Wednesday, December 29, 2010

22 and resolutions

I can't believe I'm already 22. I feel extremely old. Graeme Smith was already captain at twenty three and Rahul Dravid was 22 when he played his match at Lords and me? I haven't done anything exceedingly significant yet. And then, while I was trying to wallow in self-pity and think about how useless everything is, I didn't find a single reason to complain about the past year. Has it been perfect? No, far from it. But would I go back and change anything if I could? Probably not. Even the most excruciating moments have been bitter-sweet and yesterday, I spent it with some very lovely people that I love very much.

2010 has been a year of so many firsts and I've learnt so much this past year. The beginning o the year was all about hard work and reflection, the middle was preparing for transition and cynicism and the end was absolutely fantastic- optimism combined with healthy skepticism.

Here's wishing that 2011 is as eventful and even more fun-filled than 2010 has been. 

A very Happy New Year to all of you and hopefully, this one brings you a lot of happiness, success and keeps your family and loved ones healthy and happy.




 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Not so old photo


An eighteen year old me animatedly interviewing Tanushree Shankar. This was right after our ISC exams and before first year of college.

Another old photo

I can't wait to come home, but...

It's been two days since I left my room. And I need to get out soon. It's snowing like crazy. If you've been following the news, you know that the U.K has been hit by blizzards and snowstorms and flights are being cancelled left, right and centre.Yesterday was absolutely awful. I could not get out of my room because I'd injured my leg and guess what I survived on? One bar of chocolate. Yes, you read that right. I was supposed to go out and get some food, but I could not because a. I've injured my foot and b. there was just waay too much snow.

I can't even begin to describe to you the feeling of being stuck inside. Day before, A friend and I went to see an art exhibition at Tate, drank mulled wine afterwards and wistfully stared at the river Thames.However, the injured leg got even worse, so I was stuck at home.

However, having eaten nothing today, I have made the steely resolve to go out and get something to eat and also, do laundry.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas!

My uncle sent me this in the mail today- it's a picture of his dog

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I finished reading Maus today, after having read July's People earlier this week.

Spiegelman, at one point in Maus actually quotes Beckett who had said, " Every word is a strain on silence and nothingness". This really resonated with me and can act as a reminder of how powerful and powerless words can be, given a specific situation.

Reading about the holocaust and the apartheid back to back made me quite depressed, but made me want to know more. I've always been interested in the history of Eastern Europe and Southern Africa, so I would like to do more reading.  I'm also looking to write my Masters thesis on violence and conflict.


 Recommendations are welcome- they could be films, textbooks, books, artwork, pamphlets, a website- anything that I can look up and learn more about these two historical periods.

**
I feel quite useless. I was supposed to clean my room, do laundry, organise papers required for travelling and finish writing a last minute article ( I swear I took on no additional work!) and updating my CV. None of this is optional. I also need to sort out which books I'm taking with me to Kolkata. Get this, I have a 3,000 word essay to finish during my vacations. If I was more organised, I'd try and finish up before coming home, but that's not going to happen.

All I've been doing is going out and having fun. I did manage to sneak in some Christmas shopping though ( Thank you to-do list!). I've also realised how bad my memory is about random things to get done. I have good memory for obscure things , but I never ever remember iconic incidents from even my own life. My classmates think I'm nuts because I have a planner where I write EVERYTHING, but it's only because I'd get nothing done otherwise. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Inspiration

Beanbags again. Everyone is sitting on them.
I, beanbag-less, am sitting with the laptop propped open against my journal, actually contemplating everything that M said in his final lecture today. It got me thinking, really. What prompts people to do what they do, take specific decisions, make certain choices. M added that he hopes all of us use our anthropological knowledge to inform our decisions in social and political settings which we will inevitably find ourselves in. The idea is not to disavow dominant discourses, but to know that that is only one way of looking at the world, something that, he hopes, as students of anthropology we choose never to disregard. I endorse this view completely. It is very easy to block your train of thought and not allow for differing opinions just because you think that it is a convenient way of thinking. Anyway,the fact that one of my favourite courses is drawing to a close made me quite sad and I thought about teachers who have inspired me as an undergrad and as a tiny speck in school.
I think teachers can really make or break you. I know I wouldn't have ever wanted to be a writer had it not been for my eighth grade English teacher Mrs S. Bhattacharya and my elocution teacher , Mrs I.Bhattacharya.  


