Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Candid career

"If you could try out a new career for a month (magically knowing what to do, without any special training), what career would you choose?"

- Source:  The One Minute Writer

*     *     *

Ganesh watched keenly as the artist made soft strokes onto the canvas with the paintbrush that was tightly gripped within his fingertips. He stared at the point where the paintbrush met the canvas and marvelled at how quickly a plain surface was transformed into a delightful work of art, simply with a few skillful movements from a master's hands. He sighed with a mixture of wonder and melancholy at the beauty of the completed drawing before him.

How he wished he was talented in art that way.

Those around the artist were applauding and verbally commending him. Everyone appeared pleased at the results. One man was patting him on the back and smiling approvingly. The artist himself seemed hugely satisfied. His large grin of contentment was unmistakable.

Ganesh was walking away now, even as he cast one last glance at the artist and his masterpiece. Yet his mind lingered on the artwork. How he loved art.

Walking out of the building where the artist had been, Ganesh crossed the busy street and waited by the roadside for his Mum to come pick him up after work.

All around him people bustled to and fro. The evening was slowly but surely coming to a close, and just about everybody was anxious to get home.

A gust of wind blew, and unsettled a pile of brown leaves, sending them flying in the direction of Ganesh. When they settled, he recognised the car that halted just in front of him.

He smiled to his Mum as he helped himself in opening the front passenger door and settled into the car seat.

"Had a good day today?" She asked, as was her habit every day.

"Yeah." He couldn't help sighing as he said this.

"Something the matter?"

"Naa. I was just... watching this guy paint just now. I wish I could do art like that."

"I'm sure you can," his Mother said cheerfully and optimistically, in the way all mothers do when encouraging their kids to do something beyond whatever was their norm.

He shook his head. But his Mum could not see it because she was looking straight ahead as they flew past intersections and traffic lights, junctions and flyovers.

*     *     *

Sitting cosily in his bed, with a pillow propped up and a block of paper positioned squarely on his lap, Ganesh's forehead crumpled into a frown. In his right hand, he held a brown crayon, poised mid-air.

Drawing a deep breath, he made swift movements across the piece of paper that was before him, willing an image to emerge from the drawing he was attempting to create.

Minutes later, he held the paper backwards and squinted as though something beautiful could only be observed if his masterpiece was viewed from a distance. However, no matter which angle he looked at, or how much he narrowed his eyes in an attempt to so-called focus his vision on some part of the artblock, no real value could be ascribed to what he had drawn.

It was ugly.

The bedroom door opened a crack, and his Mother peeked in.

"Still up?"

"Yes," Ganesh muttered in quiet defeat.

"What have you got there?"

"Nothing," he replied in monotone, dropping the art papers back onto his lap.

"Let me see," his Mum insisted and stepped into the room.

"It's horrible," Ganesh blurted out his final verdict of the endeavour even as she picked up the art paper from his lap.

She laughed in response to his remark, but then feigned awe and admiration at the beauty of his efforts.

He knew it was fake. It made him feel all the more a failure.

*     *     *

The canteen resounded with the echoes of excited, energetic students. The weather was - as it was on most days - scorchingly hot, and terribly unbearable. The line for cold drinks stretched more than halfway across the length of the canteen area. Ganesh scowled when he caught sight of it. He'd probably better eat his fried noodles first before even attempting to get in line to acquire a beverage to quench his thirst.

He sat down immediately at the nearest vacant spot on a nearby bench. Plate placed in front of him, he picked up his fork and bent forward to take in his first mouthful of noodles.

But even as he was about to do so, he caught sight of the blue magic marker before him. It was right there, in the middle of the table, all by itself. There were no other stationery to accompany it. It was just there on its own.

Ganesh's gaze was fixed on it in amusement. He figured someone had left it behind. He toyed with the idea of handing it over to one of the school prefects so they could pass it along to a teacher who could facilitate the process of locating its rightful owner.

But then again, he reconsidered the matter, and pocketed the marker for himself instead.

*     *     *

The teacher had been delayed, and the entire classroom of students was getting fidgety. Noise levels grew, and students began getting out of their seats, each turning to their own ideas on what was the best way to spend a free period.

Ganesh was bored. He thumbed restlessly on the pages of his exercise book. Then on a whim, he retrieved the marker pen from his pocket and absently began making a tiny sketch on the corners of the final page of his book.

