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.

Source: Commons.WikiMedia.Org

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

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?

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.

Ever Neglected. Never Neglected.

The teeming thoughts.
The cavalcade of words,
Both old and new.
That, which brings me back to life anew.

The vibrant imagination.
The kaleidoscopical memory.
The artistic renditions.
That’s awarded to but few.

The waif, in this case,
The writing and the muse.
The lore, the telling, the cure.
That desperation profuse.

The simplicity. The awe.
The determination. The jigsaw.
The striking of just the right cords.
That music. Listen, dear, that’s the cue.

The perceptions. Love and geniality.
The drumming, thumping, parading reality.
Despite despair; nothing being new.
That, which comes from within, is but You.

©Suyog Ketkar

Movie in Review: Housefull 4

It is only over weekends when your work is done and you have nothing better to do, do you realize the true potential of such brainless work of fiction—in a good spirit, of course. And to appreciate the creativity (if there is any) and to spend time with your family you then head toward the nearest theatre to watch movies like the Housefull 4. It is neither a directorial blunder nor is it any fail of the mediocre acting skills of most of the actors that you can completely put the blame on to. Yet you chose to come to the movie. So, now, don’t complain. In a nutshell, the movie is a good 1.25 out of 5 stars, and, maybe, an additional point for Akshay Kumar. That still makes it a one-time watch. As always, a detailed review follows.

For a change, I will begin with what I did not like about the movie.

First, there is no story at all: there are three brothers but the story revolves around only one of them: this is akin to 3 Idiots, which even though was title one, but was based on only one of the ‘idiots’. If there could be any other name outside of the ‘Housefull’ franchise, it would be Bala, the character played by Akshay Kumar. The story of his (and everyone else’s reincarnation) revolves around his recalling his (and others’) previous births. No wonder people joke that Akshay Kumar has done an official promotion of Ayushmaan Khurana’s Bala that is set to release soon.

Second, the character of Ranjit underpins the characters of every other guy, excluding, of course, the villains. This is truly irritating because then you have the entire Madhavgarh that aimlessly hums the same disgusting mannerisms of their Maharaj. All of that while his daughters giggle shamelessly. But then we are far from logic. Besides, if you can have ‘Pasta’ in 1419, why not the absence of logic?

Third, the comedy revolves around PG-18 jokes that even though you understand, but will never enjoy it when overdone. On some occasions, I found the language to be rather offensive. For instance, they equate Donald Trump with Donald Duck and they use Baahubali songs and character names. It is good though that every single dialogue sounds as if is spoken by the very person impromptu: the best thing about such dialogue writing is that the very effort of writing goes unnoticed.

Fourth, the girls are there for the very purpose of creating a screen presence with you guessed what: their clothes (or the absence, thereof) and their acting (or the absence, thereof). But, much like Akshay Kumar, the girls’ squad relies equally on the shoulders of Kriti.

Fifth, I can never fathom the reason actors like Rana Daggubati and Sharad Kelkar would have done a movie like this, especially, the characters like theirs. How could they? Also, Riteish’s screen presence did not match up to the stardom that he enjoys. I wished to see more of the roles of the other two brothers.

Sixth, aside from the ‘Bala’ track, no other song happens to strike the chord. In fact, when you get off to leave as credits appear, there is only one song that you remember. But then it is overused in the movie. Speaking of credits, I watched the credits, too. Surprised? Well, I wasn’t, for I enjoyed the credits more than the movie. I watched how the cast and the crew had so much fun while filming the movie.

Not all isn’t wrong with the movie.

The character of Giggly is such that you will enjoy both her previous and current birth: Jonny Lever and his daughter have slipped into their characters effortlessly. Sharad Kelkar’s role is underpowered, but his screen presence is as good as that of Akshay Kumar. If there is a lesson that Rana must learn, it is that often people love (or hate) their protagonists not for what they do but for what they could do. Sharad’s voice, eyes, and the sardonic laughter spell that magic for us.

Chunky Pandey has secured a chunky (pun intended) role for himself. This time, his career lasts for a span of over 600 years (pun intended, again).

Situational comedy is difficult to achieve because you must rely on the critical triad of actors, script, and the background score. They managed to pull off a couple fo sequences of situational comedy, which is both a rarity and a treat to watch. Thank you, Bollywood, for a change.

Bobby Deol is still one of the most handsome and most well-built actors. Two of his biggest challenges are taken care of rather well in this movie: acting and dancing. He has done both quite convincingly. Given what others have contributed, aside from the talented Akshay, Sharad, and Jonny, his acting is far better than all of them—including Parikshit Sahni and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

For the cast, the crew, the budget, and the locations, if there’s a name that truly justifies the movie, then it is Housefull. But, the story and the acting are far from helping it lend that title to movie theatres. Even after the courageous ones, like us, registered our presence, the movie theatres weren’t ‘Housefull’. But, should I even be writing so much for a movie like this? That’s one question I ponder as I end this post.

🙂

The Call of the Pen

Perch, stop not
For you deserve much more
Rest for a while, and don’t
Stop until you reach a new shore.

Halt, break not
For you are destined to break more
Conversations otherwise unspoken.
Conversations, not a mere folklore.

Stand up, sit not
For you must explore much more
Than yourself, the limits of which
Won’t be decided today, not yore.

Pen down, digress not
For you must scribe much more
Than what’s beyond fantasy
Write what’s fathomable in only a lore.

