For the love of the written word…

This is a special day. This day, 10 years ago, I began a journey that became one of the most important journeys in my life. What began as a protected blog under the name of “A Space of One’s Own” evolved to what it is today. I’ve blogged under my real name, moved on to a pseudonym, slowed down, written furiously, then slowed down again, and even considered quitting. Yet, this space is something I could never complete let go of.

The journey that I began ten years ago has been adventurous, exciting, depressing, and difficult at the same time. Yet, I’ve never really felt the need to stop or turn around. Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s a need to express things I wouldn’t dare speak about in person. Whatever it is, it’s an important part of not just my life, but a part of my growing up.

As a 24-year old, I was idealistic, full of zeal. I wanted to change the world and believed that my writing had the power to do so. I wrote furiously, and with a frankness than amazes even me when I re-read those posts a decade hence. I wrote in sheer outrage around what’s happening in the world around me. I wrote, because I didn’t know any other way.

As time passed, my blog evolved. From speaking of politics and society, of the ills that we face and the injustices of life, it evolved into something more personal. It gradually became a refuge from the world. A place where I could cherish the small things, and speak of things close to my heart. Of art and literature. Of love and life. Of desire and longing.

Today, ten years older, and slightly more mature, I no longer blog because I’m outraged. I no longer react as spontaneously to news or happenings around me. I watch, I wait. I observe and analyse. And most of the time, I choose not to speak. I don’t speak because I feel I have nothing to contribute that hasn’t already been said a million times over. If I do feel like adding something, the 140 characters usually suffice. I find today, as I look back over my journey, that my blog’s tone and content is actually a reflection of how I have evolved as a person. And I am happy to say that it’s no longer the quantity, but the honesty and the intensity of my writing that’s become important.

Here’s to the next decade of writing. May this love for the written word never fade!

On Day 7…

…it gets more difficult than ever to find something to blog about every day. I have very often let my thoughts flow through words as I type or write, but when it comes to actually publishing on the blog, I suddenly seem to become a lot more cautious.
In other news, I watched Kalyaana Samayal Saadham today. A breezy entertainer that tackles a serious issue in the most light-hearted manner possible, it touched my heart. Admittedly, it’s not the best movie ever made, but there was something about it that made me relate to it. The setting, the upper middle class Tambrahm society to which we belong, Meera’s rebellious streak…I loved them all. Perhaps I’ll come up with a full-fledged review a bit later.
That’s all for today. See you tomorrow, hopefully with more things to talk about.

Resurrecting a blog

This day, seven years ago, I began to put down my words on paper (or screen). As this blog turns 7, I begin to wonder when and why I simply stopped writing. Was it when I ran out of things to say? Or was it when I simply found other means of expressing myself? Was it, as some of my friends say, when I found other things to do with my life and my time? Today is as good a day as any other to reflect on these questions in the hope that discovering answers to them will spur me on to becoming a better and more prolific writer.

This blog has surely seen better days, with opinions expressed, debates raging on in the comments columns and interaction being a given, rather than a possibility. But somewhere along the way, I lost track. I stopped writing as frequently as I used to and my readers lost patience with me and gave up on my ability to turn out posts worth reading. There was a time when I obsessed about page views, visitor stats and the like. Today, I find that none of these actually matter. It no longer matters to me if someone is reading what I write, although I do appreciate the odd comment that comes my way.

Much reflection and analysis later, I also discovered that I had stopped writing precisely because this blog was acquiring more and more readers. While it remains a pleasure to know that people are reading and appreciating what I write, I began to get more conscious of my writing when I met people in real life who began to discuss my blog. Ok. Let me get this out! I simply don’t like discussing the contents of my blog in real life. I am fine with interactions through comments and email, but confront me in person on something I have said on my blog and I get uncomfortable. Not that I am a shy person, far from it. But, there seems to be some kind of mental block in mixing my online life with my offline one. I certainly have friends who belong to both worlds, but not everyone makes that crossover as easily. In addition, I often find myself hesitating about posting something on my blog because I am concerned about the reaction of those on Facebook who might come across the post and have something to say. It didn’t help that my blog feeds were automatically synchronised with my Facebook timeline.

