Memoir: Mathematics and Me

Even though reading came as early as mathematics in my life, I took to writing much later. And now, writing is a permanent part of my life. But did learning—or failing at learning—mathematics make me a better writer? I wish to delve.

I choose to, decide to, make myself sit and write about something that I have hated all my life. Yet, it is comforting and consoling to discover that I truly am good at certain aspects of it. In comparison to mathematics, though, I have found that deriving a unique solution isn’t as mandatory in real life. Even when, in either case, all we do is define and chase variables.

Back when I was young, the teachers would seem to me as those hungry beasts that could smell the fear in my blood and flesh. Only, in this case, the feeling thrived on mathematical complexities. It was truly the survival of the fittest and, naturally, I’d fall prey to variables x and y.

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Now when I think about it, I find that the contention of mathematics teachers was a result of agony. That’s because I was not able to see what to them was but easily derivable. My equations were never equated, never solved. The truth is, I hadn’t even defined the variables worth equating. Life and mathematics: they are that easy; they are that difficult.

Since then, the writer within me has continued to mature. Now, defining problems in (or through) writing has been more of a revelation—I am not useless anymore. I am now entitled to receive respect—and bread—from the society. It has been one equation worth solving. They don’t look down upon me just because I cannot find x.

Even though mathematics and I have agreed on this ceasefire, I still hate problems that have two trains moving in the opposite direction. But now I’m more interested in describing the beautiful view from those trains. I’ve also come to enjoy the nothingness in my mind as much as my aggrieved math teachers loved populating my notebooks with remarks.

Today, as I stand in the middle of this tightrope, somehow balancing between “from where I have come” and “to where I lead,” I realize how carefully crafted is this design of nature. I see stream of knowledge converging into this ocean of wisdom: art, religion, science, and mathematics, I swim in all of that. Occasionally, I dive deeper into this ocean. And, whenever I do, I bring to the shore the rarities from its depths. I conclude, art and religion be made an everyday affair as much as accounting and mathematics. The discovery of this convergence, it seems, has had its effect on me.

At least in my culture, not a day passes without us giving obeisances to the parameshwara. But much like frills are to frocks, art is to the mainstream subjects; and religion, to living. There is much more to living than spending time defining the social behavior. That tells me why the Sanatana Dharma is more a way of life than just a religion. But, I am diverting.

The point is, there should be much more to learning than merely learning from the limiting perspective of the mainstream subjects. What are even the non-mainstream subjects? Those that teach us how to be open towards accepting the world as it is? As long as I remember, it is because of one such subject—that is writing—that I earn the well-deserved respect. Why can’t we teach writing at schools?

Probably that is why, in Sanatana Dharma, there weren’t any mainstream subjects. Learning came through exploration as much as observation; through listening as much as doing; and, through all streams of knowledge that flew into this mind from all directions, giving it the influx of the much-needed wisdom. All of our spiritual leaders and Maharshis wore all of those hats: arts, mathematics, religion, science. The most important takeaway is that they were all probers. They all passed through the same stages of truth: seeking, discovering, questioning, and experiencing.

This may not be the prescribed approach to solving mathematical equations. But, it does the job of helping me understand most problems, mathematics or otherwise. Turns out, one size (read approach) doesn’t fit all. I don’t hate the subject. I hate the approach I was given, the perspective I was lent, and the resources I had. The subject is rather interesting and thought-provoking. I, perhaps, was lame to not able to connect the dots, which I now have. I think I have finally found a thread that holds back the two seemingly opposing subjects that, for a long time, had occupied the farthest ends of interests.

LHS is now equal to RHS. 🙂

Vultures Around

As the winds around soar
I spread my wings
It is a world of definitions
Of it, I know not all things.
The vultures await my failure
Wait for me to fall, of a failed flight.

The vultures that wish to nibble
The crumbs of my plight.
I wish once again
Neither to prove them wrong
Nor myself right.
For I know that I must
Let success speak through my might.

I choose to rise to the occasion
Wings to the wind, Eyes to the Sun
Head held as high as the morale
Who’s afraid of the height?
With drifts and thrusts
I sway myself through
Through the blinding days
Through the darkest nights.

©Suyog Ketkar

Product Review: Sennheiser HD 350BT Headphones

Product Review: Sennheiser HD 350BT Headphones

When you are working from home for a stretch of as long as 10 hours a day, for over 3 months, you need a good pair of headphones. Not because it is a “need” but because, sometimes, the “want” graduates to a higher level of need.

