A letter to Jon Snow.

Dear Jon,

I was rather pleased to read of your untimely demise in ‘A Dance with Dragons’. Now, rumours suggest that you’ll be resurrected from the dead. The whole fandom seems to be overjoyed at this news. So I’d like to explore the reasons behind your universal popularity.

You are the mediaeval version of Holden Caulfield. When I read the first chapter from your point of view, I thought I’d end up rooting for you. Like Tyrion, I have a soft spot for the underdog. But then you turned out to be increasingly whiny and annoying like the popular protagonist of ‘Catcher in the Rye’. (Personally, I always felt like bitchslapping Holden to shut him up.)

You’re utterly lacking in interests or ambition. You are like a breath of fresh air in  a series full of people who want things desperately. Daenerys wants the Iron Throne, Arya wants revenge, Sansa wants love, Petyr wants power, and so on.  You, on the other hand,  are happy to drift about following orders and giving in to the circumstances. It wasn’t your idea to get into a relationship with Ygritte or become the Commander of the Night’s Watch. Things just seem to happen to you by accident.

You don’t have a personality that overshadows those around you. You are not a fiery idealist like Daenerys, witty like Tyrion, mysterious like Petyr or quietly confident like Tywin. You’re like a shell into which readers can  project their own traits and feelings. Sansa has a similarly bland personality, but thankfully, she’s usually surrounded by interesting characters.

You have a pretty face. There may be people who think that you look like a gormless twit or a fish out of water, but they’re probably just jealous. After all, you’re prettier than all of them (and their daughters).

There are interesting rumours about you. The only thing I find interesting about you is the rumour concerning your parentage. I suppose GRRM couldn’t let you die without finding out who your parents were.

As far as the other rumours go, I’m quite certain that you’re not Azor Ahai, because Daenerys has already fulfilled most of the prophecy. I’d like to see Daenerys turn up in Westeros to laugh at Melisandre’s presumption in claiming that title for you and Stannis.

By the way, the ‘Battle of Hardhome’ was the most painfully boring fight sequence I’ve seen on TV. I hope your new, improved version will be a little less dull, my dear.

Looking forward to your return from the dead,

Cattily yours,

A girl who was bored to tears by your chapters.

Choosing between loneliness and solitude.

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself.”  ― C.G. Jung

Whenever I wish to feel painfully isolated and completely out of place, I attend a party. (Admittedly, that’s not very often.) My idea of loneliness is  being surrounded by people who are enjoying something I can’t enjoy. And I’ve never enjoyed crowds or dancing or ear- shattering music.

Every time I accept an invitation to such an event, I end up agonising over how bored I’m going to be when I get there. I keep thinking of how I could’ve stayed at home, blissfully reading a book. So, I accept these invites only occasionally, because they make me appreciate my alone time even more.

The other thing that has often made me feel lonely is being surrounded by people who don’t enjoy the things I enjoy. For instance, I’m the only bookworm in my family, and most of my friends don’t particularly enjoy reading. Luckily, the internet exists, so I can usually find random strangers who’ve read the books or watched the movies I like, and have discussions with them. I sometimes envy people who can easily find others who ‘get’ them, and identify with them. No, actually scratch that. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.

I always find it strange when people associate ‘loneliness’ with ‘being alone’. Solitude is the height of enjoyment for me, especially when I have a long break from college, and no work to do.

When I was reading the novel ‘Perfume’, I came across these lines-

“We familiar with people who seek out solitude: penitents, failures, saints, or prophets. They retreat to deserts, preferably, where they live on locusts and honey. Others, however, live in caves or cells on remote islands; some-more spectacularly-squat in cages mounted high atop poles swaying in the breeze. They do this to be nearer God. Their solitude is a self-moritification by which they do penance. They act in the belief that they are living a life pleasing to God. Or they wait months, years, for their solitude to be broken by some divine message that they hope then speedily to broadcast among mankind.”

