Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Moon not even Sixpence

Q:What happens to an idea that shows up before its time?
A:It gets branded 'crazy'

Such has always been the brand that pathbreakers favor. If Michael Hart had not persisted in his dream to 'eClassify' (imagine a 'TM' next to the word - I just coined it and it means trying to convert to electronic form books that have been around long enough to touch several generations of readers and hence be termed classics) there would be no Project Gutenberg which is now 13,000 ebooks in 25 languages and going really strong. The digitization of books is done entirely by volunteers.

I have enjoyed the texts downloaded from Gutenberg on several occasions earlier and I mainly favor them because it is so easy to do Alt-Tab and read them alongside some mundane computer tasks like starting servers and running scripts that take forever. The other delightful thing about Gutenberg is the file size of the downloads. Where else can you hope to find the electronic version of the Moon and Sixpence bundled into 161KB?

The Fiction of the Fan

Don Quixote and Utopian dreams
Rip Van Winkle and Sleep
Tom Sawyer and the new dimension to 'truant'

Characters like these are part of everyday conversation and I believe that their immense popularity in a manner not thought of by their creators is a fitting tribute to the genius of the writer. Fan fiction is also tribute argues Natasha Walters.

Didn't someone say that Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

NaNoWriMo beckons

I am finally going to write to a deadline. I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo 2004 and went ahead and registered myself. I really liked their concept of stressing quantity over quality. I usually find it rather hard to get my words past that harsh inner critic and as a result, what I write usually ends up being rather short and stilted for my liking. I have now sent away the critic for a month's hibernation and do intend to churn out atleast 50,000 words by the end of November without worrying about the quality of the writing.

It looks like I must spend atleast a couple of hours each day on this novel that I am about to create and I have only the vaguest idea of the theme now. And 50,000 words conveying nothing but crap is not altogether easy to create. So November does indeed offer a nice challenge.

I am going to be using another blog for the novel writing excerpts and related stuff. I do intend to continue posting here in November, as always, in a sporadic fashion.

What are you waiting for? Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

So went the days

The BJP and Shiv Sena lost the Maharashtra election, Advani assumed the leadership mantle of the BJP, Alan Hollinghurst walked away with the Man Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty, the interesting test match in Chennai was finally a washout, Veerappan's death raked up several questions and I scurried around all week doing odd jobs. Even as I wrote the last sentence, I wonder for a microsecond about my insignificant scurrying around amidst a lot of eventful happenings. But then, my scales of comparison are incorrect as my scurrying around has a direct impact on my life while the 'eventful happenings' of last week might just remain printed words in the newspaper archives and nothing more might be triggered by them.

So went the days of last week where I did the usual things - track the news, do housekeeping (aside: it is one of those things I still cannot believe that I do! I like things to be neat and clean but I can never bring myself to believe that I can do tasks that fall under the 'housekeeping' epithet. Housekeeping brings to mind starched aprons, white bonnet, matronly appearance and motherly thoughtfulness. I do not fit any of these!), work a bit, be a family person, buy clothes, read De Bono's biography (still reading actually) and plan my Navarathri guest list. It was a busy but fun week.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Unnecessary Conversations

Oct 11, 2004, 11:30am:

"Did you see my black bag?" she asked me as soon as I picked up the phone.

" bag. Which one?" By now I had figured who was calling but I was not sure which black bag she was talking about.

"I thought you will know. You were here for an hour right. Did you see it?"

"No I did not notice any black bag. Have you misplaced it?"

"It has the 15% discount coupon that I can use in Indian Terrain. The offer closes on 31st Oct. What shall I do?" she sounded stressed out.

"It is only the 11th of Oct. There is plenty of time. I am sure you will find it." That's me, the ever-consoling agony aunt.

"okay" bang goes the phone. She's just hung up on me.

I let this pass and carry on with work.

1/2 hour later:

"I cannot find it. Are you sure you did not see it?" It's her again.

Oh no. What have I got myself into without doing anything? "I am sure I did not see it. Try searching for it sometime later. You will definitely find it."

"Maybe the maid took it" Now her imagination is starting to work.

"No way. She's been working for you for the last five years. You've told me that she is trustworthy."

"Hmm...that is ok. But she might have changed. You never know with these people." She is warming up to her idea.

"I don't think so. You will find it." I am wondering what the maid would do with a 15% discount in Indian Terrain. I do not voice it though.

"I have to go" she loses interest in talking to me and hangs up again.

3 hours later:

"Madhavi was telling me that I always had this black bag with me during my lucky shopping discount days. Now how will I go shopping and find good deals without this bag?" It was her yet again and I was in the middle of a meeting when I took this call.

I told her that I will call her back after the meeting. She carried on as if she never heard me, "Why do I always lose my lucky things? Do you remember how I lost the beautiful Solitaire diamond ring that Ashwin had gifted me? I am always careful with my things but why do I lose them?"

At this point, my patience was wearing thin but I still did not get to the impolite stage where I could have simply put the phone down. "Malati, I need to go now. I shall catch up with you in a short while. Bye" I reeled off in my voicemail tone and disconnected before she could get another word in.

