Groot – an arbromorphic representation of a pre-linguistic civilisation at one with nature

We all know that comic books, and therefore movies made from comic books, aren’t meant for children. Yes, they’re fun, and the pretty pictures are pretty, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all you get out of a graphic novel or a comic book or one of said movies. Or at least, that’s not all that goes into it.

Exhibit A: Guardians of the Galaxy.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that you’ve watched the movie, because it’s been over a month since it was released and it’s just too epic to not be watched.

I don’t know about you, but the layers I saw in that movie were insane.

Let’s start with Groot, because he’s clearly the most interesting character. I’m not even going to talk about the beneath-the-surface romance, because there’s other, more interesting things at play here.

What is he?

His answer would be “I am Groot”, which is not particularly helpful. The movie tells us he’s the last Flora Colossus, which again tells me next to nothing. He’s the companion slash houseplant of a cybernetic genetically modified raccoon… OK, that’s interesting, but still tells me nothing of what he stands for, literarily.

(That makes for a nice little tangent, by the way. Is Groot even a he? Or is that assumption just a superimposition of heteronormative values upon a being that has no such preconceptions? If s/he [he for convenience] is a plant-like organism, can human gendered pronouns even apply? The movie itself suggests that genders mean nothing to Groot.)

Groot is a plant – but he’s a plant that walks, talks (albeit with limited vocabulary), is auto-regenerative, self-aware, and capable of higher cognitive functions such as emotion, friendship, kindness, and love.

Plants are producers. As my ninth-standard Botany teacher told us, they are the only living producers in this world. They take the energy of the sun (the true producer) and create a usable form of energy out of it. That’s why plants are special. That’s why trees represent Mother Nature. Because the mother is credited with the act of creation. Mother Nature is the Creator.

The easy way out is to label Groot as the personification of Nature. Because Nature destroys as much as it creates, is as scary as it is protective. (This isn’t anything remotely like an academic thesis, so I won’t bother quoting examples. If you’ve seen the movie, you can plug them in. You know how wonderful Groot is to his friends, and how terrible to his enemies.)

But there’s one big problem with Groot as Nature. And that’s his conversation. “I am Groot”. What does it mean? Why can Rocket understand it? There is a possible answer – is it because Rocket, as an animal, is closer to Nature and more attuned to Her (his) unspoken message?

If so, why does Rocket carry around a gigantic gun and enjoy killing people? Doesn’t seem very Nature-like…

“I am Groot”. “I”. Does Nature deal with the self? Ego – isn’t that something that comes with humanity? Or is the movie, which is after all cheerfully irreverent to laid-down convention, arguing that Ego is Natural? It is possible, and I am certain this dialogue comes straight from the comic books, which are definitely written after thinking through the first layer of meaning, the second, and the third.

I don’t know if you’ve read my other posts. If you have, you know I’m somewhat fond of a certain author by the name of Ayn Rand. She, as you may be aware, has rather strong views on the Ego. But I kind of doubt she would call it natural. Another favourite of mine, Terry Pratchett, says rather charmingly in one book that many things are natural, including hanging from trees and flinging faeces in the air (I paraphrase). Not everything that is natural is good; not everything that is good is natural. If Groot represents Nature, he certainly proves this statement with his willingness to skewer guards.

And yet I believe that he doesn’t. I believe that he represents a civilisation so closely aligned to nature that they cannot be separated from their environment. He represents the civilisation and its environment at the same time.

Pre-linguistic, of course. “I am Groot” suggests awareness, the first glimmerings of rational thought expressed verbally. Rocket understands what Groot has to say – two-way communication is possible in spite of the limitations of the language in its nascent stage. “I”. That “I” is so very, very, very important. The legend of Narcissus speaks of man discovering his own potential, of man discovering himself.

I still remember the first time I looked in the mirror and didn’t see my hair, my face or my clothes – I saw myself. It was a thunderbolt moment. I stopped and I stared, not because I thought I was particularly good-looking – I don’t remember what I looked like that day, but I’m guessing ordinary – but because I had just discovered myself. I wanted to stay staring at myself forever, because I saw a bundle of potential – a living, breathing miracle – a human being – life – myself. I try to carry that soaring feeling with me, every minute of every day, but of course it’s attenuated with time. I understood Narcissus that day.

