Writer's Blog

Transient Thoughts

Sunday, August 24, 2003

The Quwwalis from the film Barasaat Ki Raat are fundoo. It seems Quawwalis were used in movies for the first time in that film. And became a great success.
I have a cassette which has songs from Barassat Ki Raat and Tajmahal. The lyrics for both movies were written by Sahir Ludhianvi and both movies have Quwwalis. "Na To Karawaan Ki Talash hai..." "Nigaah-e-Naaz ke" "Pehechanata hun khoob tumhari Nazar ko mai" "Yeh haal hai in deewanonka.." etc.

The poetry in these songs is generally high-funda but some Quawwalis have towards the end a couple of lines of Hindi ( while the rest of the song is urdu ). In "Na To Karawaan Ki..." for example there are the lines "Bahut kathin hai dagar panaghat ki, Kya bhar laaoon jamuna se mataki..." and some more and there is mention of Krishna and all and then the song goes back to being Urdu. The effect of the blend and of the contrast is altogether very nice.

If you are a old-hindi-songs buff then you have got to listen to these songs.

Friday, August 22, 2003

I have started reading Dostoyevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment" again. The first time around I was sort of rushing through the novel and not really chewing on it. So I found I couldnt go on.

This time around I am enjoying it very much. But it is not the sort of novel which you read 20 pages of everyday before going to bed, with music playing in the background. It involves a lot of mood build-up, if you know what I mean. You need to get involved. Since I dont prefer staying up late with a book I am again finding it difficult. But this weekend, maybe...

Did you know? Dostoyevsky was condemned to be executed by the Russian authorities for violating censorship laws. Right on the shooting Range he and a few others were granted pardon. (It seems one of the other pardonees went mad after that and never recovered.) At that time he had not yet written his now famous books. Imagine that! The book you are now reading and enjoying would never have been written if the Russian Czar had not changed his mind one fine morning. Makes one think about Human beings and how we 'govern' each other, capital punishment, democracy and other such confusing, painful topics. Again, makes one think, if all this is so foolish, does it, can it matter at all? Painful. Painful.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I recently bought a new cot. Yesterday night I slept on it for the first time.
And, had a painful misadventure.

I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bogs. Having been used to sleeping on the mattress on the floor, I stood right up, on the cot, and WALKED straight off it. The ground slipped from right under my feet. And I had a painful fall. Later it reminded me of all those bewildered characters in cartoons who fly off cliffs or into manholes.

Really, I did not know that such things were possible.


I guess in every blogger's life there comes a time when the number of hits to his/her site from google-searchers exceeds those from 'regular' blog readers.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Went home over the long weekend.

Among other things, watched "Agnivarsha" again - on CD. Agnivarsha is definitely among the better Hindi movies made in recent times. I enjoyed it a lot even though I was watching it the third time.

The story/plot is different - you actually don't know what is going to happen next ; the characters are solid, intelligent, believable; the casting is excellent. Everyone seems to fit his/her role - even the extras seem hand-picked; the execution is almost flawless; the songs are ok.

Rajaji in his Ramayana explains that even the smallest of stains stands out on a pure white cloth. There are one or two places where Agnivarsha strays from the ideal. The dance steps in the first song are slightly modern and the music is also slightly western. There's a tribal song which doesnt look too tribal. I didnt like these things. Made me feel uncomfortable - apologetic.

Before I saw "Agnivarsha" I tried to watch "Chalte Chalte". Yuck! Couldn't stand even fifteen minutes of it. Thought about Shahrukh Khan and his "style". Poor chap he doesn't often get to do solid characters like Devdas. His talent is wasted on doing the "could be any-silly-body" kind of shallow romantic roles.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

There should be a tax on incompetence.

Characters in comic strips are ambidextrous generally. They use the right or left hand depending on the artist's convenience - depending on how the frame has to be displayed. Even in fundoo comics like asterix one finds this slip, which is sad, really, because the comic is quite perfect otherwise.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

A popular kind of short story is the "Twist In the Tale" kind. (Please read yesterday's the previous blog before you read this one.)

