Tourists

It was at the first light of life
That they took the baby step.
And continued to walk along
Even as they slept.

Still bright and breezy
Were they at the wee hours.
Trudged through while
Still learning their powers.

Amidst the blossoming yellow
Bathed, fed the fellows!
Then around the noon
Their lives began to bloom.

Their gaily souls traced the trails.
Still young at hearts, very hale.
The afternoon arrived, though pale,
Blessed with occasional bursts of the gale.

Until evening, their routine was set.
Along with pleasure, closures were met.
Truths were told. Masks had fallen.
Even the hardest had begun to soften.

Wearied souls came upon a bridge.
Living each episode unabridged.
Twilights coated with burnt orange.
Forgiveness tasted sweeter than revenge.

The night, it seemed, soon fell.
Such that no one could foretell.
It was time to pack the bags—
It was time to bid farewell.

The tourists then made the choice
For how long were they to dwell?
Death then enrobed those
Who had managed to quell.

The tourists then sojourned the bright tunnel.
They seemed to cope. And well.
What lay beyond that comfort, now
How were they to tell?

©Suyog Ketkar
June, 2021

Nothing but Hope

In the turbulent tides of time,
The ebb and flow of the fortune, that is,
What holds me in place is
Nothing but hope.

In the pitch-black nights,
The darkness of misdirection, that is,
What serves me right is
Nothing but hope.

In that corner of my heart, where
Words weigh more than memories, that is,
Passion and compassion meet, I have
Nothing but hope.

In contrast with how much I take
That source continues to give, that is,
A soul that is burning forever has
Nothing but hope.

Inquisitive, as ever, as my self is
For the world that continues to unfold, that is,
Full of surprises, I can only hope to have
Nothing but hope.

Into the untraveled destinations as I step,
I am apprehensive yet committed, that is,
Of a belief that I have
Nothing but hope.

After you became one with the One,
And merged yourself, that is,
I wish you to be there with me, after all, I have
Nothing but hope.
© Suyog Ketkar

From Micropoetry to Tech Comm: Connecting the Dots

In only 2015—quite recently, I know—I learned about Haikus. But, it took me three more years to begin to understand Haiku and the other forms of micropoetry. You might have read some of my recent experiments with writing micropoetry—like this and that.

So, this post is about the insights that micropoetry shares with technical communication:

  • Sometimes, a lot of solitary moments teach you more than an experience that lasts for a length of time. Micropoetry is one such experience of wisdom that lies within a moment. It is either result- or experience-oriented because each word or line carries an action or empathy.
  • This one matches the Pyramid Approach in technical communication. We communicate the most important information first; everything else Similar goes for micropoetry, just that there is no “everything else” in this case.
  • Words count; count the words. Usually, the lesser the better. Simple.
  • Words weigh based on their definition. Word also weigh based on the intention with which we apply them within a sentence. The latter is the reason people perceive the same word differently in different situations. So, for the sake of the composition, we must keep the right word in the right place.
  • Stories move us. Stories empower us. Stories educate us. All three apply to micropoetry and to technical communication alike.

What are your thoughts? As always, I am curious.

She’s that Inspiration

I usually keep my feelings to myself unless I wish to write about them. Whether good or bad, this habit of writing looks like one that’s here to stay. Also, I cannot wait for another year to convey her what I feel for her: the person in context, my maternal grandmother.

It is easier to decide on your inspiration than to become like one. I, however, am finding it hard, for I have a little too many of them around. The trouble is, I can and do learn from each one of them with every passing day. This post is about the one who’s each day is a happy-sad challenge in her now salt-and-pepper life of intermingled experiences.

She is from an age (read era) where women were hardly considered powerful enough to have full education let alone running a family competing with husbands on the salary part. But, credit must be given where deserved. She has led her family well enough after her husband’s departure in 1976.

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From the Second World War, India’s struggle for Independence, and the 1965 and 1971 wars, she has stood firmly beside by maternal grandfather. But, after these hard phases, the worst ones for her have been losing her family members—first husband, then my father (in 1993), and then her son (in 2011). In January, this year, she brushed past death after a series of heart attacks (two of Mild and one of the Severe degree) in a single day. On one occasion, doctors told us later that they couldn’t detect her pulse for as much as 10 minutes.

In April, she turned 88. But, if only that was enough for her to think that she needs to stop working. She still does everything on her own, which I find amazing. Did I tell you that she performed stage shows of Violin in the past? And that she learned to play synthesizer about 10-12 years back and plays it every day since then? She reads a chapter from Bhagwat Gita every day and has been doing that for as long as I remember. In the process, she has learned all the shlokas from all the 18 chapters from the epic.

If that is not enough, cooking interests her. So, she takes mental notes from the cookery show on her favorite television channel. Then, she experiments in the kitchen to prepare that for all of us. Yes, even today. It is because she thinks that the ready-made clothes don’t give her the required comfort and fitting, she stitches her own gowns that she usually wears every day.

Here is my message: We are and will be yours. Why this message? That too, after four months, you may ask. I don’t need an occasion to write about Aaji. You are an inspiration for people. But, you are much more than that for your family. I have come to conclude that if old age were to add numbers to people’s lives, it added wrinkles and stories to yours’.

