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Posts by Rajiv
Joined: May 2, 2007
Last Post: May 1, 2015
Threads: 55
Posts: 400  

From: India

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May 1, 2015
Faq, Help / Note to the forum contributors [5]

Another note for the forum contributors -- on collecting party points

We've been to these sort of parties.

Birthday parties, with tinsel hats, bowls of fruit punch, lots of moms all around. Everyone is trying to make all the invited people have a good, good time. But you are just hating it, because you're only caught up in this for some reason.

Anyway it all drags on, and you know that there's neither escape for you, nor any possibility of ducking away out of sight.

So, what choice do you have but to pretend, like most others, that you too are having a good time.

You may have sensed that this party was going to be one of these, even as you walked in. So, to keep from just being miserable for its duration, you put your party-hat on along with others, and went around playing the same team games organized here.

Whether it was something puerile as collecting little chits hidden in hard to find places, or to tag someone with some kind of dress they're wearing. Your mind was zoned out, and all you thought of, rather made yourself think of were getting party-points. At the end of the game, everyone loudly and most meaninglessly give a big cheer for the winner.

May 1, 2015
Writing Feedback / A memory of an old man [3]

Hello Lakia.
I am not writing for any academic evaluation.

I've found there's something in writing "correctly" that takes away the fun from it. One can object there is all that good writing out there. I wish a reader's focus to be towards its other aspects. Everything, but the grammar, unless it detracts from the piece's clarity. My writing has been suffering from some of that more recently. But, I care less for rules, than to come through. And feel free to use words as they seem right.

You did not say whether you liked anything about the piece ? or, and pardon this, were you only in correction mode?
May 1, 2015
Writing Feedback / A memory of an old man [3]

There was a routine I had at Barnes and Noble. After spending an hour or more of some intense reading, I'd take a break to come and sit outside on the benches. For me, there was something to learn from simply looking at life moving around, at that time. People going to work, or just otherwise going about their business. There would be maybe, another person or two, like me also sitting there eating their breakfast.

I've wondered if I appeared, as people do to me, when I find them staring. I think maybe not, for it wasn't so much at any individual, but as if, just what he or she was doing that I would be looking at. All of it like looking upon a new scenery, so true and real that sometimes it only appeared clothed in an innocuous demeanor, but every individual so alive to what he was doing. It was the coolness of the morning air which also made it pleasant and possible to sit there, nondescript myself, and observe this life.

Some of it started to become more familiar. Those people who were regular in things they did. I wondered how I never saw anyone observing me, as I often did the others. There are wanky people everywhere, and I wasn't considered so much as one of those, but perhaps just a bewildered foreigner... There was this one time, a wanky person was passing by. I couldn't tell whether it was a man or woman. They are looking for anything or anyone to latch on to, and aren't so much a menace as a nuisance. But dealing with them requires a certain deftness and equally, some awareness of the local culture. Make a mistake in what you say or how you react, and that person will make a drama right there with you, an awkward and unwilling participant, and everyone around as their audience.

As I sat there this time, this person's eyes alighted on me and lit up. He or she only a few feet away. "And what do we have here?" I remember her saying, and a feeling like of a prey when it sees a predator fixing upon itself started to descend upon me. Before my would be tormentor could have me in her clutches, an elderly man whom I had seen pass by before, engaged her briefly in conversation and sent her on her way.

I had my wits around to know what had happened. I wondered if my savior knew my astonishment, that I thought him only a helpless old man who shuffled down the street each morning for his newspaper and breakfast, oblivious of me. But he had a positive impression of me somehow. And knew that I would not be able to deal with the situation. So he stepped in and rescued me. Then quickly ducked away somewhere, before I could express gratitude.

When I ever I see old men sitting somewhere now, in a park or otherwise. And if it is a place I go to regularly, then though I may never exchange greetings with anyone, I pause at the memory of this incident, and know that though I have never said anything to them, these geezers have a good sense of who exactly I am.
Apr 9, 2015
Writing Feedback / Remnants of another culture that still linger on. [2]

Imperialism came to India from the English just as it did to the United States. There, it was put down decisively in the Civil war. We appear to have taken to it, without even examining whether it conflicted with our own values.

When we step out of our home in the morning and the person cleaning the lobby says 'salaam', and we ignore him completely, or nod with eyebrows arched as though looking downwards. That is imperial behavior. When the driver steps out to open the car door for us with a polite 'good morning sir, or ma'am' and we only mutter in reply, or patronizingly, that is imperial behavior. Sitting in the back-seat, we preoccupy ourselves with a newspaper or the mobile, as a way of dealing with the forced closeness with the person driving our car. Or when we talk with a vendor outside, we have the window half closed -- it is still the same.

It was the North -- the war is often called as between the North and South America. It was the North, led by General Lee and others, that won. South America, being not the present continent known as that, but the states falling in the southern part of the present United States of America. It is a sad thing about war that started on ideologies, it certainly isn't so for those fighting it. The ones who, lying in the trenches, know that any moment they could be blown to bits, or severely incapacitated. These men are quite oblivious to the reasons the war is being fought. The soldier once committed is only that. His death and dying though is no different from how you and I would experience it ..suffer a similar wound or shock, or impalement by a bayonet or a shrapnel, be burnt by fire or whatever..

These soldiers were mostly too young, and neither educated enough to believe in the ideology that started the war. They were given concrete things to grasp in their minds. A loyalty to their general and their fellow soldiers, or that they must not lose their ground. It came down for them to some piece of land to defend, or seize from the enemy. But that wasn't the reason for the battle. The reasons, in the minds of the higher ranking officers, the generals, and those with capacity to understand, were quite vivid. The losing side would lose everything, and more than anything else, their ideology.

