Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 25 Post (Prompt: Love)

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. And, here’s my first attempt at writing a 20-words story based on this week’s prompt, which is Love.


Love

Passersby ignored him; a tradition for them for last two decades. “Here you’d proposed. Here I’m without you.” he sighed.


I hope you like my humble attempt.

Just Another Lens

Another day, another life lesson. Each day reminds me of looking at life’s brilliance in the simple terms it has lent me. Yet how complicated, difficult I make it to even survive through this ordeal. Life can become comfortable, provided I follow its quintessential policy of unconditionally believing in its design; His design.

The more I wish to take up control of my life, the more I realize that You are both the cause and the catalyst to it.

On Monday, Shambhavi and Aai came back from shopping—they’d accomplished this mammoth task of ticking all items off their long list. Aside from the monthly groceries, the list contained all fancy and unusual names that this Diwali could lend us. But only after mentally reconciling her accounts, Shambhavi realized that she had underpaid one of the vendors. Even though the amount was a meager 20 rupees, it made sense to pass it to him. It helped that we were planning to pass through the same route.

That one negligibly small act of kindness, perhaps, might have triggered a series of events that then took place. On our way, we saw humanity flourishing, radiating in its new awe.

On one occasion, we saw a biker helping an old street cart-puller push his cart up a bridge. On another occasion, we saw two men on their scooter stop at a signal before us. They then drew a few biscuit packets from their under-seat storage and handed them to three children who had occupied the pedestrian walkway.

Some day for all sorts of acts of kindness, wasn’t it?
Their rich perspective toward life lent me this poem, which I share here with you all. If there is a cause to this poem or a catalyst to it, then you know who it is! Through these strangely amusing and simple ways, He (or is it She?) continues to teach me life lessons that then flow through my words, such as these:

Those erudite discourses,
Those wise’s omens,
Those conversations
That exude Your brilliance.

Those detailed accounts,
Those sung, unsung ballads,
Those dances
That he performed in Your presence.

Those feelings of compassion,
Those acceptances of altruism,
Those promises
That reflected once in Your benevolence.

Have all been undone;
Annihilated by just one act.
The act that reflect
Not penitence, but Your essence.

That one act of kindness,
Of staying true to the oneself,
Of giving, unconditionally, and
Being one with the One, in a sense.

All it required was
That one heart: dyed and drenched in love;
That one act of feeling others’ pains.
Essentially, of using a different lens.

©Suyog Ketkar

3 Key Takeaways from Apple Event 15 Sep 2020

So, as Apple concluded its first big event, a first online event, for 2020, I could not help but think how carefully it designed and integrated everything into that one big thing that matters. This post is a result of that contemplation, and here’s what I’ve found:

Watching the Wrist: Listening Well Enough

As parents, we appreciate if our children listen to us. In fact, as friends, we want the people within our inner circle to do the same. And, as customers, it delights us when the companies we invest our hard-earned monies into be receptive toward our needs.

Amidst the testing times of COVID-19, therefore, it is heartwarming that a major part of the announcement of the new iteration of Apple’s smartwatch was dedicated to fitness and health. It shows us how Apple believes this product can and will play a big role for the company.

Everyone tries to focus on fitness, but we all know how far have the Samsung Health and Google Fit have been able to achieve in comparison to what Apple has managed to do with its Apple Health App alone, not even counting what Apple Watch contributes to it.

Product Integration: Together, Better

Most of the Apple products are brilliant not because they are extravagantly designed or packed with features, but because they are packed with features that you need and want at the same time. I see that the brilliance of their devices is not in making them complex to operate but simple and seamless to use.

When I got my MacBook Pro, I didn’t have to type in my home Wi-Fi password. Because I had logged into the laptop using my Apple credentials, it logged in effortlessly. It was only when the browser opened into my favourite sites that I realized that the laptop had done for me. It were countless such episodes that made me realize what the others had been saying until then: one Apple device can only do so much, but more than one Apple device can do so much more!

With this year’s announcement of the Apple Watch SE, Apple wants us to do just that. We wished our parents and children to have an Apple Watch for them and Apple gave it to us. All those devices work and connect via our iPhones so that either side of the spectrum of age can use it without much fiddling with the technology.

Apple One: Sustainable Income and SIPs

The one thing that everyone wants for their company is a long-term source of income. And that holds true for even Apple. With more new and better products in the market every year, it is important for them to hold on to their customer base for not what they are providing but also how they are providing it.