I have several cribs with short stories with Twists. Some Twist stories really make me mad. For example, the stories in which the twist is achieved by suppressing information throughout the story and then revealing it at one go in a couple of sentences in the end. In such stories the author sets traps which are supposed to hit you in retrospect once you have read the ending. You are supposed to think "Oh that's why the author said that sentence in that particular way." In the story I posted yesterday, for example, Chief Vhonoff sees the aliens with "an extra eye, an ear less". He doesn't see an alien with "Two ears and two eyes". I don't think too much of these kind of twist stories. I think the twist should be in the events of the story not in the way the story is told. Jeff Archer once wrote a story in the first person as a female cat. The cat is narrating and her emotions are like a human being and all and so is the language. Not once does the cat say meow. That is still ok. We can assume translation. But there should be some reference to a tail or some mice or fur or something. Come on, a cat can't have human feelings through-out. I think info-suppression when describing a first person story very unpardonable. I say to such stories "What's the big deal?". You are welcome to say the same to the story I posted yesterday. I feel the narrator should tell the reader all relevant information that he can gather as an observer of the scene he is describing. If there is no way the narrator could have known its OK.

Most of the times I know that I am reading a Twist story. Either a friend tells me before I start. Or I know the writer writes only Twist Stories. Or I can tell generally after the first few lines. (The stories you can tell are Twists by reading a couple of lines are the really painful ones.) As soon as I know its a twist story I am in a hurry to get to the end and so hardly enjoy what I am reading. Then I feel helpless because I know that info is being suppressed all around me and there's nothing I can do about it. Then I start to try and catch those hints which will probably hit me in retrospect. Its all very painful.

The stories I can read at a relaxed pace, inspite of knowing there might be a twist in the end - because there are other thing, there is humour and there is description and there is good relaxed storytelling - those are the stories I like. Basically the twist shouldnt be the point of the story. The story should be readable and original and different and worth your time even before the twist comes. That would be a good twist story. And there are lots of them as well.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Here's another story born out of a Creative Writing contest. The story was supposed to include the lines "Its time to leave. I have made my decision and I'll stick by it."

Chief Vhonoff

Chief Vhonoff sat down on what might be called a chair and began to key in his report. What he wrote would decide the fate of a civilization, a civilization that he had discovered, but his mind was on other things. He was thinking of home.

His mission was over. It was time to leave.

Soon, he would be able to begin the long journey back home to his wife and kids. And then, he would take a long rich vacation to compensate for six years of wretched living.

It would be good to see the kids again. He had been seeing their pictures and he had regularly sent them his. But that was hardly the same as actually being with them.

Vhonoff was suddenly nervous. How would the kids react to him? A father, who has been away six years, is almost a stranger. 'Away from sight, forgotten in mind' they said. How else could he explain the glaring lack of warmth in the letters they wrote him and the almost mechanical nature of the conversation they had every 9 days. And, he thought sadly, they are almost grown now. They will no longer come to me to fix their toys.

The nervousness changed to bitterness. Six years in the line of duty. Six years in a foreign space, living aboard a cramped ship, working by day and by night, living on bland, "healthy food"...For what? Of course, they paid him well. And back home, there would be a hero's welcome awaiting him. But what could compensate for his share of his children's childhood that he had forsaken? And his wife? He knew she had suffered. That he had made her suffer.

Vhonoff took a deep breath. Might as well get the job done and over with. And think about home when he got there?

He keyed in a rapid paragraph. Then another, and then a third. He stopped to read what he had written. Not good enough. He deleted the whole thing and started afresh. No. his heart was not in it, he realized. Maybe if he took a break...He walked out of his cabin, went to his secretary's desk and gave him some instructions.