What were these ideas of the Southerns so abhorrent to the Northerners? There were really no such concrete ideas differentiating the two sides. The emancipation of the slaves though it became a symbol of the war, I think many would agree, wasn't it! The ideology separated in Europe itself. For and against the King's rule ..that is, of the imperial order. As the colonialists settled in different parts of the United States they were already splitting into these camps. The black people were exploited by both, equally. It is that those of the north, realized that they had to relinquish the notion that some humans can be treated with lesser rights.

If you can remember the first few times when you visited United States and the newness of things there. If you can recollect, not just the vast buildings or the sprawling landscapes, but that feeling itself, of a freedom from some constraints we even would have carried from here. You know then that this is what triumphed in that war. It has given birth to a new culture, quite different and opposed to the earlier one. It wafts into Europe where the young specially embrace it ..and the intellectual freedom it carries, and it is making it's way into India.

Am I leaving you with the idea that Indians are welcoming the change ? Quite the contrary. Any one who has not lived abroad looks askance at this new thinking. It fills them with a dread. Not just as change, but because they feel it lacks a moral center. And then they dig their heels further into the earlier imperial way.
Mar 28, 2015
Writing Feedback / A fear of censure in Indian society; our conversation often turns to criticizing what we see lacking [2]

Often, sitting together as a group of adults, our conversation turns to criticizing what we see lacking in our society. Often we also attribute these shortcomings to the imperial rule and empire which shadowed us for two long centuries. We talk then of the attitude amongst many of us, of behaving like 'sahibs' with the poorer class; or of looking for ways to exert ourselves less and less. At such time, someone may point to things that we should have taken instead from their, that is, the imperial cultures -- like their timeliness, general politeness and greater regard for their environment.

Maybe we needn't feel all bad about ourselves, as we can all recognize the small changes which are yet taking place for the better. The malls are becoming better places to walk in than just a year ago; and so are the roads. We could look a little more closely at people's behaviors though, because there is much that is wanting there - and very little has changed. Isn't it like litter which we find strewn around us and we mostly feel, and I think rightly so, that the culprits are the poorer class of people. Similarly, I think, in our society the poor are most responsible for the uncouth behavior we see around, whether traveling through the market or any other public place.

But then, just as you and I try to keep our own community clean, what about those things which yet keep us wanting as a society, those we could do to make our life more pleasant and civilized -- like, behave more 'civilly' to each other. I am as much against the forced and artificial greetings with whomsoever I chance to meet as I step out. But perhaps there is something that can be done to improve ties between the people which is at a more fundamental level. Looking back again at the 'civilized societies' of the western countries, I asked myself the question, what is it which makes them behave so politely with each other in public? What is it that they do and we do not, or have here ? And this, apart from the corrosive influence of the behavior we generally find on streets.

Here's my answer. It is the disparity of the social positions of the two genders in our society. I may be struggling at expressing the thoughts in my mind, but I pause, and feel that I am not mistaken in believing this. I am straining to imagine how exactly this could be, but isn't it a reasonable idea, that one can think that the culture within our communities could also be as different, cleaner, just as we would like the gardens and our building to be. Males and females, please think along with me on this, and don't you agree, that if we could resist thinking negatively of every interaction between males and females, not of the same family, as having hidden overtones and meaning -- it would add to the health of the entire populace.

Many would recollect from their experiences abroad that in many situations, when some counseling is required, it is often arranged for the two sides to be of different genders -- it is a more natural exchange, an easier one, where outcomes have been found to be more positive. I can see the difficulty of trying to change the culture here, that would make such interactions happen more often. Yet I strongly feel that those who do try to overcome the nagging of fear from social censure -- will be like those who try to plant a flower or a bush when they come to live in a barren building. Hoping it will take root, because they know what a difference it would make to the entire surrounding.
Mar 26, 2015
Faq, Help / Note to the forum contributors [5]

Thanks Loretta, you're doing quite okay now I think. Your essays are pretty good.

My older daughter, now twenty-five, is a big 'fan' of Africa. I am sure you too are one of those cheerful, good natured people that have so endeared her.

Good luck.
Mar 25, 2015
Faq, Help / Note to the forum contributors [5]

While the onus is entirely on the author of the piece to get his/ her ideas across; I have to wonder if that means that those commenting on it have little to contribute in that process.

Most people submitting essays here are likely to be non-native speakers of English.

I am also thinking that for them the process goes something like this --

We have a prompt for which we write our response.

Here's the part I want to emphasize for the EF_contributors. We the writers have the idea in our heads which we develop for a period.

Then comes the difficult, or interesting part depending on how one feels towards it, where we attempt to express it in a manner which is best understood -- by native english speakers.

That's it. That's really all there is to it.

Consider this. An author of a piece spends 4-6 or more hours, and I think mostly in that part where he/ she looks and searches for just the right expression.

English is very different from other languages, one of which could be the one the author is native to.

To think it is simply about finding the equivalent expression is too much of an over simplification.

Much else that is different goes into creating the nuances which add or remove emphasis, and thereby convey the intended sense.

What you really see here is a piece, clothed in English but its undergarments are of an altogether different kind. And to carry that analogy further, the person himself is a non-caucasion, yet he wants to be accepted as what is acceptable in your country.

How would you make such a person comfortable, were you to meet him? And that is your responsibility.

You have not only to make him comfortable enough to speak what is on his mind, he has already shown his willingness to learn your language and even your other ways. You, gracious that you have been in accepting to help him -- cannot just be curt, or perfunctory. Not if you mean to be sincere with the task you have chosen, and are not putting on a show perhaps, of only doing so.