With a lot of good choices around, the confusion is but understood. But considering the factors that I had on my mind, I bought myself the Sennheiser HD 350BT. And, yes, the recommendation from my colleague had a role to play in the purchase decision. Thank you, Narissa, for the recommendation, and The Sound Factor (special thanks to Milind and Loknath), for shipping it to me.

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Here’s my detailed review:

The Background

The headphones are the newer siblings of the outgoing (outgone?) Sennheiser 4.40BT NC headphones. And for the price, the newer sibling comes out—about 2.5K INR cheaper than the current price—I wasn’t expecting the company to provide NFC for pairing. Not because the company cannot do it, but it doesn’t make sense to add an extra feature if it doesn’t add significantly to the overall value. The truth is that to sell the product (or any product), you have to either reduce the price or increase the value proposition. In this case, Sennheiser has gotten rid of the non-essential features, reduced the price, and given us a more rounded value proposition.

The Contents

In the box, you get the headphones, the charging cable, and the documentation.

The Build Quality and Ergonomics

I’d begin with talking about the oblong earcup sizes: they are millimeter-on-millimeter perfect for my ears, but might not suit everyone’s ears. It seems that the company has taken the economic approach for even the earcup sizes. The removable cushioning on the earcups is on the softer side. I would’ve liked a bit more padding.

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The headphones are made almost entirely out of plastic—including the extension and hinges. That is good for two reasons: it keeps the cost in check and reduces the weight on your head. The clamping force isn’t bothersome for my head size, and the underside of the headband has semi-soft padding. So, wearing it for long(er) duration—I assume—wouldn’t be a problem.

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All buttons are placed on the right ear cup. While I like the tactile feedback on the volume rocker, I dislike the multi-function button’s feather-touch mechanism. You can move it back and forth and press it. Even when I intended to press the button, a slightest of lateral movement would change the song. They could have provided one more button; I’d be OK with it. But, I did get used to the overall placement rather quickly.

There is a dedicated button for the voice assistant, which adds a nice/needed feature based on how much you use it. Since I will be at my work desk on most occasions when I wear these headphones, this will hardly add any convenience to me.

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I wouldn’t call these headphones “cheap,” even if those may be one of the cheapest from Sennheiser. I don’t know if I’d ever go out to buy a pair of headphones that expensive ever again. First, I’d use those only for work. Second, a heapdhone is a tool—a means to an end. Had I been into gaming or media production, I’d have happily invested in a more expensive, better made, or feature-packed one.

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Overall, it is a nicely built pair, which isn’t brittle and doesn’t creak or squeak when you pick it up to wear.

The Battery Life and Connectivity

Full charging takes about a couple of hours. And because these come with a 300 mAh battery life of up to 30 hours, I assume I might have to charge it, at the maximum, twice a week.

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In terms of the sound codecs, the Sennheiser HD 350BT support SBC, AAC, AptX, and AptX Low Latency for stable connection and near-perfect audio-video synchronization. For me, the icing on the cake is the Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, so it works very well with my MacBook Pro. Yes, there is a lag when I move into another room, but the connection remains rock-solid, nonetheless.

The headphones come with a USB-C connection, and you get a sufficiently long USB-A to USB-C cable in the box for charging. This is a handy addition considering most people use phones with the same port. So they wouldn’t need to carry an extra cable.

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There are two microphones on the right earcup. In my testing, I found that they not only suppressed the background noise but also amplified my voice. While this may sound like a value proposition, the resulting voice sounded fake or raspy. Besides, this model does not have Active Noise Cancellation (ANC); all you get is passive noise isolation.

Usually, one doesn’t get to know how their voice sounds. ince the two microphones amplify my own voice, I can listen to what or how I speak as I speak. In my semi-quiet home, the amplification will aid me in meetings.

The Sound Quality (Music and Phone Calls)

The sound doesn’t leak through much even when I listen to thumping numbers at over 75% volume levels. Given that I have a noisy ceiling fan, it is all the more inaudible. Even at their full volume, the headphones don’t irritate me. The notifications, such as “Power On,” “Pairing,” or “Connected,” sound more natural because the basic volume level on this pair is a bit muted. So, you might have to do some tweaking once you connect it.

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As for the sound, I found these to be a bit lean toward the Bass. Now, I am not an audiophile, but the low and mid-range did stand out. The higher frequencies lack the liveliness and spark. So the sound signature doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Perhaps, companies cut corners in places ever so slightly unnoticeable.

