The benefit of falling ill

illnessFalling ill is not always that bad, so long as you don’t catch anything nasty. Specially, if you are regularly working hard and are hardly ever with free time to do what you would otherwise do on an ideal day off. There is always “something” to keep you occupied and away from what you want to do.

So, today was that day for me. I’ve been feeling ill all throughout the day but it isn’t fever or anything. Seems some internal tiring or exhaustion, I cannot say.

Anyway, I spent most of the day working from home, since most of the work was unavoidable, but afterwards I did what I had wanted to do for years. I remained in bed and watched TV for almost 5 hours straight. And, I was watching my favorite channels like Nat Geo, Discovery and Animal Planet. Every hour passed by in a soothing manner, watching new and wonderful things these channels showed today, right from Air Crash Investigation to wildlife programs with snakes, lizards and crocs. It kept me relaxed for a very long time and I really enjoyed everything. I also wanted to read a bit but I knew that would stress me even more because I would need to sit in a proper posture, whereas watching TV was the laziest thing possible.

Now, it is close to midnight and it has just occurred to me that I could perhaps blog about it and encourage others to take a break for their own sake and do something calm and enjoyable even if it is as simple as reading a book or just watching TV. It really charges up your batteries and gives your mind a break from the everyday hassles of life.

I have switched off my TV now and would probably fall asleep next but I would like to know from you if you would also fancy the idea of falling ill once in a while to escape the grilling demands of everyday life and just relax. Do leave me your comments and tell me if you like this.

You now have 200+ total likes

“Congratulations on getting 200 total likes on Confessions of a Disquisitive Writer.”

Logged into wordpress this morning and found that, thanks to my last night’s post on Reader’s Block, the no. of likes on my blog have increased to 200+.

Well, it felt nice to read it the first time, but then I realized that more than 30 posts, spanning over 4 months of blogging is a big deal for me personally because I had been spending a few years before that only thinking about starting my own blog but I could never get down to it. It was probably the fear that I might not write as well enough as I want to. It was a huge dilemma for me because reading has been an important part of my life and being able to Write was important.

So, considering the fact that I spent 3-4 years only thinking about starting writing, but never being able to start, it is indeed a big deal for me to realize that I am suddenly 32 blogs old, and better still, over 200 viewers have liked what I have written.

So, here is a big Thank You to everybody who has liked my posts till now and those who may like them in future. Writing, well enough or not, has been a personal voyage to me and I am glad that I am able to share it with others through this medium.

Reader’s Block

Is there such a thing as a Reader’s Block?

About 2 months back I wrote a blog on Writer’s Block that I was suffering from, and still do from time to time. And about 4 months back, I wrote another Blog called OverBooked, in which I described another situation similar to my Reader’s Block but with a peculiar difference.

In Overbooked, I spoke about how I felt spoilt for choices when it came to choosing what book to read simply because I have too many books and could not make up my mind on any one of them. But now, I write about my Reader’s Block, wherein I do want to start reading, but I want to know that with every page I turn I am gaining something important. I want to know that my life is much better, even by the tiniest bit, because of the last page I just read. I just don’t want to read for the pleasure of reading, for that pleasure I will inevitably find in whatever I read. I want to read because I would be miserable if I did not. And so, the book needs to be one which can remove that misery and fill the hole that is there in my heart.

For instance, when I read “A Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan about a year ago, every line I read gave me sheer pleasure of the wonderful writing of Dr. Sagan and every page I turned made me feel my life was that much more enriched because of what I’ve read. Similarly, there have been books like “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan, Sherlock Holmes, “IACOCCA” by Lee Iacocca, “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank and (oddly enough) “Confessions of a Conjuror” by Derren Brown, all of which have made me feel better about having read a book from which I am taking away something.

And, so I started reading “Relativity” by Albert Einstein this evening, hoping to understand the world much better and peep into the mind of the man who stunned the world with his genius. It is a good book and challenges your intelligence but it isn’t what I want, though I will still finish it very soon.

But now, I am stuck again, this time not for choice but for content. The book I read needs to give me something of intellectual value, where each page turned makes me happier than before. Something, that I should be proud of having read. A book that gives me a reason to be happy or a book that destroys my closely held prejudices. But most importantly, a book which upon opening makes me forget the world. It’s a tough choice because what I might see as an intriguing read might be boring to someone else. I keep remembering this quote I found on the internet:

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.  ~P.J. O’Rourke

So, please dear reader, help me out and suggest a book that you think I will open and then lose myself. Please leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!

