How I’ve changed as a writer and honestly, it’s probably for the best?

Blogworld,

Recently my writing efforts were lauded by the super supportive community of writers and readers here. They published my story “They Who Were Wordless” and it was received with many present comments.

The story is quite verbose and long, partly because I fell victim to a common ploy of most sci-fi amateurs: over-explaining things.

I wasn’t sure how to convey enough context while still retaining elements that would make the story readable (a protagonist overcomes a struggle to achieve a goal, etc.) Perhaps this over-explaining helped to carry the heavy context of the story, but in some way I felt I had short-changed myself and my readers in deriving from context.

But more importantly, the version I submitted and the one on my blog is the sixth version. That’s the weird part. Earlier, I was used to sitting down in one session and rushing forth till the story didn’t end. This time, I scratched out so many sketches and versions that I nearly gave up on the story mid-way.

Maybe that’s a good thing? I’ve learned to edit and be more careful with my work and probably set reasonable deadlines (like a story every week or two weeks). Or maybe the earlier creative tornado of thought was a better style? I’m not really sure how to navigate creativity.

Philosophical Musings While Popping Pimples As An Adult

You know how you brush your hand across your face and feel a slight bump where there wasn’t one before? The bump beckons you to the mirror. After a few increasingly frustrating cursory scratches, you discover it’s a pimple. And if you’re like me, you have little to self-control and patience. The infidel pimple must be uprooted from your skin by the militant aggression of your own fingers. These migrants of rebellion, dirt and pus cannot settle in the otherwise smooth flatland of your face. I know I’m advocating for a course of action that every dermatologist and every Person With Amazingly Clear, Flawless Skin will frown at, scoff, abhor. Don’t touch your pimples. Leave them alone. Like the rebel forces of the state, if you don’t pay attention to them, their campaigns weaken and they they must leave, ousted by the lack of support.

I’ve never had breakouts as frequent as these when I was a teenager, which is when these outbursts are expected. Hence as a 22-year old, I shake my head at the absent-minded bothering of the pimple by my fingers. Are pimples a rite of passage? is this like learning to drive to learning to hold your drink? Having pimples is sort of like wearing the publicly-visible “new-to-this-adulthood-thing” sticker. It makes the bearer self-conscious. It makes me want to look more closely at myself.

Am I still a teenager under all of this? Am I so eager to pop the pimple because I want to oust all evidence of my awkward teen years from my life? Am I unable to resist bothering the bump, no matter how small or how large, because I am hell-bent on “cleansing” whatever perceived negativity high school or being an awkward teenager might have left behind?

It’s odd for pimples to be popping when I’m beyond the normal age range for them, I think. Are they indicators of other health issues that I’m having but denying? I push the pimple for answers and revel a little in mopping up the response with a clean tissue paper. This cleansing is undeniably satisfying. If anything, I would like to weed out all of the problems in my life the way I pop the pimple. Effective, persistent and satisfying results.

Though it doesn’t appear to be so, every mismanagement of the pimple results in disrupting the surface of my skin. It’s not easy to discard toxins from your skin or from your life and perhaps you bear marks of the aftermath for a while to come. After a while, it has been done. The skin hurts, the face hurts, the pimple has given up and you’ve gone so far as to hurt the skin which hosted the pimple. Now the lesson remains, a maturation if you will. You could have been the bigger person and left the pimple alone. All it wanted was some attention and a space to call its own.

Or you couldn’t resist. You’re an adult; you can do what you want.

 

The Revenant That Did Not Confront a Bear

Dear Blogworld,

It has come to my alarming notice that the following things have happened (in order)

  1. I’ve graduated from college! (More posts on the musings of real life are definitely coming)
  2. I have time on my hands to write about all the things I wanted to! (Expect more of my attempted science fiction stories)
  3. I’ve been notified that it’s been exactly one year since my last post on this blog. (Hence the title, since I’m literally back to this blog after some sort of death)
  4. My writing skills are borderline dysfunctional. (Isn’t this parenthetical style annoying?)
  5. I have 80 days before Real Life begins.

