My dad in law has passed on last night. I am rushing home now, logging this in from the Singapore Airport. I will be here only intermittently from now on, till the 2nd week of March. I will miss you all.
I have put Google Analytics on my writing blog, just to figure out what kind of keywords get the most visitors and the visitor count, because that one is on Blogger, and does not have the kind of extras that WordPress does.
And I discovered that Google Analytics also tells me things like how many visits I have had from which city!
I have visitors from Melbourne and Stockholm, from Milan and Paris, and these I am excited about, but they are somehow the expected.
What I am really intrigued to know is that someone from Ellicot city or West Rutland in the U.S., or Kirkintilloch in the U.K. has visited me. I have a visitor from Novi Beograd in Serbia and Montenegro, I have visitors from Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, and I am thinking, wow, what completely fascinating names! I don’t even know whether most of these are towns or cities, what they look like, and so on, and yet, here are these people who have stopped by.
I have always known that the internet has a degree of omnipresence, and that complete strangers from across the world visit my blogs, but somehow seeing the names of those cities and towns, the date when the visits came and so on makes it so very real!
As you can see from the links, I have looked up a few of the places on the internet. I now have a new pastime (when I am taking a break between the gazillion things I have to do): every time I get a visitor from a place I have never heard of before, I will look it up, and take it from there.
For example, Wikipedia tells me: Anthony Burgess‘s Brunei novel Devil of a State is set in Bandar Seri Begawan. The construction of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is a major theme in the book. Maybe I will look up the book, next time I head to the Borders bookstore!
While at my writing desk I have often wondered about the sort of view writers have from their desks when they write.
It really makes me curious as read bloggers describing biting winters, flurries of snow, or walks by the bay, as to what it really looks like from where they write. Is there a television around, a pet or babies underfoot, or the post from an office cubicle, an airport, a (Bob, from Tokyo) hotel room ? Some of the bloggers (Cliff) offer an insight into where they work from, others talk about the feelings set off by their urban lives.
I love these tantalizing bits of information, and I find myself imagining the circumstances and surroundings from where a post was written. Someday, when I have the time to spare I am going to start off a photo blog just about this!
For now however, I’ll have to be content posting a picture of the view from my window as I write. This is from the gallery of photos I have talked about in my post Writing inspired by a Digital camera on my other blog.
I had never thought I would be writing a post about winters. But in perpetually sunny-cloudy Singapore, you miss winters. I never really had cold winters early in my childhood, but there WAS a winter, we had four seasons.
In Singapore being under the scorching sun is not much fun at 30 degrees C almost throughout the year, t-shirt sticking to sweaty skin, with humidity playing all kinds of tricks. I see only the Europeans and Americans sunning themselves, the Asians mostly shirk the sun. This is a garden city of air-conditioners and chalky skin, I have seldom seen a Singaporean happy out of doors.
Reminds me of my childhood, when on winter afternoons, we would sun ourselves, playing around the women in the neighborhood who would be gathered on lawns, knitting, chatting, eating oranges.
I have a craving for those oranges, big, bright, knobbly, juicy, sweet. I remember trying to sleep off under bright sunlight, and how my world would turn an orange red when I closed my eyes, as if the oranges had somehow bled color, and now covered everything in a warm, hazy glow.
I miss that now, that animal-like enjoyment of the sun, the pleasure of warming one side of the body and then turning around to sun the other. There was something full-blooded about that experience, totally out of reach in pale, anemic Singapore.
I have been writing about Mind-mapping in my other blog, and how it exploits the associative nature of our brain. The brain works in images, in snapshots, which is then translated into language. When someone says “tree” to me, I get an image of a tree, not its wikipedia definition, that definition comes on recall, when needed.
The write-as-you-think journal works on the same concept. From a “tree”, I might begin to think of the green hill in front of my earlier home, which might make me think of how excited my husband was to locate our house on Google earth when Google first came up with it.
