Category Archives: Literature and Writing

‘You Think Only Women Are Stereotyped?’

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Source: ridiculouslyefficient.com

Source: ridiculouslyefficient.com

I often recall my childhood days when my cousins and I would get to meet each other more often; boy what a riot that would be! From my father’s side of the family, we were four brothers and five sisters, I being the youngest. My maternal cousins were of course much younger then, so I couldn’t quite reveal my demonic self as unapologetically as I did with my equally mischievous yet doting paternal cousins. Placing our age differences aside we would indulge in pulling each other’s leg, watching horror or comedy films, going on picnics and gorging on restaurant (junk) food every time we got together!

Over the years life has taken us in different directions where we have forged new ties and made new commitments as a companion, as a parent or even as an ambitious professional. But I have realised of late that in spite of our being so preoccupied with our respective lives that have moved at varying paces like parallel universes, our bond has remained intact, quite effortlessly in fact. I suppose it is the pure honesty within the relationship that has refused to fade off with time and so, on the eve of the release of my book ‘Goddess & Whore‘, I wrote a text-message to my eldest cousin brother, without a second thought.

In dizzying nervousness I sent him an image of my book’s cover that hadn’t yet been revealed to anyone. After that I waited in excited anticipation for his response that I have always greatly valued. After a couple of minutes I received a text message that read:

‘The title and artwork look exciting and provocative! What is the book about?’

This was a question that I could answer even in my sleep these days since I have had to ramble on about the book in the press release, the book’s cover and other collaterals too. In fact, I must have sounded just as rehearsed as I had feared I would as the well-manicured words poured out of me:

Goddess & Whore is about a woman’s journey, after she decides to disentangle herself from all her social identities, relationships and abuses only to discover her true identity. This story is conveyed through a collection of modern poems that question traditional mindsets and relationships even as they celebrate life and the bonds we share with each other. ’

The number of questions tossed at me from the other side was now increasing even as the time gap between them was steeply declining. I decided to rise to the occasion and brave the barrage of questions with utmost precision and honesty. We spoke of every dreadful word that had given me sleepless nights, like: promotion, marketing, timelines, pricing, et all. Anyway, just when I thought that I had managed to tackle the more difficult questions, I was asked why the book was titled Goddess & Whore. This had also by now become one of the FAQs that I could answer in a trance, though I still stood by every word I uttered:

‘Well you see, we dwell in snap judgments and extremities. We either glorify women as a mother or a goddess expecting her to be an epitome of selflessness, or we blame her for being a home-breaker or a whore! We are so used to stereotyping women that we are not able to accept her as an ordinary human being with desires and aspirations and her share of inadequacies and imperfections.’

Until now most of what I had explained had been received with appreciation and without the slightest demur. But following the last reply I sensed uneasiness at the other end. After a brief pause my brother replied:

‘You think men are not stereotyped? You think they have it easy?’

Those last few words suddenly seemed to stir within me a zillion stray thoughts that I wouldn’t quite say I was a stranger to, though it was very rarely that we dealt with it on an ordinary day. Things like, ‘It is not usual to see a man emotional. They don’t cry or get hurt as easily’ and so on. Men too are judged all the time. And more often than not they aren’t even granted the allowance to play the ‘victim’.

After some thought I informed him that the collection represented every human being as anyone could relate to the inner quest, the urgent need to realise one’s purpose in life, just that I had chosen my protagonist to be a woman…for a reason better known to me. I typed back:

‘Thankfully, poetry allows several equally plausible interpretations with no right or wrong answers but just an honest experience. The poems represent the eternal conflict within every human being and the constant search for a sense of peace. Hence, as the book mentions on its back-cover too, the poems represent the transformation of every human being in the course of his or her journey towards self discovery.’

He wished me luck and left me with my thoughts once again.

Now available on Kindle too!

