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‘My City’ by Antara Choudhuri #TheCityasMuse Special Mention

Born and brought up in Kolkata, Antara Choudhuri was sensitized to Tagore, Nazrul Islam and other bards, dramatists and writers, whose contributions to the field of literature have earned the City of Joy its coveted sobriquet. She believes that nothing in this world can exceed the magical beauty of words, strung together in sentences, giving form to ideas and beliefs, and most importantly, making communication effective. Since her childhood, she has always loved to play around with words and her love for languages and writing stems from the belief that languages all over the world, have only one purpose, which is not to divide people on the basis of ethnicity, race, culture or geography, but to bring them together by facilitating effective communication. 

Comment: Antara’s entry was appreciated for its deep passion and sense of belonging for Kolkata and the interesting use of personification, metaphor and symbolism in her description. Writing this piece was clearly an act of love!

My City

Me: At least the moon, the stars and the wind are the same here as in Kolkata

You: Yes, the rain and the sand too.

Me: Sand?? Are you making fun of me?

You: No. Matite bali thake toh. Kon balir kona kotha theke eshechhe tui janish? Ekta Kolkata, ekta Chennai, ekta London.

In that moment, these words became more than a mere three line message on my WhatsApp messenger. They made me feel closer to my city than ever before. The city that I had left behind with a heavy heart and a lump in my throat, that refused to let me be for days at a stretch.

Kolkata, a city like no other can ever be. No, she is not like the planned cities of today, divided into sectors and blocks. She has a character of her own, much like the mood swings of a well-read woman. A woman who is always on the lookout for something new, something that will make her think, read a little more into it and then think some more! She is a never-ending maze of roads and alleys that conceal a surprise at every turn. Each path leads you to a new destination, a destination which may be physically the same, yet has something new to offer each time you visit. You will never encounter a dead end, neither literally nor metaphorically! Such is the allure of my city!

An oasis of peace, of tranquillity, with diverse flavours that not only pamper your taste buds, but also make you think in ways and about things like never before! Each day brings with itself a new surprise. Be it the bright sunny day, the dreamy cloud cover or the despotic shroud of fog in winter, each day is different and has a new story to tell. A story that will intrigue you and leave you feeling unique and special at the end of each day. Such is the allure of my city!

My city is more than a mere collection of constructions in bricks and mortar. She is a living, breathing entity, waiting to breathe life into you! Her entity is not limited to her physical being. A plethora of sounds complement her physical being and make her a city that can be experienced through the five senses. When was the last time you felt even remotely connected to something non-human to the extent of endowing it with human qualities? Such is the allure of my city!

Kolkata, the city of my dreams. Indeed the city of joy, rife with festivals, the most important among them being the Durga Puja. The red bordered sarees, the red bindis, the tinkling of jewellery, the overwhelming enthusiasm of people flocking from one pandal to another. Yes, I can vividly see it all as I close my eyes. It’s like being transported back in time, back to the precious days spent in the all-encompassing affection of the city that I call my home. For, it is only here that I “live”, elsewhere I merely “exist”. Such is the allure of my city!

‘Gurgaon’ by Nupur Chaturvedi #TheCityasMuse Special Mention

Nupur writes for a living, but doesn’t call herself a writer yet. She has written short stories and poems, and is convinced there is a novel inside her somewhere. But for now, she is focused on her content marketing job at a communications firm. Nupur is based in Gurgaon and blogs at http://nupurchaturvedi.wordpress.com/

Comment: Gurgaon has been praised and maligned in equal measure over the last decade or so. Contradiction is essential to its character and Nupur got it just right in this poem. The “gilt and guilt” especially, swung it for her!

Gurgaon

The wind brings in sand to scrape my eyes

When I open them again, the dust has settled

Powdered surfaces hiding the beauty that could have been

And then comes the rain

You would think it would wash everything clear

And the greens and oranges and reds would shine through.

But all the rain did was to drown everything in muck

And so, this is my city

Of expectations and disappointments

Gilt and guilt

Colours and desolation

Crowded roads and empty promises.

And yet, this is my city

My identity, my space, my future

So I must nurture this deep-set rot

In the hope that one day there will bloom

Hope, courage, beauty and love

In this, my city.