And that might make me think of how Google has changed my life, how I depend on it for information like have never done on anything and anyone else before. Which, in turn, may make me think of my Dad and how his encyclopaedic knowledge of almost everything around the sun makes his friends call him up when solving crossword puzzles!
Writing about crossword puzzles makes me think of Sudoku, and how I suck at it, and makes me think of searching for an easy Sudoku puzzle to do online. This is exactly how I get distracted on a bad day, when almost anything is enough to get me distracted from work.
On better days, a word like “tree” might make me think of the tree I am supposed to be researching on, which can provide access to poison in a particular time period, in a particular area. And this would set me off on Google searching poisons, or to an online library I am subscribed to. I would also possibly end up writing up bits and pieces of the story I am working on. Result at the end of the day: a few precious pages written, some background research done.
I seriously feel that while writing fiction, a write-as-you-think journal can be an interesting experiment. It can let you document how your mind works, and help you channelize it in directions you want it to go, and prevent it from going on fruitless quests.
When I wrote the post on the relationship between writing and pain, I knew I would have to go through what I am now, the surgery was planned quite some time ago.
I have a scar on my face, the result of an excision, and boy, it hurts! The scar throbs every time I look down, and I haven’t yet figured out a way to not look down when I’m writing.
Hopefully it will all get better soon, but till then, writing every word is a pain, literally! A bit like Harry Potter’s throbbing scar, I keep telling myself, only the darn thing throbs all the time. My husband looks at the stitches in rapt fascination, cos you can see them clearly under the redness and the transparent bit of plaster. Sometimes I feel he wishes he had it instead, boys and scars have a fascinating relationship:).
But it was an experience really, this whole excision thing, painless other than a few anesthetic injections, and the near headache I got from trying not to look at the glaring operation lights. But I could feel the blood trickling down my face, the doc working fast and easy with a thin thread to do the stitching, and I could smell the burning when the laser switched on.
The whole idea of broken skin is familiar, because I have been accident-prone the past year, small cuts, burns, broken bones. But deliberate cutting of flesh is something else. And so is the sight of blood-soaked cotton on the floor when I was asked to get up from the operating bed.
It is a bit hard for me to think of all the acres of tattoos decorating human bodies all over the world, how people undergo repeated pain in order to deliberately mark their bodies.
And harder still is the thought of all those people who go under the knife time and time again to change their looks: citizens of the glam world I understand, for them looks are livelihood, but what about suburban housewives who go through months of pain to transform themselves, getting addicted in the process?
What about people who get off on pain? Interesting thought, that, one that is a complete mystery to me.
Aargh, there goes my scar again, throb, throb, pull, pull,…….time to go back to some patient roof-staring till the pain subsides, and I can continue writing!
I have come to a clinic without an appointment, and have been warned by the matronly secretary that I have to be prepared to wait. So here I am, all armed with my notebook and will fill the hours by filling the notebook, I guess.
Singapore mornings are crisp and beautiful, but most people here do not seem to have the time to enjoy them. Not being a regular office-goer myself, I do not have the poker-faced attitude of most commuters who simply tell the driver their destination and are lost in their newspaper, cellphone or ipod for the rest of the ride.
Since I often smile at people, I smile at the taxi drivers as well, and they immediately come to the conclusion that they have found themselves a good listener. I have heard several dozens of life histories of taxi drivers, some of them genteel old men who say they drive taxis to keep from being bored, even tho they don’t “really” need to, women who drive taxis to keep up their lives as single mothers and today I met a taxi driver who is actually a magician!
He declared in typical Singlish: “Today your lucky day! I the only magician in Singapore who drives a taxi!” and then proceeded to show me various sleight of hand tricks with coins and rubber bands at each traffic light where we came to a halt:)
Since I nodded and smiled at everything he had to say and replied “I’m sure you are right..” he told me in his nasal Chinese drawl:
“You got sweet face, you know, not angry waan, not like most people lah. They angry all the time lah, never have time to listen!“
I reached the clinic and am now sitting surrounded by people with faces absorbed in their papers, magazines or pattering away at their phones(Singaporeans love texting, and do not make as many calls), and realize that indeed the people around me do have grumpy faces…not that any of them is in pain, they are plain self-absorbed.
