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Becoming a writer

>> Saturday, July 16, 2011

There are far too many writers on the internet, especially in the blog world who think of themselves as great writers. After having received some comments like “awesome” ,‘excellent’ ,‘fantabulous’, ‘fantastic’ , ‘brilliant’ and so on, we are inclined to believe that we have written some great stuff and continue writing more or less on the same style, assuming that it has become perfect.

Some of my friends used to invite me for food when my family was away. Over lunch or dinner, the conversation would naturally turn to discussions on food and recipes. The lady of the house would expect to hear compliments on the wonderful creations she has done. If the food was good, I would definitely say so and wouldn’t hesitate to give some compliments. But had it been badly cooked, I wouldn’t say it was good. I was afraid, had I said so, they would make it the same way the next time and then I would have to suffer the same stuff again. Some women think of themselves as good cooks. Their only judges would be their own husbands who would have been afraid to make a proper judgment, for fear of losing his daily food.

I was thinking of blogs the same way I was looking at food. If I get a one word comment like ‘awesome’ and 'brilliant', I don’t usually take that very seriously. Like someone who says the food is good without tasting it.They don’t generally mean it. I am inclined to think that the commenter had probably not read it properly or just wanted to write some comments, the way you mark attendance at the school. You make an opinion to disagree, and there goes a follower!

How to become a good writer is a matter of serious discussion. There are no short cuts other than that you should have the real inherent skills, the way some people become singers and painters. Practice can make you perfect in many other things. But I am not sure if it applies to writing. A writer must be sensitive, emotional and able to react and then express it in a way that it affects the readers.

Even though we would find it difficult to become good writers, there are many ways we can look like and act like one.

When Paulo was young, he told his mother that he wanted to become a writer.*

His mother asked him” Do you actually know what it means to be a writer?’
“Being someone who writes books’
“Your uncle, who is a doctor, also writes books and has even published some. If you study engineering, you can always write in your spare time (She was trying to make it safe for her son, like most of the mothers do)
‘No, Mama. I want o be a writer, not an engineer who writes books’.
‘But have you ever seen a writer? Have you ever met a writer?’
‘Never, only in photographs’
‘So how can you possibly want to be a writer if you don’t really know what it means?’

To answer his mother, he did some research. And this is what he learned.*

(a) A writer always wears glasses and never combs his hair. Half the time he feels angry about everything and the other half depressed. He spends most of his time in bars, arguing with other disheveled, bespectacled writers. He says very ‘deep’ things.( In our set up, I would add the dirty sling bag, and unwashed pajamas faded over years of use, and a smoking beedi on the lips. And if he gets drunk and sleeps on the road side, he becomes a writer of the masses))

(b) A writer has a duty and an obligation never to be understood by his own generation; convinced as he is, that he has been born in to an age of mediocrity, he believes that being understood mean losing his chance of ever being considered a genius. A writer revises and rewrites every sentence many times. The vocabulary of an average man is made up of 3000 words; a real writer never uses any of these, because there are another 189,000 in the dictionary, and he is not an average man.

(c) Only other writers can understand what a writer is trying to say. Even so, he secretly hates all other writers. Also the writer and his peers compete for the prize for the ‘most complicated book’
(d) A writer understands about things with alarming names, like semiotics, epistemology, neoconcretism. When he wants to shock someone, he says things like: ‘Einstein is a fool’ or Tolstoy was the clown of the bourgeoisie.

(e) When trying to seduce a woman, a writer says,’ I am a writer’ and scribbles a poem on a napkin. It always works.

(f) Given his vast culture a writer can always get work as a literary critic. Half of any such review are made up of quotations from foreign authors and the other half of analyses of sentences, always using expressions like ’the epistemological cut’ or an integrated bi dimensional vision of life’.
(g) When invited to say what he is reading at the moment, a writer always mention a book no one has ever heard.

(h) There is only one book that arouses the unanimous admiration of the writer and his peers: ’Ulysses by James Joyce. No writer will ever speak ill of this book, but when someone asks him what it is about, he can’t quite explain, making one doubt that he has actually read it.

Now you are armed with all the necessary tips from an expert author. Go ahead, start writing!