Narcissus is a tale from Ancient Greek mythology, pre-dating the Christian era by probably 5,000 years. (Honestly, I don’t remember this detail and I’m not looking it up. Suffice to say it was a really long time back.) It’s a tale that came from civilisation at its very origin. (Though don’t believe those who tell you that modern civilisation was born in Greece. It was obviously in Atlantis.)

What’s the point to all this? Think of Narcissus, stuck at that pond. Now think of an entire village of Narcissi. Everyone suddenly realising that they exist. Everyone coming to terms with their own frailty – their own mortality – and the spectacular fact of their own existence. You stop, you stand, you stare, you can’t move past it. Because you’ve suddenly realised how important your name is. Your face. Your body. Your ego. You. “I” is a word that matters. And you can’t move past it.

(That’s why Narcissus was turned into a flower, I believe. Because if everyone ran around appreciating their own existence all the time, the world would never get anything done. So really, the flower-turning was only practical. [Oh my God, what if Groot represents Narcissus in toto?! He's a plant too!])

“I am Groot”. What “Groot” means, I couldn’t tell you. It was probably the result of a tired writer deciding at the end of a long day that there’s no better way to express “tree” than “green” + “root”, which equalled “Groot”. (I said that comic books have layers, not that all writers are masters of subtlety.) It might represent a name, an idea, or a race. If you buy into the first argument, that Groot is Mother Nature, then “Groot” probably stands for Nature. And it works, honestly. When the Flora tells the fauna “We are Groot”, that works with that explanation. I personally believe that that statement shows love – that Groot is saying that he and Rocket are one – but yeah. Hard to be certain.

For my theory to work, “Groot” could be a personal name or the name of a race – an identifier. A marker. Something that shows that Groot is unique. Names matter, in a civilisation that is just learning the uniqueness of each individual. This ties back in to my Narcissus image, and tells me something more important.

The “I” is all that matters in “I am Groot”.

Why? Because “Groot” is nothing but a placeholder for “me”. Just like all names are.

And that, right there, makes Groot my favourite character in this movie.

The Flora Colossus understands something so basic and so very, very important – something that slips so many humans by, and that Colossus communicates his idea without any of the people involved in the daily rush of regular activity (you know, saving the world, holding Infinity Stones, it’s gruelling work) remotely understanding the message he’s trying to convey. No one has the time to stand back and notice the magic of the world they’re trying to make a better place, or of the people they want to save.

And so to return to my thesis statement. Groot is an arbromorphic representation of a pre-linguistic civilisation at one with nature. I really don’t think I need to justify arbromorphic representation, though I should probably apologise for coining the term. Arbromorphic is of course a play on anthropomorphic; arbro coming from the French arbre, meaning “tree”.

I’ve explained why I think he represents a pre-linguistic civilisation. Because, for one thing, his language is not developed enough to be from a civilisation that uses words to communicate. For another, the Narcissus metaphor fails when applied to a civilisation that is already mature enough to have developed language. To a large extent, mature civilisations are beyond that point of startled wonderment, as seen in the complete lack of comprehension of Groot’s words in any of the more advanced species (except for Rocket, who doesn’t seem to think much of the words – just understands the communication).

And finally, we have “at one with nature”. You cannot separate Groot from Nature, no matter how hard you try to analyse ad absurdum. The degree to which the “Groot is Nature” analogy works – in all honesty, it works pretty much as well as the one I’ve chosen to defend, it’s just that I have a personal bias to this one, being as it is all about Ego – indicates this. Considering that he’s a tree – arbromorphic, remember – it would honestly be one hell of a stretch to say that he isn’t one with nature.

Groot: More than just a dumb tree. If there are any such.

