Friday, June 5, 2015

Blowing my tiny trumpet

Okay, okay, I know I've gone MIA once again after pledging on my blog not to do that- umm, when was the last time I posted here? Bad, bad me! By the way, is it technically possible to go missing in action when no one's missing me? If I was a character on stage the only lines I would get to speak would be soliloquys, and that would be right after the audience had left.

So anyway, I don't remember when I last posted here and I haven't checked, but it has to be a while because I finished reading  Hosseini's 'The Kite-Runner' (finally), Arthur Golden's 'Memoirs of a Geisha', Jane Smiley's 'A Thousand Acres', Murakami's 'Kafka on the Shore' and 'After Dark'  in that time, and have also finished 'Asura-the tale of the Vanquished' by Anand Neelkantan. I've also come across this fascinating series called 'The Song of the Titans' by Patrick Adkins which is up next on my reading list, along with a lot more of Murakami, Hosseini as well as some Marquez. I also need to get back to Faye Kellerman's 'The Quality of Mercy' which I started reading and had to stop midway because life happened and so on and so forth. In other words, I'm a greedy bookworm and books are the only things that distract me from this insane heatwave we're having- my friends at Leeds, Kiel, Baltimore and Boston who cribbed about the weather throughout winter and spring are welcome to trade places with me. It did rain today, but it was mostly sound and fury. The clouds and the thunder promised so much, but vanished too soon. Sort of like my half-a-dozen incomplete stories with reasonably good beginnings.

On that cheerful note, it's time for the trumpet:
1. My poem 'The Rider' has been included in the 14th edition of 'The Art of Being Human' poetry anthology, which is up for preview and sale on here.
2. I had my piece titled 'Blood' published in the April edition of Flash Frontier. Please do read and share.
3. Finally, my poem 'The Land of Dreams' which was published by the now out of circulation First Edition magazine and the 'Shambelurking and other Stories' anthology has been reprinted by the kind and lovely people at 'Cats with Thumbs' and they've also included a short bio of mine with a headshot. You can download it for free at this link. Please do read and share. That's all for today, folks.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A short whine


So I missed a week. My 2nd week. Lucky there are no readers or it would set a bad precedent. And now let’s move on.
Theme for this week- should I be writing poetry? Am I any good or am I wasting my time? At 29, I’m fast approaching the Eliot line. Perhaps something inside me is dead, and I was never very prolific to begin with. But when I read poems on the web, I find something within me alive enough to be moved, and that is what I think is poetry. It should surprise by originality of thought, by language and style. It should move you. I begin to see now what Robert Graves meant. Poetry is an invocation to the goddess, to that spirit that transcends finite awareness of any dogma. It transcends reality, even when it is talking about real world events. The webzine Rattle has some good work up its pages. Happy reading.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Return of the Prodigal



Let’s not look at the date of my last post. I'm here now and I've got things to say. Well, honestly, I don't know why people would be interested to read my miserable whining about my completely messed up academic life, but I need to whine somewhere and the people I generally go to have a whine episode have gotten so tired of me that they have left the country. (It's true. One of them is busy sightseeing at Florence and eating Pino's sandwiches and truffled mushrooms and all sorts of exotically named food items. The other is sitting in Leeds and ignoring my whatsapp messages. ) And the person who's still around has stopped responding to my calls. He didn't even reply to my birthday wishes. Even though I actually got third time lucky and managed to wish him on the right date. He could have congratulated me on getting the date right, right? A little encouragement could help. I mean, I’m already neck-deep in trouble here, trying to fathom Jung. Don’t get me wrong there, I find Jung fascinating. It’s just that every time I try studying, I fall asleep. I think it’s my consciousness refusing to let me learn about stuff like shadow and animas and unconscious.
See, the thing about me is, I'm only an accidental academic. I was pretty sure I was never going have to study any more after my masters, but in an entirely unplanned turn of events, I ended up enrolling myself first for an M.Phil, and then for a Ph.D. And since then, writing has taken a backseat because there was always exams and write-ups to hand in for class and dissertations and papers. Well, that's what I tell myself, anyway. A good procrastinator always knows her excuses. 
But the point is, I'm back, turning a new leaf blah blah blah. I was going through parts of the odd 3 chapters I wrote for the one NaNoWriMo I participated in (way back in 2010), and it seemed to me it wasn't as terrible I thought it was at that time. I am musing on altering some of the plot lines there and pick it back up.
Also, I’m going to have a poem published in The Art of Being Human anthology, vol 14, theme insomnia. I believe it’s going to be a blurb book, not sure how I’m going to get a copy, but anyway, I’m going to keep you updated on that front.
See you next week, if you’re here at all. Fingers crossed.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Rape & Aftermath