#TheCityas Muse – Results out tomorrow!

To everyone who has followed #TheCityasMuse contest, to all who made the effort to send their work in, to all aspiring writers and artists and most of all, to all who care for cities, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally round the corner. But before we reveal the results, a little bit about how the contest unraveled…..

The judges met on Tuesday night to discuss the entries. Passion, clarity, writing style and expression were the chief criterion. All in all, we got 27 entries from a very diverse set of people, located in India and abroad. Our youngest competitor was 12 years old. We had people from all walks of life join in – students, architects, home-makers, artists, writers, IT professionals, business consultants, among others.

Most entries zeroed in on a specific city, either experienced as a traveler or as a resident. Many of the entries were deeply nostalgic and successful in capturing a flavour of the city they chose to be inspired by. A fair share of the entries built upon an imaginary city, either entirely utopian or built out of the fragments of several cities the author knows and admires.  Every once in a while, a piece stood out that couldn’t be ignored. Many pieces had a seed of a fantastic idea in them, but were not able to execute it well enough.

All in all, I gather from our judges that they had a fun time reading entries, debating their value and finally picking out 10 that were the worthiest. My deepest gratitude to all of them for the time, effort and passion they put into the contest. Their own diverse backgrounds added considerable value, of course- Devapriya is a published author, Amritha an architect, Greg a policy researcher and Kiran an entrepreneur and writing coach (see bios here). I will get back to all participants with a few lines of feedback about their piece, information I gleaned from sitting into the final round of selections we did Tuesday night.

Hold your breath folks…. #TheCityasMuse results are out tomorrow- Friday, the 16th of October!

One more week to send in your entry #TheCityasMuse

We’ve got in some interesting entries for #TheCityasMuse contest.

I’m excited that all sort of fun people are writing in…from teenage schoolchildren to professionals, from travel enthusiasts to foodies, from bloggers to those making their first attempts at writing. The entries are pouring out straight from their hearts and that’s exactly what the ethos of #TheCityasMuse is!

What? You haven’t sent in your entry yet? What’re you waiting for?

Just take half an hour out from your super busy schedule. Transport yourself to that place you love, admire, yearn for, detest, want desperately to improve….. And then write or draw your feelings and experiences! Mail it in to ramblinginthecity@gmail.com

It’s really very simple!

Look forward to seeing your entry in my mailbox soon 🙂

Blogging with a vengeance in 2014. Watch out! #creativity #strategy

Every New Year, I blog about my achievements from the last year and expectations from the one ahead. This year, I have spent two days reading multiple posts from my blogger friends across the world that speak to this theme. It’s infectious, the New Year spirit. But this time, I’m going to spend some more time thinking and writing about each thought separately starting with my special love, blogging!

I blogged everyday in 2012 and less, but perhaps more meaningfully in 2013. I saw my blog as a release in 2012, but as a forum for  introspective communication in 2013. I saw readers grow in 2012, but traffic boom in 2013. It’s been an incredible journey of reaching out to people of all types, in many locations.

Many a time through the last year, I have ruminated on whether I need to section out my blog into two or three parts dedicated to work, self-reflection and anecdotal/journalistic writing. But I find that very hard to do because most of my posts are a little bit of everything. That’s how my life is too- people, ideas and thoughts run into each other, weave in and out of each other. On some days, it’s really hard to synthesize out of all the intertwined grey matter in my head thoughts that are sharp, relevant and intelligible! And so, my blog remains the way it is for another year. A significant part of my work-related writing will move to other forums this year and only shared/reblogged here, so that will be a change anyway.

What do I want to change about my writing though? Certainly, I want to write more frequently. I want to ramble less and introduce brevity to my posts. A tad less perhaps because there is value to rambling I know! I also want to write fiction, something that has been playing on my mind for a long time, though that may need that separate section or a separate blog entirely perhaps. I also want to vary my media when I blog- embed videos, use photographs more creatively- and see how that works. It’s time to get more creative and strategic with my blog and that sort of is my overall theme for everything I do in 2014. Excited!

Excited to be off to Dhanachuli. Kumaon, here I come!

