February Ramblings : 19 – Journaling

I have quite a few acquaintances who are religious diary writers. They jot down the happenings of their day at the end of their day, and their thoughts on them, if any. I have not snooped into any of their accounts, so I wouldn’t know exactly what goes into the content; but I guess this would be a fairly accurate guess.

Journaling differs from diary writing. It is intermittent, and has a theme to it. A diary can be used as a base for a journal.

I had taken a course on Writer’s Village, which had Leaving a Trace as a course material. It is a comprehensive book on different types of journaling. I love how the author gives examples of people who wrote to document a particular phase of their life, or to log casual happenings and their ‘works’ were found by unsuspecting descendants who were transported to the time of their ancestors.

Anne Frank’s diary remains one of my favorite reads in memoirs. Memoirs are a collection of interesting accounts taken from a diary and rewritten to form a chronological journal.

Often times, the candidness of autobiographical writing has bothered me.

While Frank would never see the reactions her work amassed, she did have an idea that she would someday want to publish it. Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography on the other hand, was published during his lifetime, and in it he has delved into such personal details! I wonder how he would have prepared for the reception. And if he would have felt the need to prepare, at all.

Coming back to journaling, it can be for one’s own ‘personal’ purpose or to publish. A journal written for the former, and then turned into a finished work for the latter purpose would be more candid, I suppose.

That brings me a thought which has loomed large in my subconscious. (And that I forgot *just* now! Yikes! Let me jog my memory a bit… aah yes… read on read on!)

What use do ordinary people living uneventful lives have for a journal?

I might attract a volley of disapproving *SMH* kind of murmurs and even shouts from some of you. To that I say, hang on…let me finish…

We, as a society, are quick to judge. I belong to the foremost ranks of those who do so. And hence, till this day I do hold the belief that a life full of mundanes is not a full life.

That those who stress on adhering to a routine set in stone do lead uneventful lives OR those who do not have frequent events that would evoke a more than casual interest from the listeners of ‘how was their day’ OR simply those who wish to live a ‘normal’ life would not have anything to document daily. (Okay, I might have exaggerated a bit there. I am by no means condescending nor do I feel so deeply. Perhaps what I mean to say is – unless someone sees ‘magic’ in the ‘mundane’, he or she would not be motivated to write about it.)

It heartens me to say that I have found that ordinary people in fact, have the most use for a journal and their journals make for the most interesting of discoveries about human nature. How?

  1. They give one an idea of what life in the day of a citizen was (or is), in that period.
  2. The popular general notions about political inclinations and societal norms are disclosed.
  3. Their journals are proof of the depth of thought that one spends (however philosophically inclined or not) on a given subject – be it on world politics or the list of grocery to be purchased for the next week.
  4. Humans have immense inner strength. While it may go unnoticed by the exterior appearance they put up in difficult times, the written word gives us a glimpse of how the individual citizen deals with the vagaries of his everyday subsistence that keeps him from delving deeper into the hows and whys of existence.
  5. Anecdotal narration comes naturally to most of us. Journals are treasure troves of stories that would mean the world to their immediate family, thus building a sense of belonging to a larger scheme of things in the future generations.

Let me know if the above reasons to write a journal make sense to you.

I’ll leave you with this parting thought – my great-grandmother (a woman of strong character, who loved reading and would always stress upon me the value of education) and Ayn Rand (the author, of course) were both born in 1905. How different their journals would be!

Journaling thus serves to enrich the world with collective experiences of an entire generation belonging to a particular time frame – because they vary in nature beyond our wildest dreams. And however ordinary they may seem to us, our lives are worth leaving a trace! 🙂

 

February Ramblings : 13 – Turning up

Hello there, you couldn’t be more wrong if you thought I had given up on the ramblings. I couldn’t have chosen a more ominous date to turn up. (This observation is just for theatrical effect, I don’t quite believe in omens.)

I do believe in signs though. I believe that the happenings around us indicate what course the Universe (rather, our inner self) wants us to pursue.

In the last week, several topics have occurred to me. Alas, I have not even made mental notes of them.

So today, I write extempore.

A very radical shift has taken place in my personality in 2018 – both physically and mentally. I have lost quite a few kilos and look leaner (not meaner 😛 ). I carry a feeling of complete control about me. My heart and mind are at peace.

How can such a short duration affect such a change is not beyond me though. It is the culmination of my efforts in the last 10 years, towards the development of my worldly skills and deepening of my spiritual understanding.