Now available on Kindle too!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

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Autobiography Of A Writer’s Notebook

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“Look closely this time into the white spaces of my pages and you might perhaps get a glimpse of that destiny that had been gifted to me by a force that invariably fails to be explicit and unambiguous, leaving every precious detail of life indefinable just so the likes of me can learn to discover ourselves. My pages were bound to preserve the honest musings of a dreamer or poet, though none of this I would have known if it wasn’t for that dark-eyed gentleman who bought me. He was a well-known writer, I am told, though rumour had it that as a boy he had dreamt of being an adventurous sailor, just that his father had imagined a much quieter life for his son. And hence, he and I met…

You see, had this writer not torched my heart with stories of insane murders and deceit that made me cringe within, I would have perhaps remained oblivious of what I so desired to fill my pages with – poetry. And so I loathe that man just as much as I owe this revelation to him too, as it was on that terrifying and fateful day that I remembered the destiny once read out to me and inscribed on every inch of whiteness that seemed blank to most of you. All this while, the imperceptible had waited in silence for the obvious to happen. And my pages were forced to overwrite their desire with someone else’s bruised sense of purpose. I was writing a destiny that wasn’t mine. I was made into a thriller novel that barely resonated with what I was meant to be. Like a million others around me including my offender, I too was living another man’s dream. The single consolation that I now zealously held on to was that I had discovered, at least, what I was born to do; was that a blessing anymore or a curse instead?

I quietly wait now with pages filled with lines that speak of intrigue and lust, violence and mistrust. I get the impression, that is what appeals to men most…and I wonder why. I survive the wait and the weight of those words forced upon me as the lines of poetry and love groan unheard underneath the facade that is meant only for sale. Until one miraculous night, the enchanting moonlight spills on my ruffled pages and washes off every vulgar word written with dishonesty. I feel light once again after a very long time. Those words of love and nature rise and fill every space with their beauty and joy! I am no longer a ‘thriller novel for sale’ that looks like every other book on the shelf but a ‘book of poetry’ for the dreamer instead. These days, I only wait for the moonlight to melt away my miseries so I can come alive for a short while…”

“…As the feather gracefully descended
back to the moist earth

the breeze softly whispered to it –
i’m carrying you to a poet’s study
for her muse should write your destiny.”

(**this concluding stanza has been borrowed from Goddess &Whore)

Now available on Amazon, Flipkart, BOOKadda!

Now available on Amazon, Flipkart, BOOKadda!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Press Release: Goddess & Whore, Now Available Worldwide

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Goddess & Whore: Now available on BOOKadda, Flipkart, Amazon, Kindle, and in selected bookstores across India!

Goddess & Whore: Now available on BOOKadda, Flipkart, Amazon, Kindle and in selected bookstores across India!

October 2013, Singapore.

Goddess & Whore – a collection of modern poems – reaches bookstores worldwide this festive season.

Goddess & Whore – a collection of modern poems – weaves into a vivid narrative of a woman’s journey as she steps out of her various social identities and abuses to discover the true meaning to her existence. What begins as a nagging sense of disquiet and discontent evolves into a quest for inner peace. She draws inspiration from nature and begins to disentangle herself from all those relationships and resentments that she once carried, and only then does she discover her real indestructible self and makes the crossover that signifies the transformation of a being.

The poems celebrate the joys of womanhood and the beauty of nature even as they address certain social issues like the position of women, the rejection of the girl child, the violence against women, the traditions of fasting, and dated customs and rituals; and all these concerns culminate into a single question – ultimately what matters?

“The book aspires to convey the simple desire of a woman to be accepted for who she is, along with her dreams and aspirations, follies and foibles. She doesn’t wish to be glorified as a goddess nor be despised as a whore. At a broader level, this sentiment holds true for all human beings, whether man or woman,” explains Madhurima. “The book is available on Flipkart, BOOKadda, Amazon, Kindle and also in selected bookstores across India.”

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Goddess & Whore: Cover Launch!

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Goddess & Whore, to be available in bookstores soon!

Goddess & Whore, to be available in bookstores soon!

5 October, 2013. As we enter an auspicious time of the year, when we celebrate the goodness and godliness in every human being, I use this opportunity to share with all of you the title and cover of my upcoming book, ‘GODDESS & WHORE’. The book is scheduled to reach bookstores, in and outside India, very soon. I sincerely (and selfishly) seek all your good wishes and blessings that should help me retain my insanity and utmost sincerity towards life and my craft. The cover/artwork of the book has been consciously kept bold, festive and unapologetic – characteristics that resonate with the very essence of the book’s content and intent too. This book marks the beginning of a journey that should most definitely contain several lessons through which I shall get to know myself better, as a person and as a writer. Do bear with me, be with me and guide me through this journey…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

You and I, Seasoned With Poetry ‘n’ Fairytale

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I have come to believe that this magic potion called life that we unmindfully gorge on day after day and even occasionally gag on, is actually seasoned thoroughly with two unobtrusive ingredients that lend that untraceable yet captivating flavour to the main component, as they slowly sink into it layer by layer. These are a drizzle of fantasy and a dash of poetry that define and dictate the true essence of what we consume unmindfully that, in turn, decides who we become ultimately. And yet most of us, being who we are, seldom notice or even realize their presence and the power that this seasoning duo possesses. Instead, we attribute every other quality to only those condiments that meet the eye.

