Through Time And Across The Planet

Through Time And Across The Planet

Everyone who has explored English Literature has heard of Shakespeare and Milton and Bernard Shaw and J.K.Rowling. What did all of these have in common? Yes, English was their first language.

I too grew up reading works of authors whose first language was English. Almost every single work of literature that has ever existed can be found translated into English today. English as we know it, is considered to be the Universal Language. Online sources state that there are about 1.8 billion English Speakers world wide. Until today, I never quite questioned, ‘Why is English considered to be the Universal Language?’ I wonder how many of you have done so, but I guess now’s the time if you are willing to!

English is definitely an amazing language. Because it was once my second language and today is the language I speak the most, I can admire its perks and flaws when compared to other languages- I speak Hindi and am trying to teach myself French and Japanese. My fluency in the English language is because of all the English literature that I have read.

In course of time and due to globalization in almost every sphere of my life, I came across literary works by authors whose first language was anything but English. Until now, many works have left a profound impression on me and my life and contribute to my character, including my perspective. Yet, the works of one man has stood out and has made me appreciate the need to explore literature from across the world.

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace was a work that made me reflect upon my ways in life at least thrice, if I recall correctly. His subtle understanding of the human character is so vast and deep that as I read, I could connect with the characters and probably feel what they were undergoing. The simplicity of his style and the ability to produce something interesting and intellectual out of the most boring and mainstream topics of human psychology and human relations is something that really appealed to me. The journey of one character(I won’t reveal who) as he underwent successive changes in life and morality was the beacon of light for my own character. The depth with which Tolstoy has explored human relations is outstanding.

Of late, I have been reading Anna Karenina-his other most famous work. In my opinion, it pales in comparison to War and Peace and is rather dull owing to the vigor with which it chronicles a scandalous affair between two highly prominent characters. Yet, I was captivated by the timeless value of the entire story and its relevance to modern society.

The fact that I could draw a fine connection between modern human social relations and values to the likes described by Tolstoy back in the late 19th century made me want to appreciate his brilliance even more. These two works of his are timeless and carry a message for everyone capable of understanding his prose, including a blogger like me!

Yes, reading Tolstoy and appreciating him is too mainstream, but not everything that is mainstream is dull, is it?

In my opinion, Literature, as long as it is original in approach and carries a message that can inspire you to be a better person is good literature. I have decide to move away from English literature and explore some translated stuff by Swedish and other Russian authors.

Feel free to recommend me some good literature!

Transition 365

The last few hours of 2014 remain, and I am happy to say that it has been a fruitful year!

It has been a year of self discovery and tranquility for me. The wisdom I gained and the lessons learned marked my year. This blog was born in 2014!

I have a mixed feeling about the coming year. There are many decisions to be made, not only for me as an individual but for the entire world too. My next 6 months would decide the way I utilize the next 4 years of my life to pave the way forward. Its going to be a real challenge! Yet, the possibilities of exciting opportunities and a fresh start have been keeping my spirits high!

How do you feel about the coming year?

The Toxicity of Our Times

Recently, I read an article that described the severe hazards that prevail in Beijing, China’s capital city and also one of its most polluted.

The article gives you a very grim view of the situation there. It described the city as something of a futuristic scene. The entire city is covered in a layer of smog. Everyone seems to be wearing heavy duty masks to be safe. The parks are devoid of children running about. There are no cyclists on the streets for fear of inhaling the deadly air. An increasing number of children are falling sick. The fancy schools that have capital are building artificial domes that have purified air. What’s the reason for all this?

I am not an expert or much aware of anything related to China, save Chinese food,  and so my imagination and presumptions may not be accurate. I certainly agree that what’s happening in Beijing is nothing worse than an apocalypse, or rather as it has been labelled, an airpocalypse. The citizens are aware of what’s happening. The devastating changes to the architecture is the physical sign of the worsening foul air. The AQI of Beijing’s toxic environment hits 400 at times- Certainly not safe for any human being to treat with ignorance. The amount of carbon mission from factories is sky rocketing and the laws and measures implemented by the government is of little use if not futile.

