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Paper Person

I recently read a book called Paper Towns. It’s a fun read and all on the surface, but what really got me what the concept of paper towns itself. When companies that make maps come out with their original version of a map, they plant a bunch of fake towns on the map in random spots with random names to ensure anybody copying their map gets caught. So when unsuspecting people decide to travel to said fake towns marked on the map (in a random place with a random name), they just reach the area and find nothing. But sometimes, people settle down on this random bit of land and use the name marked on the map and hence paper towns come into existence, being made real by virtue of having been put on a map.

Did you know this happens with people too? You create a person for yourself in a random place with a random name, believe he exists and tailor him to your own version of perfection. And one day, you go to a random place with a random name and he’s there. In flesh and blood, unshaven, unironed, unabashedly himself. And nobody else knows it but he’s come into existence just then, being made real by virtue of having been designed by you.

Did nobody tell you you can create people?

The Ever Elusive First Draft

Hello, ya’ll.

Long time, long time.

I seem to be starting too many conversations like that these days. “Where have you been?” people seem to keep asking. “What are you doing?”, “Why aren’t you writing anymore?”, “When’s your next article out?”

“I’ve been away concentrating on a book”, is what I’d like to say. It’s also what I DO say, more often than not. But the truth is, I’ve been changing. And I’ve been changing on the inside and I’ve been changing on the outside and with these changes come changes in perspective. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, the past four-five months. I’ve gone from an intense and ferocious mania to self-inflicted heartache and anxiety to a controlled state of fanciful calm and finally to a kind of zen-happy.

All’s well that ends well, so yay. The issue, however, lies here-in. When I decided I was going to write a book, it was before I started changing. And as we all know, changes in life come like rude uninvited guests. They come over unannounced, piss all over your plans, crumple your sheets and leave complaining. And that would still have worked fine for me, because I planned to write something dark, introspective, borderline soul-searchy (yes, my vocab improves by the day) and winging it really always was my Plan A. However, every once in a while, life throws you a curve-ball and this whole winging it idea suddenly doesn’t seem to be your forte any more. And I’m not lying when I say I’ve been away concentrating on a book. It’s just hard to write when your protagonist is modelled after you and the model itself is dynamic in nature. There’s this ray of ridiculously strong all-consuming sunshine in my life now and as wonderful as it sounds, I can’t get my thoughts to the place they need to be in to write this introspective dark soul-searchy (i swear I’m going to google a better word for it soon) book.

So I’ve decided to go about it by writing as an observer instead of the protagonist. It may work, it may not, only time will tell. But any artist will tell you that once an idea becomes your baby, it must be executed. Before anyone else thinks of it. Before anybody takes the idea and does a shitty job of it. Or worse, a better job than you could have done yourself.

Here’s where you all come in. I’ll give you a little about the underlying concept of the book, and you give me a little of your lives in exchange. Any story/ thought/circumstance/situation/idea that is remotely relevant. Or irrelevant, but something you need to be shared. I will milk it to the best of my ability, I’ll put in a bunch of pretty words that I’ll also google and I’ll obviously obviously hand out credits. If you’d like, I’ll use it in my story. If you’d rather not, I won’t. I just need to get myself in the state of mind, and I’m reaching out for a bit of your soul after sharing so much of mine over the months that I was in full flow.

So here goes:

The underlying concept is 21st century marriages in India. Not weddings. Marriages. The surface, the creases and the dirt in the fabric. The mindset, the thousand mindsets, what overlaps and what doesn’t. The expectations and the disappointments. The good, the bad, the ugly and the unimaginable. Throw me a word, a sentence, a link, facts and fiction. And most importantly, sketches from your lives. Write anonymously, write with your name highlighted, send it in now, send it in a month.
You can message me on my personal Facebook page, or on the Lazy and the Overthinker Facebook page, or even write in to ayeesha1991@gmail.com.

Here’s hoping this helps.
And if not, here’s hoping it brings me closer to the thoughts, ideas and lives of my readers. (Hey. We really gotta start creating our own silver linings.)

So so much love.
– A writer craving the beginning of her first draft.

My Opinion On Opinions

I was probably around the impressionable age of six that day. Not unlike your everyday six year old girl in the 90s, I lived for two things – Barbie dolls and delicious food. And sometimes I’d walk around on my toes, wrapped in mom’s sheer dupatta and pretend to be Miss India. But it was mostly the food.

On the aforementioned day, I had accompanied my parents for dinner to someone’s place. I can’t recall whose house it was, but I do remember it was a newly married couple, because along with the memory of the incident comes a memory of a dozen red and white bangles jingling on a delicate wrist every time I was served food.

