Tag Archives: narrative

Life’s Small Things

I want to share a fantastic story that I read a couple of days back in a book by Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller named “TOUGH TIMES NEVER LAST, BUT TOUGH PEOPLE DO!” The name was inspiring enough. A story about life, our triumphs, our struggles and the way we overcome it. A story that, though derived from a thing as minuscule and innocuous as a potato, really forces us to reassess our approach towards life. Here it goes:

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The potato farmers of the US state of Idaho sort them out according to their sizes – big, medium or small, after they have been harvested. This helps them to get the maximum market dollar over their product. Its only after these potatoes are sorted, that they are bagged and loaded onto the trucks. This method has been followed for generations by all the farmers – all but one.One farmer never bothered to sort the potatoes at all and still he seemed to making the most of the money. A perplexed neighbor finally asked him, “What is your secret?” He said, “It’s simple. I just load up all the potatoes onto the truck and take the roughest road to town. During the 8-mile trip, the small potatoes fall to the bottom, the medium ones land in the middle and the big potatoes rise to the top”.

This is not only true for potatoes. Its a law of life. Tough people rise to the top in rough times, on rough roads.

“When the going gets tough, only the tough gets going.” ~ Knute Rockne

Tough people bring out their best under adverse situations. They fight. They survive. They win. They come out on top. You’ll never win a battle that you did not fight. You will never hit the bull’s eye, if you never take the shot. Life’s a struggle but giving up is never an option. Accept it. Fight for it. Win it.

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When we fall

“I have been a rich man. And I have been a poor man. And I choose rich every fucking day.”

~ Jordan Belfort (The Wolf of Wall Street)

I’ve always been fascinated by studies of the human psyche and how people react in different situations. And of course, I’m not a behavioral expert even in the slightest. But I do believe I have a keen sense of observation. And interestingly, from all my interactions with various people under various situations, I have found (empirically) that the true measure of a person’s character is how he/she reacts when encountered with failure. In fact, I would go as far as to say, that failure is not an event rather an emotion. I mean, we see very commonly that negative emotions trump positive ones in both, longevity and impact. So, when it comes to dealing with failure one’s mind can be occupied for a much longer time period reeling in the thought of “What could have been”. And each one of us tackles it in a different ways. After all, our individuality is a function of our response(s) to all these emotions, including failure. 

So, here’s my take. I believe that when faced with failure, there are only two routes that we can take. One – go into hibernation and hide in our shells. Take refuge of the oblivion until the damaging effects of our failures are allayed from “people’s” minds. This part of your personality is called a “Runway”. Two – we can go back into the wilderness and not give a fuck about what “people” think. We can get up, dust ourselves and fight our way back into the light. This alter ego of yours is called the “Fighter”. Now, like every other person, I have also faced quite a few failures in my life. Sometimes it was a decision gone wrong and sometimes it was not enough effort put on my part and well, sometimes Murphy just came out of nowhere (as he usually does) and kick me in the nuts and went away whistling. 

What did I do? Well, I have taken both routes. I have gone dark and I have fought. Both are extremely hard. Both are justified. But mimicking Belfort’s quote that I mentioned at the top, I have been a runaway and I’ve been a fighter. I have hated myself and I have pissed off people. And I would choose ‘Fighter’ every fucking day. Why? Well, let’s think about it. If you start hiding from the world, if you stop going to the college or your office, if you stop going to parties – how long do you think “people” are going to miss you? My dad always says, “People” does not have any identity. “People” does not have a name. And hence, they are not important than your own happiness.The memory of the masses is quite weak. And they cannot be satiated. In fact, honestly, they don’t give tiny rat’s ass to your problems. But, by taking the second route, you might make at least one person happy. You. 

Your choice. Choose wisely!

My experiments with the keyboard

Do not put state the negative form.
And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.

~ William Safire, “Great Rules of Writing”
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Whoever said ‘writing sets you free’ was a prize ass. There is, to me, nothing more arduous or mind-bendingly frustrating than sitting down in front of my laptop and attempting to churn out a simple piece of prose. I cannot simply hammer away at my keyboard or scribble on a sheet of A4, and emerge half an hour later freer, lighter, calmer. Nor am I capable of throwing down sentence upon sentence, abandoning form, flow and finish for a little skinny-dipping in the stream of consciousness.

It is, as far as I am concerned, bloody hard work. It is painfully slow, very tiring, and therefore, no fun at all. You celebrate the little victories, of course: the little turn of phrase that came out just right, the perfect metaphor that you’re sure you invented, the use of the appropriate punctuation mark, even. But until it is complete, and you are satisfied with the end product (or discard it outright), there is a gnawing vacuum, like a blocked ear that will not pop.

For long, I thought this was because my writing was not honest. I don’t write for myself, it’s always for The Reader. And very often, there is an involuntary attempt to give The Reader what he wants, to make him smile, frown, react. This playing to the gallery does not attempt to reproduce your inner self. It is showmanship, mere entertainment, and you are no more than a literary Humphrey Boggart.

But what does honesty have to do with anything? What is wrong with a little paperback promiscuity? And so what if it is hard work? The purpose, as far as I am concerned, is for it to be effortless, for what is written to seem like nothing more than a happy accident. And that, if you can remember the first time you clambered upon a bicycle, is not easy.

There is no point to this post. I was attempting to do precisely what I said I was incapable of. I was also trying to see if my powers of concentration were as rotten as I thought they were.

On both counts, I was right.

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