Tuesday, May 22, 2007
We have varying conceptions of Hell. Some say it is a differing spiritual planet, separate from Earth. Others believe all that is sown here is reaped here and the Hell is experienced on Earth itself, if not in this lifetime then the next (cyclic / Karma / rebirth).
For me, I am very much close to experiencing hell in many ways. Not that I am ungrateful for so many better opportunities compared to those who live in poorer countries or places within India. But nonetheless for all the taxes I pay and all the ethical citizenship rules I follow, I get kicked and then kicked some more by this nation and its administration.
If you wonder how Afghanistan looked after the bombing and don’t want to travel to that volatile nation, come to Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in the upcoming monsoon season. The craters that are called potholes in Municipal lingo would be navigable if only the rest of the road was not dug up to award unneeded civil engineering contract to some firm that has managed to bribe an influential official.
Hell is a mind-frame too. A mental state you experience when everything seems cruel and torturous. It is sadism here in Mumbai trying to reach office on time or getting home after a long work day; And this during normal weather. During monsoon take this up 100 notches.
First starts the downpour, 10 minutes later your streets are flooding with filth and shite. You walk out and the wind blows your umbrella inside out. You get wet whether you wear rain-guards or not. If you have your own vehicle, it is the ultimate test of patience. Road-rage is normal and expected of regular human drivers. If you are commuting by bus or train be like a dead man – no emotion, no feeling, no rage. You will struggle and climb aboard, then have wet disgusting gear of others brushing you all over, then you stay like that in congested humid, stinking, oxygen-deprived condition till you reach your destination one inch at a time in miles of traffic. You don't even need to hold any handles, standing there in the compartment, there is nowhere to fall - packed like sardines in a can meant for worms.
Yes, this is Mumbai, financial capital and home to the richest Municipal Corporation in India. And this is our infrastructure which collapses with 10 minutes of rains.
Now imagine what happens when it rains for a complete hour. The filth, the mud, the shite of animals and humans floating around your waist as you wade through the roads to get to a job where your company deducts compulsory Professional Tax and Income Tax (deducted at source). You would be lucky if this is all that happens to you because the Government run electricity racket can electrocute you to feed the starving stray dogs and scavenging crows.
I have ridden my Yamaha to office in 24x7 shifts for past 3 years in such rains. I no longer feel I deserve better. I am an Indian. Indians are meant to live like this. I deserve nothing better. Maybe it’s collective furtive Karma; a nation of scoundrels.
Yes penance is good thought Silas in ‘Da Vinci Code’. If you feel that way, do come down to Mumbai this monsoon and experience Hell. Hope it scares you enough to live a God devoted life soon.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Like many actors he started small, in roles only a desperate person would accept. He gained popularity in the children’s programme, ‘430 Shuttle’, as a character named "Black and White Vampire". He did what most talented, passionate artists do – create his own opportunity.
We all know how Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred and later directed the Rocky cult movie. Similarly Stephen Chow is an actor, writer, director and producer. He wrote, starred in and directed ‘Shaolin Soccer’. This was the first of his movies that I saw and loved. The mix of comedy, love, action, drama and special effects is incredibly enjoyable. The spirit triumphs in the end with Stephen’s character becoming the first footballer in history to marry his goal-keeper.
Next I got my hands on the highest grossing Honk-Kong movie recently. Yes, ‘KungFu Hustle’ is wonderfully entertaining. As with most of his successes, this too has an underdog who fumbles and then realizes his true spirit and gains success.
Admittedly Stephen Chow confesses that he has never learnt any martial art form and is an actor making these KungFu movies and I must say he does it very well. Jackie Chan’s comic-choreographed KungFu movies have been taken to a whole new level by Stephen.
The movie matches any Hollywood production. It has used special effects admirably to portray the action and the cinematography is hypnotic with many references to Hollywood movies. Here too there is a childhood love interest who finds the grown-up bum-wannabe-gangster, Stephen and the pace of the movie keeps the story progressing from Stephen’s vagrancy, to Axe-gang-membership, to final knowledge of Martial Arts.
The villains are funny, deadly and the bloodbath is graphic. The landlord’s tenement is roll-on-the-floor laughter show. All actor’s are at their best element. It’s beautiful seeing how the true martial artist finds his powers and fights the evil villains.
Innovative things here too. The fighters don’t look like Bruce Lee or Van Damme. They are ordinary people who have practiced techniques to perfect their art. The mercenary-musician-duo who go to destroy the fighters in the tenement are very refreshing and is easily the best combat shown in the movie. Later the best martial artist who is locked up in a mental institution also engages the heroes and ultimately yearns for the new master – Stephen Chow and his Buddha’s palm technique.
