Monday, April 20, 2009

I dreamed a dream....

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

That’s so hopeful, so optimistic, seems like a perfect “Dream”!

Now imagine this: A 47 year old lady who’s unpolished, ugly, fat, unarticulated, not so smart, poor wants to be a professional singer and wants to be as successful as Ellen Paige (highly successful Hollywood actress). Not so perfect Dream! Sounds like an overly dreamy joke, isn’t it? Wait, the story’s not over yet. So what if she’s ugly, poor, not so smart old lady, what if she’s not plastic, fake and sugarcoated like others; she’s got TALENT, and more importantly, HOPE that encouraged her to showcase her talents despite all odds. And guess what? Her “dream” did actually come true; she enthralled everyone so much by her singing and she is now so popular that she actually CAN become a professional singer.

No, it’s not a fairytale; it’s a true story and the lady’s name is Susan Boyle. Susan is a British lady, is unattractive and raw, poor and unemployed, and lives in a “village” (as per her words). Susan participated in a high profile talent competition TV show Britain’s Got Talent (BGT). There, she sang the song “I dreamed a dream” (perfect song for the occasion!!) which I mentioned in the begining and completely floored judges and audiences by her talent. Her performance was widely reported, and tens of millions of people viewed a video of her singing on YouTube. (Check out her performance clip here:

But why were judges and audiences so mesmerized when BGT being a famous talent show boasts of number of talented singers like Susan? What was so different about Susan’s performance? The answer is: From her appearance, nobody “expected” her to perform well and when she did prove everyone wrong, people were “surprised” and that’s what differentiated Susan from all the other talented singers.

What is the similarity between Ms. J.K. Rowling, the movie Slumdog Millionaire and now Susan Boyle? They all were Underdogs, no one believed in them, no one anticipated them to succeed, they were expected to be losers and when they shocked everyone, proved themselves; world got completely captivated by them. Everyone loves underdog fairy tales; they are shocking, mysterious, optimistic and very very fascinating. Such Rags to riches stories gives out an inspiring message to all those who think they are not from “right” backgrounds.

People are so obsessed with the (so called) perfection, that a seemingly imperfect person succeeding makes a very appealing story. As Amanda Holden (a BGT judge) perfectly reflected that sentiment after Susan’s performance by stating, “We were all being so cynical and that’s the biggest wakeup call ever.”

Let’s hope that Susan’s dream continues and she can emerge as a successful singer in future. Meanwhile, after going through Susan’s story, a thought is crossing my mind. Why don’t we have any Underdog success stories in India? Why is it that such incidences happen only in West? Why in India you need to have a “strong family background” to succeed? Why a Rich Daddy and not talent, integrity is considered an indispensible ingredient for a good life here? Why are we considered just an extension of our families rather then being known for our individuality? Maybe that’s how the Indian culture goes.

If we talk about culture, let’s say, how would an unmarried, old, ugly lady will be received on a similar platform in India? People will probably think of her as an overambitious Aunty, will feel sorry about her for still not having “husband and kids”, will consider her miserable, lonely and unhappy, will ridicule her, will advise her to “stay at home and take rest” at this age. What about her dreams? Ambitions? Eternal optimism? Forget all that, After all, the cardinal calling of every Indian woman is to take care of husband and kids, to stay at home and be a “good wife”!! (Sick!!)

I dream a dream in time coming by, when women in India will be more than their ages and looks, when there will be more important tasks for them than kids and husband, when they will not be expected to be unrealistically perfect, when they will have freedom to be themselves, when they will be allowed to be imperfect and still happy and, (more importantly) when they will be able to fly high with the wings of their aspirations.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

10 Useful Writing Tips

Here, I’ll share some useful tips about writing. Whatever the form of writing is, be it creative writing or technical writing, basic rules should be followed. My tips do not guarantee you to make you a Shakespeare, but you’ll surely be able to produce a decent piece of writing if you apply following rules.

Sort out the thoughts you want to express: Writing is a form of self expression. It’s a mean of communicating ideas. We talk to a lot of people and practice oral communication everyday; which is very different from writing. Oral communication is spontaneous. You speak as you think, so thinking and talking takes place simultaneously. Of course, at times you many have a specific plan of what to talk in mind for example during a presentation; but when you actually engage in a conversation, the mind has to generate ideas instantly. Feedback of oral communication is also quick and can be gauged through body language of the audience as well.

When it comes to writing, you have the time to arrange your thoughts and present them as you want. So, there goes the basic requirement of writing: You should have something to express, to communicate. Sorting out what exactly you want to communicate will help you to present your ideas clearly in the written format.

Stick to your topic for the sake of clarity: Do not deviate from your subject of your article by putting irrelevant information or comments. Unwanted information will make your article vague and unclear.

Watch out the length of the writings: An article shouldn't be excessively long that can bore readers; neither should it be too short which fails to provide any value and information. Editing helps in controlling the length of writings, which I have discussed later.

Avoid grammatical mistakes at any cost: Make sure your basics of the language that you are willing to write in are clear. However interesting your ideas are, if you make grammatical mistakes, readers will not appreciate it; it will make you seem like an amateur, irrespective of your knowledge and experience.

Avoid jargon: When I say “Jargon”, it indicates terminology which is not frequently used and need dictionary/reference to be understood. Putting a lot of literary jargon will not project you as a seasoned writer; in fact readers will not appreciate the article for which they have to search dictionary several times. Avoid unnecessary hassles for your readers by using popular and easily understood vocabulary. Writing complicated and unknown words will make your article vague and unclear and it would kill the basic purpose of writing; which is: To be read and understood.

Form short sentences: This should be particularly applied if you are a budding writer. Short sentences avoid confusion and are easier to understand. Once you get considerable experience and confidence with writing, you can play around with sentences as you want.

Follow a consistent tense: Follow a single tense through out be it past tense or present tense or future tense. Generally, for non fictional articles, present tense is used and for a narrative or a story, past tense is used. Decide which tense to be used and stick with it.

Edit your writings: Editing is vital step in the writing process, it’s often overlooked by some writers but the fact is; editing is as vital as the writing itself. You can correct grammatical mistakes, if any; restructure the sentences, add or delete information during editing. Basically, editing refines the writings. If you find it boring, ask someone else to edit your articles.

Take Feedbacks: This is crucial for writers, whether you are an experienced writer or a newbie. Have others read your writings, no matter how amateurish you think your writings are. Others will perceive your writings from a different point of view and will surely contribute constructively by their opinion. If in case you get appreciation from your readers, it will boost your confidence, if not; use your readers’ criticism as a tool for improvement.

Format your Content: Formatting is ignored and even considered optional by many, but the fact is: well written content attracts more readers. The value of the writing will ultimately be decided by the content but good formatting projects a professional image and indicates the concern of the writer for his article. Good formatting adds value to the writing just the way good packaging adds to the consumer products.

Maintain consistent length of paragraphs, leave enough white space (without it, the article looks clumsy; many would be intimidated and would even avoid reading it despite its useful content), use bullets and numbered list when required.

Those were some basic rules that form building blocks for creating a good piece of writing. Hope it was helpful.