25 Jul 2006

Contest Finalist

This is beyond my wildest imagination.

My memoir piece has been chosen as one of the seven finalists for a contest organized by The Memoirists Collective.

Hundreds of entries, huge talent pool, diverse subjects. I feel overwhelmed and humbled to have even placed.

The winner, chosen from among these finalists, will have his/her proposal read by the top editors of three major publishing houses--Harper Collins, Hyperion and Holt. No guarantee of the proposal being accepted for publication, but a huge opportunity nonetheless.

There will be another round, with the finalists expanding their entries and doing a workshop with the organizers. A great learning experience all in all.

You can read my entry here. Please feel free to post comments.

Special thanks to Bernita for helping me polish the piece for submission. :)

22 Jul 2006

The Book of Bright Ideas

Bright Idea #96: When you go on a trip to buy a special surprise for your best friend, sing "You Are My Sunshine" and think of all the big people and the little people who are your sunshines. Then look at the old houses you pass, and think about the people who lived in them, and hope that they were somebody's sunshine too.

[From The Book of Bright Ideas, by Sandra Kring]

That idea is the heart of this book. That there are times when some spark—a person, an incident, or both—enter your life like soft rays of sunshine gliding through an ajar window. And not only do these sparks brighten up the dark clefts within and without you, they actually turn out to be catalysts in transforming you into a bundle of sunshine. The Book of Bright Ideas celebrates these sparkling agents of change.

The narrator, nine-year-old Evelyn Peters, or Button as we better know her in the book, doesn't have the faintest idea of the extent to which her life would change with the arrival of two strangers in their town. Twenty-something Freeda Malone and her sister, Winnalee, the same age as Button, enter the rural Wisconsin township like a sudden gust, threatening to blow over the steady but mechanical lives of the Peters family. The summer of 1961, the year these two ladies make this place their home, undoubtedly emerges as the biggest and wildest summer in the life of Button and her family. It is the summer when the timid nine-year-old would find a voice she can call her own, the time when her stiff and perfectionist mother would "loosen up" quite a bit, the year when her living dead father would find his music and his life back. And while all this happens, two little girls would pen down a book together. It's their Book of Bright Ideas.

It's a good thing Sandra Kring introduces the two strangers in the book's first chapter. With them in place, the reader gets to see the whole range of characters—the book's strongest aspect. Uptight Button versus buoyant, untamed Winnalee, huge-sized and giant-hearted Aunt Verdella vis-à-vis skinny, insecure Jewel--Button's Ma, easy-going Uncle Rudy in contrast with sedate and dreary Reece Peters--Button's dad. The characters are so real they almost leap out of the pages and share the living, breathing space with you. Button, all of nine years old, has already a lot to deal with—her mother's missionary-like strictures, the idea of being ugly like her mother, the apathy of her father. No wonder the child grows up timid to the extent where she copes with her fears by chewing on her gums often to the point of bleeding. Jewel herself is seen to struggle with complexes of being ugly and inadequate fostered during her childhood. She masks them under a cover of perfectionist stiffness, the very feature that distances the two people who should be closest to her—Button and Reece. The same two people who are equally drawn to the household of Rudy and Verdella Peters—a couple embodying love and the joy of carefree spirit.

Then there's the fiery Freeda and the dazzling Winnalee. The latter, moved around from one place to the other by her older sister, ends up being Button’s first "best friend." From the very start we see her carrying the two most important things in her life—a vase containing her dead mother's ashes and a bright leather-bound book. This book is the vine that twines the novel together, for in it Winnalee and Button note down the bright ideas they come across through their experiences. Winnalee believes when they have a hundred bright ideas, they would have figured out all the clues to life.

A series of episodes—from a community cookout to a stormy outburst by Jewel toward Verdella—lead to a complete reversal of the scheme of things. Just like her daughter, Jewel Peters finds a best friend, too—in Freeda Malone, the young woman she had detested initially. And Verdella and Rudy? Do they change? Why yes, they become more of themselves—more loving, more joyful.

The Book of Bright Ideas shines, not only with its amazing cast, but also with the charming atmosphere of a rural small town. In this second book of hers, Kring brings about the same community spirit that marked her brilliant debut novel, Carry Me Home. The coming together of the townsfolk for a cookout with food, drinks, and a wagonload of gossip; the animated community sales, where the selling of knick knacks brings those extra pennies all working families so appreciate; the 4th of July "Marty Graw" celebrations that sees the Peters and Malones letting their hair down in true American style and spirit.

Kring is the kind of writer who sweeps a large number of readers with her words. A big reason behind this is her use of strikingly simple and conversational language to tell complex stories. In both her books, the protagonists are children, who observe and present facts much as they happen, without colouring them. Yet, within that simplicity rests the intricacies of human nature, the wisdom that comes from appreciating life as it is, and the conviction that even the worst of blows can't trample the peace and beauty that dwells in the human heart.

