Sunday, January 25, 2015

Exorbitant

 

A connoisseur of interest compounded and time confounded
Within his grasp lie numerous advantages
predetermined
Three makes five and two makes three
The end is in sight – the tremendous expanse of infinity

Comprehensively careful he displaces himself
The sum of all parts, greater than none
The horses grandly gallop and the racers rapidly race
Outpacing his spirit with rich monetary embrace

With mettle, pluck and fortitude he humbles investors
Trees are greener, food is tastier, but life goes on the same
Slowly in the murky, shadowy depths of relevance
The wolves howl for what they seek to reclaim

His soul is skittish and perturbed yet sanguine;
Hiding behind a curtain of impenetrability
Dreams of trotting, ambling, striding and then sprinting
The triumph of ascendency is listlessly dwindling

Graphs wavering like Patagonian mountainsides
The solitary curtains shimmer one last time
The wolves arrive – the numbers have been rounded and
Interest has been compounded

Friday, January 23, 2015

People I’d Invite to a (Imaginary) Party

 

I’m not the kind of person to throw parties, but a few weeks before anyone’s birthday comes around they’re always inclined to sit down and wonder who they’d invite. Even if they haven’t celebrated in five years and they have no friends. Indeed, every year in mid December after I’ve decided that I’m not celebrating my birthday I think about this. My imaginary list gets to about three names and then I’m daunted by the task ahead; how many people do I invite? Where should it be? Do I call that cousin I’m kind of friends with, but not really? Do I invite that girl I like who doesn’t know a single one of my friends and will get bored to death if she comes? The additional problem of ‘doing things’ is also perplexing – between the ages of 15 to 21, what do people even do at a birthday party? You can’t really drink and you can’t do kid things like go bowling or something (which are actually really fun). At the end I just leave the real party for next year, and this happens every year.

But now I’m changing the topic, because I can. I can invite anyone, from anywhere, from any time period to my party, and they’d come. Who do I invite? Obviously the first person on the list has to be Oscar Wilde, the original party person. The traditional British upper-class, no holds barred avant-garde trailblazer of his day; gossiping amongst royals and artists and 19th century Stephen Frys. I’d invite him just for his quotes:

“The world was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork”.

“Hear no evil, speak no evil- and you’ll never be invited to a party”.

”Talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.”

A party hosted by me would be nothing without some good old social-awkwardness thrown in; people shuffling about near the door, taking way too much time to pour their drinks; three or four people not having a ‘group’ to talk to who’d randomly bustle into one of the other groups and try to force their way into conversation, only to brutally realise that they don’t know anything these guys are talking about; dozens of people sitting in the corner on their phone because they don’t think they fit in, while they try to connect to the WPA-PSK protected Wi-Fi in maladroit fervour. These are the kind of things you’d probably expect.

I wouldn’t call Hitler or anyone like that because they’re already invited to thousands of other imaginary parties. There are so many people out there who, if given the chance, would invite Hitler, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he has more imaginary invitations than Elvis Presley or The Beatles. I will call Taylor Swift though; that should attract the paparazzi and make this party more illustrious and eminent. Plus, it’s Taylor Swift. I’d actually probably invite every famous musician whose music I listen to. That should be about 1500 people so we’d need a big venue. I’d also call some more tangentially famous personalities; I’d love to see the founder of reddit interact with J.R.R. Tolkein or Bill Gates expressing his admiration towards Ramanujan or Tsiolovsky discussing his work on rocket physics with Chris Hadfield. Tchaikovsky playing his piano in the background while Freddie Mercury sings along. Edgar Allan Poe reading his poetry to Allison Brie (okay that one’s a bit creepy). That would be a hell of a party.