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/dec/16/beijing-airpocalypse-city-almost-uninhabitable-pollution-china

That’s the link to the entire article.

My concern comes from the fact that Beijing is not the only city suffering from such hazardous conditions. The air quality in most of the Asian countries is getting worse as the the economies are booming and the demand from the industrial sector is increasing. Indian cities are a hazard themselves. The pathetic safety regulations in the public transport sectors account for maximum pollution. The degraded quality of air filters do nothing to completely burn the fuel and so the carbon emissions are ridiculously high. Certain areas of my city record an AQI of 230 even. These areas have always depressed me and I have refrained from venturing there. Luckily I live on the better half of the city and so the ample greenery helps in keeping the air clean and safe to breathe.

Europe has an amazing AQI, with almost all the countries sporting an AQI of less than 40. I visited UK back in 2012, and I still remember the blast of fresh air that filled my lungs as I exited the Heathrow Airport. I felt more alive than I had in 15 years of my life. The feeling is the same whenever I go for a trek into the mountains or any hilly, isolated rural area.

India and China are two countries that are going to play a major role in many sphere’s of this planet’s future. Both the countries have their own positives and negatives and these often seem to be vicious circles and inevitable paradoxes. It has been predicted that the increasing fuel prices by 2050 will compel us to reduce our dependency on petroleum and that we would look towards coal as an alternative. I daresay that it is not going improve this planet’s future prospects.

We need to slow down and think of what we are doing… This chase for progress and innovation and the fight for a better lifestyle is a paradox. Now I know why Tolstoy preferred a peasant life, and I know now what Tolkien was preaching through his works.

At The End of An Adventurous Journey

My first introduction to good quality literature was through short stories that I read as a schoolboy. Eliot, H.W.Longfellow, Ruskin Bond, Rabindranath Tagore, Robert Frost and many more whom I have forgotten have been largely responsible for instigating me into exploring literature.

When I was in 8th grade, I was fascinated by the world of wizards and witches and the story of the boy who  survived. It was the first fantasy series read by me.

Little did I know that my favorite works of literature were yet to be introduced to me.

It was after my final exams at the end of high school did I receive a present from my sister. In my opinion, it was the most fantastical subtle piece of literature ever written. I had watched the movies before and that considerably helped me shape my imagination as I read along. It was not long before I was entirely fascinated with Tolkien’s Middle Earth- from regularly pestering all who would have an open ear with war cries of Rohan to the brave deeds of the little hobbits. I even got hold of the various soundtracks and the words of wisdom from the books became a part of my life, defining my beliefs and giving justice to my actions.

I read the Hobbit, The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales, and have gone back to reading the Lord of The Rings and the entire collection again, just to enjoy the brilliance of Tolkien’s writing and the unexpected revelations as I badgered my mind to try and understand what I am reading.  I have always admired Peter Jackson for giving Lord of The Rings the lease of fresh air that it very much deserved and needed. It drew the attention of even those who have no love for books and thus have given Middle Earth the grand attention it has earned.

Now that the world has watched our favorite hobbit return to his hole(just in time to save his possessions from being auctioned away) an era has come to a beautiful end.

It is too wishful thinking to think that we might just see the wizard in Jackson conjure another tale of Middle Earth. He is definitely as grand as Gandalf to us, but even the old wizard was limited in his power and influence.

Something To Think About

For those of you who have been avid readers with an interest in dramas and plays, you might have come across the genius playwright George Bernard Shaw.

In one of his plays named Pygmalion, Shaw portrayed many of his beliefs and thoughts about life and the human society especially his views on the rigid social structure of the British society and the importance and impact of education.

There was this particular dialogue I remember well:

‘Besides,do any of us understand what we are doing? If we did, would we ever do it?’

I consider it to be very deep and philosophical question posed by Shaw. It rings true when you think about it, though I shall not elaborate on my thought.

It has been well over 8 months since I last read the play, and I still find myself pondering over that question.

There And Back Again

Of fair elves and evil goblins,
Sturdy dwarves and wicked dragons.
To end comes the tale of a courageous hobbit,
As was foreseen, it will be a box office hit!

