India has made great strides in the fields of Information Technology, Science, Education, Military etc… no doubt about it. Multi National Companies and Call Centres in India mint money. In the process, one cannot deny the fact that millions run their families because of the employment offered by those companies. Where would the families be if not for those MNCs? Breakthroughs in the field of Medicine and Technology are a tribute to the growth of Science in India. Foreign nationals swooping down on Indian Universities is a sure sign of the quality of Indian Education. One cannot say that Indian Education is the best there is, yet, the improvement seen in the field of Education in the recent years cannot be ignored. The military prowess of India is something definitely not to be taken lightly, and the entire world knows the fact.
Yet, India – the land of tradition, sunshine and hospitality flounders on certain areas; critical areas – fields where the pioneering country should’ve cloaked itself with the mantle of leadership and led majestically from the front, as a living example. Had it been so! Alas! Even the streets of the country are packed with dust baked Audis, BMWs and quite recently – Jaguars. This too is a proof of the wealth of India. When one takes pride in the growth of India, there are spotted sights and signs that disturb one and make one wonder if India would ever reform itself or at the least, learn from other countries. The plight of India is evident to any who might care to observe. Beggars still compete with street dogs for scraps of leftovers at the corporation dustbins whereas uniformed beggars annoy and rob the public on all possible lanes, streets and highways with a convoy of a Toyota Innova or a Mahindra Bolero and a couple of motorcycles, the framework of the vehicles flashing blue and red lights! What is India transforming into? Where is the decency and honesty that we taught the world?
In this era of modern science and advancement, workmen risk their lives to go into man holes to clear the dirt out. Why do the men go in? Why is technology not used here? Aren’t we scientifically high enough to have cultivated the thought of not sending humans – fellow brothers, inside dark holes that could possibly turn into murderous graves? Why does no one care if such a scene is witnessed on a roadside? There travel the rich, the poor, the young, the old, the literate and the illiterate, where out of an open hole on the pavement emerges a man clearing scum and throwing it out. No one gives a second thought or even a glance at the man. Who will take care of the man’s family if he were to die there? All these things happen on a busy road in the heart of the city. Still, we do not bother. Why? Have we lost heart? Where then, is the glory of India and its ancestry? We do so many things to change the face of India. What needs to be changed is not the face of India, but the heart. What is or would be our contribution towards that?
The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak. It is true on many occasions. Be it a place of study, or a work-spot, or even a place of entertainment, try doing the same thing for six days a week tirelessly, faithfully, sincerely and honestly by travelling around one hundred kilometres per day, you will know what weakness is. It will come on you slowly, like a needle being inserted into a banana… You will not feel it initially… almost painless… almost natural… always disguised… by words of encouragement from a mentor, a fellow colleague, a friend, a religious leader…the list goes on… when the realization comes on you, Alas!!! It will be too late – for the weakness would have eaten into your very soul. The physical sense of the weakness would have majored and crept into your mental faculties, occupying and corroding the core of what you need for work – The Spirit…What then of the ‘The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak’? It is true indeed that the flesh gets tired soon. Should the condition persist and be maintained, it is natural – though many might not accept, that the Spirit also would follow suit, resulting in collateral damage – and that Sirs, is not something to my liking… So, I gotta do what I gotta do, for it is tiring for my flesh right now… I do feel it. I want my Spirit to be fresh, unadulterated and free of the corrosion that is fast approaching and trying to sneak in unawares… So, I ask myself… Is the Flesh weak or is it the Spirit that is weak? ? ?
Life, for lovers of English residing in India has been nothing less than exciting, with the launch of many exemplary short stories and novels that thrill, enthrall and energize the reader into pursuing heroic deeds unheard and untold of in various forms and lands forming in the mind of the reader. Although 2014 saw the release of some books not done with a literary flavour making big waves in the Indian book markets commercially, there were also some quality books that failed to garner the interest of readers because of the lack of marketing techniques. However, one can be sure that this would not deter upcoming talented writers to lose enthusiasm. We would like to remind authors around the world, and especially in India, that 2015 would have bigger surprises and hidden springs of creativity than 2014 had for them. So creators, for that’s who you all are, gear up for the New Year with thanksgiving for the current year and continue to amaze us and transport us into your world with the power of your pens. Do not ever lose hope and never ever think of giving up writing-for that is one of the purposes for which God has created you. Winding off now to give you room for creativity. Let us welcome 2015!
