Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Time well spent

During a phase when creativity plays truant, I decided to shrug off inertia and reorganise my cupboards. Among piles of crumbling letters, lonesome single socks, and absurdly out of style dresses, I found a book. It was H.G.Wells' 'The Time Machine', a gift from a friend with whom I had lost touch long ago.

Settling into a gap among heaps of unsorted junk, I met the Time Traveller and followed him into the future.

Written a century ago, this novel is as fresh today as the first time I read it. Wells' view of the distant future is anti-utopian. In a satirical take on the social class divisions of his time, Wells foresaw a world where the human race evolved (degenerated?) into two distinct species. The dainty and effete Eloi are descended from the refined, idle aristocracy. The Morlocks are a sinister race descended from the working class, people who spent most of their lives in dark, airless sweatshops and ultimately became cannibalistic animals in the dark underbelly of the earth.

Embarking from the horriffic world of the Eloi and the Morlocks, the Time Traveller enters an even more terrifying future. In the dull glare of a bloated, dying sun, humanity has vanished without a trace. Giant crablike creatures dumbly await the impending end of the world.

Along with Jules Verne, H.G. Wells established science fiction as a serious literary genre. H.G.Wells' 'The Time Machine', 'The War of the Worlds', 'The Invisible Man', and other works are vivid and exciting even today.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My friend Babar

While negotiating my way through Bangalore's busy Commercial Street some days ago, I overheard an exchange between a mother and her young son. To the mother's suggestion to visit a bookshop, the boy replied, "But all they have are the same old fairy tales and Harry Potter." The plump, pale boy typified today's urban children. He probably lived in an apartment and had no trees to climb or grassy nooks to explore. In all likelihood he spent his evenings doing homework and playing computer games.

I, too, grew up in cramped partments in urban sprawls. But my father filled the house with books. Not content with what he found on shop shelves, he ordered more. While my parents were away at work, I curled up in my favourite sofa with Babar, the Little Elephant. Dear, cuddly and muddle-headed Winnie the Pooh and his friends and 'raletions' kept me company through many a lonely day. I loved the delighful river rat, the pompous Toad and all the other creatures populating The Wind in the Willows.

Exploring my school library led me to more treasures. Call It Courage, books by James Thurber and E.B. White, The Jungle Book, Black Beauty, The wizard of Oz, The Swiss Family Robinson, Tom Sawyer, the memories overwhelm me.

My son grew up reading my well worn copies of Babar, Robinson Crusoe, Five Little Peppers, Little Women and other books. When he wanted more, I scoured local bookshops in vain for Winnie the Pooh and other old-time favourites only to find the shelves filled with activity books, encyclopedias, fairy tales and classics retold (my child was an advanced reader for his age and would have preferred the originals).And there were the usual bestsellers. Nothing wrong with such books, but I sensed something sadly amiss in the paucity of choices.

Why do commercial interests take precedence in the type of reading on offer to children? Books that 'sell' occupy prominent display space and parents buy them. The same parents later complain that their children do not want to read. When we foist certain books upon children hoping to advance their intellectual capabilities, do we also not stifle their creativity for lack of ample choices? Why not allow them the freedom to make friends with Babar or Curious George?

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Lady turns fifty

Yesterday, TV news channels aired clips of the Prime Minister parrying questions from bright young college girls. The session was part of the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of my alma mater, Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi.

I remembered my own college days; dear friends, teachers who encouraged us to delve deeper and ask questions.
I'll quote from the college's website;

"Years ago, while speaking at LSR's inaugural function on31stt July 1956, our founder Sir Shri Ram urged the students and teachers to "set for themselves a standard of behaviour and start good traditions". Faithfully so, the LSR community has not only fulfilled his desire, but has taken it up as a responsibility to promote these ideas to others as well.
Our students have always successfully imbibed in them a unique spirit of community, secular ideologies, a sense of democratic and institutional responsibility and above all the celebration of diversity. LSR has indeed helped all its students maintain a balance between excellence and social responsibility. Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung Sang Suu Kyi and many many more well known academics, civil servants, social workers, artists, film makers, authors, educationists and lawyers comprise our alumna hall of fame."

No wonder LSR is ranked among the very best colleges in India. LSR ladies, you'll find them everywhere. You'll even find one lurking right here in the blogosphere.