Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Write Way

Recently I was asked about the rules I follow when I attempt to write. Humm! I’d never been made to feel like an expert before, so I thought I’d strike the iron when the sun shines, err, I mean making hay when it’s hot. I’ll list down all the “proverbial” rules I am conscious of when I attempt to write:

1. Convince your readers with brevity. I never use more words, phrases, sentences, or other linguistic elements and parts of speech than I, myself, can actually and precisely use or employ when expressing myself or otherwise giving voice to what I may or may not be thinking when I am trying to say how many words I should use or not use while using words.

2. And I never begin a sentence with a conjunction.

3. To begin a sentence with an infinitive is incorrect.

4. I avoid clichés; they are old chestnuts.

5. I avoid annoying alliterations that are also abrasive and awkward.

6. And the secret of funny writing? …timing! Let me explain once more, I never drag a joke to such an extent that it outlives its lifetime and is easily forgotten. Did you get it? Wait! I’ll say that again…(read rule no.7 again)

7. Employing foreign words and phrases ad infinitum hovers on ad nauseam.

8. Starting a sentence with a hanging gerund is one of my favourite “no-nos”.

9. I use my commas wisely lest I’m labeled forgive the pun “rebel without a clause”.

10. I hate using single word sentences. Period!

11. I avoid using quotations that digress from the subject. As Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have once remarked, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

12. Puns are entertaining for kids, or the children-at-heart. For “groan” readers, they are “pun”ishing.

13. I use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.

14. It’s my blog. So I make the rules. And I rewrite them with every new entry. So my own suggestion, never follow any rules. Just blame it on your creativity.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

..And then there were none!

To Bappa, a good friend and the best writer i've ever known.
To Agatha Christie, for the title and lots more...

Monday, February 21, 2001
Arrive on Saturday morning and found all arrangements in order. Settling in has been a tiresome business and so no diary entries for a last couple of days. Professor Jacob invited me over for lunch today, but I was too exhausted to go over. I reviewed my class schedule which begins on Wednesday. I must admit I’ve been fortunate to get to teach precisely the same subject I am doing my thesis on. Teaching undergraduate classes is always boring and more importantly, time-consuming for a doctorate student, especially since I am planning to finish off my thesis inside of four years. It’s a task of mammoth proportions, but I think my idea may revolutionise the entire treatment of schizophrenia. With a co-operative class, I should be able to take out enough time to work on it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2001
I took my first class today. The class I have been allotted does not seem to be all that exceptional, in fact rather mediocre if I may put it bluntly. But maybe, I am being too judgemental about them. They would probably be alright once I got to know them better. Also Professor Jacob dropped into my room today. He is a large man in his mid-forties, mild-mannered and extremely affable. His knowledge of the subject is profound. We discussed the outlines of my idea for a while. He was rather taken aback when I told him I planned to finish my thesis in less than four years. “By all means, do aim to meet that target. Although I must add that you should try and ensure that the shortened time frame does not affect the quality of your research.” He left shortly, waving off my profuse thanks for unbending enough to drop into his student’s room.

Wednesday, May 3, 2001
My work has come to a complete standstill or rather, it would be more correct to say that it had never begun in the first place. My class has, in the meantime, confirmed my worst fears. Dull, lacking motivation and only concerned with clearing their exams, they are a researcher’s worst nightmare. It is next to impossible to raise one’s intellectual state to the level required for my work after interacting with such a dead class. Professor Jacob was quite sympathetic to my plight in the beginning but has begun to grow increasingly impatient over the last two weeks. I do not blame him, I am losing patience with myself as well.

Tuesday, May 23, 2001
The inevitable has happened. Professor Jacob has formally expressed dissatisfaction with my lack of progress. He curtly informed me that unless I manage to get some solid work done soon, he is no longer willing to act as my advisor. This warning was not unexpected and I have been trying to get myself to get myself to put more time and effort into my thesis of late, but to no avail. Recalling my excitement when I arrived here three months ago, the only thing I can say is that I was terribly naïve. Its been only a matter of months and I am already wondering if I will ever be able to complete my thesis.

Tuesday, July 17, 2001
Only habit allows me to make an entry tonight. I am too weary, too low-spirited. I seem to be sinking deeper into a morass with every passing week. I have managed to come up with a synopsis of my projected line of research to satisfy my advisor, but little else. Looking back through my dairy, I found an entry in May saying that I wondered if I would ever be able to complete my thesis. Now I have stopped wondering, I am pretty sure I will never be able to finish my thesis…

Friday, August 1, 2001
I had an interesting experience today. I was killing time at the local café when I happened to meet this gentleman named Dr.Bhaskar. He is also on the faculty of the Department of Psychology although I have never met him before. This is not as surprising as it seems at first as there are more than sixty teachers in the department. But today the place was deserted except for the two of us and we just introduced ourselves. He empathized when I told him of my case and advised me not to lose heart. “You’ve just started out. Once you come up with a clearer picture of exactly you are trying to work on, your work will speed up vastly”, he told me.

Saturday, October 24,2001
I have been meeting Dr. Bhaskar regularly over the last two and a half months. Indeed he has become the closest to what I believe is a friend in this place. He is fifteen years older than I and of Spartan habits. Being a bachelor, he shares my loneliness and we are thrown together very often. He is highly qualified and teaches post-graduate classes. One of his classes, in particular, is supposed to be exceedingly brilliant. His frequent description of their calibre has aroused my envy. My work is proceeding somewhat better now though the pace at which it is proceeding leaves a lot to be desired. I owe it all to Dr. Bhaskar , whose company is so intellectually stimulating.