We were eating homemade Chinese. Terrible homemade Chinese. There was too much soya sauce in the Manchurian, the noodles were too thick and greasy and the whole point of the chewy chicken dish was destroyed with the amount of vegetables it had in it. After dinner, the host affectionately asked if I enjoyed my meal and I, full from the meal, decided it was my duty to now dish out ­­constructive criticism.
I let her know I was not pleased. My palette was not designed to enjoy the marriage of starch and soya she’d placed before me, nor was it created to have to bear with that rubber she called chicken (or whatever there was of it). I was like Gordon Ramsay on crack. Of course everyone laughed it off, but I felt the warmth disappear from the young lady’s hug as she thanked me for coming over.

There was an unbearable silence in the car as we drove back home. I kept trying to break it with a joke or a song, but the weight of it made me feel like I’d done something wrong. I asked. I always ask – it’s better than living off assumptions. So I asked my mother if I’d done something wrong.

“No,” she said, almost immediately, her voice tinted with disappointment. “You did something that wasn’t nice. If you don’t have something nice to say to someone with good intentions, don’t say it.”

I didn’t understand the difference between ‘wrong’ and ‘not nice’ then. I do now. You might disagree with what my mother said to me that day. On some level, I do too. We’re living in an era of unprecedented freedom of speech and everyone has an opinion on everything, laced with emoticons and hashtags, ready with links and videos, efficiently packaged with technology to shove itself down the throats of unsuspecting consumers.

I recently watched a video called ‘My Choice’ by Deepika Padukone for the Vogue Empower campaign. It was mostly because of the barrage of negative comments that I decided to watch it. Words like ‘hypocritical’ and ‘urban garbage’ have been used against this video. It amazes me how people have so much time, to sit through something they don’t enjoy watching from start to finish, analyze it, form opinions on it, discuss it online, bash, shame, protest. Does this community not get exhausted complaining over and over again, making a fuss about things that were merely designed to make people who enjoy it smile and those who don’t, ignore it and move on with their lives?

There was recently a big brouhaha about a photograph that Canada based poet Rupi Kaur posted on Instagram showing a lady in bed with a blood stain on her behind as well as on the bedsheet, accompanied with words on the taboo in India around the topic of menstruation. Personally, I could not appreciate it. In fact, for the first time, I was unable to move on with my life after seeing something online that I didn’t agree with. What did I do about it? I could have written a 1000-word long post about how the reason I don’t discuss my periods in public is not because it’s a social taboo, but the same as why I don’t discuss my toilet habits. But before we begin to so vehemently oppose what’s on the internet, we need to consider that we chose to watch the video. Read the blog post. Listen to the podcast. Was the intent of the artist to piss you off? Because if it wasn’t, you really need to relax.

Life is too short to watch movies you don’t rejoice in, to read books you don’t find an absolute delight. Life’s too short to spend getting offended and complaining about art. Do what makes you happy, savor what you enjoy. Spread good energy.

You have the right to an opinion. You have the right to share this opinion. You also have a right to publicly complain about what you can’t appreciate, and shame those who do for their point of view. These can’t be classified as right or wrong. I just feel what we say online should be driven by the same set of rules that govern our offline interactions.

If you don’t like something, raise your voice.

If you don’t like something and the act of raising your voice doesn’t help anyone or leave anybody happier apart from yourself, ignore it.

If you don’t have something nice to say to someone with good intentions, don’t say it.

Love and Other Verbs

Love at first sight is rather easy to understand, don’t you think? What really grinds your gears? Grey eyes? Intelligent conversation? The way a person handles their fourth whiskey and the words they utter once it’s vanished?

Either way, love at first sight is ridiculously simple. People get it. They make movies about it. They write novels about it. It’s the ‘cool’ kind of love, I guess. The concept is easy to grasp because most people have an idea about what they want and when they see something similar to their idea of what they want, they usually decide they love it. And believe it or not, love is a decision. It all sounds very romantic and poetic to say you had no choice in the matter and that you weren’t accountable for your feelings; but while you’re out there being poignant about your life, you’re also being ignorant. Love takes time and effort, love takes dedication and decision, it takes work and it takes patience and sooner or later you realize that love in itself is a verb.

Sometimes in life we find love we aren’t looking for. What does one do with love they weren’t looking for? Some people discard it. ‘We’re not ready,’ they say. And it’s true, they aren’t, they’re simply just not ready. The trouble with even the most brilliant meal when one isn’t hungry is just that – they’re not hungry. And hunger and readiness for love are just among the long list of things one can’t force in life.

Some people, however, take it in their stride. They take the love they’re given and use it to warm themselves. They take the love and use it to smile. They take the love and use it to feel, because in this era of fashionably silent heart and constant distractions, feeling feelings requires the aid of something.

I was lost. I was happy, ridiculously so, but lost nonetheless. I had an agenda, a definite plan, and you came unannounced and charmed me into this life without an exit strategy. And the problem with your love is that it makes me content. I had plans, sweetheart, I had a blueprint and a paintbrush and a quill and a pot of ink and I thought I had the gourmet recipe for happiness. And suddenly, there I was, standing with my artillery and all your love, with no war to fight. Lost in the right direction, but lost all the same. Smiling, but lost. Warm, but lost. Using your love, but not to find directions.

