Ganpati Bappa Morya 2017

I do one of these posts every year (here is last year’s), and since last year I have been on a mission to make the pooja less elaborate. The reasons are two-fold: firstly, I am tired a lot and the elaborate set ups, with fresh flowers, ghee and oil lamps, the separate idol for pooja, and more besides, take a LOT of effort; secondly, my heart has just not been in it since we lost Dad.

This year, mum and I decided to keep it small. “Small” though is a relative term. It turned out quite big, but after perusing last year’s post, I see that at least it was smaller than that one.

I didn’t have fresh flowers at all this time. No separate idol for pooja, and no paan leaf pooja either. I got rid of two of the oil lamps, and lit the candles only once a day. The entire process took half an hour less each in the morning and the evening, and honestly we didn’t even notice that it was reduced. So success, I guess. Next time, might well be substantially smaller than this year.

Here’s hoping. And a picture.

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To Be Or Not Be Famous

For the last couple of months, I have realised a public site for work is necessary. Since I am a writer by profession, I need to showcase samples and clips of my work, and also the different styles I am capable of tackling.

Usually, a prospective client asks for a blog link, and earlier I used to send my personal blog link (not this one) to them. But that was when I was rather young and green, and the blog posts reflected the turmoil and upheaval in my personal life far too much to be professional. Nowadays, I have a bigger body of work, but it is rather scattered. Some of it is on the web, so I send links, some of it is in print, so I have scanned copies of articles. There is just a whole mess of stuff.

I also briefly considered having another personal blog, but more public. I opened an account on Medium with the express intention of setting one up, but I couldn’t start typing. I have a compulsive nature sometimes, and the desire to have everything under one umbrella (at least the stuff that belongs together) is far too strong.

For a few weeks, I pondered the conundrum. How do I have a blog that straddles the line between personal and professional adequately? I cannot possibly rant about people in my life, and the behaviour which I find inexplicable over there. It is unprofessional. What if I somehow become well-known? *shudder* I am terrified someone will find THIS blog at all. I just don’t want the hassle.

Finally, I have put to bed the desire to have the blog at all. I will, at some point, set up a site with my work. That site will have stuff that is acceptable for other people to see and read. This one will continue to be my outlet for all things feelings and personal growth, at least for the time being. I need this space more than I could have realised. It is therapy for me.

At least, until I change my mind again.

Movie Review: Two Weeks Notice

It is a little sad that I feel guilty for watching a romantic comedy at all. It is harmless entertainment, and yes while it does suffer from all the ills of endemic Hollywood discrimination.. hm. One line after I admitted I shouldn’t feel guilty, here I am adding disclaimers for why I enjoyed this movie. Moving swiftly on!

Story: Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a highly-educated, do-gooder lawyer who lives in Brooklyn. George (Hugh Grant) is a wealthy businessman, with a tendency towards women, and a profoundly silly and kindly streak. He lives in a suite at the hotel he owns. Their lives couldn’t be further apart. That being said, he is a real estate tycoon, and she has a penchant for saving historic buildings from demolition. Their paths were going to cross eventually.

And so they do. She goes to him to save her neighbourhood community centre, and he just happens to be looking for a lawyer. He hires her, on her condition that the building be saved, and they begin working together. In less than a year, he comes to depend on her for almost everything. She slowly tires of this, and hands in her notice. And the rest of the movie takes off from there.

Review: The movie is eminently watchable. It is funny, has a little heart, is extremely predictable, has no diversity, and is a good palate cleanse from other heavy duty entertainment. *cough* Game of Thrones *cough* There are no mental gymnastics to understand the story; there aren’t parallel undercurrents of storylines; the cinematography and the CGI is non-existent, and therefore doesn’t move into your mindspace. In short, it is cerebrally-easy movie to watch.

Story: The story is straightforward. No surprises at all. AT. ALL. It moves smoothly from scene to scene, with scarcely a hitch. Some of the premises are farfetched, and clearly designed to keep the movie moving forward, but that’s expected.

Characters: Ordinary characters. The fiery lawyer, champion of all things downtrodden. The slightly goofy, charming, handsome tycoon, generous to a fault and somewhat puppy-like in his quest for love. And the supporting cast of disapproving mother, proud father, practical brother, snotty sister-in-law, slightly slimy junior, and the perky usurper.

All strictly one-dimensional and therefore easy to understand.

