A.R Sara

A breezy & intense eternal teen with a zest for the here and the now

Overcoming writer’s challenges

Most of the consistent and voracious readers I know, either already possess a natural inclination to express their thoughts in written words or involuntarily develop it over the years. So what is it that holds them back?
Some of the most common challenges I see in the transition from a reader to a writer and realizing one’s potential as a writer, do not revolve around lack of opportunities or muses or any external stimuli. But rather around a finite set of hurdles that lie within. I have tried to outline a few that I believe are the critical ones to address to kick-start your creative engine.

    • Shedding inhibitions
      It takes courage and a sense of purpose to actually put thoughts on paper, which is akin to peeling layers off an artichoke to reveal the heart. The fear of exposing one’s thoughts to the world can be intimidating resulting in conflicting emotions and a strong awareness and acceptance of one’s vulnerabilities. It requires an acknowledgement of the presence of the invisible yet formidable layers of inhibitions, prior to making an effort to shed them one at a time.
    •  Handling empathy
      Yes, even a strong sense of empathy can make a writer think several times over and reconsider penning down thoughts, ideas, feelings and brooding over the choice of words. Especially avid readers, who read across genres, have a strong tendency to become overly sensitized and empathetic.
      A striking sensitivity and awareness that words can be stronger than swords, can become a deterrent. What if the words from the heart were to hurt someone. It is important to reflect and apply some logic and due diligence and ask yourself if you are ready to take ownership and responsibility for the true intent and the meaning behind the words from your inner perspective. If yes, then go ahead with sharing your writing.
      Know that, when you write from the gut, the words you string together will encompass the emotions that went into them and will be invoked and tangle with the reader’s mood, when reading them.
      You can’t control how your writing will be interpreted or perceived. The readers’ perceptions and current state of mind can color the words they read. But if everyone were to interpret your writing exactly the same way, every time, that would be like taking the flavor and zest out of food rendering it bland and predictable always.
    • Seeking validation and Acceptance
      A fear of indifference can be a strong deterrent. After having shed inhibitions to reveal a part of one’s inner self via words in a blog post, book, FB post, social media…what if the world is indifferent, or only a lack-luster response is garnered or worse…it is ridiculed and callously rejected. Now this should turn the focus on who do you really write for and how do you feel about it and why do you share it? Then the most critical query of all: Why do you write?
      Reflect on these questions and answer. Be true to yourself as you do. The answers you arrive at will help you resume your writing journey with a renewed vigor, defer it or change tracks altogether.
    • Structured vs unstructured writing
      While there are academic frameworks, guidelines on what constitutes good creative writing…be it an article or a book, there is nothing etched in stone that dictates perfect writing except for grammar. Now grammar is something you don’t want to risk compromising on, if you are serious about your writing.
      While it is important to be aware and keep learning and respecting structure, it can be counter productive and restrictive for a writer to regard guidelines as rules and get so caught-up with them that it begins to hinder one’s own unique writing style from evolving.
    • Lethargy
      Plain old laziness is another culprit that can put the breaks on your writing expedition. Writing is a solitary activity fueled by creative drive. Something that has to be inspired and indulged in and not forced. If sufficient discipline is not applied to bolster your passion, it is easy to slip into a state of ennui and comfort and begin slacking off. Shake off that lethargy with a quick walk or some other form of light exercise or change in activity.
    • An Author’s Delight – Magic formula
      Is there a magic formula to churn out commercial bestsellers or viral posts? Absolutely, there is, in my view. Simply put, the way I see it, bestsellers are the result of Writer’s Passion Matching Mass Appeal. What are the odds of this occurring? Passion cannot be nurtured or forced, it is an intrinsic energy from within. The writing style, story line, character development, genre…all these do add up but cannot assure that the book will be loved by many. It is the undefinable quality, you have no conscious control over, that finally matters and can make or break the book you write. So let passion drive you to write and let the universe conspire to match mass appeal to it rather than attempting it the other way round.

There is no clear-cut “one solution fits all writers” to address and eliminate challenges. But the path to breaking free from them lies in recognizing the challenges prior to tackling them…one step at a time.