What we are able to conjecture are perhaps the more widely approved colours and textures that are tossed into the simmering cauldron to replicate that familiar taste that reassures us of our deceptive yet intoxicating sense of power instead of challenging our opinions of what we defend as the well-defined. Of course, those ingredients too are necessary to shield us from the unapologetic harsh reality that we bite into, as often we seem to have lost the capacity for accepting what stands unaltered. These condiments know the art of appeasing us so we may never know what lies beyond them.

How many of us are truly aware of who we are, or what we consume. And yet what we gobble up day after day, unwillingly or willingly, unwittingly or intentionally, decides what we shape up to even as we continue to define what we are tucking into. Not that I give credence only to what meets the eye- the stark reality- nor do I have a blind faith in the unreal imaginary world of fantasy, simply because I have little faith left in my ability to tell the difference. For me everything is real just as long as I care to believe in it. And yet, there must be events or circumstances that remind us of the existence of a world of reality that may not yet be within the realms of our familiar beliefs or conventional understanding. But such a world exists and so it must be real. Else, nothing is… nothing ever was. Though at times the latter seems like a probable option too, perhaps a harsher ‘reality’.

Flavours of poetry and fairytales, on the other hand, while defying the contradicting notions of ‘reality’ and defending fluid designs of possibility, add richness, zest, and a delectable array of magnificent hues and splendid aromas to the fare. They connect the impossible with the possible within the human mind, defining best the seasons within the human heart and often leaving it altered for life with a sense of wonderment towards life. They create a connect between us and life by blurring out the differences with their soothing touch so we are able to rise above what we cannot change and obtain the gift of being reverential as we notice life through all its shades.

It is that potion of poetry and fairytale in us that connects us to nature and life, lends us a pair of eyes that can see beauty and celebrate joy, and a heart that can weep in melancholy, pathos, love and happiness. It reminds us of our wanderer soul that can let go of all its possessions and rise above them to feel true liberation.

Our physical form too thrives on rhythm. The heart throbs in poetic beat while the mind drifts into the unfamiliar obscure realm beyond the familiar. We survive on hope and love that seem not unlike words taken from a fairytale. Notice an infant and you would have a chance of knowing what this means. You can mesmerize a young child with a wonderful story that happened behind those gigantic fluffy clouds, or even sing her to sleep with a soothing rhyme. It is in these acts alone that an infant feels reassured and at peace. And that is our first proof!

We have all, unknowingly or knowingly, fed on these two elements and thus they remain, even today, an integral part of our being. So even as people argue relentlessly about how poetry and fairytales are only for some people and not for the masses, I steadfastly hold on to the opinion that these two elements are actually an intrinsic part of the human consciousness. Literature and Science have, in fact, derived these flavours from the human mind and so they continue to stimulate and inspire the human intellect and have the power to resonate in every corner of our being even today. Poetry and fairytales are for everybody everywhere and for all times. If there is hope there is a fairytale too; if there is joy in beauty then there has to be poetry there as well!

There is much poetry and fairytale in our hearts and dreams even today. We might have only forgotten the art of noticing and exulting in their quiet presence due to the overwhelming presence of other much weightier matters. But we seem to have forgotten so many things that we would do well to recollect and rejuvenate… and remind ourselves that poetry and fairytale continue to remain an inseparable part of life and nature and the very essence of our existence. But as they say, good seasoning works its way through best when it is kept in the warmth!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Credentials Of A Critic

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Source: geneanderson.blogspot.com

Source: geneanderson.blogspot.com

I am gravely sceptical about the touted significance of the role of a critic in literature or the arts. However I wouldn’t dare to completely tag the outsourced inference or even the paid-for favour of a critic as entirely obsolete since I do believe that a qualified feedback could fuel meaningful literature, protect unique writing styles and storylines from commercial slaughterhouses, and also engage minds in a meaningful comparison between the varying styles and formats. While one should remain open to criticism, unwarranted vociferous opinions and disapproval of so-called flaws and faults are distasteful and downright offensive. Is this policing necessary? Well that’s a completely different point altogether. My contention here rests on the unsettling premise that the role of a critic will not be reaching its extinction anytime soon.

