Fact – Stranger than Fiction?

The readers of this blog must be no stranger to the fact that I love books. There is something inherently soothing in the sight of a book; the enchanting scent of it’s pages drawing you towards it and its words promising to enlighten, exhilarate and comfort you. A book doesn’t ask questions, it does not judge. All it does is take you on a journey, lending you the wonderful chance to live vicariously and above all, letting you amass a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. I always tell my friends that a book is the best substitute of a time machine and an excellent cure of boredom.

Ever since I started working, I have made it a monthly ritual to buy books as soon as my salary is credited. My sister and my friends have come to terms with the fact that every shopping trip of ours has to feature a trip to the bookstore. As a result, my house now looks like every bookworm’s dream and every mother’s nightmare. My bookshelf, having being crammed long ago refuses to induct any new book. Creaking repeatedly, it has made its message clear that my books can go someplace else. Hence one can find my books strewn across all the rooms, settling wherever they can, cheerfully making themselves at home and incurring the wrath of my family. However, the flip side of owning too many books is that it takes ages for me to make up my mind about what I should read. All the unread books clamour for my attention and I try not to make eye contact while deciding. I ask myself what I am in a mood for, in order to assuage my dilemma. Each time I ask this question, I come up with a different answer.

“Fiction or no fiction”, every self respecting reader has had to face this pressing question. Answering this does not seem as easy as it seems. One gives the reader a chance to forego reality and the other looks to reinforce it. I have tried but have never been able to come up with a consistent answer to this question. For, there are times when we are worn out by the world around us and immersing ourselves in someone else’s world seems to be a plausible escape. And at times, we realise that truth is in fact stranger than fiction and we do need a dose of it.

I am a great lover of fiction but have learnt far more from reading non fiction. When I was younger, I used to scoff at works of non fiction and I thought there was no fun in it. However, as I grew up, I understood that I was missing out on a treasure of knowledge. I take great pleasure in reading biographies. As a student, I loved reading biographies of business and political leaders. Lately, I have taken to reading biographies of my favorite authors (Dicken and Hemmingway are the ones I have finished) and have been staggered by the way their mind worked. Another favorite reads of mine are the works which trace the history of cities and explain how their culture came into being. I got interested in such works after I read the incredibly insightful Maximum City, by Suketu Mehta. Travelogues are another obvious favorites of mine and I particularly love the works of Paul Theroux. What really impresses me is the amount of research driving such books. I have great respect for such authors who strive hard in ensuring that the truth is presented as accurately as possible. However, few make non fiction as mesmerizing as Bill Bryson does. His body of work is awe inspiring and I admire the way he traces the evolution of mundane things with humour and insight. Brimming with trivias and anecdotes, he is by far the most engaging writer of non fiction I have had the pleasure to read.

I like to strike a balance between fiction and non fiction. However, there are times when works of non fiction really surprise me. It is enlightening to delve deeper into the world we live in and the one we have evolved from. Not to mention the trove of trivias that makes one chuckle at humanity’s quirks and be wowed by it’s ingenuity.

Written in response to Daily Post – The Great Divide

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Ten Minutes of Tirade

If time were a person, he would most likely be a sadist, despotic megalomaniac with a singular agenda of controlling the world. I can picture that tyrant; incessantly cracking his whip, reminding the lesser mortals of how transient and powerless they are in his hands. I can imagine his uproarious laugh when he would trap his clueless subjects in the diabolical dungeons of deadlines and watch giddily as they scamper around to break free.

My not so benevolent thoughts towards this dimension called time often comes to the fore when I am faced with unwanted deadlines. Giving ten minutes to write about anything must be the brain child of my arch nemesis I am yet to meet. Maybe it is their way of hinting that they exist and are coming to get me. I am sure they must be enjoying watching my brain scramble for ideas and zero in on one. It is indeed frustrating as ideas for blog posts circle my mind all day long but desert me at the most inopportune time. Hence I have decided to settle for a rant against the culprit himself.