And with that, I conclude my first post back after I don’t know how many months. It’s like I’ve added a word per day. (sigh) Some day I’ll figure out how to write short posts. Some day…

If you want to discuss Peter’s Oedipal Complex, Rocket’s Napoleon Complex, the relationship between Rocket and Groot, Gamora’s and Nebula’s motivations (especially Nebula’s), or any other topic, I’m available on email or in the comments section any time. Especially if you can contribute with comic book insights. Hell, in that case I’m available on phone.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Literature, Marvel Comics, Marvel Movies, Superheroes, Writing | 1 Comment

‘Tis the Season!

I’m a day late, but warm Christmas wishes and a wonderful winter holiday to all!

I’ve always felt that the best part about this time of year is that the whole world goes on vacation. Everything’s calmer, quieter. There’s comparatively less traffic (no schools), and all kinds of things are on sale. Plus it’s colder – I love the cold.

Malls and restaurants, movie theatres and resorts, are full to bursting with people having a good time with the family. And every single one of these entertainment destinations is celebrating the season in its own way. Mostly with carols blaring from the nearest loudspeaker – usually too near! :P Either that, or big white-bearded men in large red bathrobes, popularly known as Christmas Thathas, roam the halls, which are not – as it happens – decked with bows of holly.

I’m not a Christian. On Christmas Day, I expect no gifts and I feel no particular religious enthusiasm. But I’ve always liked this time of year. Things are just… happier.

A large part of this is the weather, and an even larger part the fact of winter vacations for children and (usually) a lightened workload for adults.

But the most important reason I’m in principle fond of Christmas? It’s a festival which, like Diwali (which sadly does not come with two weeks of holidays for schoolgoers), encourages people to have fun.

Burst crackers / Throw a party. Make sweets / Bake cake. Buy clothes / Give gifts. Light lamps / Decorate homes. Sing songs / Sing carols. Visit friends and family.

So, to sum up?

‘Tis the season to be jolly!

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Stella Maris College National Seminar on Indian Women’s Writing in English

Hello! Been a while. Ten months, I think? Wow. I’ll try not to let it go that long again, but who knows, right? I won’t make any promises I might break.

So! Coming to the point. My alma mater, Stella Maris College, has invited me to attend a “Meet the Author” session as part of their National Seminar on Indian Women’s Writing in English. I, of course, was delighted to accept, not least because I owe a great deal to my time at Stella.

The session will be in the form of conversation with three other authors (including the Chair) with strong Stella Maris roots – I understand that all of us are alumnae. I’m looking forward to it, especially since I haven’t had too much time to really get in touch with my literary side in the past few months. I expect it to be a very enriching experience for me! :)

It’s not a closed door meeting, so if you happen to be in Chennai and available mid-morning on Friday and want to attend a conversation between writers – whoever you are, reading this – you’re welcome to attend.

Details of the event I’m part of, below:

Friday, November 29, 2013 – 11.30 am to 1.00 pm:

Meet the Authors – I

Chair: Dr. K. Srilata

Writers in Discussion: Ms. Tulsi Badrinath, Ms. Nandini Krishnan, Ms. Priya K.

The Seminar itself is across two days:

Friday, November 29, 2013: 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

Saturday, November 30, 2013: 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Come one, come all! :) Register for the whole event at the venue (Stella Maris College, Chennai) or just sit in for one or more sessions.

Posted in Random, Stella Maris, Writing | Leave a comment

12 Angry Jurors

As February approaches, so does Stella Maris College Play. Considering how involved I was in our 2010 and 2011 productions, it was strange to sit in the audience for the 2012 play. It is equally disconcerting to watch as my juniors carry on the tradition, without me and my batchmates, and – I would think – do an excellent job without us in the 2013 edition.

At least this time, I know only one-third of the cast and crew. We made the Edouard Michelin Auditorium of the Alliance Francaise of Madras our own in 2010, and maintained that sense of ownership until last year; this year, they’re moving to the Museum Theatre, Egmore. The script is not a self-scripted comedy, a marked difference from the three productions I just mentioned – instead, it’s a story touching on matters of law and justice, democracy, and the personal motivations of twelve ordinary individuals who have less interest in doing their duty than in getting on with their own lives. It’s an adaptation of much acclaimed TV drama 12 Angry Jurors.