But maybe all that is just a front, because every time I look up from my writing, I meet eyes that get hastily turned away.
They must be wondering what on earth I could be scribbling into my notebook. But I don’t mind, I have got the post for my blog, and this is not the first time I have been writing at odd places at odd times!
Another entry into my write-as-you-think journal and I am spreading the journal out over two blogs I know, but I have never been known to be very organized. I have a whole lot of them offline, so maybe I will put them up one by one as I go along.
Today is the first day of sunshine after almost a week of cloudy weather. Though I have spent all of my life in the warm tropical and equatorial countries, I still love the sun, and hate cloudy weather with a passion. Somehow, it seems to affect the way I feel about everything, and it affects the way I write too.
The resolution for the day is to finish the two small articles that I can afford to write from the place where I am staying where internet connection is mostly unavailable, and time is broken into by meetings with doctors and nurses. My father-in-law is a little better, but still critical, and that makes a huge gloomy cloud hang over our heads even when it is sunny out.
The smaller, but equally important resolution is to flesh out some characters, describe them, write a few dialogs and see how they would speak. I know that wont help much in the long run, but it would be a beginning of sorts.
A write-as-you-think journal is more difficult than I thought, and I am quite kicked with the idea of starting another blog, where I can invite other users, friends, family and acquaintances and strangers and see what emerges.
For me, I don’t think I am able to cross the 300-word limit yet, somehow my entries get stuck thereabouts and refuse to walk further. This is due to a few reasons:
Firstly, this has to be an honest exercise, you cannot edit for spelling, grammar, punctuation or for any other mistake, and you write exactly what you are thinking at the very second you are at the keyboard. Secondly, you cannot take a break in between, it has to all come out in one shot, no pauses whatsoever. Lastly, you cannot just always describe what you see around you, you have to follow your thoughts as they flit about, jumping from one thing to another, and not guide them in any way, through visual, audio or any other stimulation.
I love the version of MS word I am using because it gives me the exact word count as I type, and yippee!I have hit 392 toady!
Sometimes it is a sentence heard out of context, from an unlikely source that gives meaning to what is going on in your life.
Yesterday, I was watching a drop-dead gorgeous movie superstar being interviewed on TV, and the interviewer asked him about a not-such-a-good career phase of his life, a string of flops after a debut hit.
And he said, “Well, it was also the period of my life when I was working hard on the movie that made me who I am today.
That dark period of critical and popular oblivion was an incredibly depressing experience full of suffering. But I used it to ask questions, to find answers, to channel those answers into creative channels and evolve as an actor.
I believe that it is important not just to survive through a difficult experience, but to actually use it to bounce back: if you do not ask the right questions when you are suffering, you are likely to merely live through it instead of evolving through it”.
This is excellent within the realm of materialism, but it also makes a great deal of sense in the spiritual part our lives.
They say that “Suffering ennobles a man”, but we know different. Suffering leaves some of us bitter, turns others into villains.
But only those of us who ask the “right” questions during their suffering, and reach out for the “right” answers are made more noble.
Nowadays I try and skip reading the newspaper, or even catching the news on TV. Somehow, I always stumble across the most depraved faces of humanity on the news.
The latest was a four-year old girl who went to a big hospital in India because of a gall-bladder problem. After the operation she developed other problems, so her parents got her scanned. Result: Post-op, one of the kidneys of that tiny child is missing: stolen by the monsters in white coats that prowl about some of the hospital corridors in India.
When writing, I am fascinated by this side of human nature, one that thinks nothing of robbing a child of an organ. I try and explain what makes a perfectly normal man a monster, or whether some monsters are born that way?
Some of my friends tell me that my writing tends towards the morbid, but for me it is a search for light amid the darkness. It is a deep-seated desire to figure out the nature of evil, and to really, really decide whether the existence of evil, of suffering is actually necessary, so that good can exist.