Thank you.
Mar 24, 2015
Writing Feedback / Heirs to ancient knowledge; consensus is possible, but the issues must be put to test. [NEW]

In a world connected as we are consensus is possible. But to arrive there the issues must be put to test.

We, in India have long held up the greatness of our ancestral achievements, as not for ourselves alone, but all of humanity. We have this lingering sense, that our ancients had uncovered it all, had attained it all, in so many fields, even the very path to freedom from life and death.

And so we mostly believe. And so we say to others when we can. But over these last fifty years or so, this claim has become to ring less and less true. The promise of the great Indian heritage, of its literature and sundry achievement, may have begun by such personages as Vivekananda, Krishnamurthy, Prabhupada, Chinmayananda. All talking of greatness lying as if in some cave, to be reached in, or only to be waited for a little longer - then amidst the thunder worthy of their oratory, it would come spewing forward. And the rest of us, would win the world's respect for simply being Indians. Heirs to the great achievements of our fore fathers.

I have certainly felt this sense of awe, if one can call it that, from foreigners, specially western ones. Not that there is nothing concrete that carries from the past into our present. Yoga for one, and Ayurveda. But even more compelling, the ability in the younger of us who when put alongside others of their age, shine with an extra-ordinariness that defies all explanation but of something like an ethnic inheritance.

And so, like waiting on the side of an oil-well for what ever else may be forthcoming, the world has sat back and watched and waited. Not that their own people also sat idly by. They had harnessed technology, and have taken it with strides from strength to strengths. They harnessed even the youthful Indian intellectualism to work at their ends. But theirs' is an open world, and those who joined their efforts have done so, convinced of their system's impartiality. The only thing it has been partial to is that, it has driven towards its own goal. And that is quite different from the one India of the past had.

And this is where we find ourselves now. I think you will agree that the ground has shifted from what it was just fifty to sixty years back. If we extrapolate to younger and younger people, and what are likely to be their realities; what are those things which will be describing the landscape for them; what is important more than others. Then, concerned that the great traditions we so revered might slip away, as they have in these decades past, we need to reverse that trend. By actual discovery and not oratory alone.
Mar 23, 2015
Writing Feedback / On a changing social order in India -- a perception [2]

Some things have changed, or have they ?!

An ordering in society by wealth is no longer tenable. The idea was put in place by the British rulers. They enforced it as they were in power. It wasn't their withdrawal, but later when these subjugated peoples traveled and observed the way of life in Western countries, that they could tell that this was not only artificial, but wrongfully imposed. To the extent that following generations in the western countries felt disadvantaged by what their forefathers had done, and wished to quickly bring in some other measure of what is better and what is less so.

You might be struck by this if you watch 'Talent shows' like American Idol or X Factor and many others that have come up, as have their counter-parts in countries far flung like Indonesia, Turkey, Philippines and Ukraine. The audience participates in choosing the winners, and the favored are those who have been least fortunate in their circumstances and of disadvantaged situations.

The earlier criterion of talent alone is not acceptable. There is so much advantage that those in better circumstances have to nurture their abilities. Instead, those who wish to take their natural gifts to greater heights and do so in spite of their daunting surroundings, are the ones most worthy of being given a helping hand up.

In opening themselves to an easy access by those who had until recently been kept under by them, western countries acknowledge this need for a better measure. And it is not forcefully enforced either but a consequence of withdrawing the strait jackets of the past. When there is a free and open communication between countries from deep West to deep East, something fair in nature emerges in time.

The person sweeping the road outside or the boys carrying gas-cylinders, or even the persons driving your cars have long been wondering. What is it that these people have that we don't? It is time to acknowledge that actually there is little that entitles us to sit in drawing rooms, while they labor with such unequal compensation. And should we still insist on holding up any reasons for this distinction, then we are bigots, and will lose respect of ourselves as we are forced to acknowledge that others did so long ago.
Mar 10, 2015
Writing Feedback / House of tramps, the owner unseen. [2]

Imagine a large room and three or four people sleep there in sleeping bags or somethings of that sort. The idea being, that at night they adjust their bags to occupy as much space they can when they're ready to sleep.

They are tramps, occupying this hall without any ownership. But as long as they remember, no owner or other official has ever come to challenge them or ask them to move away.

The room has a porch connected to it through a door which was at first kept closed. Until the person sleeping nearest to it, one day pushed it open and went in. He found a nice place, untended but otherwise clean, and enclosed with glass windows. Then onward, he slept here in the night, enjoying the solitude and being able to look out at the stars.

Those inside heaved a sigh of relief, for of late they had all begun bickering, and the person in particular who had moved into the porch, was becoming threatening.

As is likely in this situation, some of these occupants had been around since a very long time. It wasn't definite, but they said they had met the owner. And this fact showed in the manner of everything they did. They said the owner had been quite kind to them and had said they could live here. Things they did were what they believed or considered correct, as the owner would have wished.

The person who had moved into the porch however, established a newer set of rules of how he would go about. One can understand that he guarded the passage to the porch stringently. Otherwise, he was organized and had much less of clutter. At times when he let the other's visit the porch, they approved of what they saw. What did jar them though was his belief that they had complete ownership to everything here; not just the porch but of the entire house. He even discredited their claim, those who said they had met the owner a long time ago.

This is how it was then. The others came to visit and saw how he did things which they did mostly like. But then they sifted in their minds and took back only what they believed was in agreement with the idea, a sort of unwritten pact they had made with the owner. A pact they believed reflected their position, not just in this house, but the entire community in which they were all .. but only tramps.
Mar 6, 2015
Writing Feedback / Cultures .. one view of their dynamics; Pilgrims of Eastern origin [2]

Have you ever thought along these lines, that instead of those people, the pilgrims, the people who came to America were from India or another Eastern country ? How would the world have turned out?