And then, one day, it came to me completely out of the blue. It was now time for me dissociate my personal identity from that of my blog. While this was in no way an attempt to become anonymous, it was an important step in my evolution as a blogger. So, with renewed determination, I set about the task of giving this blog a new identity distinct from that of it’s owner. I created a Facebook page for the Accidental Writer. I stopped the synchronisation of my blog with my FB profile. I decided to take it slowly and publish manual updates rather than allow automated feeds. It already feels better to know that my blogposts will be judged on their merit and not as something written by Amrutha. I don’t know if this experiment will succeed. But, whatever it is, the deed is done.

Now, the Accidental Writer has been officially resurrected. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This is the second post in 10 days, which is more than I can claim to have done in the last two years. I am crossing my fingers and hoping this trend continues. And that one day, my readers come back to this blog knowing that it offers them something worth their while. Until then, I will continue to write. Because that’s what I know to do best!

Writing…

…is therapeutic. It relieves me of frustrations because you learn to verbalize the frustration. Writing is cathartic and gives me release in a world where I would otherwise watch every word I utter. I began to write fairly late in life, when I realized that I had much to say and no way to make myself heard. One fine day in October, seven years ago, I discovered that there was indeed a way of making myself heard. That is when I began to write. What began as an intimate diary open only to invited readers has today assumed a life of it’s own; an identity that is slowly becoming distinct from my personal one.

Writing helps me think clearly. Writing makes me a better person.Writing gives me something to do with all the million thoughts that swim around in my head trying to tumble out in the form of words. Sometimes, I succeed in building a coherent stream of thought. At other times, these words remains log-jammed in my head, much like vehicles in a traffic jam trying to get ahead of one another and remaining all stuck in one place.On such days, I wish I could spew out random words just to rid my brain of all the unwanted and pointless thoughts that crowd out precious thinking space in my brain. Sometimes, I just let it be and end up sleeping over it, only to wake up with a head full of random dreams that I can make no sense of.

This reminds me of the free writing exercise we used to do in English class in college. Mrs. Jasper used to ask us to write whatever came to our mind, unmindful of grammar and syntax, spelling and coherence for a certain duration. Sometimes, this was as short as a minute and sometimes as long as ten. This exercise unfailingly lightened the burden on my mind. Every single time. I still do it on a sheet of paper when my mind is full of things. On that note, this also reminds me that I have stopped writing. I don’t know why or in what circumstances I actually stopped putting my words to paper (or screen), but I do know that it is roughly around this time that I actually started changing as a person; and not necessarily for the better.

A good friend, over a casual chat over 2 years ago pointed out: “Amrutha, your mind is so full of things. Just give it some rest, will you?” I shrugged off his comment and didn’t give much thought to it then. Now, I wonder if he was right. I wonder if I should just give my mind some rest and take it easy. And I also wonder if beginning to write again will help me accomplish that. I do not know. I can only hope to find out one day!

And am back!

I have been missing for over a month now, and in my opinion, with good reason! This is probably the first real unforced blogging break I have taken in my 5-year old blogging career. That’s right. Five years is a long time, isn’t it? Since my break coincided with my bloggy birthday, I didn’t even blog on that day. October 16, five years ago, I was bitten by the blogging bug! I have a special relationship with my blog. I blog when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am frustrated, when I am angry. But very rarely do I blog when I really have nothing to complain about, brag about, crib about or rant about. Today, I am doing exactly that, perhaps for the first time in five years.

This month has gone by in a flash. I don’t even remember what exactly happened in this time, what with the wedding, the honeymoon, the house visits, and the second reception. Just when I was getting used to the idea of being married, I was back at work and drowning in an ocean of work! Sigh! A girl can’t even take a decent break and enjoy the first month of marriage! Such is life! The only thing I do remember of the last month is that there were rains, rains and more rains.

You see, I share a rather special relationship with the rains. The rain gods seem to want to participate in every event in my life. It rained when I was born. Oh, sorry! It poured buckets and the entire city was flooded the day I was born. Twenty nine years later, my mother still recounts the horror story to all and sundry. It rained on my first birthday as well apparently. Actually, it rains practically every birthday. A bit difficult to escape that seeing as I was born in October! More recently, the rains decided to grace the earth with their presence the day I left home for the first time to go to France. Again, it rained the day I joined my first (and current) job. I don’t remember a single landmark event in my life where rain was absent.