There are elements of mystery too with legendary, mythical KungFu styles being used apart from the derelict man selling cheap KungFu self-help books to kids on the street (that’s how Stephen’s character learns).
This is a very positive movie with beautiful imagery and a great plot that moves smoothly. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel to this movie out in 2008.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Sunday 13 May 2007, 3 PM onwards
Was lazing around at home on Sunday when I got a call from Jeetu (roughrider_j) to meet for a Mumbai Bikers Club (MBC) video shoot at Kharghar Hills. Since there was nothing final on the XBHP Mumbai-Pune G2G early in the morning, I was glad to get this call for a new ride to a new place.
The MBC is a group with a forum on Orkut.com and we were to gather at Center One Mall at Vashi. I waited for Jeetu at the Eastern Express Highway near Airoli bridge turn and he zoomed in on his Pulsar 220. We waited for an MBC rider while I checked out the goodies on P220 – The digital console is cool, even displaying engine oil temperature, the bike has a radiator and stock tubeless tyres on alloys not to mention the rear as well as front disc brakes. Many firsts here for Indian Bikers. Also there is no reserve fuel concept in P220 – a light goes on at the console when there is only 5 litres of fuel left. No kick start, same as P200. Only bike with fuel injection and power to beat the best that Indian Motorcycle manufacturers can produce. The Avenger arrived and we rode through Mankhurd to Vashi bridge and reached Center One mall where others were waiting.
Everyone arrived soon and we rode off through Palm beach road towards Belapur and reached the Kharghar Hills. We rode up to the top with steep corners and took a left to reach the village on the apex. Video and still cameras ready we shot footage of formation ride down the hill. Then the cameraman climbed a small rock surface to get bird’s eye view of our downhill ride. Then, a pavement-worm-eye view of the ride past corners. At one time the cameraman sat reverse on my Bullet as the riders rode behind us in line and overtook and then we went past them. About three times or more we rode up and downhill for best pictures. The last climb , we parked our steeds and had snacks and tea. The road uphill ends in front of a huge rock to the right of which is the village.
The foodstall there has an entrance fee and sitting fee varying upon where you choose to sit. For instance on the swing you pay some money for some amount of time. Apparently this is a deterrent to couples who don’t leave and sit for hours. We left soon, headlights blasting the rocks and trees and rode back the same route towards Eastern Express Highway.
I had help finding my road back with 2 riders of MBC and then as I neared the turn towards Mulund Link road the Avenger came up to my right and we parted at the CEAT turn. I reached home by 9:30 PM.
It was a fun ride and am grateful for the MBC riders to bear with my leisurely pace of 60 KMPH on the Bullet. First servicing was done on Friday after 500 KMS and now I already have 700 KMS on it after this Sunday trip.
My poor mobile phone pictures on Flickr
COMPARISION of my ride experience on Royal Enfield Bullet with Yamaha Enticer:
On my Yamaha I would have a sore right foot due to the position of the leg break but everything else was okay.
On my Bullet, it is so very relaxed riding and the gas shocks are excellent. At a steady speed it is smoothest thing I have been on top of. But at the end of the day, while riding I did feel discomfort in my back due to riding position, being used to the easy handlebars of Enticer.
If anyone can suggest a solution that does not involve bike modifications do write in – any specific position or is it that my hands are just short, LOLz. I love the way the Bullet Electra looks and don't think I will change a thing.PHOTOS DIRECT LINKS:
Snacks on top of the Hill
Bikes lineup at the top
Evening at the Kharghar Hills
P220 - The Bull - Yezdi Classic
View from foodstall
Monday, May 07, 2007
Recently at an online discussion forum someone asked whether it would help to add another martial art to the current one the person was learning. The idea was that since the person was comfortable with one martial art, another one could be added to the schedule to get benefits from that one as well. As any enthusiast knows there are many different martial arts such as JuJitsu, KungFu, Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, etc and many variants as well as schools of the same. Apart from these, wrestling and boxing/kickboxing can also be considered a martial art. (Believe me, someone knowing boxing and wrestling is as dangerous an opponent as one who practices Asian martial arts.)
So would it help to add alternative ways of fighting and diversify your skill set?
I immediately thought back to one of the Vaishnava Guru’s answer to a doubting lecture attendant.
The young college student had said that he doesn’t chant because he is waiting and judging various religions and then will decide his line of action as to devotion.
The Guru was blunt in his answer. You cannot sit in multiple chairs and relax in all of them at once. Also he gave an example out of the attendant’s life. The boy had enrolled in one college for one stream of study – engineering in a specific field. So obviously he couldn’t enroll in multiple colleges of varying Universities to study diverse subjects and give multiple exams to get multiple degrees. That would in no way help him, his career or specialization.
