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Reading and Writing in Year 2016



The year has just past by. Another year, another life, another sigh, another teardrop for the giant eye of the time.


Many things can happen in an year. Lives can change- a country's life, an individual's life. How does one day differ from another? Does the tide turn, the Earth revolves in another direction? It is a psychological peg we devise to measure our journey. To measure how far we have traversed from where we started. Did we travel farther than others that we measure against? It sounds such narrow-minded to measure ourselves against others around us, but what other way do we have?

This competition make us going, while in our heart of heart we know it will all end into nothing- cipher, a zero and only solace we will have, will be an unproven promise of afterlife. But as spaces around us reduce, shoulders rub against one another, we barely breathe, we sigh, long sighs, as if they would some day grow so big to swallow our whole lives.

We need friends, camaraderie, non-competing acquaintances. Friends in front of whom, we may become nothing, become our broken selves and not be judged, not be measured. Our bald heads, our protruding midriff, our awkward courtesies are adored and not looked down at with disdain.

That's why I have come to discover two things in life- Long-distance running and literature. Both are to a great extent non-competing indulgences. Those who do not practice these will not consider them thus. Both are pretty unforgiving exercises. Cruel, lonely practices both and while doing both, a part of you bleeds, something beyond and beneath the flesh bleeds. But, both, in the end, liberate. In both cases, I have found fellow practitioners encourage and push you to do better. Both in running and in writing. Very unlike anything else we do in life.

I did not do much of both this year. I ran my second half-marathon, rather limped through it. On writing, did not do much of writing this year. Blog yes I did, and very little of what could be serious writing. No, I do not look down at blogging, the way western world does when they want to disrespect writers getting killed in Islamic world by extremists- people and state. But for me, I have not written any good stories this year. Last Christmas, I wrote "A Sad Christmas. No new story since then. It is as if the spring has died off. No, that would be incorrect. I have stories in me. I think of them. One about a writer searching for what Hemingway called One true sentence. But it hasn't happened.

Tired and exasperated of not having written much, I went about and published "Rescued Poems" which was something of cheating. I collected all the poems I wrote, half-asleep, half-weeping on twitter and Facebook and put them together. Then I read some.

Some truly wonderful writing I read this year, though much less than I could and I should have. I read The Book Thief, an amazing book in the backdrop of World war, with death as a narrator. Another was All The Light We Cannot See, again in the same context. We worry, rave and rant about the inconsequential. All great wars have been already fought, all giants are already sleeping under the earth. What else I read? Brilliant Virginia Woolfe .

I have been reading her journals for last two years, but this year could summon courage to finally read her novel. There are some writings that once you come across then you feel betrayed. I do not know, but it did happen to me earlier when I read "The Great Gatsby" and "Notes from the Underground" and most strongly when I read "The Insulted and the Humiliated" or Joseph Conrad's "The Heart of Darkness". I felt a deep sense of despair, betrayal that I had lived all my life not knowing someone wrote such glorious words. Similar sorrow surrounded my reading of "Orlando" and "Mrs Dolloway" especially the former.
The lovely thing which I notice is classics (also the one as of now unfinished "MiddleMarch") are so unhurried.

 We are in a hurry. We rush, and drag our souls through our brutal days. These books are unmoved by our sense of urgency. They sit staring at us, unmoved. They don't move at your pace, they slow you down so you can see things for what they are. These are the books about which Neitzsche wrote that one should take of shoes before reading (or something like it). The immenseness of thoughts, the grand divinity of words stretch itself about your being like a canopy of brilliant stars under which everything is strangely vivid, strangely and suddenly. Middlemarch tests you, teases you right till chapter IV. The Heart of Darkness rises to its crescendo right towards end. Love In The Time of Cholera, moves in such enchanting, winding manner that one is almost transport to a different world. That is the nature and power of a classic. That is what makes them timeless.

For a non-writer, these books are the lighthouse on stormy nights in the sea, these are the
stars on a dark night in the middle of sand dunes in the desert. They help you survive life. For a writer, these books are the universities that teach you writing. More than any fashionable course in creative writing. They are the teachers, we will never have, we the moonlighting litterateurs of twenty-first century, walking with unsure steps through democratization of literature with tools as blogs and social media. But social media is a double-edged sword. It gives one a sense of doing productive work while frittering away the time. That is one thing I need to ration. It creeps into writing space and even life and must be curtailed. So, less of twitter and FB this year, more of writing and reading, and God willing, completing A Difficult Love. Happy New Year and Happy reading to you all.




My Book Review:
Book Review - The Insulted and The Humiliated (Click Here)
Book Review - All The Lights We Cannot See (Click Here)
Book Review - The Book Thief (Click Here)
Book Review - Love in The Time of Cholera (Click Here)
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