Being such a beloved child of the God of rain, any wonder then that it rained on my wedding day? The day dawned bright. Actually, my wedding happened when the day was just dawning. But, it seemed a bright and sunny day like any other. The wedding ceremony ended around 6 and we were spared some time to rest. The next thing we know is that the skies are darkening, 7 AM resembles night and that the skies have opened up and it’s pouring! Whatever happened suddenly? A lot of people called in to say they were stuck at home (or on the road in one case) because of the sudden and heavy downpour. Divine benediction maybe?

Anyway, after a self-imposed blogging break of over a month, I am back. As I have frequently promised in the past, I hope to be slightly more regular at blogging that in the past few months. Anyway, until then….ciao!

Literature? Or not?

A few days ago, I came across these two posts by Jai Arjun. Both are rather old posts, but the issues raised in them are still pertinent, especially in the context of the reading bug that has bitten me since the beginning of the year. Now, I am not expert in literature, but I do read rather a lot. My taste in reading ranges from Jeffrey Archer to Salman Rushdie to Paulo Coelho, and I don’t mind experimenting with books. Jai Arjun’s posts set me thinking on what books are deemed read-worthy and what are not. Personally, I would, as I admitted read any book once. If I like the genre and find the author even remotely interesting, I’ll probably read the second or the third. The first link is on the end of pretension in publishing. While discussing the democratization of publishing in India, he says that literary critics often tend to lose sight of the possible directions Indian Writing in English could take in the coming years. I agree that literary critics, especially those who critic for a living tend to be rather partial to what might be termed as literary works. But, beyond the obvious definition of literature to most lay minds as serious, even boring writing, the second post on literature being often considered as “pseudo-intellectual” provided much food for thought.

As a student of literature, I tend to agree that much of what we considered worthy of being classified as literature is serious writing. Rarely, if ever, is any book on the recommended reading list of a literature student unless it wins some sort of award. I also distinctly remember cribbing that Midnight’s Children was eminently unreadable despite having won the Booker of Bookers. I also remember telling a friend that no matter how interesting the style, it just did not cut it for me because it did not manage to hold my attention the way a lot of serious literary works have in the past. I also plead guilty to considering books by Chetan Bhagat and the likes of him (referred to by Jai Arjun as dude-lit fiction) as nothing more than pulp fiction. While I enjoy the occasional chick-lit, Devil wears Prada-type fiction, I really wouldn’t consider adding it to my must-read list. I suppose the authors Jai Arjun interviews would consider me a bit of an intellectual snob! And I plead guilty. While I don’t belong to that group of people who wouldn’t go near a Chetan Bhagat book with a ten-foot barge pole, I also don’t think he is worth discussing or taking seriously by anyone who really loves books. The other extreme that Jai Arjun talks of is even more interesting. This equating of literary fiction with pseudo-intellectual and therefore boring, is also something that I disagree with. A lot of literature is extremely interesting. One of my favourite books is not even a novel: it is a play. Andromache by Jean Racine is the one book I have read again and again over the past 5 years and it is not even in modern French. It belongs to the 17th Century and there is something so appealing about it that even 300 years later, there is someone who finds it interesting.

What I find intriguing, and perhaps even a wee bit distressing, is that authors would want their books to be priced low because it shouldn’t eat into the going-out-with-girlfriend-to-coffee-day-budget! And even more distressing is the intention behind writing easy-to-read books: sells thousands of copies, make a lot of money! I agree that a lot of people do not read because they find it too boring to read. I also agree that the likes of Chetan Bhagat have brought the reading habit to people who wouldn’t have touched a book in their lives without a gun held to their heads. But, this trend of writing books just to make a quick buck is something I will never be able to understand or empathize with. I want to write a book some day. I don’t know if this is going to be fiction or non-fiction, humorous or serious, literary or pulp fiction. But, I do know that when that happens, how many copies my book sells will be the last thing on my mind. Much like writing a blogpost, I will be happy if just one other person in this world (apart from my publisher and editor of course) took the trouble to read the book and give me feedback. Maybe because, for some of us, writing is not a profession, it is a passion. Pardon me if I am being ranting right now because the idea of equating books to cup of coffee with girlfriend, as some of the writers themselves seem to be doing, is too much for me to take. And yes, if I have a thousand extra bucks to spend, I’ll probably spend it on books rather than on coffee….unless am having coffee with someone like Ameen Merchant! 😀