From this what I realize is, all that matters while learning anything is:
- Finding a great teacher in one subject
- Application of the knowledge as best as possible
- Passion for the subject
So my advice to the martial artist was to dedicate yourself to one good art from one good teacher; after all having ten pair of shoes doesn't help when you have only two feet.
Same applies to religious or spiritual studies.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
The Article at HAMILTON INSTITUTE
Creating a text body – a story, an article or a memoir; is both emotionally satisfying and at times rewarding. Anyone who is fond of reading literature and any kind at that; be it genre fiction, non-fiction, articles in magazines/newspapers, plays/screenplay, etc is not only interested in getting the information but also in the writing process. When you have this passion for reading, you tend to notice difference in writing styles and creative use of words to generate imagery. At times we have ideas of our own on how the story or article could get shaped and then the really creative ones attempt to put down in their own unique ways their own tale.
This article hopes to help you advance that passion for words into a successful published content.
A pen and paper works just fine. Carry a small notepad along to jot down ideas when you are out and get an inspiration for a write-up.
A computer with a word processor will help you edit your work faster and is more efficient. Various tools such as spell check, fonts, layout format, word count, etc are useful and commonly used.
Your work is to be submitted in a typewritten or a computer printout page only. Handwritten texts generally give out unprofessional impression to an editor.
There are a lot of things to write about and most of them have been written about. Getting a good idea which is unique is difficult but not impossible. On the other hand if you are into genre writing – there are essential elements which you cannot change. But all this doesn’t matter as your story is your perspective and how you put the spin on the used-abused idea is your choice and your USP.
Example: Dracula is the original vampire but there have been books about vampires for a long time and many are successful and more so than the works of Bram Stoker (such as books of Anne Rice).
Sherlock Holmes is the most recognized private detective but that didn’t stop the likes of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe from being bestsellers.
The key is to find a unique voice for your story and characters. This is your spin on the classic crime-punishment or forbidden-love or space-alien theme.
Develop your style by reading more books from the genre you have selected. Why this is important is explained next.
Okay, so you have the idea, the plot (explained later), the characters, the unique spin, etc. Now you need to study, yes study, the other works of that genre. Whether it is a fiction novel/short-story or a non-fiction travelogue/memoir; you need to know what the editor wants to see on his desk. When you read enough romance novels you get the idea of how the conflict is created and how the characters mix and gel or cause sub-plots. Then you get the idea of what type of language to use and how much bedroom description is required. Read contemporary authors which are considered popular. For articles read the magazine/newspaper to understand article length and subjects covered in that publication.
So study the genre and understand what makes it to the bestseller lists. Writing is a great creative release but if you want to make a career out of it then you have to get your foot in the editor’s door first. After you are more recognized in publishing circles you will be allowed to take risks on subjects - that if it came from a newbie would be rejected outright.
This is definitely not to be considered as hack-writing. You are not churning out story based on formulas. You are going to understand the market first, what the reader wants to see, what the editor expects out of a submission and then tailor your original work to suit this market.
Example: A private-eye who has super-powers and is in love with a girl whose father is a crime-lord while the police hunt him for interfering in the crime-scene – this seems like a fantastical idea but you have to decide what genre it should belong to and shape it accordingly (crime/romance/gangster/fantasy).
Best suited would indeed be the fantasy genre though it fits in like a comic book rather than a novel. If you research the fantasy genre you would find out how they work and why they work.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_in_the_Shell is a piece of work about a female cop with special powers fighting fantastical villains. It mixes technology with fantasy and so involves researching the scope of existing technology as well as fantasy elements. It is a successful animation and source of inspiration to the movie ‘The Matrix’.
NOTE in your study:
- Characters (humans/non-humans)
- Characterisation (use of these characters)
- First-person / third-person narration
- Number of characters relative to book size
- Complexity of plot
- Frequency of sub-plots
- Whether each chapter needs a cliffhanger ending (as in detective/thriller/horror genre)
- Use of imagery and sound through words
- Researched facts used
- The back-cover description
Once you have done this Market Research you are ready to go ahead and engage your resources and efforts into creating a body of text. This saves time and disappointment later.
For a short story or an article it is important to have your own voice and spin on the subject to make it saleable. The first paragraph is very important. It is in the first 4 lines that the reader or editor decides whether to go on reading the rest of the text.
Example of first paragraph from my Biker Fiction:
It was a small house, even had a chimney, cost me $35. I wanted to kick it's resident's ass. Bruno, the name sure sounds tough, but any wimp could have him running for cover. That's my German shepherd pet, and he was in his single room home hiding his face in his fairly strong paws. Maybe it's high time I stop feeding him candy. He is hairy, overweight and just lost his job, a reflection of his owner.
