Curd Rice Daily (The Blog)

GloPoWriMo 2022: 5/30

Today, the challenge is to write a poem about a mythical person or creature doing something unusual – or at least something that seems unusual in relation to that person/creature. For example, what does Hercules do when he loses a sock in the dryer? If a mermaid wants to pick up rock-climbing as a hobby, how does she do that? What happens when a mountain troll makes pancakes?

I am far and away the least fiction-wise creative person I know. I struggle with fictional thoughts and fabricating things from my imagination. Despite being a tactful liar, my creative energies are concentrated on the real world, so this is quite the ask. I’ve interpreted this loosely, where the mythical creature for me is someone who works without a break (and enjoys it) – and the surprising/unusual act is taking time off. The title sounds awfully close to a children’s essay or an Enid Blyton book, which contributes to the rhyme scheme and pattern I set myself on.

Sajet Sleeps

As the sun rose in his part of the world,
Sajet awoke to the sound an Outlook notification,
Deep into his comforter he curled,
Decided today would be a one-day vacation.

He slept all day, and slept all night,
Sajet gave his family and boss a good fright,
They kept calling but he snored and snored,
Sajet decided people made him bored.

The next morning, Sajet arose from his slumber,
Found fifteen missed calls on his cellphone number,
When he read his mails, he saw things were on track,
But replied to his parents that he was awake, online, and back.

Then he was notified they docked his pay,
Adding penalties for deliverables that he delayed,
The whole thing seemed like an elaborate insult,
Until he remembered he was an adult.


GloPoWriMo 2022: 4/30

Today, I am challenged to write a poem in the form of a poetry prompt. The poet Mathias Svalina has been writing surrealist prompt-poems for quite a while, posting them to Instagram. You can find examples here, and here, and here.

For my prompt-poem, I wrote a set that I would be keen to read, and what I usually start conversations with when I am texting people.

You

  1. Your fondest childhood possession,
  2. Your happiest childhood memory,
  3. The walk you took last week,
  4. The breakfast you ate this morning,
  5. That disturbed night of sleep,
  6. Your biggest fear,
  7. The smallest inconvenience,
  8. The shapes you see on ink-blots and in clouds,
  9. The adjectives you identify yourself in,
  10. You.

GloPoWriMo 2022: 3/30

This one is a bit complex . It’s a Spanish form called a “glosa” – literally a poem that glosses, or explains, or in some way responds to another poem. The idea is to take a quatrain from a poem that you like, and then write a four-stanza poem that explains or responds to each line of the quatrain, with each of the quatrain’s four lines in turn forming the last line of each stanza. Traditionally, each stanza has ten lines. Here’s a nice summary of the glosa form.

I tried.

[more thicker than forget]

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

– [love is more thicker than forget], E.E. Cummings

when she arrives,
no space in my heart is left hollow,
every word, weighty, not shallow,
her time a gift,
her company my safety net,
love is more thicker than forget.

when she departs,
she carries our meeting,
time past feels fleeting,
my memory palace locked,
its drawbridge will not fall,
love is more thinner than recall.

when she re-emerges,
she is different,
this is no deterrent,
the evening passes,
we pretend it is the first time we have met,
love is more seldom than a wave is wet.

it is unfortunate then when she settles,
that my overthinking commences,
this calm storm, rocked by hail,
remains steady, unfazed,
love is more frequent than to fail.

GloPoWriMo 2022: 2/30

Today, I am challenged to write a poem based on a word featured in a tweet from Haggard Hawks, an account devoted to obscure and interesting English words. I picked this one.

Nemesist

Doomed from when I hit snooze,
My sleep consumes memories I could be making,
Moments I could be sharing, work I could be doing.
In that process,
Kafka-esque forces make me a chronophage,
I tell my parents I am a creature of habit, a night-owl,
Alas, the moon sees no transformation,
I remain human, not a werebeast, and as it were,
I have procrastinated everything,
For the monkey in my brain refuses to concentrate on the important things,
Choosing instead to eat time to fulfil its hunger.


GloPoWriMo 2022: 1/30

April 2021 passed me by in preparing for examinations and surviving the dissonance I faced between where I was living and what was happening back at home. Amma and I spoke about GloPoWriMo, but I could not be bothered to write at all. This year, I realised the month had begun only on April 2nd, and my cousin messaged me to ask whether we were writing this year. That little nudge was enough encouragement to start up. So here I sit, on April 5th, five poems in hand, posting them one-by-one. The rest of the month should see this play out with more consistency, ideally taking me back to the daily posting this blog offers the promise of.