Sunday, December 28, 2001
At last, there seems to be light at the end of the long dark tunnel. A solution to my woes may be knocking at my door. Dr. Bhaskar has made a kind offer, which would allow me to teach his class for an indefinite period. He has been a patient listener to all my problems and feels my chief problem is the lack of an atmosphere condusive to research. He believes a few hours with his class would get me back on track. Needless to say, I took up his kind offer at once.

Wednesday, May 5, 2002
The last few months have gone by in a blur. I have been extremely busy teaching both an undergraduate and a post-graduate class. In addition to that, my own work has finally begun in right earnest. I claim no credit for this fact, the entire share goes to my wonderful new class who have motivated me as well as challenged me intellectually at a level where all my mental faculties were stimulated to their utmost. Some of the students in particular have been very interesting. There is Sourav who plans to go on and specialize in treatment of MPD, Nithin wants to go into academia and research full time and Deepa who, like yours truly, envisions a future in the treatment of schizophrenia. These three and their fellow students have easily taught me much more than I have taught them. In fact, I have started paying minimal attention to the undergraduate morons I am forced to teach.

Mr. Atul Basu 15th November, 2002
Research Scholar
Dept of Psychology

Dear Mr. Basu

Sub: Prolonged absence from classes

It has come to our notice that you have been absenting yourself from 2nd year BA class allotted to you. Your prolonged neglect of this class has caused their performance to fall dramatically as evidenced by their recent examination results.i would advice you to devote more time to teaching this class so that such an episode is not repeated anytime in the future.

Yours sincerely,
Prof. P.S.Reddy
Head of Dept (Psychology)

Sunday, November 17,2002
The letter was quite shocking to say the least. I know I have been devoting all my time and attention to the postgraduate class. Dr. Bhaskar did say that he would inform them of the change. I went to the departmental office to discuss the matter with them yesterday but the gentleman there took my protests with a pinch of salt, " Mr. Basu, we know that most PhD scholars neglect their teaching duties in order to take out more time to work on their thesis. Just make sure that this does not recur and let us end the matter there."

Monday, June 9, 2003
I have been taking a back-breaking workload for a few months now, which explains why I have not had an entry in the diary for ages. I have had perforce to teach those undergraduate idiots as well as my post-graduate class. The best news is that my research work continues to make excellent progress. I think I can fully implement the revolutionary ideas I came here with. The sad part is that my post-graduate class will pass out in a couple of months time. I will miss them dearly. I will forever be indebted to them.

Thursday, January 3, 2004
I just received news that the doctors I wrote to at NIMHANS have agreed to try out the treatment I have been working on for their serious cases of schizophrenia. Also my paper on the subject has appeared in the British Psychiatric Journal. Dr. Bhaskar and I went out and celebrated with champagne.

Deccan Herald
St.Johns PhD scholar pioneers breakthrough in schizophrenia treatment.
Bangalore, 5th November, 2004
Mr. Atul Basu, a PhD scholar at the St. John’s Medical College has reportedly developed a treatment for even the most acute cases of schizophrenia. His method has been successfully tested by doctors at NIMHANS, Bangalore…..

Tuesday, February 21, 2005
Today , four years after I made my first diary entry in this place, I stand on the verge of a momentous occasion. I will receive my PhD at the University Convocation this Saturday. The accolades I have garnered from my faculty members and students alike are overwhelming to say the least. I write this sitting in the main hall of the college. I wanted to invite Dr. Bhaskar to my convocation as a special guest when I realized did not even have his address or phone number. No matter! I’ll head to the office right away and collect it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2005 ....2 hours later
I do not understand what is happening. I went to the office and asked for Dr. Bhaskar’s number, only to receive a mystifying reply that there was no faculty member of that name in college. All my protestations to the effect that I had known the gentleman for four years were of no avail. As I came out of the office, my eyes fell on the board displayed near the main entrance.

Roll of Honour
Mr. Sourav Pal(1969)
Mr. Nithin Ram(1975)
Ms. Deepa Rajan(1982)

… Oh my god! What is happening here? All of them were my students and yet…. The Roll Of Honour…And where is Dr. Bhaskar … and my thesis…ON SCHIZOPHRENIA!! I HAVE DEVELOPED A TREATMENT FOR SCHIZOPHRENIA….ME … ON SCHIZOPHRENIA…HA! HA! HA!

Deccan Herald
Bangalore, February 25
……in the most bizarre of events witnessed at the convocation yesterday, a graduate walked up on stage to receive his degree – A PhD in Psychology- from the chief guest. Right there he tore it to pieces and threw it down. He then unearthed a cigarette lighter from his pocket and set the pieces on fire.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Spit Wide Open

We Indians have always taken a lot of pride in our free society. So much so that it’s forced upon us. A child is forced to believe, “ We live in a free world; we have no choice”. One of the pleasures of living in a free country like India is the pleasure of spitting like the world is your personal spittoon. Being an Indian, it’s your birthright to enjoy your share of spits and spats. I was at the receiving at not so long ago. Recently,a few ladies in hyderabad were at the receiving end of some hospitality from their paan-chewing hosts as they were passing by a street. Subsequently, they raised a paan-demonium at the police station. Fortunately for them, the ladies did have their share of listeners.

The authorities now have woken up to the fact the freedom does indeed come “at a price”. So now you can spit at a woman for Rs.50 only. To make the pricing even more attractive, if the lady is in the company of a man, one can spit at him for no additional costs. The authorities with their capitalistic ideologies do know how to set a “Fine” example for the citizens of this great country.