Tuesday, May 21, 2013
They say stories barge into a writer’s imagination in the middle of silent nights. They also say that writers rise when the entire world is in deep slumber. It makes me think that perhaps the phrase burning the midnight oil was infact particularly conceived for writers. Well, if that was true, how could I be left behind? Not that I am a “writer”, atleast not yet but there is no denying the fact that I do love to write! So one fine eerie night, I sat in my bedroom determined to get the creative juices flowing and weave something like I have never written before.
The crickets chirping and frogs croaking were the only sounds around apart from the tick-tocks of my wall clock. Well alright, alright, there was also the sound of a snoring husband oblivious to his wife’s steely resolve to pen down something awe-inspiring right then, right there!
At the stroke of the midnight hour, dramatic as it sounds, I sat with an empty word document open in front of me. I sat there typing a few lines, reading, re-reading and editing over and over again. The cycle continued for about three hours when I suddenly glanced at the clock and realized that I had spent half the night without writing anything significant. But I was not about to give up. How could I, with the steely resolve and all? So I decided to get help from those who were the experts in this craft.
Early next morning I rushed to the abandoned library in the neighborhood, the place-to- be for aspiring writers like me. I punched my card and was let into the amazing red-brick building, which looked horribly disheveled from outside but was highly organized on the inside. It had wall to wall shelves on all sides, in the middle and on every floor; with books from all over the world adoring its every corner.
But there was another aspect which made this place magical as also the Hogwarts for writers of this world, both past and present! Yes, you heard, or rather read, me right! It was the place where the most renowned writers and poets from different eras would gather through WeChat groups to talk about the art of writing. Yes, it was the only hub where WeChat aided by worm holes and technological gibberish helped members chat across timelines! Yes, and that’s exactly what I decided to do with some of my favourite people of the literary universe. Shakespeare, Austen, Christie, Dickens, Hemmingway and Keats were already active when I pinged them for help! And here is how I came upon the title and plot for my new story, or didn’t I?
Shakespeare: All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts!
The rest sent resentful smileys at Shakespeare’s melodramatic entry!
Austen: There you go again! Will, I think you really need to stop doing that love!
Shakespeare: O Austen, Austen, wherefore art thou Austen?
Austen: Oh Will! Could you please stop with your dialogues for a change?
Shakespeare or rather the comic in him sent a chucking smiley at Austen’s reply.
Dickens: Has he ever stopped Jane that he would today? His panache for theatrical entries is like the undying love of a mother towards her child; only in his case it’s exasperating!
Hemmingway: Oh these English are so overly dramatic!
Keats: He does what he does! Why do we even bother discuss?
Christie: Oh no not the poet again!
Me: Okay people! Enough of your petty fights! Now I really need your help!
There I seemed to have had their attention.
Me: Guys I want to write something great, something that people will remember me for! But I seem to move from romance to comedy to thriller and just can’t decide the genre!
No sooner had I sent this across, advices started pouring in!
Austen: Oh dearie that is so simple. It has to be romantic fiction, the best genre of all!
Christie: Oh Jane please. Don’t weigh down your genre on her. Let her choose herself. Sweetheart, what about crime novels, I hear these days they sell like hot cakes?
Shakespeare: Nay my lady nay, thou should’st write a play mirroring comedy and history.
Dickens: My two cents now. Have you read David Copperfield? Why don’t you write something like that?
Keats: Oh precious you write poetry on your blog; then why do you dear slog! Romantic poetry is what you need to log!
Hemmingway: Oh that’s preposterous. All of you should be ashamed of yourselves! Why don’t you write something like my masterpiece ‘Old man and the sea’?
At Hemmingway’s suggestion, each one had sent drowsy smileys across! Well I guess I had expected that!
Me: Oh God people! Here I am trying to solve my problem and you guys are of no help at all!
Austen: Sorry honey! We really want to help you! Alright we are going to be serious now. Tell us what do you like to write?
From that moment onwards, we seemed to be going somewhere or did we?
Me: I like mystery but it should have an element of romance in it too. Mysterious, romantic, poetic! Oh great! Now I want everything in it!
Shakespeare: Pray love! If thou wilt not fret, I have a suggestion for thee. Perchance thou should’st write a play that doth all.
