Saturday, January 28, 2017

THE ART OF BLOG WRITING AND ME


Today, I was fortunate enough to share a stage with these legends: Prof. Tharanathan sir, Prof. Abdulla, Sri. PV Gangadharan sir, and Mrs. Linu. M K, and give a talk on blogging and writing. The best part was when Prof. Tharanathan sir introduced me. He said that my stories remind him of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. I was sitting with the others on stage and my eyes were full, overwhelmed. At the end of my talk, I took the time to thank him and tell the whole gathering how I felt about his wonderful comment on my book Prabuddha.  

The ambiance of the hall was phenomenal with academic exuberance and energy. What bowled me over was the enthusiasm the students showed from the very beginning. They were all ears. Every word was nodded at and discussed among them. I believe, these are the moments that pay off every effort you make as a teacher. It makes you think about sticking around a few more years, doing the same job. I am very impressed by the participation of students in the discussions that followed the talk, too.

Prof. Tharanathan sir delivering his presidential address
Mostly, students from Kerala are reluctant public speakers. This especially reflects in their English language speaking skills. Hardly, does anyone get past this stage of inhibition, even after years of practice at special coaching classes! These students made it a point today, to stand up and speak their mind at the end of the session. Some of them surprised me with their fluent and confident use of English language.

I would like to thank my teacher, Prof. Tharanathan sir for this wonderful opportunity. I would also like to thank Sri Prakasan sir and Sri Thomas sir for organizing this wonderful gathering. 

These pictures say most of it. My gratitude as a student of this great person is beyond words.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE

I never really enjoyed reading Hemingway, forgive me guys for I have erred. I dislike the dry dialogue sessions when he, the author could easily have told me what the characters said and took me to the real fun, the journey into the depth of their psyche, rather than leaving the whole trip to the reader’s whim.

The point is not that everyone has the right to read a story and take the journey into a character’s psyche in one’s own terms but it is the difficulty involved in convincing the reader of doing so. Perhaps, it was OK with Hemingway, not with me. I mean, the reader’s right to interpret a story in whatever way one wants it, will remain unquestioned until the reader chooses to be otherwise.

The times that I live in, demand a different narrative sensibility. One that is short, fast, and to the point. People have no time for subtle analogies. I don’t know if I achieved that in my latest short story; saying is one thing, doing another.

I would like to get your feedback on my new short story named “My Muse and I on a November Morning”.  

My new short story is a flash fiction with word count a little shy of 1500. I hope I don’t imitate Hemingway in this story. I never wanted to. Please do tell me, if you feel that way. Or whatever way that is. Any feedback is essential for the artist in me.

One of my friends, Stephen Boka read this short story and told me this: “Your story made me wonder: isn't it enough for the writer's inspiration to coalesce on paper or is publication the only way to vindicate oneself? Writers always seek approval and vindication through being published but maybe the journey is more important than the desired destination.” [Facebook]

As Stephen suggests, the story is about writers, about the art of writing, and about journeys that we take in our lives, and our destinations. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

I WRITE THESE WORDS

Read the poem that I wrote for my recently published anthology:


"I write these words, my dear, for the time when wordless passion overrules the days of our togetherness. Saving what I wished I could tell you in detail in the pages of my memories.
I write these words, my dear, for the days that make our tomorrow, so no one forgets what it was like to have met you and felt the need for you.
I write these words, my dear, for those who wander in search of love; to tell them what they seek is in the depths of the bottomless ocean in the eyes of the beloved.
I write these words, my dear, of the gift you are, my love. "

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A CELEBRATION IN SEARCH OF MAN: Contemplating Onam

Routledge Publishers publishes a book in 2001. The book is, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, written by German psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. I consider Jung, one of my gurus. The book seems significant to me in two ways. One: Its title reminds me of another life changing book namely Man’s Search for Meaning. Two: I have an intuitive awareness that all human beings undergo some form of soul-searching at least once in their lifetime. What I realize today is more significant than a man’s soul-searching. I realize that sometimes, celebrations search for man.

