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The Plight of Grammar in Writing

Interesting post; well, if your your sentences were going haywire – it might be high time you punctuate!

A Writer's Path

by Doug Lewars

“have it your talking may about you Good can’t what to to reader overrated you’re some idea grammar if ignored. when be but be want writing it entirely comes”

The above is a random collection of words – literally random – I used a random number generator in Excel to produce them; however, before being randomized they were once a coherent sentence. The original sentence was ‘Good grammar may be overrated when it comes to writing but it can’t be entirely ignored if you want your reader to have some idea what you’re talking about.’

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Fun

Beer with Mamaji

The dark and nondescript exterior of the pub doesn’t prepare you for the blast of bright yellow light that hits you as you enter. Maybe it is the contrast that you are not prepared for, or maybe it is just too early for such lights. Mamaji is sitting at the largest table in the centre with his usual contented face. He gives you the impression that he owns the place, and maybe he does. It is difficult to tell with him, especially given the fact that lately he has been telling everyone, except me of course, that food sector is the safest bet in Bangalore these days. If you are an investor, that is.

My maternal family is very enterprising, very street smart to the extent that sometimes they appear to be crazy. They are the exact opposite of the scholarly, sensible and overtly mundane paternal side. Dad has a brother who is a senior professor. I don’t remember when I met him last, but whenever that happened all I remember is a discussion about the merits of studying science. And its not just him, none of Dad’s cousins would be comfortable in this glaring yellow light, which somehow, seems to have acquired an acceptable luster now. They would definitely object to the EDM playing, even though and surprisingly is not loud. But then, its early in the evening and this might be a test run.

He waves a hand towards the drinks counter and smiles at me.Two people, one with a tablet and the other with anticipation appear. They are given swift instructions and dispatched off.

So yeah, one could never be sure about Mamaji, he has tried his hands at anything and everything. The last business, which was also the shadiest was micro-finance and small scale funds, probably an euphemism. He doesn’t talk about it, but then he doesn’t talk about his other businesses with me openly, willingly. I get information from Dad, the reason being Mom doesn’t want him to influence me with his crazy business ideas, her fears are based on the transient nature characteristic of her family members, which apparently is showing in me, more so as I age. Mamaji is afraid of Mom for some reason that I suspect is not as simple as her being the elder sibling. As a consequence, like all kids who are kept away from an uncle who looks funky, and dazzles in the family, I have always been a fan. He likes me too, and says almost every time we meet that I might be the most intelligent man among all his relatives.

The beers arrive.

“Don’t tell about this to your mom”

“Oh but I have.” I had no idea this was supposed to be a secret, because when I told Mom that I am going to meet him in the pub she didn’t react.

‘Ok in that case, no questions about business and I am not giving you feedback on your weird startup ideas’

‘C’mon Mamaji, why are you so scared of Mom, she is so cute’

‘Says the only son’

‘Well, at least tell me if you own this place’

‘No, but then it depends,’ he acquires his signature glazed look every time he thinks of business, and future plans.

‘Depends on? oh but you wont elaborate, great! why are we meeting here’

‘To get you drunk and find if you are not gay’

‘How noble of you, are you going to use one of those waiters? and what makes you think I could be one, you of all people who knows of my past’

‘Yeah, but it could be a facade. If I was friends with M since childhood I would have proposed her at 10′

‘Now don’t bring M into this, she is a friend, always will be a friend, also she is short’

‘She is?’

‘I guess not very short, ok, she is like a friend and she has a boyfriend, remember D?’

‘Hmm. So what was wrong with the woman you met, the tall one, what was her name, I forget’

‘Oh she was good, a serious type,” I never liked the giggle girls, in more ways than her serious disposition, she was ideal, “but she was just too tall’
Also, she said she loves wearing heels, kind of her way to set the standards high, but that’s my pun which went only so far as to get D laughing.

‘What is it with you, one is too short one too tall. you sound like one of those guys who always see the glass half empty or half full’

‘But isn’t it how the world works. The glass, Mamaji is either half full or half empty, and you see how and what you choose to see.’

The beer arrives and he guzzles half of the mug as if he has been just rescued from a desert, maybe rescued from the dry conversation we are having. I know he hates these family matters, both he and I would have loved to discuss start-up ideas, his ideas and my pitching in with implementation details. I wish I could convince Mom, but moms are incorrigible.

There is a silence as he relishes the beer, sipping and trying out the chicken and cheese nachos. I drink slow, out of respect of course. The beer is good, not so much the food. People who come early to these pubs are either groups of guys, or are women who don’t care about their attire or looks. As the night builds up, fashion kicks in, both in terms of opulence of the cars they come in and in terms of economy of the clothes they come in.

I find him looking at me quizzically.