The elocution class was structured in a rather innovative way.Every girl would have to write out a poem or piece of prose and read it out ( with expressions) in front of the entire class. Even though the experience was horrifying and nerve-wracking in the beginning, I think that's one of the reasons I never get scared or intimidated when asked to take on a leadership role. As a nine year old or even an eleven year old, reading poems in front of peers who can potentially be quite cruel and often downright malicious actually ensures that you develop a strong backbone.**
I remember my best friend Shreya and I collaborating on a short story once. Shreya told me a story about her neighbour and how for every single day for three years or so, he pretended like he had a job when he didn't because he was ashamed of the way society would perceive him. We even wrote skits and plays ( some very bad ones) and I remember directing one of them for Teacher's Day in class five. It was really scary, because we all thought the play wasn't perfect, but we went ahead and did it anyway.
Only yesterday, Rudrani and I delayed a National Express coach because we so badly wanted to go to Cambridge. After much drama and all co-passengers laughing at our antics, we were allowed to get on the coach. I'm not saying that what we did was heroic. I'm not even saying that it is the best way to go about things. All I'm saying is that therein lies the thrill of life- in the small triumphs of everyday. I remember rappelling down a mountain because I was scared of heights. And asking someone out because I knew it would scare the hell out of me to be turned down. And when I was turned down, I felt upset nevertheless, but also relieved that I hadn't cowered under the pressure.  We constantly live in fear of being ridiculed, of being laughed at, of feeling isolated.  I'm not going to be self-righteous enough to say that this is the way to lead one's life or propagate a manichean  kind of existence- the "good" way of leading life versus the "bad" way of leading it, is according to me, downright reductionist.
 The important thing, though, is to be ok with being laughed at, because it's all worth it, really. 

** For a lot of kids, the reverse is true and being subjected to bullying can really break their spirits. I will never endorse bullying, or powerplay or having kids witness favouritism, having seen it firsthand.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The return of the Puff

This one is by yours truly, inspired by Puff the Magic Dragon. Was rummaging through old folders and this is what I found.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The food may be bad for dogs, but I adore this ad

Just three weeks before I go home :D

Yesterday, I was supposed to head to the Library ( I have an essay due tomorrow), but I decided to take the day off and go to this bookstore called SKOOB. Skoob has the most amazing collection of secondhand books and I am finally the proud owner of the book The Diving Bell and The Butterfly and an Asterix which is called Obelix and Co.

I haven't read in ages and I live right opposite the British Library ( someone throw a stone at me). This is a good time as ever to turn over a new leaf, and I'll tell you why.

It's been snowing almost every day for the past five days. The streets are covered with snow and in the mornings, the juxtaposition of the white snow and such a big city, is quite bizarre. At night though, it's beautiful- with the maple leaves strewn everywhere and Christmas trees which are lit up with neon lights and decorated with golden glitter.

Also, in the spirit of Christmas, most places are having Christmas parties. Our own department is having one next week and I've actually tasted the most amazing mince pies ever!

I've also tasted churros and Nigerian food for the first time in my life. 

I don't know whether it's just because I'm in a different country, far away from home or it's because I can almost feel certain things that I felt were definitive about me changing.

 I've always thought that I knew what I wanted from life and it always freaked me out to think that I didn't. And now I really don't and I honestly don't think I care. My decisions have always been restrictive and have had too many self-imposed boundaries that are frankly unnecessary. And it took being treated very badly multiple times to actually recognise it, and well, better late than never :) I do know however, that music and performing makes me happy. Really, really happy. Happier than most things.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Article

This article was written during my first week here. I haven't had a chance to write anything else and have been focusing mostly on academic writing.

However, as is true with everything, things are slightly different now- I have friends, for starters :D

And, believe it or not, I've learnt to relax and not get hyper.

I'll definitely want to be published next year, but I hope to publish about five excellent pieces the entire year rather than 20 average ones. Also, my focus will be on literary  print magazines in the U.K. Print magazines are extremely difficult to break into, but I've been dreaming of seeing my name in print in a magazine I absolutely adore. Next year, I just want to write beautifully and have a good life, generally.

These last two months have been fabulous and I will gush about it as soon as I can.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I can't believe I Still haven't watched the Harry Potter movie. However my incredible smartness, presence of mind and unbelievable intelligence has ensured that I cannot watch the film till I come back home. Which is just as well- I'm totally up for going to South City and watching the film :D
Also, remember all you people, when Life Hands you a lemon...give it to me. I like lemon and ginger tea. And lemons are really expensive here.
I was writing in my journal today and wrote : Must not eat food with fertilizers in them. I re-read it later and thought, perhaps the word I was looking for was preservatives. Ah well, tomatoes Tomahhtoes, what difference does it make?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Post for The Urban Muse

I began following Susan Johnston's blog ever since I wanted to learn the difference between writing for the web and writing for print publications. I'm thrilled, therefore, to have published a guest post about grants on Susan's website.

You can read my guest post here

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hilarious things I've heard in a couple of months

Quote 1
You live right opposite the British Library. There is no place in London that is better than the British Library. Amake jodi khaat pete dewa hoy ami British library-te shara jibon thakte raaji acchi ( "I'm willing to stay in the British Library my whole life if someone places a bed there").
Dr Abhijit Gupta, also known as Tintinda, during his recent visit to London
Quote 2
So, I've seen you around. ( cheesy pick up line. And most overused, I must say) You like sandwiches, don't you? ( I ignore the random stranger). Stranger desperately tries seeking attention: Do you live on sandwich street? Me: No. Stranger, suddenly looking excited : Oh, I know, where I've seen you, The Sandwich House on Sandwich Street. ( For the record, there's no such thing as a Sandwich house, but I do live near Sandwich Street).
Quote 3
Boy trying to ask me out:
( starts off by being very sophisticated)
So, do you want to go then? To watch the film, I mean?
Me : No, I have a ton of work to do, you go have fun
Boy : ( calls up five minutes later) ok, I've found your replacement.
Quote 4
Me ( telling Beanie) So, My friend Gayatri and I are going out for lunch.
Beanie: Gayatri who? Spivak?

Ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shiny, new blogpost

The fact that I feel like blogging now is an indication of the fact that...you guessed it right...I have a deadline coming up! I need to write a tutorial essay on Gift Exchange and the meaning of the word gift in different societies. I should have technically done more research on this because this needs to be quite a detailed essay, but here I am, writing this blogpost and preparing for a long night ahead. The essay is quite complicated, so I'm not writing it the night before. I'm only writing it two nights before. Exciting things have been happening, but I'm not sure I should be writing about them on this blog. What if I sound like a braggart? I've actually never felt self-conscious writing on this blog, but some time ago, someone really creeped me out and my honest opinion is that the person is quite an "energy vampire" ( I learnt this phrase in this month's Mslexia) and should really mind (person's) own business.

On the other hand, there are people I genuinely admire and love who read this blog and I don't always get a chance to write them emails or tell them what I'm up to. I guess I will have to take the email route. I do not want creepy person haranguing me again. On the other hand, creepy-person-phobia is stopping me from saying things/ talking about things I genuinely want to talk about.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good things do happen, if you just let them

The stone cold floors of my halls of residence were strewn with maple leaves last week.
I wasn't feel too well, but I knew I had to finish doing laundry before I could get myself something to eat. Doing laundry in and of itself is not an ordeal, but the fact is that no one has time to do laundry except on weekends and so, on weekends, the laundry room isn't exactly the prettiest sight. I usually don't mind doing laundry at all, but that particular day I was working on an article that was really important to me.
I had pitched to the editor of this specific magazine, had her accept the pitch and I even worked on the article, measuring out every single word, thinking about its proper use. It took me a good four hours to write. After proofreading it, I sent it off. Two days later, I received an email reply from the editor. The article had been rejected.
I'm usually quite good at dealing with rejection and I've even written about it in the past, but the circumstances- the fever, having to take time  out to write in between doing laundry, the excessive stress of getting my tone right for my anthropology essays, not to mention dealing with a rather awkward romantic situation ( yes, even if you are single, there is that occasional glitch) made me feel horribly depressed. That's when I mailed my friend Alyssa and we had a heart-to-heart with regards to writing and everything else that's going on in our lives. By the end of the email exchange, I was re-energized and reminded of why we do what we do. 
After a week of sitting on my article, I re-evaluated my position. I read my article analytically, and not emotionally. I discovered its fallacies.  I rewrote it and sent it off to a different publication. This time around, my mindset was different. This was a story I cared about, and wanted to share with the world. If it got published, great, but if it didn't I wouldn't spend my time getting upset over it.
When I first began to take my writing seriously, I didn't start writing ( or start reaching out to independent publications, for that matter) so that people would say, "Wow! your writing really strikes a chord."
I'd be happy if that happened of course, but I've always written to express myself, and somewhere down the line, being prolific has become of such paramount importance that the quality of writing has inevitably suffered. I'm not making apologies for any of my decisions- I think it's all a part of the learning curve and no one person has the same- or even similar- experiences.
You try something, you fall down, you flick the dust of yourself and you start again from scratch. Sometimes you fumble, sometimes other people think you're stupid, sometimes they think you're arrogant and unhelpful because you're honest with them, but there's no shame in any of it, if you're true to yourself. And what's the point of doing something unless you are emotionally invested in it? 
I shut my notebook for the next week and thought about how I wanted to see myself grow as a writer. I decided that I wanted to read more, go out and get to know people more ( my hermit-like tendencies come from people-I-don't-know-and-have-to-speak-to phobia) and generally live my life. Writing has, and always will be a huge part of my life, but it's not all I am and that's not who I want to be. I don't want to constantly have to be validated by the outside world.
So I socialised,went on a weekend trip to Birmingham, relaxed and enjoyed myself.
It's funny how beautifully things turned out for me for the next week, writing-wise.  A story I had written four years ago about my Dad is going to be published in an anthology ( which I will name once the book is out). A perfectly lovely journalist and writer accepted my guest post for her writing blog, slated to be up in December and a poetry journal announced that it would be publishing some of my poems ( written in 2007).  And then, Tarabooks, (@tarabooks) ,who I follow on twitter because of their brilliant and innovative comic books that  are governed by the publishing houses's feminist ideologies, announced their Diwali competition. 
I had to tweet about what I would do with my lovely notebook and I told them about The Butterfly Project, something I've mentioned earlier on this blog. I won, and now I'm going to be the proud owner of a handbound Flukebook- Here's a picture http://twitpic.com/3599mn and I've wanted the one that is second from the left.
This week has truly been exactly how I want my life to be- mellow, compassionate and smooth. But I know I have the strength to deal with and enjoy the storms and the turbulence as well because I finally know what Mozart meant when he said, " The music is not in the notes, but in the pauses between."






Friday, November 5, 2010

The last three years sped by and I didn't have even a moment to think about what I wanted, who I wanted to be, all I did was work and study. I spent time with my friends and family too, but I was always in a tearing rush.

Now, there's still a ton of things to do. I live in a different city  and like I said earlier, it's not been love at first sight, but the city is growing on me. However, what is fantastic and wonderful is that I've allowed myself the time and space to just be.