It is this combination of their Hardware and Software that essentially creates an experience for their customers. With the new Apple One Bundle and the Fitness+ offering, I believe, they have hit the sweet spot. At least, I am sold. I use two of the four services available in India and for an additional sum of a meagre 37 INR per month, I can use two more services. Can you now see the impact it has? I could be a price-sensitive customers, and I understand that. But even those who aren’t will appreciate that Apple has gone a few steps ahead of the compeition, if they had any, with their new range of products, offerings, and software. It is a systematic investment plan where I am sure that my data is safe, privacy is safeguarded, and voice is heard and responded to.

Yes, there was a time when they were imposing us to use their products. But things have changed since then. They are more receptive and responsive. And with their vision for a 100% carbon neutral company by 2030, they are also playing responsibly. This traid of being receptive, responsive, and responsible will, I can safely assume, bring positive results for them.

If that’s their plan, I am in.

Strike O’ Muse

Today, my mother turns 62 years young.

Of all she has learnt from her life, the essence, she knows, remains in never settling, ever pursuing, and setting high standards for everything. If this already means trouble for us (I’m chuckling as I write this), it means that we, too, have to continuously better ourselves at everything we do. Tomorrow, she retires from her workplace. Over 30 years of her employment has seen her wear many hats most amongst which have been worthy of inspiration. But as she readies herself for what lies ahead, I can only wish a wish for her.

It is time she can dedicate her energies to do what she has always dreamt of doing. I wish her to pick the most cherished ones from her long list of passions. As she readies herself for the day she begins her ‘work from home,’ I gift her this poem:

For the one who,
Has never gotten tired of
Ever committing herself
To whatever came thereof;

For the one who,
Gave up dreams on her own.
Made instead the ones from those
Of her children as though of her own;

For the one who,
Committed to every single minute
Everything that she had
To be the best—I mean it;

For the one who,
Even though lost more
Found less. Learnt more.
Taught nevertheless;

For the one who,
Dedicated her life for work.
Strike once again, so she can
Work her way up to life.

Strike, for you must.
Let her find her way forward.
Be the light in the never-calming storms.
Be her inspiration amidst the storming calms.

©Suyog Ketkar

Happy birthday, Aai. 🙂

Learning through Writing

From the short stories and poems to the first attempt at writing creative fiction in the form of the Spyglass, many occasions made me realize that writing took me even before I took to writing. Writing has shown me that both as a vocation and a profession, the fullest one can achieve is still unknown. Perfection remains more a pursuit, a journey, than a destination. For this post, I will take you along back in time for the backstory.

As a kid, I was never a dull boy. Yes, I was not good at studies, especially mathematics, physics, chemistry, but that was not because I was dumb. I was exceptionally good at all languages, including Sanskrit. I was also good at other subjects and extra-curricular activities. I neither disliked my teachers, nor did I hate learning. I still don’t. In fact, back then, I could not define what I now can. I hated the way people taught. This still remains with me: I am equally sensitive toward what is being taught and how it is taught.

The learning process needs a mentor and student. The mentors, I assume, have not changed. The student is still the same: equally hungry to learn. So, what made this student find his own identity? What happened that a kid who just about managed to pass the tenth grade and was made to accept a specific set of subjects turned out to be one of those students that outshined everyone else in almost every department before passing out of the same school?

It was during the eleventh grade that I began developing a reading habit. Or, I’d say, a few books called me to pick them up. It was a connection I cannot describe. Amongst the first few—and I want you to pay special attention to the selection here—were Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and The Glory of Puttaparthy by V Balu. I must have read both of those books at least a few times. While neither the books nor their respective genre has anything in common, both had the same effect on me. I became a better person after I finished reading them. It wasn’t enlightenment, but it wasn’t too far either. The same seagull that once had dreamed of flying at 70 miles per hour had transformed. It no longer needed to understand the rules, the aerodynamic flow, the wind direction, or wait for their turn in their flock of birds to get to nibble around the fisherman’s boat.