These days everybody seems to have donned the expert’s hat and it is the rising score of self-invited advice and opinions that are frivolously thrown at the writer, with complete disregard for the latter’s craft, which has led to the steady decline of my regard for this venerated role. Perhaps it is the dearth of deserving critics that makes the presence of these unqualified opinion-dumpers increasingly unacceptable to writers and other professionals. In fact, I suspect it is the overuse or even abuse of this role and the very nomenclature ‘critic’ that has prompted me to believe that there exists a perpetual negative connotation to the word which was rightfully introduced to accomplish a more productive role however arguably redundant most of it still remains most of the times.

It is interesting how certain words, originally intended to mean something entirely different, begin to represent a separate meaning depending on the examples its users, or in this case its abusers, have set. For instance, criticism or the role of a critic was initially designed as an act of evaluating and studying the merits and drawbacks in an articulate manner which on an ordinary day would seem far more scrupulous had it not turned into a severe judgement or even an unqualified advice from a complete stranger, like it is the case now. The last one, of course, would barely qualify as ‘criticism’ in the proper sense. It is like the word ‘romantic’ that most invariably reminds us of a fizzy-eyed dreamer when the word also represents one of the most glorious eras of the literary landscape, with far broader connotations than the conventional definitions of the word. Another word that has come to be closely associated with the negative is ‘politics’ when primarily it implies the art or science of governance.

Besides the spilling out of the intended definitions and scope of the ‘critic’, it is also the overwhelming reach that another’s opinion bears on one’s work that concerns me. I have noticed, both as a reader and a writer, the sudden progression in the number of critics aka advisers as also in the amount of lethal power they possess over a piece of literature that a writer may have taken years to compile. The literary wheel seems to be spinning more often around the critic’s verdict that then somehow dictates the details and choices for a writer and a reader. We seem to be in a shadow-worshipping world where the actual work is liberally despised or judged.

I have come across a fair number of television and print ‘journalists’ (another word very loosely used these days), who drool over their own fanciful and snippy argots as they go about on their verbal rampage that is more entertaining than intelligent or insightful. They assume the right to denigrate a writer and, sadly, that sells more. I wish we knew that among the few things besides Rome that could not be built in a day it would be a manuscript and most definitely a published book! I wish we knew of the long hours of disciplined writing, the rigorous and brain-numbing rounds of editing and proof reading, and the frustrating wait for the cosmic forces to return the favour before we dismantled all the blocks of a lifelong dream with a single judgment. For me, a writer must always be respected for his attempt. Surely, a person who makes herself or himself that vulnerable deserves to be regarded in a more reputable light.

A few weeks ago, I happened to share one of my poems ‘Poetry vs. Cigarettes’ on a social forum for poetry readers, which turned out to be one of my greatest misjudgments. I was appalled at the level of highhandedness people assumed. One ridiculously concerned and presumptuous gentleman pounded me with his disgust for cigarettes and me, since he had managed to somehow perceive my poetry very literally and derive the most unimaginative implication from it, overlooking the entire metaphor that I thought I had so intelligently crafted. Wonder what would happen if I posted Mark Twain’s Art of Masturbation without the acclaimed author’s byline!

Among the violations that the struggling writer in me has suffered, the most entertaining one was a feedback I received from a blank-faced e-stranger who conveniently rewrote my entire poem for me, robbing it of its rhythm (not rhyme). He retained only the title as a kind gesture so I would understand how I had to do justice to the title. In the end, he messaged: ‘Remember, it is Poetry vs. Cigarettes’ not ‘Cigarettes vs. Poetry’. I am still to figure out the depth of that sentence. Their confidence baffles me even as I battle to survive their unfinished sentences and obstreperous conduct. Though to tell you the truth I’d be far more worried or even devastated had he left a poem that seemed better fit than my own work. It was a scary stunt to have pulled over a writer, and surely a foolish one too, in this case. As the diva Madonna puts it (for Lady Gaga) under a similar circumstance, ‘It seemed reductive’. Touché to that!

As most of my literary wonderments invariably trail back to Virginia Woolf, in this case too she has, for me, remained the best example of a truly qualified critic. Firstly, her own views as a writer have been discussed, criticized or even left unnoticed just like the highly complex and bold painting patterns of the great Vincent Van Gogh, which were much ahead of his times, had been dealt with. This meant that she had faced the vices of criticism herself. Secondly, no criticism seemed to have dissuaded her from expressing herself (once again, like Van Gogh), which meant she knew the difference between a good critique and a bad one. Her ideas and writing style, even today, stand firmly as a hallmark of excellence in literature surpassing the lifespan of several critics and their opinions.