‘I don’t think you are gay, look at how you are checking out the women’

‘Great, glad that it is settled, no tests then. Can we order that single malt?’ I wink.

‘No, we are not, we are discussing your marriage. So where were we,’ he stifles a yawn.

I cant help smile at him, out of sympathy.

‘Yeah so either the woman is short or tall, is it? Do you realize how shallow you sound’

‘No I am normal, and unlike yours my glass is empty, do you see’ I wave it with flourish, just to cheer him up.

He waves in turn for a fresh round and continues, ‘yes I remember, and it is not the glass that is half empty or half full my boy.”

He pauses, a little too long, as if trying to remember the rest of the sentence and giving it time to come back.

‘The glasses that we keep looking at don’t matter, it is the bottle that matters. And more often than not, the bottle is quite full, look at the bottled up energy, bottled up potential within you young people. You waste it by talking about philosophy and politics on social media’

‘I want to talk about business, my job sucks’

‘But it pays well, business is done by people who cannot get such jobs, people like me’

‘Ok, fine. and it’s not just philosophy and politics.’

‘I know your generation are gung-ho about nationalism, Modi is your savior’

‘Mamaji, are you a leftist, liberal?’

‘No, neither are you right-wing. It’s just academic speak, deep down you know that if you stick to a left or a right at every step or thought, you keep going in circles.”

‘So you are a centrist’

‘No, a realist. There are many things to commit to in life, besides the right, left and centre, sometimes you need to follow a hyperbole, sometimes you have to carve your own path out of nowhere. That’s why you should just marry the next woman you meet. It’s always more about yourself than others.’

‘So you are saying there is no right woman or wrong one, no black or white, and the world is gray’

‘Yes it is but it can’t be taught, takes us time to realize that, and then we start forgetting,’ he ruffles his unruly hair as if lost in thought.

I know this routine, he does it to impress his clients and funding people, to convince them that he is wise, and very thoughtful.

‘Look at hair for example,’ he continues, ‘we start black, as if we are in the dark, when everything matters, right or left, empty or full, and then we end up white, the other end when everything is just white noise, and nothing seems to matter’

‘In between we have gray haired wise uncles,’ I chime in with self congratulatory glee, ‘the gray cells overflowing from their brains coloring their hair’

‘Yeah,’ he laughs heartily when he does, ‘except some color their hair black proving they are still the kids they were, like your Dad’

We both laugh. But I think he does it because of Mom, the ubiquitous mom. I would have consulted with her on the topic of women rather than wise graying Mamaji, but she keeps coming back to M.

Related: Waiting for Ms Godot

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Poetry

The story of life

My poem got published on Sudden Denouement Collective. It is a great collective of writers and artists, each with a unique style and aesthetic, including me 🙂

The story begins
not in the present,
not with any intent,
but in the mind of the writer,
lost, perusing his tomes,
as he creates a new history
with words filtered through
experiences and such
prismatic domes.

Continue to read here.

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Poetry

Drops of darkness

These drops of darkness
that you mix with your smile,
stirring the bitter coffee in the morning,
when you meet people you don’t like,
people who you keep searching,
as you stare beyond the space that fills me.

Have those drops congealed
over your skin, into black layers,
as on the tree that stands alone,
a spirit untrammeled,
in the desolate moor,
and in the emptiness that fills me.

You may stand tall,
stretching high as if forever,
but I see through the drops of darkness
in your eyes which petrify
anyone who shows interest,
for I don’t seek their love, or approval,
and I know you want me to taste the shade
of the shadow you refuse to cast on me.

But then in the moonlit night,
I see you romance
the rivers of milky white,
shining in cadence without a care,
about the the drops of darkness
that slowly fill your leaping heart,
and I wait, feeling the romance,
when tired and in pain the next morning,
the heart that you will again give to me.

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Reviews

Haikus that saved the Wilderpeople

Hunt-for-the-Wilderpeople-2016

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based on a story that is as bland and predictable as any coming of age or the innumerable similarly themed movies are based on.

An abandoned boy in early teens, a generous and abnormally kind woman and a gruff, irritable old man come together in an attempt to bring some normalcy to the boy’s miserable life. After a few hiccups, as the domestic scene is setting down, the motherly figure dies. We now have two disconnected unsettled individuals. And what do they do. Against all bets they go on a wild adventure fashioned like the typical road trip movies, where nuances of the characters unfold slowly and that inevitable bonding forms, predictably happens to these these two also. The ending is made overtly dramatic with a car chase and crash.

Well, the real ending is a damp squib because it is added to keep the spirits high. But we might forgive the creators because we have been tolerating bigger atrocities in the name of happy endings.

But it’s not the story, the ending or the elements of interpretation, it’s not even that big picture which forms at the back of your mind as you watch a sensible movie that capture your imagination. It is the storytelling technique that is employed, the bits and pieces you are given, fairly interspersed with distractions, making it fun to get everything together to form a plausible version. In addition, the movie is divided into chapters giving you the sense of reading a book.