The prompt today is based on Robert Hass’ remarkable prose poem, “A Story About the Body.” The idea is to write your own prose poem that, whatever title you choose to give it, is a story about the body. The poem should contain an encounter between two people, some spoken language, and at least one crisp visual image.

Rotund

His childhood friends say it first, “Man, you look so good – you’ve lost weight, haven’t you?”. It’s the question that catches him off guard. Why do they ask when he feels like a dried raisin rather than a grape? Six months of portioning meals and no sugar, before the chorus of aunties and uncles offer their views. No pleasantries exchanged but an immediate recognition of shape, “Your cheeks are less round” and marks, “We can see your dimples”. Colours too, “Aww, he’s blushing”, as they turn to his mother and only half-jokingly mutter, “You should get him married when he’s like this”. For those minutes, he holds his tongue, thinking about the dimpled skin hiding stretch marks and how inner-shirts hide the inverted hourglass his body presents in the mirror. He has fasted for this, and so, eats orange gravy, naans, and gulab jamoons to his hearts’ content. All of this till he goes home, feels his fingers along his bulging belly and notices the jamoon he has become.


We’re Back

I’ve returned to Cambridge after two months away, which is the longest duration I’ve spent away from the city since I moved here about a year and a half ago. Previous best: two weeks, achieved in November 2021. That feels surreal, especially given that when I was in Gandhinagar, I’d routinely spend two months away for holidays between terms, and in Bengaluru, I’d spend four months away for term. Aside from work, it is the pandemic that has led to these circumstances, and it was only natural that I had several apprehensions about leaving. This town is tiny, and it is filled with quietude. Being at home, anywhere, is as far away from this as possible. There is always someone to meet, or something to do, and it was only on my last day in town that we sat as a family and did nothing. It was in the full knowledge that I was departing for foreign lands that my parents and I spent all day in each other’s vicinity, not doing anything meaningful or memorable. Except, every moment of that day, Saturday, felt filled with a gravitas beyond compare. Amid breaks from my laptop I caught my dad staring at me in wonderment, and I found myself reciprocating that gaze. In the silence that filled those moments, I sensed – and he confirmed this later that evening – he would miss me. I will miss them too.

I am filled with emotion being back. This is where I feel my life is, despite my non-attachment to places. This is where my friends are, several of whom have messaged, whom I’m waiting to meet. This is where all the knowledge I seek appears to sit, and the ease of finding any book I desire is not something I take for granted. Despite everything feeling familiar, it has been long enough away for me to step away and ask, is this how it’s always been?

That is something I feel thankful for. It feels like I have on a new pair of glasses (I literally do), and all I hope for over the next few months is that these lenses help me change the bits and pieces I didn’t quite enjoy in the last stint here. First step: piano. The rest will fall into place.

Working in the Quiet

I have spent the past two months at home visiting my parents. Having spent two years away, there was naturally a period of settling back into each other’s rhythms and learning about how we had changed and grown. The most obvious change perhaps was that I was working now. I had hard deadlines for things I was working on, even if they were personal pieces. I did not want this trip to interfere with the system of working I had set up for myself in the UK. Before my trip, I began preparing my parents for this shift. I told her she had to give me the space I needed to work on the daily. Sure, there would be quieter times, but I needed the time and space each day without the distraction. I threatened that I’d find a co-working space if the house got too loud. She did not take this particularly well – and naturally so. I mean, we were meeting each other after 24 months apart, and here I was, telling her I would leave home to step outside at the most minor inconvenience. This was just strategic though. I knew it would leave an imprint in her mind, and I was right. This entire period, if I’ve been working, if I told my parents I had something I needed to do for work urgently – they have been nothing but accommodative. Classes have happened, project vivas, marking, and a slew of commitments, especially in the past fortnight. They have understood, learned, and adapted. I am ever so grateful.

This is not to say that I’ve just been working. I should say, that one of the first things I did when I came here was figure out precisely when I was comfortable working. I did not like the idea of working when everyone at home was free – that was the time I would rather be with them than alone in the room on my laptop. So it was, then, that I found quieter hours – the late nights, and some (although my parents will dispute this), early mornings. A few hours in the afternoons where I knew both parents would have meetings, and some such. I learned their schedules and adapted as well, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Naturally, of course, this has led to some discoveries about my patterns of work. One in particular stands out, and is the subject of today’s meditation.

When I was at school, all my academic work was confined to my room, which was on the first floor of our house. My mother spent a majority of her time downstairs. Given this was the case, although I had an inkling that I enjoyed working with music in the background, and I had a certain preference for multitasking, wearing earphones was prohibited. At most, I knew I could get away with background music at a quiet-ish volume in my room. Loud enough for me to hear without my mother ever finding out. This was predominantly so I could hear anything she said if she called out to me, but it also served the very helpful purpose of knowing when she was coming up the stairs. That never really changed what I was doing, but I was prepared for the break in my work that came with her presence – the conversation and liveliness she brought into my otherwise silent space.