Virginia Woolf took the opinions of only a few writer friends like Eliot and chose to overlook the views of journalists, critics and fans too, since she feared that too much flattery, just like too many critiques, would influence her intent as a writer. She clearly did understand the roles of a critic and a critique. In her diary (Diary of a Writer) Virginia Woolf has neatly defaced many big names in the world of poetry and professionals whose works have overlooked the nuances of human emotions while they have solely glorified physical strength and valour as attributes of human strength; elements like emotional complexities and relationship subtleties have largely been ignored. For her, those intricacies of the human mind are in fact the true protagonists. She has discussed the writing styles of her contemporaries even as she has candidly dissected her own moods and works effortlessly. She has, in several cases, reassessed her own work and expressed her excitement or disappointment over it. To me that is a ‘qualified’ critic.

It is solely for the likes of Virginia Woolf that I remain hopeful of this probably-redundant-yet-not-completely-pointless effort and so I voluntarily continue to prevent myself from fully despising this role as an entirely wasteful occupation. After all, for the writer in me, none is more dangerous than the critic that quietly watches me from within even as I continue to write.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Poetry Vs Cigarettes

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(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

click click
click click…
the keys of my laptop
no less of a poet
echo their only rhyme
only to celebrate
my words
that have just been born
as i suck the bitter air
from my lit tobacco stick…
its tiny red ambers
like rubies breathe
alive and ablaze
each time i filter
a lung full of fresh air through it
but they reduce to soft ashes
soon after
and collapse
disillusioned discoloured
as i set the smoke free
from my lips
that provokes once again
my senses…
fifty thousand words
‘n a million cigarette puffs
it has cost and earned me
yet i argue on
with questionable irritation—
why these damned cigarettes
sell more than my poetry!
deep within though
i have a nagging doubt
if it’s my vanity
that seeks solace
and similarity
with the bitter taste
of the burning tobacco
that reduces quietly to ashes…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Lust For ‘Likes’

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I have finally compiled and documented a secret list of completely immaterial things that irritate me to my core, the sort that you most definitely know could or should never destroy you or even remotely alter or affect your existence; and yet they contain a lethal power to capture every bit of your attention and blur your simplest capabilities of acting sensibly.

This list contains an amusing assortment of ‘things’, utterly unassuming and mundane, that have irked me and continue to do so from time to time. Trust me, we all have such lists neatly tucked away in some corner of our otherwise sensible mind. For some, it could be a booming and boisterous boss, for some a meddlesome mom-in-law, or a colleague whose hair gel reminds one of a brothel house, while for the likes of me, it is our own ill-timed sneezes, or an itch in some awkward corner where the hand refuses to reach, or even a persistent drilling sound on a Sunday afternoon on the floor just above ours! It’s when you are compelled to look so incredibly ‘above-all-this’ and then further ornate that sentiment with refined civility that you know it is one of those things that constitute the hush-hush list.

These are things that have the calibre of ruining a perfect state of equanimity in a painfully defining moment, yet they masquerade as objects that are beyond our control. When we are happy this list seems petty and when we aren’t as chirpy as we’d like to be, the characters from this list stealthily drag themselves out and become the first to push us off the tipping point.

After reaching a complete saturation point with all my daily duties I noticed something very interesting, a few days ago. I am not certain if it was my declining concentration level or utter joblessness that led me towards compiling a list of things that often seemed to irk me so I could officially execute them, one by one, once and for all. I realised that I had a to-do list, a wish list, a bucket list, a groceries list, a phone numbers list… so, most logically there had to be a what-sucks list. Why shouldn’t I write down things that make me drive up the wall, so I could look them in the eye for once before trashing them away for good; the way some stores take photographs of their shoplifters before barring them from entering their shop again.

My list disappointed me with its deceivingly not-so-long stretch, quite contrary to what I had been keenly looking forward to, though something very striking came out during this liberating process. I had found a new entrant to this list that was uniquely versatile yet insentient. It had an innate ability to entertain, amuse and provoke me and leave me bewildered, annoyed, distressed, disappointed, and even concerned. It was the ‘Like’ button on most social media sites, a one-stop-shop that assured and testified a person’s popularity vis-à-vis the quality of her craft; as if the traditional ways of ego massage to gratify the suffocating levels of need for social-acceptance weren’t enough!