This small change then helped me graduate from being a mere reader to beginning to write. I penned hundreds of poems and short stories before I wrote my first non-fiction book on a writing pad. I called it the Ingredients of Success Recipe. Although I never published it, I did share it with my family and friends. They liked it. Or, at least, they pretended to. I won’t get to find out. But, that doesn’t matter, for I now have this priceless gift called writing. Now when I look back, I find mathematics rather interesting. And, so do all other subjects that I once hated of being made to sit and learn. Writing gave me the logic to decode the way to decipher through those dark clouds of thunderstorms called mathematics, physics, and chemistry. But, was that alone enough?

During my years as a freelance writer, I accomplished quite a bit, for I paid off my education loan even when I did not have a regular earning. During the same years, I had also enrolled for an MBA, which was exclusively for working professionals. Eventually, I figured that to be able to make a family and to sustain it, I will have to earn myself a job. Around the mid of 2011, I had completed a translation project that had drawn me some substantial appreciation and accolades from local representatives. I had completed that project in a mere 15 days—the project would normally have taken over four months of my schedule. But for a practiced hand, translation was a mechanical job. I wanted something more creative, more original.

It was during the last quarter of that year that someone suggested I pursue pranayama, the breathing technique. I researched it and settled on doing Nadi-Shodhan, a breathing technique that purifies the blood and mind. The first month of my breathing exercise wasn’t easy. While it resulted in some magical experiences within the first couple of weeks, it also gave me terrible back pain and other emotional turmoils. Words struck faster, so my efficiency improved, my earnings increased. But, at the cost of my health. The reason was that I had not taken the Deeksha (initiation) for its practice from a guru. So, I suffered from acute back pain for almost two years. But I persisted. Eventually, the pain subsided. Now it is gone.

Why do I tell you all that today? What is the reason I open those chapters of my life to you? What is it that I wish you to take away as the vital thought? The life of a writer is that of a generalist. We are the jack of all trades. And that itself has lent me the most potent insight: to be a learner, I just have to take the next logical step. As a proud generalist, I have broken down complex topics into simple terms and simple terms into clear messages, and clear messages into actionable, understandable items. One careful step, every time. I have moved from clutter to clarity in everything I have ever pursued as a writer.

William Zinsser, of On Writing Well, says, “Writing is thinking on paper.” I can only elaborate on his thought. If writing is pouring down your thoughts on paper, then re-writing is choosing which ones continue to stay there. In one of my previous posts, I said that if one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it, then the reverse of it—to teach a subject, learn it first—is equally valid. I have used writing to wayfinding my way into the core of complex topics. Writing, for me, is like a map, which I use to navigate subjects and thoughts, much like city roads.

Does that mean if writing helped me understand the world and make it my own, it would do so for you, too? Maybe. Maybe not. But it certainly would give you that perspective of your own to understand the terms of the world as you pen them down in your own words. Each one of us has their own learning methodology. Writing is mine. What’s yours?

Working from Home: A Revelation

The outbreak of coronavirus has impacted millions of lives throughout the world. A lot of people and their lifestyles have experienced many changes, both big and small. For me, too, the outbreak has not only changed my place of work but a lot more than that. Yet, this post is far more than just a rant.

  • Given that my new workplace is only a room away, I reach the office on time.
  • My consumption of tea/coffee has reduced considerably.
  • I have become better at multi-tasking.
  • I get to choose what to suggest (and, sometimes, cook) for dinner.
  • We have an early lunch and an early dinner. Sometimes, we skip the dinner in favor of a relatively lighter meal.
  • I have begun experimenting with other hobbies, like writing, cooking, sketching. I even sit with my kid to draw and paint—her favorite hobby for this month.
  • We devote some more time to our families; We speak to our parents and relatives more often. We invest extra time with them to ensure that they are safe and sound.

The biggest revelation, however, is that it brought forth what years of married life could not: we stand by each-other. Ever since day one, it helped us rediscover, relive the feelings that became buried under a load of managing relationships, paying bills, and bringing up a kid.

How does writing make you a better person?

This post is a reply to the question someone recently put on Quora. The question was, “how does improving your writing skills help you grow as a person?

We learn reading and writing in the early years of our lives. Like every other thing, we continue to polish it as we grow old. Despite that, only a few of us take to writing even as a daily chore, forget as a profession. Let me tell you, of the things that make us better at who we are or what we do, writing constitutes a more significant share than it currently enjoys. Here’s why I say so:

Clarity of Thoughts

Writing is tiring. First, words don’t strike. When they do, thoughts don’t always weave in perfectly. And, even if we have a smooth fabric of views, we think we do not have any new ideas to share with people around. This insecurity adds to the already long list of impediments.

