Revolutions and Saarang

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve had too many things to say and no clear way of saying it, but I figured I should just cut it short and put it up anyway.

First off, how great was Tunisia? How great is Egypt? Apart from the fact that the US is screwing up its reputation in the region more and more every day, and will continue to if the keeps giving the revolutionaries reason to think it’s on Mubarak’s side. And as for Israel, the less said the better. They have reason to be worried, of course(that’s a great one-panel comic, isn’t it?), but one would think the “second best option” is still clear. Meanwhile, check out Al Jazeera English’s live feed for the best coverage you can get on the subject. (In general I don’t have much patience for TV/video any more, though, I prefer short posts/tweets/pictures. But that’s just me.)

Jordan's Queen Rania in the Yellow Oval Room i...

Image via Wikipedia

Jordan feels a little less pressing, but I don’t know if that’s because I don’t know enough -I haven’t actually heard anything about human rights abuses etc. in Jordan (the list on the wiki page sounds only marginally worse than say the US, which, while hardly acceptable, is still not indicative of a regime on the brink of collapse), and a regime change is of course a very chaotic and costly affair to be done in a hurry- or just like the fact that they have a really hot queen. (Who is also rather impressive as a queen.)

Queen Rania of Jordan

Saarang was last week, and it was fun, although there were a few disappointments. That was probably inevitable, though, considering that we had collectively set up ridiculous expectations. First day I went out and tried SPENT (the SPorts and ENTertainment quiz)- I can handle some of the “ent” but none of the “sp”, so this was predictably something of a washout. Then there was Wolf, the kinda-roleplaying game I used to play with friends until a year or so back. This was the first time we’d played it “competitively”, and although I had a good run, I didn’t really get anywhere with that, either. Then there was classical night, which was interesting, although the tribal dance thing the troupe tried looked completely ridiculous.

Much more interesting was the “Popular Nite” concert by KK, at least in terms of how sweaty everyone got. Despite the fact that I don’t catch much Bollywood film music-not knowing the language throws me off a bit- I did recognize most of the songs he did, and he was quite good. I slept off for most of Day 2 but I did manage to catch a truly awesome show by Asaf Avidan and the Mojos, an Israeli band. I even bought- by which I mean, paid money in exchange for a physical product- their latest CD, so you know I’m not kidding. Choreo night was right after that, and it turned out like it always does, meaning that maybe if you’re more into dance than I am you might have enjoyed it.

Then there was The Walk in The Woods and The Breaking of the Ankle and the Mad Dash to the Hospital, but you don’t want to know about that, except to say the visitors had a more painful time than they had hoped for. Suffice it to say, I got back to bed by 10 AM and slept off till almost 5, thereby missing Creative Writing, which was one of the few things I had planned to go for. But not to worry, because I went the next day. For the poetry contest. And got second! I wrote 3 fairly random poems in about 25 minutes, if that, so either the judge was on something or everyone else was really bad, but hey, I’m not complaining 🙂 . I’ll put it up here if I can get the paper back.

The rock show was nice but honestly a little bit of a let-down: the band (Pain of Salvation)was good, I suppose, but something just felt off. There were 2 opening bands, neither of which was really all that great, and although we had taken some precautions in the form of a very reasonable number of tequila shots, the buzz was already gone by the time these guys made it on stage. And they could only stay for an hour and a half- when they decided to do “one last encore” the organizers just cut the power to the mic, which meant that it ended on a low note. Everyone was too tired afterward for the post-show party we had planned, so that was even worse. My friends went and had some fun with the band in their room, so it didn’t end low for everyone, but I got to hear too late and I was too bummed out already anyway.

It wasn’t a bad Saarang overall, though- at least parts of it were really good, like the good concerts and creative writing and just wandering around, and some parts will probably be remembered fondly later, like the drama that got us to the hospital and the game of paintball in which I lasted only 2 minutes and still got bruised.


Endsem update

Three exams down and 2 to go. Two were not quite up to expectations(mostly because my expectations were too high for the effort I put in), but yesterday’s was the most disappointing by far. I’ve had a mild cold and fever for about a week now, and although the paper wasn’t that difficult, I just couldn’t think properly through it. But I have resolved to stop making excuses and just study properly for the last two.

Just as soon as I’m done with this post, at least.

On Friday I have an exam where if I perform the way I have been performing in the quizzes, I am in very real danger of failing a course for the first time ever. And I do NOT want to be repeating Analog IC Design in my final semester here. It already ruined what should have otherwise been a fairly enjoyable sem.