There are countless numbers of meaningful meetings and conferences that have become meaningless because of the lack of commonsense and foresight. Sometimes, the necessity to prove one’s worth to others or to the world makes one to take adverse steps by not heeding the warning signs and making one vulnerable to mistakes and sometimes blunders. I remember an incident that so rightly pops into my mind. It was a national level conference for English Teachers and Professors. Faculty members had come from all parts of the country. The event started on a positive note, with a couple of native speakers contributing to the richness and purpose of the meeting. Then came the time for paper presentations by the participants. They all talked about the necessity of changing the pattern of education followed in colleges in India. One must’ve heard them talk to believe that they really talked so. Such was the quality of their language that Shakespeare would have become Othello himself and Dr. Johnson would never have compiled his great initiative work. One cringed as one listened to the meaningless chatter that emanated from the mouth of the people who presented. To think that they were English Teachers was something incomprehensible. It would be a miracle if students could learn The Language from them. Aren’t teachers of English supposed to be grammatically correct while conversing in English? Isn’t that a common requirement? Where has the Quality of English Teachers gone? Isn’t it a crying shame that there are many teachers of the English Language who cannot speak in the same language confidently without mistakes? They then become the butt of all jokes inside and outside the college campus and end up blaming the Management or the Quality of students and finally retire from their respectable positions in colleges and universities signalling a grinding halt to their miserable, fruitless life. There was a workshop given by an Associate Professor of English. God only knows how she became one, and of all surprises how she was chosen to be the resource person on that day, fateful for lovers of English. The Associate Professor did not know proper English, had no clue as to the use of a microphone and to top it all, she thought that she was doing a wonderful job as a speaker. The last point was evident from the manner in which she strutted around. Where, I ask, is the quality that is required now? Can’t colleges and universities recruit candidates who know how to talk in English? Can’t they take in someone who can deliver more than what the students need? Are there not people who can make a crowd swoon by their language skills? Why can’t they be employed? Pay them well, I say, and retain them.Where did we go wrong? Where are we going wrong now? It is not the educational system. It is the lack of fire inside individuals. It is the case of people going to a job just for the sake of working. There is no heart in the subject, no love for the subject and practically no interest whatsoever. The change that needs to be implemented is the one that needs to happen within the teachers, not with some system that everyone blames. The Teacher must change, lead from the front and make the students fall in love with the subject and inspire them to follow him/her. Till that happens, many more farce presentations and conferences will continue to happen and I too will be lingering around, hoping to catch glimpse of one or two people talking in a way that would make English Language Teachers proud.
‘Wasting time on internet’ is now a course offered by The Department of English for the spring 2015 semester.
University of Pennsylvania is offering a new course on ‘wasting time on the Internet’ which requires students to stare at a screen for hours and only interact via chat rooms and social media.
The Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania is offering the course for the spring 2015 semester.
The course description on the university’s website reads:
“We spend our lives in front of screens, mostly wasting time: checking social media, watching cat videos, chatting, and shopping. What if these activities – clicking, SMSing, status-updating, and random surfing – were used as raw material for creating compelling and emotional works of literature? Could we reconstruct our autobiography using only Facebook? Could we write a great novella by plundering our Twitter feed? Could we reframe the internet as the greatest poem ever written?”
Students will be required to attend a weekly three hour seminar where they stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs.
The students will also explore the long history of the recuperation of boredom and time-wasting through critical texts by thinkers such as John Cage, Betty Friedan and Guy Debord.
Distraction, multi-tasking, and aimless drifting is mandatory, the course description added. More details here.
Facebook, Twitter are preferred avenues for expression; English blogging deteriorates!
The once vibrant English language blogger community of Chennai is nearly gone. Some blog once in a while, but the action seems to have shifted to social networks, primarily Twitter and Facebook, where ‘instant gratification’ is the name of the game.