We forget that we don’t share only thoughts and ideas. We share the way of sharing: the way we communicate. So long as we are clear on what we wish to express, and how to convey it, we can have an attractive style of writing. But, will this suffice? Let me bring another point.

Mental Control

You could be clear about what or how to communicate, but the moment you sit down to write, your thoughts vanish like they weren’t even there. It happens to every writer; it’s happened to me, too. The deal, here, is to hold on to the thought until you pen it down. But writing isn’t easy. It takes time and practice, both of which bring me to the next point.

Persistence is the Key

Not all great/famous writers were born with their talent. None become who they are overnight. They endure a time-taking journey before they reach an attractive piece of writing. The path isn’t easy to walk. Writers fail every day. They make little progress. There are days when they don’t proceed even a single step. Still, they continue to write every day. They choose to persist as long as they don’t end up creating likable work.

Being Someone Else

Your written work takes the reader into the world of your characters. Readers get to live someone else’s experience, at different times, amongst people not known before, and in the situations that they have never faced before. You take them there. You give them the chance to be someone else, even though for only some time. But, to be able to do that, first, you must be that someone else. You must live their life. You must undergo the same situations and face the same challenges. You must confront the same people. All of that, while sitting at your desk. While completing your daily chores. You must feel the pain your protagonist might feel at the loss of their loved ones. You must feel equally desperate to set things right before writing about it. And only then will your readers share the same feelings.

Imagine this.

You are sitting in a coffee shop. You go there every day. But, today, you are the only one in the shop. So, you get to choose where to sit. You select a chair by the side of the window.

As you sit, you realize that there is a lot that’s happening on the other side of the window. A couple is walking their baby in a pram. A hawker is calling for prospects. A man who is perched by the roadside is reading a newspaper. Another couple is walking, their hands locked. A shopkeeper is cleaning the display window. A girl on her bicycle passes by your window. Her cycle cart has a kitten who is enjoying that ride. Just then, you happen to look up to see a bird’s nest near the canopy on the porch—home to two tiny birds—in the middle of a busy street.

You are merely an observer. Yet, from that perspective, you can imagine what each one of them might be thinking—even the tiny birds that haven’t yet learned to fly.

Being someone else is that easy; being someone else is that difficult.

With that, we are back to the question. I wish you to think of all of this in totality. It isn’t easy to register the changes at such micro-levels. It isn’t easy either to feel what others feel. Or, be persistent at something even after failing at it umpteen number of times. In the long run, it does make you considerate towards others. You feel their pain. It also makes you think and weigh your words before you use them. Writing, I conclude, makes me think more, feel more, see more, and make more from every moment.

What do you think?

Get Your Writing Space

“When I began writing, the first thing I did is I created a space where I could carry out my writing schedule every day.” I explained it exactly in those words when someone asked me about how it all began. But obviously, he wasn’t talking about the result of what I wrote, but the cause of it.

This happens to be one of the questions that keep popping every now and then. Writing is as much a part of my daily schedule as are the other activities, like breathing. At times, I sit to write. At times, it is writing that compels me to sit at one place. So much so that my daughter has begun to read and write only because she sees me do so.

And, that is why getting the right space for writing is so much important. It helps create the right rhythm. Your writing is a product of your writing groove—the style in which you sit to write. Your writing is, hence, a factor of how soon you discover the right writing space for yourself. If anything—other than that—it defines how you are as a writer.

My writing space is what it needs to be: my laptop; my work desk; a drink—usually hot—and silent, calm environment. This is why, I choose to write after my daughter is off to sleep or when I am done with my everyday tasks.

The space helps me determine a lot of things that have, at times, nothing to do with the result of my writing. The writing speed, for instance, is then a factor of how thoughtfully have I set up my writing space. There are challenge, too. For example, I usually refrain myself from using my smartphone when I write, but I cannot avoid using it.

But what makes up a writing space? Anything that helps you write, including the non-interconnected things like a window or a rain on the other side of it. Your writing space is your little world where words strike you. It is different for everyone; it should be. Your writing space defines you as much as it defines the work you do.

So, get that write space—yes, you read it right.

What Makes up a Good Novel?