With this pattern of work being habit, and my impending move to a hostel, in my final year of high school, my mother took it upon herself to impart critical trainings in the art of focusing my mind to work irrespective of my surroundings. She was the most disruptive. I say this with a lot of love, because I came to appreciate that she would interrupt my studying with lovely snacks, good gossip and humour, and some of the memories I hold on to dearest, but man, sometimes I think back and wonder how I got anything done at all. She told me she was going to disturb me, and she disturbed me every single hour almost. The boys hostel did not stand a chance. I knew then, when she was talking to me in the middle of a practice paper or some such, that earphones would solve everything – but I kept that secret hidden away, employing it the second I got to University.

There, earphones were usually my go-to-DND signal. Within my room, I knew my roommate and I shared a love for our own space, and so wearing earphones meant that we were on full focus mode and in our own private bubbles for a little bit. My love for working with background chatter and sounds I wanted, discovering podcasts and the art of watching TV shows while working – these were learnings from five years of experimenting with things that played while I got on with life. I carried that with me to the UK too, especially since I live with a family – and earphones provide the cut-off from the outside world I sometimes need when I work, and the opportunity to listen to something I want to, instead of perhaps, the construction from a neighbour’s house.

I got used to working with sound of some kind. Even on days I didn’t have my earphones in there was the relentless chatter of the hostel, or the hushed whispers in the library. I lost the ability to work in the silences I was used to – that I grew up on. Till I got back home.

You see, rules don’t change just because I’ve grown. I came back knowing I would only wear earphones if I was in a meeting or watching a YouTube video or some such that would disturb everyone else at home if they heard it. Otherwise the audio from my laptop or phone was fair game. And so, I began to work in silence once more. Yes, my mother disturbed me on occasion, but for the most part, if I was working on something – she understood I was busy. Yet there was silence. No music in the background, no big monitor to multitask on.

Even at night, when my parents went to sleep, given the opportunity to play music and watch something in the background as I completed tasks before logging off for the night – I chose, for an entire month, to go back to working in silence. That has been a discovery and a half, because I thought working with sound had become so hard-wired into my system that I would be unable to concentrate in silence, especially with how much my mind wandered. That’s been useful. It is probably something I will carry with me, and I know has brought some confidence into my system because I no longer lean on the crutch of my earphones to help me focus. My brain doesn’t feel like it needs external stimuli to switch on that mode anymore – and being able to work in the quiet again, comfortably, is something I am thankful for.

And Amma’s conversation in the background too.

Why I Haven’t Written

If you are here expecting a post that outlines genuine concerns that explain why there is nothing new on this blog, you may skip to the end and come back tomorrow. Here is a concise summary to help you on your way: I have convinced myself of multiple reasons to procrastinate writing over the past days, weeks, months, years, and this post chronicles my brain’s observations/attempts to procrastinate once more. I have merely prevented myself from doing this by writing an entire post about the thoughts in my head in real-time as I actively combated the procrastination monkey.

As you are undoubtedly aware, I have not been able to write on this blog continuously or consistently for the past two years. As you are also probably aware, I have grown to accept this and come to terms with it. This has meant understanding that on some days there are no words to write, and no stories to tell, or nothing I wish to share publicly into the void. It has meant giving myself the flexibility of being comfortable with not writing, which is vastly different from the two-three years I spent pushing myself to write. On some days, I query whether I did the right thing in relentlessly pursuing a blogpost everyday, especially if it has robbed me of things to say to the void, or to people in real life. On most other days, I give myself a free pass. I tell myself that writing has become like second nature to me, that because of the two years I wrote, the words will forever flow from my brain. Except, on reflection tonight, I know that is not the case. Words have gotten stuck, and I have become an editor more than I have been writing. I have critiqued drafts and not posted them, going fundamentally against the rules I set out when I started this blog. There have been so many reasons I’ve given myself for a holiday. I’ve written so many posts exactly like this one: for recent examples, see here, here, here, and here. All of them have the same theme with such little pay-off. I explain what’s going on, how I struggle with writing, and make a public commitment to write. Invariably I console myself by saying that I’ve been writing in private. I then go back to my ways and this blog sees no activity for a number of days. Then I come back. This cycle repeats. No constructive writing is done, nor am I wiser for this experience.