The protests at India’s rape capital continue, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred the “macho” men of the nation.  Since the protests broke out, there have only been more reports of child-rape, gang-rape, rape and murder from all over the country. In the preceding week itself, there were two consecutive rapes in the town of Malda in West Bengal- on Wednesday evening a house-wife returning from her shopping was kidnapped by a few men in a car and gang-raped, the very next day- a 16 year old girl who was going to her aunt’s place was picked in a car at gun-point, taken to a hotel and raped through the night. The main accused, called Kalam Sheikh is apparently a student of a local college. He’s gone missing since then, but his family has been quick to pressurize the girl’s family to lift the complaint with an added benevolent gesture- an offer of marriage. And because there are no protests breaking out over these women, there has been no arrests made so far. All round, it’s all fair and lovely.
Here’s an article by Anjali Mehta, an eye-surgeon. I’m copy-pasting it because unfortunately, while there are laws to mark rape as a crime, and rapists as criminals, we as a population haven’t quite grasped a few basics. Here goes:
Fault lines
24 December 2012
Blaming women for the atrocities committed on them is nothing but a perverse denial that can extract a high social cost, writes anjali mehta 
One of my patients came for a check-up and we got talking. He was a man I thought highly of, therefore I was deeply saddened when he made the casual remark: “In more than 80 per cent cases it is the woman’s fault when she is molested.” I was too stunned to speak so sat in silence while he recounted how women ‘defy’ their parents and stay out late at night, hang out with boys, wear alluring clothes and so on. He explained that by this deviant and provocative behaviour women brought on all this sexual violence upon themselves.
When he finished speaking, I told him I would like to ask him three questions and he must give me a patient hearing and answer them. To his credit, he did.

Question 1:
 In a classroom, a teacher goes out for a few minutes. In the teacher’s absence, most students continue their studies quietly. One child is bored. He talks to his neighbours and tries to induce them to indulge in some mischief with him, but they continue studying and largely ignore him. Feeling left out and irritated that no one is joining in his pranks, this child then gets up and goes to the chalk box and starts throwing chalks at everyone. The class is disrupted .The teacher comes back and sees what is happening.
Should he counsel the boy who threw chalks or should he counsel the neighbours of the boy who did not agree to play pranks with him, leading to his resorting to chalk-throwing?
My patient answered that obviously the boy who threw the chalk should be counselled.
We both agreed that the person who commits the wrong act is the one who is at fault.

Question 2:
A very handsome young man comes out of a popular gymnasium in his cut-off T–shirt. His aquiline looks and well-toned body win him many admiring glances from women. Two girls who know him offer him a lift and he accepts. En-route, the girls stop at a house, pretending to collect something. Soon many women come out of the house and he is forcibly taken inside and his clothes removed and body admired. Till this point he is actually half-enjoying the attention and feeling he must be as irresistible as the men in the Axe ads. Suddenly, the women start touching him roughly. At this point he begins to feel uncomfortable and feels that things may be going too far. He protests, only to find that his refusal has enraged the women. Two of them have been abused in childhood and they feel this is a good opportunity to vent their frustration and anger at what happened some years ago. They thrash him soundly for not submitting to them and leave him lying there. He is greatly bruised all over, thoroughly bewildered and angry about what has happened to him.
Are the girls guilty in this case for molesting the boy or is it his fault for being good-looking and toning up his body to be more attractive to the opposite sex?
My patient answered that obviously it was the girls’ fault.
We both agreed again that the person who commits the wrong act is the one who is at fault.