But in the end, who really cares, because imaginary things don’t exist and dead people don’t come back to life. Which is the main reason people celebrate birthdays in the first place – to enjoy the importance of life. Nothing warrants a celebration more than the slow plodding of age, to survive another listless year surrounded by benevolent and loving friends and family, knowing that the icy specter of death looms over everyone’s shoulders ready to snatch us up (or down) at any time. That’s the purest form of celebration – the most poignant and paramount phenomenon - integral to the world and integral to us learning and loving and living; existing.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Did This God Guy Really Create Aliens?

 

"Two possibilities exist - either we are alone in the universe or we are not.
Both are equally terrifying."
-Arthur C. Clarke

Whenever I look at the bigger picture – of life on our planet with our double decker buses and red roses and revolving doors, I find it a bit dull. It’s not the monotonous drudgery of the average human life that I find dull, but the slow, precise way organisms indulge themselves; with evolution. It’s so intricate and complex, though, the way all life stems from a single primordial cell. If it’s all true, we all do indeed have common ancestry and all that separates our grandfathers from E. Coli is a few million generations of life finding a way of doing things it wants to do. Which leads me back to the bigger picture – it makes sense. Aside from the disputes between things like abiogenesis and panspermia, all these sciency theories that are not really theories but fact, but still theories; aside from them it’s all very believable. Something called the big bang happened and it created space and time and atoms, and gravity eventually pulled these atoms together to form earth, and then some weird chemistry happened between atoms on earth and we have life. It’s a very harsh, clinical portrayal of what could otherwise be the most poignant narrative ever. But there’s no way for us to access that information. We don’t know when life was first born. People remember birthdays; grandparents tell pretty stories and parents tell horror stories, but they all still remember your birthday. And yet all we have to learn about where we really come from is talk of amino acids and self-replicating molecules.

Why can’t it be another way? I’d like to live in a world where I wouldn’t be mad for thinking that this whole thing is a computer simulation, or that HAL 9000 really exists and we’re all just 1s and 0s in its singular reality. Or that aliens created the planet earth and will soon destroy it to create space for an intergalactic bypass. That would mean that there is an ultimate way to find answers to every question way have (aside from creating a giant computer or doing things the hard way by doing maths and launching spacecraft). I’d like to believe that there is indeed a creator, because that’s just a lot more of a poetic story to tell. Many religions have already painted a picture of what this creator might look like, or what this creator wants done from us mortals, and how we should eat, read and behave. When people are bored, as they have been for millennia before the Industrial Revolution happened and whales started dying out to feed our consumerist attitudes and corporate greed, they like reading and living colourful stories – and religions fulfilled that for the longest time.

So I’m talking about god a lot, and here’s where I have to tread a bit lightly because I really want there to be a god, even though I’ve never been religious. I’ve spoken about this before, but I revert back to my personal inspiration, Albert Einstein: “If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” I marvel the framework of physics and mathematics that even begin to set us up for exploring the universe, but at some point everyone has wondered who set it up. Who set up constants like gravity and the speed of light, and was it a ‘who’ or a ‘what’, or was it even ‘it’? It’s so ridiculous that we can’t fathom the concept of nothingness before the creation of space-time; that we have to believe in creation instead of a limitless, four dimensional expanse, beginning from nothing and fading away into all of eternity. There has to be something, right?

I’d honestly prefer it if there were, but Einstein’s interpretation of god will continue to make sense for the longest time. Let’s say he isn’t right about this one – that either the religious identity of a god is correct, and there is a physical manifestation of a creator somewhere – or the more standard atheistic standpoint of there being nothing at all. How likely are we to encounter aliens? Does Fermi’s paradox, which so kindly tells us that it’s not fucking likely at all, mean anything if a god really does exist? It seems almost hideous and cruel that we’re put on a little rock planet far away in the Western corners of the Orion Arm in the Milky Way, far away from a heavily concentrated supercluster, far away from the centre of a galaxy, and far away from that thing, whatever that thing was, in the movie Interstellar. If he did exist surely he’d put us closer to some friends or enemies.