Now, I’ve never watched this show. Don’t tell anyone, but I’d never even heard of it. I can tell you what I’ve been told about the script, and that’s about it:

A 19-year-old boy has just stood trial for the fatal stabbing of his father. “He doesn’t stand a chance.” mutters the guard as the 12 jurors are taken into the bleak jury room. It looks like an open-and-shut case—until one of the jurors begins opening the others’ eyes to the facts. “This is a remarkable thing about democracy,” says the foreign-born juror, “that we are notified by mail to come down to this place—and decide on the guilt or innocence of a man, of a man we have not known before. We have nothing to gain or lose by our verdict. We should not make it a personal thing.” But personal it does become, with each juror revealing their own character as the various testimonies are re-examined, the murder is re-enacted and a new murder threat is born before their own eyes!

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a strong story to me. It’s a winning premise, and I’m not surprised that this TV drama was acclaimed. I don’t know how my juniors have adapted it, I haven’t watched the play yet or even read the script; but I have nothing but faith in the directors, cast, and those members of crew that I know for sure are involved in this production.

On the basis of that faith, I strongly recommend watching 12 Angry Jurors. After all, you presumably have no bittersweet emotions connected to this franchise. You presumably have not spent your two really good years of life loving the play with all your heart, only to have to leave it behind when you graduate. You, presumably, care at least a little about theatre, as do I and the current students of my former college, my juniors.

That would be why you should go for 12 Angry Jurors. Because I can’t promise a barrel of laughs, as I did in 2010, 2011, and 2012, but the Stellar Players will put up a good play, at least up to the general theatre experience you could expect in Chennai, if not higher. That much, on the basis of my faith in my juniors, I can promise.

So come for 12 Angry Jurors! Details below:

Venue: The Museum Theatre, Egmore
Date: 2nd and 3rd February
Time: 7:30pm (2nd) 3:30pm & 7:30pm (3rd)
Tickets: Rs. 150, Rs. 250 & Rs. 500
Contact: 8939-088-373
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/12AngryJurors.SMC?ref=stream
Tumblr: http://12angryjurors.tumblr.com/
In association with: Crea-Shakthi
Directorial Guide: Dushyant Gunashekar

And, as always, good luck to them! :)

Posted in Stella Maris, Theatre | Leave a comment

Atlas Shrugged essay contest

I’m proud to say that I participated in the Ayn Rand Institute‘s Atlas Shrugged essay contest 2012, and placed second. The essay I entered is below:

Topic: Choose the scene in Atlas Shrugged that is most meaningful to you. Analyze that scene in terms of the wider themes in the book.

When we were in school, my friends fantasized that Albus Dumbledore would owl them their invitation to Hogwarts. I fantasized that John Galt would ask me to abandon this world to its own contradictions and invite me to Galt’s Gulch, alongside the greatest minds of our time.

That said, it’s still hard to pinpoint which scene in Atlas Shrugged is my favorite. The description of life in Galt’s Gulch? The way that Dagny will do anything to build her Line and save Colorado? Francisco d’Anconia’s youth with Dagny Taggart? These are all magnificent, and I feel nothing but pride for the woman who created these characters with such absolute disdain for the morality of apology and sacrifice, and of course for the characters themselves.

However, the question is not which scene is my favorite. The question is which one is most meaningful to me. Which I understand, intellectually and intuitively. Which I live.

And the answer to that is just depressing.

When I started writing this essay, I fully intended to write of the sparkling highs in Atlas Shrugged, the moments that have given my life direction and shown me how the world should be. When I first read this book, I fell in love. I fell in love with John Galt, Francisco d’Anconia, Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart, with Ellis Wyatt and Owen Kellogg. With Richard Halley’s Concerto of Deliverance. With the way children are raised in Galt’s Gulch (719). I was uplifted, inspired to rise above the slime to live my own life. Atlas Shrugged has given me plenty of these moments, and, a few years ago, those are exactly what I would have written about.