It’s a few hours before I take a train into the hills. Particularly, I love Kumaon, having visited the area a few times as a child and recently as well. I am already imagining stepping off the train and getting borne into the breezy, green mountainsides of Mukteshwar and beyond to Dhanachuli.

I am taking my first trip after the massive floods the Himalayan regions experiences earlier this year.  Part of the motivation of the Blogger’s Meet being organized by Te Aroha is, as I understand it, to imbibe to aftermath of this traumatic event and try and understand what it has meant for people who live here and work here. Life is hard in the hills and hill people exhibit the patience and solidity of a civilization that has nurtured the attributes of patience and perseverance. A natural disaster tests their limits and I am curious to see how these lovely people have coped. Kumaon, particularly, is perceived to have not received adequate media attention or relief efforts despite being as affected and vulnerable.

I am also excited to experience Te Aroha, which I have heard and read so much about. I hear it’s more like a work of love than a resort and that is such a tantalizing description anyway.

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go…. do watch my blog for thoughts and observations, and pictures of course from Dhanachuli!

Meanwhile, here are two of my older posts from my trip to this region in January this year…

Portraits from Ramgarh and Nainital

Skygazing at Ramgarh and surrounds

Things that make me go :)

I was extremely happy yesterday. It wasn’t like a lifelong dream had come true or anything like that. But several small happy events and decisions contributed to my high. I realized that is what makes me happy. Not the Big Thing, but many small happy things. I thought I’d list the Top 5 things that make some days better than others!

1- Appreciation/Recognition: Yes, I am an approval seeker. Am facing it squarely, with no regrets or apologies. Nothing motivates me more than someone I respect saying I did a good job. This is more relevant in the case of work, but applies generally as well.

2- A piece of writing completed: A blog post, an article, a section of a research paper. Fiction, non-fiction. Short, long. Emotional, descriptive. It doesn’t matter what, but doing a solid bit of writing everyday gives me a huge sense of achievement.

3- The prospect of travel: Huge mood lifter! I literally want to travel the world, but I’m equally happy with more mundane travel. Booked tickets for a short trip to Mumbai with my kids to spend time with friends yesterday and that put a smile on my face for the rest of the day!

4- Family time: Fun, crazy, pointless activity time with the children, Rahul, the mums, extended family and friends-turned-as-close-as-family has become a vital part of my day. And I need a shot of this every day to feel normal and sleep well. Usually, it’s watching Aadyaa play with her friends in the park in the evening, while we mums and dads chat and catch up on gossip! Other times, it’s catching late night movies or cooking as a family!

5- An arty aside: If I can find time to practice dance or music, it adds that extra zing to my day. On days like yesterday, when I pushed myself to do both, I feel satiated. This is the ultimate soul food!

Yesterday was perfect because all these 5 above came true…. I am still smiling!

Last post of 2012: Welcome 2013, I am ready for you!

Well, so much for writing a blog every day..I have decided to take a break from everything, even blogging for the last few days of the year. I am literally escaping into the Himalayas for some contemplation and quality time with the kids and the mums.

But before I do that, here are some initial thoughts on what I’m expecting from the year ahead (these aren’t resolutions yet though!)

Turbo mode: It’s been a charged 2012, but much time and energy was wasted in self-doubt. In 2013, I ain’t looking back. There is a mile long list of stuff I want to do and it’s high time I did it.

Book of illustrated stories for children: Among other things, I am planning to write a bunch of short stories for children. I already have one written down. I plan to team up with an illustrator and self-publish these.

Diving certification: I must get my scuba diving certification this year. Have planned to do this forever. No good comes out of delaying what you really want. No such thing as delayed gratification (wink wink!).

Weight and fitness: Those ten-odd kilos have got to go in 2013. It’s my absolutely unbreakable promise to myself! I got to keep my date with the trainer starting second week of January!

There is also a set of career-related ambitions that are very important to me and 2013 will be a critical year to ensure certain milestones are achieved. It’s too early to divulge them yet, but am keeping my fingers crossed!