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The thing is: experiences disguise themselves as sometimes scars and sometimes as wrinkles. But they leave their marks on all occasions. And then, you don’t remain the same anymore. In the same sense, people are no more than wrinkles in the fabric of your life. You can iron out some; but, some just don’t go. They are there forever. They make you. They remain a part of you. You are as wrinkled a fabric as them. Have a healthy life ahead, Aaji. Your wrinkles and stories are a part of my fabric. They make me who I am.

What’s Your Writing Prompt?

In one of my previous posts, I covered how I compose my thoughts. In this post, I talk about how I get to what’s worth a composition.

The thing about writing prompts is that you can’t define them. There can and cannot be a pattern of how they occur. There isn’t a way you can generalize them. Pitchforking, for example, is one theme I have been itching to write about in the recent past. But, every time I sit down to write, my thoughts drift into the other unseen territories.

Today, I list all (or most) of my writing prompts for you:

  • An hourglass
  • Behavior and misbehavior of people around me
  • Countless dreams
  • Endless thoughts and thought-provoking issues
  • Everyday work-related challenges and my tiny accomplishments
  • Kids
  • Listening to old songs; mostly from my maternal grandmother’s collection of timeless classics
  • Longcase clocks
  • My “I’m home” moment when my daughter rushes back to me with all her might, jumps into my lap, and, with the limited and unclear vocabulary, explains how she spent her day
  • Petrichor
  • Photography, especially B/W pictures
  • Play-doh and toy shops
  • Seeing other writers fail or succeed
  • Soap bubbles
  • Storytelling my daughter to sleep—I must come up with a new story every day
  • Sunset from behind an office building right across my office window
  • The feel of my father’s thick mustaches when I was a kid (I was told that they belonged to my grandfather, but my father had put them and was no longer able to remove)
  • The reflection of the Rising Sun
  • Tracing tiny footprint of insects and crabs on a beach
  • Wet shores that sweep from under my feet

True that it is easier to find an inspiration than to be one. But, finding what inspires you is still the first step. Here’s mine.

As we come to the end of this conversation I have this takeaway thought for you:

Your writing flourishes when your head, heart, and hands work for the same purpose; in the absence of which, you can be anyone and no one at the same time.

Happy writing.

Pretty. Simple.

Pretty. Simple.

It is easy to say that time flies. It is still easier to say that we wish it to stop sometimes. But, it is way harder to be in the present and still give the warmth of the limitless love to your child, who you see growing before you. But, it does feel like it was yesterday that she was born to us. Spruha turns 3 today.

Shambhavi and I envy each other for playing gopikas that compete for the love of Krishna. Just that the roles are reversed in this case: Spruha is Lord Krishna, we are the gopikas. From the tiny pink fist that wrapped around my thumb for the first time to the everyday hug that I receive when she sprints toward me as I get back home after work, there is so much more to this story than I can ever share. Here’s that poem for Spruha:

The silence in my speech was
Recognized by many.
But, she could recognize
The speech within my silence.

Each day, the sunrise sprinkled the magic
Of beaming glory through countless windows.
The happiness that gleamed to me was
However, from those sparkling eyes.

What contrast lies between Her and I.
For she is happy with even broken toys.
And the pains of a broken heart
Are visibly excruciating to my eyes.

It must be the contentment
That drives the smile.
For she knows that her feelings are
With us and not toys that beguile.
© Suyog Ketkar

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?

What a (Father’s) Day

What a (Father’s) Day

From what I recall, this is only the second time I am writing sometime on Spruha, my daughter. Here is what I shared on her some time back. The time I get to spend with Spruha is in a stark contrast with my wife. She, as a homemaker, gets to spend more quality time with Spruha. That’s why I enjoyed Father’s Day celebration at the Nurture Preschool, Gachibowli.

The event focused on dads getting to spend some quality time with their respective kids. I was the first one to arrive. It was nice to watch Spruha play with toys and skim through colorful books in her class.

Soon after a lot of fathers had come, the facilitators asked kids to assemble at the entrance. The kids welcomed us with “Happy Father’s Day” plaques and pom-poms. I enjoyed that Spruha accompanied me to the event area. Some kids weren’t in a mood for the event—the usual cute thing with kids. Others, like Spruha, were cool about the event.

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The management introduced us to the event proceedings, and then we took pictures. Here’s ours:

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Then, the kids danced on a song.

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After the song, the school conducted a one-minute competition. The kids had to pick up one straw and run to their dad. Then, they would tuck the straw between father’s fingers and run back for another straw. We enjoyed this a lot. I even volunteered for a kid whose father could not come. The kid won. This kid was smart. He could pick and tuck 19 straws in a minute.

Then the most-exciting event followed: painting dad’s t-shirt. This confused Spruha because back at home, rules are different. We don’t allow her to paint or draw on walls and clothes, amongst the other exciting stuff. And, here she was free to decorate my tee with her modern art. But, she did a good job in the end. I will make her draw on it some more, sometime later, and then wear it to my office.