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Overall, the sound quality is good because most people talk and listen within the low and mid-range. And only for those who love listening to music for a long time will need to tweak the sound equalizer settings. Which, if and when required, will be minimal.

The Improvements

  • Sennheiser, despite what headphones you manufacture and for whatever price range, you need to give a 3.5mm headphone jack for those “just in case” contingencies. This is a serious miss. You could also have provided the audio pass-through via the USB-C to USB-A cable, but that option, too, isn’t there. The cable only charges. The other side of this miss is that, unlike other headphones, I cannot use the headphones via the 3.5mm cable in case of insufficient charge.
  • The earcup padding could have been a bit better. And the earcups themselves could have been a bit larger for more massive ears. It isn’t a bummer, of course.
  • I’d have loved to see features like auto-pause. Some of the wireless earphones that come for half its price have that feature. For example, the OnePlus Bullets wireless earphones.
  • There are much cheaper headphones that you can pair to more than one device at a time. Of course, there are issues with those headphones. For example, the volume level of one device affects the volume level of the other device. So, when you receive a notification on one and are listening to something on the other device, the volume levels change automatically. These are known use cases, and I expect a company like Sennheiser to deal with those, should it decide to include such a feature.
  • You don’t get a carry pouch. The other brands and products in the same price range, such as the Skull Candy Venue, do give. The analogy of an iPhone perfectly fits the overall package for the headphones: at a specific price, you get a much-loaded package from other brands. For the same price, you get an iPhone. Similarly, at this price range, and for a combination of the features listed, you get “Sennheiser headphones.”
  • The Sennheiser Smart Control application is worth staying away from. It takes ages to connect, then the equalizer has a learning curve (pun intended) of its own.

The Takeaway

The headphones definitely win my recommendation since they do the job they are supposed to do—or, at least, do the job I bought those for. For a combination of the price, the features, the connectivity, the sound signature, and the ergonomics and comfort, this is undoubtedly a product worth considering.

Product Review: Logitech K375s

Product Review: Logitech K375s

Most of my office work requires writing and editing, and typing for long hours on a laptop is tiresome. Besides, having a wireless keyboard gives me the privilege to move away from the screen as I type my way to glory—well, kind of. This is why I decided to purchase an external keyboard for my laptop.

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After researching, I decided on buying the Logitech K375s because of its dual connection feature. I can use either the Bluetooth connection on my laptop or insert the Unifying USB to connect it wirelessly. I liked having this option because even though my smart TV is Internet-enabled, using its tiny remote and the limiting rubber keys to type and search for a YouTube video is both painful and time-consuming.

I found that on either the USB or the Bluetooth, the connection between the keyboard and the laptop was stable. Even when I kept the keyboard on idle, the connection remained stable. After a while, when I began typing, the words flowed as freely as I had wished for—at least, in the context of the keyboard. The truth is that despite how good a keyboard one gets, writing continues to be a tough job.

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The keyboard can be connected to three devices. I have connected it to my laptop and cellphone. So, I can type on either by switching between them with the click of a button. While there are a lot of them who’d prefer connecting it via Bluetooth, I have experienced that the connection via the wireless USB receiver is more stable. This, I have found to be valid for both the keyboard and the mouse. But, once I connect my keyboard to the laptop via the Unifying USB, I have to remove the keyboard from the Bluetooth pairing list and add it back before I connect it via Bluetooth. This is weird, unnecessary, and—I assume—faulty.

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Logitech claims a battery life of about six months with heavy use. But I am yet to cross the six months timeline. So, I can’t really confirm if that is true.

The standard components of the packaging include the keyboard, the Unifying USB receiver, two AAA batteries, and a mobile (or tablet) stand. The stand is of good-quality plastic, but I would have liked to see some rubber padding on the bottom. This would have provided additional grip to the stand. The stand is sturdy and inclined at the correct angle to hold even my iPad Mini (with its cover) at a proper viewing angle.

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Shockingly, when I received the package, the USB receiver was not there in it. But, my supplier, Golchha IT, was kind enough to ship the missing USB receiver to me for free. In fact, they followed-up on the delivery for me. Such a showcase of professionalism and ethics is worth quoting.

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The keyboard comes with decent construction quality. While the keys are easy to press and have a clicky feel, they are a bit on the noisy side, and the down arrow key didn’t always respond in the first attempt. I think this device I received was shelved for a long time.