Being mellow is a fantastic feeling and I like being passionate and mellow alternately. It allows me to fight for what I believe in, but it also allows me to wake up early in the morning simply to listen to the church choir or witness thunderstorms and fireworks after a long day at University.
Not to sound dramatic, but if Kolkata is like a mother, London is like a lover that I haven't quite made up my mind about, but who I love anyway.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Conversation

Me : (excitedly) So now I can do laundry, vacuum clean, interact with people from the bank, cross roads by myself, understand directions and even do grocery shopping.


x : that's really great. But what about driving a car?


Me : umm, umm.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Finally, my writing is beginning to feel like that is exactly what I want to sound like and I'm also becoming the sort of person I want to be. All I need now is patience, perseverance and a lot of time and hopefully, I'll get there.

Happy Halloween everyone. Don't let the ghosts scare you! I had a skeleton staring at me while I ate "supper" ( I refuse to call a meal eaten at six o clock dinner) and it was kind of freaky, but the people I was eating dinner with were quite wonky, so that made things a lot better.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Comforting telephone conversation and my friends from back home

...is all it takes to get me looking forward to life again, sometimes :)


 I'm not homesick anymore and my life is slowly easing into a pattern. Technically speaking, I have more work than I have had in three years in terms of the academic rigor. But, procrastinator ( someone should ban me from using this word)-err- dill-dally-er that I am, I invariably have piles and piles of reading to do and instead, I'm either curled up under duvet covers and sleeping all day or gallivanting around the city. 

Now that things are more or less settled, there are a ton of things that I want to do, but it's imperative that I do things on time. Eight hours of daydreaming is not healthy and I'm not exaggerating. If left to my own devices, I can go on thinking about things for hours and hours.

I also have three new books- one by Nadine Gordimer, who I've always wanted to read, Rumpole by John Mortimer and The Kalahari Typing School For Men by Alexander Mccall Smith. These are all used books, so I got them cheap and I guess I really shouldn't keep buying books, given the lack of space and money that I don't have ( to spend on books!) But ah well, we all know how that's going to go.

I realise my blog has now started reading like an open diary ( an open diary with bad grammar) and maybe I'll go fancy and theme my posts. Or maybe not. Whatever.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lessons learnt and updates

Note to self
It's ok to be idealistic, but it's absolutely Not ok to use that as an excuse to be lazy.

I have a ton of reading to do and like I said before, being a hypernerd for me, is inevitable at this point in my life. That isn't to say that I'm not having fun or making friends- I am. But there are a few things I want to say here, so I can hold myself accountable for them later on :

1. No matter how difficult it gets, I'm not going to stop writing and publishing things on the side.*
2. I'm signing up for volunteering next Saturday and it's something I want to do longterm. And when I say longterm, I mean the rest of my life. There are a few causes I feel strongly about and while I think writing about it and advocacy in general is crucial for changing the way things work, to put it simplistically, I think it's time I committed to something longterm.   I will write about it here when I start work.
3. I've decided to do a Phd. I won't do it immediately- I'll work for a couple of years first, but I want to be an anthropologist on the field.


**I also have some very exciting news to share, but it'll have to wait for the moment. I don't want to jinx it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hypernerdism and other tiny details of my humdrum life

Like I said in my earlier post, the area I live in is about a twenty minute walk from my university on a good day. On a bad day, when traffic lights are always red ( gah!) it can take from anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes. I walk from Russell Square station to Kingsway every single day, which is really good exercise, but can often get quite tiring. I also have the same songs being hammered on and on in my head now because my ipod doesn't have all the songs I want and now I need to wait till I go back home in December for new songs.

It's quite cold here now, and has been raining quite consistently over the past week or so, even though I'm quite happy to say that it hasn't rained in the past three weeks. When I was a young child reading Enid Blyton books and dreaming about going to boarding school, having tuckboxes and going for a midnight swim, I always wondered why the girls always obsessed about the weather. Now, it finally makes sense. You can't plan your day at all unless you know what the weather will be like. I always find myself having to dress accordingly before I step out of my house.

The work on my Masters programme is excessively intensive and for the past four days I haven't had time to breathe, let alone do anything else. And it's not just me. My classmates are all in the same boat.


 If any one of you is planning on a U.K. Masters, my advice would be to think things through before actually committing  to it, because it will probably mean that you can only study. Some people even manage to work despite this of course ( don't ask me how!) so if you can channel your inner hypernerd and inner superachiever, go ahead! :)

I'm actually looking forward to a fairly relaxing weekend though, even though I have loads to read up on. One of my professors invited me to go to a pujo with her on Friday. I also need to attend a seminar tomorrow and on Saturday all the Social Anthropology students meet up for a drink at the pub, something that I've organised because I'm the student representative of my programme.

I really LOVE my academic advisor who said that in order to write like an anthropologist, you need to think like one. Apart from our formal assignments, she's also asked us to locate any one piece of news ( for example, the Chilean miners) that can be deemed anthropological or looked at through an anthropological lens. I know this bit of information might seem a bit dry to some of you, but I've had some people writing to me, expressing an interest in studying anthropology and asking me what it's like. I'm obviously at the very early stages, but I'd love to speak to anyone who wants to study anthropology and would actively encourage it, especially if your first degree has been in literature!