I found this quite funny- the idea of solitude being a way of punishing oneself! But the book goes on-

“Grenouille’s case was nothing of the sort. There was not the least notion of God in his head. He was not doing penance or wating for some supernatural inspiration. He had withdrawn solely for his own pleasure, only to be near to himself. No longer distracted by anything external, he basked in his own existence and found it splendid. He lay in his stony crypt like his own corpse, hardly breathing, his heart hardly beating-and yet lived as intensively and dissolutely as ever a rake lived in the wide world outside.”

Yes, I  couldn’t agree more.  Solitude is a luxury.

Perfume: The story of an evil genius.

“People could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they couldn’t escape scent… He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.”

‘Perfume’, by Patrick Suskind, is a novel about a boy who’s gifted with an extraordinary sense of smell, but lacks a scent of his own, unlike other people.The boy, Jean Baptiste Grenouille, is so obsessed with the idea of creating the world’s best perfume, that he begins to murder young women to extract their fragrance.

In the movie, the descriptions of scents and stenches are replaced by rich visual imagery. Here’s what I found interesting in both the versions.

large_2YhHHQODRL27wVMB1TlruMIM1sh

Nature vs. nurture-  From the moment of his birth, Grenouille is picked up and quickly discarded by all kinds of people, who find him repulsive because of his lack of scent. He grows up without receiving any kind of affection or forming any attachment.
So the real question is this- did the boy become a serial killer because of the way people treated him, or were they justified in treating him that way, because he was born a psychopath?
I think the blame lies with both nature and nurture (or the lack of it, in this case). It’s as G.K. Chesterton said-

“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”

Demonstration: The best way to win an argument- When Grenouille seeks work as an apprentice with a master perfumer, the man laughs at him and says-

“…talent means nothing, while experience, acquired in humility and with hard work, means everything.”

Grenouille simply proceeds to create a wonderful perfume right then and there, proving him wrong. Why waste time on words, when you can prove your point through actions?

Sympathy for the devil- In the book, Grenouille is a pure psychopath who thinks of people as mere vessels carrying scents. He despises people but wants to have power over them.

“Grenouille was fascinated by the process. If ever anything in his life had kindled his enthusiasm- granted, not a visible enthusiasm but a hidden one, an excitement burning with a cold flame-then it was this procedure for using fire, water, steam, and a cunning apparatus to snatch the scented soul from matter. That scented soul, that ethereal oil, was in fact the best thing about matter, the only reason for his interest in it. The rest of the stupid stuff-the blossoms, leaves, rind, fruit, color, beauty, vitality, and all those other useless qualities-were of no concern to him. They were mere husk and ballast, to be disposed of.”

You still can’t help feeling sorry for someone who’s so lonely, hated by everyone because of something he can’t control.In the movie, he’s a much more sympathetic character ( played by the sensitive- looking Ben Whishaw) and appears to have some tender feelings and regret associated with the first girl who died by his hand.

The scent of a woman- Most women in the book (and movie) are shown as victims or objects of desire. But I don’t consider it sexist at all. After all, Grenouille sees all humans essentially as objects, and chooses his victims purely based on their scent. Besides, there’s the character of  Madame Arnulfi, a shrewd and competent woman who runs her own perfume business.

The two acts of passion- I won’t spoil the ending for you, but the last few scenes are quite astonishing. (It must have been incredibly awkward for the actors.) There are two completely different scenarios in which crowds of people are driven by a passion. I’m not sure if the difference was because of the nature of the people involved, or the extent of their passion.

“He would be able to create a scent that was not merely human, but super human, an angel’s scent, so indescribably good and vital that who ever smelt it would be enchanted and with his whole heart would have to love him.”

perfume-the-story-of-a-murderer

 

On procrastination, and how I plan to beat it.

I love planning. One of my favourite activities is making up lists and timetables. The trouble is that my plans almost never translate into reality. I wish I could earn a living by giving lectures like ‘How to procrastinate effectively to sabotage your own success’.

Take this blog, for instance. I get most of my ideas for blog topics when I’m out walking. I actually compose the whole article in my head. But when I get home from college at 7 in the evening, I’m too tired to do anything about it. Or I just tell myself to wait until the weekend, because I have books to read and research papers to look up and so on.