Therefore, today, I’ve decided to do something different. I’ve decided not to make a public commitment, but a more private commitment to writing everyday again. You may wonder at this point: Tejas, you’re writing on the blog, surely this is another public commitment? That is absolutely fair. Except, my intentions with this post are not to some audience (that is completely a figment of my imagination, only two people actually read this blog, and I currently live with both of them). This post is intended solely for me. I want to use this space to list every excuse and thought process my brain turned to before churning out what you are reading. My purpose with this is simple. Hopefully, by showing myself what I have thought, future me will rationalise that these thoughts are not constructive for writing, and begin to dismiss them whenever they emerge. This will mean hitting the reset button on a lot of habits that have developed in the two years I have been inactive, but I am certain it can happen.

So let’s get into it. Here’s everything I thought while writing this:

  1. Titles Suck: I have used horrible titles in the past that make posts unsearchable. How am I supposed to know what I have written when I have used the Day #/Date as the title? What have I conveyed? What purpose am I writing for? What is the point of a title if it does not communicate any of this to the audience, or to me? How am I supposed to search my own posts? What should I title this post? Titles Suck.
  2. Writing is Hard: I have written such pointless pieces on this blog. They communicate nothing, nor do they serve any grandiose purpose, despite my lofty ambitions for this blog and from my writing. What should I write today? Do I have anything valuable to say? Do I need to write only if I have something valuable to say? Can this be a journal entry privately instead of a blogpost? Do I need to realign the way I think about writing? Am I just a content creator if I am not writing impact-pieces? Have I ever written for the joy of writing?
  3. Deleting is Easy: It is far too easy to delete something because it does not live up to my expectations. Two keys and it is gone forever. How is the shortcut to delete something so simple, when there is no shortcut to create a piece of work? Oh, but I cannot possibly delete this now, that is hypocritical. Maybe I can save this as a draft and never come back to it, that is definitely the easier option
  4. Where are the Reviews?: Why are you not writing reviews of things you see/read? John Green wrote an entire book called The Anthropocene Reviewed that had the simplest premise, and you could have done it too, on your own blog, just commenting on stuff you have seen/experienced/lived through. Except you didn’t, and he did, and it was the execution of a marvellously simple concept, well done, that made it enjoyable. Why aren’t you writing reviews? Why isn’t this a review post?

And then I started typing, and the words have come out, and for today, this is all I have been able to produce. I know that this is probably a very disorganised post, that makes very little chronological sense (or any sense, to be honest), but this is what my brain has been thinking as it has been typing the words you see. To simplify, I have not written simply for one of three reasons:

  1. I have convinced myself that there is nothing that I am happy to write;
  2. I have convinced myself that what I am writing is far worse than what I could be writing instead – and proceeded to read about what I would rather be writing, instead of writing it – and then never written it [my drafts contain ideas for 10 Longform Essays];
  3. I have convinced myself that I can write at will, and therefore there is no loss that is born out of not writing today because I can come back to it tomorrow – and then never come back tomorrow.

Today, as you can see above, it appears that the excuse I wanted to lean on was #2.

The problem with these, in turn, is plain to see:

  1. If I do not write, it is impossible to say whether or not I will be happy with what I produce – it is only in the act of creating, or creativity, that one can assign value to the process or output. If I decide that irrespective of what I write, it is the fact that I am writing that makes me happy, which is actually the case – and does not need much contemplation – surely, it is easy to be happy just because I am writing. This is tautological and can be expressed more eloquently, so here: Writing makes me happy. That is enough to be writing, rather than finding something I attach “happiness” to be writing about. Therefore, I should be writing.
  2. There is no way to know this unless I write and compare two pieces. I historically do not compare two pieces. Therefore, I should be writing.
  3. I cannot. I am not a natural-born talented writer. I struggled to write essays and had to work on composition prompts relentlessly to find a writing rhythm that I could carry with me into exams when I studied English. I need to exercise my writing muscles if I want to be writing with ease. I struggled with writing the last post and the post before that because I am not someone who can write at will unless I force myself to write so frequently that it becomes an unconscious stream of words pouring out into paper/this void that is the internet. Therefore, I should be writing.

So, it is, therefore, that I am writing this. There is now time blocked off in the calendar to be writing, and a reminder to read this before I do that writing. Tomorrow, I should be writing. Will I be writing? Yes.

Grief, and my Big Ajji

My maternal great-grandmother, my Big Ajji passed away a fortnight ago. Ever since, I’ve been confused about how I was feeling. While it did not take me too long to accept that she had passed, particularly given her age and deteriorating physical condition, I did feel the sense of loss that came from her passing in pangs, rather than a constant cloud hanging over my head. It would hit me at the strangest times, knowing that my Big Ajji was no more, maybe on the walk to the grocery, and once, late at night when I was preparing for family law tutorials and reading about people who might have parental responsibilities toward a child. My confusion, however, arose from not knowing whether this was grief. You see, when my great-grandfather, and my grandfather passed away, I had a distinct sense of what grief felt like up-close: I was studying in India at the time, and was able to be with family in the immediate aftermath. This felt a little more distant.