In his mind, he figured he should start with something small, so he drew a Starbucks mug. He had always wanted one, although he knew it wasn’t likely he’d ever get his Mum to buy it for him.

So he put lines and circles together and created the mug on paper. The blue marker was a little hard to work with, as it occasionally smudged unnecessary amounts of ink at the wrong places. Ganesh concentrated hard.

Just as he added the finishing touches to the logo design on the mug, a peculiar thing happened. The corner of his book where he had made the mug drawing began to jerk inwards, as though magnetised by something in the middle of the page.

Then suddenly, out of the page popped a mug. A Starbucks mug. Right smack on top of his book.

Ganesh stared and stared. This was most definitely absurd. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief, shut them momentarily, then opened them again to check if the mug was still there.

It was.

He quickly whisked the mug away into his backpack and looked all around to check if anyone else had noticed the queer happenings at his desk.

Apparently not, as everyone else was absorbed in their own conversations, reading books or making paper aeroplanes to send flying across the classroom.

Ganesh stopped to think for a moment.

Then he lifted the marker, flipped a page and started drawing something new.

This time he drew a huge hall. And in the hall, he drew many frames hanging on the walls carrying in them exquisite paintings of seemingly priceless value. Then at a corner of the hall he drew a canvas, an easel, a palette full of watercolours and a thick, bushy paintbrush.

As he was completing the last few strokes on his drawing, he felt his marken pen swerve suddenly out of control and pull him forward. Before he knew what was going on, he found himself in a large hall, surrounded by paintings and with an easel set before him, accompanied by all the other equipment that he had included in his sketch.

He was astounded yet pleasantly surprised.

“Draw something!” An enthusiastic voice urged him.

He turned around and found a tall, elegant lady standing beside him, eagerly nudging him to begin painting.

“But I–“ Ganesh started to explain, but then he noticed there was a crowd standing around him, all eyes fixed expectantly on him.

So he began to paint.

After what felt like only a few seconds, he realised he had already completed his piece of  artwork, without even knowing what he had been painting. He stared at the filled canvas in a daze. It was a scenic landscape with trees and a lake flowing through it and meadows with cows grazing in a distance. It was not humanly possible that he had drawn that. Ganesh was pretty sure of that.

Applause erupted all around him, and gasps of delight were heard from the bunch of people surrounding him. A young man dressed smartly in a grey coat came forward and patted him gently on the shoulder.

“Well done, boy,” the man exclaimed, and went on to praise Ganesh on the excellent job he had done on his masterpiece.

Ganesh turned to face the man and to reciprocate with some words of gratitude. From the corner of his eye, he somehow noticed a small boy walking away from him and the crowd that was around him, heading towards the exit, apparently in a bit of a hurry.

‘Strange,’ Ganesh thought to himself, but merely returned his gaze to his art and to his adoring admirers. 

* Inspiration for this story was also derived from the tale of  the magic paintbrush.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Holiday hop

Try this on for size:

"Come up with a new holiday. Explain why and how it should be celebrated."

*Writing prompt taken from Writer's Digest

*     *     * 

We should celebrate Paper Cut Day. 

This holiday should be celebrated because every one of us has experienced a paper cut in one way or another during our lifetime. As small as it is, paper cuts usually occur on the fingers, and because of this, it has a great impact on our ability to do a lot of things (because we use our hands to do most things). 

Hence, sometimes we need to pay attention to the small details in life. Once in awhile, just one small thing going awry can amount to great problems later on. 

So, the spirit behind Paper Cut Day is to take time to cherish the small things - to mend any hurts that might have been inflicted onto the soul. 

Reconnect with old friends. Revitalise an old hobby. Make amends for relationships gone sour. Take time to smell the flowers. To sing your favourite tune. To listen to God, to just be. To make a big deal about the smaller details in life - because they really do matter after all.  

In order to encourage participation in Paper Cut Day, it is recommended that this holiday should be made a globally observed one, whereby work/school (or anything which requires hard work) on that day shall be completely prohibited, with severe penalties taken on any employer or employee, principal or student who fails to abide by this law.

To commemorate this Day, each person should wear a plaster on one of their fingers as a sign that they are observing this holiday. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

The IT factor

I used to be a programmer by profession, believe it or not. In terms of education and paper qualifications, I have a bachelor's degree in IT, from a rather distinguished university. In fact, I was employed in IT jobs for at least 2+ years previously.