I’ve been watching a lot of Glee over the last week or so-about an episode or two every day- and I am getting more and more dissatisfied with it. First of all, the singing and dancing is still fun, but it gets tiring (maybe I should space it out more?). Secondly, it is entirely absurd that Terri Schuester can hide the fact that she’s not pregnant from her husband. I mean, come on. She’s taping a big…cloth something to her stomach. Even if she claims a headache or nausea or whatever every time, how hard can it be to notice that something isn’t right? I know picking holes in a show like this is silly, but I just can’t get over it.

Also, I didn’t even get it when Mercedes told Puck that “you might be the daddy, but Quinn picked Finn (aside: aren’t the rhyming names a little too much? Quinn and Finn, Sue and Schue?) to be the father” of her baby, and he should just lay off. WTF?

Also, I can’t wait until Finn finds out it’s not his kid. I have a feeling he’s going to be disappointingly nice/understanding/wimpy about it, though.

Also, for once I don’t mind one of the lead characters being this stupid. I’m pretty sure I’d hate someone like Finn in just about any other show.

Also, Dianna Agron is hot

I had the strangest dream yesterday. I’m alone in a tent somewhere-the tent door is open, and I can see trees so it’s probably a forested area-,lying on a mat and watching Glee on my laptop (maybe I brought lots of spare batteries?). It’s drizzling lightly, and the overall effect is quite pleasant. I also happen to have a rope tied  around each ankle, extending out of the tent and far into the woods. Every now and then I’m lifted by these ropes -and I do mean lifted, not dragged, it “felt” like flying, I think- and taken through the trees to a clearing of some sort, but for only a split second, and then I bounce back right into the tent, in the same position that I was lying in before. It’s a bit like bungee jumping, only horizontal, and it feels utterly normal and even fun, the way weird things always do when you’re dreaming.

After a while, I switch off the laptop and zip up the tent and go to sleep. It’s a fairly roomy tent, and I’m pretty sure someone else is meant to be sharing it with me: I get a feeling that someone is missing, even in the dream. I’m not very disturbed by that, though, it’s just a stray thought. I’m woken up in the middle of the night (still in the dream) by water dripping on my back. So I move my sleeping bag or mat or whatever to another side, but just as soon as I get back to sleep it’s dripping there, too, and when I look up I see a huge gaping hole on top, and it’s raining quite heavily. The earlier part of the dream was cozy and pleasant and comforting, but at this point it starts getting a much darker vibe, and I’m shivering and curling up while trying to cover myself up with something.

That was when I woke up.

Any interpretations?

Ain’t so Easy to Write a Bad Romance

This is my contribution to my hostel’s entry for the inter hostel creative writing contest, uploaded mostly as a backup.   We were supposed to hand in one broadsheet with certain required elements. The basic idea for our entry is that it’s a scrapbook kept by a woman in New York whose fiance went off to London to be an editor at a newspaper at around 1911-1912, consisting mostly of letters that he sent her and lots of other little tidbits. There’s really not a whole lot else in the story that you need to know, I think. We took a bit of a gamble in having the real weight of the entire theme rest on the last sentence of the last letter, which I wrote and which is posted below. There were two other letters and a clipping from an editorial that the man wrote (it was one of the required elements). Warning: It’s quite a bit over the top with the lovin’, so if you’re in a particularly cynical mood you might want to give this post a miss 🙂 .

April 9th, 1912


My landlady does not believe in the luxury of a log fire come April, and so I write with shivering hands on this unnaturally cold night, longing for the warmth of you held close to me… ah, the memory is enough to lift the cold. Things are going quite well. I remember your apprehensions about my journey here, and how silly they do seem now-the people are ever so kind, and the opportunities ever so much more here than they could be for me back home.

Mr. Davis at the office has very kindly allowed me 2 whole months off, as there are no pressing matters at present. The suffragette movement is in full swing here, but it does not appear to have much popular support, as evidenced by the increasingly desperate acts of its supporters, and in any case my employers do not think anything will come of it. I am less skeptical; it seems rather outrageous to me that women have been denied the vote even this far into the Age of Reason, and sooner or later this must be rectified. Perhaps I speak from liberal naivete and my inexperience of city politics, though, and this is just another ill-fated movement that nobody will remember ten years hence.