I really hope aliens are real; I hope life elsewhere exists. It would be sad if it didn’t– not only because all our knowledge and culture would go to waste after a million years if we don’t escape this blue planet, but because we need some sort of scale to measure our civilisation against. The Kardashev scale sounds really cool but we really don’t know if it’s even taking the right scale into consideration; Kardashev talked about utlising the power of stars and eventually entire galaxies. We don’t even know if aliens can read. We don’t know if they’re blobs of goo who eat themselves or intelligent machines that zip through space at 99% the speed of light; we don’t know if they’re the size of microbes or Sri Lanka; we don’t know if we’re the first intelligent civilisation or the last – and both are extremely scary prospects (assuming we’re even considered intelligent). It’s just so many things to consider, some closure into whether we’re good, bad or average would be nice.

If he does exist, and I use the word ‘if’ and ‘he’ very liberally, I do admire his love for both mathematics and art – two subjects which in their cores are very dear to me. I like the subtle things he’s done, like how we see dendritic patterns in our body’s circulatory system, on our planet’s geography in the form of rivers as well as in the concentration of stars in the universe. He’s created an excellent, ambiguous yet intriguing three–dimensional puzzle, the scale of which is daunting and immense but still excites a frisson among most of us when we think about traversing it. He’s created complex personalities, who create art, food, music and have the capability to love – all from a few amino acids. He created numbers and fractals and time and colour and an octillion other philosophical and physical canvases for us to paint, and for that I’m grateful. So, this god guy… probably a smart chap.

It's a fake picture - don't kid yourself

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Laterebeight [Pronounced Latter-Bite]

 

So I’ve been playing the guitar since 2010, and our band, Laterebeight was formed a year before. Some of our older readers might remember me posting about my guitars back in 2011. The band consisted of four of us childhood friends; Aditya Ramchandran (Ramu), Shivendra Shukla (Chevy), myself Upamanyu Acharya, and Samar Dikshit (Samar). I don’t know how or why I formed a band before I could play an instrument, but our musical talent was eclipsed by our Photoshop skills and we ended up with our band, Laterebeight. [Pronounced Latter-Bite]

Laterbeight's first cover, obviously based on the Beatles.

As our band’s resident blogger, I was told to stop listening to Thom Yorke and write about our first gig that happened this Saturday evening.

usFrom left to right – Upa, Samar, Ramu and Chevy
Upa on guitar, Samar on guitar, Ramu on guitar, and Chevy on bass.

I’d always wanted to play live, even before I picked up the guitar in a David Gilmour infused frenzy. But I never really got a chance to play what I liked; Pink Floyd wasn’t appropriate or appreciated in school assemblies, no band would recruit a kid who didn’t play Bollywood songs, and no Lower Parel pub would give a gig to someone who can’t sing, even for free. So the four of us pressed on with continuing to learn guitar till the four of us were learning from the same gentleman. It was he who hosted the concert – the second annual RisinGen, for his students. It wasn’t so much a gig as a talent show, and we had talent.

Because being part of the not-rising gen is too mainstream.

We’d been practicing since I joined his classes in April, although actual practice happened barely thrice, two of which were in a studio. We met at my house at 6 PM as the show was to start two hours later. We practiced our set twice till we were satisfied enough to start making jokes at Ramu’s expense, as usual. Ramu and I played a bit of Dota 2 (3 of ours’ new obsession) and neither of us had our 7Up because we were feeling quite nervous.

 Pictured: What Laterebeight does best, absolutely nothing.

I’d been nervous before, to the point where my hands shook fervently – they do shake a little bit but it’s almost pendulum-like when I’m nervous. It’s that rickety rackety Parkinson impersonation that I’ve mastered, but guitar fingers do well to numb that particular feeling. Thankfully that didn’t happen this time because I wasn’t really nervous, just anxious for it to go well. We reached the venue 55 minutes after we were supposed to, but thanks to a trusty Indian tradition known as ‘delays’, we were early to the show. The trip from my house to Prabhadevi was spent talking about how late we were, how being late wouldn’t affect us because we were last to perform, and how some girl liked Samar.

