The One Where They Write Names

The odds of winning the Powerball are more than that of stumbling across a person who knows what anime means but hasn’t heard of this one. For most, it serves as the gateway into the eccentric world of both Japanese animation and Japanese comics, and is easily in, if not at the top of their list of favourite anime of all time. With good reason too.

 

What’s the noise about

So here’s the sales pitch: 15-year old finds a book belonging to a god of death and uses its power to successively kill off the people he deems as the worst scum on the face of the earth. The book comes with its own set of rules, the first one being, “Whoever’s name is written in this book shall die”. True genius that he is, Yagami Light uses the book to reshape the world in his image, doling out death sentences to those he pleases, as he pleases, when he pleases. But a killer is a killer and soon enough, the brilliant and eccentric young detective ‘L’ makes it his goal to catch the murderous vigilante. The two find their ultimate rivals in one another, and one of the greatest cat and mouse chases ever written, drawn, and animated ensues.

 

During and after-thoughts

Death Note is definitely one of the least clichéd or stereotypical anime ever created. It’s charm lies in the mind games and psychological battles that the two protagonists engage in, and can also be termed as an un-anime-like anime, which makes it extremely appealing to first time viewers since its theme and tone can be well compared to a gritty Netflix or cable channel show. It lacks frivolity and is heavy on the tension, keeping you on the edge of your seat, waiting to know what happens next. It’s a show you’re guaranteed to enjoy. That is, of course, if you’re not me.

 

Before fans jump down my throat for saying this is not the most amazing anime ever, hear me out. Imagine you’ve been digging through the bookshelves at your favourite store looking for that bestseller that you’d missed out on when it was fresh off the press. It’s been a few years since it was out and you know you’re late in jumping on to the bandwagon. You finally find the book, and with a sense of triumph, head out to the counter to pay your dues and get on with the book, hoping to finish it in a day. You step out of the store when your friend, who’s driving you back home, notices the book in your hand and goes, “Oh, I love this book. I felt devastated when Gary died in chapter 10.”

 

All it takes is one spoiler to effectively ruin it. You try to read the book but all you can think of, right from the moment you meet Gary, is how he’s about to die. And you only begin to actually enjoy the book once the event of Gary’s death is over and done with, because hey, you don’t know what’s coming anymore.

 

That’s what happened with DN. People will tell you that the series is absolutely brilliant before and starts to mellow after the crucial spoiled event, but for me the series could only be truly appreciated once I no longer knew what was about to happen. Knowing the episode number just made it worse, because I’d catch myself counting down the number of episodes to that fateful event, and instead of racing through the show, I let it drag for days, scuffling my feet, unwilling to watch the next. It also took the surprise elements away and resulted in this series ranking far lower in my list of good anime than most people would forgive.

 

The brilliance of the show though, cannot be denied. The writing is crisp and compelling with characters like Light, L, and M, who’s unparalleled intelligence is to be admired and feared. Their personalities and clashing philosophies are half the reason this show works. Coupled with a masterful soundtrack – special mention to L’s Theme, which is so iconic and unique you’ll always remember it, –  the clean direction makes for good viewing. I do dock a few points for Light’s sexist attitude and lack of strong memorable female characters. While Amane Misa is memorable, she is far from capable of holding her own against L and Light. The one character who I thought would hold her own turns out to *spoiler* and I can’t even remember her name (the fact that I’m unwilling to google the name says a lot to0). Even characters supposed to be strong women of society appear to turn into naïve idiots around Light which was positively nauseating to watch. The show is so overpowered by L’s and Light’s personalities that even characters like boy genius M don’t pack the same punch. The gods of death make things fun with their contrasting and unique personalities. Rem is the closest thing to a strong female character, but I’m not even certain she (do shinigamis even have genders?) counts.

