Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life Lessons from my Cat

(our favourite tom, from when he was still young and less fat)

There's something to be learnt from the unwavering self absorption of a cat. Cats love themselves. That may as well be the truest truth of all time. They need no help cleaning, no petting, no sticks or balls thrown their way. Even though a bored cat may often hunt a variety of tiny objects with mind-boggling dedication, all it really needs from you is food and shelter. And if you refuse to provide that, all self-respecting cats know just the devious means to acquire it on their own. You are not all that important to cats, in fact, they hardly pay you any notice. That's the thing about them, let them inside or throw them out the door, they exude cool nonchalance and self-sufficiency.

In this aspect, I am the complete opposite of a cat. I'm a dog. I am apologetic, silly and when it comes to people I know well, I'm greedy for validation. I can't for the life of me learn to be independent. I'm the lab that slouches on the doormat with sad eyes, head on paw, till someone reaches home and gives its life a happy purpose. I'm often the dog that needs to be taken outside for a walk, the goofball that obediently performs circus-like handshakes and twirls at the whims of mere humans.

I should learn a lesson from the cat that slinks out of the window the moment the house is empty. That brings home its own dinner of dead mice and pigeons. The cat who climbs trees knowing well that it may get stuck, and not giving a damn, because of course its silly human will devise a way to fetch it down. A well-fed pet cat who steals and fights on the streets for the heck of it enjoys life like few creatures. Dogs are cute and loyal and all, but I want to be a cat. Because, at the end of the day, one feisty hiss from the black street-cat is all it takes to alarm a pampered pedigree.

Friday, June 26, 2015

When the very right word seems very wrong

I may be technically challenged, but in my own way, I am an internet baby, with the blog and the incurable Facebook addiction. I am an active and inactive part of many virtual writing communities. And they all have many wonderful things to offer - interesting ideas and prompts are only the tip of the awesomeness iceberg. But here is the downside, the internet has made writers out of everyone. And it is they who go on to popularize absurdities like these: 45 ways to avoid using the word very. I mean, seriously?

Firstly, will someone please explain to me the need for posters telling writers which words to use! Is it that simple to express yourself precisely, beautifully, as to pick up a thesaurus and go all Joey on your work? What kind of writer takes advice that is coolly spewed with no mention, I must add, of context. If "very wise" does a better job of expressing your thought than the mighty replacement "sagacious", then by all means, write it. Saying "vivacious" in place of "lively" because you should avoid using very is falling prey to purple prose, and let's face it, overwriting is a far greater crime than the supposedly amateur usage of 'very' to convey degree.

My second concern with lists like these - it remains to be seen if "very old" really conveys the same meaning as "ancient" or "very afraid" means exactly the same as "terrified."

Then there is the obvious question of familiarity. Words are very fascinating. The entire existence of these seemingly random arrangements of letters is wrapped up in the images they conjure in our minds. (Morphology / orthography be damned, the linguist in me agrees.) See, there is a reason I would prefer to be told, "I love you very much," to "I adore you." Associations.

A poster that tells you to avoid a word must at least attempt to explain why it is wrong. And what, then, makes a word less wrong? The right word is one that conjures up the biggest clearest most technicolour image in your head. You, the writer. 

I love rain. The refreshing, soothing smell of damp air after the first shower of the season makes me tingly. They say it's called petrichor. But sitting at the window, staring out at the lush green and still sort of wet grass, taking in that very scent, the word petrichor (though a nice sound, with the "pet" and "chor") sends no shiver of comprehension through me, which is its purpose. And any word that fails to make me jump up in recognition is, to me, very very wrong.