Lord Sheperd, my father’s friend (you will recall my mentioning how helpful he has been, helping me navigate through the absurd theatre that is London society, as appreciative as it is of my humble talents) took me to see the house I hope we can call our own. Of course I cannot yet afford one in his neighbourhood, but it is a charming area nonetheless- indeed, it is quite ideal, a haven of quiet in this crowded, smog-filled city, with the only disadvantage being the rather bohemian neighbours, whom we should hardly mind. Indeed, they will be a welcome change in this stodgy city. It is small, but it should be sufficient for our needs. It has the most wonderful little yard; no sooner did I enter it than a vision appeared to me of a sweet young child, our own if God grants it, playing on a ramshackle swing, and I knew that this was the place we should call home. I have already made an offer, and I feel we should be quite happy there.

Tomorrow I will board for “back home”, as I still call it. Yet I hope that this soon may change, for home is where the heart is, and my heart is ever with you; and when I return you will at last be by my side, as my wife. Every hour, every minute, every beat of my heart I long for you, and the closer I come to meeting you the harder it gets. I try to work, but my mind will not stay- I care not for my thoughts, unless they are thoughts of you. Blake was right- there is an eternity in every hour that I am apart from you, and I have been condemned to this lonesome purgatory for all of them. I find your likeness in everything I see; your face lies hidden behind every cloud and you dance in every flame. Every note I hear sings out for you; every robin’s trill, every nightingale’s song. I keep telling myself that you cannot possibly be as fair as I think you to be, that my mind is simply toying with me, that no mortal woman could be to mortal man all that you are to me, and yet it will not be quelled.

You will wait for me on the pier, won’t you? I will wait as long as I must, but to wait an instant more is sheer folly. Your friends will call it eagerness, I suspect, but what if it is? There are worse sins. Tomorrow I shall board the Titanic, and in a week my torment shall be at an end.

Yours in every way,

Yes, I know: Lester. But whatever. Also, read that last line again.

There’s also a poem that I wrote for inclusion in another letter, because the guidelines required a poem.  I’m actually quite proud of this, considering I wrote the whole thing in little over half an hour.

Love catches up to me in the middle of the street
and strikes me down,
and carries me away across the water.
Love guards my back as I prepare for bed,
fighting off Time as it gnaws away at my memories.
Love knocks me off my feet as I rush to work,
and overwhelms me with your sweet scent
(lavender, and jasmine, and something I can never place)
Love sets me afire and takes no note of my objections;
it knows nothing of delayed gratification,
and it is never in mind to learn.
Love is in no mood to wait, yet wait it must,
and it is tearing me apart;
and I can do naught but watch.


In Which I Rant

A vast amount of blog posts and articles and even one best selling novel has been written on “Life in IIT”. Just about every student here has attempted at least one, and nearly all of them are half-baked and incomplete descriptions that spew forth during their periodic existential crises. But for the last few days*, my personal experience of “IIT life” can be fully described by a few choice phrases:

  1. chronic sleep-deprivation
  2. a leaky nose
  3. an aching head
  4. blaring temple music
  5. uninspired writing (@Lays: hopefully, I will resolve this before I actually start working 🙂 )
  6. swine flu scare
  7. total clueless-ness
  8. self-sabotage
  9. tangential (and mostly counterproductive to my real needs) motivation
  10. the joy of rediscovery (True Blood. Is awesome. Watch. Anna Paquin gets naked! And when I say that’s not the reason I really watch it, you KNOW it has to be something special.)

The music seems to have stopped temporarily, but I know better than to think that that is anything but a brief, tantalizing window into a world of silence, a world where one can be free to open one’s window and feel the breeze without being blasted by the same 6 songs on an hourly loop all day, every day. Yesterday, the power went off at a little after 3 AM.  This being Chennai, as soon as the fan stopped spinning, I woke up. After attempting to go back to sleep for another 20 minutes, and after discovering that the mosquitoes were rather more attracted to my newly sweat-slicked body, I decided to open all the windows. With predictable results. I tried holding a pillow over my head to drown it out, but I’m not sure that I wasn’t just trying to suffocate myself.

*and with respect to item 4, which is correlated with item 1,for the next week or so as well, I am told.

Creative Writing, part 2

As I mentioned before, I’m one of the coordinators this time around, and this is the apparently also obligatory “pretty much everything SUCKS*, please send in your entries if you’re even remotely good at writing” post.

Especially Three Phase, in which nobody seems to have understood that the whole point is to make a poem, a short story(or, I guess, an essay or monologue of some sort, if you wish) and a one-act play out of the same topic. NOT OR. OR doesn’t get you anything.

* Except for one very interesting piece in the “Eliminate” category, that is.