What can you not live without?

When one is faced with a dilemma, on choosing one of two possible and opposite options, how does one decide?

Do you look at what you can live with?

Or

Do you look at what you can’t live without?

These are two very different questions, though they may stir the same thoughts in the mind of the thinker.

For example, if you are a writer and not such a success at that, you would ask yourself what is more important:

Can you live with unsuccessful writing?

Or

Is it that you can’t live without writing at all?

Another example, you want to gain someone you love, but that will bring some issues along with them and so wouldn’t you ask yourselves:

Can you live with the person + issues?

Or

Is it that you can’t live without that person you love?

Which of these is more important? What you can live for or what you will die without?

Taking Down Bob – My First Short Story eBook

Finally, I have managed to write my first short story, something of an achievement considering the fact that I’ve been toying with the idea for a couple of months now.

Bob is the hostel psycho, a brash fat giant who often loses himself in enthusiasm and whose idea of fun often meant suffering for others. Most of the hostel inmates are tired of Bob’s bullying and their inability to return the favor. Tonight, a weird shoe fight riot has broken through the hostel and Bob has already been dominating the entire proceedings by beating the crap out of most inmates with his heavy boots. Though scared of him, they ultimately hatch a plan of getting him alone and attacking him in a group. The story deals with how 18-year olds of this Bob dominated hostel work together to catch him in a spot through conspiracy, risk, teamwork and double-crossing.

Taking Down Bob is a story that is close to my heart as it reminds me of the great time I’ve had in our college hostel and, though it is a piece of fiction, it will certainly seem inspired from a series of events sometime in 2005, to those who spent their time in the same hostel as me.

The story has been published today as a multi-format ebook by Smashwords.

I hope you will read it. It’s completely free and available at:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/243973

And if you like it, don’t forget to let me know by leaving a short review.

My profile page at smashwords is:
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/shitijbagga

Writer’s Block??

The thought bothered me a lot. I was sitting in front of the computer, going hard at the keyboard. It was office hours and I was trying to finish writing this email to our client. It has already been long enough to fill my entire screen and I knew it was only another couple of sentences. I finished that too and went through the entire draft once again for a sort of proof-reading.

I sent the mail but then the thought returned. I know I have the stamina to write long emails with consistency of thought. I even write 20 page and 40 page technical documents from scratch and write them effortlessly. But damn! When it comes to writing a short blog or a short story of 2 pages, I am hopeless. Utterly hopeless!

Then my mind started wandering. Sometime back, a colleague at office asked me what I thought I would be, had I not been a consultant. I know the kind of clichéd question that it is. And I hate it, absolutely. Have you ever asked this question and seen the kind of frivolous replies people give? One time, I heard someone say, “If I hadn’t been an engineer, I would have been a fighter pilot!” And what is my response to these answers? “Bullshit! Really? So if you were not doing your current job, you would have been a pilot? You mean you were THAT close?” Then, another senior at office said, “I’d probably be a Film Director.” Don’t even get me started on that one.

What I’ve observed is that people usually answer this question with something they know they could never become and yet it needs to sound something fabulous as if it were already a secondary achievement of theirs. It is as if merely by saying “otherwise I would have become so and so,” we are making our present sound better than what it really is. As if wishful thinking is something to be proud of.

Anyway, coming back to the present, the reason I was feeling bothered right now, during work, was that I attempted to answer that question myself. And the way to answer this was by asking myself what was the next best thing I want to do with my life if I had the time and resources for it. And I realized that in my case, the answer is very simple: I want to be a writer.

But then, do I also not make the same hypocritical mistake of saying that I would have been a writer had I not been what I am today? I mean, the two are not related at all so it is not as if being one automatically disqualifies you from being another. Also, have I written anything during the last 2 decades that even qualifies as good writing at any level? No, I’ve not done anything of that sort, but just read hundreds of books. Then how dare I say I want to be a writer, when I don’t know the first thing about writing? That was wishful thinking on my part as well.

The truth is, ever since I read my first novel (Jeffrey Archer’s ‘A Matter of Honor’), I had known that I wanted to write my own book one day. Now, 14 years and another 200 book-reads later, I know that the ambition is still the same. I just have to.