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Then, it was the snacks time. Some fathers might have found this to be the most difficult. But, we all managed to finish on time.

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The event concluded with some learning, a lot of fun, and a thank you note from us all.

As far as my memory goes back in time, I don’t recall participating in any such event with my father. This event was special for me for that reason, too. I can’t thank Spruha enough for this. But, I can express this by showering her with my already limitless love.

Time flies. Especially in case of kids who outgrow your lap too soon. It seems only yesterday that she was born. But, I am glad to see her grow into her own personality. Too early, is it? I don’t know. What I know is that my love and care will remain unchanged. Well, typical father.

Wayfinding My Writing

As I sit to write this, I mentally pat my back for writing on something that has deserved this attention for long. A lot of curious minds have asked this to me: “What and how do you write? What, exactly, is technical writing?” I say, “Well, I write to empower and express. I write about stuff.” And, that’s what a technical writer does—write about stuff. I continue, “Just that the ‘stuff’ is technical in nature.”
If you are a writer, you too must have had a thought and an urge to communicate it. This post is born out of that urge.
We cannot ‘not communicate’. (We discussed double negatives recently.) That is, we ALWAYS communicate—even when we don’t. They say you could tell a lot about someone by knowing only four of their friends. If that’s the case, imagine how much will you know about me if I were to show you how I write? Conventionally, writing involves thinking (planning and structuring), writing and rewriting, editing, and publishing. For your ease of understanding, I sum that up into persistence, structure, and perspective.

Persistence

I did not become a writer overnight. You know that. No one can learn to write overnight. Persistence is the word in context; we must work our way up the learning curve. We must keep investing in ourselves. The persistent I am with my writing, the steeper my learning curve is. I have seen a lot of improvement in my storytelling over the years. The same goes for everyone.

Structure

Let me introduce Structure in context of the words I often co-locate: thought and process. To share a good thought process, here is what I experiment with:
  • Composition:
    • Some still follow the good-old method of PREP: Point-Reason-Example-Point. I usually follow Point (or Premise)-Rationale-Example-Conclusion for most of my blog posts. Here and here are a couple of examples.
    • Start-Body-End composition: Here, both the Start and End should be on a strong note, and the body should contain the logic to support your opinion.
  • Flow:
    • Sequential flow. Here, one paragraph leads to another. This also means breaking down a task into logical steps by creating a structure of information. This one applies to technical communication or instructional designing.
    • Topical flow. Here, the first paragraph is usually the best (or the most informative), followed by mutually-exclusive paragraphs of supporting information. This one applies to technical communication—this is also called the pyramid approach. Pyramid, because we discuss the most important information first.
    • Rhythmic flow. Here, sentences sound lyrical, yet the composition of words is logical and thematic. This one applies to creative writing.
Your structure is how you wish to communicate a message: remember, it is the reason you often co-locate thought and process.

Perspective

The example of finding a glass half-filled versus half-empty drives home the point: perspective is important. Important, I say, because it is your write-up. And, anything that you are describing should contain your words from your point of view. Some of us choose to stick to the realistic view of the glass being half empty. Some optimistically opine it to be half full. Others choose to poetically (Scientifically, is it?) consider it as one half filled with water, and the other half, with air. None of us are wrong.

A Point to Ponder

In my work time, I do action-driven writing. For some of my previous employers, I have also done empathy-driven writing, where each piece has a corresponding appeal. This kind of writing is easier to read (I find it to be that way.) and doesn’t always need people to have technical knowledge. Those of you who deal with the content side of the story will know what I am talking about.
And then there is storytelling—novel-ish writing. In some writer’s works that I have read, the description is so true that I remain awestruck. The empathy reflects on me. I become sad when the writing is sad. I become happy when the writing is likewise. It is blissful to realize that a few pieces of writing can make you admire the flow of emotions. I am lost in contemplation for some time. I have to take a couple of deep breaths before I can gather myself to come back to the remaining sections from the writer.

Conclusion

Words don’t convey anything until you give them the required context and structure. This means you must permit for their association—with either action or empathy. By permitting for associations, you can make words your silent ambassadors.
The thing about good writing is that both sense and simplicity lay its core. Your writing doesn’t always have to be thematic, emotional, or pinching. It must be reflective and truthful. All you should do is figure out if and how you can locate your inner self through your writing.
Happy writing.
The Delightful Life

The Delightful Life

Beholding the sunrise,
As I trace the ocean’s footprints on sands,
The drenched shore slips from under my feet,
Life becomes a delight.

Trailing through the woods,
As I listen to the rustling leaves that
Share with me the recitals of the Summer,
Life becomes a delight.

Humming that old song,
The forgotten lyrics of which
I happen to effortlessly sing,
Life becomes a delight.

Looking out of the window,
As I lull into thoughts that
Urge to kindle my imagination,
Life becomes a delight.

Weaving itself into a fabric of chronicles,
As the yarn of my words
Brings me to my self again,
Life becomes a delight.

Diving into the limitless love in those eyes,
As I happen to lose myself,
I happen to find myself, yes,
Life becomes a delight.
©Suyog Ketkar