This single button could stir even the most nonchalant person like me (or so, I’d like to imagine), who even for an instant would be tempted to check out a post that had been liked by so many and sometimes even wonder how it had been liked by this many! Makes me feel like a wolf in a pack, where I howl and the others follow suit irrespective… and that remains my sole comfort, the reassurance that I am not alone, that my existence is acknowledged and approved, and that somehow counts… I need to be told that I am liked, that I make sense to others, that I conform to the norms of the herd – what a deplorable state of affairs!

Today, what doesn’t seem to matter is the credibility of the zillions who hoot or chant your name, just as long as the numbers go up and up so we are able to selfishly get our word and agenda successfully across to as many; and who cares how eligible others are to judge me. Everyone is apparently qualified to pass a judgment on my craft and that is bearable. But the fact that everyone’s judgment counts is what then begins to get unbearable.

Hence, I propose there be two buttons instead of a single ‘Like’ button. One that reads ‘I Beg to Differ’ and the second one that reads ‘Fair Point’. In this way, we don’t get into rights and wrongs, likes and dislikes; instead we stir a debate, we welcome an opposition that spells something a little more worthy of our time; we reconfirm our belief in ‘perceptions’ and not in a single defined unidimensional set of good or bad. After all, a platform as powerful as this one should be more than just a mere whiling away of our time!

As for those who treat this space as a dumpster to dispose of their perpetual state of disillusionment with almost everything – starting from appropriate dressing tips to how to poop in a fashionable stance – should definitely have the ‘Like’ button replaced with a ‘Good for You’ button (though, I’d actually prefer a ‘Mind Your Business’ button there). These people disapprove of almost anything that comes under every individual’s basic freedom of choice.

I remember coming across this hilarious character, who had a perennial bitterness towards anyone who posted a beautiful profile picture of herself; only old haggard faces seemed genuine to this person. But again, this is the most innocuous group of them all.

I have had the chance to meet all sorts of Like-lusters. Some mail or message me by the minute asking me to like their page, others consciously refrain from liking a page thinking that a petty act on their part can actually contribute towards stunting a person’s good work. Well guess what, to the Like-luster such an attitude reveals the stunted mind of the Like-avoider and then this stance only further stunts the already diminutive mind with every avoiding act.

Then, there are ‘conditional Likers’ whose motto is fairly simple, ‘you scratch my back and I scratch yours’. A small break in your regime of liking their post and you have lost them for almost ever. And finally, there are ‘seasonal Likers’ who appear like a comet once in several months and flood the online area with generous ‘Likes’.

My favourite among all these are those who silently read and enjoy a post and very cunningly refrain from conveying the fact that they liked (or disliked) reading it. There are apparently many explanations behind this entertainingly insecure attitude. I don’t have the inclination nor the time to indulge in a painstaking analysis of these insecure weasels. The most painful revelation was, however, a completely different thing.

I realised that among all these people who seem least affected and feel supremely über cool to be keeping up with the times, I appear to be the most thick-headed fool for considering this outlandish trend as a threat and a fuel for fanning our sense of insecurity and the perpetual need for acceptance and popularity as an individual; where such behaviour, however absurd and invalid, seems to confirm our sense of being only through the verdict passed by the collective bunch of we-don’t-care-who-s. It is like being sedated by drugs. It is after all an era of echo addicts. And I can almost hear the cyber gods chant in unison:

I matter if I matter to you

I exist if you can see me

I deserve to be if you say so

If not….

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Mental Blog: Short Vs. Long Sentences

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Google Images: Virginia Woolf

Google Images: Virginia Woolf

Even as I continue to defend myself as an utterly straightforward person, barring the simplest complexities necessary for any reasonably reflective woman brought up in today’s quasi-modern atmosphere, I do acknowledge my unfaltered admiration for the seemingly unending sentences in literature and in one’s own writing. It is but just another style, equally honest and unadulterated as any other piece of art, that requires a skill completely linked to one’s love for vivid descriptions and a spirit of wonderment while toying with words and testing their potency each time by defying the rules that govern the parts and figures of speech, not to forget the insane amount of caution, craft and control one needs to exercise over the language.