As for the arrangement of the keys, I have a suggestion—in case Logitech is reading this. The Function (fn) key is placed on the bottom right-hand side of the alphabets.

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But there is a context to the point I am making. Even though Logitech made K375s an OS-independent keyboard, there may be a lot of those—like me—who would use this keyboard while using a Microsoft Word application on a MacBook Pro.

The keyboard shortcut for changing the case in the Microsoft Word application is shift+F3. But the F1, F2, and F3 keys can also be used to switch between the Bluetooth-connected devices on the keyboard. This means I have to press the fn+shift+F3 button to change the casing.

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If I do not press the fn key, I accidentally end up refreshing or resetting the connection between the keyboard and the connected device. The overall positioning of particularly that combination of keys makes it awfully awkward for me to use that shortcut. Had they placed the fn key on the left-hand side, they would have resolved this issue, especially for people with small hands.

As a workaround, I can use the mouse. But, it is an added task when I am writing. Because my mind is already occupied in doing mental edits before words come out. Thankfully, I don’t often use that shortcut, and I am yet to come across another equally awkward keyboard shortcut.

Pay attention to this space.

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This is clearly the wastage of space, which I think should have been used for switching between devices, so that the function keys could have been left intact. Also, the arrangement of the Function key and the absence of a slot to carry the USB receiver mean that this wasn’t clearly one of the most thought out designs from Logitech. I think they should have looked at how Apple has made space for the key on their Magic/Butterfly keyboard.

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In the time that I spent with this keyboard, I have noted some good and some not-so-good points about it:

  • I’d give full marks to its stable connectivity, and for having the connectivity options: so, a 5/5. (Five, being the highest)
  • This isn’t one of the most beautiful keyboards. It isn’t the latest one, either. So, a decent 3.5 on 5.
  • I expect all keys to work flawlessly. Besides, the USB receiver was missing when I purchased it. Even though the supplier shipped the Unifying USB receiver, the initial experience has had a lasting impression on me. I’d give it 2 on 5.
  • I’ve already shared my opinion on the design. So, an average 3 on 5.

This is my review of the Logitech K375s. I hope you like it.

The Two Sides of Writing

“Everybody can write. But not everybody can become a writer.” Is that true? How and why? A question like this surfaced during our interaction.

In my previous post, I shared with you what writing has brought to me. In this post, we will discuss what people, like you and, I often bring back to writing.

Writing is Natural

The only mechanical parts in writing, today, are the brain and the hands. The other parts are intangible. And some parts that were previously tangible have now been taken care of using the software. We can monitor and control the efficiency of hands. But we can neither control nor accurately monitor the effectiveness of the brain. That’s because, when writing, we are looking through a dirty mirror. The messier its reflection is, the less clearly we see. But, with practice, we can clean the mirror. The better we look through to our real, actual selves, the better we write.

Unlike painters and sculptors, writing doesn’t involve long hours of practice every day. Unlike singers or dancers, writing does not need to be taught by gurus.


Writing is a skillful art that can be learned without anyone teaching it.


A lot of people write every day. Even if you were to write something as short as of 500 words every day, which usually takes not more than 30 minutes, you could hone your writing skills in as little as a year. Without ever using the principles of a good story, it is still possible for you to create a useful account. Logically enough, people will either read their way through it or sleep their way through it. The choice becomes more evident if your work of fiction comes as a hardcover.

Writing is Mechanical

A lot of people often have commented that “writing is a creative process.” But what they don’t realize is that while they lay stress on the word “creative,” they must equally stress the word “process.” The fact that it is as much a process as creativity means that step B cannot begin until step A is finished.

To be able to say what you have to, you must put your words in a certain way. The result may be delayed, but it must explain what you intend to. For this, you must abide by the rules of grammar and structure. Not only that, even while you say things in a flow, or let your fingertips be the narrators of your great story, it is your mind that must sieve that story through filters for quality purposes. This mechanical process of flowing from ‘knowing the science’ to ‘practicing the science’ as you write is a costly affair. First, it doesn’t come easy. Second, its only triggers are failures and rejections. But then, Rome wasn’t built in a day, was it?


The person who crafts the art isn’t always the same person who explains the creation.


Simple thoughts often invoke smiles that no one can see, except for one’s own mind. It is thoughts like these that underpin humor. This is why, even when writing provides one the license to think without boundaries, the writer must attribute the boundlessness to rationality and reasoning. So long as your characters and their behaviors remain deducible, they remain real, relatable.