Acting: Hugh Grant is the same in all his movies. Funny, charming, utterly butterly handsome. I have to wonder whether the man isn’t just like that in real life, and he sort of saunters onto a set, learns a few lines, and behaves as normal.

The others were all right. Nothing extraordinary.

What I liked: If it wasn’t clear by this point, I enjoyed the ease of this movie. Other than that, I love feel-good movies with little investment of mental acuity. But more than that, I liked the little moments of togetherness woven into the tale. I loved the comfort level depicted of two people practically living together every day. And I loved George’s quips and quirky sense of humour, so the writing was pretty good on that front.

What I disliked: Nothing in particular that leaps to mind. I do wish they had more diversity in a natural setting, but it really doesn’t matter too much either way.

Rating: ✩✩✩

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Social Media Break

I’ve been feeling rather disgruntled of late, and I’ve been trying to turn that feeling around by figuring out the cause. And as I see it, I see multiple reasons, but the fundamental cause is that I feel unproductive and stagnant.

There are several contributing factors to the stagnation: one is the lack of drive work-wise; another is the breaks in my exercise regime; and finally one is the crippling lack of growth. I would like to fix all these issues, and do so well. I usually get quite excited around the beginning of a month, seeing it as a fresh dawn to make positive changes. I make massive lists and set goals, and every time I see myself failing to reach my targets. This has led to all new disappointment.

Each time I tell myself it will be different. I will write those blog posts; I will read a book a week; I will lose 3 kilos this month. But the inertia sets in when I get distracted, and I lose my drive.

The biggest factor in this loss of drive is Facebook. I see people travelling (which I want to do), raising families (which I don’t want to do), learning new skills (which I want to do desperately), and scaling new heights (which will come in its own time). I see people pushing their personal boundaries and growing, and I find myself stagnating. And I hate it. I feel the misery growing, and becoming a block to all productivity and positivity all around.

Not this time. September 2017 will be the beginning of the wholesale change I will wreak in my life. And the first step towards that is to shut out Facebook. I gave up Twitter a long time ago, because it became too much for me to handle. But Facebook is an addiction that I need to extricate myself from. I had already disabled notifications on my phone, but now I will uninstall the apps too.

So the big changes in my life will start with this one small step: no more Facebook.

Performance Issues

I am a chronic worrier. I let anxiety bog me down every step of the way. Questions like: “Should I do this?”; “What will happen if I do that?”; and “Oh my god, what will happen if I don’t?!” dog every move I make. It HAS become easier as I’ve grown older, but not because the self-doubts have gone away, but more because I’ve found the mute button.

It happens with every new project. When I’m speaking to a client for the first time, the ideas flow uninhibited. I find creative solutions without thinking too much, and the conversation is sparkling. At this point, it is a purely academic discussion. Contracts haven’t been exchanged, work hasn’t begun, and everyone is still feeling everyone else out.

It is my perfect place. Because, anxiety doesn’t assail me when I have nothing to do, and I have made no commitments. Once the contract starts though, it is a whole other ballgame. I freeze.

It is the classic blank page freeze. I don’t know where to start, so I put it off. When I do make a start, the research I do points me in an unknown direction. I have to learn new stuff. Timelines start to draw closer, and I panic. The panic exhausts me, and I start feeling ill. The illness makes my head fuzzy, and I can’t work. More panic sets in, and I am left weeping quietly in the corner, feeling utterly overwhelmed and out of my depth. And everything spirals out of control.

Finally, because I have no other choice, I screw up my eyes and just start working. No research, no learning, just work. When I have finished a first draft, the panic subsides slightly. When I start refining it, and come up with a better second draft, the panic subsides some more. And finally, when I do the research, and fill in all the gaps, the panic goes away entirely.

I seem to have found a way to cope, but I wish it wasn’t when I am pushed up implacably against a deadline, and sinking or swimming are the only two options in front of me.

You’re Not Supposed To Be Invincible

As a writer and editor, my vocabulary skills are fairly well-developed. However, I wouldn’t say they were absolutely at the pinnacle of achievement. I haven’t got the best vocabulary in the world, and I doubt anyone will till such time as Stephen Fry is still alive and kicking. The man’s repertoire and eloquence is staggering.

I would say that my vocabulary was moderately good from rather a young age, say from my burgeoning teenage years. I read quite a bit back then, although it was mostly novels. Nowadays, I have more of an eclectic reading palette: history, biographies, philosophy, and more. Each book adds another voice to my head, or polishes off a dusty facet from an existing one. Ultimately, reading is what made me a writer.