Before untangling the knots of this puzzling thought let me take a moment to wish each one of you out there, reading, thinking, and sharing human being, a very happy Onam.

A celebration is in search of man. By ‘man’ I do not mean a gender specific entity. I would like to use the term to refer to the entire human kind. Apart from being a Malayalam nostalgia, Onam is yet another celebration where the role of humanitarian considerations have given way to concerns and anxieties of a post-humanist universe. Love has not a dime’s worth of value neither does family, commitment of friendship, and respect for our fellow beings’ feelings. “I don’t care what someone else thinks,” they say. It’s fine until the bothering is restricted to the other person’s thoughts. Still, I think there is a little hypocrisy about it. No one actually bothers to check how our behavior made the other person feel about life. 

We can’t find enough time to go and meet our grandparents, or parents, for that matter. Our cousins and siblings are mere buddies in Whatsapp and Facebook. Reality TV is our new pal. But they don’t give us that sweet friendly hug. We are not great huggers, by the way, so that is OK. The TV show host tells us that our childhood was better and that there used to be a lot of flowers in the open fields. They tell us in the morning that Onam is here and everyone is celebrating etcetera. The truth is available readily in front of us. It’s laid on the couch. The patriarch lies and the mother is either tending the garden or getting busy with her kitchen chores, as usual. By noon, they eat an ordinary meal and by night, the kids come home from special tuition and complain of not getting enough out of Onam holidays. The patriarch argues about getting a better future. The children dream about their summer vacation. In some other homes, the wife calls the catering service and orders a good Onam sadya, the family feast.

There is celebration. There is no celebration. Between this ironic binary exists one of humanity’s greatest challenges: the loss of empathy. The culture of celebrations acts as yearly reminders of the lost empathy among humans. What someone else feels about our actions does matter; it is this concern that makes us human. Instead, today, we are concerned about our performance and stand in public. This concern is all for the wrong reason. A verse from the Bible comes to mind: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8.36-37).

Only a success, which is harmonious with our ability to show empathy, could help us keep our souls in exchange for all the agonies we go through. After all, we go through all those nerve-breaking struggles to be happy and content. It seems that the new generation of India is busy improving their grades in schools. I doubt if they truly feel the great joy of forgetting every worry in a celebration. Each celebration and holiday season is an opportunity for an additional tuition class or remedial coaching. They prepare for an endless contest, forgetting that the beauty of any contest is at its conclusion. Onam comes every year. So do Easter, Ramzan, Christmas, and Diwali. And these festivities are supposed to remind us that it matters what our actions make someone else feel. Empathy… empathy… empathy.

But… the root of empathy is love, isn’t it? It’s simple and clear at sight. The celebration is in search for man, to be fully present, without holding any of the joys back, without holding any of the love back, a man without prejudices, a man with empathy…    

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

TECHNOLOGY VS TRADITION: Familiarity Breeds Blindness



There is no other way to fool someone better than to speak of these two in antagonistic sense. Technology is not in antagonism with tradition nor is tradition antagonistic to technology. They are in mutual alignment. In fact, their mutual correlation even surpasses those devices and symbols that come to our minds when we contemplate these two universal notions. Let me elaborate on what I have already said with a new example.

Occasionally, my computer breaks down. I use an old desktop version of it. I am no computer savvy. But I use this legend of technology whenever I can. The limits to which it could help us have no limits. Therefore, when this device breaks down I feel great anxiety. What would happen to all my readers’ souls across the universe that are at this moment in dire need to peruse some wise damn pearl of wisdom that I puke out random! This worries me a great deal, as it might, any self-confident writer, blogger, or columnist. One of the many painful realities they endure on a daily basis.

I worry a great deal about my own soul that would rot and degenerate without the help of the Internet or the writing mechanism that I am addicted to: the Word Doc. There really is no other way around if your desktop breaks down, is there? Your android cell phone, you think, might help you hit out a quick 200 words passage. But once you paddle around with that virtual, touch key pad, you discover for the umpteenth time that these gadgets look cool but are clumsy in reality.