North America was like a gift to all mankind at the time. A gift of beautiful and natural, wide land. So large actually, that by virtue of its huge size alone was it able to carve out the future of the world that followed.

There are two things which I believe would have been done differently had the pilgrims been of Eastern origin. One , the diminution of the Native American people. Easterners would have tried to assimilate with them, not being of such violent nature as the Europeans. The Europeans at that time were anyway conquering many countries, and doing so without check. They actually believed themselves the better people and entitled to what they could take, even forcibly.

The other thing that would have happened differently would have been, that they would not have brought the millions of people from Africa to do the hard labor of developing the land.

Once we get over these two facts of America's history, what has followed then is mostly all good.

The America we know, of the last thirty forty years, has brought a new culture to the world. And these are the three things that I believe resulted in the birth of a new culture. The first being the wide and untouched natural country land that it was.

Standing away from the whole of the living beings on the planet, from that perspective, one could say that this was a giant leap for all mankind. Enacted by the human species and an evolution for its own furtherance.

The progressive step here being, that where the cultures had become weighed down by many unnecessary things, a fresh start enabled them to make many things anew. Defining a new government and what it was based upon. Mostly, getting rid of their baggage from many centuries.

Of the things they did so shed, the one which stands out pertinently is religion. The little history of theirs I know, explains it as becoming a burden for some due to differing factions. But I would say, as its simply lacking a stronger core.

I wish to bring out this fact ..that the world was ready for the change. What is sweeping over the world is the discovery which happened in that country. In its larger part it is what the world brought about for itself. It has elements of its original discoverers, the Europeans, in their aversion and understanding of spiritual matters. But for the most part it is a step forward in the way humanity progressed as a whole. What various countries take from there is its generic part, each trying to leave aside that which is specific to its native European origin, and conflicting with its own.

To bring out the central theme more clearly, imagine four species of plants growing out from one place. As their growth increase, their leaves and branches become denser, and their need for nourishment increases. Though they are still growing along in their separate ways -- they turn now to encroaching upon other territories. The species have characteristics of physical nature which differentiate them, but being humans, these characteristics and their differentiation is more pronounced in their internal aspects. The system of ethics existing in each, that allows them to function as a communal whole. Which really forms the basis for all interactions among individuals in commerce mostly. But as important, the individual language of each. The meaning and manner of articulation, evolving as a generic trait of the fabric of each species.

Imagine now, that one being more aggressive begins to poach upon others, even attaching itself and sucking upon them like a parasite. After doing that a while, and feeling perhaps some inner revolt due its human nature, this more aggressive species finds a huge piece of fertile land to feed upon. That draws away its preying parts. Eventually its perspective and of the entire world , increases to the extent that it sees that there is no more space for it to grow any more. For it can see all the way round to the other side of the planet, and see it suspended in a void of space.

If you see this portrayal as factual, then it might help attach significance to the activities you are planning in your future. Whether it is to benefit one part of this grove, or bring about a balance; in recognition that what is common to all humans must lie within, something in the nature of the things we think about perhaps. But I do not want to lead and leave it here with this hope. That the forces you feel from various cultures are clearer now.. of where they came from in the past, and what they push towards for their future.
Jan 29, 2013
Writing Feedback / The squirrel on the roof, basking in the morning sun [2]

Remember the metal staircase in the backyard? Used to be at the further end, made use of only by Vishnu-Bahadur's family while they lived here. It was not by any real plan, but because the neighbor wanted the foundation on that side to go deeper and block water from seeping into their basement after a heavy rain -- that, that side underwent some serious reconstruction. Part of which was to move the metal staircase where it is now, outside and right of the window of my room. I liked the idea, once I could imagine it. The black staircase adding something to the garden.

You will also remember, the view from this side, the temple to the right beyond the wall and the nursery to the left, some aging trees also visible. It was the same neighbor again who had the large land behind cleared. People walk the road, going left to the nursery, mostly in the mornings, but also others, the house-working ones, in the evenings, cutting through to their homes in the slum-like habitation which lines the road beyond the nursery, thankfully a little ways beyond it.

In the mornings I can hear the children coming to attend the school next to the temple, about the time when I am done with my own morning routine, bath and toilet, meditation and yoga, and I come to feel the morning freshness, and the sun as it rises from the left. Cup of coffee in hand, I walk up these garden stairs, sitting on the roof's edge my feet on the top most step.

The sunlight is beginning to reach the roof as it streams through the gaps in the branches of the trees. People walking out of the nursery, some who have walked from home, others towards their cars parked there, all have an air, a readiness to meet the day, and what it will bring. Children too seem to be looking forward to their school, probably the company of friends they will meet.

Then I notice this squirrel. I had noticed him as it first was skittering around, making its way up the tree. It's a favorite among the squirrels, this tree, a little too slender for the cat which is sometimes around to follow them up, and it leads all the way to the roof. As I sat there looking at the scene beyond our backyard wall, this squirrel too came and perched itself on a piece of brick lying there. The sunlight had just reached us, and I felt there must be so little difference in what we must both feel now. Sometimes it would twitch its tail, but otherwise as I sat there for more than fifteen minutes, so did the squirrel, basking in the morning sun, on this not so chilly winter morning.
Sep 10, 2012
Undergraduate / What personal experiences have changed the way I think about myself? [2]

The personal experience that changed the way you think about yourself was not having your father 'in your life'.

You start well, very personally, but your voice moves to 'third person' in the middle. That works metaphorically, since you are saying how you've become independent, and no longer need your dad. But it will more likely come across as sloppy. Either, make the language crisper to clearly show your use of the metaphor, or do this in a conventional manner staying with one voice.

