bird sanctuary, brought a hesitant smile to his puckered lips. A solitary boy sprinted from one end of the park to the other, his kite following closely, threatening to fly. It came crashing down the moment the little boy, slowed down while he looked back to see its progress. Crestfallen, yet hopeful, he tried again and again, finally stopping to rest at the bench, where the man was seated at one side watching the boy’s valiant efforts in fascination. The boy longingly looked up to the skies. He could never hope to reach the heights that rich people flew their kites to, from their terraces. He noticed the man eyeing him intently and started to walk away, his eyes pinned up still, towards the heavens.
"I can take you to my terrace", called out the man who was surprised by his spontaneous act of graciousness. The boy spun around instinctively, but turned away, wondering whether the man was mocking him.
"Come on, I am not joking, I want to see you flying your kite like all the other people".
He rose up and moved towards the boy and placed a hand on his slight shoulders.
"And you could teach me how to fly it too."

The kite flew farther and farther. The light breeze on the terrace was taking it away. The boy's nimble fingers danced around the thread, expertly letting it go a lot and tugging it back a little. He looked up occasionally at the man, whose eyes betrayed his yearning to take control of the string. The man felt a youthful freshness that had eluded his staid life for a long time now. The terrace would be his favorite haunt now on.
"Do you want to try?" asked the boy.
"Yes, but you will have to help me".
Within a few seconds of the man taking charge, the kite swooned, and dipped in a free fall, with the man frantically trying to arrest its descent.
"Oh, I have lost my kite, Ma will kill me now", the boys mourns as he sees his kite entangled on a telephone post. The man yanks at it and with resignation writ large on his face; he realized the thread had snapped.
"I will give you money to buy a new one. Don’t worry", the man says trying to soothe the disappointed look on the boys face.
The kite, which flew proudly like its namesake, a few seconds back, cavorting at each flourish of the boy's wrists, now lay on the wires like a star fallen from the skies.

"Come to my room. Let me get you the money." The man's words seemed to be of scant relief to the aggrieved boy.
"Here. Have some biscuits or better take it with you home." He could see the child's eyes widening at the sight of the food.
"What class are you studying in?”
"I don’t go to school anymore. They stopped giving mid-day meals", the boy replied.
"Where do you live? I need to talk to your mother."
"We live close by. My mother will be very angry. She will shout at you too if you come".
He locked his room and came down with the boy praying the landlady wouldn’t be hovering around to make small talk. They walked past the park, the houses were becoming smaller, the streets narrower, with shanties encroaching the road that shrunk almost to a bylane. The man hadn’t been to this part of the neighborhood before. He never felt the need and much lesser, the curiosity. That is, until today. They arrived at an ancient tenement. The door to enter was shorter than the man. The boy went inside while the man decided to stand outside, uncertain of his place there. Immediately a loud high-pitched voice rang inside, "Where have you been? I come back home tired, slaving at other people's homes, and find you gone, just like your wonderful father. I know you too are waiting for the chance to leave me". A brief silence interrupted by hurried whispers, and a head appeared from behind the door.
"Please come in sir. Has this boy been giving you trouble? I have to beat him more or he won’t straighten".
"No please don’t. He was only playing with his kite. And he lost it because of me," the man timidly responded.