The first set was quite frankly, one of the best things we’d ever seen in our lives. Five little kids – so small that had this been school recess, we’d have accidentally trampled them - playing Doe, a Deer. As the night grew on, Ramu and I went down to eat (I had a lovely wada pav, and he got a medu wada), leaving the other two wondering where we were and why we ditched them. I tried to call them, but there was no signal. Sadly, no one believed me. Many performances by some talented (and some not so talented) students later, it was our turn.

We don’t actually have a drummer in our band, or a vocalist, or technically even a bassist (Chevy borrowed a friend’s bass). Drums were being played by a guy called Joe, who was really quite good and fun to play with. I play lead guitar on two songs, interspersed with scatterings of rhythm. Samar is rhythm and electric. Ramu plays acoustic guitar with lead on one song, and Chevy plays the bass, and not the cod, as I often love to joke. None of us can sing, so we’ve never got around to it. [We’re still looking for our Freddie or Thom]. Our setlist for this gig was quite small, and we tried to fit as much into it as we could, so we did various parts of different songs that we knew and loved. It’s called the Greatest Hits medley.

Bonus Soundcheck: Money by Pink Floyd
1) Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd (Intro)
2) Let it Be by The Beatles (Acoustic Instrumental)
3) We Will Rock You by Queen (Instrumental)
4) Untitled Instrumental by Laterebeight (Riff and solo)
5) Stairway to Heaven (Intro)

Shivendra Shukla - bass maestro.I'm stuck in Limbo between Jonny Greenwood and David Gilmour

The performance went well – the crowd cheered quite loudly, the lady who was compering asked us to remember them when we became famous, and our guitar teacher told us we did a good job. So everything was great. But that’s not what I want to write about because victories are fleeting and plentiful. It’s the value of the combined losses that add value to a friendship. After one of our practice sessions the night before the concert, we went to one of our favourite places to eat, McDonalds, ordered a lot of food, and discussed our group’s dynamics.

Samar impersonating a guitarist sucessfullyRamu, thinking about playing Pirates of the Caribbean Theme Song but choosing not to

Laterbeight is a wonderful name for a band, but in the end it doesn’t mean anything. I picked out the name by making a portmanteau of two words from a random name generator. The words don’t form the band, it’s the people in it that do. Samar and I, between us, might provide 80% of the music, but Chevy gives us the solidarity and Ramu, the cohesiveness, without which our 8 year old group would have faded away into obscurity long ago. We might not even be interested in music as we grow older, but in true boys-will-be-boys fashion I think we’ll always be doing something or the other, whether it’s making videos, playing competitive Pokemon, getting into IIT, or harassing McDonalds’ customer support for their inevitable mishaps. Laterebeight, like Top Gear UK or the Queen of England, is going to stay. As the inside joke runs, our first album is called Greatest Hits and it’s releasing when we’re 24 years old in 2021. Stay tuned!

Laterebeight Facebook for more information

Laterebeight Twitter for less information

Laterebeight Youtube for our concert performance, practice sessions, and bloopers (mostly the latter).

And finally, watch part of the concert footage here!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We Prefer Stories to Data

 

Humans, as a species, prefer stories to data. Our 140,000 year old cave-friend Oogh only conversed with his friend Aagh through grunts and primitive words. Presumably, he told Aagh about how tasty this new batch of mammoth meat was, how Pogh was a traitorous coward, and how he planned to ask a pretty cavewoman out on a date. Our 6,000 year old Egyptian friend hadn’t discovered writing or mathematics, the two most important forms of communication in the known universe. He probably told his friends about the impending flood of the Nile or how the sparrows left early this season. And here we are today, with charts and graphs and derivatives for rectilinear motion; yet we still don’t know why we’re here on this tiny rock hurtling through the cosmos at 30 kilometres per second (depending on where you stand).