Well, I have realized one thing; I am eloquent when I am ranting on a deadline. Is that a lesson you are trying to teach me, time? Are you trying to prod me into self discovery? Wipe that smirk off your cruel face and go away. I am trying to rant!

Written in response to Daily Post – Ready, Set, Done

 

 

Critic Critic on the Wall

If I had to weave an Utopian society in my mind, absence of criticism would be one of its pillars. However, Utopia exists only in fiction and unfortunately we are the stuff reality is made of. The real world with its many trappings is the place where we are to lead our lives; with our actions in plain view of our peers and theirs to critique. Receiving criticism is seldom a fun ride. It is gut wrenching to see someone tear apart something which were the fruits of one’s imagination, efforts and passion. More than anything else, it is a cruel reminder of the fact that one’s vision and intentions were not as flawlessly executed as planned; that someone is questioning their capabilities. On the other hand, criticism is also a great eye opener; a stepping stone to improvement. How one takes criticism reflects greatly on the strength of their character. Having said that, in my opinion, how one chooses to criticize others is also no less than a litmus test of his psyche.

As everyone else, I have often found myself on both ends of the criticism stick; the critic as well as the criticized. In my opinion, we should render criticism in the way we would wish to be criticized. Similarly, we should be able to accept criticism in a way we would want others to take our critique. Sadly it is all easier said than done. Although I am nowhere close to achieving this complete absence of hypocrisy, it remains as one of my life long goals. When I started working, I was often put in a position where I had to review and critique other people’s work. I then realized how quickly words can be misconstrued, sentiments can be hurt and personal relations can be strained. Objectivity is a part of being a professional but diplomacy is equally essential. Criticism has a way of making people defensive and somewhat hostile. The perfect criticism would be where the receiver can see a positive light in the midst of the flaws. And for this, the critic is as much responsible as the one being criticized.

When I am on the receiving end of criticism, my first emotion is that of dejection and bewilderment. The fact that sooner or later, I have to own up my actions registers gradually. It is easier to respond to gentle criticism but life never gives us what we want. When I am being criticized incessantly and brutally, I initially feel lost for words and disappointed in myself. Thankfully, after a while, optimism powers through and provides me hope. Over the years, I have learnt that it is very important to understand the intent of the criticizer. Some people are chronic critics; pessimists who are more interested in undermining confidence rather than encouraging others. It is important to identify such kinds. It just makes life easier. It is equally rewarding to identify well wishing critics; the ones who are eager to guide and groom us. It is a boon to have such people in my life and I take their criticism as positively as I can and follow their word like gospel. What I am trying to say is that it is wise to be analytic about criticism and not let everyone’s opinions affect us.

It is also important to realize that we are our biggest critics. As someone who understand our aspirations and capabilities from the closest quarters, external forces are rendered insignificant if we don’t feel the innate desire to improve. There is no fooling oneself; in the end, we live with no one but ourselves. We are the only ones who can change ourselves and self critique is something which should hold more water than anyone else’s opinion.

Written in response to Daily Post – Handle With Care

 

Laughter Challenge

When it comes to friendship, I consider myself truly blessed. My life, characterized by persistent relocation made sure that I made new friends every three years or so. And in doing this, I realized how profoundly different we are from one another. I feel a little baffled at how different all my friends have been and how much I have reveled in their contrasts. In retrospect, it has been an excellent lesson in accepting varied point of views and finding a way to co exist with harmony and happiness.

I am not the person who likes to remember dates, partly because I don’t really believe in marking milestones. There are a few things regarding which my mind works on a highly abstract level.That is why when people ask me when or how I became friends with someone, I am at an utter loss. For, becoming friends is not a contract which can be signed after which I get a new friend with immediate effect. It is a gradual and a subtle process featuring heartfelt rendezvous; a process which ages flawlessly and which needs to be felt more than seen. I have come to realize that we can find friends when we are least expecting it, in people who seem to be the most ineligible candidates. I can never remember the exact minute I met someone or the words exchanged between us. It is a miracle if I register their face properly. But with time, what stays with me are random moments of companionship, warmth and contentment.