“The number of visitors I get these days are not much compared to what was even three years ago,” a popular blogger confides. “Maybe my writing is not what it used to be,” he laughs. “But undoubtedly the traction is more on Facebook these days. I ask my friends who read my post there to leave likes. Seems to work better that way.”
Another blogger, Lavanya Mohan, who says she grew up in the healthy environs of the blogging community after starting her first blog as a 14-year-old in 2004, says the slowdown has been especially severe since 2010.
“Until even 2010, young writers could begin their writing in a healthy environment where blogging was the way to express yourself and find like-minded people,” she points out.
In recent years even Lavanya has slowed down the frequency of her posts. “At the peak of my blogging in the years 2008, 09 and 10, I had around 48 long posts a year along with several short posts. But of late, it is just one or two posts a month.”
Humour blogger Balajee.G.E, who writes the popular ‘Local Tea Party’ blog, says blogs going niche has coincided with the likes of Twitter and Facebook offering easier ways to publish. “Blogs tend to have a backend interface to manage and can be cumbersome. Also other forms of expressions like Memes and GIF images with text are becoming popular and going viral.”
A few others say the slow demise of blogging is a blow to writing itself. Blogs are imminently more searchable. Though a Facebook post might gain likes and comments almost instantly, the real-time nature of the timeline makes what is written temporary. The long tail effect — where an old article or a blog post suddenly comes back to public view — is ruled out.
Some of these changes have also had an impact on the writing style of bloggers. Lavanya, who has dabbled with humour, says anonymity was a boon in the past. “A grumpy office colleague or an everyday incident might inspire a humourous post,” she says. “But in this day of Facebook, it is impossible to write something like that out of fear of offending someone.”
Serious writing for blogs
Though English blogging has taken a hit, the Tamil blogging scene remains vibrant. Popular writers like Jeyamohan and Payon regularly post on their blogs and also use it to interact with their readers.
Payon, whose humorous short stories have found a good audience online, explains how blogging helped him and his writing be taken seriously. “To keep writing, make myself write longer pieces, and to earn more credibility as a writer, I bought a domain name for my pseudonym and signed up with a hosting service. I started writing regularly on my website and posted links on Twitter, got a decent number of readers to follow my RSS feed. My blog has a simple design and it helps. Many people I know read my writings on my blog. I’d say the more serious people prefer reading me on my blog than a Facebook page.”
Writing on Facebook and on one’s blog are different, even from the manner in which writing is approached. “On my Facebook page, any post above 10 lines is often ignored. That’s Facebook for you. If it’s gossip, people would willing to read longer posts,” the writer says. “The problem with writing on Facebook is that you turn into something like a circus monkey performing for “likes”. You do it without immediately realising it. There’s no dignity in that. People compile their Facebook posts into books, but I think a blog is a more respectable place to write. Also you’re conscious of what you write. A blog is where you write for yourself and you’re more spontaneous. So you get genuine, serious readers on your blog, which is good for you.”
Rise of new formats
Popular online personality Krish Ashok, who has a good following online and publishes in different formats – memes in a Tumblr blog, audio on Soundcloud and videos on YouTube – says the situation should be viewed more of content creation than just blogs that were popular at a time when writing was the easiest format to publish online.
“User generated content has undergone a revolution both in terms of both volume and diversity over time. It’s important to remember that text based blogging was mainstream at a time when both amateur/indie music and YouTube didn’t exist. In my own case I’ve never really seen myself as someone who writes. I started doing memes on Tumblr, jokes on Twitter, podcasts and music on Soundcloud and videos on YouTube,” Krish Ashok says.
The new publishing service Medium that combines the long form advantage of blogs and the viral nature of Twitter promises to usher in a new era where long form writing could thrive. Lavanya says she is tempted to write something for Medium though now she mostly reads the post recommendations there.
Authors from Chennai added to the literary flavor of the country and the world when Chronicles of Urban Nomads, an anthology of short stories was published recently in IIT Madras by seasoned columnist Sushila Ravindranath. There were versatile personalities from the field of cinema and theater such as Mr. Karthik and Mr. Madhan Karky, a noted lyricist. Mr. Mohan Raman entertained the audience by his enthralling speech.