The Book of Bright Ideas surprised me at many a bend, with the plot throwing up unexpected twists, compelling me to keep moving without putting the book down. I remember keeping awake until four in the morning on one occasion, closing the book only when I felt reassured that the characters were safe and there was no reason to worry. How naïve I was. Yes, the worry might have been over, but not the surprises. While the story itself has a spell-binding effect, what nourishes the reader the most is the heartwarming transformation of the characters. It all happens naturally, none of it is forced. Therein lies the triumph of this book and the message it caries. That long after the agents of change are gone, the newness you acquire because of them remains unblemished. And then, you yourself become an agent of change in other people's lives.

This is indeed one bright book.

My Bright Idea #1: If after switching off the lights once the final page of a book has been turned over, you feel your eyes are wet but your inside is smiling with a big-sized "happy," don't forget to share the gift with other book-loving friends.

, , ,

18 Jul 2006

Indian Blog Outage

Apparently, the Indian government has asked ISPs to block blogspot.com sites. I can post entries, but can't view them if I type the actual blog address on my browser. I can still see the blog, though, by taking a detour. More on the government action here, here, and here.

17 Jul 2006

On-field Trash

Q Everyone wants to know exactly what he said...

A: They were very serious things, very personal things.

Q About your mother and your sister?

A: Yes. They were very hard words. You hear them once and you try to move away.

But then you hear them twice, and then a third time... I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions. I would rather have taken a blow to the face than hear that.

Soccer fans will know what the above snippet of conversation refers to. It's just an effort to dissect an infamous moment of impulsiveness as was demonstrated by the legendary Zinedine Zidane, the former French football captain. The occasion, an important one—the finals of the World Cup—acquired a greater degree of relevance since it was also the last time Zidane was being seen on the professional soccer field. The man, loved by fans and soccer players across the world, must have dreamed of making the finals an enduring swan song, possibly with him lifting the coveted trophy. That was not to be.

A brief provocation, resulting in one of the most aggressive physical outbursts altered the course of the match once and for all. Minutes before the final game would slip into penalty shoot outs, the French maestro delivered a savage headbutt to his Italian opponent, Marco Materazzi. There was no way Zidane could have escaped a red card. As he exited the field, ignominy and a red blot on career accompanying him, French fans knew, the game could have a radically different outcome. Suffices to say, Zidane was aware of the results of his action himself. Yet, apparently, he couldn't restrain himself. As for Materazzi, who is believed to have pushed the Frenchman to limits by making offensive remarks about his mother and sister, the desired effect—to distract Zidane in a game-altering way—was superbly achieved.

Image source: The Daily Telegraph

And that's exactly what trash-talk or sledging in sports aims to achieve. It's an ancient and tested tactic used to weaken the opposition psychologically. Almost all team sports make use of verbal abuses and insults in some way or the other.

I first became familiar with sledging while watching live telecasts cricket matches, the sport that makes India crazy. Cricket is to India what football is to Brazil and perhaps baseball to America. During cricketing season, every Indian corner, from polished living rooms to atmospheric bazaars sports a festive look. One would often find huddles of impassioned cricket lovers, either watching the game on television or listening to radio commentary. And just as the game itself causes waves of emotions to rise and fall, sledging between players results in tempers flaring up.

Image source: www.cricketnet.co.za

Cricket, slightly similar to baseball, is a contest between batsmen and bowlers. You would occasionally see a bowler making remarks at the batsman, trying to distract and provoke him. A lot of batsmen tend to retort, some look the other way, and a few really smart ones, whack the ball to the boundary at the next delivery. There's no microphone attached to the shirts of the players, and what they say isn't ever audible to the audience or the commentators. Much the same as what happened between Materazzi and Zidane. The only way one would learn about the actual exchange of words was to rely on the players' version once the game was over.

So what exactly do players say to opponents to crack their psyche? Here's a random sampling from the world of cricket sledging:

Australian wicket-keeper Rod Marsh, to English batsman Ian Botham: "So how's your wife and my kids?" The reply "The wife's fine, the kids are retarded"

Australian pace bowler Glenn McGrath to Zimbabwean Eddo Brandes after Brandes had played and missed at a McGrath delivery: "Oi, Brandes, why are you so f*****g fat?" to which Brandes replied: "Cos every time I f*** your wife she gives me a biscuit!" Apparently even the Australian slips were in hysterics.