All their living quarters had, was a single room. On one side was what looked like the kitchen with a few bowls stacked nearby. A few clothes and a metal trunk chest lay carelessly on one corner, with a few more clothes, left on a string tied across the room, presumably to dry. The man’s eyes lit up, seeing an old 14" TV. He had remembered this was now a common sight across many slums in the old city and many even had cable tv, wired illegally.
Seeing the man staring intently at the TV, the woman fearfully offers, "Please sir. That is all we have. His father took it from somewhere two years back. He has left us since then".
That was when he got a proper look at the woman. She must be no older than 25. A little dark in complexion, she had a beauty and elegance that he couldn’t quite place, for her surroundings. She was slightly on the plump side; her salwar-kameez clung tightly to her body. He bit back the odd arousing of lust that had involuntarily kindled. Despite bottling his feeling, a telepathic wave seemed to have told the woman, of his need, and she self-consciously pulled on a dupatta lying on the wardrobe.
Slightly embarrassed, he remarks, "I came to talk about the boy's education. You should send him to school again.” And after a brief silence where his eyes mediated casually on the woman, added, “I can help you".
"Thank you, sir. But he is old enough to start working now."
At this the man gets angry and responds, "Do you have to live with his money? I am sure you are capable of earning enough for both. I will bring him books and clothes. I need someone to clean my room and toilet. Can you come?"
"Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Child, say thanks to the good man".

With gentle sweeps of her broom, the woman fanned out around the room, her gaze fixed stiffly on the mosaic floor. The man appeared to be reading a magazine, lying back on his bed, occasionally looking up to watch the woman, hard at her work. She seemed to be uncomfortable with his presence in the room, How would I make the first move? he thought. The hands moved towards the woman, and came to rest on her shoulders. Her back had been turned away, and in shock, she spun around.
“Please sir, Please sir…”.
“It is okay, it is okay,” the man assured as he buried his face in hers. A tear fell from her eye which came to rest on his upper lip. A pang of guilt shot through his body. So transient was everything else before his lust, he thought to himself, as his tongue came out to wipe his lip clean. The broom fell from her hands. Her fingers wandered to his back where they brushed against his wallet. Maybe, he will save me, she hoped.

The boy bounded his way back home. It was nice to be back in school, amongst people his age, to be playing with them, he didn’t understand anything the teachers said and neither had he the courage to ask nor had they bothered to help, a courtesy he expected as a new student, but he would learn all that soon, the good man had promised to help. His mother was not at home. He wanted to tell her a lot of things. “I should go thank the nice man”, the boy thought aloud. As he neared the man’s room, he heard his voice, “Now your boy is like my son.”
“Hmmm,” he heard his mother’s feeble reply, and after a brief pause she added, “I will come back after 3 days.”
”No, I need you to come to me every day, and send your son to me; I may have to help him with his classes”. The door was closed, the boy couldn’t understand, his mother never went to the same house to work every day, he decided it would be better to go back to his house.

She came home, he watched her carefully, only a blank expression enveloped her face. She hadn’t even bothered to ask him about school. She was so talkative, but today she seemed so subdued. He knew from experience, never to ask her questions, because she had only scoldings to give for answers. He walked out of their house, and he thought it odd that she hadn’t even noticed. In contrast, the man, seemed exceedingly happy to see him. He patiently taught the boy, gave him sweets, and sent him away happily. The boy walked back home unable to contain the smile on his face. His mother’s behavior was forgotten, he had found himself a guardian better than his father, and he had a better future to look forward to. In a few days, he was relieved to find his mother back to her cheerful self, and he went to the temple, and prayed hard to god, to make all this bliss last forever.

The Notice of demolition was a rude shock that sent into a tumble, the new life that was budding, for mother and son. Until then, she had consoled herself that her relationship would save her son. She had forgotten all her physical needs in the face of the struggle to survive, and now she had begun to love the way, the man aroused in her the feelings, that had been stoked first by her husband and then left cold to wither away. Her hands trembled, as she struggled to muffle her tears. They had nowhere to go, no relatives who would take her in, no employers sympathetic enough to let them in, except for the man. Taking the boy by one hand, and clutching to the notice by the other, she walked towards the man and knocks at his door.