Since then, however, I have had to grow up. I do not accept malevolence “in bruised resignation as the law of existence” (720), yet I have seen the way that it is impossible to completely ignore and avoid the moochers. It is impossible to live in this world and not be filled with helpless rage by the willful brainlessness of so very many people. It is impossible for me to hold ideals of the kind that Atlas Shrugged shows us, while living as a full part of the world. The promise of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead is not fulfilled by the life I live.

I would love to write about the absolute pride I feel when Hank Rearden says: “The public good be damned, I will have no part of it!” (445) I want to write about the absolute ecstasy I share with Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden as they careen through the American countryside on a train built of their dreams and minds (224-232), or the joy I take in Francisco d’Anconia’s impassioned defense of money and the philosophy of Capitalism (380-385).

These are the best parts of Atlas Shrugged. These moments of sheer, rapturous joy, which “is how men expect to feel about their life once or twice, as an exception…  [but John Galt chooses] as the constant and normal” (1001), these are the soul of Atlas Shrugged. The “shiftless, the purposeless, the irresponsible, the irrational” (683) that comprise the rest of the world, are insignificant, beneath notice. They are there; to deny their existence would be to deny reality. But it is laughable to adapt one’s life to suit them.

Yet they form the part of Atlas Shrugged that is easiest to relate to. It is painfully easy to recognize a Wesley Mouch or a Mr. Thompson among present-day politicians. Among the prominent faces in my own country, and people I have met, I have recognized at various times an Ivy Starnes, a Bertram Scudder, a Balph Eubank, a Paul Larkin and a Mrs. Rearden.

That being the case, it may be understandable that the scene most meaningful to me is Cherryl Taggart’s suicide.

Cherryl Taggart is a woman of great potential. She has no specific skill. She is neither a miner nor an industrialist, neither a scientist nor an artist. She is employed in a small shop; she appears to be nothing special. Yet her attitude is inspiring. She is a hero-worshipper – unlike Dagny, who is a hero herself – but does not settle for being a fan-girl. She wants to become one of the heroes herself. She is eager, young, and completely in love with life. Cherryl Taggart is an optimist, an idealist. She wishes to live in a world in which she can live. She has escaped from her small-town roots and is finding her true beginnings in the big city.

She would give her life for one of the heroes, the producers, and when James Taggart enters her shop and eventually asks her to marry him, she imagines that her dreams have come true. Even though it slowly becomes clear that he does not adhere to the principles she does, Cherryl marries Taggart and lives with him for quite a while. The fact that Cherryl unconsciously chooses to wed and live with evil is the reason that she eventually has to make the conscious choice to commit suicide.

Cherryl’s suicide is personally significant to me because I associate most strongly with Eddie Willers and Cherryl Taggart (Brooks), and perhaps Hank Rearden in the early parts of the novel. I am not a producer on the scale of John Galt or Hank Rearden. The world would not tremble if I left it. I am only a quiet, contented liver of my own life within my own modest means, produced by my own effort for my own sake – much like Cherryl Taggart should have been.

Cherryl’s is a cautionary tale. The warning is never to let your faith in the world depend completely on any one person other than yourself. While it is true that we mortals need the heroes, in order to live a good life, this is quite different from committing all our faith in mankind and our reasons for living to the safekeeping of any person other than ourselves.

I find that it impossible to live a moral life as Ayn Rand describes it, when your highest ideal is anyone other than yourself. The love between Galt and Dagny, for instance, is at its core a recognition of identical ideals and values in each other. To treat anyone else as the epitome of your values and your ideal of self, is to be self-effacing and ultimately, therefore, selfless.

In spite of this bad judgment, Cherryl Taggart’s potential would have been rewarded, in a sane world, by her long, happy and productive life. But the world is not sane. “Not your kind of world!” she cries as she runs into the river “with full consciousness of acting in self-preservation” (831). And self-preservation it was. As Wikipedia puts it, “Upon realizing the nature of the moral code surrounding her, the apparent lack of escape for herself and the heroes she worships, and her unnamed desire to remove support from the machinations she abhors, Cherryl throws herself from a bridge to her death.”