With this terrible excuse of an apology, let me not waste your time any longer and begin by *slowly* resuscitating this blog back.

Cheers and best, etc.

Unit 4207’s Failed Assignment by Piyali Mukherjee

So the amazing crew at Literally Stories (Nik Eveleigh et. al have decided to post my story “Unit 4207’s Failed Assignment”). Please do check it out and read some of their other prolific writers! 😀

literally stories

DSC_0592

Decrypted sections of the file are as follows:

Data log attributes: Begun on 5787th day of 23rd Lunar Cycle

Type: Personal

Today was the day I started on the gene project. It was not as complicated as I expected. Unit 5481 tells me the beginning is always easy. All you have to do is choose the number of genes you want to work with. It’s maintaining the culture that’s the nightmare.

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Readers, I need your help: Relationships

Blogworld, I seek your generous assistance in the comments section. I need help in learning something about human interaction, introverts and college relationships. You are in for a long story, comprising of three characters (self included). Spoiler alert: includes my secrets to a successful relationship, unparalleled matchmaking skills and a guide to mathematical/engineering terminology.


Preface

Specimen A: The central antagonist is this guy who has been friends with me for about a year or so. We share several classes and have grown closer over time. He speaks an average of 5 words an hour and is not exactly the most articulate of speakers. He is often (painfully) awkward and the multiple pauses in conversations almost always makes me overcompensate. But I make him laugh and he likes poking fun at me, at my clumsiness and at my miscellaneous struggles with life, door handles and plastic bottle caps.

A has had a huge crush on the next important character in our story, whom we shall label B.

Specimen B: is a sweetheart. I met her when A was talking to her and couldn’t hide his embarrassment himself fast enough from the approaching me. B and I ended up being close independently of A, though we talked about him often. When A was still worshiping the ground B walked on, she was in a relationship with someone else. Therefore it took me months of encouragement to get him to cough up his feelings so that he could move on with her (and I would be spared the cheesy background narratives). I discovered later from B that A had this tendency to leave very dramatic messages such as “We need to talk. Let’s meet?” and end up talking about the “beauty of Euler’s equation“.

After nearly a semester and a half of pining over her beauty/her intellect/ everything which made her The Woman, he finally mustered the ability to confess his feelings. I particularly remember that night because B called me on the phone and narrated frantically what had happened at the same time that he was awkwardly messaging me on Facebook.  This resulted in an impressive diplomatic maneuver which resulted in the simultaneous pacification of both parties involved.

I learned that B rejected A.

B, who has spent most of her adolescence being bound to one relationship only, has never had the experience of declining a friend’s interest or asking someone out. She also considers A one of her close friends. A, who has had only one “long-ish” high school sweetheart is still coming to terms with rejection and also considers B one of his closest friends, and has a quota of speaking to 1.5 romantic interests a year.

They come to me for advice. I have not had a boyfriend and continue to uphold an impressive history of intimidating people with emotional honesty. Obviously I am graduating with honors in solving relationship problems. Call toll-free number 3141592653 and enter discount coupon WORDPRESS to get your free consultation.

B eventually re-acquired her mental equilibrium after having been “ambushed” by unexpected romance. I sympathized very deeply with A (having been in the same situation), so I decided to cheer him up by feeding him extraneous calories. He was unsure of how to proceed with talking to her and I suggested that they both give each other space (because I’m not very good at being a conversation conduit).

In the short span of a week or so, A deigned to inform me that he was now dating someone else. Dating. Not even asked out, but dating. If his story was to be believed, more than once. This person is a tertiary, minor character in the character in the story but let’s label her B+, because she followed B and because this is not an algebra problem.

I don’t know anything about B+ except for the fact that she outperformed A at the introversion game and is “extremely pretty”. They have been on numerous ( x > 1) dates and one very promising “Want to meet at midnight?”  request which resulted in a posthaste homework session in the densely populated Applied Mathematics library. Relevant relationship advice to prospective date-seekers: know your equations


Here begins the problem statement.