By the time I get to the weekend, I usually lose interest in the topic I was going to write about, or decide that it’s not worth writing about, after all.

Recently, I came across a technique  called “Don’t break the chain” that helps people overcome procrastination.

This is how it works:

  • You set yourself a challenge.
  • Each day you work on the challenge, mark the day with an X on your calendar.
  • Just keep doing this regularly, so that you don’t break the chain.

I’m hoping to write a blog post every week, instead of disappearing from WordPress for months at a time, as I’m prone to do. I wonder how long my chain will last.

Why India should decriminalize homosexuality.

In 2013, the Supreme Court of India decided to uphold an archaic law that criminalises homosexuality, considering it “unnatural” and “against Indian culture”. All the religious groups in the country came together in an unusual show of solidarity to support this decision.

Gay-Rights-Quotes-gay-rights-31737001-300-300

Enter a caption

Ironically, the British, who gave us that law, have now made gay marriages legal in their own country.

As far as “unnatural” goes, homosexuality seems to be a perfectly normal phenomenon that has evolved to keep the population under control. A study has shown that female relatives of homosexual men(on the maternal side) are more fertile than those of heterosexual men. So there must be a factor on the X-chromosome that promotes both male homosexuality and female fecundity, to keep a check on the growth of that family.

Since only a small fraction of the population is homosexual, our species is unlikely to die out because of this. A lot of other species also show homosexual behaviour and continue to thrive.

So, it’s important to allow same- sex couples to marry and adopt children in an overpopulated country like ours.  Simply because we won’t have the resources to sustain all our people if the population keeps growing at the same rate. (Here, gay people are usually forced to marry someone of the opposite sex because of societal pressure.)

Besides, the sex ratio in India is about 940 females per 1000 males, mainly thanks to sex- selective abortions and female infanticide. So we don’t even have enough women to go around, if only heterosexual couples are allowed.

And who’s to decide what constitutes Indian culture? A lot of ancient Indian scriptures seem to refer to homosexuality, showing that it was not unheard of, even in those times. Thankfully, ‘Indian culture’ is not a fixed entity, or we’d still be burning women on their husbands’ pyres.

It’s absurd that I’m even having to write this post. Surely, the Indian Constitution gives people the freedom to make their own choices, as long as they don’t harm other people?

 

Life lessons from Dr. Lecter

I’m left heartbroken by the fact that the  TV show ‘Hannibal’ has ended. (And what a gorgeous ending it was! Sheer perfection. )

‘Hannibal’ is oddly life- affirming for a show about a manipulative psychiatrist who’s also a cannibalistic serial killer. Hannibal Lecter is like the old Greek gods; our human standards of right and wrong just don’t apply to him. But  there are some things we can all learn from him.

To thine own self be true.  Dr. Lecter always encourages his patients to follow their natural instincts and embrace their uniqueness. Unfortunately, many of them turn out to be murderers, but that’s not the point.

Empathy is a superpower.  Will Graham uses this power to catch criminals, while Dr. Lecter uses it to connect with (and later control) people. I think the best way to cultivate empathy is by reading lots of fiction.

tumblr_ntohbhudXI1rdrzuxo2_250

Always be courteous. The show’s tagline is ‘Eat the rude’. Dr. Lecter only ever eats discourteous people because he considers them to be pigs. Can we all mind our manners as a tribute to him, please?

Don’t be a victim of your circumstances. I think we all have the power to make choices and create our own life. Dr. Lecter says this when someone tries to psychoanalyse him-

“Nothing happened to me. I happened.”

unnamed (25)

Enter a caption

 

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. No one does this better than Dr. Lecter. He loves his job, but always finds time  to pursue his hobbies, like going to the opera, sketching, and cooking delicacies out of human meat.