The accidental writer…

A new year…a new beginning. Just as a new year often signifies a new beginning, it has, this time, signified the birth of my brand new URL. For long, I have been toying with the idea of migrating away from my existing domain amruthaupendran.com. Not that I have anything against my name, but that I think it’s time to detach myself from this and give this space it’s very own identity. Before you ask, of course this is going to continue to be a personal blog. And no, I am not planning to go anonymous. As I mentioned sometime back, the decision to blog under my real name was taken when I had no idea that it was even possible to stay anonymous and still be widely-read. After 4 long years, I will not go back on that decision now.

As I was contemplating the new URL, it struck me that I am a blogger, a writer, entirely by accident. Over a casual conversation, the suggestion to start a blog came to me. And I registered my first blog on blogger with an air of someone doing it out of sheer boredom. And then, something happened. As I wrote, I realized that this is what I truly wanted. I realized that this blog was getting to be my personal rant-space. Slowly but surely, I began to take myself, and my writing more seriously. Since then, there has been no looking back. The process of migrating to a new domain has been alarmingly simple. I wonder if something is going to break down somewhere. If it does, please do let me know at the earliest, so that I can do my bit of fire-fighting.

Enough said! It is with a sense of accomplishment and pride, that I present before each of you, my new URL. Please do leave a comment, write to me, send me an FB message, DM me on Twitter or call me to tell me what you think of it. Until next time…ciao!

The mandatory end-of-year post!

“2010 was” is a hashtag that is trending right now on Twitter. But I honestly don’t know what 2010 was for me. It certainly was a learning experience, as every minute is. But it was also a year when I rediscovered myself. It was a year when I felt alternatively on top of the world and in the depths of despair. At the end of every year, life affords us a choice: look back and regret, or look forward and plan. Right now, I feel like doing neither. I know today is December 31 and a few hours ahead, our friends in Kiribati (or is it some other Pacific island?) will welcome the New Year in all pomp and splendor. But I also know that like many other things, it’s just a date. So, on this date (like any other) I choose to think about what I learnt.

1. This year I learnt that love and hate are just two sides of a coin. I learnt that the more you love someone, the more likely you are to hate that person. I learnt that this holds true irrespective of the relationship you share with him/her.

2. This year I learnt that some things are better left unsaid. I learnt that silences speak better than words, especially in situations where words cannot convey what eyes can. I also learnt that those who really love you will read and understand the language of the eyes and that those who don’t are not worth your while anyway.

3. This year I learnt that like love, friendships can be made instantly. I also learnt that unlike falling out of love, the break of friendship can also be brutally abrupt and sudden. I learnt that it is always possible to survive that break of friendship because ultimately you’re all you have.

4. This year I learnt that some experiences, however painful can be cathartic and help you overcome a pain you never knew existed.

5. This year I learnt that age is just a number. Having celebrated my 28 years of existence, I feel more beautiful and vibrant than I did ten years ago. I learnt that the number of years you’ve walked this earth has nothing to do with who you are and how people perceive you.

6. On that note, I learnt that I still have three years to go to be at my most attractive because apparently, women are at sexiest at 31! 😉 And, if you’re the one who said it, please remember that that was the greatest compliment I’ve ever received!

7. This year I learnt to never say no to any experience because it might just be the most wonderful you’ve ever had in life! I also learnt that sometimes you just need to throw caution to the winds and live your life for what it is worth.

8. And finally, this year I learnt that I love to receive compliments and that they actually make me a nicer person, more beautiful, happier and most contented with life!

So, on this note, what did you learn? Did you too, like me, learn that some things in life should never be compromised and that some others should be discarded because we longer have any use of them? And finally, if you’re reading this, kindly de-lurk. I would love to know who my readers are!

Reasons to write

With 83 posts in 2007, steadily declining to a measly 16 (now 17) in 2010, I decided to make a New Year resolution: to post at least once every two days. Now, all of us make such irrational and impulsive resolutions at the end of the year, more out of desperation than any measure of sanity. But the point is I want to write. I want to be slightly more prolific than I have been this past year. I realize that my blogging break is more because I have slacked off and not bothered to keep myself abreast of happenings around the world, than because of any genuine problem with writing.