The best part of making so many friends is that I have the perfect person to enjoy different situations with; be it attending lit fests, watching movies, debating on the state of the world, midnight musings, blowing off steam, proof reading my writing or plotting world domination. There is literally one for every occasion. I cannot think of many traits that are common among them. Very few of my friends like to read. Even fewer share my passion for grammar. I am not sure how many friends of mine have the same principles in life that I do (which is a really eye opening experience). However, their is one attribute, an overwhelming undercurrent which runs through all my friendships, which is humour.

I am a fervent believer of the adage that a day without laughter is a day wasted. However, the more I interact with people, the more I am led to believe that we live in a largely humourless world. Maybe this is why I hold on to people in whom I can detect even the faintest sense of humour. For, humour is a gift which keeps us from being dissolved in our own egos. It brightens up mundane days and really does give us hope. I love to make people laugh and in turn love it when others make me laugh. Humour is something I refuse to part with and I like people who also do the same.

If I had to pose one question to anyone who wants to be my friend, I would like to ask them if they loved to laugh. More importantly, if they would make me laugh. If their answer is yes then all I have to say is “when can you start?”.

Written in response to Daily Post – Litmus, Litmus on the Wall

 

Do I Know You?

Familiarity is a wonderful thing; the perfect eraser of imperfections. All lasting relationships culminate in familiarity; in inadvertently finishing sentences, laughing at worn out jokes and reading each other’s thoughts. It is the blissful phase when little flaws become inconsequential and anecdotes are in profusion. Be it family, close friends or long time colleagues, their reassuring presence has comforted me in many situations.

There have been many times when I feel baffled with the friends I have accumulated over the years. Some of my friends are wildly unlike me and the contradictions are uncanny. Not just my friends, even my sister who was born just a minute before me is the polar opposite of me. Reaching a level of harmony with them seems impossible. And yet somehow, we hold on to each other; embracing each other’s qualities and accepting each other’s quirks.

I often wonder if my sister were not my family and we would just chance upon each other at a random situation, would we become friends? I asked the same thing to my sister before I sat down to write this post. Without missing a beat, she replied that we would definitely be friends because both of us are crazy. So that settles that.

I also ponder the same about my friends. Had I met some old friends now, would I still like them? Would I still adjust with the one who is never on time for a movie? Would I still like the friend who conveniently forgets to return my books? Would I still take kindly  to them if they did not return my calls? Would I still patiently counsel them after their latest bout of uncertainty?

However hard I think about it, I can never reach a conclusion. Primarily because this is an exercise in futility. Why question the events which have already transpired? And especially the ones which have brought great people in my life and given me great joy? Why tinker with this delightful balance my wonderful family and friends have knit into?

Written in response to Daily Post – Delayed Contact

Stop all the Clocks

Today’s prompt is the perfect excuse for me to catapult myself back to blogging. Sadly, I have been ignoring this project of mine for no apparent reason. I cannot explain my sudden sabbatical from writing; I just got a little distracted I guess. Each day, I went over the emails for daily prompts and ignored them with an inexplicable indifference, giving half-baked arguments to myself that I did not have much to contribute towards the topic. I am sorry to say that albeit briefly, I missed the point that the motive was to find a way to relate to these prompts and express myself.

Today, there is no room for unconvincing defenses. This prompt is a godsend as there is no reason to be restricted to any thought or an idea; instead it is time to plunge back into my blog and let my fingers do a freestyle dance over my keyboard. I do often go through phases when words just abandon me. Thankfully sooner or later, something happens which prod them to rekindle their friendship with me.

Having said all that, I do admit that it is very annoying to write when one eye of mine is firmly set on the clock. I like to leave my love for deadlines at work. But at least I am back on the blog and I am feeling happy. I wish that this marks my re entry into my blogging phase because I have a blast during that time. Actually at this moment, a wish to halt time would be more practical. But as Marquez said, wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good!

Written in response to Daily Post – Ready, Set, Done