I have joined an online book club started by an old colleague. It has a small circle of readers of varied ages – typically 30-70s. The purpose is to read books with strong messages for self-development. We have read one book – Man’s Search for Meaning. The next one is Adela Cathcart.

The latter is a refreshing read in Classics, because the writer George MacDonald has a quirky way of describing people, places, and events. I’m almost through Volume 1 and feel a strange kinship with Adela and the protagonist of John Smith’s first story. I leave you be without spoilers…

I have also joined a Toastmasters  Club, attended one meeting as a guest, and spoken on a Table Topic – What do you think is the Universal Truth about becoming rich/making money? To sum up my take crisply, I said – you never have enough of it and you always think the grass is always greener on the other side. To further expound, even the richest man/woman on the Earth feels he/she doesn’t have enough money to cover his/her whims. Fancy going to Mars in a SpaceX flight, anyone? Also, money cannot buy everything and it comes at a price. Look at how Steve Jobs lost his health… Most rich people suffer from chronic lifestyle or stress induced illnesses. I rambled on, so to speak, for a minute and 7 seconds and qualified as a speaker. Ta-da!

All in all, this month is going to be exciting as I start actual work on my writing (February Ramblings), reading (Book Club), and speaking (Toastmasters) skills. Here’s to steady progress! Let me know what you have planned for February!

P.S All this while, I’ve been ‘writing’ in a British accent. I don’t know why! Do I hear you exclaim – ‘Dandy!’?

Book Review : Then the Doorbell Rang by Capri Jalota

Click to buy, or read on Kindle Unlimited.

WHY I READ THE BOOK

I had seen the book on Kindle Unlimited, and dismissed it as – not my type – as I was on a thriller reading spree of late. At this point, I must also admit that I have begun looking at Indian authors with a biased angle. (Judge me for being judgemental all you want!) For this one, I made an exception and read the blurb, and put it on the ‘could be read’ list whenever I felt like reading a non-thriller.

Today, my friend Anita posted a short review about it and the name rang a bell. (Pun very much intended.) As I had just finished the rather long Dead Lawyers Don’t Lie (also a debut, incidentally), I downloaded it immediately.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

If you are anything like me, you are a cynic when it comes to the quality of writing of the recent crop of debut Indian authors. You do want to read authentic India-based stories but can’t seem to find a lot of read-worthy books.

This one is a welcome addition to the read-worthy section and falls under romance/drama/contemporary fiction genre.

(I should mention that the author Mr. Capri Jalota is a Bahrain based Indian expat, so he can also be termed as a Bahraini author.)

The quality of writing bit sorted, this book is a definite page turner despite not being a suspense novel.

Case in point : I finished it in 4 hours since I downloaded it, today!

If you like the current crop of woman-centric movies in Bollywood (Do I see you cringe at my comparing movies and books? Sorry! Let me give you book examples – All and Nothing by Raksha Bharadia, A Woman of My Age by Nina Bawden), you’ll like this emotional roller-coaster ride that the flawed but gumptious protagonist sets out on.

Top 3 reasons for you to read the book :

1) It is backed by Leadstart Publishing, which has established itself as a publisher of quality books over the last few years.
2) The narration is not pretentious (which is my biggest grudge against many debutants) at any point.
3) The characters and happenings are completely relatable. If you’re tired of reading over-the-top plots which lack believability, then this one is so rooted in ordinary life that you’ll be surprised why you’re wanting to know more about the happenings in such a routine setting.

THE PLOT

The story revolves around the Anglo-Indian lead Jane, who is a highly successful Dubai-based real estate manager plagued by personal issues that threaten to bring a standstill to her ability to handle her job efficiently unless she resolves them. She sets out to find the person who has all the answers that will supposedly help her achieve emotional closure, but ends up in deeper problems due to the decisions she takes during the ‘search’. She tries to bring her life back on track after the unfruitful and disastrous ‘search’ trip and is on the brink of finding love again when things go wrong again.

Utterly dejected and unhopeful, she resolves to put an end to her suffering on the day the whole world celebrates; and then the doorbell rings! It is for you to find out what happens next. Does Jane find solace after all?

 

THE CHARACTERS

Since the characters are the essence of this beautifully written book, I will not go into deeper details of each of their traits. I do want to write about them though, so it would be better if you come back to this section after you read the book.