B+, as it turns out, is studying abroad at Hong Kong this semester. A has been complaining of loneliness and has been badgering me to “hook [him] up with one of my many attractive female friends”. Sympathetic to his situation and willing to comply, I asked him to choose a prospect (his tastes fluctuate wildly).

My match-making process is an intricate three-step procedure:

  1. I introduce two people with their full names in a well-lit public space.
  2. I bring up a topic of mutual discussion (classwork, weather, etc.)
  3. I flee.

Among all my achievements, being a good Mrs. Bennet is not one of them. The endeavor failed rather spectacularly, but it did not deter A’s ambitions to acquire a date before Valentine.  He begins to start asking questions about me. A very odd 1:30AM text message about requiring “a cuddle-buddy” was delivered to my phone, and it followed a long series of tangential evaluations of what I should be doing for Valentines’ Day. Subtly, the questions ranged from whether I was dating anyone currently (I am not) to which particular Valentines’ party would I be attending (The only thing I was invited for on Feb 14th was to submit my theoretical computer science homework.)

I usually like to eat meals with my friends because it gives me time to catch up with them without hurting too much of my study time. Casually, I asked to meet him in order to figure out, in-person, what was going on.

What happened next will amaze you. Or maybe not. It amazed me.

We began the conversation with worries of graduate school admissions and as the conversation progressed, he began to express more of himself: his favorite food, his favorite color, places he recommended I visit, etc. He also began to punctuate his sparse conversation with compliments of me, such as (and they made me somewhat self-conscious): how tall I am, how well I write, how nice I am to underclassmen and how pretty my handwriting is. Now you know that being tall, writing well, offering unasked but well-meaning advice to underclassmen and having good penmanship are skills worth complimenting.

In a separate but similar instance, he not only dressed for Chipotle, which is not a locale suited for fine sartorial tastes, but he had also put on cologne. Without loss of generality, he continued to talk of his favorite movie and how we should watch it together.We continued to text each other after that and a very weird thought occurred to me: A might like me.

But why should he? I’m loud, relatively more annoying and verbose. Am I just a replacement for B/B+ gone by? What is all this confusion leading to? Does he even like me? Should it matter to me? What do I do with our friendship?


Testing the hypothesis

“When a weird thought first occurs to a scientist, they either acquire data or perform experiments to test the results of the situation” -(self attribution)

I will not deny that the thought of being admired was flattering. Besides, I needed more meals with him to figure out exactly where all his meandering was leading to, particularly since the days to Valentines’ were ticking down. I had several long, worn-out conversations with myself about what I would do if the friendship was changing. I am not physically attracted to him but I also come from the school of thought which says that personality >> jawline. I was not going to ignore my years of painful rejection history to serve the same treatment to him, at least without a balanced, well-reasoned evaluation of the situation. Did I even have the time for this sort of thing? Why would someone as quiet even find a chatterbox like me attractive? Did he even like me or was he just using me as a replacement for the B/B+ who have gone before?

In the midst of the overwhelming confusion, I sought the assistance of fellow scientists (B included) to gauge the matter. They all indicated, with a confidence interval greater than 90%, that he probably had feelings for me. In aspiring to be a data scientist, I have learned that until the source data says something is true, you can never trust a prediction. While what they said confirmed my suspicions, I was not willing to accept it until A admitted it himself.

A proceeded to ruin my calculations by specifying most certainly, but also vaguely, on the day before Valentines’ Day that <a person like me> could never be his type. There was no more of that conversational luster or cologne or questions about personal interests. I felt very confused because all the data I had collected thus far said otherwise, and surely I must have done something overnight to be so aggressively friend-zoned. Not only did he do that, he brought up his ex and discussed his preference for girls of a certain stereotype in great detail.


 Aftermath

I shrugged my shoulders and tumbled on with life. A week passed during which I didn’t try to speak to him at all, and then I remembered that we were still friends so I shouldn’t be mean. This was a grave mistake. We ended up with “movie night” scheduled to happen in my room. My dorm room is located on the 10th floor and overlooks the Harlem Skyline. He wanted to sample the view.