In 1876 AD, a French man with a giant mustache called Guisseppe Blanche invented something that covertly helps every single one of us everyday, and yet most of us don’t even know about. Blanche was a revered inventor who lived on Avenue 24, back when ‘inventor’ was still a profession and ‘living’ in Paris was something people did. We know that he was a certified badass because he once survived on only one carrot for an entire week, and had a tap of beer flowing from the local brewery to his house. He invented a series of perpetual motion machines which confounded people for decades, though they were largely considered to be fraudulent, due to the laws of thermodynamics. However, a byproduct of one of his many machines was the Byron axle which is used in every car, truck, aeroplane and coffee machine today. It was a tricky, multilayered invention with 32 gears spinning in opposite directions. He was truly a genius, if a slightly eccentric one.

The smarter of you would have realised that absolutely nothing in the last paragraph was true. There is no one called Guisseppe Blanche, there is nothing known as a Byron axle (though an Adams axle does exist), and Avenue 24 is the name of a bar in Canada. The carrot thing was Isaac Newton and the beer was Neils Bohr. Who drinks beer in France anyway? Stories are interesting, facts are not. We as humans are hard-wired to feel emotions like fright, anger, awe, excitement, and my favourite, sadness. Stories incite these myriad emotions; facts don’t.

Imagine if this wasn’t true, though. Imagine we weren’t conditioned by our genetic ancestors like Oogh and that random Egyptian bloke to enjoy and reciprocate stories. Imagine if we were like robots who only interacted in ones and zeroes. Gossip wouldn’t be a thing after age 3 because the actual information we gained from them would be minimal. We wouldn’t care if Mike started dating Rachel because that information doesn’t help us. Instead of Harry Potter and The Fault in Our Stars we’d be reading Excel sheets on S&P500 stock growths. Instead of learning history or political science or really any arts student-esque subject we’d all relate to differential equations and Bose-Einstein statistics.

In some ways I’m disappointed in our species, because we don’t marvel the universe around us enough. We have books like the Bible and Bhagvad-Gita telling us lovely stories to help answer some of life’s most difficult questions. Stories that relate to the earth, our neighbours, animals, trees and human morals. But stories are the cork on a bottle, a cognitive bandage, a rope with two knots instead of cerebral steel bars. They don’t help civilisation progress any more than prank videos or traffic on Linking Road. If humanity had invested as much energy into mathematics or physics as they did into theology and politics, some of those questions would have been answered by now. Perhaps we’d have a real answer instead of just ‘42’.

But I’m glad we’re not machines. I’m glad we enjoy stories. I really like that we value the concept of love and brotherhood more than calculus because that’s what’s helped us survive till 2014. I like that things like the Dunning-Kruger effect and Confirmation bias exist because without it, we’d just be inanimate, predictable shells spouting calculated binary information. The whole concept of humanity is defined by this moral and intellectual gray-area, which is what sets us apart from robots. We’re not always correct, and we like feel-good content more than numbers and facts, but is that such a bad thing when the only thing that each and every one of us strives for is love and happiness?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

8 Tips to Write English Like a Pro



Every other post seems to be about writing on this blog. But bear with me for a fleeting moment; this one is actually going to be a useful post because I’m about to reveal everything I know about writing. I don’t have formal writing training. English classes in school really didn’t teach me anything - these are writing tricks I’ve picked up over the years after reading hundreds of books and billions of internets.

Sit down and write. It doesn’t matter what you write; challenge yourself to think of the vaguest, bleakest and most dull memory you know and try to turn that into a story. Describe that one time you had tea at the balcony of your grandparent’s house; that one time you were scared of walking home alone; that time your were on holiday but spent your whole day in the hotel anyway. Take up topics that don’t immediately inspire you to punch out words and make yourself write.