Bring, deny not
For you have earned this
Glory beyond words what
Has always been Yours, for sure.
©Suyog Ketkar

Be that Faith

Through the watery eyes that flow,
In the smoldering hearts that glow,
Be the faith you wish the world to sustain.

Through the darkest of nights,
In the glaring flaws appearing in daylight,
Let go of the fear. Let that belief remain.

Through the burgeoning dream you know,
In the countless hopes you sow,
Let the truth prevail. Falsity, never again.

Through despair have survived but few.
Be the one who comes out anew.
Let not the mind take over; that’s typical brain game.

For those who lament and shriek.
Reserve shoulders for those who are weak.
Let your life become a boon. Not a bane.

Through insanity you cannot be top gun.
Practicing Sang-Froid can make you but one.
Do that which is impossible; be sane.
©Suyog Ketkar

Flipside

Tears that trickled down
My cheeks, filling me with fear;
Tears that once tore me apart,
Convey my thoughts, too.

Fear, the feeling of which
Scared me to death;
Fear that led me to nothingness,
Wakes me up to new limits, too.

Death, the addressing of people as Late,
Made me think of “for what?”;
Death that once parted my loved ones,
Cracks up avenues for a new life, too.

Cracks, within emotions, that once
Filled me to grief,
Cracks that leaked emotions
Leak my inner sunshine, too.

Grief, which once scarred me,
Only Time will come to heal.
Grief, which I’ve come to see,
Brings me to peace, too.

Time that once was clueless,
Brought me down on my knees
Time, the all mighty, now
Tells my brave tales, too.

Oblivion, the existence of which
Bothered me of endless inexistence;
The search for it again,
Empowers me to pen my dreams, too.

Endlessness that once endorsed
Unwilling, untrue souls around me;
Endlessness that then knew no end,
Authors my tiny successes, too.
©Suyog Ketkar

Movie in Review: Blank

There is a one-word summary for the movie, which you can very-well guess from its name, but we will choose to delve. In a nutshell, I’d give the movie a handsome 2.5 stars. As always, a detailed review follows…

The movie begins with a promise. The promise that the movie will be:

  • Another movie on terrorism
  • Terrorism is an “organized”, full-fledged business of, well, those who do not have a religion
  • A lot of suspense revolves around the central plot, which isn’t blank (sorry for the pun)
  • There will be a happy ending (this one, I guessed)

Considering this list, at least, the movie delivers on all promises; yes, with a lot of hits and misses, which is what this post is about.

First, let us take a quick look at what I liked:

The story is guessable, except for the ending, the plot is but tried and the actors are good enough for their roles, except for the find of the movie <drumrolls, please>: Karan Kapadia, who is the lead antagonist, sorry, the protagonist (spoiler alert!) of the movie. He is better at acting than many of those who have played roles in a dozen movies. He has rage in his eyes, which gives him the right intensity for the role. That is amazing for a newcomer. I’d like to see more of his work in 2019 and onwards.

Jameel Khan outshines Sunny Deol in the movie, barring one scene where they have their 1:1 for the first time. One dialogue from the Deol and you will know what timing is. It is impeccable. It is pure acting talent versus pure acting talent. And, sort of, a comfort zone for both actors who come out winners. For the rest of the movie, Sunny Deol is slouched and tired. But this has nothing to do with his election campaigns.

Ishita Dutta is all fine until her two sequences that take your breath away. First, her fight sequence with Karan, where even though he gets better of her, she makes her mark as a police officer. Second, toward the climax of the movie. The other actors have played their roles in proportion to the budget of the movie.

Don’t miss Akshay’s cameo after the movie ends. That’s a promotional song that connects threads from the movie. The music is thumping and is generally good.

A special mention for actors who aide Maqsood’s cause but aren’t mentioned on the Internet. We need to enlist the full cast so that such talent gets the limelight it deserves.

Now time for the misses:

The list is long, but I will keep it short. Please don’t go blank. <Sorry, another pun.>

That’s what happens when you first tell that the antagonist has lost his memory. Then, the antagonist makes a fool out of you and of the polygraph test. Then, he surrenders to Maqsood (Jameel Khan is the real antagonist), who in just two magic tablets makes him spit the truth, which isn’t really the truth. But you know it only toward the end of the movie. Are you with me?

Then, the bomb squad chief who is also a doctor, an agent, an expert and can tell the difference between drugs and explosives by merely smelling the stuff. Yet, he isn’t that qualified enough to use the information from X-rays and scans to safely remove the bomb from Karan’s chest? Stay with me, this is important. But, what humbleness and modesty, doctor, for you still aren’t the lead of the movie.

The bomb connects to Karan’s heart. “The heart is the battery of the bomb”, yes you heard it right. If you disconnect, it will go off. If he dies, it will go off. I am not sure, but his heartbeat is shown in a digital screen, which neither breaks nor cracks despite his surviving a road accident and at least three fight sequences. I know exactly what I need as my phone’s screen now — but I digress. Then, in the last scene, you have Karan who quite effortlessly unplugs the bomb from his heart — doctor, you need to learn this from Karan.

Basically, the movie is a lot like A Wednesday in its plot in terms of what it earns for you toward the end, minus its excellence. Amongst the mediocre screenplay, and amidst the actors who have earned accolades with their talent, here is Karan who manages to outshine. But there is still hope. Because SS Dewan (Sunny Deol) will continue to do his duty and Hanif (Karan Kapadia) will continue to do his. Wait, what about Husna (Ishita)? Isn’t she the surprise factor? Does she resume her police duty? I am blank.