Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Story 34 The Pill to Purge Emotions

Introduction
The origins of this story are rather strange. It all started when I decided to write down some of my observations about male sexuality in the form of a story. I had been looking for a suitable plot for a long time. Several were concocted but none appealed so the story never materialized. Second, I wanted to write a love story. A mushy and tragic one which portrayed how emotions make life so painful for no reason at all. This is what this story was till yesterday evening. I had already written about two thousand words of a crappy love tragedy when my beloved friends dragged (literally) me out to dinner in the city.

It was in that frustrated mood when I was struck by these strange visions. And that is when the story changed its form completely. A couple of visions (particularly the one in which the narrator becomes a ray of light in the girl's diamond ring) were so strong that I decided to mold the entire story in that form.

Style
I would have called this story psychedelic, had I been able to write it down exactly as I had percieved it. But if I was that good a writer, I wouldn't be rotting in a stupid engineering college. Anyhow, I guess, the style is something that I have never tried before and although I was very happy with the first draft, subsequent revisions showed that it was not quite what I had wanted it to be. The overall effort is to create a surreal atmosphere. It is for you people to say how far I've succeeded.

Meaning
There is of course, a hint of some of my observations on male sexuality. But more than that, the story is about emotions. I'm afraid it only raises questions and does not give any answers. What are emotions? What is the positions of man's emotions in this universe? Is there a great plan, if any, and are emotions the 'gears and wheels' of that great plan? Is is better not to have any emotions? Indeed, I often desire to be emotions less. And in extrapolations -- what would I be if I were emotionless?

Acknowledgment
Thanks to Rakshit and Ankit for literally (I mean physically. These guys were almost about to throw me down the third floor!) dragging me to city against my wishes. Without your great efforts at weight lifting with my body I would never have struck with the psychedelic angle. Thanks to Swetank Gupta for keeping me engaged in a totally meaningless (okay, not so meaningless) conversation while I was drunk last night. Had you not done it, I was planning to write this one while drunk and it would have been a total disaster. Thanks to Microsoft for making a delightful software called MS word. I have recently installed Office 2007 and I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is to write my first story on it. And finally thanks to everyone-knows-who for being the beautiful inspiration behind the story.

A clarification. The green pill in the story is (by authorial intention) the pill to purge emotions. It is not dope.

If you need a copy of this story, drop in a mail. If you want to be added to my permanent reader mailing list, drop in a mail.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Problems Faced by Science Students While Studying Humanities

1. Summarization: while reading long essays I (as a science student) find it difficult to summarize what has already been said in the preceding thousand words or so.

This is probably because in most scientific texts, summary is automatically provided by a concise formula or law.

2. Modularity: I find it difficult to break a long essay into smaller modules making some simpler sense on their own. And if such breakage is not possible at all, I find it difficult to follow the text.

This is probably because in most scientific texts, modularity is strictly followed. The subject matter is broken down into smaller independent pieces which can be contemplated on their own.

3. Logical relations: I find it difficult to figure out the exact logical relationship between the various parts of the text. That is, it is difficult to understand what is implying what and what is contradicting what etc.

This is probably because in most scientific text, such logical relations ships are explicitly stated in form of a formula or law. Also, scientific texts are less given to circumlocutions and digressions than humanities texts.

Thus, as a pedagogical aid, I may make the following suggestions:

1. Summarize: summarize whatever is being taught in as few words as possible. I know that this is a daunting task as most topics in humanities are neither straightforward nor definite in any sense. But still, try …

2. Emphasize the precise logical relationships: reiterate the logical relationships in your summary.

3. Modularity: maintain modularity of some sort. Of course, this may actually sap the beauty of many of the subjects the humanities deal with. But often they are making logical arguments during analysis and this strategy may work.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy Review

Potential Spoiler Warning: this article may spoil some of your fun in reading the novels.

Introduction

The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a fantasy novel series by Jonathan Stroud. It consists of the following books (in order) The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golems Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate. The most notable things about the books are the fast and thrilling narrative and very good humor.

Style

Like I said, the narrative was fast and thrilling. The pace never slackens (perhaps a little bit in the second novel) and the best part is, it is absolutely hilarious in parts. I wish more of the narrative was from Bartimaeus whose witty repartee is well worth reading about a thousand and five hundred pages of this series. The best part is, the author ended it in three parts rather than dragging on unnecessarily. It is the most fitting length for this trilogy.

Characterization

The characterization is excellent. All the major characters have been drawn out in sufficient detail. Nathaniel aka Magician John Mandrake comes out very well as a talented un-spoilt youth who gradually becomes just like everyone else. He does, however, always keep alive that small spark of goodness within him which kindles into a fire at the climax of the story. Kitty Jones again has been portrayed very well as a commoner who is seeking to do something about the corrupt system. Her rebellious tendencies do not prevent her from seeing the truth as she always doubts the motives of his fellow revolutionaries who appear to be happy in just spreading vandalism. And yes, there is our dear Bartimaeus. Well, you got to read the novel to know what he’s like. Words just don’t do justice to this most delightful character Stroud has created.

Meanings

The series is full of alternate meanings. It is a very good allegory on how political power functions in human societies. The magicians are the powerful people in the society. The commoners are, well, commoners. The people who have power make all effort to prevent others from getting it. For example, the magicians make magic the exclusive craft of their own kind, while it is clear that commoners can learn it without trouble, as Kitty Jones proves in the end.

It is also an excellent portrayal of the Master-Slave relationship. Perhaps even a comment on the colonial tendencies of Britain where the master makes almost no effort to understand the motivations of the slave. Indeed, such tendencies become so very ingrained in popular discourse that the people in power almost start believing what misconceptions are popular about the slaves.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Music Suggestion Kabul Express


The Kabul Express Theme from movie OST.

Kabul Express Review


John Abraham does not know how to act. Let us ignore him for the duration of this review.


Kabul Express is what one can call another innovation in Bollywood. It is perhaps for the first time that a film with an almost documentary kind of feel has been made in Bollywood and I must say that the director has been successful to quite some extent.


The film is also an example, how the Hindi movie genre can be decently blended with other genres to produce good movies. Kabul Express is a typical Hindi movie with its share of clichés but that does not mar the effect of what the movie is trying to say. For example, in a ‘realistic’ movie one would hardly expect the wisecracks that Arshad Warsi continuously keeps delivering throughout the movie. Comic relief, the quintessential cliché of Bollywood, has been done quite well in this movie which yearns to be realistic in its portrayal of Afganistan.


The movie is trying to show several sides of the story at once – the Afgan side, the Indian side, the Pakistani side and yes, the American side too. And it does that with finesse. It does not make judgments. It just shows.


And it raises many questions in the mind of the viewer. As I sat in the air conditioned multiplex watching this movie in confort, the dialogue that hit me most hard was – Aap khushnasib ho. Aapki dunia alag hai. (You’re lucky. Your world is different.)


This is spoken by a Talib to an Indian reporter in the film. Indeed our world is different. We wallow in relative prosperity while a country which is practically neighbors with us is torn with war. Why is that? Who is responsible? I was awestruck by the stunning beauty of the Afgan landscape. What drives humans to turn such a beautiful country into such a hellhole?


I left the theater with these questions in mind. And they bug me yet. Is there hope for people? Will these parts of the world, including my very own Kashmir, ever become better places to live?


And yes, there is that sad question of why John Abraham was chosen to do this movie.