Jane

You have an Indian Doctor married to a British citizen and Jane is their only offspring. Constantly conflicted about her identity, she decides to identify more with her mother’s side just because she is never introduced formally to her Indian side. She is very decisive, often acting on instinct and regretting in hindsight. She discovers her empathetic side a little later in life when she starts looking at things from others’ perspective.

Uday

You get to know him from Jane’s reminiscing and his own journal entries. I loved how the author gives us the glimpses of a man who cannot give up his past and is trying to come to terms with a life-changing decision he has made under somebody else’s influence while maintaining his basic nature that others define as easy-going and selfless. It is difficult to decide whether you feel sorry for him or hate him outright.

Mahesh (and family)

The quintessentially helpful Marathi manus who has managed to rise to an upper middle-class lifestyle from humble beginnings through sheer hard work. He is a happy family man with a doting wife who singlehandedly brings up their daughters and rightfully nags him sometimes to take out some time for their own selves. The purpose of this whole family is to show what a perfectly happy household looks like (and what life could’ve been for Jane according to her ‘thoughts to self’. I don’t think Jane could have had that life considering the kind of man Uday was.) and how fragile the illusion of the ‘perfectly happy household’ is…

Rahul

He’s apparently a selfless fellow who has dedicated his life to social service. I’d say he’s one of the most selfish people in matters of the heart. He advises his best friend to ‘come out clean’ to his fiancée while he himself doesn’t communicate his reservations for shunning the advances of the girl he loves. The flamboyant techie turned dedicated NGO worker ‘with a heart of gold’ is in fact a manipulator who thinks he knows best when it comes to other people’s romantic choices.

*spoiler alert*

I don’t know why this Rahul reminds me of quite a few leads played by Hrithik Roshan where he romances the heroine for somebody else, falls in love in the process, and then selflessly steps aside because it would be wrong to marry the one who’s claimed by his best friend (or boss). I have no sympathy for such losers. (Sorry for the outburst. The credit for this goes to the author’s incredible character etching.)

*spoiler over*

The supporting characters – Jane’s dad and mom, Mahesh’s wife, their pre-teen and toddler daughters, Jane’s physiotherapist, Jane’s boss, her in-laws, and her dad’s extended family are all expanded just enough to help the reader get to know them and still not get distracted from the main plot.

WRITING STYLE

The language is refined, the flow is smooth, timeframes are defined, and the dialogues are engaging. I found only 1 typo in the book.

Most of the narrative is in flashback, and proceeds from Jane’s point of view. The reader thinks with her, explores with her, contemplates a dilemma with her, and unwittingly and unwillingly flees from conflicting situations with her, and regrets and hopes with her.

Such is the grasp of the author on the subject matter of female emotions that the reader lets go of superficial things like where the story is heading and drifts with the cluelessly or otherwise drifting protagonist.

WHAT I LIKED

  1. There are no black and white characters. Everybody is flawed, and still almost everybody is likeable.
  2. There are no loopholes (good) or loose ends (not that good**). The motives of everyone’s behaviour gets clear towards the end. (There’s a writing rule to let somethings be for the reader to figure out. The author has broken it and the result is actually good. The book offers closure to the reader too along with the lead.)
  3. Thankfully, very thankfully in fact, there are no proofreading mistakes (except one). It makes the book highly readable.
  4. The settings (Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, London) and happening are familiar to most readers who’ll pick up this book. It is a real skill to write about fictional people whose life is turned around by real-life mishaps or milestone events.
  5. The conflicts (I get a bit technical here) are well-timed and do not seem forced. It helps that the author seems to have a deep understanding of the psychology of toddlers, pre-teens, middle-aged and old aged people of either gender.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

  1. Let’s address the elephant in the room. The book is not lengthy still the narrative goes into too much detail in places.*spoiler alert* Mostly in Uday’s journal and then towards the end of the book. *spoiler over*

    While it is very tempting for the author to put down everything that is unfolding in his mind, it is a harsh fact that readers generally skim over the parts where they think they’ve known everything there is to know on the page at that moment to move forward in their reading; especially in times when the attention span is too low.(Like you – my reader – have probably skipped to point 2 after the bold spoiler alert font. See what I mean? But I am not writing a book, so I can afford ‘skimming readers’ to illustrate a point to the author who will surely read this review. 🙂 )

  2. The book does not wrap up in time.This is slightly different than lengthy detailing. This is where the plot refuses to stop after the end goal of the story is seemingly achieved.(**This happens because the author has broken the writing rule mentioned above.)