Question 3:
Indians, like all races, admire beauty. As P B Shelley said ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’. Since mankind came into existence, beauty has been considered a highly desirable quality in humans. Statues are lovingly and skillfully carved, poems are written, paintings done, clothing and jewellery designed, all as an ode to beauty. Beautiful women (both external and internal beauty), have been the inspiration for many a creative soul. The same can be said of beautiful men. Earlier folks seemed to know just what to do with beauty. They took it in their stride; they handled it well. Now beauty is deemed a distraction by some; an evil quality meant to cause man to stray.
Should we hope and pray that all our children are born ugly? Should we dress up girls and boys in sack cloths so that the vulnerable and delicate minds of criminally-inclined people are not pushed over the edge? Or should adults be more responsible for their own thinking and (mature) actions?
My patient answered that he hoped most people grew up with healthy minds and attitudes.
We both agreed that adults should take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions and not use environmental justification for misdeeds. We both felt beauty ought to be admired and not destroyed.
When we blame somebody else, it is a way of absolving ourselves of any responsibility. Till the time people continue to feel that it is a girl who brings this upon herself, they will not feel any great motivation to participate in the issue. The truth is however, different. A wrong has been done, in front of our eyes and we must right it and prevent more wrongs. We must not be mute and silent witnesses to wrongful acts perpetrated in our presence. We have to work together to change things for the better. All must contribute their honest share and might. We must worry not only about our daughters when they stay out late; we need to worry equally when our sons stay out late, drinking and partying.
Yes, common sense dictates that people, especially girls, should not be out alone in the dark at night. Common sense dictates that women should move about in groups and not consume drinks offered to them by strangers at a party as they may be laced. Yes, they should not take lifts from men. However, it takes a very unfeeling and brutal mind to conclude that someone should pay for their momentary lack of judgement or common sense with their honour or their life.

A small note on the ending though:  Here’s the idea again. A woman once raped loses her ‘honour’. For rapes to stop, this is another concept that needs to change. Perhaps we should start at school? Teach them that a woman is as equal a human being as a man and not merely an embodiment of some abstract honour. Shuddhabrata Sengupta has an excellent article where he dwells on length on this subject, so do read.

Post-Script: Just to end the day:

3-yr-old raped in jungle, left to die

24 December 2012
BURDWAN, 24 DEC: A three-year-old child was raped inside a jungle at Katwa today. Some women who were collecting dried leaves in Kuldanga jungle  were alarmed by the barking of stray dogs. To their utter surprise they found a frantic girl child making her last-ditch bid to defend herself from the attacking dogs, lying without clothes on the ground. Her legs were tied up and she was bleeding profusely.
Mrs Sohagi Das of Parul village in Katwa said: “It was dreadful to see the child deserted by the hoodlums. We picked up the fallen branches of trees and hounded out the two dogs and picked up the child who couldn’t speak and was frightened.”
The women took the child home and informed police. The Additional Superintendent of Police, Mr Tarun Haldar, directed the child be taken to Katwa SD Hospital where she was given saline. The Chief Medical Officer of Burdwan, Dr Asit Baran Samanta, rushed to Katwa hospital to supervise treatment of the child.
Mr S M H Meerza, SP, Burdwan, said: “The child seems to be highly scared and is not in a position to speak. We will try to ascertain whether she can help us identify the accused.”
Mr Rabindranath Chatterjee, MLA, Katwa, said: “We have told police to nab the culprits immediately.” sns
 I can’t even begin to comprehend the minds behind such acts. This is sick on so many levels- where do I even begin? The rape of a three year old child, tying up her legs and leaving her to die a slow death…
A capital punishment is too easy for them.
And oh, if you’ve got suggestions to make about punishments for rape and sexual assault, send in your opinions here:
I suggest public, if non-violent shaming. And rigorous life-imprisonment where life isn’t just equal to 14 years or less.
More importantly, I want to live in a country where rapists are arrested without a whole city having to come down to the streets. The police shouldn’t be arresting criminals to placate the crowd. They should do it because they are supposed to. And no bails.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy New Year

I’m not much of a new year’s resolution person, you know, so I really don’t know what to say here. It’s not like I can’t think of anything to say- there are in fact a thousand promises I could make to myself, like I’ll try to be a little more organized, I’ll try to follow a routine, I’ll try to do this 2nd Tuesday blog every month (because I did such a splendid job last year) and of course, the usual suspect, I’ll try and exercise regularly and get fitter. But I’d rather not because my new year’s resolutions tend to fizzle out as the year gets older.
That is not to say that I’m not going to try all those things I mentioned above, I shall of course try to update my blog and write and study and do all those things or rather I am already trying to do all those things but I would rather not call them resolutions- they are changes I have been attempting to make for several months now and I would rather not use January 1 as a marker of any kind. It kind of feels like I jinx, you know.
Instead what I do say is I’ll try to take this year as it comes, embrace the good, learn from the bad, and not lose faith at rejections and losses. I had a good year in 2011. Perhaps all my wishes didn’t come true, but I also got dreams I hadn’t dreamt realized. Therefore in 2012 I just want do the best I can with myself and take everything that comes. And just randomly, I’ll end with a quotation that I like:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ― Rumi
And this blog, by the way, is part of the 2nd Tuesday Blog-hop.
Fellow Writers Blog Hop
©Ruchira Mandal