 

Things you should know

The show’s only 37 episodes long and makes for a fast watch. I almost always recommend the subtitled version over dubbed versions, but I cannot stress it more for this one. It makes no sense for our very clearly and obviously Japanese protagonists to talk in English and with this anime in particular, things are lost in translation. Fun fact for everybody: When the killings first start, Light’s character is christened ‘Kira’ by the general public. This is derived from the English word killer as Japanese does not have a syllable for ‘-ll’ thus making Kira a pretty logical name choice for the omnipresent invisible murderer of criminals. Guess what the explanation offered by the dubbed version is for the choice of name. None. I’d give the show a rating PG-15, mostly because it requires a certain maturity to understand the show and its messages, and only partly for its dark themes. Should you watch it? Most definitely. If you like psychological thrillers, crime dramas and good old Sherlock Holmes, this one’s for you. Just don’t let anyone ruin it for you.

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There’s not much that I have to say in this post. A new year is here, and for some reason I can’t shake the feeling that life is going to be very different here on out.

 

I don’t do resolutions too often because I have a track record of not sticking to them for longer than a week and I doubt I’m going to be making any now. But in the spirit of different, I’ve decided to start branching out from my usual fiction writing and begin dabbling in reviews.

 

Naturally, the question that arises is what shall I be reviewing. If you’d asked 15 year old me this question her answer would have quite simply been “books, duh.” But between now and then, things have changed drastically and I find that the number of books I’ve read in the past two years has been shockingly too few to review. So I turned to my other hobbies and there was a rather obvious answer staring me right in the face: anime.

 

There’s plenty of reasons why I’ve chosen to start anime reviews. A few weeks back, I found myself pitching multiple anime to my juniors and explaining the brilliance behind those shows. There’s a pretty large number of people on campus who enjoy this form of media and after coming to college, I found myself re-entering a world I’ve known ever since I discovered Cartoon Network. It’s also recently been brought to my attention that I’ve seen over 35 anime and while I still wouldn’t call myself an otaku, it gives me enough experience to safely start sharing my spoiler-free opinions. And since I’m pitching these shows to people and trying to convert them all the time, I just figured it’s time I started putting them down on paper (or webpages if you must) as well.

 

I’ll soon be kicking that off with almost everybody’s introductory and favourite show, so do look out for that.

 

I guess once and more importantly IF I get done with this, I’ll pick something else up and give that a whirl. I’m not much of a food reviewer though. I either like the food or don’t and don’t exactly have a sensitive palate that can truly appreciate delicacies, especially given my limited diet choices. So foodies, I’m afraid I must disappoint you there. I will however still steal your food if you don’t eat it quickly, so be warned.

 

Well that’s all there is for now. As the few people who’s still in the middle of finals (I know, I’m horrified too) I must head back to my prep now. In other news it’s my birthday tomorrow and then I have three papers back to back day after on so it’s going to be a fun week. I’m also starting a new job in 10 days and that’s something I’m really looking forward to. A new chapter thus begins and 2016 is going to be one hell of a ride.

 

Happy New Year everyone. I hope it’s a good one.

 

– Soon to be Birthday Girl

Let’s See How Far We’ve Come

So it’s been over eight months since I last clocked into my journal. Eight extremely eventful months, which have brought their fair share of… well, everything. The last time I’d checked in, it was victory season and celebrations all around. Between then and now, there’s been losses, one exploding extension board, prompt based writing, employment, farewells, makeovers, success, four awesome Netflix shows, heartbreak, another victory, and five iPhone chargers (thanks, Apple). There’s been more than a good share of life changing events in this year and 2015 has been anything but boring.

 

But the highlight of these past month has easily been one event: TEDxBITSPilaniDubai.

 

Now, regulations require me to start by explaining that a TEDx is an independently organised event and NOT the same thing as a TED event. It’s an event where people from a small community come together to share in the ideas from their own community that inspire them. I could give you the whole marketing pitch for the event, but that’s really not the objective here. It also wouldn’t begin to describe the significance of the event in my life.

 

Being a part of this journey has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. The people I met, got to know, and the things they taught me are all but few reasons this ride has been an amazing one. What started off as a little WhatsApp group that buzzed all day long ended as the not-so-mini TEDx family that I don’t think I will ever forget.