If she had chosen to live on in that world, in any way, she would have begun to lose herself. A choice to live with James Taggart would have validated his life-choices, as it would have been an underscoring and acceptance of her previous decision to trust in him completely. To throw herself on Dagny’s charity would have been debilitating to her own free spirit. To return to the dime store with the knowledge of her failed marriage and the reasons for it, even assuming she could under the new Directives, would again be a failure to live on her own terms. While Cherryl’s choice to die is not made in complete consciousness, she recognizes that this is not her kind of world. She knows intuitively that she has no more moral ways to live in the world – and acts on that knowledge.

Though I do feel pity for a life cut short, I am proud of Cherryl Taggart, and would be honored to know her or even be her. She is not someone to hero-worship, but she is independent, honest, brave and innocently eager to face the world and win. She lives on her own terms, and she ultimately chooses to die on her own terms as well, in a kind of atonement for her previous bad judgment.

However, there’s an even stronger reason that I find Cherryl Taggart’s suicide so personally significant. Simply put, it’s this: there, but for the grace of Ayn Rand, go I.

 

Word Count: 1413

Bibliography

“List of Atlas Shrugged Characters.” Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia.

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged – 50th Anniversary Edition. New York, USA: Signet, 1996.

 

Posted in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Objectivism, Philosophy, Writing | 2 Comments

Happy Endings

“The Prince married the Princess, and they had three wonderful children and ruled the kingdom wisely and well.”

“The frog turned into a Prince, and had a long, happy married life with the Princess.”

“… and they all lived happily ever after.”

I am absolutely convinced that the only moral way to end a story is happily. Everyone agrees that there is no single story, nor do those stories actually end. So why, I always wonder, would anyone choose to depress their readers?

The answer is somewhere in the writer’s psyche. The purpose of a tragic ending is either catharsis or realism – either to make the reader experience tragedy and thus release the painful emotions of their own lives, or to acknowledge that in real life, right rarely triumphs.

These are both psychologically valid reasons, though I disagree with both.

Ultimately, the question is of when to end. There is no absolutely final ending. It’s the author’s choice whether to end with James and Lily Potter’s murder, Sirius Black’s death, Ron’s desertion of Harry and Hermione on the hunt for the Horcruxes, or Harry’s triumph over Lord Voldemort.

So. Why the happy ending? Couldn’t JK Rowling have chosen instead to represent a darker, more morbid and (some would say) more real point of view?

No, she could not. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because people, especially children and especially in a fantasy story, must be given a reason to do the right thing.

You cannot end a tale with “Do not trust your friend – he might well betray you to your death”, or “Do not trust your own mind”. But most importantly, you cannot end a tale with “That’s the way the world is, you better toughen up or you’ll die just like those idiots”.

And why can’t you? Because it is wrong. It is wrong that you acknowledge that the world is extremely imperfect, and insist on further tormenting your readers with further sorrow. Why do you need a mirror held to society through literature? To see the world more clearly? There is enough news and non-fiction out there which holds up that mirror with absolute unshakable certainty. The people who don’t look at those sources are people who don’t care and will not read the depressing book anyway.

The other reason to write a tragic ending is, you will remember, catharsis.

… well, there’s nothing much I can say against this one. I appreciate the need to feel that others have suffered the same things that you have, and to weep with them instead of yourself. It is understandable, it’s just not for me. When I’m depressed I don’t read or write, I simply can’t. Which means that catharsis isn’t going to work for me.

Little Women is a classic example of the happy ending. You know that any number of things could go wrong in the course of that tale. But by the end of Little Women, Beth is alive and well and Jo looks set to get together with Laurie.

Later, Beth dies and Jo breaks Laurie’s heart. But those things happen in the middle of a book, so that by the time you close it, you have a warmth in your heart and a smile on your lips again. That is the purpose of romantic literature, the whole purpose. To give joy.

Of course, I believe that that’s the purpose of a lot of things, including all literature, all the other arts, and life itself.

So. Let me start concluding before I repeat myself too many times. Orson Welles said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” The implication is that a happy ending is exactly the same as a tragic one, and it makes no real difference which one you choose.

