Posted in Coordinator's Desk

Introducing JAM

-Coordinators, ELS

When was the last time you could say, “A chimpanzee is a fruit that cries out every time I offer it an octopus,” and not attract weird looks from people around you? On the other hand, when did you expect people to bang their hands against tables in vehement protest the moment you say can’t or didn’t, as if such words were tabooed? If you think this is just random blabber, you haven’t been in a JAM.

Just a Minute or JAM is perhaps the most boisterous event that ELS conducts. With a minute that sometimes lasts longer than half an hour, it demands you to be on your toes at every point in time. Those who have played JAM long enough to accumulate words of wisdom will tell you that JAM is not so much about speaking fluently as spotting the errors that others make. In other words, you could consider yourself lean hungry opportunists who thrive on the wrongdoings of your fellow participants.

Right, so what are these errors anyway? In a JAM, you are supposed to speak Queen’s English. If you don’t, you will fetch points for the person who points out your error first. Is that it? Do you just have to curb your natural instincts to swear or blurt out slang? Not quite. You also can’t hesitate or slur or stop or speak at an unnatural pace. You must talk mechanically, like a robot that talks mechanically (which makes it a useless analogy). In other words, you are not supposed to dramatize or intonate like a normal human who talks with voice modulations and gestures, which is an even more useless comparison. Ah well, I hope you get the idea. There are also other errors like paraphrasing but those involve positioning of clauses or objects or some such stuff that is too boring to explain here. Anyway, the one thing that is easy enough to explain is the repetition/plagiarism error which bars you from repeating things said by you or others too many times. Sometimes the JAM-master may also introduce certain special rules for his/her sadistic pleasure. Those are just whimsical (for instance, once a JAM-master asked everyone to end the second sentence of his/her speech with the phrase ‘past a chequered flag’).

So how do you win this slugfest? You get points for the length of time you speak before someone gets offended by the impurities in your speech and you also get points for pointing out those faults. This is what JAM is all about. But before we wrap up, here are some more words of wisdom – memorizing a paragraph about the properties of chlorophyll might help but it only goes so far in a professional JAM, which is just like a professional foosball championship.

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Posted in Creative Writing Topic, Poetry

Wasted – A Dizain

A Dizain is a French form of poetry consisting of eight or ten syllabled lines with a rhyming scheme of a-b-a-b-b-c-c-d-c-d (that makes it ten lines long).

-Caustic Camel

Dizzy, I toiled in the harsh light
My hands slowing as my heart paced
Armed and stoned, I’m ready to smite
Never had wine but bile I taste
Holes in my soul too large to baste
Now I lay on my earthly bed
On the green cush I rest my head
Warm sylvian breeze, cool me down
Seal my wounds now, enough I’ve bled
Cover my eyes, Dream, let me drown.

Posted in Coordinator's Desk

Introducing DumbC

Dumb Charades graphic

-Coordinators, ELS

Dumb Charades, the marquee event of the English Literary Society, needs little explanation, if any. We have all pantomimed names of movies over family gatherings, glowing cinders of dying campfires and filled the lacunae of boring hours with the strange pleasure of guessing movies and acting them out. Let us just say, DumbC (which is how we fondly call it) is a tribute to all those fun filled moments and an attempt to relive them.

If DumbC is just your good old Dumb Charades, why does it need an introduction at all? Because DumbC has a unique structure to it. First of all, you play it in teams of three. Also it has a few rules that make it slightly more difficult than the game that the uninitiated are used to. For instance, you can’t break words or change the meaning of words while acting them out. If you were really good at guessing movie names from the ‘sounds like’ clues, you would want to adapt your style just a bit because DumbC does not allow that. You also can’t use props. So if you are acting out a colour, you can’t point to your friends’ shirt. If you want to show a wall, you can’t actually stand next to a wall and point it out. So in a way, DumbC is universal in nature; you just need your wits to play this game. Does it make DumbC too difficult to play? Well, there are ways to get around these rules, we call them conventions. Let’s just keep it at that; we will not reveal anything more about conventions.

DumbC has numerous rounds that test the various skills that a team possesses. While the first round most probably would have you guessing four items in two minutes (movies, places, personalities and books), the Blitz round is the ultimate test of speed wherein you have to act and guess truckloads of stuff in just four minutes. Triple DumbC involves three way acting and guessing, all the while being able to communicate through only gestures. And if some of your body parts are also restricted from movement, for example hands, then DumbC becomes a real test. If you can’t handle your nerves, the bidding round will give you nightmares. Because when you have to act and guess the phrase, “Elvis has left the building”, within five seconds, you have to get your act together or else risk getting an overall negative score.

These rules and rounds are standard. Once in a while, you might have some crazy rules thrown into this equation. You could be asked to participate in a Q&A session wherein you have to guess both the question and the answer or the actor from your team would have to identify the name of the song being played to him/her and act it out to the guessers simultaneously.

The act of playing charades can also be viewed in a different light. When you slow down a film and play it frame by frame, it is completely changed. You can no longer be invested in it, suspension of disbelief is harder. It gains a different meaning altogether. Similarly, by conveying something to someone else without the use of audible language, you gain a different viewpoint, a new perspective on the matter you are communicating, it gains a different meaning for you.