But I can’t! At least for now, I am not good enough. First, I have some ideas to begin, but none of my ideas is complete and that’s why, if you look at my blog, you will find very few posts (5 out of 25) actually contain me writing something. Most of them are either photographs that I’ve taken in the last couple of years (another hobby of mine) or short reviews of some of the books I’ve read, but nothing that I can call a substantial writing.

Everytime I decide to sit down and write a short story about ANYTHING, I invariably end up feeling miserable at my inability to do so and repeatedly feel distracted with my shortcomings.

Then, I read though dozens of blogs and realized that I too have been suffering from what is called “Writer’s Block”, a state in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The reasons can be many but for me it has mostly been the awareness that my writing will not be good enough. And this is a feeling that has discouraged me from writing for I don’t know how many years now.

Over the past few weeks I’ve also become aware that there isn’t a level of “good enough” that one needs to meet to be able to write. I mean, my desire is not to gain appreciation or recognition from the audience. In fact I don’t even care if nobody reads what I write. That is not the point. I could never write for that since it would be unfair to my own self. But then, what my girlfriend always tells me is that I must write for myself. Write free, whatever comes to mind. Write something that I would myself like to read again and again.

And so, I realized that the only way to do that is to start right now. And what topic do I pick up? Pick up the first thing that comes to my mind. The first thing that then comes to my mind is that even though I am working right now, I cannot but think only about my inability to pick up a topic and think through enough to start writing about it without the fear of failure yet again.

Well, well! I just looked at my word processor and find that expressing this inability to write has already made me compose 850+ words and it is a big achievement for me, considering that 99% of my works end within 2 sentences and then I give up.

So, what I basically mean is that I don’t want to say I would be YYYY, if I weren’t XXXX already because whatever I did has always been my own choice. Nobody and no situation has taken away my desire to be a writer one day and so I want my answer to that stupid question to be that if I weren’t what I am right now, it wouldn’t matter much because my 2nd love – that of writing – is something that I am already doing side by side. Just that I am not a professional at writing, but that hardly matters to me now, does it?

The other day, I read a story by Guy de Maupassant. It was just a 3-4 page short story of 2 Frenchmen who sat at the shore of river Seine fishing and they get caught and executed by the invading army. That’s what I remember of the story and I might be slightly wrong. But the point is that by reading this, I realized that even the most simplest of writings can be beautiful simply if the author connects with the story and writes it from his heart.

All this, in no way lifts the writer’s block that I guess I am suffering from. It merely raises a corner a little for some of the thoughts to escape and find words by themselves, but I know that the moment I publish this, another calm will prevail that will not let me write anything for some time. How long? I don’t know but maybe 2 days, a week, a month? Who knows?

Still, I hope I start with something short but nice very soon..

P.S: Dear Reader, have you ever suffered from such frustration of Writer’s Block? How was it when you first broke through it? Do share your experience with me in the comments section.

Related article by a fellow blogger Christian Mihai:
http://cristianmihai.net/2012/10/04/overcomin-writers-block/

Banning and Burning Books

Thomas Jefferson, the founder of America, once quoted: “I am mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, the sale of a book can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too.”

Today, it is not uncommon to hear that a certain book has been banned in some countries across the world. Take, for instance, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. This book was first published in 1988 and is said to be inspired in part by the life of Muhammad. Though I haven’t read this book myself, I do consider this as an important example in the context of this topic.

Protests against Rushdie and his “The Satanic Verses”

“The Satanic Verses” has been banned since 1988 in Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, India, Kenya, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and many other countries. Copies of the book were burnt across the world, amazingly by people who either never read it or did not know how to read. The reason for the ban, we were told, is that this Novel (its Fiction guys) is alleged to contain blasphemy. Notwithstanding the fact that this book went on to become a 1988 Booker Prize Finalist and won the 1988 Whitbread Award for novel of the year, the ban on this 24 year old book still prevails in many countries. Not only that, the outrage among some Muslims resulted in a Fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran in 1989. To top it all, Rushdie, who should have been a national asset, was even forced to flee from his homeland and he now lives in exile in the UK.

Those who are in favour of banning this book claim that this violates their freedom of religion by being blasphemic, the opposite point of view simply states that works of literature and fiction should not be judged against blasphemy based on the interpretation of some sections of a religious group.