Me: Hmm… okay but then how should I go about it?
I replied lost in deep contemplation!
Austen: Sketch a character like Mr.Darcy first who would make any woman go weak on her knees and..
Shakespeare: Maketh him woo a lady like Juliet and then make her fall victim to a misery. Nay doth something more dramatic!
Austen sent a smug faced smiley at Shakespeare cutting her short!
Christie: Let me tell you the next part. Sketch a character like the great Hercule Poirot who ends up solving the mystery.
Dickens: Personal tragedy of the main characters is pivotal to be a great writer. And do introduce friends like James Steerforth and Tommy Traddles and sub plots with characters like Mrs. Gummidge and the Micawbers eh!
Hemmingway: And you cannot write the story without making Mr. Darcy go out to the sea in search of a giant marlin, can you?
Keats: As always the poet gets the last say. Nevertheless, make Mr.Darcy sing a love song; that makes Harriet come along. Oh sorry, that makes Juliet come along! That would make the tale strong and among us will you belong!
Me: Whoa! And what by you should I name this tale?
By then I was at my wits end with their suggestions!
Shakespeare: Taming of Darcy in the Hamlet of Macbeth.
Austen: Nay! It should be called Loss of Sense & Sensibility.
Christie: duh uh! It should be called Murder in her Disorient Dress.
Dickens: Honey it should only be Darcy in the Chopper-field.
Hemmingway: You should call it Darcy and the Sea.
Keats: Nay it should be called Ode to Strangle.
I thought to myself if this was what happened when one asked writers for advice!
Me: Thank you guys! You know what I think I should write a book ‘Never take advice from writers’!
Shakespeare: My lady I shall say thee to be or not to be, that is the question.
Take that as a dialogue I thought!
At that Austen, Christie, Dickens, Hemmingway and Keats started bickering about Shakespeare’s dialogues again, I, clearly being out of focus, quietly left the chat and ran home and resolved never ever to take an advice from ‘celebrated’ writers again!
Please find more about the contest here.
Find more about WeChat at WeChat's Youtube channel.
PS: The images are sourced from Wikipedia.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Have you ever heard of the disease writer’s cramp? Let me just tell you at the onset that it has got nothing to do with writer’s block! So tell me do you know what it is? My educated guess would be that most of you wouldn’t have ever heard of the disease. Infact you would have had to actually Google it to learn more for the simple reason that it is very rare. But I have had first “hand” experience of the disease. “Hand” I say, for it affected my right hand and that too only while I took the pen in my hand to write. Hence, writer’s cramp you see!
I was in school, about to give my board exams when suddenly my right hand decided to give me a tough time. I’m sure everyone would be aware of the stress and the turmoil a student goes through in such times. If there is ever a wrong time to get sick during school life, believe me it is just before the board exams. At a time when I really needed my right hand, the hand that I wrote with, to function properly; it managed to screw me big time. It was further strange for I could do everything with my right hand except write. Yes, the only thing I actually needed to do! Whatever I managed to scribble looked to be in an unintelligible ancient script which even experts wouldn’t have been able to decipher, let alone my unsuspecting teachers!
My right hand would grow stiff the moment I would hold a pen between my fingers. It was impossible for me to write. Cramp, spasm, whatever you call it but my hand blatantly refused to write! It was as if my finger had sworn to not let my pen touch the paper ever. Every alphabet I wrote involved an effort equivalent to moving a heaving load. But inspite of that the words that formed on the paper were anything but intelligible. It was not only painful but it was just simply impossible for me to write. Infact, I had reached a point when writing in capital letters was the only possible solution to ensure a certain degree of clarity in what I had written.
|Before: My Handwriting while I was suffering from writer's cramp. It took me almost 15 to 20 minutes to write this much.|
It was scary for I had to be able to write if I ever wanted to get anywhere in life. I couldn’t pass my exams if I couldn’t write. And if that happened, I feared I would have to end up as the wife of some man cooking for him and running after his kids for the rest of his life. My life would end then and there. That couldn’t happen for I wanted more from my life.
