My Pile of Things

A dog-eared book
With a scribbled smiley
Accidently splashed with water
Now a confused clown.

That dirty, stuffed pink rabbit
Clipped on the glass
Of a closed god’s shelf.

A dried browned petal of a rose
Pressed carefully between yellowed pages
Leaving behind silhouette imprints
Of forgotten, hazy memories.

A silver ring with multiple loops
A play thing.
A sign of impatience in coffee houses.

Old, discarded cellphone
With the plastic screen scratched.

A broken brown coffee cup
Used as a fancy pen stand.

Trophy for five years’ service
Standing proudly on an untouched mantelshelf.

Honeymoon wine bottles
Painted with sky blue and sun yellow
Fading in a corner
With spidery soft web spun around them.

© Shweta Taneja, August 2010

An obituary to my ghosts

It’s painful to sacrifice ghosts. I don’t mean it allegorically in a past baggage sort of a way but rather literally. Let me begin in the beginning. I have been working on a kids’ story for the past eight months trying to get it approved with a publisher. The story, which I was very excited about started out as a ghost story and now has converted into a kids’ detective story. This is a result of about eight back and forths between me and the editor. Now, the editor has quit and I am working with a new one. This results in another series of back and forth. But this post is not about the shaping. It’s about my ghosts.

My pretty, enthusiastic ghosts who were the ones who coloured the story with their pale sights. They were funny, sarcastic and made the story their own. I loved writing about them. They owned the story from Day 1. On Day 154th, they are being chopped out of the story. First it was just rendering them in the second half of the book, then they appeared only in the climax, now they are being completely chucked out. It’s a simple case of the camel taking over the tent and pushing the poor owner out in a cold desert night. Sigh.

I, their creator and the one who loves them the most, is kicking them out of the ‘real world’ created in my fiction story. Making them story-less. Killing them off in cold blood. In other words, I am selling my ghosts to the suggestions by a series of editors who claim to know more about their ‘audience’, ie, the children.

So this is a post to give them a hug and bid them goodbye. Today is the day they die and are forgotten. But only by the story, not by me. I will bide time and create another story – this time exclusively for them. A story where they are the heroines. Till then, I know they have enough space in my imagination. At least they have no choice.

This post is my exploration of the pain of killing characters you have grown to love and associate with a story. It hurts. It’s as bad as taking out a thorn from your hand. Or cutting your own limb, without anesthetic. I am emotional over this today.

My poor ghosts are quiet. They don’t blame me. They just stand there in a corner, waiting. Biding their time. Another time. Another world. Another story. I owe it to them.

Now back to my story for the final kill.

Rant of a writer’s block

Blank. Blank. Blank! How will I ever finish my novel and get it to be published if I just can’t write? I should quit. Should for sure, quit and take up a cushiony job of an editor somewhere and criticize other people’s writings. Maybe the writer in me is dead and the only way to get her is to meet Yamraj and BEG!

But I know I wouldn’t quit. What’s life without a little bit of fun like writing anyways?

All the strings need to tie together. Only then will a complete picture be formed. Holistic. Is it okay if I write bad than not write at all? What stops me from writing? I had decided to keep on typing to try to record what thoughts are coming to tell you how it feels to be stuck without any words in a head which is supposed to be a writer’s.

My mind thinks of many things but my hands aren’t fast enough to write and my vocab not varied enough to express. Write, write write. Language binds my thoughts.

But still I try to write because I have decided to do something and try to stick to it. Is it that bad? Shouldn’t I stick to something? I want to. I seem to float in empty air, meaninglessly drifting with the flow of life. Aren’t I supposed to do something I believe will bring me pleasure? But is this pleasure? Is it even right to run after the fleeting pleasures I get from writing? Or do I want to experiment with highs and lows which come from new experiences? Is writing like extreme adventure sports for me? I don’t know. Again as I told you, my dear long dead document, I have only questions, no answers.

These answers seem to be quite tricky to find. Even if you manage to grab hold of one, it smokes up and manages to silkily slip through your fingers. Also, as soon as you have this creature called an answer, your eyes become blurry and myopic, almost blind and though you can see your answer, it becomes a misty, mystical creature. Soon, it starts turning invisible. That’s how it works with answers. The more you look at them, the more they start to vanish. Then suddenly, the slippery bugger vanishes completely leaving you with more questions. Sigh. Can someone live their life with only questions around them? Why do we need these slippery buggers called answers anyway?