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© 2017 RajaRajeshwari Nagasigamani

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Another world

An aging, withering tree stump
Long ago slayed and made numb
Decaying, ignored and discarded
Strangely reflects elegance understated
‘Cause it harbours with care
Something it is unwilling to share
A secret…decadent and ethereal
It does neatly conceal
In the plainest of views
A sprinkle of leading clues
Obscured and curled
It hosts another world
Seemingly unguarded
Petrified line of mushrooms
Stacked as perfect staircases
To carry light footed creatures
The fresh ones serve as lovely canopies
Over delicate and discreet openings
Allowing tiny beings to gaze out
From their quaint interiors
Into a chaotic place
When they choose to
While remaining carefully hidden
From prying bipeds’ eyes
Filled with mistrust and fearful fascination
Patches of soft green moss
Cushiony landing platforms
Making it so damp a stump
With a precarious bark
Showing ages of rot
Appearing too moth-eaten and crumbly
To be used for firewood
Protecting and preserving
Whatever is left
Of an otherworldly splendour
Ancient and timeless in nature
Transient they are not
As others surely are
The old keepers of the forest
Rejoice still in that knowledge
As they shrug off any attempts
By curious wayfarers
To intrude into their sacred space
Yet, those who hail from a primitive dimension
With an intrinsic capacity to harm
Seek to capture their outlandish charm
Having sensed something more
A flicker of gossamer wings perhaps
Attached to little green nimble beings
Ones that delve into magic
Of the earthy and natural kind
To make all things breathe and grow
But that world now remains
Steadfast and firmly closed
Out of reach from creatures undeserving
Leaving behind only fading memories
Of another place and a better time
Copyright © 2018 RajaRajeshwari N

Book Review of Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

What a poignant yet charming novel! It is a first person narrative expressed exquisitely in free flowing verses.

It is the wistful and moving story of a 10 year old bright, whimsical and imaginative girl and her family who are forced to flee from Vietnam to US when the Vietnam war escalates, reaches their hometown and threatens their safety.
She takes us through the life changing experience as she writes about their days back in Vietnam, the harrowing and uncomfortable journey to foreign shores and making a home away from home while overcoming the language and culture barriers, amidst strangers…some of them kind and welcoming, some indifferent and some rude and bullying.
Told through the eyes of a child, the events and the feelings unfold, laying bare emotions ranging from cheerfulness, yearning, fear, sadness, relief, remembrance, hope, humiliation, anger, acceptance and finally promise of new beginnings.
A beautiful and strongly recommended read.

Movie Review of – “I’m the pretty thing that lives in the house” on Netflix

Watched “I’m the pretty thing that lives in the house” on Netflix. Found it rather interesting and stimulating despite the not so favorable reviews. It is a movie that flows like a book with out-of-focus scenes that I found to be more chilling than the general jump scares and human portraits that beg to be studied and dissected. The story revolves around an aged and ailing horror fiction writer who is almost ready to kick the bucket, a soon-to-be-dead nursemaid Lily (not a spoiler as this is revealed in the initial narration) caring for the writer and a ghostly spectre from the past. The writer of horror fiction, as a young author in her prime, shown in ‘circular’ flashbacks, gains more than inspiration from two ghostly muses, one from the past and one from the future, who provide live fodder for her book “The lady in the wall”. I managed to pause at the scene where Lily opens the first page of the book “The lady in the wall” and found a very big clue to satisfactorily explain the ambiguous ending. It felt like the movie attempted to allude to or be an an allegory to the tragedy of lives wasted-away in insipid pursuit of the needs of the present without passion or drive or a zest for the future? A recommended movie for fans of slow-burn horror with an artistic flavour. Has anyone here watched it yet? What are your thoughts?

Book Review of The Giver by Lois Lowry

Visualize a peaceful dystopian world where individuality and the right to choose have been eliminated, senses muted, along with removal of other critical aspects of humanity and passed off as the ideal Utopian world. The Giver by Lois Lowry is an engrossing book that I stumbled on. Found it to be a refreshingly different and thought-provoking read when compared to some of the other mainstream dystopian YA novels. It is one of those books that compelled me to pause, to share my thoughts on it, before picking up the next book to read.

