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Archive for October, 2012

Carrots

October always manages to be a slow month on TR, as evident from past archives.  There’s something about the dullness of the month that makes for few topics.  I can only talk about fall foliage so much.  Well, actually, I haven’t talked about any yet.  It’s beautiful—more stunning than in past years, or maybe my eyes are more vulnerable to the beauty of the season.  I used to have this animosity towards autumn, as if the fall colors represented the cold and the cold represented a lull in my, typically, exciting life.  But this year, it’s as if it’s only getting better.  And it is—I have so many things to look forward to in the coming months.

As I’ve said, I’m heading to India on the 16th.  Not only will this trip be about visiting family, but I’ll finally see the wonders of Calcutta that I haven’t had a chance to see in my 16 years.  The 30 hours of traveling will be filled with books on my to-read list (which I’ve actually been following), endless movies, journal musings, etc.  My trips to India have become second-nature.  The foul smell of the plane, the rough landing at the airport, the whiff of organic Indian air, the hour drive to Behala, the lingering jet lag—these are experiences that have become all-too familiar.  But I have found myself to appreciate the place for its richness in culture, disregarding the little inconveniences.  It makes everything a bit more interesting.

On November 9th, 2012, I will officially check off my first major bucket list event.  I’ll be performing on stage in Stowe with Itzhak Perlman, inarguably the world’s best violinist (the Yo-Yo Ma of violins, if you will), with a small group of students from my teacher’s studio.  Right now, I’m grumbling about making the drive to Stowe, memorizing three pages of Bach’s double (possibly one of my least favorite pieces to play…ever), and dressing up, but I know the minute I see him, I’ll be star struck.  I like thinking about my journey with the violin—how it went from being a chore, to a past time, to my entire life.  And now, meeting Itzhak means the world to me.  I do think it’s interesting how I’ll have met Itzhak Perlman before I’ll have eaten a Vermonster.

In similar news, I started playing the viola!  While violin is still my primary instrument, there’s something heartwarming about the bass-heavy voice of the viola.  I don’t know where I’ll go with it, but the opportunities for repertoire are endless.  I guess it’s another thing to learn and have with me forever, so I’m up for that.

In terms of other “carrots” (I thrive every day off of the “carrots”—aka things to look forward to—in my life), December denotes the holidays, which will be spent at home, in my pjs, with fireplaces and hot cider and movies and books.  I spent the holidays in India last year, and while that was mostly fun, I prefer Vermont in December.  I missed the stench of sweet balsam firs and the ringing of ornaments on Christmas morning.  Two Christmases ago, I read the entire Harry Potter series in a week (for my first time), and I think that has been the most productive, while simultaneously relaxing, break I’ve had thus far.  Crossing my fingers for another two weeks of pure relaxation.  Good thing I’m not a senior sending in apps on January 1st…

As I said the last time I blogged, I went to Montreal on a French club outing, even though 80% of the group consisted of close friends.  Needless to say, we had the time of our lives.  It was also the first time I appreciated Montreal.  While it’ll never live up to my love for Boston, I think my love for Montreal is slowly increasing.  It’s a place I can see myself visiting, regardless of vagabonds with sketchy signs and a surplus of dark alleys.  I personally prefer Old Montreal, as it’s a toned down version of France.  Traveling there with the same teacher who I went to France with made for many deja-vu moments—like getting lost, walking endlessly, staring mindlessly at museum structures, coercing him to let us roam on our own.  Nonetheless, it was one of the most exciting and amusing days I’ve had all year.

This past weekend, I went to see Perks of Being a Wallflower in the theatre, after weeks of dying to go.  The movie, directed by the author of the book, was a bit bittersweet for me.  While the movie obviously stayed true to the book, I liked the pictures I had painted in my mind while reading it.  On the other hand, the movie explained a lot of ambiguous concepts from Chbosky’s writing.  All in all, it was fantastic.  Emma Watson’s American accent threw me off my guard (it was unconvincing, but I applaud the effort), but her acting—everyone’s acting—was spot-on.  It was as if the book was written with them in mind.  Not to mention, it’s one of those quotable/inspirational/life-changing movies—the kind that makes you re-evaluate your life.  I think I’m in a good place with mine.

As Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, CNN, TIME, BBC, NY Times (shall I keep going?) have indicated for days, Hurricane Sandy is taking a road trip to the good ‘ol East Coast, with a pit stop in our dear Vermont.  School has, thankfully, been cancelled for tomorrow, but the skies are barely showing any signs.  The wind has picked up, and I think that’s all we’ll be seeing.  This morning was stunning, a before-storm calm painting the skies with warm colors.  Vermont is in a state of emergency, but we’ll see what happens or where it goes.  I haven’t had a chance to see Irene’s damages in Southern Vermont, but I’ve heard the stories about the emotional, and physical, effects it had.  As exciting it is to have school off, I hope Sandy is nowhere close to Irene.  I think that’s the last thing Vermonters (especially Southern) need right now.