 

It’s two days to Christmas and the year end is almost here. It hasn’t been the best of years, but I sure made some of my best memories in it. I’ve said good bye to more people than I wanted to, and come to know and cherish people I never imagined I would. I’ve made more than a fair share of mistakes but some pretty awesome decisions too (see TEDxBITSPilaniDubai). I disconnected with some and reconnected with others. I won more than some, but most days I’d lost more than I’d won. I also discovered how to make it snow on my blog and my life hasn’t been the same since.

 

I’m four days behind on my pre-Christmas ritual, still don’t know who my secret Santa is, haven’t begun gift-wrapping and the Christmas songs haven’t started blaring from my speakers yet. So, I’m making this a quick one and getting on with my to-do list before the 25th is upon us.

 

I miss you, Dear Friend, Panda and Goof. It’s not the same without you.

Thank you Supreme Leaders… and Sumeet. I’m going to miss telling you boys what to do.

Thank you to the best TEDx speakers I could have asked for, not just for being the inspiring wonderful people they are but also for NOT being a 15 year olds with a superiority complex (long story).

But most of all, thank you to every single person who helped make our event a success, and to everyone who got me to this point today.

 

A quick sneak peak at the stuff to come next year: start of the twenties, a super awesome internship, (ideally) the greatest story to be ever written and hopefully more re-connections and second chances. Maybe I’ll even start blogging regularly, learn to parallel park and win an all expense paid trip to Italy.

 

Happy Holidays everyone. Try not to short circuit your connections lighting up that tree and keep an eye out for a blue police box.

 

– So not prepped for Christmas

 

 

‘Tis the Season to be Winning

So last month I’d posted about how I won the OUP Short Story Writing Competition and I remember thinking I’d be riding that high for a long, long time. But it turns out, that April has been a pretty eventful month too and the celebrations just don’t seem to end.

Well, to begin with, about a month ago I took part in the Canadian University Dubai 100 Word Creative Writing Competition (because: Dear Friend). I’d uploaded my entry, Neighbours, almost soon after and it turns out it won the 2nd Place in the University Category. If you’d like to check it out, click here.

 

Last week brought in another long list of wins, more for my super awesome team and friends at MixedBag Productions than anyone else. Our first ever noir and comedy short film Oh Shit! made a clean sweep at First Cut, the short film competition at our college’s inter-college cultural festival Jashn ’15. The film won in seven categories including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Background Score and Best Actor. All credits to the brilliance of Panda and Goof, who’ve slogged relentlessly and never given up on what they love. Do check out Oh Shit! on our YouTube channel.

(Disclaimer: this video is neither PG nor mature. Mother, you have been warned)

 

My first ever original stageplay An English Beef (thank you for the title Goof) also won the first place, Best Writer, Best Actor (Female) and Special Mention (Male and Female) in Proscenium at Jashn ’15, which is pretty cool.

 

I’ll soon be taking up the daily post’s daily prompts challenge, hopefully at least once a week and maybe the trifecta prompts as well so do look out for those. Till then, I’ll deliver on those promised treats.

 

-Definitely going to be broke

Neighbours

(UPDATE: The following piece was written for the Canadian University Dubai 100 Word Creative Writing Competition and won the 2nd place in the university category)

 

For six years, whispers travelled back and forth through cracks.

Gently lulling, softly comforting.

 

For months, voices painted images.

Of lands unseen, of lives not lived.

 

For six years, they created a world of their own.

Strangers to the eye, salvation to the soul.

 

For months, they spoke of their dreams and hopes.

Their greatest mistake, a secret no more.

 

For six years, their whispers travelled back and forth

Through cracks they didn’t know.

 

For months, hushed voices weaved their fates

Their stories turned into foes.

 

A single blade fell, silence dropped.

There was an empty room behind the wall.

The Next Best Thing

 

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(The following story is the entry for Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition 2015. The title was ‘The Next Best Thing’.)

They spoke through silences.

 

It was always that way. Words were sparse, spent on the occasional battle of wit or in company of others. They’d learned to handle words carefully. Once spoken, there was no taking them back. The two knew that well. Words were their trade after all. Besides, they didn’t really need them anymore. There was no point in stating the obvious.