Conclusion

As you might have observed, the parameters that define the two sides of writing are often confusing and intertwined. During my post-graduation, we were taught that “management is a scientific art and artistic science.” I’d like to think that that definition suits more to writing than to management.

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Any skill that requires you to follow a process has to have mechanics. Anything that is coded within the rules of a language needs artistic intuition to unfold its true, magical potential.

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?

Relevance is the Key

It was a busy week for us. Amidst the lockdown and the pandemic, we managed to see the doctor adn got our medical certificates done. Then, over the weekend, we traveled to our hometown. I did all the planning, packing, and traveling to and from the hospital in the work breaks. This helped me manage the work, meetings, and other priorities. But the writer’s brain continued to work as usual, and thoughts continued to spin their web. So came this post.

While creating the guidelines for writers in my team, I realized how important it was to write crisp instructions. The guidelines were for reference. But most writers would go to the wiki not before, but while preparing the content. They would be more productive and busy in writing their content than digging into my referential one. Relevance was the key.

And, based on the little head pounding that I did on the subject, I zeroed-in on this:

Contextual Relevance

The profession of writing is an interesting one, for it teaches us more re-writing than writing. Staying true to the context is, therefore, second nature to us. You will not find a single sentence that doesn’t serve the purpose, the core, the topic. There could be more than one sentence to stress the importance of the point.

When creating the content, I reckon that we focus on writing about what the readers are searching for. We must write about what leads the readers to look for. We join context and content: the resolution to their problems, the remedy to their pain, the destination to their journey of searching for information.

Emotional Relevance

How empowered was the reader after going through your content? Could they make a decision? Could they press the button? Did they feel as empowered as you wanted them to? Or are they still looking for something they thought after looking at the title of your content? Ask yourself questions like these. Check your content to see the possible impact of it on the lives of the readers. One of the results of your writing the content is empowerment. Ensure that readers feel confident after going through it.

Strategic Relevance

Your content should help them see the whole picture in a logical sequence. The readers have embarked on a journey, remember? So they are entitled to see from where they have come, where they are currently, and to where they may lead. The clarity of steps is the clarity of mind, at least in the context of instructions.

Critical Relevance

Just as important as it is to know whether or not to press the button, it is equally important to see if it would solve the problem or lead to the next step. Instructional content is seldom laid on the same foundation as that of creative writing. That’s because creative writing doesn’t always have to deal with the What’s-in-it-for-me question. So the result of instructions is a definitive outcome measured in tangible or intangible results: it could be pressing that button or reaching the end of the instructions.

Conclusion

Yesterday, while talking to one of my ex-teammates and long-term friends, I shared some ideas on how they could get started with their work. I told him that one of the best ways to learn was to teach.

I just realized that the inverse of it is equally true, too. One of the best ways to teach anything is to learn to do it. And while I will continue to polish the writing and editing guidelines and add more reference-worthy points to it, I will continue to keep things relevant.

There aren’t many ways in which technical writing and creative writing differ, but for want of the outcome of actions. Relevance is critical when it comes to measuring the result. Isn’t it?

Last Things First

Writing has been my primary field of interest for as long as I can remember. Yet it took me a few more years after my schooling—and a lot of unpromising, unyeilding struggles—to get to where I am.

Although, from here are visible the two contrasts: I can see the vignettes of writing that made me, and the gleam of writing that shall make me. To the tunes of this muse, I choose to dance. To the flow of this stream, I prefer to stay afloat, aboard the paper boat of my imagination.

When the dark sky of nothingness falls, I pluck thoughts out of the void, to fill my bucket of conversations. From the eyes that bleed emotions to the heart that speaks the truth; from the hands that embrace togetherness to the feet that stand firmly throughout this voyage; and from the nerves that pump passion to the sparks that enliven the mind countlessly, there is so much to express yet nothing to show.

When I am at my desk, I wish to not speak but interact, to not hear but listen. Writing is, after all, the last thing that I want to do first. Always. It is a conversation that I have with myself.

The mysteries and musings
Called upon by the yearning one.
That which once was an escape
Is now a Source… Reveal before it, one by one.

The haunting shrieks of thoughts
That cut off your retrieves
That talk through your mental voice.
Embrace them; You don’t have a choice.

