Thursday, February 28, 2013

Five Point Journal

The title of this post is not at all a homage to Chetan Bhagat or his famous book. In fact, I have yet to read any of his fine works. I have scanned a couple of columns and a few pages of One Night At the Call Center. They were quiet enough for my nerves and patience.

But I digress. This post is not about him. There might be one in the future if his writing continues to annoy me.

But for better or worse, "five point journal"  is how I think of a mini habit I have picked up since the 1st of February. I have started journaling; an activity that I have tried and successfully given up many, many times, simply because after a few days, either I lost enthusiasm, or decided my life just wasn't clocking up enough excitement on a daily basis.

This time around, however, although I am not sure where the inspiration came from (must be a blog or a book) but the execution has been going well. I have set aside a journal...nothing too fancy because then I feel this incredible pressure to write fancy words. But this one is fairly simple and has ruled pages. And every morning, after I have turned on the coffee-maker for my two (I mean three really) cups of coffee and I can hear it gurgling and whispering like a forest stream, I sit down with my journal at my study table and list five awesome things that have happened the previous day. I don't write at night because I am just too tired to compose another sentence. I don't write lengthy paragraphs or sentences, just short ones that give enough information. BUT most importantly, I don't write any stuff that makes me or has made me remotely angry, sad or disappointed.

Then how on earth do I come up with five points? Simple. I include good deeds such as if a student has stumped me by asking an incredible question that I had never considered before; if I tried a new flavor of black tea and I know in my gut that it's going to be my new favorite for a month, if I ran into someone I haven't seen in a while and we had the best conversation while skipping around automatic doors, hoping not to crash into others, or if I worked for more than two hours on my own writing and made important changes to my manuscript.

There are also days when I have sighed theatrically and stared at the blank page, struggling to write more than two sentences because, hell, nothing and I mean nothing nice has happened in the last 24 hours. But then I dig deep and list, perhaps the most obvious details, but ones that now that they have been committed to paper, will always be saved for posterity. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Small, smaller, smallest?

I am fortunate to have (for the most part) open-minded students. Today in one of the classes, I was able to share with them one of the most astounding people I came across this last weekend at the Winter Fishtrap Gathering.
Here is Dee Williams and the story of her remarkable home. It truly isn't for everyone, but I certainly learnt a lesson or two. Here's one more story on her from the TIME magazine.

But whether or not you read any of the stories, please certainly watch this short, entertaining video.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Refreshing Weekend

I just spent the most wonderful weekend conferencing at the Wallowa Lake Lodge in Joseph, Oregon. The conference was called the Winter Fishtrap Gathering and the theme this year was "getting small." The theme encouraged us all to think and act on smaller scales, rather than the larger than life ways in which we have all been programmed to behave either all our lives or during some part of it. Why should we aspire for a bigger house? Is success measured by the number of possessions we own or how late we stay back in office or by the amount of money we are constantly running around to make?

I became a member of the professional world in 2002, the year I graduated with a master's in history. At that time, if someone had asked me the above questions, I would have laughed and said, "Stop making excuses for lazy people. You don't want a lot of money or a big house simply because you don't have the means to make it happen. You either are not smart enough, or don't have the required degrees, or are just plain lazy."

Ah, the arrogance of youth.

It disappeared quickly. Four years of nine-to-five or sometimes even longer hours of work, two-three hours of daily commute (except when I was living in Chandigarh) and the constant manipulation of people and circumstances I saw around me, convinced me that I wanted to get back to being a student. Not just because I HAD to learn how to write, but also because I desperately needed a change. And so I came to Idaho, with the savings I had from four years of work and a generous loan from a friend and my own parents. But rupees into dollars is not a savvy conversion and the first year in Idaho was merciless. I was broke, poorer than I had ever imagined I would be, and constantly homesick. That first year was hard and the temptation to go back was always around the corner. But thanks to my wonderful roommate Manasi, and scholarships from the University, I hung around. The next year, a teaching job came my way, and I realized I could indeed make this happen. And I did.

Two years ago, I graduated with my MFA in creative writing and I have stayed on to teach simply because Moscow makes me very happy. At times, I complain, just like everyone else and then a conference like Winter Fishtrap comes along.

This last weekend I heard multiple points of view from talented writers, activists, and musicians, and all of them gave me enough material to think about, discuss, and even bring in to my own writing and personal life. Of the many people I met and learned from, if I have to pick a favorite, it would be Tammy Strobel. I usually find it very hard to like, let alone be impressed, by someone I have just met. But Tammy floored me. It was her sincerity, her honesty, the fact that she had journeyed a long way from what her initial outlook towards life was (which was a lot similar to mine), that made her that much more credible and her message powerful. I have read several posts on her blog in the last twenty four hours, I suggest you do the same, and pay attention to her messages just as I am.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Whys

Why am I not advertising this blog?
I am not sure. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was an avid blogger at one time and then fell off the radar and don't trust myself too much vis-a-vis this fine art anymore. Maybe because I have read too many bad blog posts by now, whether mine or others, and don't want to think a lot about making this the most definitive web address of the world. Instead, I just want to ramble. Maybe because I don't ever want to be reminded to update (although secretly I do like the attention.) Maybe because some of the readers I truly value are friends who have already stumbled upon it.

Seriously, I have no answer. Except to say, I like the not knowing.

Another Day, Another Movie

The Kenworthy Performance Arts Center of Moscow is a place for all kinds of quality artistic and cinematic experiences. Meaning, that nearly everyone who comes there is either over the age of fifty or a geek in some way or the other. So far I fit into the latter category but twenty more years and I will be both. 

On Friday, I went to the Kenworthy to watch The Last Station, a film starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer . As expected, I was the only one in the audience without any serious health issues or disillusionment about life. But on the other hand, it also made for great movie-viewing because unlike other theater experiences, here no one felt the need to be continuously restless or flip out their phone, or answer a text message while the entire universe lit up with the light from the screen of their electronic gadget. 

The Last Station is a movie that demands you to slow down. So if you are going with the mindset of one used to the mind-numbing pace of events in current Hollywood movies, then The Last Station is not for you. It's also not a movie for those easily tired by the old, and would rather spend time looking or talking to toned, young (as opposed to youthful) minds and bodies. But if you have a sense of appreciation for history,  literature and for all those grandparent-like people filled with wisdom, then The Last Station will work quite fine for you. In short, it's a historical drama about the last few months of Leo Tolstoy while he tries to balance the life of privilege he was born into with the life devoid of material things that he aspires for, and the impact of this struggle on his wife of many years, Sofya.    

For those seeking an old-fashioned good movie with some seriously breathtaking acting by Helen Mirren, this one is a good watch.