Aside from the geographical bridge, what with me in the UAE and my extended family in India, my Big Ajji was the last of her generation I shared any attachment with. I, the first of her great-grandchildren, was always told how fortunate I was to share any time with her at all, yet, when she did pass, it didn’t feel like we were particularly close. After moving away for University in 2015, I only ever visited her when I went back to Bangalore, and I didn’t get a chance to meet her in-person after early 2020, with the pandemic making it impossible before I left the city I called home.

So, I was confused. I didn’t know whether grief could taste like this, packaged in this strange flavour halfway between the knowledge of absence and the holding-onto of memory. I was uncertain if, given how quickly I accepted things, I was feeling any grief at all. I viewed my grandmother’s acknowledgment of how much time had passed since – what with a counter – “it has been 8 days” on the family group, with a tinge of “yes, but we need to come to terms with things”. My nuclear family, Appa, Amma and I, were aware of and in touch with the rites taking place at home, but we weren’t fully present or in the moment. There were no Zoom calls live-streaming proceedings, and I even declined, politely, the opportunity to see her body on the day itself, largely to keep the image I have of her in my head safely intact. Locked up in my own palace of memories, bells, whistles and all.

My confusion would have probably bottled up that way had it not been for one evening last week, when my chikkamma initiated, and my family reciprocated a desire to come together to celebrate her life. It was unspoken, the invitation merely asking whether we wanted to get-together over Zoom, but it was apparent. We were there to talk about the Big A, matriarch of our homes and hearts. I dreaded this a bit initially. Our family Zoom calls are not known for being focussed. We are all over the place, even when we’re in the same city, and seeing each other on the screen is usually a wonderful opportunity to catch-up to each other’s lives in what I term ‘not-so-private bilaterals’. We did a few of these during the early parts of the pandemic, prompted by different members in the troupe. Those were planned to be focussed sessions too, in particular to relive nostalgic moments from family trips. They only partially accomplished that aim, the remainder time spent in parallel conversations across the board about what everyone is up to.

I was also skeptical because fiction books often use the trope of a “celebration-of-life” event as being an instantaneous healer for grief. As though the one collection and consolidation of memories from a whole life lived out would rid a human being of the heaviness they feel from within. In books I have read where these events do not offer resolution, the plot meanders and carries on with someone’s passing merely being a subplot to aid character development and growth. If life mirrored literature, this would have felt nearly perverse, particularly given that this sentinel of a woman had not just lived through births and deaths of human beings, but of entire nation-States themselves.

So it was that I turned up on Zoom, neatly dressed, feelings very much clogged. I only knew her for 23 years. Her children knew her for over 70. We hung around, and tried chatting about other things briefly, but chikkamma moderated the call so well, that she verbalised everyone’s emotions in asking one of my grandmothers to read out a prayer in Sanskrit, composed especially as an ode to Big Ajji’s life. My own mother read it out to me some time ago, but hearing the depth of meaning started to release some of what I was feeling inside – till it all came spilling out when it was ordained that we’d go around sharing our memories of Ajji till everyone had their turn, starting from the youngest on call.

And as I heard everyone chat, there was a lightness that started to lift all these thoughts swirling in my head about Big Ajji’s passing and the loss of a generation when I trace my direct lineage. I recognised and acknowledged that I did indeed feel grief, and I was actually grieving in the back of my head. I realised I needed to be with family to overcome that, and have the opportunity to see people who may have felt similar things, or different things, or experienced their grief their own way – all bound by this incredible woman who saw us all from infancy through to the large humans we have become.

So it appears that life does mirror literature in some respects. Celebrations of life do help. I’m certain Big Ajji would have had a chuckle at the fact that we all got together to talk about her. She enjoyed when we did that in front of her. No wonder then that we were on our best behaviour in her presence, and so we were in her absence. Even the internet cooperated. I have no doubt she orchestrated it all, pulling some strings up from where she is now – to impart one more lesson.

I know she passed peacefully, having lived a life of total acceptance and grace. And some naughtiness too. No wonder then, the entire time on call, I imagined her calling out to me, If we are all together, where’s the cake?

I’m Still Here

Hello to one & all who follow the blog, or come across it on occasion!