Your ideas are good. Try breaking up the essay into paragraphs.
Mar 7, 2012
Writing Feedback / A tree .. I am [4]

Thanks for the comments Thors Hammer. On the clarification .. its meant as .. though 'the tree' concerns them so little..

Thanks again.. its with this sparse moisture that I am able to keep going!
Mar 2, 2012
Writing Feedback / A tree .. I am [4]

I feel myself a tree sometimes. A tree grown to maturity. The flowers that bloom on a tree such as I am have been coming and going in their season. Some fruit too, of the kind which grows on me. It isn't very sweet, I think, nor much use even after being processed. Yet, here I am, tree-like just as all other trees are. And these things cannot be denied. I am green, with branches wide, covered in foliage and those who come beneath will find its shade.

I do not have much need for tending, I think, for I have survived in arid land with little watering and no special care at all. I have this strange longing to be of use to others, even if it be the very wood I am made of. But I realize, that isn't for me to decide. People find me mostly unsuitable for any purpose to them, and just leave me be.

It doesn't matter I have been telling myself now. Because here I am, and every passing year, I age a little. When i am gone, the bands for each year I lived, would show up clearly. Just like in all other trees were you to cut through them. So, it is all fine - just this one message I would like to leave for you. If you don't like how I look, the texture of my leaves, or the occasional flowers which come, their form or their fragrance. Still, I ask you just leave me be.

Don't pick these flowers to smell them. I haven't any control over them, they will be as they are. They come without my asking, as buds among the leaves, then grow to a fuller bloom - which you don't like you said, and then I let them go as they're ready to fall. I am sorry their smell isn't one you like. I am truly sorry they fell so close to you, for I wasn't meaning to offend. It's just this is where I was planted, and meant to be.

So, now my friend, I wish you adieu.
Jan 18, 2012
Writing Feedback / ...a still life water color; I too would like to live to be 92 years old [9]

Dear Susan,

Maybe you aren't so aware about self publishing. Anyone can do it, if they have enough material to make up a book .. and it wouldn't make them a professional writer by a long shot.

I thought the softcover copy of the book over priced and the ebook more balanced for the ordinary reader. But since it owes its existence to essayforum, that might be an additional angle of interest. I would love to know what you think -- and it might even be the first proper review I have of it. Thank you so much Susan.

Jan 18, 2012
Writing Feedback / ...a still life water color; I too would like to live to be 92 years old [9]

I am both awed and humbled by your kind words

I self published a book, 'Writings from a Village' two years back. It's available in softcover now, and its ebook version will also be out very soon. Yes, the book had its beginnings on this forum.

I'll try to bring out another when I have enough material together for it. The forum is fortunate to have you helping here.
Jan 18, 2012
Writing Feedback / ...a still life water color; I too would like to live to be 92 years old [9]

Katmandu0071 -- makes me think of Cat Stevens .. I wonder what your reason for choosing this name is?

On your question on the title. If I were an artist and did a painting of this visit, this is what I would have called it. I cannot help thinking of my writing as art. Part of the reason I am able to write short pieces only.

I read 'Old man and the sea' very recently, as well as its literary criticism. I think I would not have appreciated the quality of its writing earlier. I'm sure I assimilated some of that into my own. It was gratifying to hear your comparison with it.

Thank you, Austin..

Dear Susan,

Always so encouraging, aren't you! I like how you end by saying ..good luck with school... and the other things, of course, too!!

I well know how valuable, genuine criticism is and thank you for yours. I owe it to you, and others on this forum for helping me discover the joy of writing.

Jan 17, 2012
Writing Feedback / ...a still life water color; I too would like to live to be 92 years old [9]

I too would like to live to be 92 years old.

I went to the hospital to see this 'friend' of mine who is turning ninety-two in a few months. He is surprisingly fit: he can read ordinary print, like in the newspaper or text messages; his stride is nothing short of amazing, almost a bounce, as he takes his evening rounds of the park; and best of all is his ability to communicate, without pulling you down as older people are wont to do, in that whining, almost morbid tone which makes them more respect-worthy they must think, for their age, that is. Or their brave suffering, carrying on inspite of all the world's inequities?

He lay there in a private room in the hospital as I walked in. It was a Sunday afternoon. Looking peaceful, reminding me of some literary English character, with his longish hair and beard cut in french-style. The room was a well kept one too, an armchair near the window placed invitingly where I went and sat down.

I call him simply 'uncle!' as I always have these past twenty years. He usually responds as 'my dear' or often more affectionately as " my dear boy! so good to see you!". And always with a gesture of reaching out to me, as if to put his arms around me. He met me again effusively, but this time he seemed to lack the energy to move his body.

I had texted him the day before asking how it was going in the hospital. He texted back " .. they kept needling me through the night and emptying my meager qty of blood. Got little time to sleep. Wait till my recovery and I will do my best .." He was making light of it of course, and referring to mediating in a personal matter I asked him to help me with, when he said .. 'he would do his best.'

We would meet otherwise in a park near his house in the afternoons. This was after a long break of nearly fifteen years. I had lived in a room at that time, built on a large plot a few houses down from them. He would be walking his dog to a nearby rose garden, as we talked about all kinds of things. A fascination with western ways and ideas and the everyday things around us and even in our lives, I think it was mostly with mine.

Now as we tried to fill the gap, we'd pick up on any subject bringing in other things it reminded us of which had happened during this time. My horizons had broadened and I could follow stories of his younger days. Things I don't remember him talking about earlier. What prompted him to talk of those things now, I wonder. His early days in Pakistan, the violence of partition, and later living in Kulu.