For the time being, we’re stocking up on “emergency” supplies, charging our phones/laptops, setting up candles just in case.  It’s all an adrenaline rush.

Stay safe during the storm!

-B

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Humans of Anywhere

The fact that I’m blogging instead of editing a short story for a contest shows where my priorities lie.  I’m reading On Writing by Stephen King, a biography that not only lays out his life as a writer, but his advice for aspiring writers.  He manages to be both inspirational and valuable, with a touch of brutal honesty.  I suppose that as an aspiring writer, I should be able to handle this honesty with dignity, but, in all truth, I’m not ready for it.  Hence why the editing isn’t working.  The submission deadline for the Bennington Young Writers Contest is November 1st, and I have yet to finish editing my first draft.  Time for a career change….oh wait, I don’t have a career yet.  I almost want to take a year off from writing, focus on reading, reorient my life, gain some experiences, live a little.  But TR is like this overbearing parent that never lets go….and vice versa.

So in addition to blogging, I’ve lately taken an interest in other blogs.  My favorite, hands-down, is Humans of New York.  I follow it on Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter—scrolling over the pictures multiple times in my daily social media visits. The idea is brilliant.  Brandon Stanton, the photographer, has taken the project to new levels; it’s considered one of the top Tumblr blogs, and is acclaimed by various newspapers (Huffington Post, anyone?).  Basically he takes pictures on the streets of New York, talks to his subjects, and writes about their stories.  Anyone who’s been to New York City knows that there is a handful of bizarre and interesting folks there.  HONY has a way of showing them in a new light, learning about them and understanding who they are—it’s more a blog of how to be personable, than photography.  HONY encourages people in other cities to start Humans of _____ blogs, and there have been quite a lot of successful ones.  For example, I follow Humans of India, which I, obviously, find incredibly fascinating.  India, regardless of social or structural flaws, has one of the richest cultures in the world, and I say this without bias.  In fact, it’s hard for me to even have any bias; I’ve never really experienced the culture at first-hand.  The pictures of Humans of India just remind me of how much I love stories and cultures.

I also love photography, as does every other iPhone-instagram-snapchat-twitter user.  But for me, besides the daily filtered ‘gram’, photos have a unique way of capturing what people are like.  In cities, the passersby on the street aren’t models—pictures capture them in their raw states.  I’ve always been interested in a Humans of Burlington, and have, on a few occasions, taken pictures on Church Street.  Church Street, like NYC, has quite a few interesting people.  But I find that I’m too reserved, too hesitant to ask to take a picture.  However, I’m going to India on November 16th for 8 days (yes this is hectic, and yes I’m still doing it).  Calcutta is not the most beautiful city, and I say this as softly as possible, but it does have some of the richest culture and history—it was the capital when the British were in charge.  There’s a monument in Calcutta called the Victoria Memorial (I have possibly talked about this before) dedicated to Queen Victoria of the UK.  I’m appalled that in my 16 years of travelling to Calcutta, I have never been there.  So that’s my number one priority on this trip. However, my parents have promised to take me out for some street photography.  I don’t know how this’ll play out; the poverty levels in Calcutta are off the charts, and I still am antsy about going to the more poverty-stricken areas.  But they’re interesting, nonetheless.  I think this’ll be my first test as an aspiring journalist.  Regardless of my reservations, I’m so excited.  I’ve never had a chance to really take pictures in India, and this is my shot—so expect many blog posts/photo journals.

Back to On Writing, I realized the multitude of bad habits I have as a writer, especially on this blog.  For example, when something is beyond amazing, I explain it as “wow, it was so amazing, I just can’t explain it.”  Even worse, I have an unhealthy relationship with adjectives and adverbs, as is probably evident from all my stories and posts.  It’s the type of unhealthy relationship in which both sides never have a break from each other—like one of those relationships that takes over life and breathing and everything until it’s the center of the world.  Yeah, that type of relationship.  I’ll try to be better, though.  Stephen King has sort of put me into my place, but knowing me, I’ll bounce back to my usual self soon enough.

Today’s a “Friday” (no school tomorrow), and possibly one of the most beautiful fall days Vermont will see; it feels like summer.  There’s this odd sense of peace in my mind—Montreal tomorrow with French club, laid-back weekend, little school stress.  It’s almost too good to be true.  [Speaking of which, writer flaw number three: I also am guilty of using clichés more than I ever should.  But my relationship with clichés is more of the kind where I’m too embarrassed to admit it.]