For those who might think that banning this book was no big deal, let us take a look at some of the other more surprising examples of books that have been banned in the past for some reason or the other:

  • The Rights of Man– by Thomas Paine, who is one of the founding fathers of America.
    This book was banned in UK.
  • Lolita – by Vladimir Nabokov
    The book is widely critically acclaimed and was ranked 4th on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.
    This book was banned in France, UK, Argentina New Zealand, South Africa.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel – by George Orwell
  • Animal Farm – by George Orwell
    This book was widely censored in US and UK for being critical of USSR. It is a political satire and one of my favourite reads.
  • The Da Vinci Code – by Dan Brown, and now a major Motion Picture
  • Alice in Wonderland – by Lewis Caroll. Surprised?
  • The BibleNow surprised?
    Censored in dozens of countries, both historically and in the current era. Currently, the Bible is banned or greatly restricted in a number of countries including North Korea and Eritrea. Sometimes, the ban is on distributing the Bible in certain languages or versions. In 1234, King James I of Aragon ordered the burning of Bibles in the vernacular.
  • … and so many more.

For a more comprehensive lists of banned books that might surprise you, visit:

http://www.spaciousplanet.com/world/new/the-21-most-surprising-banned-books

Now, the question one needs to ask is this: Who decides what is offensive? And who decides what others should be allowed to read and what not? For instance, I might find a certain book offensive but what right do I have to deny others access to it?

After all, it’s not that a book is ever offensive. What people, who frequently get offended, really fear is an idea. It’s always an idea that they are uncomfortable with. For instance, the book, “Uncle Toms Cabin – by Harriet Beecher Stowe” was banned in southern US for its anti-slavery content. Yes! You heard me right, its anti-slavery content.

Galileo’s Mistake?

It is true of the history of our world that all great and revolutionary ideas are first met with resistance from the highest of quarters. It is only after they spread to the masses and people start to understand them that some sort of acceptance starts to come in. Take, for instance, the ideas of Galileo Galilei, the father of modern observational Astronomy, also considered widely as the father of science itself. Amongst his other accomplishments in the field of observational science, Galileo also championed the idea of heliocentrism – that the planets all revolve around the Sun and not around the Earth. This concept is, beyond any doubt, the universally accepted model of the Solar System and no one in their right mind would dare to challenge this idea except if they were insane. However, the same idea, led to Galileo’s being tried by the Roman Inquisition. He was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” due to his observations, was forced to recant his scientific findings to avoid being burnt at the stake and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. And all this, for observing the most basic of natural phenomenon.

It is to be noted that finally in 1992, Pope John Paul II formally acknowledged in a speech that the Roman Catholic Church had erred in condemning Galileo over 350 years ago for asserting that the earth revolves around the sun.

My point of giving this example is that in every age, most of the people of a society will have only a low intellectual capability and the ability to think for themselves. It is only due to the revolutionary ideas of some great thinkers and their perseverance against resistance by this multitude that societies are able to grow out of one dogma after another.

Imagine what would have happened if the heliocentric model of the Solar System was never allowed to be accepted. Would humanity have moved forward and made all its advances or moved backwards? What if the ideas of Independence and self-reliance continued to be crushed under the pretext of being offensive to the ruler? Would we have known the USA as it is today? Or the independent India as it is today? One of the most important contributors to the French Revolution was the same “The Rights of Man – by Thomas Paine” as mentioned in the list above.

Now, some people might argue that they do consider some literature to be offensive in a genuine sense. Definitely, it is possible that there might be some bad ideas. For instance, denying that Jupiter is just another world (planet), like the earth is, is a bad idea today. Slavery? Bad idea. Alchemy? Bad idea. But what we do need to note here is that none of these bad ideas were purged by banning books that talked about them, they were replaced by allowing the free flow of ideas that replaced these bad ideas. For instance, Alchemy was replaced by allowing Chemistry to be discussed and not simply by banning the thought of Alchemy itself.

Therefore, my point is that those who consider some ideas to be offensive or hurtful should endeavour to expose the fallacy of those ideas by writing about them through the same medium and presenting a strong case for their stand. If not, then nobody should hold people’s lives to ransom and demand that others’ ideas be forcefully suppressed. At the worst, if a book offends you, just don’t f****** read it.