As I sat there now next to him I remembered an incident from the past, and started telling him about it. I saw him making an effort to follow -- as I happy with a chance to chat tried to broaden my story. He lost the thread, or realized he could not exert enough. I saw the interest fading in his eyes, and stopped. He did not prompt me to continue.

And like that we sat for many minutes, I wondering what to talk with him. The nurse came in with his tray of food. Welcoming the activity, I too ordered a lunch. We sat then in the quiet, something unlike how it ever was when we met outside. My lunch arrived and we ate from our respective plates. When we were done I told him I'd meet him now only when he was out of the hospital. He agreed with that.
Dec 17, 2011
Writing Feedback / The other family in our house [3]

Another family too lives in the space our house is in. Their's is a much more meager structure at the far end and in the left corner; the main house being to the right. In the space between their house and ours is a good sized lawn and a garden patch. But since there is a washing place attached to and behind the main house and it is across the lawn, the family needs to walk across to get to it.

They are originally from Nepal, and I know little about the political conditions there, or the state of their economy. Its obvious this family is here due to the latter reason - a situation similar to that which Indians find themselves in when they go over to US. They've lived here about eight years - an arrangement struck between them and my parents - as likely to be mutually beneficial, after my father retired and they saw none of us, their children, would be living with them.

My father passed away three years ago, and my own circumstances, willed or otherwise, brought me to move in with my mother only a year ago. We all, her children and our children, were always amazed how well she yet managed to keep the house. The garden with its many flower beds and rows of potted plants drew exclamations of surprise from anyone visiting the first time. Within the house too, the wall hangings, carpet and other objects de art collected over their lifetime, though aged, were always dusted clean and well maintained.

It always appeared this way to me whenever my daughters were over, in the few days we would stay - my wife for some reason or another, was busy with her work and away.

When I arrived here that first time after deciding I would live now with my mother, as it happened, she wasn't home. I remember how warmly the Nepali man, Bahadur is his name, greeted me. My mother really was having difficulty being alone, and they could easily see that.

Bahadur's wife is Vishnu, a little surprising since it is a masculine name. She does all the house work in our house. I remember her earlier, as being stiff, in an emancipated kind of way, and her clothes were always drab.

One day last year we had some visitors over and were sitting down to lunch in the back lawn, as we often did in winter. A call came from their village in Nepal that her dad had died. Wailing, she just left whatever she was doing and walked over into their own house. Ofcourse my mother learnt what had happened and told the rest of us. We left her alone then and all of us together brought out the things we needed to take our meal, keeping our voices down. She went and stayed with her family in Nepal for two weeks and my mother did all the cooking and cleaning, with me helping as I could.

Another time a few years ago, just before my father died, I was staying with them again. Both of them, my parents, were out of town and I too was going on a trip with some people for a few days. When the people I was going with arrived and I walked out, Vishnu too came out to check them, though she had been washing some clothes inside. This has stayed with me, or made me realize a concern and a bond they had for us, which I was unaware of.

One of the profounder ways in which I have been affected by living ten years in US, and similarly by the few years in France, is in how much lesser is the distance between all of us as humans, compared to our relationship with everything else around us. I am sure I could not have otherwise shed something inside me, lying there because I would not have cared to turn it over and examine it, an attitude towards the servant-class here in India.

I remember an incident from my earlier years of school. A young man who cooked for us once dropped something boiling in the kitchen and burned his foot rather severely. This may have happened during the day, but in any case my mother asked him to take the day off and he went away to where he lived, some place in a cluster of houses behind our own house. Later my dad and I visited him, or rather I tagged along, to give him some ointment for his burns. He was all gratitude, but I was immensely moved at how stuffy his little room was. It was the first time for me of actually seeing how 'servants' lived. No we, those who employ them, really have never visited their homes.

As it is now, I occupy this room in the back of our house and it has a large window overlooking the back lawn. The house Bahadur's family lives in, its front door, is only partially hidden behind a hedge. It is a little awkward, because leading out from my room is a small porch, and sitting there one is looking directly into their house. Or in any case very aware of their talk and what they're doing, as much as those sitting inside or outside there would be of us. I did, as a matter of fact accept that this family is really my neighbor -- with the exception that I have some privileges and some influence over them, which I cannot ignore, like anything else which is a part of my real environment.

I have watched over my own two girls, as they went through school in US, taking them to their after-school and weekend activities, understanding and dealing with the needs of their schools and otherwise .. now I can recognize so much of that in the chatter I hear from this house as their teenage girls and a younger son, return from a neighboring school; or when Bahadur returns from his work-place and the children happily greet him, interspersed with their demands, he speaks back to them in a mockly gruff voice. I sit in my own room, partly annoyed with the distraction; but very much an onlooker as well, and a participant almost.

As it had to be, eventually, this family and I have become connected in some mental way. I am sure they think of me as actually related to them or in their minds, unconsciously perhaps, they put me in place of Bahadur's or Vishnu's older brother. Any sternness I put on in an effort to keep at a comfortable distance, with the actual relationship of the two family's in mind, the children probably see as easily as a moodiness, or a part of the nature, any real relative of their's might have had.
Dec 13, 2011
Student Talk / I chose an Essay writing service [25]

No Nita, its you I want to choose, to lead a life of sin .. just keep telling me, how its alright !
Dec 12, 2011
Student Talk / I chose an Essay writing service [25]

If I were a criminal, I'd want to have you as my partner in crime. You'd certainly make my conscience feel less troubled.
Dec 12, 2011
Student Talk / I chose an Essay writing service [25]

Maybe you don't suck at writing .. maybe you lack faith in your own talent ! Put up an essay or two here. That'll help you judge where your writing stands.
Dec 8, 2011
Writing Feedback / Two hundred years.. the British ruled our people [5]

I apologize Susan, most sincerely.