In the 1980's Ian Botham returned early from a tour of Pakistan, and on radio joked "Pakistan is the sort of country to send your mother-in-law to." Needless to say the Pakistanis did not find this amusing, and when Pakistan defeated England in the 1992 World Cup Final, Aamer Sohail told Ian Botham "Why don't you send your mother-in-law out to play, she cannot do much worse."

Perhaps the most famous sledge is reported to have taken place during the epic World Cup Super Six clash between Australia and South Africa. South Africa looked on course to a routine victory with Australian captain Steve Waugh at the crease and on 56. At that stage, Waugh clipped the ball in the air straight to South African fielder Herschelle Gibbs. In his haste, Gibbs dropped the ball when attempting to throw it in the air in celebration as he had not fully controlled it. As he passed him, Waugh is said to have asked Gibbs: "How does it feel to have dropped the World Cup?” Waugh carried on to make an unbeaten 120 and Australia posted an unlikely win and won the World Cup a few days later. Waugh has denied that quote, instead claiming that he said "looks like you've dropped the match".

[Source: Wikipedia]

I find it somewhat unfair that while physical outbursts such as the one Zidane displayed are reason enough to penalize the player, verbal assaults, carried out repeatedly in the course of the play mostly go unheeded. This is not to condone physical attacks by the way. That's not done, and Zidane himself admitted that, apologizing to any children watching the game. However, is it a fair deal for players to use racial slurs (Zidane has been at the receiving end of such taunts throughout his career because of his Algerian roots) or tasteless personal insults to the point of provoking the opponent to extreme physical reaction? Not in my book. A little banter here and there never harmed anyone, but insults directed at one’s family or place of origin are downright offensive and unforgivable as far as I am concerned.

Isn't it ironical that while children are taught to cut back on swearing and verbal abuses all the time, adults get away with those same things on the sporting field? Agreed Zidane didn't set up such a fine example for budding soccer players, but did Materazzi set a better example either?

Why expend so much energy when even a glare followed by a real smart sporting move can do the trick?

, , , ,

12 Jul 2006

7/11, Mumbai, India

This isn't new for Mumbai citizens or for Indians in general. It still churns your stomach, however, to see visuals of mangled train coaches, disjointed limbs scattered amid the wreckage, and blood-splattered victims waiting for help.

For me, the enduring images following the blasts were these, though:

A boy hands water bottles to passengers passing by in vehicles on the day of the blast.

Image source: http://news.yahoo.com/photos

A lady providing water to commuters passing by.

image source: www.timesofindia.com

A young man donates blood at a Mumbai hospital on the day of the blast.

Image source: http://news.yahoo.com/photos

Children walk to school through the wreckage the morning after the blasts

Image source: http://news.yahoo.com/photos

Mumbaikars board local trains and get back to work the morning after the blasts.

Image source: http://news.yahoo.com/photos

11 minutes
8 blasts
200 dead
(and counting)
700 plus injured
One city

Please take a moment and light an e-candle by clicking this CNN-IBN link. For every candle lit (no money required), the news channel will donate a rupee toward the relief of the blast victims. Thanks.


7 Jul 2006

I never knew...

That our blogs had a dual, in some cases even a dubious identity. Presenting an anagarammatic version of the blogs listed on At Home, Writing. Enjoy the wacky, inane, intelligtent, perfect, outrageous second identities. I hope I covered all blogs linked here. Sorry if I missed any. Oh wait, maybe you are happy I missed yours!

At Home, Writing
sternest: Now irate might.

webuser: Of Chapters and Reels
sternest: Sharp, saner cold feet.

webuser: Hard to Want
sternest: To and wrath.

webuser: Musings
sternest: Smug sin.

webuser: While I am thinking of it
sternest: I'm a white-hot if inkling.

webuser: The Clarity of Night
sternest: Fetching, throatily.

webuser: Tales at Twilight
sternest: Little aghast wit.

webuser: An Innocent A Blog
sternest: Not. Cannibal gone.

webuser: Flash Flood
sternest: Shod of fall.

webuser: The Prose Nest
sternest: Sternest hope.

webuser: And nothing else matters
sternest: Handiest angel torments.

webuser: A reader's words
sternest: Swearers or add.

webuser: The Write thing
sternest: The tighter win.

webuser: Heaven tree
sternest: Veneer hate.

webuser: Kappa no he
sternest: Happen oak.

webuser: Lotus Reads
sternest: Lust adores.

webuser: Midnight Writings
sternest: Trim singing width.

webuser: Southern Expressions
sternest: Oh No! Sexiest spurners.

webuser: Peregrinas
sternest: Paris green.

webuser: Writer's Edge
sternest: Sweeter grid.

webuser: Fireflies in the cloud
sternest: Chief, fluent idoliser.

webuser: Jamieford.com
sternest: Major of medic.