Only 413 words. That’s the tragedy. You think you have said a lot. You think your thoughts are quite fresh, new, unusual, never heard, dah, dah, dah. You think you have millions of words at your service, working like minions standing and saluting you where you want them to. You think you control them and then suddenly, the seat of power changes. They start playing with your mind. Thoughts which were cohesive and coherent in the garbled walls of your mind turn into gibberish when converted into words in an e-document. How does expression work? How do you put your thoughts onto a document in a cohesive order?

The control is slipping away. But isn’t that the magic of writing? Why do I need the control anyway? You wanted abyss, abyss is what you get.

Men are crazy. Women are crazier. No, it’s not relative; it’s just the way it’s meant to be. You are but a puppet in the hands of language.

(Again, not edited.)

The day I visited a police station

Touchdown to Mumbai after three years and the first thing I had was a watermelon juice. As usual, smiling and remembering old times. While I tried to paid the over enthusiastic waiter, I saw that my wallet was missing. A frantic search began at 11.30pm as me and my friends realized that yes, it was gone.

The result of all the mayhem, cancelling the cards and reminiscing how I could have done this or done that and various other if and buts later, we decided to go to the police station the next day.

Now I know that many of you might have been to a station for various reasons – things lost, people lost, people found on the road sleeping, complaint about bleary music playing in the apartment next to you. For you, it is as common and frequent as going to the grocery shop. For me, count me lucky/unlucky depending on which side of law you are standing on, it was the first time. What can I say! I could have been lawful or just plain stayed away from law or even living in a city like Delhi, was superbly protected. I am lucky that way!

So it was with awe that I entered a quaint little police station on Colaba Causeway. My heart scuttled away and nervously overdid the job of pumping and for a split second I remembered all the horrendous things I had heard about the Indian police force. A friend had once told me how she had been harassed for filing a simple stupid complaint. And then there were always these newspaper headlines about rapes, robbery, extortion and corruption all done by cops in our beautiful country. Make believe headlines splashed across my head, making me cringe inwardly. Of course I didn’t show this to my husband who would never be affected by something as mundane as a visit to the station.

With secret, hidden trepidation I entered. The cop outside, barely visible behind a stack of loose cement bags and a gun (don’t know which), asked us our purpose.

By this time, my purpose of life was flashing before my eyes. But that’s a secret and if you tell it to someone I will have to kill you. Outwardly, using aggressive body language, we delhi-wallas are taught before we learn to walk, I mumbled that I wanted to report a lost wallet. We were pointed inside where vague people mingled with each other or alone in utter confusion. I announced my entry with the word ‘purse’. An official standing on the other side of a table beckoned us and started hearing my story. First there were questions. Who are you? When did you enter Mumbai, where did you lose the wallet? I told him the story (lying about where my wallet was lost since otherwise we would have to go back to the airport and you know Mumbai traffic, don’t you?) He stared at me, knowing fully well that I was lying through my pretty teeth. But I kept the fake bravado on. Then came my main purpose of talk. Wallet lost, fine. Money lost, fine. Cards gone with the wind, fine can be handled. How do I handle my license being lost?

Now don’t get me wrong, fine I was lying about somethings but my wallet did get lost as did my driving license. The policeman said that he cannot file an FIR till I get an affidavit from a notary on a Rs 100 stamp paper that my license was lost. I mean, I am a complete loco? My logic cannot go beyond A + A = 2A, so I probably didn’t understand. How can I, who is a victim, has just lost a wallet, and is a tourist, go find a notary, get a piece of paper signed that I did lost my license for a simple complaint of lost wallet? I am standing there and claiming it to be lost, how does a piece of paper change this??

I was baffled and like I do when faced with something I don’t understand, I argued. I asked him why he couldn’t believe moi over a person who knew how to sign papers. He shrugged and mumbled about it being a government document so only a government person could say I had lost my license and not me. Oh, btw even that government official will just stamp it when I give him a Rs 100 note. I could be lying there as well.

But the policeman, who wanted to be helpful, was adamant. Process has to be followed and only then an FIR can be lodged. I saw him as stuck as I was in rules, regulations and processes which had been set and could not be un-set. How are we free, btw? Him and me?

On another note, a pickpocket, who looked like a lower middle class guy, wearing specs and carrying a broken tote, tried to pick my husband’s pocket for his wallet while we travelled in a bus. My husband had been prewarned by savvy Indians (me and his dad) to keep his wallet in the front pocket. The man managed to take out a piece of a paper. My man caught him doing it but let it go. He has a world to survive in as much as we. With the food prices rising, I don’t blame him. Maybe he should try some politician or cop’s pocket. But that will make him a mining lord.