Esgaroth gave Thorin’s company the leave,
To plunder the mountain like noble thieves.
Unknowing were they; The dragon was yet living,
In slumber deep; On his treasure waiting.

Dwarves he knew; But to him was foreign,
Shire and little hobbits; Lucky Bilbo Baggins!
Wit and humor and generous flatter,
Pleased the dragon; As did his stammer.

Great was Smaug; He sensed the gold,
An ancient evil; Bright and cold.
The hobbit vanished; Smaug was awake!
He roared aloud; He flew towards the lake.

The Lonely Mountain cried aloud,
In the light of the moon and the heavenly shroud.
Esgaroth awakened; It Feared and Wondered,
An old memory and the King was remembered.

A mad king and his rightful throne,
The dwarvish pride and the Arkenstone.
Fire and woe shall befall Esgaroth,
Erstwhile, a great battle shall be fought.

Art: What does it mean to you?

2014 has been a year of hurdles for me.                                                                                                                                               And to be frank, I was never really good at running hurdles even during High School. (I mean it!)

I had studied Science in High School with Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology as my main subjects. After High School, I had decided that I am really not into Science, and was more into the Humanities and Arts. Unsure of which course to pursue for my Undergraduate studies, I decided that wasting a year would be meaningless and unproductive. Hence, I decided to do a year long foundation course in Art and Design. In my culture, such a step is considered to be equivalent of wasting an entire year and ridiculous even to switch from Science to Arts. But I had the support of my family and that was great!

My course has a lot to do with practical work and research and is very modernized to meet International standards. Plagiarism is forbidden and it is impossible to get away with it. The faculty are professionals in their respective fields. Cutting it short, it is a very intense and enriching course.

Since the past few months, I have taken to water colors and have been trying to get better at it. I never liked water colors and having painted using oil paints before, I disliked water colors entirely. One fine day as I was reading the short story Third Thought by E.V.Lucas, I came across the great romantic water-colorist  J.M.W. Turner. I looked him up on Google. His paintings awe inspired me. Reading up more about him and his works, as well as his artistic life and the artistic style that he used in his paintings motivated my mind to change my opinion about water colors. One of my mentors for this year long course is an accomplished water-colorist himself and I was encouraged to experiment.

I have been doing mainly human portraits since then, discovering a certain joy in being able to artistically portray human faces. I began to appreciate the human body better as I realized how difficult it was and the time consumed to paint a realistic portrait. I also realized that painting portraits sapped the energy out of me. I spoke to my mentor about this, and he said that he felt the same about portraits. I reckoned it has something to with human beings themselves being so energy draining that even portraits would naturally make you feel the same. And so for the time being I turned my mind away from portraits.

Here is where I got into a discussion with my mentor. The topic was the definition of art and the credibility of modern art. Abstract art and Expressionism was never my thing. I never considered art that did not affect your mood, emotions or your five senses as absolute rubbish. I am more attracted to art that is aesthetically pleasing and one that is beautiful. Romanticism and Impressionism are two art movements that I adore. Certain art like ready-made art and conceptual art is not in my favor in the least.

‘Everyone has a different opinion about Art, and I respect your opinion. I believe that art must be expressive and even abstract art can be expressive. I want you to find your identity as a fine artist’, said my mentor.

I agreed, but I still was of the firm opinion that Art must be beautiful and worthy of being called ‘a piece of art’, and it can only by worthy when considerable amount of skill and an original approach is directed towards it. Both of us agreed that the original Art that is, is the art found in nature and the natural environment around us. And a piece of art that is able to make us imagine the kind of stimulus it might have on our senses were we to witness it in reality, is good art.

I have reached the conclusion that anything that is beautiful and that affects us in some way or the other is art. Yet, I am open to other’s opinions and respect them.

There is this certain fellow who claimed a glass of water to be an oak tree. I do not remember his name, and certainly do not wish to recall. Nevertheless, his claim and his ‘art’ is quite famous and also controversial. I am sure by now you know what I might think of him and his ‘art’.

What according to you, is Art?

Do leave a comment below. 🙂