No more academic stuff in my next blogpost. I'll be telling you exactly where I live and what I do with my almost nonexistent free time!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Classes and other things

My university is a twenty minute walk from where I live. This morning, I walked to university, attended my classes- both of which were very interesting but almost overwhelming in terms of the reading I shall have to do for every single class I attend. We have classes as well as seminars, where we discuss our work and/ or our impressions of certain texts. I also have an academic advisor for whom I shall have to pen about 3,000 words a fortnight. My classes today were entitled Anthropology and Human Rights and Anthropology of Kinship, Sex and Gender. After class, I headed over to the library.
The library is humongous and learning to navigate it will take quite a while. I took out a couple of books that I need to read for tomorrow's class and headed home. After the entire day, I was really tired. I slept for an hour, went downstairs to eat dinner and came up and wrote emails.
Yesterday was a more interesting day. A friend and I went to eat at a restaurant called Hare and Tortoise and had ice-creams afterwards. I don't really know too many people yet and so it's refreshing to get to know someone who's that cool. You know who you are ;)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Article published in the Traveler's Notebook

I actually debated as to whether I should submit this story for publication, given that it is intensely personal. I finally did, because I do believe in subjective authenticity and my super-awesome editor, David, suggested that I write a story cycle. This is the first in a series of stories of my time in Edinburgh. 

I'm a huge fan of The Notebook myself  and was delighted when the eds posted this in their "about us" page :

Our goal over the next year is to become the go-to place for writers of all kinds to publish select travel notes and journals, and to continue to publish our unique vision for travel ‘notes’–work you wouldn’t typically find in either a literary journal or travel magazine, but which combines elements of both.

Here is my piece. Let me know what you think :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fever and an orientation

Today was the orientation for anthropology students and I haven't felt more disoriented in my whole life. I have fever and there was an invisible someone hammering my head throughout the orientation. That's irony for you ( and here, I pat myself on the back for being smug English Literature graduate). However, what was really exciting was how diverse my class is. 
With backgrounds in geography, gender, international finance, history, engineering, psychology, International Relations and English literature, I know that this experience will be an unforgettable one and I'm going to learn tons from my classmates.
I will write more as I go along, but right now I'm really excited.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Settling in

So I've finally made the transition from life in Kolkata to life in London. London will be my temporary home for at least a year and I think it'll take me some time to warm up to the city. If I do fall in love with it, it will be the slow, cautious kind of love and not the intense sweep-me-off-my-feet kind. I've tried a few things though- stood in front of the King's Cross station hoping to turn into Harry Potter (epic fail!), tried to remember the names of every single street on my way to university ( not accomplished that either, but getting better at it), tried to listen to accents and place people ( been pretty accurate at that).
Ma is in London at the moment and because I don't know too many people here yet that's quite a relief. Of course, there are the occasional pangs of homesickness, but I've had the good fortune of meeting up with people I have grown up around over the past couple of days. Also, what really helps are the physical, tangible things, surprisingly.
I have a really snug green blanket now and I have acquired a planner- a moleskin to boot. Let's see if I can actually be disciplined and do well. The prospect of having moved to a completely new country is nerve-wracking.
Sucheta, Sohini and Soumyasree- The Auden, the stole and the earrings are helping tremendously. Thank you guys for being so thoughtful.
I've been really bad as far as writing/ responding to emails are concerned for the past couple of weeks and I'm really sorry. If you are expecting an email from me, I promise to write as soon as I can.
I'm also going to try and carry on with the interview series, depending on how much time I get. In the meantime, feel free to suggest changes/ ask questions/ start a fiery debate. I'm up for pretty much anything! :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

EDINBURGH


                                                                   AT THE FRINGE

Monday, September 6, 2010

EDINBURGH



                                                        POLLOCK HALLS

                                                          ST  LEONARD'S HALL          
DAVID HUME TOWER 

New Found Loves

I'm determined not to make this a list post ( have you seen the number of list posts I've written for the past few days?), but I also thought that it's important for me to write about my Scottish endeavours. I just couldn't write about things as they were happening because I'd probably just end up writing things like Oh my God everything was so amazing! and sound like a kid at a candy store. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'd like to come across as having a little bit more to say than that, so I'll start off by telling you about the new things I'm interested in ( Anyone out there scanning my blog to try and figure out what to give me on my birthday/ other occasions, this is a shameless hint to you) :

Vinyls
I've begun to love Vinyl Records. My creative writing tutor at the University of Edinburgh, the very lovely and very talented Claire Askew would often talk about Vinyls and I actually went into a music store and conversed with the owner for four hours. If anyone reading this blog knows about a gramophone store/ vinyl store in London, delurk and let me know! I couldn't bring a gramophone back from Edinburgh, but I remember listening to Bob Marley on the old gramophone my grandfather owned, before it went Kaput.

Odd looking earrings

I've always liked earrings but I've tended to wear very muted colours and textures. I prefer brash, bold colours and unusual designs now. I'm not sure if this is a phase or something that will pass. I might even put up pictures of some of my jewellery, If I become good at taking photographs.