It has been some time since I posted, and today, I just wanted to say I’m still here. Over the course of 2021, several things were done and an equal amount left undone. This blog, and my desire to continuously improve as a writer, by writing for public display, falls into both categories. This year, although very few pieces were published up on the blog, several drafts were written and stored away for future rumination and public consumption. They didn’t feel appropriate or up-to-par, nor did they have the arc I usually aim for with my writing. And so, I left words unsaid, choosing instead to express those sentiments in my diary, for my own records. Naturally, I pondered the distinction between posting something here and writing something in my diary. I’ve spent time this year thinking about whether the blog (and it’s “no edit, no filter” policy) is a true reflection of my thoughts, and how it compares to diary entries from the same day. I’ve concluded that my writing tries to be as honest and open as is practicable, with the diary containing reflections I am unable to share publicly because of circumstances external to my own thoughts. However, another critical distinction I’ve identified, is that while they’re both honest accounts of the way my brain spends its day, they are accounts of two different moments in time on the same day. If I was playing detective or researcher, for any reason, and investigating myself, aside from the various trails I leave on the internet, I imagine that two distinct datasets (the blog and my diaries) could be truth-checked against each other. A whole narrative might also be created by piecing the two together.

So many different stories, so many different portraits can emerge.

These musings aside, as I type this out, I am sitting on my bed at home, after two long years away from my parents. It feels appropriate to return to writing now for two reasons.

First, most habits I carry through today have been built at home in an environment that facilitates new habits being formed. While I don’t earmark a time to create new habits (and I am fully aware this will be contradicted very soon), being at home in a place that is easy and familiar allows me to experiment and figure out how best to reduce the friction between myself and the things I want to be doing. My parents allow that process to play out, and I usually leave home with a sense of routine and realizations about new habits I wish to have. Writing has been one of them, given my diaries, the website, the blog & the newsletter were each born at home – and what joys they’ve all been.

Second, it’s nearly 2022, which is usually when I do annual resets. While cognizant that there’s never a bad time to start anything new – and waiting for a specific moment to begin a new adventure is perhaps a procrastinators’ best friend, the start of a new passage of time have been when I evaluate and envision the things I want to be doing. Annual years, academic years, new weeks, new months – they’re helpful as ‘markers’, if nothing else. This fits well into that mould. I’m hopeful of writing consistently into the new year and allowing my writing to play out in 2022 as it does. Today marks a start.

There we have it then. I’m still here, some new things have been learned and experiences have been had. I’m looking forward to writing about them, and writing about other things I wish to find my words and voice for. Thanks for sticking around – and I hope the wait hasn’t been too bad. There were enough archives to keep you busy. I hope the health of yours & your loved ones has been good, and as ever, you know where to get in touch with me if you’d like.

Literary-isms

Ever so often, I catch myself say something that feels like it’s taken out of a young-adult novel with teenage dramatis personae. You know exactly the type: where one of the central characters is a boy who wears hoodies and jeans, with headphones on at most, if not all times, where this clothing is emphasized, repeated as foreshadowing the character who becomes his love-interest and makes him take off his headphones and indulge in conversation – their meeting trapped in time, space, and the novel becoming about everything aside from the routine that interrupts the meeting of their minds. I catch myself having a sequence of thoughts when I’m dressed in similar attire (perhaps a consequence of associative memory), and think to myself, right after, that belongs in a book. A book filled with tropes, but my masterpiece, my Michelangelo. 

I associate my foray into this genre with John Green, an author whose work amazes me for how riveting and unputdownable the novels end up being, but equally, after a friend pointed this out, for the sheer profoundness crafted into people who are wise beyond their years. My friend told me, teenagers don’t talk like that, referencing Green’s use of a cigarette as a metaphor in The Fault in Our Stars. I chuckled along in agreement and queried other nuggets of wisdom I had gleaned from these younger characters. For all my quips about seniority being immaterial to respect or knowledge, I dismissed them, till my reading journey got me along to a point where I realized the generalization, that all these characters be pooled into one single space within a Venn diagram marked with a circle teens was flawed. Their wisdoms, their quips stem out of their lived experience – and disassociating, taking a step back, those pieces seem to fit. Granted, this create a hero arc in their lives, but, it fits. Chapeau, my friend, what else can I say? 

It’s in those moments, when I speak or text these sentences – sometimes compliments I’m passing on to people, or explanations of something I’ve said, oftentimes apologies, and even mundane observations, that I think, I need to write that book. I have that one sentence, maybe a handful, and here I am, dreaming of these long young adult novels that are as page-turning as I found Green’s work. You see the problem here, don’t you? I’ve identified myself as that character making these quips, and placing the onus on myself to write. It takes a couple of hours, but eventually, I come to the realization that at best, this belongs on a twitter thread, and dismiss them completely. No record, no memory. Like the first step of editing a poorly crafted tweet before the internet sees it, my lack of record means I have no recollection of the sentences I’ve waved off into the abyss. 