However, I gleefully left my IT ways behind me the moment I gained access to an editorial/writing career. It is my one of my true loves, after all. 

Then, once in awhile, there comes a night like tonight, when my parents present me with some computer challenge that they are facing. And thanks to the principle of past behaviour defining future behaviour, they still think I am able to solve their problem.

So, well, I try. And as how it usually goes at the first attempt, I flat out fail. Then I consult my virtual best friend, Google, and 20-30 minutes later, I've got the troubling issue dealt with. Perhaps my IT troubleshooting skills haven't left me after all.

But really, this goes to prove just ONE thing: you don't have to be a genius or an expert to be able to ace something. You just need persistence, an inquisitive mind, and a nose pointed in the right direction for help, advice, and ultimately, the turning up of the right solution.

And so, my dear friends, before you decide to say "no" to some favour that someone else is asking of you because you think it's out of your league, think again. It may not be as hard to figure out as you imagined.

Plus, you might earn the label HERO afterwards, which is better than any amount of paper qualifications hanging on your wall.

The Scoop

I miss writing fiction, so therefore, it's time for a refresher:

"Write a story from the perspective of a spoon in a dishwasher."

- Source:

So here goes...

*     *     *

It's cold over here and yet, I am waiting. Nobody ever told me before that this was part of the job description.

My vision is currently half obscured by the heavy porcelain plate that is stacked just right beside the spot where I am nestled beside other fellow dinner cutlery.  In any case, I can't see much. It's pretty dark.

Dinner has been over since hours ago. But I guess someone forgot to put the dishwasher on. So we've been sitting idle here for what feels like centuries. Then again, we spend more time waiting than we do being used. It's just one of those facts of life, I suppose.

My partner in crime, the gorgeously prickly Fork, told me that the dishwasher functions pretty much like a carwash. When I asked her what a car was, she shrugged and said she didn't really know. It's a wonder how she knew what a carwash is then.

I hear some movement from the direction of the front door of the dishwasher. I wonder if it's about to be started soon. I'm looking forward to being washed squeaky clean.

Human voices. Then, a turning of knobs and a pressing of buttons. The dishwasher comes to life.

But then, something feels terribly wrong. The machine begins to shake - more violently than I remember it normally does. I hear the clatter of plates clashing against one another. The other forks and spoons are shivering. The glasses and mugs are shrieking, vibrating, shattering...

I feel the rise of chaos, the cries of helplessness, the sting of heat... and then, a sudden silence and deep darkness, thicker than before.

I try to call out, but then, my voice is not heard. Although I cannot normally move myself, I try to inch forward towards whatever it is that is around me. I feel myself falling. Somewhere. Into something.


It is soft. I descend upon its surface unharmed. I look about me. All I see is pink.

A hand reaches into the pink atmosphere. I am lifted from the wreckage and a pile of pink stuff is scooped up with me.

I hear laughter.

Before I even realise it, I am face to face with a mouth - one that's opening and beckoning me in towards its dark, bottomless abyss.

In goes the pink stuff, and saliva smooths my curvy surface.

I stop to wonder how did I ever get here. What happened to the dishwasher?

I feel alone. I miss my precious companion, the Fork.

Again I am dunked into the pink pile. My face is numb. Teeth clench themselves around me.

I am being used. I should be happy. But I am not.

Where are all my friends from the dishwasher?

Swoosh. A wave of cold water flushes out my thoughts.

I am in a cupboard. Or a drawer. I cannot decide which.

I try to rise from where I am. My body clinks against another piece of silverware..

Fork! Dear Fork! It is good to see you.

Oh Spoon! Where have you been?
I'm not sure, but I though we were in the dishwasher? 

Oh we are... we are...
Water sploshes all around. My confused thoughts meld together with the rhythmic rinsing and comforting warmth.

I sigh contentedly.

What a life.

Friday, July 2, 2010

One Minute Writer: Delegate

I'd love to delegate the responsibility of making decisions for my life to someone else. Let them think for once what I should do and the pros and cons and all the other factors involved.

I'd have the hardest time delegating something I'd love to do myself, especially something creative like writing or music. That's because I'd want it done in a specific way, probably.

Idea gleaned from this post