“I’ve always found the idea of death comforting. The thought that my life could end at any moment frees me to fully appreciate the beauty, and art, and horror of everything this world has to offer.”

tumblr_nu924wU4Hz1sbj1wqo3_400

Love is understanding and acceptance.  ‘Hannibal’ is actually the most beautiful and tragic love story ever shown on TV. The entire show is about Hannibal revealing his true self to Will Graham, craving the friendship of someone who can understand the way he thinks.

Hannibal thinks of himself as a superior being, but he thinks that Will has the potential to be more than an ordinary mortal too.

“No one can be fully aware of another human being unless we love them. By that love, we see potential in our beloved. Through that love, we allow our beloved to see their potential. Expressing that love, our beloved’s potential comes true.”

I could feel his pain and heartbreak when Will betrayed him in the season 2 finale. He said something that anyone who’s extremely introverted ( like me) will immediately identify with-

“I let you know me… see me. I gave you a rare gift, but you didn’t want it.”

 

 

I end this post with these lovely lines that Hannibal says to Will, when he realizes that he cannot change him beyond a certain point-

“With all my knowledge and intuition I could never entirely predict you. I can feed the caterpillar, I can whisper through the chrysalis, but what hatches follows its own nature and is beyond me.”

No wonder the ending of season 3 choked me up.

Songs for the introverted soul

There aren’t enough great songs about introverts in the world , but these are a few I enjoy listening to.

1.Mariella (Kate Nash)

The singer talks of a rebellious little girl named Mariella, whom she admires. Mariella’s mother wants her to wear girly clothes and have tea parties with friends, but Mariella  wears black , glues her lips together and chooses to play by herself.  (I think the girl might be an INTJ.)

And she looked in the mirror

And she thought to herself

“If I wanna play, I can play with me

If I wanna think, I’ll think in my head”

2.Pure Imagination (Fiona Apple)

The original song is from the movie ‘Willy Wonka’, but I think Fiona’s voice makes the song  unearthly and magical. It’s about the secret place that all introverts like to escape to. A similar sounding song is Once Upon a Dream by Lana Del Rey.

There is no life I know

To compare with pure imagination

Living there, you’ll be free

If you truly wish to be

3.Here (Alessia Cara)

An accurate account of how introverts feel when they are stuck at a boring party.

Truly I ain’t got no business here

But since my friends are here, I just came to kick it

But really I would rather be at home all by myself

Not in this room with people who don’t even care about my well-being

I don’t dance, don’t ask, I don’t need a boyfriend

So you can, go back, please enjoy your party

4. The Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel)

This song is probably about the superficial chatter most people engage in, forgetting to talk about things that really matter.

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dared

Disturb the sound of silence

5.Solitude is Bliss (Tame Impala)

The party anthem for people who revel in solitude.

Space around me where my soul can breathe

I’ve got body that my mind can leave

Nothing else matters, I don’t care what I miss

Company’s okay

Solitude is bliss

There’s a party in my head and no one is invited

6. Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol)

I like to think that this song is about two introverts enjoying each other’s company without feeling the need to talk.

If I lay here

If I just lay here

Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told

Before we get too old

Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

Let’s waste time

Chasing cars

Around our heads

7.Heart’s a Mess (Gotye)

The singer wants to form a connection with someone who is very private and guarded.

Pick apart

The pieces of your heart

And let me peer inside

Let me in

Where only your thoughts have been

Let me occupy your mind

As you do mine

8. Yellow Flicker Beat (Lorde)

This song is from the movie Mockingjay and it celebrates the badass introverted heroine, Katniss Everdeen. And I like the way Lorde dances in the official video.

I’m a princess cut from marble, smoother than a storm

And the scars that mark my body, they’re silver and gold

My blood is a flood of rubies, precious stones

It keeps my veins hot, the fires find a home in me

I move through town, I’m quiet like a fire

And my necklace is of rope, I tie it and untie it

People talk to me, but nothing ever hits home

People talk to me, and all the voices just burn holes

P.S. – Do let me know if there any other good introvert songs you know of. Please don’t come up songs like ‘Creep’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’, though. Those are about sad, lonely people who dislike themselves.