What started as a very rushed apologetic explanation from him in semi-darkness, because the view couldn’t be seen properly with the internal light reflecting off the window and how he could stay only for 30 mins. We sat at opposite ends of my bed and this huge awkward silence appeared from nowhere, parked itself in between us and remained so heavy that I was sure the mattress bent under the weight. I wanted to make it go away, but it didn’t want to.

When you are living mysterious moments in your life, always cut through them elegantly using my bravery-inducing formula. 

  1. Decide that you want to straighten things out and be annoyed with all this mysterious cue-dropping subtlety.
  2. Rationalize this brashness by declaring that life is too short
  3. Ask for the truth. Up front.

In the semi-visible neon ambiance and from the far reaches of the other side of the bed, I looked up and said, “Hey, do you like me?” as though I was asking for the time. He denied it. He said I was “just a friend” as I always had been.

Then, as the said movie we wanted to watch began, we moved next to each other on the bed, in order to not fragment my laptop. His arm decided to navigate to my shoulder and then proceeded to my waist. The reason why I was so surprised is this: I know for a fact that A is the sort of person who hugs a person once a year. I was to discover that apparently grabbing someone on the waist and then letting your hand stay there for nearly an hour is also completely friendly.

Because I am singularly a very terrible person and because I had some remnant of disbelief as to his first response, I asked the question again. Cue the cringing that is the predecessor of all cringes in the world.

There you go, this is why I will never manage to get along with people. Amazingly enough, he denied it even after his arm had returned to its rightful spot by his shoulder, and he departed with a very tight, long and involved hug. That’s when I metaphorically flipped the table and decided that I had survived internship interviews which were more decisive. What resulted was a very long, awful conversation in which I learned that 21 year old human males have no idea what the evolutionary concept of emotions are about. Or maybe I don’t. I don’t know.


Please feel free to provide your input on what you think is going on. I trust that a group of articulated, wise , blog-maintaining folks like you have more experience in this matter than me.

Feelings about the Bildungsroman genre

I don’t think anything marks your exit from adolescence as sharply as the severe cringing that occurs when you remember the years you’re passing by. That 13 year old death metal playlist seems embarrassing instead of cool. Embarrassing not only because I had no idea how comfortable and privileged adolescence is but also because I had not encountered death and sadness and the true dark adult grief that comes with the passing of time. Who was I then to claim that the lifestyle of angry, unresolved feelings and upset was something I could relate to?

As my essay grades have explicitly declared, now is the time for me to declare a thesis. I’m writing this post to wonder why a genre like Young Adult exists and what did I feel I got out of it.

There’s a coming of age YA writers don’t write about. The one when you shed the possibly plastic scales of fitting into a group and go out completely alone, completely vulnerable and learn to be okay with it.

The one where your major achievement is securing an independent apartment at a reasonable rent, instead of “loving your angst-ridden boyfriend’s emotional problems away”.  The one where it is more about being a person than finding a person. The one where losing a job is a more real threat than being attacked by vampires.  The one where the vibrancy of daily, ordinary life are rendered with glory. The same glory that the awkward unnoticed kid might feel when Some High Authority Of Popularity Etc. deigns to elect him/her as One of The Clique, Part of The Empire, The Selected One.

This is not the coming of age of a child compressed into adulthood because of difficult circumstances or problematic families, because I had a perfectly fine childhood and a perfectly fine network of support for me (friends and parents). How, in the midst of all this normalcy, did I feel like I identified with those characters? How is it that our personal stories of achievement, whether in similar construct or content to those of our protagonists, are simply not cool enough to write best sellers about?

I had no boyfriend and did not have many opportunities to seek one if I wanted to (Many YA books strongly recommend this for some reason). Most of the books I read (and which are being released frequently on the market today) deified the girls who had more male friends than female ones, and implied that they were perhaps all attracted to her. My friends’ circle is largely female and it is only now (+7 years) that I realize that having such a group of friends means I have in part, conquered the internalized misogyny all girls deal with.