Do not use all your best ideas at once. You need to space out these good elements in your text so as to keep the reader interested. The basic layout for any short-story or article is Starting paragraph-Body-Conclusion.
The body will contain the bulk of the plot twists and characters’ interaction. It is here that the story unfolds and gets a conflict and reaches a possible solution. The conclusion should basically wrap up the text without too much fuss. It could also create more intrigue/interest.
Example of the Conclusion from my Biker fiction where the opening paragraph had mentioned the character being laughed at by the full-moon. Towards the bizarre conclusion things change.
I looked at the blackness grow wider and my hand slipped into my back pocket to yank out a picture of my ladylove. “She was so sweet, she shouldn’t have left me. Too bad Pinocchio killed her. I had asked him to do so on a coke-laden whim.” I rode on as the moon hid itself behind cloud curtains.
Always resolve conflict through believable means and not through luck or lottery. The protagonist should be able to solve it or get help but not from a fairy (unless it’s a fairy tale).
For a novel or book-length work you need to create interest within the first 20 pages. No editor will read any further if he is bored within these 20 pages.
An important clue is that if the writer is uninterested in the project, his work would subsequently be uninteresting to the reader.
After requesting the editor through a query letter, send the entire short-story or article. Book-length work is submitted only through sample chapters. Do not bind or staple your pages. Just mention the page numbers in the paper and send it loose for ease of use. You can send 3 of your best chapters and hopefully including your first chapter to the editor. Read all the submission guidelines, different publications may have some unique requirements, ensure you meet these and then include a Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope (SASE) in your mail. Make sure you keep a copy of your work and the editor is not obliged to mail you back your work or communicate anything with you if there is no SASE included.
A query letter is a simple formal request by an author to get the editor to show interest in his write-up. Some publications demand a query letter always while others are open to submissions based on guidelines. Either ways a query letter will enable you to get it right.
A synopsis of your story or article is essential. You may include this along with the query letter. This is a gist of your work. The synopsis should clearly show the framework, structure and flow of your text matter.
Sending incomplete works is okay only for book-length projects. This helps the author know any specific editor’s requirement and only then start the detailed work with subject research (covered later). For articles that also need time, effort and money to research you may query an editor to find out interest before completing your article.
Example: Everyone has knowledge of the Taj Mahal, so your travelogue/romance may not interest anybody. But suppose you put the modern spin of pollution from neighbouring areas causing visible damage to this heritage while the Government turns a blind-eye – you may interest quite a few editors. Research on this subject may require major expenses on traveling and getting appointments so better ask an editor for newsworthiness.
It is not impossible to write Science Fiction without having a Physics degree. It is not impossible to write about Japan without having been there. But you have to ensure that the facts you use are facts. If your planet does not have an atmosphere and humans have begun to live there as on Earth, then you need to give an explanation with some substance to make it believable. It is Fiction but the reader wants to believe it and if your hero flies through flaming hoops without you explaining how, it will make for a poor story.
So research your subject matter. If you are writing about what unfolds on a cruise liner then you need to know about cruise liners. If your protagonist solves crime through medical excellence then you need to know about forensic sciences. Read up on the research but use it creatively. Don’t overload the reader with facts and trivia. The reader wants a story not a manual on Zen and Motorcycles (refers to a creatively written philosophy book by Robert Pirsig - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Pirsig).
Your Market Research should give you a good idea of the level of expertise in the subject that the characters possess and how much facts are inter-woven with fictional elements.
For articles having pictures or photographs helps to close the sale.
Example: For an article about Royal Enfield motorcycles I read up about the different models available and then went to the dealership for photos. I got information on specifications and efficiency though discussion forums and reliable websites. I also got photos from friends of touring on this 50 year-old technology (still in production).
My unique angle was the traditional Cast Iron engine Vs the new AVL lean burn engine. So a newbie can understand what he should go for with all facts and comparison readily available. This article was a personal desire to learn about Bullets and I bought one using the same information I dispersed in the article.
Writing can be a very personal thing for some. It is up to you to decide whether you intend to see your efforts in print or use it for your own personal emotional need. To get published a constant effort to improve, add, adjust your skills is required. Once you understand what is expected out of a professional writer, you would be better placed to start off independent projects and find an editor later.
Agents can help too and finding overseas market can be useful in issuing re-publishing rights and electronic media rights. Do not plagiarise as the author’s reputation is one and only thing he has to make a sale. Get information on legalities, markets, publishers, agents, etc in books such as ‘Writers Market’.