But, that’s not what this post is about. I, like the big-mouth fool I am, decided to share this resolution with the world on Facebook. Now, you might ask me if I am not being a bigger fool by sharing it with the world outside Facebook by writing about it on my blog. The answer is most probably a yes! But again, this is my space and I will say what I want. So, to get back to the point, I shared this with friends on Facebook. The term “friend” is probably not the most appropriate here, but that’s another post for another day. Within seconds of my posting the status, one commented asking me to take a complete blogging break, and get out to meet the “real” world and make “real” friends, see people with “real” faces and have some “real” fun! Another promptly commented saying he completely agreed with the first: which is what brings me to the purpose of this post.

I don’t understand why so many people confuse blogging with social networking. If I can stay connected with people on Facebook or Orkut or LinkedIn 24/7, why can I not blog with as much passion? Why is blogging considered such a waste of time that I get random advice about stepping out into the real world? I have mentioned in the past that writing for me is about expressing ideas, feelings, thoughts and desires. That writing is a creative outlet that keeps me happy and satisfied. I have also said that by choosing to blog under my real name and by linking my blog to my accounts in Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, I am probably risking censure and slander. But the very fact that I am still at it, four years on, is an indication of how much this really means to me.

I don’t write for people to read and comment. I find comments and discussion extremely stimulating and would love to respond and interact if people chose to comment. But I don’t write expecting people to leave all else and follow my blog. I don’t look at my blog as a social networking tool that will permit me to make friends in the virtual world. Of the 280-odd friends on my friends’ list on FB, there are probably just a couple whom I have never met. Also, the fact that I have never met them does not make them any less “real” or the friendship any less important. Friendships made in the virtual world can be as stimulating as those made in real life. I write because I feel like expressing myself. I run a blog because it gives me a platform to publish those writings, which would otherwise remain unread and unnoticed.

I can’t reiterate this enough. My blog is my every own personal space. It is my sacred haven and my refuge. I choose to share it with those who care enough to read. But, a world outside also exists. I also have friends and family in the real world. I also do fun things like singing, dancing, attending concerts, going to lunches and dinners and discussing a range of topics with those I meet. Am I being unreasonable and unrealistic in expecting people to understand this simple fact? I honestly have no answer to that question. All I know is, I will write no matter what anybody says or does. I will write because it means something to me. I don’t promise to publish 15 times a month like I resolved for New Year, but I will certainly try to be a little more prolific that in the past few months. Until next time, have fun and celebrate the coming of a very happy new year!

This day…

…four years ago, I gave in to Sankhya’s persuasion and announced that I was starting a blog. My first post is an embarrassment. But somehow, over time, this blog became my very own personal space; a space where I could rant and rave, a place where I could express my hopes, my fears, my desires, without fear of censure or criticism. I have often considered deleting this blog due to that nagging feeling that too much of me is available publicly. But, each time such a urge surfaces, I successfully fight it, because I know that there is nothing that I have said on this blog of which I need to be ashamed.

Even faced with a rather frustrating writer’s block for nearly over a month now, I have retained hopes that this blog will not die unnoticed. I have managed to keep checking it every few days for updates, comments, plugin maintenance and so on. Somehow, this has become so much a part of my life that it is hard to imagine myself without writing. Some time back, I had published a post on why I write. Today, I honestly don’t know. Somewhere along the line, I have become lethargic, pessimistic, and negative. The desire to write, to read, to publish has dimmed. So much so that I couldn’t care less about this any more. But this morning, when I woke up, there was only one thought in my head: about how much time and effort I had put in to sustain this blog, about how much it meant to me at one point. I told myself this morning that I would publish today, even if it was just a few seconds before midnight. And I intend to keep this promise. I also promise that I will be more regular henceforth. Not for anyone else, but for me. Pessimism, cynicism and negativism have no place in my life. I intend to go back to being the same bubbly self of the last 28 years. And my writing keeps me happy, creatively satisfied and motivated. I have no intentions of giving that up.

With this promise to myself, I will sign off now. A new template and a bit more colour is promised soon enough. Until then…it’s never adieu. Just au revoir!