I shouldn’t have opened up this Pandora’s box, but let me not stop you from finding and encouraging writers who are willing to portray more holistic images of women and girls than the template attractive, emotionally immature for no reason characters who were beautiful only because they “don’t know what makes them beautiful”, who are willing to tolerate the tantrums of attractive guys because they are attractive and are willing to complain about shouldering their female friends’ because they’re female. This piece suddenly turned out to be unintentionally feminist, but I make no apologies.

I was not an orphan. I was not a vampire. I was in a perfectly rigid school system and a very tight-knit family so I didn’t experience a fraction of that anguish which all the protagonists seem full of and for what? For a change of school? For the terrifying lack of friends? For the even more paramount lack of boyfriend(s)?

Who writes the very normal and very underrepresented story of a normal kid learning to be, in their estimation, a normal adult?

I had such a realization today when I unfollowed 7 popular “Young Adult” authors in a sweep.

I’m suffering from the same problem that I begrudged adults when I was a teenager. I can’t take them seriously

Parallax of Black Planets

Written by a very dear friend who will not believe that she is an amazing writer as well as a very perspicacious scholar. ❤

|| mind the cents ||

This post will discuss how Attipate Krishnaswani Ramanujan’s views of his own cultural heritage were shaped by the “history of images” mentioned in Milton Singer’s Passage to More than India. Inferences will be drawn from Ramanujan’s informal essays and the theme of historical underpinnings in diverse images described by Singer.

 INTRODUCTION

In spite of years of exposure to American philosophies and conduct, AK Ramanujan delicately expresses an interconnection with his own cultural genesis in his essay Is There an Indian Way of Thinking? India’s unremitting inspiration enables Ramanujan to organise and sequester his Indian past from signs of ideological antagonisms that could potentially influence the variables needed for his written work. Ramanujan frames rural and urban settings and captures his life with such veridicality, that neither a single memory nor “history of image” would be able to create alone. However, the fleetness in Ramanujan’s descriptions tacitly assumes that the root…

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Why I haven’t been posting well enough and how adulthood is finally catching up with me

Dear Blog,

Like the last 10 diary entries I have managed to make this semester, I’m going to start with an apology.

I have been terrible at translating the experiences in my head to the words on the screen, especially since life is transforming faster than I can sit down and type things up. Mood swings are oscillating at a frequency faster than the time it takes to open up the laptop and generate coherent words. Friends are evolving at the rate of fungi on left open moist food.

I am trying not to feel guilty about this. After all, experiences are designed to be like the rain drops slipping through fingers and you have to work with the somewhat tiny puddle your hands can capture. No matter how big you think your palms can cup, that volume will remain tiny with respect to the entire volume of the torrents that wash by. But lately, even the urge to write about whatever little has been happening has been sinking to a new fear. Thus life has been feeling increasingly incomplete.

If you saw the 21 drafts that I have saved, hastily making sure that the prospects of a future post deserve expression in some time, they have gathered no additional content but virtual dust and an increasing time-stamp. If you saw the grades I’ve been getting, you would not think that I decided to stay with my chosen major even after several disappointing failures.

Life is becoming increasingly uncertain. The self-doubt has now spread from my technical competence to even my ability as a writer. Maybe even as a person. Am I still a pushover? Do I still get nettled by irrelevant things? Are they irrelevant? Where is that soft boundary between rising up in angst and telling myself to calm down?

I have lately taken to saying “Get it together” as though repeating that vague mantra will make everything okay. Get what together, exactly?

Well then. The apology has been made and now it is time to get to a solution. Restart. Keep doing what I’m doing.

Dory’s “Just Keep Swimming”? Fear not, we shall soon make a graduate out of ye with honors in Theory of Continuous Swimming

Today

Today you may wake up feeling the sun of tomorrow shine on your face. Today you may wake up surrounded by a dense fog of yesterday’s memories. Today you may wake up feeling like you can accomplish anything. Today you may wake up feeling brighter bolder stronger and kinder than yesterday. It may be in the small things, the determination to go to the gym, the determination to finally fold the pile of shapeless clothes that navigates from the bed to the chair and back. It may be in the determination to finally cook something sensible instead of eating out or pre-heating something. Today you may want to take care of yourself. Today you may realize that taking care of yourself is always a worthwhile endeavor.