Don’t feel ashamed to use words whose meanings you don’t know. Comb through the thesaurus if you’re ever out of ideas. Pick a word whose sound you like. Mellifluous, decadence, perfunctory, quintessential; these are words I personally like because of the way they sound. These words to me are the rose petals at a pretty wedding, an ice cream after a lovely dinner. They spice up your language, making a dull sentence slightly less vacuous. How do you find these words? Well, you could underline it whenever you come across a word like that in a book you read. But I’ve realised that this method is inefficient, since a word doesn’t really enter our lexicon till we’ve used it in abundance. It rarely happens to me, personally. I’d learn maybe one new word a week or so. So here it is: whenever you want to learn a word, write a story around it. Just sit down and write; it doesn't even have to be good. Let’s say I want to learn the word mellifluous.

“Stephen was incredibly frustrated by the way his language never sounded quite as good as his peers’. He’d watch himself in video recordings on Youtube. He’d speak into the mirror. But he always sounded monotonous. He sounded like he was born and brought up in a chemistry lecture and spent his holidays in a Sub-Saharan cave speaking with bats. He was especially jealous of his friend Hugh, whose voice sounded marvelous and angelic. Every sentence he uttered was pure, unadulterated music; every word had score, every paragraph had a crescendo. His mellifluous vocabulary was particularly alluring to those he interacted with. Stephen wanted to learn to make his words flow like a river, to be mellifluous.”

I chose the word mellifluous because I use it a lot, even though it’s slightly uncommon, and also because it gently segues me into the next point; turn your words into music. Painting, literature and music are all forms of art. Many would argue over what’s the purest and most pristine form of art, but it’s no secret that words need to sound like music to make it interesting. I don’t literally mean “sing the words”; it’s a bit more subtle than that. Words need to have a certain rhythm. Shakespeare’s verses sound great because they’re written in something called Iambic Pentameter.
We have recently become acquainted, and this might seem irrational, but here's the numerals by which to contact me. Use them perchance?
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
-Shakespeare, Sonnet 18


Explained simply, each line has ten syllables, which gives it five iambs. An iamb is a pair of syllables where the second syllable is stressed, such as the word “goodbye”. Hence iambic pentameter; five iambs. So why am I explaining this? I’m telling you this to familiarise youself with the basic concept of rhythm, not just in poetry, but in prose. You should not write words in iambic pentameter unless you’re writing a Shakespearean sonnet. Look at the verse above, though - it sounds like it’s rolling on gently like an ambient drum beat rather than being a series of forced interjections. Get your words to sound like that; get them to sound poetic. Use short sentences. Use a few more. Once you’re done using them, try a medium sized one. Perhaps, if you’re so inclined, you could take your reader on an unsuspecting adventure every once a while, fly them into wind, give them a taste of lexical freedom, with a great big sentence like this one. Or you could not.

See what I did at the end of the last paragraph? Like a song, words need to have rhythm, and enough structure to be considered correct, but they also need variance. This isn’t a rule, but it’s more important than a rule because a reader demands variance. No one will read what you write if your sentences all sound the same, if they lack that fatal attraction of poetry or that charming grasp of drama that they desire. You need variance.

Well, on to punctuation. This isn’t really important as long as you’re correct. But what defines ‘correct’ with things like semicolons (;), colons (:), ellipses (...) and dashes or hyphens? Well, that depends on the writer. I would say from personal experience that it doesn’t really matter where you use either any of these unconventional punctuations as long as you don’t overuse them - perhaps once or twice a paragraph. Colons are used when providing examples. “The names of the winners are: Upamanyu Acharya and Thom Yorke.” If you’ve noticed, I use semicolons a lot, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know where to use them. I’ve always used it to join two long and related sentences together; no one has corrected me so far, so I’ve continued doing so. You can also use a semi-colon for giving several examples which have commas or the word ‘and’ in them. You can use them for explaining your examples by adding a short sentence to them. “The best comedy duos that I know of are Mitchell and Webb, they’re very good; Fry and Laurie, because of their understanding of classics; and The Mighty Boosh because I don’t understand a word they’re saying.” A hyphen is a versatile punctuation and you can use it anywhere - it’s a literary crutch; something you use when you don’t know what else to use. Hyphens are often very informal, so don’t use them more than two or three times in an essay. Also avoid ellipses (...) for the same reason, and remember, any more than three dots is not part of the English language. So these are how I use these punctuations. But then again, I’m not an expert...