It was evident that I needed to get this sorted. A few of the doctors I had shown initially in my hometown of Shillong failed to recognise the disease. Infact, they shrugged off my problem as a non-issue. Well I don’t really blame them for it was a small hill station town and the medial facilities, though not bad, weren’t as advanced as probably in the cities. It was then that my father decided to take me to the nearest speciality hospital which was in Guwahati. It was there that I met a doctor who knew instantly what the disease was and there began my slow but certain journey towards recovery.
Dr. Radhika Das was working in Guwahati Institute of Neurological Sciences and it was there that I first met him. He was a renowned doctor in that part of the world. An astute doctor, he was extremely well versed and updated in his speciality. He had attended several conferences around the world on medicine and though he could have very well settled in some foreign country earning dollars, he stayed back using his expertise to help people of his home town. He implemented what he learnt during his deliberations with doctors from the other parts of the world to help us. I was lucky that he was there to treat me too.
It was from him that I learnt about the disease I had. I could give a name to my problem. It was writer’s cramp (also called mogigraphia or scrivener's palsy)! But he gradually began to treat me and to his aid came the advances in the medical field. It was a challenge to treat it as the cause of the disease was still not clearly known. But he took it up anyways and even used it as his case study in several conferences around the world. He documented my writing during the course of the treatment. He sent the copies across to his friends in the US and UK and sought opinion from them too. He did that to ensure that he was on the right track and also for the simple reason that advances in medicine always tend to arrive first in that part of the world. So if there was anything to know of the way he could treat my disease he would get to know that right away. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he was always on top of the case. And yes another important thing to note here is that he didn’t subject me to unnecessary tests like some doctors these days do.
I began slowly and with time my writing improved. He even encouraged me to start writing with my left hand and use it till the problem in my right hand was cured. I did that too. I did exactly as he said and true to his words he cured me with his treatment. I continued taking the medicine for three years and today I am totally cured. Ofcourse, I don’t write so often with pen these days but still he cured me and that he did with the help of the knowledge he had about the advances in medical science. Yes, it was due to the advances in medicine and a doctor who used them judiciously that I was able to overcome the sudden set back in my academic life inflicted by this odd disease.
|After: My handwriting today and I wrote this in less than a minute!|
There is another point that I would like to make here. My father, being my father, wanted to make sure that the treatment in Guwahati was not wrong. I can ofcourse understand his ambivalence and perhaps it was justified too. So he took me to reputed hospitals in the south too and was satisfied only when he learnt that the course of treatment that was taken up in the north eastern corner of the country conformed to some of the best there evidently was. Nevertheless he still has preserved all the copies of my handwriting from those days ( the photo of one such page is attached above ) and the reports too, just in case I need them in future or just as my medical history.
What would have happened if I had this disease in an alternative timeline where medical advances were at its nadir? Well that would have been a scary proposition considering that writing exams using laptops was not really allowed in my school! So the point that I am trying to make here is that modern healthcare helps us in more ways than one and sometimes in unusual situations too.
I agree that healthcare in India is in a deplorable condition in the public sector; it is actually quite the opposite when it comes to the private sector. However in the private sector with the increase in the number of money mongers in the guise of doctors, it is anything but a comforting ride. Ofcourse, to add to that the highly advanced services of the private sector are only available to about 25% of the Indian population. But if I were to see something positive in this, I would say that judging by how lackadaisical the approach of the authorities has been in providing health care facilities to every individual of the country; even 25% is a miracle figure to have!
Well, that was my story; my positive brush with the field of medicine and how the advances in it helped to cure me of a disease that only a few people had heard about in my part of the world. I know we still have a long way to go. But then a few steps in the right direction are always better than none!
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Some smooth, some brisk.
With foxing at the edges split,
Have stories wonderful, all well knit!
When I pick them up, soft and slow
I smile with glee
For I sure know,
I love my books, I love my books,
For they carry me where no one looks!
The scent serene,
Of those new pages;
A whiff subtle of nostalgic ages,
I breathe thee in,
Eager and keen,
As I turn the pages with a childlike glow,
I heave a sigh,
For I sure know,
I love my books, I love my books,
With a new yarn in every nook!
Some scary, some dark,
Some happy with love,
Mysterious and new,
There are all sorts I know.
With hope and joy,
They come and I pick,
I read them till the last page thick.
And I love my books, I love my books,
They are magical wings to cross every brook!