Today you may realized just how old or just how young you are. They are both equally helpless and overwhelming realizations. Today you may find that you inspire someone, or someone admires you. Today you may recover a lost friendship, a lost cause or a lost item. Today you may lose some other inhibition. Today you will get that promotion, that raise, that date, that perfect well-defined moment in your life which you have been working for. Today you may lose them all, so be careful and do your best knowing that whatever happens beyond your control is by definition something that you couldn’t have changed anyway. Today you have nothing to lose.

Today you are a different person from yesterday, even though it doesn’t feel like it. Because the past and the present are both the sum of all the “Todays” leading to today..

“What is college like?”

Is it just four years of your life that you will spend a lot of money on, trying to be an adult, knowing that your family and financials are a safety blanket which you don’t need to immediately worry about? Is it the four years of your life when you discover that a science or an art that you wanted to make your life about is something you detest completely and that you’d rather do something else? Is it the guilt of exploring better options out there with someone else’s money or hoping that whatever else you find better be an investment which brings returns? Or the shame that you are wasting youth and time and emotion in trying to attach a few meaningful letters after your name when the trauma is done?

Is it the beauty of discovering independence? Of learning that sometimes loneliness can evolve into quiet nights of watching police sirens blink away three blocks from your dorm window and feel comforted knowing that at least you will never grow into that person? Of learning that there are times when the sun rises and you are trapped into a conversation that is stripping your soul of lies? Of discovering the true dimensions of people as they show and hide different aspects of themselves?

Is it the competence of doing your laundry right? With the colored clothes sorted into one pile and the white things in another? Is it realizing that the high of managing to complete your gym routine, homework, breakfast and room-cleaning before 10:00AM is the same as the turning out to be the only student in class who scored 94% and that this, in turn, is the same as being asked out by that shy boy who you secretly crave looks at your eyes more often than he does by hiding them behind his fringe? Is it the awkwardness that will follow when you realize that he thinks you’re a creep and that the line between romantic and weird is very fine? That superficiality is sometimes heavier than souls and thicker than the measurement of your chest-waist-hips? Is it wondering if they are even on the same quantifiable scale?

Is it just the four years of eating extremely oily pizza and a ton of bagels and oceans of cream cheese knowing that you’re one of those few girls who will graduate with your body looking the same, but being exhausted from within, deprived of the enforced maternal nutrition at home? Is it just the four years of coming across people who will have parents who have been in jail, who will have parents who will have cheated on each other, who will have parents who are unable to fund their child’s education for lack of understanding their child’s major, who have parents who have only dreamed of higher education? Is it the four years of learning why alcohol, drugs, drinking, sex and depression, TV, badly-edited writing and five consecutive bottles of Nutella are extremely dangerous because these things let a person run away from the reality that will inevitably slap them in the face? 

Is it the pride with which you will tell your stories back home, by saying, yes, I go to this college and how prestigious it is and look at all the things I’ve accomplished? Will that matter so much to their glazed over eyes who are waiting for you to tell them that you have not found affections in a “foreign” boy and are keeping yourself chaste and perfect and naively unaware of things like depression, suicide and bars? Will that matter so much when you try to explain what your research project is about when they are too busy trying to use you to inspire their own children into poring over books they hate? Is it the shame you will feel when they will hold you to be the perfect example, and your conscience coughs loudly at the back of your head, knowing that at their age you were no better than them and the atrocities you have committed to yourself and to others are nothing compared to what this sheltered oppressed being can comprehend at the age of 13/14/15?

Is it praying that your “gentle” preview of life will carry you though right when each semester sets fire to a different part of your soul and carves mountains out of another? Is it praying that this accompaniment to adulthood is not just the engineering degree but also the capacity to negotiate, argue, deduce and rationalize or even philosophize life into terms that you will feel less terrified of running away from? Is it the many nights of parties in cramped rooms and bent objectives bouncing off the walls as stress, tension of unexplained natures, political and sexual maneuvers and finding the right to belong in an ocean that sweeps in the new everyday?

Is it realizing that you are no longer a child and yet, a child of the world?