Cats

I've always been a dog person but now I have two cat friends. I love them very much. Both are black and have green eyes. Moral of the story : don't stereotype when it comes to cats.

Headbands

Again, the obsession with bright colours. My present headband is green, purple and red. I intend to add to this collection.

Green Eyes

This isn't exactly a new obsession, but one that is becoming more and more pronounced with each passing day.

Independent Poetry Collections and Indie Remixes

Self explanatory

Scottish Literature

I will blog about this in detail in forthcoming posts.

Butterflies








Always been kind of obsessed with them. Stay tuned in for the Butterfly Project.





(Picture taken by yours truly at Palanque, Edinburgh).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I need a planner and other things

The one thing I've never been good at ( and whined about for god knows how long) has been managing my time. There are all kinds of ways of wasting time and I think I'm very good at most. I wish I could say that I was equally good at not wasting time, but I don't think I could do that without being a blatant liar.

I've been blaming the jetlag for quite a while now. Even my dog, usually quite understanding, is sick of me listening to loud music till 6 am, after which I am so worn out and fatigued that I must sleep. Add to that a degree of panicking and nervousness about various things and I can't sleep till about eight in the morning.

When I groggily step out of bed at around two, I think to myself,  "What the heck, half the day is wasted already, let me just go back to sleep." Sometimes I meet a friend or two, at other times I'm reading a book. The bottomline, though, is that no work gets done.

The bed remains unmade ( ugh!), books are strewn all over the place, I haven't written in two months- That isn't entirely true- I have written, but haven't published in two months and I have enjoyed every single moment of not-writing.

However,  I do feel like writing again and today, I'm working on something that I've wanted to work on for really long. But from my experience in the last two months, I definitely need a planner.

I'm not complaining about my work not getting done- I'll end up scraping it together five minutes before the deadline- but the lack of discipline ensures that I have little or no time left for fun.

I just realised that I've written an entire blogpost about not-writing, but hey, at least it's a start!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Goals?

These were my goals for the year :


Happy New Year Everyone :)

Have a great 2010!

Here are my New Year Resolutions.

1. Read more; eat less junk food.
2. Spend less time procrastinating.
3. Write for * Insert Name when published*. I've been published in The Traveler's Notebook !
4. Finish Human Rights Certificate course and Travel writing course successfully.
5. Graduate with a first.
6. Study anthropology. 
7. Get funds to travel :D

The reason I list my goals ( and it sometimes seems a rather stupid thing to do, to be honest) is because I can then hold myself accountable. I lose pieces of paper and the blog seems a really good way to keep track of my goals.

So I start again from goal 1.

1. Learn more politics and geography.
2. Graduate with a distinction in Anthropology.
3. Get more funds to travel ( Scotland, Africa), specifically.
4. Work with a human rights organisation.
5. Get published in 5  new newspapers and 5 literary magazines in the U.K
6. Not date anyone till I hand in my dissertation.
(This one is exceedingly important given my affinity to dysfunctional relationships)
7. Decide whether I want to study further/ work. If so, have a plan for each.
8. Win a very very prestigious essay competition ( Insert name if published).
9. Work really hard towards improving my writing and read as widely as possible.

Back!

I came back from Scotland to Calcutta on the 23rd and have been meeting people nonstop ever since. While it's always great to catch up with people, I feel like I don't have enough breathing space. I think I've gotten so used to a solitary existence that not having a lot of time to myself has really begun to bother me.

Scotland was amazing and I think I'm going to go back next summer. I have written some fiction and non fiction while I was in Scotland and I'll put it up on my blog once it has done its fair rounds in terms of publication. I'll also write about the classes, if you're interested in knowing what they're about.

I have a portfolio to finish, optionals to choose from and basically, read as much as I can. I've been thinking seriously about my writing of late and my creative writing tutor advised me to keep working on my poetry and short stories. I'd also like to keep my journalism alive, but I've decided to compromise as little as possible as far as my writing is concerned. I like authenticity in writing, and often one is forced to write differently to suit the tone of a newspaper/ literary magazine.

While I may choose to write differently as  writing exercise, I'm pretty sure that I want to keep my own writing voice alive as well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Letter from Scotland- written on August 2

Originally, written as an email, but posted here for those of you who have been wondering what I've up to :

So I arrived here in Edinburgh only yesterday, but it seems like I could stay here forever. The place is absolutely gorgeous and when landing, all I could see was green everywhere. That, and huge castles and fortresses. I'm staying at the Pollock Halls of Residence, in Baird House. Breakfast and Dinner are served within the Pollock Halls and I will eat lunch at the Library Cafe in St George Square.

I'm usually not a cat person at all, but this cat is moody, temperamental and really fascinating. It actually comes up to you and Asks to be pet!

The other students from the Creative Writing course haven't arrived as yet, so it's just me and this girl called Anna. Anna has been attending the Scottish Literature programme as well and like me, has majored in English Literature. She's actually double majored- in English Literature and Music. Her senior thesis was comparing northern ragas to jazz! So you can see how she and I would get along just fine.