Ultimately, I run with the heart of the mice caught in a trap for salvation. My escape route is through a telephone number. I dialed the number and the messenger of peace answers: “Hello, Computer Service.”

This phone call does not mean that everything is sorted out clean though. Peace of mind after the clean sorting out of things wouldn’t bless me yet. I must wait. The service person said before hanging up the phone that he wouldn’t be available until the next two days.

It was disappointing. The immediate ally on such an occasion would be what Dr. Viktor E Frankl called, an ‘existential vacuum’. Although not a computer savvy, I still spent my fair share of time in front of my personal computer to get things done. The vacuum created in the place of the computer was the first challenge I had to deal with. What surprised me in my own reaction to the situation was that I preferred to deal with the existential vacuum rather than dealing with the work to be done.

My focus was tuned to curb my psyche from wandering off at the edge of the darkness of the emptiness created by the malfunction of the computer. I adopted a strategy that one may call traditional. I decided to spend time with books, my favourite remedy for all issues- reading.

Elizabeth L Eisenstein in her book Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe presents a technological advancement that washed over the European society in the early 15th century. This technological advancement transformed the whole of humanity, just like how the internet today.

Books are equally a product of technological advancement, just as the computer and the internet. To consider books and publishing a matter of tradition is only relative with reference to the computer technology- and not entirely true. What we understand and pass along as tradition in the present, therefore, might be a cutting edge technology in the past. Perhaps, familiarity breeds blindness too. What we take for granted as ‘tradition,’ therefore, is not antagonistic with technology.

My reading experience was fabulous. The breakdown of the computer was indeed a blessing in unexpected garb.         

Monday, September 5, 2016

TEACHERS’ DAY: The Dedication Line and its True Meaning

I published a book named Better Than All Happy Ever Afters to legitimate the celebration of Valentine’s Day. This happened on February of this year (2016). The book made me not very rich financially but it definitely made me wealthy in terms of relationships. Through the work on this book, I got to know many young voices, talented and certainly bearing the mark of genius in literary art. The underlying existential dilemma was palpable in the Editor’s Note that I wrote in that book. Love becomes a challenge. It obviously is; ask any sufi poet for better clarity on the supernatural aspects of love. For mortals, it certainly comes with its own qualms and worries. There was another underlying problem with Valentine’s Day. It was a day that celebrated open celebration of love and romance. When would someone commemorate an open celebration? When that particular aspect of existence is no longer present, right?

Celebrations have this odd reality around them: they always mean the departing of something or remind us of the transitory nature of something else. Take birthdays for example. We celebrate either in joy or in dejection, like author Khushwant Singh remarks in a short article titled “Celebrating Old Age” published in Me, The Jokerman.

Applying the same theory to the celebration of Teachers’ Day would clarify certain assumptions that exist among us. I am quite fortunate to have discovered some great teachers in my life. On some occasions, I was discovered by them too and that was beyond being mere fortunate. That was a miracle, manifested reality. A celebration of Teachers’ Day would only mean a reserved commemoration for a transitory personality that at some point in time touched our lives. The celebration itself, in other words, diminishes the significance of great teachers. The truth is, one must always cherish and celebrate teachers. All of the teachers, all the time.

Don’t look for good teachers. There is no such thing. Look for teachers who can help you grow mentally, spiritually, and as a person in the society. Entrepreneur Thai Lopez recently made this comment that one must, at any cost get a good mentor. Mentors are important study materials. Good mentors are those who we could study and learn from. It doesn’t matter what they teach us. What matters the most is what we learn from them.

What I did in order to ‘celebrate’ my teachers on a daily basis and not “just” on a particular day is something quite interesting to note here. I have seen people sending e-cards, making song dedications with phony FM radio jockeys, put a cliché add in B-grade newspapers, etc. I did something different.

I wrote a book and dedicated it to all my teachers.

I am talking about the book I published in 2014, Prabuddha: The Clear-sighted.