Finished reading it in just a few sittings. A smooth, simple and fast paced read with a hard-hitting theme. Narrated through the viewpoint of a 12 year old boy. The author has portrayed a post-apocalyptic (implied) society devoid of the ability to perceive colors, music and with muted emotions and controlled usage of vocabulary and of course all prior memories (of history tied with emotions) entrusted in the safekeeping of the giver (one per community). A society that seems to have eliminated the right to choose, along with memories from the masses. Suppressed and streamlined the sensory perceptions to achieve a sense of “sameness” and any uniqueness is retained only for the purpose of division of labour rather than for individuality. A feat of social conditioning achieved over several generations either through artificial means or thought and action control or a combination of both. All this…in their endeavor for a safe event-free protected living that is not influenced or threatened by strong emotions, hormones (all are expected to take a pill everyday the moment puberty sets in to keep hormonal urges at bay), external influences (so no access to books either, apart from the giver and receiver). They are ignorant of pain (physical or emotional), sadness, hate, anger and along with it lose the the opposite emotions of pleasure, happiness and love except for the wise old giver.
Initial glimpse of an Utopian society at the beginning of the book steadily expands to show us a society suspended in a state of numbness and apathy. A totalitarian dystopian landscape emerges, one that “releases” those who do not fit their ideal of “sameness”. The protagonist is the 12 year-old boy named Jonas, who gets the highest yet dubious honor of being selected as the receiver.
As he receives memories and the training to handle them, from the wise old giver to transition into the new giver of the community, Jonas begins to question the current ideology. He seeks to bring about a change and secretly starts transmitting the memories to another young child. The turning point comes when Jonas learns what “release” means, after he watches his father, in his role of a nurturer of the young, perform a release and finds out that his 12 year-old friend Fiona is also being trained in the art of releasing, in her role of a caregiver of the old. This revelation along with another impending release, triggers Jonas to take the next steps that brings the story to a conclusion.
As the protagonist, he represents the awakening or rather an uprising of individuality and the promise of change that seeks to bring back what it truly means to experience life as a human.
The antagonist is the mindset that is deeply ingrained in the society rather any specific group or person making it all the more grim, sinister and powerful.
The ending is left open to interpretation.
The narrative style is direct, simple and minimalistic almost in tune with the theme. Yet so much is conveyed by means of non-embellished sparsity and words left unsaid. It stimulates the imagination of the reader to complete the compelling picture that takes shape in the mind. Few aspects of the book, made me think of and draw parallels with the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
A strongly recommended read. I haven’t watched the movie adaptation so unable to comment on that.

Musings of a puppy!

Through a whimsical canine’s eyes!
Musings of a puppy…
Gazing into the wild green yonder
Whether to leap over I ponder!
What fun would it be to freely run…
Explore the vast unknown
In the company of nature one is never alone.
Get acquainted with the winged beings hovering in the air
Launching off into the blue skies without a care
And the furry, slimy and the slithery ones on the ground
As they move around noisily or without a sound.
Playful, shy, friendly, snappy or rude…
Is it their nature or just their mood?
Fascinating creatures all
Be they small, large, short or tall.
Later rest in an elegant sphinx pose.
In sheer wonder my eyes close
My nose sniffing the fresh morning grass
I give all thoughts a pause
Basking in the moment…knowing that this too shall pass.
Soaking up the sun’s goodness
Its nourishing rays envelop me with warm fondness.
A pleasant feeling that is sure to stay.
What a wonderful start to the day!

Text & Images © N.RajaRajeshwari 2018

1492 – An eclectic gourmet experience!

