Word of the Week #155:

Esse

Last week, we tried to answer an important question that people tend to ask us: Why do we write?

But there is another question, one that is arguably far more important, that comes to mind that one must try to answer.

Why do we live?

In a way, I am glad it does not come to my mind too often, for there is no simple answer I can offer.

Should life be more than the mechanical execution of our mundane routines, the fulfilment of our fundamental needs? Should life be more than just a checklist that we have to complete before we run out of time?

Should life have some sort of meaning or purpose? Should we need a reason to get off the bed every morning besides our bladders?

What about us artistic types who live in our own world and are unencumbered, at least relatively, by the mundane? Do we live to write? Or do we write to live? Are the two mutually exclusive?

Well, the later is absolutely true for me, and I believe Stephen King would agree.

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Stephen King

So, why do we live?

Does our life, our existence, make a significant impact on the grand scheme of things to warrant the effort we have to exert on a daily basis?

Directly, probably not.

The simple truth is that too few of us will achieve greatness in our lifetimes. And even if we do, that too is fleeting.

Every year, over 60 players join the NBA; so far, only 111 players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. 111 players in almost 70 years… And I would be surprised if you can name 5 of those players who were inducted before your parents were born. Hell, I would be surprised if you could name one.

Too few. Too fleeting.

Not every scientist will be the next Newton. Not every writer will be the next Shakespeare. And I highly doubt that too many carpenters can claim to be the next Jesus.

But you can definitely earn a footnote in someone else’s discovery that changes life on this planet, and possibly beyond. You can always hope your stories inspire one child to see the world in a different light. And you can absolutely provide someone the comfort of a cosy armchair after a long, hard day.

If you think about it, we are the grand scheme of things, and it is a cumulation of every single thought, word and action of every single being that creates the world as we know it.

Life must, therefore, contain within itself the potential to change everything in the entire universe. And possibly beyond…

But that is the answer to a different question altogether.

The question remains, why do we live?

My answer is actually quite simple. ‘Cause it is all we know.

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Word of the Week #154:

Bohemian

Why do you write? 

As writers, we have all been asked this question, have we not?

In interviews, in queries, in casual conversation, we have always been asked this question.

And more often than not, we would respond with some words that make some sound like the perfect combination of an artist and a scholar. That is how we want to be seen, right? That is what benefits us. 

Why do I write? 

The answer is actually quite simple. I write because I do not know what else to do.

I have long believed that in humans, and perhaps in all sentient beings, along with an ability to understand arises a desire to be understood.

Some among us may be blessed with souls that are lucid. Clear. 
Some are cursed with darkness and discord.
But if you dive into the deepest of our depths, you will see that it does all make some sense.

So, why do I write? 

Why do I write ten thousand words and pray ‘t be worth the price?
To see a method to this madness, ten words would not suffice.

Word of the Week #153:

Misogyny

Even as a boy, a very young boy, I often despised how other boys would talk about girls. How they would reduce the girl’s identity to an assortment of body parts. How they would feel the right to spread vile rumours based on, well, plain malice. How they would gleefully discuss what I can now only describe as rape fantasies.

Now, I cannot take much pride in saying that I did not participate in such behaviour; much like I do not expect praise for not killing anyone in the past hour. It is the bare minimum one would expect in a civilised society.

If anything, I do feel remorse for not being able to raise my voice against any of it. It must have been partly because I did not have the strength to oppose them, and partly because I did not realise the damage such behaviour could cause.

Today, when I meet or speak with some of these boys, I can still sense the remnants of that mentality. It is often obscured by a mask of feigned civility—and occasionally it isn’t—but it is still very much there. Apparently, it is not something that can change by itself.

But one thing has changed: My willingness to call them out.

After all, there is only one way to ensure good guys no longer finish last. We need to weed out the bad ones.

Word of the Week #152:

Anthropophagus

I have never been too inclined towards male bonding, and only recently am I beginning to understand why that is.

Apparently, there comes a strange time in guys’ lives, between the age when they realise they are different from girls and the age that they realise they are attracted to girls. In this period, every boy decides the kind of man he will become, albeit rarely realising this at the time. Or ever.

It is around this age that boys receive a simple choice: To bully or to be bullied.