My intention was to raise a debate merely. My frustration is with people of eastern cultures who are lured to the trappings of the West giving up their own cultures as almost dead and buried.

I deeplly regret having hurt your sentiments. Buddhism is a beautiful culture. I dream of it as snow covered mountains near the himalayas, a reddish sky, bare houses along the hill sides. Monks in ochre robes, smoke rising from their rituals in the sky and an incessant chanting on and on .. om mani padme hum.. om mani padme hum. Forgive me, for hurting you. Peace, peace, peace.
Dec 8, 2011
Writing Feedback / Two hundred years.. the British ruled our people [5]

Thanks Susan. Your comment though has made me wonder about some intrinsic superiority you yet believe westerners have. Is it their strength? It was only their physical might and deviousness that they overcame these eastern cultures, is it not ? Now these people of Eastern societies, having been led to chase your ideals of what being civilized is, and more unfairly, in modes which are native to you, the english language being the foremost of those, your scientific methods being another... will of course lag; and continue to believe they are inherently less equal to their 'caucasian' brother and sisters, as humans. Fairness from you, as you say all that is now changing, would be not in giving us a helping hand 'up' to where you are -- it would be in coming down from these mental structures you live in, and help us recover ours, if that is possible at all, from the debris of the past. We would be easier doing that, as those actions would be native to us, and the fragments we find familiar, as pieces of larger wholes ...

Make no mistakes. You're on the other side from us. Beginning with recognizing where dividing line truly lies would be a good start... towards creating an equal world.
Dec 1, 2011
Writing Feedback / Two hundred years.. the British ruled our people [5]

Two hundred years the British ruled our people, and now it is their culture spread throughout the world.. in the language which is acceptable the world over, and their ways of doing things. Others were just dropped along the way, dismantled and destroyed under their aegis.

Then to ensure longevity of their own ways, they sowed misconceptions about the older ways in those very native lands from where they had tried to uproot them. One wonders naturally, can this really have been so? Do you? Have you ever stopped and thought about your real culture? Have you thought how life may have been very different had our ancestors had the strength to ward away the external. Maybe you have. And if you reflected at all on this, you must also realize it was a weakness not of physical strength, but in our minds. Ours and in all the other so called eastern cultures, which ... hey, what a surprise! .. are all the ones lagging now.

One such insidious idea sowed by the westerners, and one which I have seen still perplexes many Indians, to the point of making them doubtful about the entire culture of our past, is of the inherent unfairness in the fourfold caste system --- an inherent and a cornerstone of our Indian culture. Yes, it truly perplexes us, because in these times it is equated to the discrimination practiced between people say, on the basis of color.

Funny, it should have been so hard for us, as Indians, to get past this subterfuge of the west against our own heritage. Strange, because now apparently we are free to think, free to explore the truths about our past, and yet we always seem to trip over this obstacle, cleverly planted by our detractors.

So, have you an open mind now? As we reconsider the meaningfulness of this fourfold division which our ancient and original constitution was built upon. To me a clue was provided by coming upon the meaning of the word 'Shudra' in Sanskrit. That word actually means 'gross' or 'vulgar'. That is, unrefined or lacking in civilization.

An intrinsic human state, not an imposed one!

If we imagine ourselves faced with a task, such as Manu, the originator of Indian societal form had. Given the totally chaotic collection of a large mass of people with varying needs, capabilities and other things... it is obvious that left to itself it would never progress. Progress in the way that there is a stepwise and gradual development of the different facets of this mass; that one facet advances, then using the progress the other has made, is able to take itself further. The other facet similarly, left unencumbered of things which it has lesser capabilities to deal with, shares the progress with one which has developed; and so on it is like a braiding of hair, an intertwining where each contributes equally of something it is most capable to provide.

I think this is truly a very visionary idea, of having not two classes but four. Visionary like all other things we find from those times, only if we take that time to look for them.

I think it is similarly inherent in our natures, as humans, that our inclinations are one of these kinds: We are rough and physical, or we are inclined to manufacture and deal with goods, or we wonder about higher learning, or we simply do not have any particular inclinations to learn anything, in which case we are likely to remain, uncivilized, but still gladly accept it preferring that to the effort of learning of skills or ideas or of playing politics as rulers.

But look at you now! You work in a telephone company, or a software house or maybe you buy and sell property. You've put yourself entirely to that single segment, because you believe that is how you progress. In any case, you say, it seems to be working well enough in western countries, so let us get there at least, as we are 'developing countries' .. but we forget, that is their label for us.

The answer, and any chance of resuscitation for us as a people, lies in recovering the source of our knowledge, is it not? Or would you rather believe that meaning to human existence too lies in discovering the secrets within objects, and learning more about their properties. Or maybe, you don't even see that, that is where you are being led to. Why this confusion? Or how come we can so blatantly have been misled all out lives, and our ancestors of recent generations as well?

Two main ideas should be convincing to an open mind, to really want to know more.

Enter a foreign power, into a country of which they have no clue, specially of its culture. You yet can judge in a general way from just how people deal with you and each other, or from their countenances, whether while carrying out their activities or at rest, that this is a society which is quite balanced and at peace with itself. The people are simple, yet not dull. You find refinement in behaviors as well as the objects around, which you can certainly put a value to, because value of material goods in a sense goes beyond cultural boundaries.