He looked up from the notice, a look of displeasure, mixed with sadness.
“There is no way you can fight this notice. Where will you go?”
The woman who had looked up until then, lowered her face, her shame had washed away all the dignity he saw there, the first time his roving eyes had fell on her. A brief silence followed, it was obvious to the man that she needed his help.
“You tell us….”
“I am sorry. The landlady won’t allow. My friends and family can’t see you both here. Can I give you some money?” How pathetic he looked, he wondered, to the desperate souls in front of him. His eyes darted to the boy’s to escape the woman’s fierce look. He cringed at the pitiful look of betrayal that wore on the child’s face.
“Come, my son, the gentleman has had his good deed and his hearty meal and he’s satisfied. Remember what he’s taught you now.” He couldn’t bear to face them any longer and shut the door. He turned around. Like a curse, it had to be the mirror he encountered. In it he knew he was seeing the worst coward of his life.

A few days later: yet another evening, a steady breeze was blowing, a time for kites, a time for people to escape the confines of their homes. The man trudges up the steps to the terrace. He sees the boy's kite still there, caught on the wires, how long would it survive as a token of his noble gesture of humanity, he wondered. The kite had been played with and forgotten by its owner. The man remembered how he toyed with and discarded the boy and mother. At least, the kite had found a resting place, too high for any man to stomp it down. What about its owners. Have they found an abode, safe from the cruelties of fellow beings?

For those of you who wondered what this is about, this is my first attempt at fiction and writing a short story, on this blog. The characters are drawn from people I have observed in real life, during my stay in Delhi, like the lonely boy in the park who ran with his kite, reminding me of my young days when we used to fly kites with my neighbours, the washerwoman who my landlady contracted to launder my clothes, and who I thought was the most beautiful lady I had ever beheld, and the man…well isn’t he like most of us men!

Criticism is most welcome, this time around!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On My Blog

I have been tagged by the wonderful Silverine, to write this tag about my blog and its a special occasion too. My blog is turning 2 years old in less than a week's time and I found out that this is my 100th post too. I am really not in a mood to blog but this is another one of those super-tags I just cant shy away from.

1. Are you happy/satisfied with your blog, with its content and look? Does your family know about your blog?
Yes, I am satisfied with all I have written on my blog. Sometimes i get so inspired i cant believe that I really wrote some of those posts. Other times I have had to labour hard to gather my thoughts to even pen down a few paras. My family found out about my blog almost 6 months after i had begun...recently, they just cant resist the urge to leave a comment though I really dont approve of it. The hard part is ever since he's found out, my dad thinks I can become a writer, but he doesnt realize its just my age, my idealism, my frustrations and my experiences that find a voice here.

2. Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog or you just consider it as a private thing?
Many of my posts have been about my friends, their heroics, their achievements and their blunders...so I always thought it unfair not to let them know about my blog. I know for a fact that people feel real happy when others write good things about them...i always think the only good that may come out of my blog is that i have honoured a lot of good people who have contributed immensely to my growth as a human being. To be frank, before I began blogging, I always felt i hadnt done anything worthwhile in life, i craved for appreciation, and then when people began to relate with me from school, college, people who knew my family name besides total strangers, i got scared, i wished I had stayed anonymous, i wished i could be more frank and forthcoming than I already was on my blogs...now its too late to change.

3. Did blogs cause positive changes in your thoughts?
Definitely. I think I have begun the process of finding out who I am, what I am capable of and how little I know of the world around me. It is when you pen down your thoughts, that realization dawns on you about how age, maturity and experiences have shaped the growth of your personality all these years. I have read so many interesting thoughts and viewpoints, its helped me in my growth as a person.

4. Do you only open the blogs of those who comment on your blog or you love to go and discover more by yourself?
For close to a year I havent had the time, the computer, or the luxury to let myself loose in blogworld. So I have restricted myself to only those people who regularly comment on my blog and yet I dont even find time to visit some of them regularly. Many of the blogpals who were active a year back dont blog anymore, but I have discovered many other talented writers along the way to offset their loss.