Prabuddha is dedicated to all my teachers. Many names came to my life in the form of many multidimensional personalities and gifted teachers. Many showed up in my life during my student days. Many other came into my life through their books. And some were not even human beings. My memory and other limitations that I carry within me as a human being may perhaps hinder my recollection of many a names that came across through my life as a Truth seeker. So I decided, instead of writing names, to dedicate Prabuddha to ‘all my teachers’.

I still go back to this book, one of the most successful of my books, to draw inspiration from as well as to improvise my own self that appeared in it. Every book carries a piece of its author’s soul. As a teacher presently, I cherish the memories of my teachers and the lessons I learnt from them. Prabuddha was my way of showing my gratitude. Perhaps, gratitude is the bridge that perfectly connects a teacher and student. Many readers commented that my books Wall of Colors and Prabuddha have teacher-student theme at the centre. This wasn’t intentional. But I consider this unintentional state the expression of the gratitude I feel on a subconscious level, toward all the teachers in my life.

Note: Prabuddha: TheClear-sighted is available for purchase online.       

Monday, August 15, 2016

SEVENTY YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE: Thoughts on Political Freedom and Personal Meaning


Image Courtesy: www.historytoday.com

What does Freedom mean? We are gathered on this Monday, 15 August 2016 to celebrate the political freedom India earned from the British Empire. What does this notion of political freedom mean to the present generation of Indian citizens? The scars of the freedom movement and the partition that came after the attainment of the epic resolution are no longer the priority for the younger minds. As a teacher, over the six years that I spent with the young Indian citizen infused me with an understanding that underscores the indifference they experience towards the colonial past. I mean, all of it is a good story. Having physical and close-psychological encounter with the colonial rule is the only way to experience that fact as such. No representation, verbal, visual or auditory is enough to put the person through whatever transpired in those two hundred years of slavery. In fact, in India, slavery under colonial rule must be differently defined, since slavery has been in existence in various forms and manners throughout the centuries.

For the younger generation of this great nation, freedom and independence are words that should be redefined. A mere political interpretation would not help at this stage when, at least a minority is attempting to threaten humanitarian values to attain their own version of political correctness. Freedom should make a meaningful place in their heart and spirit. Only a spiritualization of life would matter at this stage when vigorous politicization has failed miserably.
 
Image Courtesy: newsworldindia
Freedom must be looked at with a spiritual looking glass. Are you free from hatred? Are free from fear? Freedom may mean the freedom to love your enemy, freedom to be free in the face of the most dreaded adversary. But such freedom comes with a price. The price is to learn, to acquire wisdom through learning the tradition. There were many who came before us; who among the face of great danger and adversity, showed us that spiritual truth could bless us with treasures more than any material could offer. One of my gurus, Dr. Wayne W Dyer registers this notion thus in his book, You’ll See It When You Believe It: “we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

It is to this spiritual source that I suggest we should channel our younger generation to. The body is always limited, but the spirit is innately eternal and limitless. When freedom and independence are only notions celebrating a relativity of political events—one in which the people of this great nation were enslaved by the British, and the other in which the people are enslaved by their own elected leaders—any thinking individual would lose his or her sense of relevance. Unlike any other animal on planet earth, humans are wired to experience and long for freedom and independence. Independence and self-reliance are stages top on the psychological evolution.

In order to take the younger minds into the arduous task of nation-building, it is important to inspire them with ideals as well as ideas. Politicization of social life and its aftermath—mass corruption—have lead many to lose hope in the very notion of nationality itself.
Image Courtesy: www.dailyevolver.com

Important deed is to bring the young ones closer to the path of service. Serving the nation can indicate serving the people of this nation and the values that we stand for as one nation. This, one could expect these young men and women to ooze out only if they are given a sense of meaning and concrete purpose to perform so. This could be achieved not through the abstract act of politicizing memories with political archetypes. For the young mind, these are abstract notions that, perhaps, their grandparents went through at a distant time.

It’s important to make them patriots, but with a renewed sense of purpose. It is not jingoism but a sense of spiritual reward, sought by the rishis and great men of wisdom of this ancient land that could bring our new generation together in the task of nation building.

The Commentator   
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...