The embarked Soul—
Set forth in a paper boat—
Toward the unexplored,
Unfolds the uncertainties,
On the folded paper boat.
©Suyog Ketkar

Father’s Reflection

Looking at the cracked boundary wall of my society’s compound, I sit by the window, bathing in the mustard yellow morning that gleans through it. And while the tea does calm the nerves, it doesn’t stop me from peeping into my past. Much like the cracked boundary wall, through which pass an occasional crawler, the boundary walls of a few much-cherished chapters of my life begin to give way to memories.

The first few years of life are a little too few, too soon to expect anyone to correctly memorize the place of warts on their parents’ faces. Yet I remember seeing one on my father’s right cheek. I was also a serial convict of pressing it like a button. The wart had a rubbery texture to it, and I could see its rounded edges contract and expand as I pushed it with my little fingers. Little must those fingers be, for my father’s seemed to be bloated and huge in comparison to mine.

Similar to the wart, I’d also press the veins that protruded on his fingers. I never stopped doing it; he never complained. He would crush me into a smoothie with his embrace when we would lie down under a blanket during winters. I must have been four years old, then. Maybe even three. I watched a lot of Cricket with him.

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This is before he developed that wart.

Fast forward to today, these tatters of the once perfectly woven fabric of alive, afresh moments cloak my naked soul, speak for my inner self, and tie me umbilically to my roots. Within this passage of time, however, I have also realized why embracing my daughter is so familiar and satisfying. It has the same warmth of selfless, unconditional love.

Amongst the few memories I have of my father—Baba, as I called him—none matches the finesse in his voice when he sang and whistled to the songs sung by Talat Mehmood Sahab. How valuable was the whole panoply of the songs! The natural vibrato, the depth, and the bass-heavy endnotes in his voice have etched their presence down the memory lane. (Here’s one of my father’s all-time favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHs3O4f516I)

But I don’t think I can face even a small percentage of the challenges he had overcome. I lost him to kidney failure before I had turned seven. The first seven years of my parents’ marriage had yielded them three kids, and countless Carrom and Billiards trophies—Baba was a champion of almost all indoor games. The last seven years of their married life had had them through pressing times.

My mother told me once how both of them went to the government rationing shop for a name-change procedure. Baba, foreseeing a short life, sought a change in the name of the head of the family to my mother’s name. He had the willpower to face destiny. He struggled for life for six or seven long years, each of which he spent showering his love upon all four of us.

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I think I look a lot like him.

Of all that’s childhood, stepping into father’s shoes or wearing his tie or coat, all of that, was only the logical sub-steps to how I wished to be like him—there is so much that my heart says, yet my expository writing can’t put into words. Within these years, I’ve come to grow a mustache that is as thick as his. And even if I might have come to look and sound like him, I’d still want to match up to his self-belief and will power. Those few things, as my mother told me once, differentiate cubs from tigers.

I realize, a fruit-bearing tree perched quite comfortably by the compound wall. The tea tastes better. It is past seven—rise and shine.

And Memoirs!

Memoir writing is as easy as accepting what made you you.

If there is anything lesser difficult, it is admitting to your mistake when you haven’t committed any. But life throws surprises and shocks at you. Which is what brings forth this series. On the surface, what looks like a recollection of the countless moments that make up life, each moment has a life of its own. These cherished moments, put together, are more than their sum called life.

An account of what I recall as history, my history, is what I cover through this series of posts. I can hardly blame anyone for anything that has happened to me. No one can. No one should. We would be at fault if we were to look at our past with regrets, guilts, or shame. It is despicable of us to blame our destiny for everything that made us us. If anything, we must accept everything as a part of our lives—if it were easy, like I mentioned in the beginning. Every new experience has brought with it a lesson that made me my better version.

A memoir is a bellwether that signals the arrival of storms of recollections; it is the lighthouse that witnesses tsunamis that unearth gems of wisdom from the depths of the past.

But I wish the memoirs to enable you to look at me beyond the boundaries of bone and flesh. Everything I’d henceforth share as memoirs would be dear-to-the-heart, thick-and-textured experiences. I wish the memoirs to:

  • Be natural: Show complexities of emotions and relationship
  • Be human: Show vulnerabilities and imperfections
  • Be impactful: Leave you with a message in a friendly but an affirmative way

Only then will each memoir smell unquestionably myself. Its whiff will fill the air around me with an aroma of warmth. It will break the time barriers by teleporting me into a familiar world of emotions. I will then be looking back, moving forward, and yet standing still.