I was driven to the Pollock Halls of Residence by a gregarious scotsman who told me how busy August gets here in Edinburgh. He started off by referring to me as pal, but had graduated to calling me darling and sweetheart, perhaps prompted by by complete lack of knowhow of the city ( Example : There's not a thing I don't know about this city, sweetheart/ You have fun in edinburgh darling). That was my " I'm feeling like a two year old now" moment, but I was glad to have some decent company after a rather horrendous flight, where three cranky, impolite kids behaved horribly and one of them snatched my blanket. Ma, how come you never gave us permission to be like this? :O

My room has a pink bedspread, a washbasin, a mirror and a rather large cupboard. It looks a lot like my butterfly room back home, except that it's much bigger. Every evening, men in kilts ( and women in skirts) gather together to play  bagpipes.

I met my course coordinators over dinner last night and a Turkish girl called Begum. Later on, we found out that we're in adjacent rooms, so we're neighbours! 

Today, I get to potter around and explore the place a bit before a reception, which will involve meeting my classmates and tutor.

I don't know how much time I'll get once the course begins, but I'll try to keep you updated as and when possible.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Delhi tales and other things

So I'm back from Delhi, having met the incredible Mridu Khullar, who introduced me to this incredible hole-in-the-wall Cafe called Mrs Kaurs in Khan Market. It was a real pleasure finally meeting someone who I've known only online- Mridu doesn't just know what she's talking about, but is an incredibly warm, down-to-earth and hardworking person.

Dealing with a breakup is never easy and talking about it is even harder. By my own standards, I am dealing with it quite well, except for the occasional niggling what-ifs and what-could-have-been. Over the couple of years, I've always felt scared about revealing too much detail on my blog and/ or whining or both, but I think that this time around, I've dealt with everything as maturely as I could have managed.

I'm supposed to write a travelogue about Delhi and my editor wants it to be authentic. Should I also write about my thoughts and how I feel or will it then seem like a cheap attention seeking stunt? What do you think?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Do not laugh while crossing the road!

So my friends Mrinalini, Sohini and Saumyashree and I met up for a cup of coffee early this afternoon. After being literally thrown out of Cafe Coffee Day, Golpark, we decided to try and cross the road. Anyone who knows me in meatspace ( which is just a fake, pretentious/ cool way of saying "real" life) knows that when it comes to crossing roads, I plain suck. I'm completely paranoid about crossing roads and poor Soumyasree was left to deal with my paranoia because the other two had lurched ahead.

Saumyashree tried to drag me by the arm and said Aye Aye (which is Bengali for let's go!). Suddenly, this old man in a grey safari suit appeared out of nowhere. In my opinion, he looked a bit like Moonface from the Enid Blyton novels.

Safari Suit Uncle (henceforth referred to as SSU) :

SSU: Aye, Aye bolo na, theek kore na dekhle Naye Naye hoye jaabe ( Don't say yes, yes. If you're not careful, the yes will turn into oh no!)

In the meantime, Saumyashree and I are trying to suppress giggles.

SSU : Mone rekho, amader desh ta borabori borbor ( Remember, our country has always been barbaric) aar tomra hoccho shei desher odhibashi othoba odhibashini (And you are that country's resident).

Us : Still giggling and trying to cross the road-

SSU : Ei Meyera Shono Shono ( Here! Girls! listen to me!)

SSU : ( more frantically) Shono Shono Shono! ( Listen Listen Listen!)

By which time, Saumyashree and I had burst into loud guffaws. Safari Suit Uncle looked most disapproving. Girls these days, he must have thought to himself.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Interview with Mridu Khullar Relph

When I first started writing, Mridu Khullar Relph's blog cropped up in my google searches when I decided to pitch to publications. An established freelancer with clients like The New York Times and Time Magazine, Mridu also maintains a website for writers,often going out of her way to support and help young writers. Having built  a freelance writing portfolio from scratch, Mridu knows what it takes to strike the balance between envisaging one's dream and actually living it. Here's an interview with her.
What got you started on writing?