What keeps you engaged are also the subtleties in the execution. The opening scene for example, a wonderful aerial view of dense New Zealand forest and undulating mountains. For some reason, they call it the bush. Anyways, what accompanies the visuals is music that sounds like an anthem, and then a car winding through the deserted road with the music changing along with it and the close-ups of the characters.

It is definitely one of the best opening scenes, or probably I was in such a mood when I watched it. I didn’t plan to watch this movie, I wasn’t aware of the fact that such a movie existed, nor was I aware of its renowned director. What caught my attention was ‘Wilderpeople’.

Besides the verdant location and the eclectic choice of background music, what makes an impression, but in an understated way, is the ordinariness of the characters. They don’t seem wise, or insightful, or say having dreams and plans for the future, they are the beings of the present. Waiting for the next scene, or the next dialogue. And therein lies the charm, that longing within us not to think about the past or the future, to just inhale the fresh air, of life, and to talk about wild horses.

Having said that, the characters don’t come out as idiots either. They are made of style, innovativeness, there is hunting, the wisdom of love and ‘knack’. It’s however not the individual qualities but how all these come together in a matter of fact way that is impressive about the characters. The best scene to illustrate would be how the gracious and seemingly tender Bella running with a knife to kill a wild boar.

To be able to make such a movie and avoid the slippery slopes of being cute, preachy or developing a ‘we stand for world peace’ attitude is a feat in itself. The concept that is invariably applied to avoid the slippage is humor, and humor in this movie is as much a saving grace as it is an undercooked egg, quirky, uncertain yet delectable. The lord of the rings scene is my pick, especially how it goes unregistered.

I developed an aversion to Haiku after starting my blog. In my opinion, it is the worst format to write and I keep wondering why it is so popular. So, when out of the blues Ricky mentioned Haiku, it was a laugh among my fellow viewers. In spite of reiterating my views on the subject and earning the ‘will you shut up’ looks, I must confess I liked the two Ricky recites to Bella.

Maggots
There’s heaps of maggots.
Maggots wriggling in dead sheep.
Like moving rice. Yuck.

Kingi, you wanker
Kingi, you wanker.
You arsehole. I hate you heaps.
Please die soon, in pain.

The actor playing Ricky is absolutely brilliant. Without him this movie would have never worked, not even with the greatest story, locale or director. Uncle Hec is good too, but never a scene stealer. The adventure is reasonably fast paced but what stands out is the bizarre behavior of the other people. The ridiculous hunt for the two seems symbolic of what the authorities, governments and society undertakes to ensure its survival, or at least the survival of its tenets. It also reinforces the perception of how grounded and real the boy and the uncle are, in the circumstances.

In retrospect, it seems like this was the idea behind, the big picture that drives a motion picture. It is captured beautifully by the incorrect word ‘majestical’ that is coined by Hec looking around the lake, with a honesty that comes only when one is overwhelmed. The feeling that this movie infuses into the viewer is that things don’t have to be nice and agreeable, people don’t have to be flawless, even you can be wrong, politically or morally, and all you need for redemption is something as simple as that one honest, straight from the heart Haiku, or that word, a decision perhaps, or a choice that you truly believe in, that defines you.

Redemption is usually incomprehensible when seen from another’s perspective, but you won’t care because once there you are bound to be in a good humor. At the end, it is humor that saves a movie and also you.

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Poetry

Elements of a grand philosophy about life

The alphabet of life,
is a caravan of letters,
riding into the dusk of our thoughts,
each guarded by a sense of conformity,
surrendering to the fate
of falling into places,
forming words
to fill the empty spaces
of the grand scheme,
grandeur is just our wishful thinking
that the puzzle is unsolvable.

The phrases of life,
are a collusion of words
to find a common purpose
and create those ideas for redemption.
Nothing but fragments of the plot,
each carries an awareness
of what is missing
and of voids that need filling
with lesser brush strokes,
to create our universe
in a grand collaboration,
grandeur is the levity we seek
to believe that the design is inexpressible.

The statements of life,
formed with cabals of phrases,
masquerading as logic,
the notions and prejudices
repressed for association,
as a compromise is reached
to defend the thesis.
They fall into places,
in their ordained spaces,
reluctance subdued
by the grand revelation,
grandeur is just the ruse the mind longs for
to establish that its limits are unsurpassable.

The essay of life,
made of circuitous statements,
juggled with the adept hands.
A magic construed
with fancy flips of conscience,
conviction and applause
are driven by the the need for a facade,
to toe the line
and feel each other’s comforting presence.
The game is forever played
as part of a grand vision,
grandeur is nothing but the optimistic delusion
to prove that life is much more than what we live for.

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