My learnings. The policeman standing next to you is not a villain but a babu – cursing his superiors and stuck in processed. Oh, and keep the wallet in the front pocket in public transport.

More later, ciao!

PS: This post is barely edited as I wanted unadulterated, raw bafflement to come through, splattered in a rush.

Poem: Broken Butterflies

Tittered, scattered.

Lying crumpled in old, forgotten sands

Are broken wings

Fluttered by the cold northern winds

Fluttered into awakening, they sing

Of bygone, forgotten worlds

Histories of great empires and grandeur

Of souls and decomposed bodies

Lying in the sands with them

Forgotten, splattered.

(c) Shweta Taneja, Aug 2010

Review: Movie WANTED

Let me negate some facts before I begin. This is not a rant. This is not about the movie which had Ms Big Lips Jolie and another guy I cannot remember the name of. I am talking about the comic book.

It was with pleasure that I welcomed WANTED, a limited edition comic book series beautifully created by Mark Millar, touted at the king of realistic comic scripting in the 90s. I have fallen in love all over again.

The first thing I loved about it is the fact that it ENDS! After reading and reading and then reading again, issue after issue after issue of Bleach, the number one manga in English translation, for about three months while I was working on the Krishna script, I had had enough. I wanted to read a comic which actually ended to some extent. Not a Batman, Superman or Spiderman who are splashed timelessly in their never-moving worlds.

Someone recommend Wanted and since I liked Mark Millar’s work, I picked it up. Since I had seen the movie Wanted (no this is still not about that movie), I had some trepidation about the story. I was thankfully completely mistaken!

The plot is a marvel. Of course I won’t tell you what it is here. Just remember that it’s NOT anything they show in the movie. The grey, dark characters, confused motivations and endless, mind-boggling action make it a beautiful series to read. JG Jones realistic artwork keeps you glued to the action sequences. He has superb control on body language and expressions. Mark adds more by way of dialogues. The whole series keeps you glued for not only to understand what’s happening to the protagonist but also constantly marvel the world he’s living in where supervillians have twisted the reality fabric and converted themselves into superheroes!

Awesome plot, brilliantly written. More when I reread it J

I will end with a question. VOTE in the comments below!

How do you like your comics?

  • Book after book is how I like it. It’s not about the story but my favourite character’s adventures. I never want him/her/it to stop!
  • Limited edition is the way to go. Five issues later the thing finishes and I can get on with my life!
  • Limited Editions were so 90s. Big fat graphic novel is how I like them. One book, end of story.

A word’s journey

A Word’s Journey

Hesitant
She resides
On a quivering, moist lip.

From the broken, beating, dying heart
To the boiling cortex lobe
Through an ignited stimuli,
To the barking voice box.

She came with lightening-speed
Grabbing on-edge, electric nerves
An angry flash from the larynx
Tornado-speed to the brink
Of the quivering, moist lip.

She hung, desperately
Wanting to break free
Fly like a free raven;
Not become an Albatross.

But gripped she was
Against her will,
Plastered to the skin
By a remnant of good sense.

So she tumbled back
Into the empty sinewy depths,
Endless cycles and nothingness
An eternal past tense.

(c) Shweta Taneja, August 2009

Haiku Experiments

Money

The inviting
Minty haze
Of papery greens
And China dolls.


Talk

Words.
Ringing in
At every corner,
Converting vapid moments
To memories.

(c) Shweta Taneja, July 2009

Plastic Doll

Plastic doll

I blink my eyes
Fluttering my curvy lashes
My sigh-worthy, limpid
Fake pools of desire.

My perpetual
Red-lipped, toothy smile
Teases and invites
Insipid fires.

My cheap plastic hands
Are servile and inviting
With chipped helpless nails
Painted to perfection

My legs are long;
Peaking breasts
Curved without a crease
Smooth, endless, synthetic.

Then i was plastic
Now i am broken
Lying unused
A tattered token.

(c) Shweta Taneja, July 2009

Old Friend

Old friend

A drop of elixir
Last night’s dew
A sighing heart
When I last met you

Whispering songs
From distant, dreamy lands
Tapping and frolicking
All night long

Ticks from a clock
Endless healers
On invisible scars
Of remembered past

Wiser eyes
Look across
Wrinkles of time
In watery smiles

(c) Shweta Taneja, July 2009