 

And so they spoke through silences, just as easily as they’d bonded over coffee.

 

She still remembered that day. It had been a bittersweet one. She’d lost her favourite lyricist to the tugging of fame and promised money. Competition had been quick to claim what she’d had to forsake. Her hair hadn’t stayed straight that day either. The studio coffee was bad, and the album release date was looming over her head. Her manager was talking about him, though she didn’t know back then. Nor did she particularly care. The manager claimed he was the next best thing. That she should forget her old songwriter. Her next hit single would be penned by him. And it would definitely, he swore, go platinum. She didn’t really get a choice, so she agreed to meet the next best thing hoping to find someone to write her next great song. Introductions made, the manager sighed and went to count his money while he offered to make her coffee.

 

It was good coffee.

 

She decided to give him a chance. Anybody who didn’t start a conversation with ‘I’m a huge fan’, deserved one. He told her how his girl loved her last single but he liked the blues track everyone skipped over best. She smiled and dropped that it was the only song she’d written. He shrugged, mentioned off hand that he knew, and told her to avoid overuse of ‘love’ next time. She reminded him he worked for her, and if he wanted to get paid, he’d better write her a hit without the word ‘love’.

 

 

Sleepless hit the charts at no. 7, went platinum in six months, and he earned his pay.

 

That’s how it began, really. With Sleepless. They worked on the song for a week, and had it radio ready within three. He’d sat there as she hit away at piano keys in the name of composing, and found the perfect words she hadn’t even realised she needed. He even helped compose the bass for the track, and always left at precisely four to avoid the traffic because he hated traffic. Except for this one day, when they’d gotten into a heated argument over The Beatles’ greatest album and decided to leave only after they’d heard their entire discography.

He left at four the next morning, and only to get good coffee.

He’d gone out with a tenner in his pocket and the names of the nearest coffee shops. He’d come back with two new song ideas and a bag of cocoa beans. Three cups of delicious coffee later, she was done laying down the vocals for Sleepless and he’d written her another song on the back of the grocery bag. She didn’t release it on the EP though. That one she tucked away in her worn out copy of Dawn Treader and sang to herself on those quiet mornings when the rest of the world let her be and her world felt complete.

 

She found herself falling into a quick routine with her new songwriter, as they ploughed through an entire album plus a bonus track for a Lennon movie. She realised they worked well together. It wasn’t easy or as smooth as it had been with her old partner and they always disagreed more often than they agreed. Her album deadlines were being stretched, bent and snapped as they struggled to find common ground. But every day that she spent in his company, she found herself learning something new. About herself, about the world, about her music, and about him. And despite all the bickering, he’d write her a song for any occasion that she needed. He wrote all the love songs her record company insisted she sing to all the lonely boys out there. He wrote her the hit dance single with all its innuendos that she was told to record with the new Latino singer, who kept trying to grope her in the music video. The video went number one and the two promptly burned the original lyric sheet along with the demo of the video.

He wrote about her life, almost as if he knew her better than she knew herself. For three years, he wrote about her waking dreams and hopes; he gave her songs to sing about her flailing love life. He wrote her light hearted, feel good songs about friends she didn’t have and also the deep, reflective ballads about trains and seas she’d never seen.

 

He even penned down the grief she’d felt the day her father died.

 

She didn’t know how he captured it so perfectly. Especially when he told her he’d been holding onto it for a while. Hollow had made her cry as she read it for the first time, after the funeral, by the gravestone, with his comforting silence by her side softly muting the empty one left behind.

 

 

She’d even cried on stage when she’d performed it at the award ceremony, where Hollow won Song of the Year. She bumped into Walt, her old lyricist at the buffet table that night. He reminded her that his name was Will, and informed her that he’d love to “collab” with her on a “fab” new idea that he has, “just like the old times”. She took a bite out of the crostino as she politely told him she was perfectly happy with what she had, and didn’t need the next best thing. Leaving Will stumped, she excused herself to go rescue her award-winning songwriter from the piranhas circling him and save him from the rest of the black tie event.

