Sunday, April 25, 2010

Outlining, Term Papers and the superstar Dog.

Let's start with the dog first. He steals my chocolate, sleeps on my bed ( wait, that's being too polite- Pushes me out of bed) and then  goes on to look perfectly innocent about the whole thing. He also hates the smell of cigars and gnashes his teeth when Baba gets near him after smoking one. The funniest thing to observe is the Tipu- Baba equation. No matter what time of the day, it always has me in splits. 
Me : Baba, what are you doing?
Baba: Giving him pudin hara*, what else? 
Hmm, like that's the most normal thing to feed a dog. No wonder Tipu looked at me incredulously. 
Tipu himself is pretty unique. He's very fussy about his food and won't eat unless you pour olive oil  on his food or give him half a mishti or whatever it is that you're eating. He's a great believer in equality, that dog is.
*** Outlining- Not for an article, which I find easier to do, but for a term paper. I find it very difficult to outline for a term paper and in moments of self-doubt I even ask myself how I've managed to write even a single one. Term papers make me nervous. Structures make me nervous and I feel very incompetent. And this semester ( which is the last semester of my graduation, hopefully!) I have to write not one, but two term papers. I'm working on the one for my course on Tempest and its Aftermath, after which I need to get cracking on The Literature and Censorship course. 
I'm consoling myself knowing that there's a lot of travel lined up July onwards and tons of free time ( which I shall be spending writing, learning photography and doing other things I love). I can't wait for this semester to get over!

*For the uninitiated, Pudin Hara is a little green sparkly mint medicine. It's herbal.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shubho Nabo Barso

Growing up bilingual ( and multicultural) sure has its advantages. My dad had once very wisely said that all the resolutions made during the new year following the roman calendar could be broken during the Bengali new year. I did that judiciously every year. This year has been a bit different, but I'm looking forward to the rest of the year nevertheless :) Happy new year! :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What is the one thing that would surprise your readers about living in Calcutta?

Good question, and a very timely one indeed.

When I first started writing for newspapers and magazines, I was addressing an audience that was familiar with my own way of life. When I started writing for Matador though (and that's my only international publication credit to date), I realised that I had the added responsibility of explaining certain things- to clarify and elaborate on things which would otherwise have been easily understood by the people who were (or are) reading.

However, what increasingly disturbed me was that there was a large body of literature that was pandering to stereotypes. This made it even more important for me to write and tell my own story.

These stereotypes have been instrumental in creating a certain notion of Calcutta in readers' minds. In travel writing, I often come across stories about how poor or how dirty Calcutta is. While there is no denying that there exists poverty and dirt in the city, I feel alarmed at the way it is sensationalised in order to cater to western sensibilities. The newest gimmick is to talk about how everyone in India is working for big multinationals and how that is a sign of India's developing economy. There have always been people working for multinationals. This isn't a new phenomenon.

I feel sad about the fact that writing about Calcutta has become so faddish that instead of sensitively portraying a city through one's empirical observations, one keeps reinstating stereotypes. Instead of trying to discover and understand the city, writers are quick to jump to conclusions about it.

Often, certain details are not cross-checked when an article is published. The New York Times published an article titled  A Walk in Calcutta. The author was clearly nostalgic and drawing from her own memories. However, the article which was passed off as "authentic", was peppered with errors - old names of roads and places that no longer exist were woven into the article. Later, The New York Times revised those errors when irate readers started writing in and voicing their dissent.

 Of late, I've been reading Paul Theroux's book A Dead Hand. The book is about Calcutta and while I must laud Theroux's deft use of language, I have never read a more ghastly and inauthentic representation of Calcutta. Many writers think of him as a role model. Readers often turn to his books as a single source of information on Calcutta. Theroux's exoticism of Calcutta is dangerous and inaccurate.

Thanks to the existing literature, some readers will find it hard to believe that there is anything apart from the    catchwords that have become fashionable ( poverty, dirt, booming economy are some such words).
This question was posed to me by Alyssa Martino after I'd interviewed her.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I'd like to introduce an interview section on my blog- I've already interviewed Gabriel and I'd like to feature common people with a passion for what they do/ who they are. The fun thing about being a wordsmith ( it sounds cooler than writer) is that you get to hear other people's stories. I'm also up for interviewing absolutely anyone who would like to be featured here. 

Now's the part where you come in :

Would you like me to restrict my interviewing to a particular set of professionals (say writers or artists) or would you like to read about anyone with a story to tell?  Readers, please delurk, your comments are of utmost importance here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wishlist/ Reminders to myself.

I need to learn how to 
1. Take Pictures 
2. Learn how to touch type.
3. Swim regularly again- and subsequently lose weight.
4. Write Fiction.
5. Be a little more organised- panic less.
1.I take really awful pictures and The Storyteller and The Soliloquist have both pledged to help, so a big thank you in advance. Once term ends, I'm going to invest in a Canon Point and Shoot and start learning. I'm really slow when it comes to picking up things, so I'll give myself enough time.

2. I'm  really slow when it comes to typing and usually type with only my left hand. I need to increase speed and save time. Therefore, I shall teach myself to touch type.

3. Having been quite an athletic person all my life ( and sports captain, no less!), it's been a shame to have avoided the swimming pool for nearly two years. Now's a good time as any to resume.

4. I haven't put pen to paper in eight months. And to think that was one of my favourite things to do.

5. A lot of the panic would be obliterated if I did things on time. This means I don't have to stay up till 2 am the night before an exam/ term paper submission/ article deadline. Also, the quality of work will improve.

What's on your wishlist?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I had mild fever yesterday and I knew I could crank out a 1,000 word article and then another once I got home after Mrinalini's birthday treat. We've been friends for ever ( I think I was four when I broke her mudcastle and then she broke mine and a friendship was sealed then and there). However,the treat was not to be because after waiting at the KMR for almost two and a half hours and being blinded by the sun, I had to be supported home. I kid you not. All my I-can-do-without-your-help-thank-you-very-much went down the drain because I could barely walk.

I'm one of those people who never get work done on time. I laze around, have random conversations, make new friends while I'm supposed to be working and I enjoy all of it, and then at the eleventh hour, when I'm absolutely panic stricken, I begin to work.

Yesterday was not an exception. I'm quite confident that I'd have my assignments ready for submission by the crack of dawn. But the fever and the dizzying headache got to me and the parents were out of town. So I decided to sleep it off and woke up with an even worse migrane. Maybe it's time to spread out work more evenly. That way I'm going to stress out less. I hate stressing, but I invariable end up doing so.

My best friend from school told me a very sad story today. It's really depressed me. I know I want to do something about it, even if my contribution is miniscule.


I got super news today but I hope it get's better! *fingers crossed*