I agree with the statement, though not the evaluation. I agree that it is effortlessly easy to convert a tragic ending into a happy one by ending it earlier or later. And I agree that it is the author’s choice where to end the story and which it becomes. And since ultimately we are talking about fiction, here, where the story is entirely in the author’s hands, I blame the author for tragic endings.

I can’t torment my characters. Seriously, I’m physically incapable of being mean to them and sending them to sure and certain doom. It takes cold-heartedness beyond anything I possess to create a character, give him or her life and love and joy, for the sole purpose of taking those things away. Since I can protect them, I try to, even when the story demands otherwise.

Honestly, I think that’s ultimately the number one reason I detest a tragic ending even when it’s called for. You are creating those characters, you have complete control over everything that happens to them. When you hold someone in the palm of your hand like that, when you can take care of them or kill them at will, there’s honestly no choice, you have to take care of them.

And then to allow them to die, or even worse to concoct situations in which they could be saved but you throw them in the deep end and hold their struggling heads in the water anyway?

Yes, happy endings seem a much saner option for me as an author – the only option, really. I cannot see myself as that much of a sadist. Maybe eventually I’ll see the difference between people and characters and resign myself to intentionally injuring my own creations. Maybe one day I won’t mind traumatising my readers for the sake of showing them how the world truly works. Maybe one day, I’ll “mature” as a writer.

I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath waiting for that day.

Posted in Fiction, Happy Endings, Writing | 9 Comments

Prophecy: The Dragon’s Blade

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but Part 2 of the Prophecy series, The Dragon’s Blade, is now complete and has been sent to the publishers for feedback and approval for publication.

The next phase is editing – from my side and from theirs. Following which of course is production. It will still take a while, but the manuscript is done and sent out from my end.

I had a wonderful time writing it, and I do think I’ve grown as a writer since The Rise of the Sword. Three of my seven major characters just rolled off the keypad. I think it has a decent mix of humour and a darker touch to it.

I hope you’ll find it worth the wait since The Rise of the Sword. Thanks for your patience :)

Posted in Random | 3 Comments

Complain about THIS.

Last night, I watched the India Special episode of Top Gear, which was supposedly so vile and offensive that the Indian High Commission to the UK had to complain to the BBC.

It’s a very harsh article, suggesting that Clarkson and the others do indeed need to be crucified, and that was the only thing I had to go by until the night of January 31st, when the Christmas Special episode finally aired on BBC Entertainment. So, I thought, the two-hour episode is going to be full of Top Gear racially and automotively insulting India. There’s a lot to insult in the transport sector, after all, and they do have a habit of enjoying themselves by mocking everything. That’s their signature style. So frankly, I was willing to believe they’d done/said/implied a whole lot of objectionable stuff in what turned out to be a two-hour special episode. I repeat, it’s Top Gear. It’s ridiculous to expect anything else of them, because that’s their brand of humour; biting satire. Rarely justified, often crass, almost always stupid - but utterly hilarious. Well, to me, at least.

Either way, the point is I was willing to believe that they’d done something ridiculously, even unforgiveably stupid.

But they didn’t.

They weren’t respectful, of course not. (Please.) But they drove through Mumbai without airconditioning and didn’t make a fuss. They travelled by train from Mumbai to Jaipur and hardly said a word about the terrifying crowds and unutterable mess. They stood in queue and only commented on the time taken – not the discipline (or lack thereof) of the queuers!

They were incredibly impressed by the dabbawallas. They remembered to mention, not at all resentfully or bitterly, that Jaguar is owned by an Indian company and that the Nano is the cheapest production car in the world. They noted the exuberance, in an entirely positive way, of the auto-drivers – Tuk-Tuks, as they insisted on calling them. (That was wrong; they’re called Tuk-Tuks in Thailand, I think it is – not India.) They drove through Himachal, and the way they spoke of the mountains was nothing short of reverent.

The image shown in the article of The Mail where one of the three presenters (Jeremy Clarkson, not Richard Hammond or James May) strips off his pants is not some kind of Bart Simpsonian yearning to moon the Indian elite. It’s a bit of extremely low-brow humour that makes the audience laugh at Clarkson himself. Honestly, I didn’t even think of that being objectionable when I watched the show, even though I was watching out for things that might have been cause for complaint.