A unique, dazzling and delectable experience at 1492! It is a recently launched world kitchen, located on the Whitefield Main Road, Near Kundanahalli signal, down the lane right next to the Apollo Clinic building.
It is one-of-a-kind global kitchen that offers an enchanting and rare confluence of cuisines from around the world. The same is also reflected in the aesthetically and artistically designed eclectic decor, paintings and soothing music to beautifully harmonize with the cuisine of the day, overall creating a mesmerizing ambiance that can transport you a different world.
We learnt to make Churros, watch the Master Chefs Howard and Paula in amazing action as they whipped up authentic Mexican dishes from fresh ingredients…while enthralling us as they patiently explained some of the magic that goes into the culinary art.
We got to savor the enticing seven course meal amidst the warm company of friends accompanied by laughter and stimulating conversation that ranged from international cuisine to fiction and non-fiction books and more.
Thanks to the Master Chefs for their amazing hospitality and offering us an unforgettable and marvelous experience.

Lady of the pool

In the cool and dappled waters of the lily pond,
She silently lurks…partially concealed by a large frond.
Basking in the still and balmy heat of May,
She lazily floats…waiting for an unsuspecting prey,
To buzz, swim or fly her way.
Breaking the thick veil of calm,
She croaks, belting out soulful songs.
For a feast she keenly longs…
She casts her enticing musical spell
On the beings that in the vicinity dwell.
With disguised calm setting her lure,
Radiating charm and appearing demure,
From ennui and dullness offering a lyrical cure!
She is stocky and striking, with clammy skin and slimy drool,
Hailed as the Lady of the Pool.
She takes pride in her well-earned acclaim.
Her songs’ reach and her powerful tongue’s aim,
Have brought her respect and fame.
As the feared and admired Lady of her watery lair,
Her ears can pick up even the faintest stir.
As she relaxes in her soft and leafy lily coach,
Her senses promptly alert her to a creature’s approach.
She flicks out her impossibly long elastic tongue,
Capturing and snugly tucking the winged creature under, to avoid being stung.
Her pressure firm on the ambushed little bee,
Suppressing its weak struggles to flee.
Then she continues her melody unbroken,
While her meal squirms in a dreadful place forsaken.
Feeling smug, she gloats without a care.
Just then…a chaotic motion in the air!
A flutter of enormous wings.
A flash of peachy white…springs.
She pauses her singing,
Leaving the tune dangling…
Before she could blink or fret,
Down swoops the great egret.
The Lady lets out a trilling shriek,
As the bird dips its long and powerful beak,
For a hasty and quick yet wholesome bite.
Grabbing the Lady before she could pick a fight,
Musing about the tough and chewy morsel,
A delicacy and a yummy marvel,
It clamped its jaws firmly around the precious find.
Meanwhile a storm swept inside the captive Lady’s mind,
Desperation and hope waged a tumultuous war.
She was a feast the egret had long hungered for!
She wriggled and jiggled in the bird’s strong jaws,
On how to get away, she was at a complete loss.
Shock and fear rendered her mum.
Suddenly from under her tongue, she heard a hum.
“Let me help you!” faintly buzzed the bee.
It cried, “Quick! Set me free!”
“Trust me and you will see!”
It made the Lady feverishly wonder.
While her heart hammered like thunder.
Does she let the bee go free or relish her very last meal?!
Will the freed bee stick to its deal?!
Her thoughts battled inside, raising a din.
She let her warm hope over cool logic win.
Lifting her tongue she gently released the wee beast.
The one she had held captive as a tasty feast.
The little winged one flew out with a joyful whoop!
Moving purposefully in a deft loop,
Sneaking past its amphibian predator,
Who was now its co-conspirator.
It attempted to keep its word,
As it explored the inside of the bird.
Venturing down till it reached the egret’s throat,
It delivered a mighty and powerful sting,
Making the egret twitch, turn and fling,
The feisty bee and the writhing frog waiting within.
The egret’s head went into a tailspin,
While its beak’s hinges went numb and slack.
Watching its prey escape, it could not even quack.
It flew away zig-zigging across the azure sky, thinking, “Anyway it was way too rubbery a snack!”
The Lady frog traveled through the air in a long arc,
Back to her old abode, the beautiful water park,
Feeling triumphant like a reigning queen,
Landing on a lily pad so green,
The bee alighting right next to her,
Looking bright, fit and into motion ready to spur,
The two slowly eyed each other.
The bee with wary wonder,
While the Lady with grateful desire.
Their eyes glowed with a yearning for friendship!
The Lady croaked, “That was quite a trip!”
“A heroic one at that, don’t you think?” the bee let out a quip.
An idea, in unison struck the two,
“There is something we can surely do!”
“I can sing, dance and make some music too,” murmured the bee, steadily holding the Lady’s googly gaze.
The Lady crooned, “Join me then! We shall set this place ablaze!”
“Lets fill it with dance, songs and music!”
The quaint park was transformed quick.
A buzz and a croak and a cluck and a swish!
Swirling lilies, twirling butterflies and dancing fish!
And no more egrets this way flew…
Whichever way the wind blew!