The authors delighted the audience by reading out excerpts from their works. The pride and joy experienced by the authors were evident as they went on stage and captivated the audience. This anthology is a result of a nation wide contest that saw this book released. Chronicles of Urban Nomads is divided into two sections namely Imagine and Musings. The stories are racy, innovative, thought provoking, hilarious and utterly mind blowing. The youth of the country coming out to write such wonderful piece of literature is itself worth loud acclaim.
The contest was organised by Readomania, an online portal for lovers of literature and young writers. More than 3,000 members are already a part of Readomania and Chronicles of Urban Nomads is the first printed edition of Readomania. The book was previously launched in Kolkata and Delhi which saw many people turn up for the launch. Judging by the response of the audience and the quality of writing found in Chronicles of Urban Nomads, one can bet safely that India is on the way to lead its youth towards an encouraging and positive future.
What is the difference between ‘pillow talk’ and ‘small talk’?
(R Madan, Bhopal)
‘Small talk’ or ‘idle talk’ refers to the polite conversation you have with someone whom you may or may not know very well. The conversation usually revolves around topics that are neutral; nothing that is likely to make either party angry. A person usually indulges in small talk when he meets someone for the first time. ‘Pillow talk’, on the other hand, is the conversation that one has with one’s spouse or significant other. Since the conversation, in this case, usually takes place when the two individuals are in bed, it tends to be intimate or personal.
*Bala is not very good at making small talk.
*There is no pillow talk. He falls asleep the moment his head hits the pillow.
What is the meaning and origin of A1?
(K Sankaranaryanan, Madurai)
This rather informal expression has been around for over 200 years. When you say that something is ‘A1/A one’, you mean that it is excellent or first rate. The expression can be used with people as well.
*The car is over ten years old, but the engine is in A1 condition.
*As a teacher, Aishwarya is A1.
Lloyd’s, a British company that insured ships, coined the term. Before any ship was insured, the company inspected it and then rated it. The letters A, E, I, O and U were used to indicate the condition of the hull of the ship, and the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. were used to indicate the state of the equipment (cables, anchor, etc.) on board. If the ship was rated A1, it meant that both the hull and the equipment were in excellent condition.
Is there a connection between ‘wit’ and ‘half wit’?
(R Revathi, Chennai)
Yes, there is. The term ‘half-wit’ is used nowadays in informal contexts to refer to someone who is rather foolish or stupid.
*The company has hired a bunch of half-wits.
*I’m not going to let you marry a half-wit like Ravi.
A ‘wit’, on the other hand, is someone who has the gift of the gab; he keeps the listener amused by his skilful play on words.
*Chalapathi, a notable wit, died in a car accident last night.
The term ‘half-wit’ was originally used to refer to a writer of mediocre wit; he was a ‘dealer of poor witticisms’. A ‘half-wit’ failed in his attempt to be funny half the time!
How is word ‘zenith’ pronounced?
(R Kulkarni, Pune)
There are two different ways of pronouncing this word. Some people pronounce the ‘e’ like the ‘e’ in ‘set’, ‘bet’ and ‘pet’, while others pronounce it like the ‘ee’ in ‘fees’, ‘bees’ and ‘knees’. The final vowel sounds like the ‘i’ in ‘pit’, ‘kit’ and ‘hit’. The word can be pronounced ‘ZEN-ith’ or ‘ZEE-nith’. It comes from the world of astronomy, and it was originally used to refer to the highest point reached by a celestial object — like a star, for instance. Nowadays, the object can be anything — a ball, a missile, a rocket, etc. The highpoint or the most successful phase of one’s life can also be called ‘zenith’.
*Nandu’s career reached its zenith when he was just thirty.
*The missile exploded much before it reached its zenith.
Nadine Gordimer was first a writer of fiction and a defender of creativity and expression. But as a white South African who hated apartheid’s dehumanisation of blacks, she was also a determined political activist in the struggle to end white minority rule in her country.
Gordimer, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991 for novels that explored the complex relationships and human cost of racial conflict in apartheid-era South Africa, died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Johannesburg on Sunday. She was 90 years old. Her son Hugo and daughter Oriane were with her at the time, Gordimer’s family said in a statement on Monday.