Sometime earlier this week I received a message from a childhood friend who had just read one of my writings, and who happens to be a wonderful writer himself. The message read –

“I really liked the long sentences, like pulling on a pizza slice and watching the mozzarella strands stretch out, wondering how far you can get from the box while being impatient about biting into your very own piece of the pie.”

Hmm…was that a compliment? I sure hope so. But I must confess that I was so instantly in love with the choice of words he had used, perhaps the best I had received so far with regard to my long sentences, that I immediately decided to dedicate my next post to that lovely comment and a much wider mental block. Another interesting feedback I received from a teacher once was “I can’t really spot a grammatical error here, but something doesn’t quite sound normal”. I thought it was entertaining, though I didn’t tell her so.

I, allegedly among the very few in my generation, am proudly guilty of this somewhat sadistic trait of indulging in complex long sentences as a writer, and I am (wishfully) tempted to use the very well-known Charles Dickens’ style of writing as a reference point to rest my case on, where the first paragraph that consisted of around 150 words was invariably made of a single sentence! And mind you, there were several reasons in that solo Dickens’ paragraph that could send you looking for a dictionary… ah, another book that is highly ignored these days. Even as a young girl, it gave me immense pleasure to unravel the humour or pathos that those adjectives and adverbs so effortlessly conveyed along with the meaning and mood as they loyally guarded and adorned every noun and verb and lent more life into every character and scene.

In fact, I have, on several occasions, tried to track the right reason that might have drawn me towards such multiple complex sentences or even concepts and ideologies like Virginia Woolf’s style of placing her characters across varying time zones. Was it the writers I followed? But this logic would barely throw any light on my research since I was equally drawn towards the works of writers like Satyajit Ray, Anita Desai, Roald Dahl, Ruskin Bond, Enid Blyton, Earnest Hemingway, among an endless list of prolific writers whose works rested upon the element of soothing simplicity.

George Orwell, another word-wizard, could skilfully and almost magically craft an essay on a seemingly mundane topic like ‘how to make a perfect cup of tea’ with the simplest sentences and yet it remains so profoundly memorable and deeply engrained in my heart. In those essays he made his writing style the sole protagonist, which the plot followed like a dutiful obedient student. Style of writing is a dark horse that on several occasions has the power to rise much above the realms of a storyline. An endless list of names of writers comes to my mind even as I struggle to conclude my limited yet independent understanding of this subject of simple vs. complex sentences where the latter is quietly headed towards extinction (or execution?).

I am a lover of lengthy complex sentences and I do believe they have a unique unconventional elegance and zest of their own. I remember being pulled up on this account several times by teachers, friends and colleagues who have protested, complained and even threatened me of a sinking career while they have accused me of being insensitive to the ‘requirements’ of ‘today’s readers’, as these literary gatekeepers choose to amicably define this apparently rising clan instead of tagging them outright as ‘selectively incompetent’.

I am also told that today’s readers suffer from a declining retention span and a plummeting patience level when it comes to reading though scientific researches proudly announce the rising IQ of every successive generation – so where is the degeneration happening? Or as the locals in Singapore put it ‘so how’? I, for one, remain uncertain however if all this is completely true and if so, would catering to those readers be the primary objective of any writer? Who are our readers? When did literature become so time-bound? And if that were true, then why hasn’t Dickens’ or Woolf’s works become obsolete yet? Or perhaps the right question here would be: should literature be governed by such relatively trivial requirements always?

My vote, even if it shouldn’t or wouldn’t count, would still be for the supposition that literature or any art form should not be burdened with the need to either cater to or reform its readers or audience. And in case that should happen, it should be based on the writers’ discretion (a whole new point of discussion, I am afraid, though not completely unrelated to my ramblings). For me, writing is expressing and discovering one’s own signature style just like painting and dancing. Literature thrives for Literature’s sake. Period.

Even as I marvel at the rising number or contemporary writers with an overwhelming flare for and interest in reality-driven plots, somewhere deep down I crave for fiction writing that promises me a Wonderland or a Neverland – simple yet so fantastic! I crave for the likes of Pickwick Papers and a Mr Bennet, stories and characters that can equally effectively address the prevailing mindsets and social issues in a developing society without fully letting go of the literary magic, the wit ‘n satire element, that still retains the smile on their readers’ faces.

I crave for refreshing essays as those by George Orwell or Bernard Shaw and literary criticism by Virginia Woolf, radical and original, that might or might not be able to transform into a multi-starrer movie! But their writing made an impact, and still do, on the readers’ sensibilities. And, I crave mostly for those signature-style, well-crafted long sentences and elaborate writing styles that distinguished one writer from another! It is astonishing yet heartening to discover that Virginia Woolf was self-published just like many other great writers.