Were you as a foreigner to stay long enough you would discover the high regard the people put to a class and category which is totally foreign to you. As you delve deeper into it, you discover that not only its language, but even its ideas are beyond your comprehension. Whatever be your design, even if one simply of curiosity, you befriend some people and eventually understand the ideas of the texts which this civilization has such regard of. Strange indeed are the ideas, the foremost, that our human life is only a part of existence, a temporary existence. Everything around this is equally fantastic to you. You know how ridiculous it will all seem were you to go back and suggest it in your country, as an alternative system of thought, a philosophy which has yet enabled a large country to endure and thrive.

Now, like you, if others too from your land, having explored this culture, go back and talk of the same things they found here; and it all gathers in the aristocratic circles of your country and further percolates up to the ruling class in your land. The reaction is as inevitable. We do not understand, nor will we, so let us weaken it; decimate it of its strength. Is it hard to imagine some people gathered around tables and pondering how to overcome a flourishing land, that we may take its riches without check and use the people and the generations to follow to serve our menial wants.

You can be sure, it must have seemed an idea of sheer brilliance then, and the person suggesting amply rewarded, in wealth and honor, who was able to point out, the importance of the mysterious fourth class -- whose function, seemed so unnecessary yet was in reality quite the opposite. The brilliant and simple solution was simply, " pinch it off!". Pinch this mysterious source of strength of this culture, and the civilization slowly will lose its coherence. Then, once divided and bereft of the value of its principles, which perplex us, they are like simple people, like any other without an inner binding fabric. They will be ours and so will be their progenies for ever.

Now tell me, you people, what part of this narrative, your own history, you find hard to accept? Do you even know whose debt you are most under if it happened this way -- yes, to those who freed us from the yoke! And do you know why they did it -- in the belief that we will find our way back to our roots! For that would make all they did worthwhile, when the tree of this civilization finds its own source of vitality, and begins to grow those parts that have dried up, fed as it has been, guided by foreign hands !!
Dec 1, 2011
Undergraduate / UC Prompt #2 - Coding [6]

You make yourself appear to come from being a simpleton into the league of the top designers of the game -- that is surely far from the truth. Putting this in its proper perspective will surely help give it the right tone.
Dec 1, 2011
Undergraduate / UC Prompt #2 - Coding [6]

Here's a challenge for you ! You sound a little smug. See if you can change that in the essay.

I specially liked this -

I tried to find any constructive criticism buried beneath the insults.

Nov 30, 2011
Dissertations / I need suggestions for phd topics in software engineering [18]

I imagine there are two ways of looking at this problem. One, what is your own interest within this field? Aren't you likely to be happier working on that and also more likely to succeed? The other way, a little more challenging, but no more than you should be capable of. Why don't you explore sites where such work is available -- to understand the trends and the areas and where you could also pitch in?
Nov 29, 2011
Undergraduate / 'My family moved to USA' - UC prompt 1 [14]

Your original essay has a nice flow. I read the prompt, then read your essay, and it seemed to me that you've answered it very well. I think the reader will be pleased with your writing, which may actually count for a lot. More than you seem to think, though everyone here often seem to be straining at saying the most they can about themselves.
Nov 20, 2011
Undergraduate / 'Multiple sclerosis' - Experience that has been meaningful to me [2]

My brother was also diagnosed with MS about ten years ago, he was around fourty at the time, and ran a small business in Vienna. He's given that up now and enjoys watching his eight year old grow. I haven't met him in five years or more now, but hope to shortly when he will visit us in India, where I am, in a few months. Talking with him over Skype, or hearing about his condition from other family members, I try to imagine how his life may actually be like. I therefore read with much interest what you wrote and am grateful for that.

Good luck with school.. a nice essay.
Nov 14, 2011
Graduate / 'helping more English learners in China' - paragraph in my admission [2]

My college years reshap[ed] my desire from helping people around me to helping more [people learn] English learners in China. More than once have I heard English teachers attributed the English teaching situation in China to the test-oriented educational system. Different from them, my major concern is just our teachers' capabilities to change that system into a better one. In fact, a large part of the upcoming innovations in ESL teaching in China relies on our teachers' capabilities to challenge out-dated solutions to [the existing] problems. that always exist. Therefore, I intend to dedicate myself to improving the ESL teaching body in China's public schools.
Nov 12, 2011
Writing Feedback / Daydreamer -- poetry-like [5]

I like the word 'day dreamer' .. it makes me think of meadows and grass. Of a boy in teens, longish hair, soft expression and gentle eyes. A smile curling at the corners of his mouth.

You find him sitting on some grassy patch, a stem in his mouth, lost in thought with an inward look. What is it about him people wonder - should we like him, or pull him up ?

Like some beast in the wild, a grazing horse, he lifts his head to survey the rolling grounds. His thoughts are like a river, natural, not overly turbulent. There's a harmony in them, with the skies and the universe.

Approach him like you would a river running gently beneath leafy branches. You might want to sit on its grassy bank and watch the gurgling waves at play. Sloshing on stones, white and centuries old; mesmerizing, washing away the tiredness of your mind.

He is a happy one, you feel. Yet you want to tell him, tarry not my friend, lest life leaves you behind. Don't you have chores to do ? People waiting for you ? But, what business is that of yours? Why do you pull him out of his reverie?

He laughs, sensing your envy. Ah day-dreamer, you must have been a bird in a previous life-time.
Nov 7, 2011
Graduate / 'conservation of resources' - Statement of Purpose for MS Industrial Engineering [8]

One can tell you've taken pains to say what you want in each sentence. It may not be the simplest way of saying it, but those skills will come only when you've lived a while in English speaking countries. You will learn them, is certain seeing the effort you're making here.

Much better to put across your own work, than for someone to write it in the native-English. Expect it to be read for what it is; with an appreciation of the additional flavor of the country of its origin.