Short story: I failed my first year in college, so I started freelancing to prove to myself that I wasn't completely useless.
Longer story: I've had some incredible teachers in my life who may not have pushed me into writing, but gave me so much encouragement and praise that when I hit upon hard times, their voices rang in my head. In first or second grade, when I was growing up in London, a teacher liked my short story so much, she made it into the annual school play. Back in India, my English teacher would often read my essays and stories out loud in class as examples of good writing.
I grew up a voracious reader and actually did write some "novels" in my spare time at age twelve or thirteen. Thanks to the early encouragement I got, by the time I was in college, I knew I was a good writer. I just didn't know at the time that making a career of it was an option.
How has your writing changed over the years?
I hope it's gotten better, but I'll have to let you be the judge of that!
Is there any specific incident that has changed the way you/ write report a story?
I'm not sure that there's any one big event, but a series of incidents, if you will. For instance, I interviewed a blind theatre troupe once and because the story demanded it, I really had to think beyond the visual aspect of things. Since then, I've really started noticing sounds and smells. We rely too much on our eyes, I think, or at least I did. Now I've learned to bring other senses into my reporting as well.
For a story on virginity restoration (young women in India getting their hymens sewn up so they could get into arranged marriages), I thought about what it would be like to call gynaecologists and ask for this operation. Would they be judgmental? Business-like? So I called half a dozen doctors to see how they would react to a patient with this request and got some interesting results. I learned from that story that you sometimes need to experience something personally to be able to understand it better.
I think every single story I've reported and written has moved me a little bit further in my understanding of the world. And I believe that experience adds up. Each is a building block that fits somewhere in your subconscious mind to be tapped into later.
If one has absolutely no clips and wants to be a journalist, what would be your advice to them?
Don't let that deter you! Every published writer was clip-less once. I'd suggest reading newspapers and magazines and finding a really strong story that you personally care about. As a new reporter, I think I focused a bit too much on what was selling than what moved me. And I'm one hundred percent sure that I really started hitting my stride when I started writing about the things I was personally interested in. So find a story that means something to you and then go about finding a home for it. When you care about the topic at hand, the passion shows through in your writing. And I think that's the best way for a new writer to go forward: with passion and persistence.
How important is social networking and marketing for a journalist? Which networking sites, according to you, is most useful to journalists?
I see the benefit of social networking for journalists, not in terms of marketing, but in terms of understanding what's going on in the world. It's interesting to me to wake up in the morning and hear what's important to people around the globe-- things that I don't read in the newspapers. It's also absolutely fascinating to me that not only can I interact with people at the scene of a major event, whether political, cultural, or sporting, but that I can have minute-by-minute updates.
I know others do and have benefitted from it, but I don't use social networking for marketing, but to further a conversation. I keep Facebook fairly personal and share pictures of my family and my social life, so I don't add anyone who isn't familiar to me. Twitter, on the other hand, I find great for communicating with random people and even befriending them. (http://www.twitter.com/mridukhullar)
I'm also warming up to LinkedIn, which I've found useful for finding sources and sometimes, story ideas.
Mridu Reading Eat Pray Love
There are two schools of thought when it comes to writing-one that advocates being a generalist and the other, being a specialist. What is your take on this?
I feel it's really helpful to be a generalist in the first few years of your writing career, not only so that you can spread your net wide and be available to a variety of editors and clients, but also so that you have a chance to see what you excel at and what kind of writing appeals to you. Who knows what you're going to find-- you might become a greeting card writer who pens one-liners for a living, you might be interested in writing for children or teenagers, you might find that you actually enjoy business writing and want to focus your energy there. Or, like so many others, you might get your start in non-fiction but then realize your calling is in writing novels instead.
Once you've decided though, I think the market sort of forces you to specialize and that's a good thing. When editors I work with want a business writer, they have a few names that come up repeatedly. Similarly, there are those journos who excel at hard news, those who are really good with celebrity profiles, others who are more interested in investigative features. It helps editors to compartmentalize their writers because they know who to go to for what, and it helps writers to be top of mind in certain subject areas.
Don't you immediately think of Michael Pollan when talking about food systems? Doesn't Amy Tan come to mind when you're asked for recommendations on Chinese-American fiction? Specialization doesn't necessarily need to have a narrow scope, but it helps if people can define what you do. And of course, you can always keep changing that definition.
How should journalists approach photographers they want to work with?
Call or e-mail and say, "Hi! I saw your website and really enjoyed looking through your work. I'm a freelance journalist and often need a photographer to accompany me on assignments. I'd love to keep you in mind if something came up in the future and was wondering if you'd be open to that possibility. Let's meet up for a drink or a cup of coffee when you have the time."
Typically, since my editors are the ones who make the final decision on who's going to be the photographer on a piece, I just recommend the people I've enjoyed working with in the past or who look like they'd be fun (and competent!) on assignment. But typically, the decision comes down to an editor and writers have little to do with it.
What projects are you working on at the moment and what are your future plans?
I have to say, I'm at a really exciting point in my career right now. I have assignments from some of my favorite publications, including Time magazine and the New York Times, I'm writing on subjects that I think are very relevant, such as mental health, and I'm now a columnist at one publication and a contributing editor at another. The Commonwealth Games come to Delhi in October, so I'm also looking forward to seeing how the city changes before then and what's left of it after.
I'm so grateful for all these opportunities that I've been receiving, but as much as I've been enjoying the day-to-day reporting, I'm also ready for a new challenge. This year, I'm seriously looking to branch out into books. I've been speaking to publishers and for the first time, thoughtfully considering what this avenue could hold for me. I'm very excited about these new directions that I could possibly be heading into.








Thanks Mridu and all the best in your future endeavours!

Mridu Khullar Relph, 28, is an award-winning freelance journalist currently based in New Delhi, India. She has lived and worked in Asia, Africa, and North America, and writes for the New York Times, Time magazine, the International Herald Tribune, Global Post, Ms., Writer's Digest, the Writer, and the Christian Science Monitor among others. She is a contributing editor at Elle, India and is also a contributor to the books Chicken Soup for the Pre-Teen Soul II and Voices of Alcoholism. Visit her at www.mridukhullar.comWhen I first started writing, Mridu Khullar Relph's blog cropped up in my google searches when I decided to pitch to publications. An established freelancer with clients like The New York Times and Time Magazine, Mridu also maintains a website for writers,often going out of her way to support and help young writers. Having built  a freelance writing portfolio from scratch, Mridu knows what it takes to strike the balance between envisaging one's dream and actually living it. Here's an interview with her.
What got you started on writing?