I caught myself having one of these moments yesterday while exchanging texts back and forth with a friend. In the casual conversation about how much time felt like it had slowed down and days had morphed into each other (a sign of this pandemic for most), my friend said every day feels like Sunday. I seized my literary moment. With no hesitation, in real-time, I said, I’m caught in a sea of Wednesdays. I can recall, vividly, my pride at typing this masterpiece. In dissecting the novel in a Grade 7 Book Club or English Literature class, perhaps a teacher would say, Why did Mr Rao choose to use the word “sea”? To which the bright spark that lingered in greys, hood down, at the back of the class, would shoot back, because he felt like he was drowning. And so the English teacher would have found her star, and a new student-teacher relationship would foster the creation of a Dead Poet’s Society, bonded together by the one moment someone really understood what an author meant. Except, in this case, the author, me, didn’t use sea because he was drowning. I used the word sea deliberately, because I’m floating, one day to the next. More than that, I picked Wednesdays deliberately. An odd choice, as my friend suggested, but one I easily explained, below:

I don’t know. I think it’s the fact that it feels like the middle of the week, despite there being no fixed middle because it’s the closest you can get to a middle on the work week calendar. Or maybe it’s the memory of having good lunch in high school with friends.  Or the long forgotten but never really gone memory of being yelled at for saying régle wrong in french class.

And for the Dead Poet’s Society that emerged, there would be the one kid that researched the author’s background, found this post, and got the actual meaning behind the tour de force that is a sea of Wednesdays. For an outsider, a sea of Wednesdays would make no sense. What does he even mean?, they’d ask, and when someone explained it, they’d say, then why on Earth couldn’t he just have said, “every day felt the same”, to which, literary flair, would be the only appropriate response.

So I had this moment, right, on the train yesterday, coming back from London, and I said to myself, that belongs in a book, and for the first time, having a record of that moment and the realization that followed, I can see now that at the very least, it’s given me enough content to fill a space on a blog that serves as a daily reminder of my place as a writer. 

As I’ve decided to start recording each of these phrases I concoct, these literary-isms that occupy space in my heart as novels that are never written. The plan is to blog about them and what they meant when I said them originally, for anyone to adopt if they’d like, but more crucially, for me to remember what on Earth I actually meant, lest I think someday that a sea of Wednesdays was a number of shops called Wednesday’s, like Sainsbury’s

Tintin / Captain Haddock Meme - What a week, huh? Captain, it's Wednesday -  HD Restoration / Remastered (2864*2480): MemeRestoration
This twitter account has become a favourite of mine: What a week, huh? all Wednesdays

Technological Dinosaur

This idea for this post originated on last evening’s call with my mother. While on Zoom, I became a little perturbed (she’d say aggressive) about her poor technology skills. It was really nothing major: one was poor technology etiquette (not muting one call while taking another), and the other was poor effort (claiming to not find something that was easy to search for with ctrl+F). Neither of these so-called “misdemeanors” deserved the disproportionate wrath I unleashed. I chided her for her poor technology skills, and told her she had to up her game if she wanted to be able to adapt to a changing world. She took it on the chin with a smile, but I felt guilty enough about what I said to write her an apology WhatsApp message. In the 5 minutes that passed between ending our Zoom call & writing her that text, my mind cast itself to the shores of the distant future. 

Thus began the montage of a fear that’s been bubbling underneath the surface for a very long time. Me, much older, in the future, struggling to get onto a spaceship that will get me home. Me, much older, not knowing how to access the mainframe cloud computer that houses all my memories. Me, forgetting. 

My maternal grandfather and my own father are two of the most flexible people I know. Although rigid with planning and organizing in advance, once things are in motion, they are the least likely to resist to occurrences along the way. Contrast this with my own style, being in a constant state of flux between organizing & being chill about life. Their flexibility gives them a unique leg-up in this fast-paced technology driven world. While they are both creatures of habit, they find a way to use new tools as they are made available for them. I have no doubt the two would have thrived in the 1970’s. Actually, there’s evidence for this. My maternal grandfather did thrive – with his cameras. My dad would have too, I’m certain. I’ve seen this play out since I’ve been a young child. Here are my top two illustrations. 