*'Like the flowing River'. Paulo Coelho


A world of crabs

>> Sunday, July 10, 2011

“A woman’s body is the battlefield where she fights for liberation. It is through her body that oppression works, reifying her… sexualizing her.” (Greer G 1999)

I had known Annie since childhood. She was one of the most beautiful girls in my childhood memory. She would walk to her school every day through the narrow dirt road in front of my home. I was at the school leaving class and she must have been in 8th standard. She always looked fresh and clean and would wear clean school uniform of blue and white, would carry the bundle of books close to her chest, like a mother would carry her child. I would wait for her to pass and she never failed to throw a glance with a tint of smile in it, in my direction. I never had the guts to say a word to her. But I saw her every day till I left my home town and joined the medical college. Thoughts of Annie had come to me often; I don’t know what kind of an attraction I had to her. But I never forgot that face.

It was almost twenty years later that I saw her again. I had just joined the clinic in Dubai. It took me some time to realize that the voice at the other end was Annie, even after she introduced herself. She had found me from an advertisement of the clinic. There was nothing much at her hand to remind me. “Do you remember me? The girl with the books “, and it brought me back all the memories in a second. I couldn’t believe that she remembered me all these years. We talked for a long time. Her husband was well placed and they had two children, the same age of mine. She came to me with her husband the next day. She had grown older and put on weight, but was still beautiful and full of charm. The old shyness was gone and we talked and talked of old times, all the while her husband listened with a curious smile on his face. They took me often to their home and gave me some of the best food I had in my life. There was the touch of affection and care in whatever she did. They never failed to visit me every week, till they left Dubai.

I saw Annie again two years back when my daughter in law was sick. I was passing through the Cancer Centre and I had a glimpse of Annie, but when I came back looking for her, she was gone. On another day, she couldn’t escape from me, and then she said reluctantly that she had a small lump in her breast and had come to see the doctor…’but..it is nothing” I guessed she didn’t want me to know about it. She came for Sheri’s funeral, wearing a wig. She had lost weight and had lost the shine in her eyes. No one had to tell me what had happened to her. I couldn’t talk to her much but I could see tears well in her eyes.

Annie died few weeks back. It hadn’t taken much time for the crabs to eat her up. I was sad that I couldn’t see her and be of some assistance to her in her sickness and suffering. For many days, I had flashes of her smile that disturbed my sleep.

When I thought about her, I also remembered Mira who was the wife of my friend Khalid. She had died at the age of 28 years from breast cancer.

It is a world of crabs.

Historically, the term cancer means “crab” in Latin, and the word ‘karkinoma’ means “crab” in ancient Greek. Hippocrates (460-377 BC), the great Greek physician( on whose name we doctors take the oath of good practices) first compared the swollen blood vessels radiating from some breast tumors to the limbs of a crab, and referred to the disease as 'karkinoma'. The word cancer was later used by Pliny (AD23-79) in his scientific treatise, National History, to mean a malignant tumor. In addition, Cancer has long been used for the Zodiac constellation of the Crab, located between Gemini and Leo. In its natural habitat, a crab is a fast, resilient decapod crustacean that springs to action, moves in multiple directions, and is sensitive to its surroundings. And so is cancer.

More than one million cases of breast cancer occur worldwide annually, with some 580,000 cases occurring in developed countries and the remainder in developing countries, despite their much higher overall population and younger age. Recently, at a health conference sponsored by The Women's Record on Long Island, a prominent breast surgeon stated that, because he is ''seeing so many cases of cancer of the breast in younger women,'' he urges ''a baseline mammography for all women at age 35.'' If your doctor doesn't recommend mammography,'' he said, ‘‘Then change doctors.'' All women need to perform a monthly self-breast examination. Untold numbers of breast cancer have been detected by women themselves who, upon finding a lump, have sought prompt medical and life-saving treatment. If a woman finds it too inhibiting to perform this examination, or isn't sure what exactly to look for, she should make a point of having her breasts checked every six months by a doctor or a nurse practitioner.

Recent studies have shown that young women tend to have more aggressive disease, present at a later stage, have many more issues and problems than their older counter parts and have an altogether poor prognosis. Young women tend to ignore small lumps as insignificant and mammography is not as sensitive in the young because of the density of the breast. A delay in diagnosis means shorter time to death. Although breast cancer generally involves women above the age of 50 years, a significant number of young women die of the disease.Young women need to be more vigilant,because there is data to show that they are less likely to survive the illness compared to older women.

The strongest risk factor for breast cancer at a younger age is the history of the disease in a first degree relative.(mother or sister)

As society, we are preoccupied with breasts. A woman’s breasts are symbol of feminity and sexuality. It is within these breasts that the tragedy occurs, striking at the very heart of a woman’s sense of identity and embodiment.