A lot of people ask similar questions to me about writing. Most of them are clueless about where to begin. Some of them are clueless about how to end. And the remaining keep bothering about hitting a writer’s block even before they get to that point. And, while I busy myself with counting pages of my upcoming novel(s), I keep thinking if there were indeed a way to set up a good novel, what would I enlist as the top three things?

Allow me to delve this rather quickly.

A Big Idea

So long as you have a dream that doesn’t let you sleep, you are good to go. Similarly, so long as you have a plot that doesn’t seem to have an end, you are good to go as a writer.

How big should really a big idea be? The easy answer is: If you could figure out countless micro-plots between its beginning and its end, the plot is large enough.

I am of an increasingly believing belief that if the plot is quite simply explained in one line, why spend the rest of the pages of a book to reiterate it. I understand, toward the end, we all talk about feelings that can ultimately be summarized in a single word. For instance, love, togetherness, separation, sorrow, mindfulness, exasperation, devastation, despair, oneness, freedom, et al. Yet, logically speaking, if you don’t have a plot that’s big enough, you don’t need a book. Instead, create an article or a poem and have your readers enjoy it.

A Doable Deadline

Recently, I read an email advertisement that said: “Hurry! This is a deadline sale. It won’t be available tomorrow.” All I wish to say is that if you keep waiting to find time to write, you will never be able to make time to write. In the writing world, the souls don’t rest in peace, I say they rest only after the job is done.

A Sea of Emotions

Consider this: in a sea of emotions, readers wish to ride the waves of the story that flows up and down through the pages of your book. Your words set the sail for them. The gushes of your thoughts sail them through. Your expressions help them take deep dives into the writer’s thoughts. But, despite their sailing in a sea of emotions, the readers get drenched by only those emotions that move them the most.

In summary, a good novel must contain at least the three points we discussed. There could be a lot more than just the three we listed. As we end this conversation, I can only tell you to write for the reader; without them, you are nothing. 😊

What Writing Means to Me

At first, I wanted to compose this post as a poem. But, that would mean another poem on my blog. And, I have had a little too many poems on my blog within the last one year. This, in one way, diverges from the original contemplation on writing. But, wait. I don’t wish to begin this post with a negative thought. That’s is how much writing means to me.

My writing is my ambassador to you. It means so much to me because it is how I express what I feel. Usually, I don’t speak much. Yes, for a lot of my friends, I am an out-and-out extrovert. But, deep within, I am an ambivert who leans, in fact, toward introversion. My words convey what I can feel but can’t express, can see but can’t report, and can write but can’t speak.

Writing is my textual meditation. It is the way I introspect. Just like one must close their eyes to see within themselves, one must pen their thoughts to sieve through to the core. The clearer they think, the clearer they write. And, the other way around. My writing is my soul disguised as words.

Writing for me is like composing verses in prose. It is a melody. A song. There are sentences of all compositions and lengths. Some are long. Some, longer. A few, like this one, shorter. True! The long and short sentences convey the long and short of it—and everything that lies within—to the readers. Mentally listen to yourself when you read varying lengths of sentences. It sounds good. Good, because it is rhythmic. Good, also because it means that the melody is as important as the messages conveyed through the melody. My writing is a lyrical composition that I can hum, listen to, sway along with, or fall asleep to.

Writing is like a mirror. It is that sense of contemplation that adds a dimension of meaning to reflections. It isn’t only the reflection of oneself, but also a cause to reflect onto oneself. Writing is that catalyst without which the inner and the outer selves don’t equate. No reaction, whether it is chemical, is ever complete without a word of thought. It is that skillful, scientific art; it is that masterful, artistic science.

Writing is that folklore that records, refers, and rekindles life. It is that act of play where you are both the actor and the audience. Writing is both the pen and the ink that scribes your acts, with or against your will. It is both the cause and the outcome of your performance. It is also the background score that amplifies emotions without your knowing.

To me, writing is the means, the medium, and the end. It is as nameless, formless, and transparent as water. It originates with a spurt, from within. When it begins to flow like a stream of thoughts, it seeps and snakes through people’s minds, one after another, finding its way to you, who after traveling for miles has got down on their knees to enjoy their glittering reflections. When it flows from my heart to yours, it becomes a burbling river. When it becomes an ocean of emotions, you can watch it hug the limitless skies at the horizon and experience it wash-off the rare conch shells of revelations to the shore.

The most rewarding writing, however, often trickles down your cheeks as pearls of love. What does writing mean to you?