I go about my business for the rest of the day and do not call her back. Her lost bag has completely slipped my mind (the earth hardly shook under the duress so I did not notice).


"I just remembered that I also have the new jeweller's address in that bag. What do I do?" Who else but her for the fourth time.

"Who is this?" says my husband.

"Oh. Call your wife. This is Malati"

My husband rolls his eyes as he passes on the phone. "Yes Malati, tell me" I sound terribly tired and bored to my own ears. But I am sure she did not bother about how I sound at all.

"I have the new jeweller's address in that bag. How will I order the uncut sapphire pendant now?"

I was thinking about her obsession with the inanities and did not quite hear what she said.

"What will I do?" she repeated.

"Malati, never mind. We can buy a new black bag. I can even gift it to you for your monthly all women bash", I try to get out of this agony with a carrot.

"But it will not become that black bag. I got it at the Treasure Island mall in Kolkata for Rs.90. It was such a steal. Do you remember Rehman's Needlecraft store where I used to pick up those wonderful crochet pieces?" she jumpstarted on flashback mode and I spent the next hour on the phone unsuccessfully sending out signals to cut the call.

You might want to ask me what happened to the black bag. I don't really know or care. I was careful enough to be unreachable after that. She has not called today and I am checking the caller id on each call that I have been getting since morning. Until her next inanity, I am doomed to hear accounts of the black bag. Actually, let me correct it: Until her next inanity, I am doomed to hear accounts of the black bag everyday. After that, she will probably recall it every once in a while along with the lost Solitaire and her grocery bags and everything else that she has filed away in her mind.

Men always say that women get lost in the details of little things. I am a woman and a details person as well and I used to think that it is a good way to be. But I did not quite realize that this is probably what the men might have meant when they said 'details of little things'.Please, if you are a woman and a details person, do keep the details to yourself or if you have to throw it out of your system, do so on a piece of paper or do it with a friend who will do the same to you when she loses something. Do not try it on not-so-delicate darlings like me puhleeeease.

PS: I am not anti-female. All the men who think so after reading this don't know me at all!

PPS: Part of the account above is fictitious and I am not going to tell you which part. Just accept that I did go through the ordeal in a slightly different fashion but the pain was still the same

Friday, October 01, 2004

Friendly memories

Today is the recalling-old-friends-and-being-grateful-for-most-of-them day. I have had most of them flashing through my mind's eye. There are weeks when I do not think of any of them and I do not mean it in the way that they do not matter to me. It is just that I am a person who focuses on certain things and stores away other thoughts for another day. So, the friends decided to all come at once from the memory shelves and it became chaotic to manage the sequence of memories as they tumbled out.

The hyperactive first memory that came out was the friend who searched for leave letters with me in a school dump. She and I, knee deep in garbage and looking for leave letters that will sit in a measly year end records room that no one ever goes to during the rest of the year. Now, it seems ridiculous that our teacher even asked us to look for it. But back then, we laughed so much as we were standing knee deep in the garbage. And guess what, we did find the leave letters (mind you, this was the garbage dump of the whole school and everybody clears out at the end of the school year. So it was some achievement to locate the correct bunch of leave letters!).

My favorite roomie then showed up with her mug of hot chocolate and her glasses perched on the nose right at the point where it meets the junction of the eyes. She and I have talked through the wee hours of many a night about Prince Charming and the trips to fantasy land. She does a much better job at Mills & Boon style stories than the original authors. My forced introduction and brief association with M&B and other such pulps were at the hands of Ms.Glassy.

The person I love to call co-God followed with the cherished memory of a costume trial session at a movie costume rental store. We tried Maharaja crowns, Mantri turbans and all kinds of traditional Indian robes. And we did all this trying out while talking to the store owner, a walrus-moustached and rotund character who insisted on calling us 'mudum' (his version of 'madam'). She and I had a hard time recovering from our laugh effected muscle catches. And we could not talk about our time at the store for days together without bursting into peals of laughter.

Sauntering along with a nonchalance, so natural that you take a while to figure out that this is a carefully cultivated exterior that has been around long enough to appear natural, is the friend with whom I have spent several hours in a dirty cafetaria talking about the tricky dance called life. Sipping my cup of sickeningly sweet tea while he nursed a bottle of coke (even then the yuppie!), we shamelessly flaunted our Ayn Rand induced cynicism across a multitude of topics. Then there were the times when we discussed the never changing script for yet another mastering of the ceremony. "The Chief Guest will now light the kuthuvilakku"...always the same thing. What else?

There is this friend of mine who had a strong disdain for women until a few years ago. Way back in 1999, when A and I were visiting his place, he was in his anti-women phase and we did not know him well then (how could we when he was anti-women?). Once we figured his coldness, she and I set to work together and psyched this person out with our very own version of Linda GoodMan's Sun Signs theory. We talked to this person non stop for about 5 hours and during that time we had listed out all his irritating mannerisms and given him a reason for each of his odd acts. Guess what, he actually bought it. And funnily, he stopped thinking of women as cunning and manipulative b******. A & I still wink at each other when he mentions that conversation.

The memories carry little bright spot after another. The speed of words can seldom match the speed of thought. Posting the other memories of today will have to wait.