webuser: John Baker's Blog
sternest: Blob gnash joker.

webuser: So you want to be a writer
sternest: Beauty! Traitors owe now.

webuser: Remaindered Random Musings
sternest: Domineering and mass-murder.

webuser: Blogdangit
sternest: It gang bold.

webuser: No rules. Just write.
sternest: Slow injure truest.

webuser: Enter the laughter
sternest: The gentle urethra.

webuser: A newbie's guide to publishing
sternest: Dubious weighting plebeians.

webuser: Bengali Literature
sternest: Alert able intrigue.

webuser: Cancer Mom
sternest: Corn cam me.

webuser: Abhinav Aima Rants
sternest: Aha! Vibrant manias.

webuser: In the Middle
sternest: The idle mind.

webuser: Benjamin Solah's Blog
sternest: Jam on slobbish angel.

webuser: Life as it happens
sternest: In filth appeases.

webuser: No rules. Just write
sternest: Slow injure truest.

webuser: Terrorism News
sternest: Sworn, merriest.

webuser: The empire falls
sternest: Fill sheep-tamer.

webuser: Stones in the field
sternest: Not idle heftiness.

webuser: Hot Diggity
sternest: Hog tidy git.

webuser: Outside my window
sternest: O My! Is wounded wit.

webuser: Shameless words
sternest: Wordless shames.

webuser: Writing after dark
sternest: Tawdrier king fart.

webuser: Writings and musings of Paul West
sternest: Satanists win powerful smudging.

sternest: Vend 'n' scenic 'n' vivid vend.

webuser: Blue Speckled eggs
sternest: Speckles leg debug.

webuser: Liv's life
sternest: I've fills.

webuser: Loving Twilight
sternest: Vigil light town.

webuser: Lima Beans and Delhi Chaat
sternest: Am headiest ball and chain.

And just in case you are wondering if I've had too much time on my hands lately, no, that's not the case. I am no anagram champion either. I was introduced to these hidden identities of our blogs here. So you see, I am not to blame!


4 Jul 2006

The Path to Walk on, by Rabindranath Tagore

This, indeed, is the path to walk on.

It has wound its way through the woods to the fields, through the fields to the riverbank, next to the banyan tree; then it courses its way through the villages. As it moves further, beside the lush fields, amid the shadows of the mango orchards, by the bank of the Padma River, I cannot tell in which village it would wind up.

So many people have passed by me on this path, some joining my company, others seen from afar; some with a veil over their heads, others without any; some walking to fetch water, others returning with water.


The day has retreated and darkness descends.

Once this path had seemed personal, intimately mine; now I see I carried a summon to walk on it just once, no more.

Past the lime trees, the pond, the riverbank, the cowsheds, the paddy mounds, the familiar glances, the known words, the acquainted circles, there won't be any returning to say "Hey there!"

This is the path to walk on, not one to return from.

This hazy evening, I turned back once and found the path to be an ode to many a forgotten footstep, all entwined in the notes of Bhairavi.

This path has summarized all the stories of all its travelers in a single dirt trail; the one track that traverses between sunrise and sunset, from one golden gate to another.


"Dear walking path, don't keep all the stories you have accumulated through the ages tied quietly into your dust strand. I am pressing my ears against your dust, whisper them to me."

The path remains silent, pointing its index finger toward the dark curtain of night.

"Dear walking path, where have the worries and desires of all the travelers gone?"

The mute path doesn't talk. It just lays down signals between sunrise and sunset.

"Dear walking path, the feet that embraced your bosom like a shower of wildflowers, are they nowhere today?"

Does the path know its end—where forgotten flowers and silent songs reach, where starlight illumines a Diwali of resplendent pain.

Translated by: Bhaswati Ghosh


1 Jul 2006

Connecting the Dots

Jason's Midnight Road contest--a marvelous feast of flash fiction--came to an end last Friday. Elisha Bridges bagged the top honours for the supernal entry, Jimmy Crick. There were four other winners, with excellent pieces to their credit. Congratulations to all the winners and runners up!

Be sure to check out the newest blogger interview at FlashFlood this Monday. It's the turn of Fringes, the author of the blog Life As A Sarcastic Fringehead, on the hot seat this time.

Scott shared his moment of glory a few days back, when he posted the news of his story, Damned Carnival, winning the first prize in a contest from among 80 participants. The win also leads him to his first publishing credit. Don't forget to applaud Scott on this fabulous accomplishment. Here's hoping this is the first in the line of many more publishing victories, Scott :)

Lisa's blog renovation coincided with her great interview of romance writer, Susan May Warren. In this delightful conversation, Warren shares her insights as a writer with a strong connection to Christian principles.

Happy weekend!
Related Posts with Thumbnails