Did I scare you while I was lost? I think all the weightlessness scared me.  I had lost touch with the girl I used to be and you kept bringing me so close to the brink of recollection, it was terrifying. It still is, it’s bloody petrifying, and it makes my toes numb from time to time. How could you take me, with all my madness? We’re the same on the surface, but within, we’re worlds apart. I want to breathe the air of new places and to feel every emotion there is to be felt in this mortal human life. I want to fall in love with the insides of things.  I want to taste colors and savor sunsets and listen to the sound of birds chirping make-belief conversations, because really understanding things is only so much fun.

And the reason its bloody petrifying is because I want to do it all with you. And I’m scared you’ll ask why, because I have no answer. I will find beauty in sadness and I will draw worlds from a single expression of yours and I can’t promise anything but constant emotion. But if you’ll have that and me with it, you’ll see there’s a beauty in that too.

I haven’t done a love before that wasn’t at first sight, so I don’t have a master plan here. I haven’t the faintest idea what grinds my gears here. I just know that your hands feel like home and your smiles feel as familiar as your sighs, so really how hard could it be?

There’s something beautiful about booking a one way ticket, isn’t there?

There’s nothing quite as heavy as a blank page

A million musings, you know, are floating just under the surface; but not one pops its head up for some fresh air.The fingers tap to an uncertain beat; cautious inspiration for an idea that hasn’t found its rhythm yet.

And all the while, the light keeps fading ever so slightly across the darkened room.
And all the while the text cursor blinks away, asking the same question.

“How do I even begin?”

What series of marks do I leave on this page that will tell them my story? What word or verse will be enough to make them understand? What combination of truth and metaphor, of lies and stories must I tell so that they see the joy and the tragedy, the anger and the irresistible comedy of my designs?

How do I even begin, when here I stand puzzled, grasping at emotions that I can’t even fully understand; fleeting inspirations that bubble up and simmer down below the realm of words. And how they tease us, these compassionate phantoms of the mind; and how all language now feels insurmountably inadequate to express the complexity, the simplicity of the notion that you know and feel to be undeniably true; to be undeniably you.
And all the while the text cursor blinks away, waiting where it’s always been,

While you sit there thinking, “How do I even begin?”


This post was originally written by Suramya Munshi.
All rights remain with the author.

Why I Write What I Write

I still vaguely remember the first love letter I wrote. I was a few days short of twelve. The letter smelled of strawberry and Chanel No. 5, because I couldn’t decide whether I should use my own perfume or my grandmother’s, so I used both. My hand-writing was punctuated with curly ends and heart-topped ‘i’s, the kind of precision only seventh-grade girls in love had patience for. Hidden behind the words were indents and scratches, ghosts of words that weren’t quite right, rewrites on top of rewrites.

I don’t think I ever gave it to the intended. I just wrote the letter to feel it. It’s been ten years and it’s still the same reason I write things.
I write things to really feel them.

I’ve met and befriended an immodest number of people in life, and I’ve realised that even though people are different, they’re all enigmatic. They all have a secret world inside of themselves. Each and every person, no matter how dull or boring on the outside, has a world inside that’s wonderful, crazy, wild and awe-inspiring. And if you give them a chance, they’ll show it to you. Not just one world, hundreds, sometimes thousands. And the quietest ones, the over thinkers, are more afraid of being understood than being misunderstood. That’s why I write.
I write to really understand people.

Sometimes we love and sometimes we hate and there’s so much that goes on in our minds as we eat, work, play and sleep and think we’re living life. But life is what happens in the interstices, like when we manage to smile through our tears at a darling child or when we drift away into a daydream or when our memory asks us about someone we once loved. There are days that question and days that answer.
I write to relive the interstices.

Feelings are visitors, they come and go. So are people. And although people of the past should be forgotten, I don’t thing feelings should. Every thing I ever let go of has claw marks on it; held back in the hope of not making it stay but extracting all feeling I could from it. I want to allow beauty to shatter me regularly; I want to feel life while I’m in it. Sometimes I write down things people say, because they resonate with me so much. Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the people and stories we quote.
I write what should not be forgotten.

Our thoughts tend to sound better in songs we didn’t sing and books we didn’t write, and when I leave people speechless, or welled-up, or disturbed or a little dreamier, I feel like a part of their story. I feel closer to them and that’s why I share everything I feel.
I write so one day I won’t have to introduce myself.

Above everything else, it’s about leaving a mark that I existed. I was here. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a purpose. That’s why I made works of art. – Felix Gonzalez-Torres

I want to fill my life with experiences, not things.
And in the end, I want to have stories to tell, not stuff to show.