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Ether Author's WishList

I know, I know, it’s not Christmas yet it’s Halloween. I’m just impatient like that. So here goes my wish list in my capacity as an Ether Author (and other Ether authors are welcome to add their own suggestions).
For those who don’t know what an ‘Ether Author’ is (seriously, where have you been?) the term basically refers to a human individual who has a story/poem/essay etc. published as a free or paid (with a minimum)as a on the Ether App which is like your very own personalized pocket library available as a FREE download on your Apple gadgets. And if you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth:

Ether Books is a new and innovative mobile publisher, providing the very best short content direct to your mobile phone. We publish short fiction, articles, poetry and serials from both bestselling and emerging contemporary writers.
To enjoy your own personal library of ‘byte sized reads’ right now, go to the Apple App store to download our FREE application.
If you are a writer, you can submit your work directly to us through our online submission page. You can submit your work to us free or through our fast-track Silver Membership for only £25. Click here to find out more.


So now that we have settled that, can we finally start on my list? Thank you.
1. I know they’ve only just given us a content section, but as I am ever-greedy, I wish there was a separate page for each author with separate links we could tweet and put up in our blogs. Right now, if I click on the catalogue tab, it takes me to the feedback page, and then I have to keep hitting the ‘R’ button in the dropdown menu for writers, sort through a couple of Richards, three or four Rachels, several Rebeccas (no offence to you guys, by the way) and a Roy and a Ramola and a Rowena before it comes to my name which is 14th on the list of names beginning with ‘R’. So a separate author’s page with a list of stories with their summaries and genres, an option to download and a form to submit feedback would be kinda nice. And may be, if you don’t think it’s overkill, some of the feedback could show up too (not that I have any to flaunt, but still…)! Now to my 2nd wish…
2. This one is long overdue. It would be great to have the Ether App available on other gadgets, because with all respects to Steve Jobes) and may his soul rest in peace), not the whole world uses Apple, and that seriously limits our readership. So in the future I hope to see the Ether App on BBs & other smartphones, on PCs and laptops so that EVERYBODY can read our stories.
3. One gets three wishes, right? Well, what else does a writer want, except more readers? Please read my stories, people, I have three of them on Ether - & one of them is a free read (for a complete list, look under the ‘Read Me on the Go’ section on the right hand side of this page.) & send me your feedbacks.

Happy Reading, & Happy NaNoWriMo to those who are doing it this year.
©Ruchira Mandal