As he entered the observatory some peace returned to his mind. This was the best part of the job - watching the aliens he himself had discovered, seeing the little guys go about their daily tasks, travelling in their ridiculous little machines, quite unaware of the powereful telesccopes watching them from far away. He was almost proud of them. He watched them still with pleasure as he had done six years ago, but now with a touch of fatherly affection.

They had surprised him at first. They were so familiar. Physically, they were different. They had an extra eye and an ear less. The arms were disproportionately larger, the legs smaller. The skin was terribly pale. They were also so tiny. But civilizationally, they were exactly like the people back home. They tamed other creatures and lived in artificially built homes and moved about in machines. There also seemed to be different communities which fought each other with war weapons. Watching their activities was like watching one endless animation movie.

Vhonoff focused his telescope on a couple. They were obviously quarreling in what looked like some sort of a playground for kids. Several other aliens watching the couple were lookin on, amused. The couple's child, sitting between them was happily chewing on some eatable, quite unconcerned with his parent's indiscretion. "Too bad we haven't decoded their language fully yet." thought Vhonoff, "We could have had some fun. But then, we'll never get around to doing that, if the politicians back home have their way."

The principal task of his mission, of course, was to see if the alien planet and its people could be subjugated. And by all his experiments he had found out that - they could. The aliens were quite warlike but they could harldy stand up to a modern army, poor things. The atmosphere of the planet was somewhat hostile. More oxygen that nitrogen, but that was only a minor issue. It was only a matter of time before these little creatures were exterminated and the planet resettled.

And his report would start that process...

The kid in the telescope had started crying. It had accidentally droppped whatever it had been eating. Strangely, the child's moaning had quieted the parents. Now they were united in their efforts to soothe it. Something stirred in Vhonoff's memory. Something similar had happened to him. So long ago. His daughter had feigned hurt to put an end to a quarrel between him and his wife.

They are so like us, Vhonoff thought, and we want to conquer them. Just because we are stronger.

No. Not if he could help it. It wouldnt be easy, but it was possible. After all, he was Chief. Some doctoring of experiments...ordering of fresh experiments...Besides, his crew adored him. Yes it was possible. And he would do it. It would involve some more delay in going home, but he would do it.

"Its time to leave this planet for good," he thought "Its time to leave. I have made my decision and I'll stick by it. I will save planet Earth."

Sunday, August 03, 2003

In the morning, I was riding out of home with the headlights on and there were these two kids - one kutti boy and one kutti girl - waving enthuly and saying 'light light'. I nodded my head in acknowledgement and tried to smile through the helmet, turned the light off. Showing motorists the light, so to speak, was a favourite 'good deed for the day' for me too, when I was a kid.

Why do people instantly point out when you have your headlights on and why do they feel good about it if they do?

I think its because people want to make a positive difference in other people's lives - without taking too much pains or getting involved too deeply. Also 'pointing headlights' produces instant results. If result divided by time taken were satisfaction...well... you can do the math.

Of course there are other things that you could point out to people - that they are smoking a cigarette, for example, or making a general fool out of themselves in some way.

Its like lifting a riging telephone. Something has to be done about it and you can easily do it in no time. So why not do it and feel good about doing something. Mind you, I am not saying all this is concious thought or anything.

Or perhaps it is that a on-headlight doesn't sort of fit the picture. Its not like the world they know of. A jarring note, sort of. Something not quite right about it. People want to fix it quick.

Or it is the society's way of enforcing its will. They won't let you leave your headlights on even if you want to. Because they think, for some reason that it is not right.

Or is it that people just want to be 'superior' if you know what I mean. Saying that they know better than you do.

Or perhaps one just grows up learning that headlight-showing is an extremely important thing, going by the earnestness with which people around you do it. It is the done thing, sort of. That perhaps explains the enthu in kids for headlight showing.

Hey this post has gone from sunniness to cynicism to general babbling. I am sorry if I was being unfair to those people to whom 'headlight showing' comes naturally, from a genuine kindness and a desire to help people, in any way, if they can.