5.What does visitors counter mean to you? Do you care about putting it in your blog?
I think I put it on just a few months back. A friend told me I had some fans at the place he works and thats when I wanted to find out how many silent readers pass by my blog daily. It really doesnt matter who reads and who doesnt...i just wish I had a perfect professional life to balance all the happiness I get from blogging to my hearts content.

6. Did you try to imagine your fellow bloggers and give them real pictures?
Reading what they write has given me a mental idea of the wonderful people they are and how they go about their lives. I think appreciating what they write has given the word, friendship a whole new dimension on cyberspace. I havenot and maynot meet any of them, nor will i make the effort and most of my blogpals, i think, have certainly overgrown the fancy of giving faces to each other.

7. Admit. Do you think there is a real benefit for blogging?
Definitely. I began to blog when I quit my first job and was bereft of inspiration. It continued along with me in my quest for professional sucess. All through school and later years, i never could write anyting coherently, but I have noticed how much the way i express my thoughts on paper have changed recently, from the time i began to blog. I think even the courage to pursue a childhood dream of writing the civil services exam came through the confidence i got with being able to write here.

8. Do you think that bloggers society is isolated from real world or interacts with events?
People who think we pale in the face of newspapers, magazines, TV and other forms of media may think so. 5-10 years back i was jealous of the journalists and columnists of India Today, Hindu and Readers Digest. But today I feel so empowered. I can voice my opinion through my blog or leave a comment on another blog on any issue or event somebody decides to blog about. We bloggers are a part of the society we live in and absolutely everything we write is about the people and incidents which happen around us or somewhere in the world. If its our limited reach, that makes others call us a bloggers society, it only shows the limitations of the billions of people on our earth who dont know what a blog is.

9. Does criticism annoy you or do you feel it's a normal thing?
I hate people criticising me. From reading so many other talented bloggers, I know my limitations and try to evolve. But that takes time. I hate people who dont agree with something a blogger has written about but ends up crticizing his/her writing styles and that bloggers very intelligence. Its easy to leave a harsh comment, but they dont realize the courage and skill it takes for an amateur to write a good blog or voice an opinion knowing they could get scorned at or not appreciated.

10. Do you fear some political blogs and avoid them?
No. I try to appreciate what the author wants to say. But if I cant agree I just move on without leaving a comment. Infact two of my seniors from school, MindCurry and Vinod Chetan, have begun two of the best initiatives among kerala bloggers on our politics and society...and sad part is i havent been in a mindset to visit their blogs recently. And ooh, its been a long time since I have written something serious.

11. Did you get shocked by the arrest of some bloggers?
I feel sorry for those guys in China, Pakistan and other Islamic and dictatorial countries who get arrested for blogging in the name of freedom and democratic values. As for those bastards who use it to propogate violence against others, what a shame. Finally, have they realized the pen certainly is mightier than the sword??

12. Did you think about what will happen to your blog after you die?
It will die with me for sure. Then the only people who stumble on it will be the ones who look up trivandrum, kattakayam, loyola or a jiby on google.

13. What do you like to hear? What's the song you might like to put a link to in
your blog?

There are so many songs...i'll just list the ones that inspire me the most
Let It Be - Beatles
Yeh Jo Desh - Swades
Kadam Kadam - Netaji
Naalikerathinte Naatil - Thurakkaatha Vaathil

This is a tag for every blogger. This is a tag for every blogger who has gained something from this pastime. I earnestly hope all my blog-pas will take this one up.

I am not living in India anymore. I am one of those oddities in our 21st century India abounding with jobs who still doesnt know at age 26, what he wants to do with his life. And i think about all those guys in the 70's and the 80's like my dad and others who had to apply for 100's of jobs to get an interview or were desperate to go out of the country to earn a living. A turbulent phase lies ahead...maybe this will be my last post for a long long time or maybe not...its hard to turn my back to this blog. I return to India in May, for next years exam...maybe after that with some more money at hand, which i will make now by goin back to work in the industry i got sick of, i can start on some other saner venture. Adieu!