The author wrote 15 novels as well as several volumes of short stories, non-fiction and other works, and was published in 40 languages around the world, according to the family.
“She cared most deeply about South Africa, its culture, its people, and its ongoing struggle to realize its new democracy,” the family said. Her “proudest days” included winning the Nobel prize and testifying in the 1980s on behalf of a group of anti-apartheid activists who had been accused of treason, they said.
Per Wastberg, an author and member of the Nobel Prize-awarding Swedish Academy, said Gordimer’s descriptions of the different faces of racism told the world about South Africa during apartheid.
“She concentrated on individuals, she portrayed humans of all kinds,” said Mr. Wastberg, a close friend. “Many South African authors and artists went into exile, but she felt she had to be a witness to what was going on and also lend her voice to the black, silenced authors.”
Gordimer struggled with arthritis and rheumatism but seemed to be in good spirits when they last spoke three weeks ago, he said.
“Our country has lost an unmatched literary giant whose life’s work was our mirror and an unending quest for humanity,” South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, said in a statement.
Prof. Adam Habib, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, described Gordimer as a “revered intellect.”
During apartheid, Gordimer praised Nelson Mandela, the prisoner who later became president, and accepted the decision of the main anti-apartheid movement to use violence against South Africa’s white-led government.
“Having lived here for 65 years,” she said, “I am well aware for how long black people refrained from violence. We white people are responsible for it.”
Gordimer grew up in Springs town, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Britain and Lithuania. She began writing at age 9, and kept writing well into her 80s.
She said her first “adult story,” published in a literary magazine when she was 15, grew out of her reaction as a young child to watching the casual humiliation of blacks. She recalled blacks being barred from touching clothes before buying in shops in her hometown, and police searching the maid’s quarters at the Gordimer home for alcohol, which blacks were not allowed to possess.
That “began to make me think about the way we lived, and why we lived like that, and who were we,” she said in a 2006 interview for the Nobel organisation.
In the same interview, she bristled at the suggestion that confronting the human cost of apartheid made her a writer.
“If you’re going to be a writer, you can make the death of canary important,” said Gordimer, a small and elegant figure. “You can connect it to the whole chain of life, and the mystery of life. To me, what is the purpose of life? It is really to explain the mystery of life.”
She said she resisted autobiography, asserting that journalistic research played no part in her creative process.
Telling Times, a 2010 collection of her non-fiction writing dating to 1950, offers some glimpses of her own experience. She wrote in a 1963 essay of a meeting with a poet giving her an idea of a life beyond her small home town and her then aimless existence.
Gordimer’s first novel, The Lying Days appeared in 1953, and she acknowledged that it had autobiographical elements. A New York Times reviewer compared it to Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, saying Gordimer’s work “is the longer, the richer, intellectually the more exciting.”
She won the Booker Prize in 1974 for The Conservationist, a novel about a white South African who loses everything.
Among Gordimer’s best-known novels is Burger’s Daughter, which appeared in 1979, three years after the Soweto student uprising brought the brutality of apartheid to the world’s attention.
Some readers believe the family at its centre is that of Bram Fischer, a lawyer who broke with his conservative Afrikaner roots to embrace socialism and fight apartheid. The story is salted with real events and names including Fischer’s. The main character is a young woman on the periphery of a famous family who must come to terms with her legacy and her homeland.
“Gordimer writes with intense immediacy about the extremely complicated personal and social relationships in her environment,” the Nobel committee said on awarding the literature prize in 1991.
In her Nobel acceptance speech, Gordimer said that as a young artist, she agonised that she was cut off from “the world of ideas” by the isolation of apartheid. But she came to understand “that what we had to do to find the world was to enter our own world fully, first. We had to enter through the tragedy of our own particular place.”
After the first all-race election in 1994, Gordimer wrote about the efforts of South Africa’s new democracy to grapple with its racist legacy. She remained politically engaged, praising South Africa for the progress it had made, but expressing concern about alleged backsliding on freedom of expression.
“People died for our freedoms,” Gordimer, who had had works banned by the apartheid government, told The Associated Press in a 2010 interview. “People spent years and years in prison, from the great Nelson Mandela down through many others.”