In another example of where the presenters make space for humour by mocking themselves, one of their tasks or games or whatever they call them involves them acting as dabbawallas themselves. They lose/spill almost all the lunches.

Look, if you’ve watched a single episode of Top Gear you’ll know the kind of antics they come up with. Clarkson drove a car through a mall as part of a road test. Their test driver is called the Stig and his face is always hidden under his helmet. When their “reasonably priced car” needed changing, they gave it a “Viking funeral” by exploding a factory chimney onto it. So let’s just say they were the pack of idiots they usually are, with the usual idiotic pranks, and leave it at that. Only difference is that they were in India, that’s all.

Honestly, I have no idea what people objected to about that episode! The fact that Clarkson said that everyone who comes to India “gets the trots” and so needs an easily accessible loo (e.g. in the boot of his Jaguar) is crass and not exactly true, but a) it’s close enough for some foreign stomachs; b) it’s a commonly held belief, and complaining about Clarkson is pointless when there are thousands who would believe it whether or not he’d said it; and most importantly c) it’s nowhere NEAR grounds to complain against a show! Another thing which I thought was possibly objectionable to our fusspot diplomats is that all three hosts were horrified by the state of the traffic, and said that India has the world’s most dangerous roads. Whatever they’ve officially stated, I really do think this must be the core reason.

Now, I don’t know what you think, but it seems clear to me that this also is not grounds to lodge an official complaint. This is a fact. If we actually had really safe roads, that would be a different matter.

But, I mean. Come on. DO we have safe roads?! Driving in the night, on a two-way highway without a median, would you feel safe? And they’re a set of men used to English roads and conditions! I’m amazed they didn’t die!

We literally have the most dangerous roads in the world, and I’m actually rather glad that Top Gear stated it. This way, a few fewer foreigners will try driving trips in India. Their lives and blood pressures are thus saved.

The Top Gear episode opens with a claim that the team will come to India on a “trade mission” to build ties between England and India. David Cameron appears at the beginning to unequivocally distance himself from the venture – whether on purpose or by pure accident, I have no idea. Obviously Top Gear wouldn’t do that, when it’s a show that – well, it pretends to review cars, but whatever it is it sure as hell isn’t a diplomatic mission. If you ask me (not that you did, of course) the episode did exactly what it set out to do. It was a “light hearted road trip focusing on the journey and the inevitable idiosyncrasies of the cars they will drive, as well as the country and scenery we see along the way.”

Regardless of the sense or lack of it of complaining, regardless of the fact that this shows further disturbing signs that the Indian establishment is prickly about everything that could be a threat to itself, from Salman Rushdie to anti-Sonia/Rahul Facebooking – regardless of all that, one fact emerges. We all stayed up till 1am to watch that whole show, to judge it for ourselves. I’m sure plenty of other Indians did that, too. So – just as with every banned book and burnt painting ever in the history of mankind, Top Gear’s won! I’m sure that official complaint boosted viewership.

But it does worry me how much censorship, actual attempted anticipated or incidental, is in the news recently. Who knows how much takes place that is itself censored?

Posted in Censorship, Free speech | Leave a comment

Awesome Old Year

2011 has been a good year. I had my last three months of college, including my College Play, graduated, joined work, was long-listed on the Vodafone Crossword Book Awards, was judged one of the best debut novelists of last year, and – most important, to me – I’ve just completed the first draft of Prophecy: The Dragon’s Blade.

Here’s hoping your year was good as well, and that next year will be great too! :)

Posted in Random, Stella Maris, The Dragon's Blade, The Rise of the Sword | 2 Comments

Status Update – The Dragon’s Blade

Just a quick note to the effect that I’ve hit 90,000 words of Prophecy: The Dragon’s Blade, out of an anticipated 100,000. I’m really excited by the way it’s turning out :) :)

The first half of the book is in the proof/very-initial edit stage, which should help speed up processes and shorten publication timelines.

Looking forward to it! :)

Posted in Random | 1 Comment