It was Annie’s death that prompted me to write this. In a way, I am relieved that I hadn’t seen her suffering the illness. She probably wouldn’t have liked it as well. I like to remember her as the same old Annie carrying her books, close to her chest.



>> Tuesday, July 5, 2011

“Unless the pain of where you are is greater than the pain of change, you will never change”.
Bishop Mark Kariuki

I made a difficult choice recently. Form where I was working continuously for almost fifteen years, I decided to change to another environment. The decision wasn’t easy and it was somewhat painful. Many people asked me why I did that. At my work place, some people really meant what they said… ‘that they would miss me’. Understandable because I was around for too long. Others were just interested to know how much more money it was gong to bring me.

That is how it goes. We all look at the same thing from different points and see different things. In the last fifteen years, I have found that almost all the doctors had left the hospital for better prospects. I had been offered better terms on many occasions. But I decided to stay back .I was happy where I was. The money was less, but the work was comfortable. I was thinking, if it is eventless and flows quiet, do you have to stick back for the rest of your time? Why was it that others had left and changed jobs many times over within the same time?

But then I also realized that you become stale if you stay at one place for too long. People take you for granted and some people would even think that you are sticking on because you don’t have other options. It is also true that as you get older the options get lesser. We are also not tuned to changes. Our parents or relatives would have joined some government service and worked there till retirement. My brother worked for the postal department and retired at the same place. Another brother joined the electricity department as an engineer and retired from the same department. Changes were difficult those days and options were limited.

We are people who do not change. Simply because we are afraid of changes. Or we are too lazy for changes. We don’t want to leave the comforts of home. Or we do not want to leave the friends we have made. Or do not want to break the relationships we have entered in to. We fight and argue all through life and make lives miserable for ourselves and others. Still, we would not think of a new life or a new beginning.

On the other hand, now a day, many in the younger generation change jobs and situations the way they change shirts. They change for better prospects and working conditions. For the sake of leaving their home lands to far away lands they dreamed of. They are no longer afraid of leaving families and loved ones behind. Options are unlimited. There are no sentiments or emotional ties. They have the will to walk away from relationships and do not hesitate to break the bondages of families.

I am not for unwarranted changes. But I believe there is nothing wrong in trying if a change is needed. And no reason to be afraid. Often ,changes end up for your own benefit. I had often thought, if I had lost my job, it would be finally good, because I could be in my home town where I was born and always wanted to live, and I could be with my family and friends, whom I had always missed. You don’t gain something without losing something else. If the reason you need to change is not clear, you need to be patient. Do not hurry to make conclusions about its value. Give yourself time to prepare emotionally and psychologically.

The concept of making changes to life is not the same for all, seems easy for some and frightening for others. The familiarity with the familiar and the already known is always safer and it safeguards from the fear of change, the threat of new and the fear against the unknown.

You don’t have to hit rock bottom before you are motivated to change. You don’t have to wait until the doctor tells you that you have diabetes and high blood pressure before you choose to take decisive action with your life style. You don’t have to go broke before you confront your fears, stop procrastinating and get your act together. You don’t have to wait until you get a diagnosis of lung cancer to choose to quit smoking. You don’t have to wait until your estranged loved one is on his deathbed before you make the effort to reconcile and say’ sorry”.

The denial to change stems from the fear of loss. When you have doubts about a change in your life, ask yourself what is that you are afraid to lose? Is it about control? Is it self-respect, freedom, familiarity, income, or comfort? Discover the root of fear and try to get over it. Accept that the discomfort, doubt and uncertainty are all by-products of change. The more familiar you are with these feelings, the more you will be able to distinguish the real effects of change.

I have long wondered about this. And I’ve come to realize that it fully depends on how fed up you become and how badly do you want it. It infuriates people to hear that, but it is because it means we have to own up, take responsibility and make the necessary change. As humans we naturally take the path of least resistance; we have to fight to go in a different direction. The belief that you can suddenly stop everything and make a fresh start is utopian: regardless how much you want to leave the past behind you. The best way to make a change is to face your past and plan for the future.

I have been through many difficult pathways. I am a stronger person from this passage. I have learned from my past. I am happy with where I am today and I can try to be happy where ever I am tomorrow. My life has taken me in a full circle. I am not a shadow anymore. Changes in my life have kept me going. I love my past. I love my present. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve had, I am not thrilled by what I had either, and I’m not sad because I have it no longer.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle”
- Albert Einstein


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