I salute you, Sir Digby Chicken Caeser!
This is what most writers look like
Now we're on to our final subject, which is imagery. If you've ever read the English language you'll know that imagery is one of the most powerful forms of expression. The best writers use vibrant imagery to describe their setting to give their readers a sense of what the story is going to be about.

"When I was alive and had a human heart," answered the statue, "I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the Palace of Sans- Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter. In the daytime I played with my companions in the garden, and in the evening I led the dance in the Great Hall. Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was so beautiful. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness. So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot chose but weep."-Oscar Wilde, from 'The Happy Prince'

The above quote is rife with imagery and symbolism which are neatly explained in the paragraph itself. Tears indicate sorrow; the wall indicates entrapment, both physically and emotionally as the prince does not know what sadness felt like. Before moving on to actual descriptions, Wilde uses a sentence or two to use vivid imagery to give you context for what follows. This is important for anything you write, even essays. When something dark or foreboding is about to happen in a story, most authors would subtly hint at it beforehand with descriptions of unnatural events, or use an entirely different paradigm to explain it. In Jane Eyre, the splitting of the chestnut tree by lightning while Rochester proposes to Jane symbolises either the force of nature in our world, separation of loyalties of Rochester, or even the fact that it wasn't meant to be. The symbolism is open to interpretation, but what's important is that Brontë gives the reader something else to relate to other than pure event and description, in this case it's the tree. This builds the world that the reader is surrounded by; it's the background that makes the world interesting, event though it's not directly obvious or related to the story. In essays, use metaphors and similes that aren't dissimilar. If you use a metaphor related to water, for example, try to make the next one related; make it about sailing, or swimming. This is a subconscious trick to associate different parts of your essay to the same framework, because both the similes or metaphors relate to the same thing. Smart!

I've never read Jane Eyre.


Finally, it's not about reading a lot. It really isn't. One must not read a lot to be a good writer. It helps, but it's not what you need. To be a good writer you need to understand what the reader wants, deliver it with a few twists. The twists are what makes it interesting. Anyone can write a five hundred word story about happiness, but how many of us would be able to take a story about a boy living in the slums and turn that into an ecstatic comedy? Your work needs to be interesting, though, because we are surrounded by dull people in our daily life. Reading is an escape, and when someone chooses to escape into a world you created with words, it's imperative that you be more interesting than the readers' dreary and plodding life. So you can either read a lot or experience the world for yourself - go do something interesting. In the end, a good book is not about the language, it's about the experience.

Monday, April 21, 2014

That was Collab Week

 

How Can Collab Week Be Real If Posts Aren’t Real?

Thanks to all the people who posted in Collab Week and helped get this blog get some views; Meher, Sumer, Nikita, Upasana, Shivendra and Vaibhav. Great work.

The main reason I did this aside from getting views is to show the different writing styles that we’ve all picked up in our short little lives. Each one of these posts was different, in both writing and storytelling. Having different people write introduces us to different perspectives. I think it’s a breath of fresh air from my jaded and cynical approach to life – I might do this again someday.

We had 8,839 words written for collab week from 7 different writers. That’s about 8 words per individual view (yeah, it’s that bad). But if views were everything I would have closed this blog six years ago. I hope it was an enjoyable experience.

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Upamanyu Acharya is a writer who doesn't write. Sometimes he's an artist, musician, photographer, physicist or lazy student. His hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words.