 

They took the long way home, choosing to sit on the beach all night and argue about what the scariest ghost story ever was. She won that one and in return, for the first time in three years, he told her his story.

 

 

And she turned his story into a song.

 

 

She remembered the first time she’d sang it in the studio. He’d listened quietly as the last notes of her voice faded away and then told her that she’d need a strong blues score for the track. He helped arrange the backing track the way he did with the songs he’d write. And that made her happy. Because just as she made his words her own, he was making her words his.

 

She released Finding You on the next album. It went straight to the top of the charts, though she was sure it was because she’d written it. She was right, and three weeks later, after all the chatter surrounding her first self-written single died, it was off the charts as well.

 

She knew though, that he had a copy of those lyrics tucked away between the pages of his worn out Treasure Island. And that he’d always listen to the song when working on new lyrics, as he sipped on his perfect coffee.

 

 

It was even playing in the car, two years later, when he asked her to marry him.

 

 

They chose to get married in the local register office instead of having a wedding with lots of people. A signed paper was all they needed and they didn’t want to make a loud affair of it.

 

They preferred the silences anyway.

 

 

People didn’t get why the superstar was marrying a man who worked for her, but she didn’t care. It wasn’t really their business. Somewhere, over the course of five years, she’d grown to love him, and that was enough for her. He’d become the most important person in her world, and she in his. And there was nothing in the world that she would trade him for.

 

 

But she knew.

 

She knew, when he came home at three in the night, smelling like liquor and cigarettes, the same night of every year. She knew, every time he paused to drop off an orchid on the way to visit her father. She knew, every time he looked at the award he won for Hollow, thinking of his muse. She knew, every time they sat in those comfortable silences that gripped her throat and slowly chipped away at her heart.

 

She knew, because she knew his story.

 

 

He’d probably always been, and would always be the best part of her life.

 

It was she who was the next best thing.

Achievement Unlocked: Published Author

 

Last November, on the constant urging (read: nagging) of a dear friend I took part in the fourth Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition which is organised by the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in partnership with, well believe it or not, Oxford University Press. The theme was ‘The Next Best Thing’, chosen by children’s author and illustrator Sarah McIntyre at the 2014 Festival. The competition was open to all students currently residing in the country and entry was free (stress on free).

I thought ‘What the heck, let’s do it’.

Three miserably failed drafts later, I thought ‘What the heck?!’

So after a lot of grumbling and whining and griping about the title with the dear friend, I finally decided to suck it up and write something and try to make it the best I could.

Apparently it became the best in the country.

Okay, half-lie. The best in one category in the country.

In Jan I learnt that my entry had won me the first place in the 18-25 age category. And that’s where it got good.

As part of the reward, my entry was published along with the other prize winning entries in a book. An actual book. Not an online journal. A good old fashioned book. On paper and stuff. With my name. And my picture. I’ll stop now.

On a more serious note, this might just be the biggest milestone in my life yet. The OUP short story competition was my first shot at a competition outside of school/college and to win any kind of competition on my first attempt at writing competitively outside the tiny ponds I know so well is not just flattering, but also a push to keep on writing. It’s even more flattering since the competition was on a national scale and there were almost a thousand entries. And while some might argue that I was already a published author since I’ve been writing for school/college magazines since 12, it really isn’t the same. To have my writing critically appraised by someone established in the field of literature and deemed worthy enough for the first place is a huge reward in itself.

On March 7, the last day of this year’s festival, the results were officially announced and I am now officially a published author. Who got to shake hands with other published more well known authors (read: John Dougherty). And life as a published author is goood.

Dear friend is also a published poet now. Dear friend stood third in the 18-25 age category of the Taaleem Poetry Award. Dear friend is really good and if you ever feel like going through her work do check out tinypurpleme.wordpress.com

I’ll soon be uploading my winning entry, titled ‘The Next Best Thing’.

Signing out of my irregular journal till then.

-Kind of definitely a writer

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