I still cannot understand why this happens. Blaming it on just the Y-chromosome feels weak and dismissive.

I was always strong enough to stop bullies, but not to stop bullying. This left me in a strange limbo, which soon, it solidified into solitude. Eventually, I grew accustomed to it.

These few years were among the loneliest of my life. And I spent them doing what every lonely kid does: I read, I watched, I observed. I learned how to understand the world around me. Oddly enough, since I was entirely alone, I grew up not caring about public perception or approval.

I knew my definition of self, and it was not a function of the people around me.

Unfortunately, the other boys that I watched seem to remain stuck in the roles they chose as children. They see the world as predators and prey, and they will do what they must to survive in their roles.

And we wonder what happened to concepts like compassion and courtesy. Compassion and cannibalism can rarely go hand-in-hand, right?

So, do you want to fix the world? I can tell you what to do: Fix the children.

Word of the Week #151:

Aerodynamics

Imagine you are a child.

Done? Good.

Now, imagine your parents telling you the following things at the following ages.

At 8: Kid, stay away from aeroplanes.

At 12: Kid, stay away from aeroplanes. They are not safe.

At 15: Kid, you are staying away from aeroplanes, right? You better… It is for your own good.

At 18: Kid! I have told you a thousand times, stay away from aeroplanes! No talking about them, no looking at them, no thinking about them. Nothing. This is not how we raised you.

At 21: Kid, if you do not stay away from aeroplanes, I swear to God, I will shoot you both out of the sky!

At 25: Kid, you have been good all your life, and as a reward, I am getting you a plane! So what if you have never been in, or even around, a plane… So what if you have no idea how to fly it, how to land, how to maintain it, how to make sure you won’t kill yourself in a fiery crash within the next year… Oh, I’m just so happy! You know what we should do? We should celebrate this news with thousands of people we barely know and will never meet for many, many years!

Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, that is how marriage works in India.

No wonder it is such a bumpy ride.

Word of the Week #150:

Contingency

Gah… I’m so tired.

I have been feeling so unusually weary all day.

Like, have you ever felt so tired, so weary, so completely and entirely drained, that suddenly Coldplay songs start making sense?

When you try your best but you don’t succeed,
When you get what you want but not what you need,
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep,
Stuck in reverse…

Yeah, that bad…

Not that it is any surprise; I did miss my lunch two consecutive days, after which I played basketball till I could barely walk, following which—ironically enough—I went for a walk.

Unusual circumstances yield unusual consequences. That should be no surprise. And these circumstances did teach me, or at least refresh into my memory, an interesting lesson. 

You see, for situations like these, always keep something sweet at hand.

It could be some juice, or a bottle of soft drink. Perhaps a few slices of pineapple, or some cookies. Anything sweet and light, that may offer a jolt of energy that will help you survive till your next meal.

Sure, it is not the healthiest of ways to live. Sure, it will have repercussions in the long run.

But you know what, it is always better to live unhealthy than to die healthy.

And sometimes, there is nothing better to do than live to fight another day.

And if your limbs just do not have the strength to even manage that, well, to once again quote the second coming of the bard himself, I will try to fix you.

Word of the Week #149:

Ambience

As a writer, I often get the opportunity to converse with readers and learn what they like or dislike in books.

Over the past few years, too many of the readers I encountered are of an unusually impatient variety. 

They have neither the temperament to endure the few pages, and occasionally chapters, of descriptive background a good book might need before the plot takes over, nor do they have the ability to appreciate the mood that needs to be bolstered by the seemingly insignificant details in the background of the story.

These are the kind of people who think Edgar Allan Poe is dull and Agatha Christie is slow. Well, not that Christie isn’t slow, but that is part of her charm.

It may seem odd, but I believe this impatience is borne out of mental lethargy. Minds that have been benumbed by decades of cinematic indulgence.

Think about it. If I want to talk about a secluded cabin in the woods, it would take me hundreds of words to make the reader understand the extent and limits of its seclusion. In contrast, a movie can do that in a single still, and cover the cabin, the woods, the weather, the sky, everything you could want and more. 

After all, they are not stupid to say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But in a book, there are only words. And this is exactly why we need thousands of them to tell our story.

If only each reader could differentiate the subtitles of a movie from a book…