Creative Writing

For those of you who didn’t know, I’m one of the coordinators for Creative Writing for Saarang, and this is the obligatory “online contest’s started, please send in your entries” post.

Online Creative Writing

There are three categories. Two are up already: Three Phase, and Eliminate a Little Anarchy. Three Phase is where you (possibly as part of a team, because this will ideally take some work)  take one of the rather open-ended topics that we’ve given and make a poem, a short story AND (not or) a (one-act) play from it, ideally using the topic in a different sense each time. Eliminate… is much simpler: you’re given 3 more or less unconnected words, and you need to write EITHER poetry, prose or a play connecting them.

The third category (not yet up, but will be soon) called “Who Has the Last Laugh?” is basically something like a comment thread that you’re judged on. We’ll start it off-provide the post, I guess- and then each contestant can respond to it and each other’s entries(the comments), pretty much like we do all day on other people’s blogs, except that if you come up with something really wonderful, you get a prize for it. With one caveat: “continuability*” is a criterion, so if your post ends up thoroughly stifling all further commentary, that will be counted against you. This is especially true if you accomplish this by relying on something irreducible, like “God wants it that way**”.

Yes, the theme for the names (is it very or only kinda obvious?) is deliberate and now seems slightly lame, but we were all firmly in the grip of Dark Knight fever back then.

*Can anyone think of a better word?

**Yes, I know that’s as likely to increase commentary as to stifle it, but you get what I mean.

SF Writing Results: Short Sketch

That’s in,too, so I’ll finally have these up at the Shaastra site soon. Here goes:

Astronaut 26 3
Record Button On 28 2
Lijo 25 4
When he was a Cockroach 24 5
The Ironic Ambush 19 8
The Superhero who could not fly 21 7
Zatheran 24 5
A Chat with my AI Program 22 6
The Last Rites 29 1

Yes, I have points and all that. 🙂 . This is what the judge had to say about the winning entries:

  1. The Last Rites, by Amey Asgaonkar and Archana Paranjpe:convincing/compelling: Concept – 7
    whether it draws you into its world/whether you find it exciting or moving: Atmosphere/Immersion – 8
    whether you feel the characters come alive as real people:characterisaion – 7
    whether you feel you have learned something, gained some insight, been amused, or enjoyed reading it: Effect – 7

    I liked the premise of this work, as well as the fact that it creeps
    up on you at the end instead of being flashed in your face at the
    outset. I also found the paradox of Superman’s long lost home
    being his nemesis also interesting. The story proceeded well and
    you really got a feel that this is the sort of thing Supes may
    actually say if he were feeling particularly defeatist. I found it
    poignant, and the fact that it provoked some emotional reaction in
    me is probably the reason I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Record Button On, by Vinayak Sapru:
    convincing/compelling: Concept – 6

    whether it draws you into its world/whether you find it exciting or moving: Atmosphere/Immersion – 7

    whether you feel the characters come alive as real people:characterisaion – 8

    whether you feel you have learned something, gained some insight, been amused, or enjoyed reading it: Effect – 7

    While the concept of this story wasn’t particularly unique, the ending premise was funny enough to add something to it. The dialogue (monologue?) was reasonably written and well paced, and the insertion of atmospheric text cues for sound effects did well to add to the mental imagery evoked by the story. The character was suitably interesting enough, and again, the little twist at the end did a lot to save the gory melodrama that the story threatened to descend into towards the end. I did find it amusing, and I was satisfied by the atmosphere introduced.

  3. [No Title] Astronaut.doc, by Harshvardhan Krishnamoorthy:
    convincing/compelling: Concept – 7
    whether it draws you into its world/whether you find it exciting or moving: Atmosphere/Immersion – 6
    whether you feel the characters come alive as real people:characterisation – 6
    whether you feel you have learned something, gained some insight, been amused, or enjoyed reading it: Effect – 7

    The premise of this story is probably what saved it from the others. While not unique, it was compelling and well executed, which is an important aspect of concept execution. The story and atmosphere was plausible, though I feel it is important to avoid an excessive jargonisation of speech patterning, which, while suited to the story, can lead to glassy eyes.  Nevertheless, it probably provided the least simplistic moral tale available, and evidence of a thought process that has gone into concept execution is apparent.

And that’s it. Congrats and sorry, people. Now, I have to give this whole thing to the webops guy to put on the Shaastra site. Also, will miss the Golden Jubilee Conclave, I think, no invites and I hardly think I can bug my core like they told me to 😦 . Have more shaastra work anyway. And apparently, public holidays don’t apply to D and C slot profs, so have that as well.