The only time I was taught to let the words flow out of me unapologetically, even as the trend-obsessed editor in me swung back to the typical short sentences, was when I had the opportunity to work with one of India’s best editors Mr Dilip Thakore during my stint as a journalist in Bangalore. His writing would carry a distinct style that I so ardently cherished and even tried to emulate secretly. Thankfully life has wantonly led me to these literary stalwarts and guardians of the world of uninhibited sentences and intricate writing styles, and so I have been sentenced for life to be an ardent admirer and a loyal crusader of complex sentences. There fortunately happens to be no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of writing. Perhaps, both simple and complex sentence structures would equally represent the beauty and joy of the ever-expanding dimensions of expressing and experimenting!

Finally, I am well aware of my limited though not in any way stunted understanding of the world of literature. Hence, my sincerest apologies in advance to the offence-taking addicts and also a humble word of well-intended caution: there’s more to come. <wink>

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

White Noise: Why I Blog

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Source: Google Images

It is kind of ironical how two temperaments, though not completely yet somewhat conflicting, can survive so neatly within a person, defining every bit of her. One such entertaining couple that loyally resides within me is my love for writing and a corresponding yet contrasting fear of the routine. While I could write during the oddest hours with utmost pleasure, day after day, in the very next instant I would perhaps be hyperventilating with utter nervousness if I had to attach that joy with an element of uncompromising regularity and an assured certainty. My blog therefore, as I would imagine, would be an entertaining effort to battle that inertia of impulse within me and bind the two conflicting qualities in holy matrimony like any married couple who survives a fruitful companionship through acceptance, need, and of course adjustment. This fragment of space, in a strange sort of way, stands as the single testimony of my primary intent of accomplishing the above. Though the simple reason still remains to be my absolute love for writing.

Here I must confess though, in all honesty, that there used to be a much dumber me who would snap-judge the nature of writings that most blogs carried by their apparent lack of credibility, the element of anonymity of its writer, the frivolity with which words were used and abused, the several unaccounted opinions and facts that were poured out in the name of spontaneity, and the sheer lack of editing, not to mention the risk of plagiarism. But over the years my obsession with facts and grammatical coherence has eased out considerably, hopefully for the better of me. These days, opinions and experiences seem to draw more of my attention than facts and grammatical accuracy in a single language that invariably gets more than its fair share of attention across the globe, though neither of them – opinions or facts and grammar – belittles the other’s presence. The element of obscurity and rawness in people’s perspectives (even of those who wish to remain incognito) reveals so much more of what lies around me. Nothing inspires me more than an independent opinion and a questing mindset; It could be a poet who searches for a meaning behind her existence, or a man who questions the social norms and judiciary system, or it could be a bartender who discovers how a twist of lemon could add the right zing to the spirit!

I remember how, as a child, I was often teased and reprimanded too by teachers and relatives for asking too many questions; some of those questions still continue to haunt me and leave me boggled. Since not all those questions can translate into a meaningful book, poem or a short story, I figured that a blog might just be the most powerful platform for me to communicate them through. If not for anything else, it is always a more romantic proposition to have one’s self-attested significant opinions (like mine perhaps) tossed into eternity within the cyber black hole than having them spiked into a trashcan by an ordinary mortal in the most unimaginative way. Cyberspace that best lends me a sense of eternity seems like the most apt platform for me to voice my opinions and ideas that come to me from another space unknown and equally limitless within me. Since most of what I infer and experience are fuelled by travelling to unknown lands and terrains, interacting with their local people and getting to know the myriad cultures, noticing nature… and of course by books, my writings reflect these elements that have so liberally contributed towards making me. The journey though continues…

Finally, regarding the more organised scheme of affairs in my life, I’d like to make a brief mention of the publication of my book Goddess & Whore that is soon to reach the stores – online and otherwise – within and outside India. I promise to share some more information on what that title contains. There are subsequent titles too that I am working on that should see the light of day in due course of time. And that too would be showcased on The Write Click. As I sign off feeling slightly weighed down by a persistent sense of commitment to blog on a “regular” basis (as is the nature of this platform), my earnest prayer to the Cyber Gods faithfully remain – “may the steam last”… even as my fingers hover around the Ctrl Z keys.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013