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Meera

-Why are you here?
-Why am I here? Is that all you can say? After all these years?
-I do not wish to remember.
-But you haven’t really forgotten, have you?
-
-Meera, please-
-Don’t call me Meera. I don’t have a name.
- … I’ve looked for you for so long—believe me, when you disappeared-
-You didn’t look for me.
-Oh yes I did. Listen, Meera-
-I’m not Meera. The girl called Meera died years and years ago- that wasn’t me. I didn’t disappear, I just wasn’t ever there. You searched for the wrong person- she’s dead, you hear me?
-I searched for you. You aren’t dead.
-I’m not her.
-Of course not. You are you. And it’s you I’ve been looking for, it’s you I want.
-Yes, as a replacement.
-No, as a sister.
-Sorry to disappoint. I’m nobody’s sister. I’m not the daughter of anybody’s parents. You, of all people should know that.
-You are my sister. That-that house you left, it’s as much your house as it’s mine. Let’s go home, Meera.
-You did so well till the last word.
-What do you- I- well... Look, if you don’t like that name, we can give you another. You can choose another name for yourself.
-You think rechristening me would change everything? I’ll truly become your sister? A true third daughter of your parents?
-But you are-
-No I’m not. I’m a clone created by a scientist named Meenakshi Sinha- the clone of her dead sister Meera who died at the age of ten in a laboratory accident.
-Don’t-
-Remind you? Don’t remind you of what, Meenakshi? That it was you who killed Meera?
-DON’T! I didn’t kill her… she-she walked into my lab when I wasn’t there. I should’ve locked-
-She went in there because you told her you had work to do in the laboratory.
-I… She wouldn’t ever leave me alone, always asking me questions, running after me, asking me to play with her… I was sixteen! … I think I locked the door, I always did, she must’ve found the spare key… I didn’t want her to die. I didn’t kill her.
- But your mother thought you did. Even you think you did, don’t you?
-Don’t remind me.
-But you haven’t really forgotten, have you?
-Stop, please stop- Meera.
-There’s no Meera here. There is no Meera anywhere; it’s time you understood that, Dr.Sinha. Making a genetic copy of your dead sister doesn’t bring her back. I’m not Meera, I’m just her clone. You had me fooled for all those years, you made me believe that I was really your sister, your mother’s daughter and it used to hurt when she would shirk away out of my presence, but I believed you when you said it was only because she was ill. That she was grieving over the death of our father- your father. But I know now- she was grieving over the daughter she lost as well as the husband who died from the shock. I know I’m not her daughter. And your mother knows that too and that is why she hates me so much. Even you know that- that’s why you sent me away to boarding school.
-You’re…
-Don’t you understand, Meenakshi? I’m eighteen years younger than Meera, I went to school with different people, I played games with different people, I’m a different person! I can’t be Meera, I can’t make your mother forgive you for your sister’s death, I can’t help you in making her sane and normal again. You may be a brilliant scientist, Meenakshi, but it’s time you gave up on me. Your experiment failed. I’m a failure. Forget me. Go home to mother. She needs you there. Stop wasting time on me.
-… It’s gotten dark. I’ll take the morning train. Can I spend the night?
-...
I suppose you can. I’ve got a spare mattress. And I’ll see if there’s something to make for dinner…it’s quite late! I didn’t notice.
-Yeah, funny how swiftly the dusk passes in the mountains- it takes you by surprise. In the plains, it’s slower; you can notice the change of light.
-Oh please, you notice the change of light? Did you ever look from your books out of the window?
-C’mon, I’m not that boring. We went to the water park once, remember? And another time we got on that giant cartwheel and… Umm, shall I help you with dinner?
-No thanks, I can manage… Doesn’t Mum take her medicine before going to bed? Did you tell the nurse?
-I…
-Well you can call home now, very poor signal up here though…. You shouldn’t have left her alone.
-Meera, umm, sorry, I don’t really know what to call you. I’ve called you by that name all my life…
-I better start with the cooking.
-She died last month.
-
-It was peaceful. She went in sleep. Towards the end, she would sometimes talk normally- for little spells, may be… and she wouldn’t talk much, but, still, she could recognize people, recognize me. She- forgave me. And once, a few days before… she asked me about ‘the little girl who looked so much like Meera’… I tried to find you, but-

-Minnie?
-It’s nice to hear you call me that.
-Did you look for me before that?
-Before when?
-Before she asked for me?
-Yes I did, I’ve been looking for you since the day you left, but-
-Why?
-Sorry?
-Why did you look for me? Why are you here?
- Because I missed you. Because I knew Mum missed you too, even if she couldn’t express herself. Because you are my sister.
-Am I? Really?
-Yes you are. I still miss the sister who died, but I came here to find you, not her. Believe me, Me-oh, sorry…
-Oh forget it. It’s weird getting a new name this late.
-We’ll get used to it. I don’t mind, you know, if you want a different name.
-It doesn’t matter. Not really.
©Ruchira Mandal
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I haven't written anything since I tumbled headlong into the mad, bad world of M.phil studies - Oh, yes, did I mention that I got through the admission test for an M.phil programme at quite a good Indian university? Ah well, I've done my happy dance and all that, but now I've got no time for writing. I tried to force myself back into practice by picking up some incomplete pieces but that didn't work out. So here am I again, back to the Fiction Friday prompts at Write Anything. This week's prompt was:
Write a scene using purely dialogue. Nothing else is allowed ( no attributions, narration, description, scene setting etc)

So, you know the rule. If you liked this- do comment- it will inspire me to write again. If you didn't like it, comment anyway. I t might teach me to write better. Thank you for reading.

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