The Computer: Personal computers gathered steam in the late 70’s, early 80’s, and my grandfather, an early adopter made sure he had one at home. My mom did some work on that PC, while my chikkamma learned how to type properly on it – it’s why she’s got one of the highest words-per-minute in our family. Of course, this is also down to the lifestyle they led, but my grandfather took his knowledge of these computers and ensured he was never left behind. I saw him move to laptops with relative ease, moving these gargantuan database files he had gathered over time with him – and developing the tools that he needed to ensure that the database could sustain itself on the latest technology. He knows the most code of us all, and learns new coding languages if they fit his project requirements. With computers, he’s a real geek, and he’s wholly responsible for my computer literacy. His partner-in-crime is my father, who ensured that from a young age, I was exposed to the computer. I’ve interacted with every Windows OS that’s come out since I was born – because I played computer games and watched CD’s on our Windows 98 and 2000 computers, and that is due, in large part, to my dad’s desire to stay up-to-date. My dad used to present regularly at GITEX, so when the time was right, he used to ensure we upgraded, as a family, to the current systems in use – we moved to a family laptop, and on my mum and Uncle’s cajoling, I ended up with a PC of my own in Grade 4. His work has seen him move across the various versions of Microsoft Office & cloud computing with ease – and I used him as a guide while learning how to make the best use of OneDrive. He also has – and uses a tablet with much more skill than I can. 

The Mobile Phone: Similar story. Without a fuss, I saw both these characters move from User Interface to User Interface as their needs demanded it. My grandfather of course had to learn how to interact with the phone from scratch, but he moved to a touchscreen smartphone around the same time we all did. My dad, however, is the star here. He moved from the old brick Nokias to the Communicator range to the Blackberry to the iPhone – where he’s planted himself currently. As a working professional, this makes perfect sense: the Android OS was never intended to be an office-use driver. 

So basically, I look back at the 23 years I’ve been in this world, and I can see both my maternal grandfather and my dad transitioning seamlessly across platforms and across devices – and last evening, I’ve lost my patience with my mother for not doing so. Of course, this is putting it crudely. My mom is a star with technology in her own right, and both my dad and my Tata have asked me several questions about the latest technology – which I’ve either straight-up lied about with unabashed confidence (to then be told I was wrong), or assisted with my limited knowledge in.

But those five minutes were moments of serious reflection. 

I’m not as flexible as either of these generations before me. In fact, I struggle more than most with technology changes as they happen. Learning about how to interact with new user interfaces takes me some time. I’m good with hardware switches and hardware generally, but software is definitely a bit of an enemy. Again – this is putting it crudely, but you get my point. 

You see, I’m a little old-school. If I was given a chance, I’d go back to the non touch-screen phones. I’d add most of the smartphone features, but I would want a physical keyboard. I used to love Blackberry’s. Things just felt easier to do on them – typing felt so much more natural. Even with touchscreens, I never have been able to understand how to use the swiping keyboards – where you can type just by swiping? I much rather prefer typing out each letter that I need to – to see the words construct themselves, letter-by-letter. I loved the Windows phone – not because of anything except the fact that it looked like something familiar: the OS on my PC. Till this year, I almost exclusively used Android phones. Transitioning into the Apple ecosystem? It’s been hard work. I’m still not sure if I’m extracting the most out of my iPhone, and frequently, I speak to a friend of mine who made the same transition alongside me to sort out my doubts. 

I’m skeptical about moving to macOS. I’m skeptical also about how I’ll interact with tablet devices like the iPad. I’m not sure if they’re worth their cost, or whether I’ll be able to use them as nicely and comfortably as I use my current set up. I took a good eight months of going back between Chrome and Edge before settling on using Edge for the foreseeable future to browse the interwebs.

I am slow, relative to the industry.

A lot of this is fear. Of what, I’m uncertain. But, given my outburst with my mother, I think I’m scared of becoming a technological dinosaur. The world moves very quickly, and to be able to exist in the world of the future, it feels like I will have to, at the very least, accept some of the changes and innovations that come with it. 

I don’t think I can keep up. It takes a lot of capital to keep up – and just existing takes enough capital from us all. I don’t think I want to keep up either. My goal is a de minimis, so to speak. I just don’t want to be a relic of a bygone era when there’s something more efficient that is accessible to me for my use. I don’t mind being somebody who prefers old technology. Retro tech is very cool. I like it. But, I can see myself becoming someone who struggles with new technology and adaptation. 

That scares me.

My dad’s been telling me I should move to a Mac soon. He was also one of the first people to ask me to use secure cloud services to save files, and to scan everything important just to ensure I never lose an accessible version of it due to natural circumstances. I usually just dismiss him. Most of the time it’s because of the investment these transitions take, both financially and in terms of time – but, perhaps, I should give him more of a ear. Maybe he spotted my rigidity at a young age, and this was his way of nudging me toward a path of more flexibility. 

It’s now time I listen. Hopefully I’ll become more open-minded, empathetic, and comfortable, both with elder people like my mother struggling with current technology (she’s going to grill me for calling her elder), and me using new, modern technology.