“Books are like mirrors: if a fool looks in, you cannot expect a genius to look out.” ― J.K. Rowling

Next question that one must contemplate is: whether these bans actually make any difference anyway? In today’s information age, it is virtually impossible for governments also to stop anyone from gaining access to any idea, thought or book, whatever strategies they may try. It is just useless and therefore the civilized society should continue to allow free flow of ideas in order to remain truly free.

After all, there are millions of people like me who hate the idea of having even a single book banned. Yet, we do not take to the streets massacring hundreds or thousands, burning buildings and demanding the heads of those who did not allow us access to a book that we want to read in our own personal time. What we do is we talk about our opinions and blog about them because we know that our idea is simply better that their idea and that it will ultimately prevail.

Burning books has never been the answer to anything and can never be acceptable to a civilized society. Because at the end of the day books won’t always stay banned. They won’t always be burned. Ideas won’t always go to jail. In the long run of history, censorship and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is good ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” – Oscar Wilde

The sooner we realize this, the better we become.

 

Notes:

List of Books banned books: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_books_banned_by_governments

Writing My First Blog

Dear Reader,

It is quite a difficult job, this writing a blog. I’ve been thinking about it for many weeks now, or maybe months, but I just never got down to actually doing it. And even when I did today, one of the foremost problems I faced was “what to write about?”

“Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.” — Thomas Berger

How do I decide what to write about? I mean I am not a public figure whose opinion is greatly sought after. I am just the guy next door who, like everybody else, is just constantly trying to live and make sense of his life and writing is something that just lets one put thoughts on paper (ahem!!!).

Well, then that raises an important question: WHY do I want to blog? I don’t know but let’s explore. One reason might be that I think I have too many great ideas that are simply waiting to be harnessed. “Intellect of the 21st century” and “The Bertrand Russell of 2012”. Once I unleash my mind, the world will never be the same again. History will once again be divided into two ages. Just like BC and AD, it will now be BS and AS. (Seriously?? BS??) Of course, Dear Reader, I am just kidding.

Another reason might be that I want to be able to write down my thoughts so it improves my ability to express myself. Add to this the fact that I am a ferocious and voracious reader myself, I know there is a pleasure in composing one’s own piece of original thought and posting it for others to read. Or as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously quoted:

“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.”

I, for some time, have been quite disappointed with myself over my inability to write anything at all. More than half a decade back, when I was still in college, I found it very easy to write down whatever I was thinking about. I just had to pick up a pen and paper and think about the first thing that came to mind and I would be able to write quite a bit. But as time passed and I completed my engineering and then started with my job, whatever writing I did was all technical. And that has gone on for so many years that I have almost forgotten what it used to be like to write down random thoughts. Now, that needs to change.

Well, well, enough of thinking about why. I am still not certain of WHAT I should actually write about. Should I write about myself, my feelings, my experiences in personal life, what I like and don’t like, what hurt me and what gave me pleasure? Nah.. I think netizens have too much already to browse and read up, who has the time to read about my issues with life?

Maybe, I should write about something happening in the world, maybe my observations of political, social or economic events? Maybe, highlight how I see some social practices and my opinion on what is just and what is unjust. Yes, I do have some opinions of my own.

Or should I write about some scientific literature I have read recently, or my interest in astronomy? Yes, I’ve read quite a few books on science in general and astronomy in particular. Maybe I should write about stuff I’ve read that has awed me and which a layman otherwise never gets to find out in detail? For instance, how many people actually know that the Voyager 1 spacecraft that was launched by NASA is already moving out of the Solar System beyond Pluto and is currently in the Heliosheath? Sounds like a simple technicality but it means a lot for humanity as an achievement. More on that in another blog.

Coming back to the WHAT, I also absolutely love some particular writers like P.G. Wodehouse, Carl Sagan, Christopher Hitchens, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Fry and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of the Sherlock Holmes fame. And I think that the works of each one of these writers have been revolutionary in their own ways. So maybe I should blog about what I like about their works. Yes, that too sounds like a good idea.

However, my Dear and Patient Reader, I now do feel that it may even just be random thoughts on topics such as this blog itself. But I hope that would not be too boring for you, because I guess it won’t be too boring for me myself in the first place. After all, writing is the best way to talk without being interrupted.

Thanks for listening.

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