Text & Images © N.RajaRajeshwari 2018

 

Dreams

Plant your dreams into your heart and mind
Watch them grow into wants that with purpose bind

Fortify them with resolve and intent, strong and clear
Let them galvanize you and meaningfully steer

To translate each want into a tangible goal
Strive towards reaching them grounded and whole
Rowing towards the flaming target’s shore
Braving storms and shutting out furore
One milestone at a time, not more
Give it your best shot, leaving the rest to higher power
Unwaveringly nourish and nurture
As you visualize the future
To make your dreams rise, bloom and flower

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Creative Writing Workshop

While vacationing, a sweet opportunity presented itself. An invitation to conduct creative writing workshops for the primary grade students and interact with the teachers of Lakshmi Narayana Nursery and Primary School. A progressive school situated in a lovely and quaint village on the pristine foothills of Kodaikanal.
On entering the school premises I was impressed to find the environment conducive to creativity, individuality, imagination and learning. It had a perfect blend of modern infrastructure and teaching methodology and imbibed the charm that comes with being in the vicinity of a hill station.
 
After a warm reception by the school management and staff, I was introduced to a set of exuberant children on a pleasant and breezy weekday morning.
 
The children’s animated responses during both the sessions I conducted was commendable. I was delighted to find the children enthusiastic, feisty, expressive, confident and imaginative. It was exciting see their thoughts, musings, stories unfold colorfully when given creative prompts, encouragement and guidance. The interaction with the teachers was lively and stimulating.
It was a pleasure to find that the school reflects and reinforces my belief that creativity cannot be forced but has to be nurtured.
 
Thanks to Rohini Sounder at Lakshmi Narayana Nursery and Primary school for inviting me.

A resort right out of a story book

A resort that made me joyfully reminisce of Enid Blyton story books!
A memorable vacation well spent in a unique resort nestled in the beautiful wilderness of Kodai hills.
Fruits N Beans Mountain Resort. As the name suggests the scenic resort is dotted with fruit orchards and coffee plantations, teeming with diverse flora and fauna.
Apart from being treated to a captivating orchestra of bird songs and animal calls, we happened to also sight some of the interesting fauna native to the woods there.
Enormous yet dainty butterflies in vivid blues and greens, exotic (for a city-dweller) variety of birds and of course wild animal sightings too. The crowning moment for me was coming face to face with a bison. Majestic and stunning, it filled me with a sense of awe rather than fear. Before the fear could set in, the beast broke eye contact and sauntered off into the depths of the forest. And to think I had earlier wondered lightly about the “Bison Crossing” sign.
Wildlife encounters and experiences apart, we found the resort steeped in warmth and simplicity yet elegant and exquisite in ambiance. The rooms were spacious and aesthetically done with a rustic charm. The food was lip-smacking delicious and amazing enough to tantalize the taste buds with an appealing and intriguing spread that was a blend of local cuisine and continental flavours.
Was pleasantly surprised to find small shelves of eclectic book collections strategically placed here and there creating reading nooks and corners. Something noteworthy for a bookworm like me.
The nature hike was rejuvenating and a beguiling indulgence for the senses as the trail took us on a meandering path through the lush greenery marked by orchards of oranges and coffee blooms and more. We even crossed a macadamia nut tree and that made me instinctively look around for Kako (The notorious crow from my story books, in case you are wondering ;-)).
Overall it was a delightful experience that we plan to return to, for a long weekend. 🙂
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