-B

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Muse

I have a muse who prefers to be invisible.

She knocks on my door every other Saturday and sometimes on late 2-am Monday nights, but even those visits are rare.  Sometimes she hides out beneath the doormat and plays an eternal game of hide-and-seek-and-never-find.  Most of the time, she appears between the Times New Roman, 12-point, compressed words of The Namesake and sometimes on the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird, beguiling me away to empty computer screens that never change hours later.  She’s sly in the way she preys on my delicate mind but never provides a drop of inspiration.

A drop of inspiration to an author is a drop of milk to an infant, and my muse is a parent who never learned how to raise a child.  But unlike the latter, she never apologizes for crumpled-up notebook pages or characters that disintegrate over time or stories that dangle in a sort-of broken position.  She never goads me to finish, to reach the end, to run the race that would catalyze the rest of my life.  Instead, she tears at the spotlight, and hibernates for months at a time in a separate dimension.

Perhaps my failure and frustration gives my muse comfort.  Perhaps she is a spineless spirit who fears abandonment, and simultaneously fears the inversely proportional relationship between my success and her future.  She dwindles with every word that builds upon another, every character that gains a new emotion, every story that is closer to tying its strings up.  But what my muse doesn’t realize is that without her, I am a writer without inspiration; without inspiration, I am but an ordinary person.

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I went back to my old elementary school this afternoon to stop by for a few minutes.  Walking through the double-doors made me suddenly nostalgic, the way the smell and the feeling were so close to my heart, yet so distant.  The lady at the front office smiled at me skeptically, unsure of why I looked familiar, even though she saw my face every day for six years.  I got the same reception in the 5th grade office, where all the teachers had congregated for a meeting.  My own 5th grade teacher hugged me tightly, and all the others struggled to put my face to my name.  “Oh, I thought she was a parent!”  “Basundhara!  Yes, I remember you.  You’re so grown up!”  “Don’t tell me you’re driving…”

As I walked through the school, parts of it felt familiar, and others felt washed away.  I couldn’t find my way to my fourth grade classroom, and when I finally did, it was nothing like I remembered.  It amazes me to think that even after I spent six years at this school, I was so quick to shove the memories in the back of my mind.  It feels like a blur (and no, this has nothing to do with my concussion, at least I don’t think).  The first day of kindergarten is as crisp as yesterday—it was my fifth day in the US, and, in short, I was a mess.  I used to be a crier—on this first day, I remember tears emerging from my intrinsic fear of being in a new place with new people at such a young age.  My kindergarten teacher, Jody Smith (a woman who stopped remembering my face by the time I was in 4th grade, but who can blame her), drew me endless pictures of playgrounds, consoling me with the motive of fun.  Little did I know that this one day would be the start to a long journey—pretty much my entire life, now that I think about it.

Ironically, the bigger puzzle pieces of my years at Central seem to be hazy—I remember my first day of kindergarten to every last second, yet I can barely remember the way Mrs. Parmalee’s 4th grade room curved or even the way people used to look in Mrs. Farnham’s 2nd grade class.  I live vicariously through pictures and words, but rarely my own memories.  It’s sad.  It makes me wonder if ten years from now, I’ll feel the same way about SB—wistful to re-live all these glory years…..or not.  Good thing I’ll have this blog to look back on.

Earlier tonight, two of my best friends and I went exploring in the storage bins in my basement, looking for old board games.  One of them ended up diving into a dust-swathed cardboard box with who-knows-how-many Barbie dolls and plastic Fisher-Price stoves.  After a few bruises and foot cramps, we found an all-too advanced version of LIFE with credit cards and all that pizzazz, a reminder of both how amazing board games are and how advanced society is.  The addition of junk food and Mean Girls made for a complete night all around; those two always seem to go together well.  Props to the most quotable movie in the history of the industry.

I just finished Perks of Being a Wallflower, and my immediate response is inconclusive—partially because it’s late and I’m tired, partially because it feels unfulfilling, partially because I was in this weird daze when I read it.  I need to read it again, watch the movie, swoon over Emma, etc.  I enjoy the sporadic feel-better-about-life quotes, mostly because they’re relatable.  “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”  The movie looks and sounds fantastic, but a majority of this acclamation can be owed to the fact that it was directed and written by the author of the book.  It’s one of the few after-reading-the-book movies I’m genuinely excited to see.

Okay, so it’s late at night, I’m still in post-concussive state, and I’m in the midst of a really good book.  I feel as if this post is incomplete because I haven’t read through it yet, but after almost two years, this should come as no surprise.

-B

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