    Have you ever watched a movie where you thought it is brilliant in places, dragging in parts, but in the end you’re happy you’ll take back some good memories when suddenly the director inserts a 10-min sequence? Baahubali-2 anyone?

    (I know I am contradicting myself by adding these lines. I seem to be very intent on irritating my readers. Thanks for bearing with me so far. If you’re skimming, all is well.)

IN A NUTSHELL

I enjoyed it because I have lived in Dubai – the place where it all begins and ends. And also because I genuinely liked the narrative voice that is honest. The story shows and doesn’t tell (if you know what I mean). You’ll probably enjoy it for the latter reason.

Pick it up if you’re anybody who reads. Really, this one is not the run of the mill romances, or crusader stories just because it happens to be a woman centric book.

My rating is 4.0 on 5.

(It should be counted as highly biased (in a good way), because I’ve not been reading the real ‘quality’ stuff of late. This is a whiff of fragrance for my mediocrity clogged reading nose. Eww…I know the metaphor stinks! But looks as if I’ve found my writing wit. 😛 So many buts in this post, can you count? )

Catching up

Hi ya folks!

It was my blog’s birthday on 4th September. The day I migrated to self-hosted domain. 5 years ago.

Kalamkaari might think of me as a very negligent owner. To that, I’d say – you’re still better off than thedamsel.in 😛 Two years, and it ain’t much functional.

Anyhoo, belated Happy Birthday! 

My birthday is approaching too. In the first week of October. (I’ll post around that day, yes dear blog. Don’t make that face.)

Right now I am on a ‘training vacation’ at Mom’s. I’ve coined the term. It means training at your regular pace at a place where you’re the most at ease. It gives you time to think, plan, and act on the plans. (Aeeee Kalamkaari, I’m talking about shooting. Not blogging. Don’t look at me as if I am slacking.)

My physical training Coach has told me to run regularly to improve mental toughness. The idea being – 15-20 mins of alternate day slow running builds in you a strength to complete a task you’ve undertaken. I am doing that, and it is working fairly well for me on the shooting front.

I am thinking of an experiment. To implement the same thing on the blogging front. Slow writing, gibberish writing, deliberate writing for 20 mins to build a blogging rhythm. I think that would go a long way in building my mental toughness some more. (And pleasing the rightfully sulking Kalamkaari too.)

My 20 mins are up for today. Good to have caught up. See you soon!

Img Source : Vitacentre.org

Sixteenth Ramble : Today, I don’t feel like writing.

I don’t feel like writing today. Hey! I can post this same sentence over and over again in the rambles, can’t I?

No. I know. Also, I won’t.

But today, I really don’t feel like writing. Maybe I’ll write a few backlog posts that I have missed, but I don’t want to write today’s post.

Isn’t that really how I have come to think? Finish off tasks from days or years before today. What I have to do today can be done tomorrow. And what about tomorrow? Those tasks can be done day after tomorrow.

Writing is not a task though. It is a hobby. What is the difference between a hobby and a task? Can a hobby not have a task or can a task not be a hobby? I have to set weekly goals in my shooting, all of which require certain tasks to be done. Now shooting is a hobby…which has tasks…so can writing also be/have tasks? No. Somehow, thinking of writing as a task puts me off. Why does a task have to sound so negative? Tsk…tsk…

So yeah, I am not going to write anything for the 16th of February. Although I may write the backlog posts as I have said.

I have a Grammarly widget which identifies all sorts of ‘possible spelling confusions’ but does not give a prompt when I write ‘it’s’ in place of ‘its’. You are a failure, Grammarly extension for Chrome! That said, I must reduce dependence on it. Waise bhi, it was installed as a requirement for a content writing task.

Task…there we go again. Today is a holiday at the shooting range. I miss my shooting tasks. I have writing tasks waiting for me. I will do anything to wiggle out of them. I did my nails (that is a rare occurrence), and am even thinking of drawing (which makes me miserable; for I cannot draw what I want to draw and end up jealous with those having the knack of drawing) and cleaning my room (this is a fairly regular occurrence but I never finish the task…like I don’t finish writing. But I am willing to give finishing it a thought rather than finishing writing).

I see my blog staring  at me with a ‘I am disappoint’ look.

Sorry blog, but I just don’t feel like writing today. And like most of the times :

But am just showing up…because 80% success…blah…blah…