Now that I have done trumpeting my abilities, [and strongly resisting the urge to add disclaimers everywhere] I recall a conversation I had with a colleague recently. He was asking how one was supposed to know how to correctly pronounce words, if they were new to him. He then went into a tirade about how complicated English was. Before I could reply, another colleague joined us, and she caught the tail end of the tirade. She mostly agreed, because as an aspiring writer herself, she felt double the pressure to be word perfect each time.

She narrated an instance where her ex-boyfriend mocked her for mispronouncing a word. She learned speedily enough that pronunciation was everything. Much like I had thought, many years previously.

When I was at school, I had a friend who was incredibly smart. When I say ‘smart’, I mean genius-level. She topped at everything she did: school work, ballet, and art are a few of the fields I can actually recall. I was a shy kid, with positive vibes and confused at best. I was intelligent, and I occasionally still show sparks of this mystical ability, but overall I spent more time confused than otherwise. I didn’t have her staggering vocabulary, but she made me feel awful if I ventured to ask for explanations of the big words she used. I learned to sew my mouth shut, because mockery was hardly a desirable outcome for a preteen.

It took me years to grow out of that insecurity, although she wasn’t the first or the last person to make me feel inadequate for simply not knowing something. Today, I stand a very different person altogether, and I have learned to be proud of being able to ask if I don’t know something. Because it means I have grown, and I am human.

I didn’t say all of this to my colleagues though, even as the thoughts flashed in my mind. I did however say that it was ok not to know all the words; or to mispronounce them. Language is a vehicle for communication, and providing the person in front understands what you mean, your words are successful. That’s the most important point.

Secondly, mispronouncing a word, but using it correctly, means you understands its import. Also, it means that you learned it while reading. A habit usually adopted by intelligent people.

Thirdly, most linguists and passionate lovers of language will say that language continuously evolves. It is only idiotic prescriptivists that nitpick flaws.

Finally, and on a more philosophical train of thought, no one is meant to be invincible or perfect. If we didn’t make mistakes, we would hardly be human would we?

Movie Review: Beauty And The Beast

I missed the juggernaut that was Disney’s reboot of Beauty and the Beast earlier this year. There are many reasons why we stopped going to movie theatres, but the chief one was that it was a thing my family did together. And without dad, it feels weird.

Having said that though, dad would have HATED this movie. Mainly because he was a pain that didn’t like animated features, fantasy movies, historical ones, and a multitude of other equally specific movies. His reasons were ridiculous, and I don’t even remember what they were as a result. But yes, I would have missed the theatre-version of this movie either way, and well, I’m rather grateful for that overall.

Story: I don’t think I really need to outline the story for Beauty and the Beast. The departures from the original Disney animation are scarce, and those appear to have been done to make the movie acceptable in a new century. [I know it isn’t that far off; I’m being dramatic.]

Review: Somehow, I altogether missed the fact that this movie is a MUSICAL! Now, lest anyone think I am an abomination, I am not all that keen on music. I like music, but find that the music blurs out words for me. So when I have to follow an entire movie in song and verse, I lose out on plot points and in-jokes. Not that I always catch them, but still I feel at a disadvantage because I tune out music.

Having said that, it is a beautiful movie, and the art direction is exquisite. I confess to being bored in bits, but that the fault of the songs [and my reaction to them] rather than the movie itself. I did find that there were some superfluous elements, which I will get to shortly.

Story: There are few changes to the previous movie, as I said before. In this case though, Belle is an only child of a doting father. She is portrayed as adventurous, and chafing at the monotony of provincial village life. The other major departure was the attempt to address the issue of Stockholm syndrome. Not quite successful as attempts go, but commendable effort nevertheless. There is the new element of an evil admirer, who is vain to a fault and delights in the misery of others. But then again, this is a children’s movie, so I imagine subtlety isn’t a criterion.

Characters: Mostly caricatured and one-dimensional. Shockingly for a Hollywood movie, the most fleshed-out character is that of Belle. She comes across as strong, intelligent, and capable. She makes her own decisions, and has tremendous courage. I loved her. Of the others, I liked Lumière most. Mainly because Ewan McGregor, but there you go.

Acting: Over the top performances, except for Emma Watson, who is a delight.

What I liked: Art direction, Emma Watson, a wonderful horse, and exquisite sets.

What I disliked: It was boring for me, but like I said before, this is probably more a reflection on me rather than the movie. Also wasn’t keen on it being a musical.

Rating: ✩✩

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