Before I sign off though, I want to thank (cheesy I know, but very very sincere!) Rahul, mum, Nupur, Rachna, my kiddies, all my dear friends at Vipul Greens and encouraging readers like Bharat, Sheetal, Nippo, Ananth, Swatantra, plus those many others who read all that I write on my blog. It is through the unconditional support as well as the constructive criticism that I have seen my writing evolve. I will not be writing a daily blog in 2013, but then I might! Frankly, it’s become an addiction…..

Happy New Year everyone!

Enjoying the direct simplicity in Jeffrey Archer’s writing: Clifton Chronicles

I can be a literary snob, turning up at my nose at people who read Sidney Sheldon or Danielle Steele. But I have my bestseller favorites as well. Jeffrey Archer certainly is one. A master story teller, he never fails to create stories that keep you hooked. I finished reading ‘Only Time Will Tell’, the first book of the Clifton Chronicles on Diwali day. Amid all the madness of Diwali, I found myself stealing time to take in a few pages. What is it that makes some books so addictive and engrossing?

Archer’s formula appears, to me, to play on our close identification with certain values that we consider admirable, that evoke warmth within us. Values and traits like moral uprightness, bravery, sacrifice, loyalty, humility and I could go on and on, conform to our sense of ‘right’ or ‘good’. Archer creates a central character who is disadvantaged in some way (in this case, Harry Clifton is a fatherless, poor child). Then he builds another set of characters who play key roles in helping the hero overcome his difficulties (in this book, he uses the character of Harry’s mother to deliver a strong commentary on motherhood, female strength and the ability for the poorest and weakest to dream big). The negative character in the story is also human, in the sense that his scheming and meanness are all born out of certain explainable circumstances and of course, that famous English concept of ‘weak character’.

Add to this compelling set of people who push all our right emotional buttons, Archer sets a strong historical and social context. The 2nd World War is about to begin while the English are still reeling from the people they lost in the first. The play off between the upper class and working class backgrounds of the people in the book adds layers to the story (friends, lovers, colleagues from the two opposite ends of the social spectrum) and people everywhere in the world can relate to the conflicts this sort of situation creates.

And finally, Archer absolutely excels in using simple English, sticking to short sentence constructions but never boring the reader. In fact, brevity is something I really admire in him for we know too many authors who ramble on and on! Cannot wait to get my hands on the 2nd book.

Blogging can be truly inane! July 20, 2012

I come to blogging with a heavy baggage of having worked as a content writer for many years. For me, every blog is an article. It is something you plot, construct, fill with detail, refine. It is something you craft, something that makes a point, reflects who you are, etc. Sometimes, I confess, I have written off the top of my head and have slept with the guilt of compromise or worse, the regret of the failure of my imagination. But most times, I enjoy what I write and I think I’ve written something worthy of another’s time.

I am beginning to discover that blogosphere is deliciously and irreverently inane. I am sure others, who like me made the transition from living in the real world to being a partial inhabitant of the virtual world, have felt the same. In the virtual world, things do not need to make sense. Creatures who trawl the net aimlessly enjoy a wide variety of information and writings; intellectual content is not a preference, novelty, freshness, easily digestible, exciting content is the order of the day.

Hence, travel and food blogs, with all the yummy photographs in there, attract a lot of attention. Interestingly, the other category is this one that is random musings about life, the self, what someone did that day….little things that simply have no big picture. Note, I am not looking down on this stuff. It amazes me and impresses me that people can make the stuff in their lives inviting and exciting for other people. I often enjoy the humor and wit on such blogs.

Many of these can be utter nonsense though. I find it hard to appreciate poor language. There are sentences that trail off in dots without making any real beginning, so you cannot possibly conjure an conclusion. I hate those. There is that terribly familiar tone I dislike as well, as if everyone out there is you best pal. I’m not always sure that works. However, it is these blogs that I often cannot comprehend, that get a zillion likes!

Today, I went to the ‘freshly pressed’ pages on wordpress and saw that they had featured a rather nonsensical life-blah sort of blog that had only one entry! One single entry….and it had over 200 responses- comments, likes, whatever. Plus the pat on the back from wordpress. And I thought, ‘Oh!’.

I rest my case. Blogging can be truly inane. I guess inanity is not my talent!

 

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