If after reading through all this, you feel that DumbC is serious fun, you need no more convincing. If you think that DumbC is just serious and no fun, you have no idea what is DumbC like, which is one more reason to actually find out. And if you think that DumbC is a frivolous event meant to entertain people, well, that’s what it was always meant to be.

Posted in Creative Writing Competition, Prose

Freshers Creative Writing Competition: Best entries #3

Topic: Use the advertisement as the starting point for a short story that explores the people and situations behind the ad. Who wrote the ad? What was the writer’s motivation (beyond buying or selling an item)? What kind of life does the writer have? What is the social setting behind the ad? What kind of family or community is involved? Using the advertisement as your starting point, create the story behind the ad that you’ve chosen from the classifieds page.

-Nandini Negi

For sale. Square brome hay bales.

It is Tuesday morning, crack-of-dawn hour and I am wide awake in the anticipation of today’s newspaper. That’s right, newspaper. No, I’m not winning the lottery today. I was never a lucky fellow. Had I been one, I wouldn’t be lying awake waiting for today’s newspaper to be delivered. I would be sleeping comfortably, in my own bed, with my wife and kids, content and happy. But that’s a story for another time. Right now, I’ve more important things in my life like my classified advertisement. I gave it up for print last week. I’m Dave, by the way. I’m 54 and alone. I live in a large, empty house in a small farm in Kansas. Right, back to the ad. It’s appearing in today’s newspaper. And as I shift my gaze from the random crack on my ceiling to the grandfather clock, I see it’s 6.00 am and it’s time to bear the fruit of my sleepless night.

I run to my porch to pick the newspaper up before the neighbour’s dog does. Willy tends to do that a lot. It’s just one of the reasons why I don’t like that evil thing. I’m pretty sure, his mistress, Mrs. Perkins is somehow behind the whole “Oh dear lord! Willy got your newspaper again Dave. Bad willy,” thing. But today is not the day to dwell over Mrs. Perkins and her wretched dog’s misadventures. Today is the day my ad comes and today is the day I begin the long, painful process of moving on.

I had been involved in hay bale business since I turned 21 and inherited it from my father. It was never high paying stuff but it kept me and the missus floating. The country life was smooth, slow and satisfying. Then came the kids and I thought it was time to expand, make hay while the sun shines. So I ventured into animal rearing. I thought it was the logical thing to do. Horse, cows and bales of hay go together like bacon and breakfast. I started going into the city. When you are running a farm business, sometimes you have to lick some city boots to make do. Usually the boot-licking is reserved for corporate giants and people in theatre. But, like I said before, I was never a lucky fellow. The city became a second home to me. Let me correct that –  the city, became the only home for me. I don’t know what it was, whether it was the bright city lights, the ever-flowing booze, the larger-than-life society or the woman. May be it was the lack of all those things in my early life that made every single morning with strange people in the city feel like a Christmas morning. The erstwhile satisfying life of country was long forgotten and satisfaction of that kind no longer appealed to me.

Meanwhile, my wife and the children were back home, living the slow, agonizingly mundane life in every sense of the word. Waiting for the dutiful father and husband to make a rare appearance, bringing them food and clothes. I did bring them food, and clothes, and money. What I could never bring my children was my laughter, their laughter, our laughter. What I could never bring my wife was fidelity and honesty. In their eyes, I was making the great sacrifice. Foraging into the city day-after-day, living there for weeks, probably working my fingers to the bone for them. The chasm between the reality and their beliefs was wider than the distance between my real home and the city. But they never complained, neither my wife, nor my kids.

In the midst of the boot-licking, the hay-making, and the animal rearing, my children grew up. My life in the city was over. I was 50 and no woman would now look twice at me. No market would buy my hay bales and my animals anymore. No random strangers would sit with me and share their exciting life stories over a pitcher of ale. And it was at this golden year of my life that I realized what I threw away. I was truly homeless, in the sense that the home I believed to be mine was just an illusion of youth, a mirage of exciting possibilities borne out of years of boredom. On the other hand, the home I had left behind was full of people that were my own blood, but were more of a stranger than the elderly bartender in the city bar.

Soon my elder daughter was getting married and going to live 3000 miles away. Soon my son was moving to a city in another country. And soon my wife was leaving me to marry a guy who would never cheat on her. Soon, very soon, I was left all alone in the big house in the small farm in Kansas. I never cared for them. And I was careless to the point that I never expected them to care for me. May be that’s the reason that I didn’t feel a pang of regret seeing my wife go and my kids leave. I felt the same amount of sadness that a passerby might feel seeing a death procession go on the street.

The last I talked to my kids was three years ago. Since then, neither have I called them, nor have they. I haven’t talked to my ex-wife in two years. I neither expect, nor have any inclination to talk to her. I just want to sell my last batch of square hay bales. I made them a month ago and they’ve been lying around in the empty farm. There are no longer any animals to eat them.  I open up the classifieds and see my advertisement. ‘For sale! Square brome hay bales. Call Dave’.  In the entire page, my ad stands out. It’s colourful and has a small cartoon of a guy holding a square brome. May be it’s some sort of irony. The colourful and cheerful ad for a guy’s one month old stack of hay bales contrasts nicely with the sheer greyness of his bleak life. I sit on the porch and stare at the ad, wondering whether I’ve packed everything up. A few clothes and a few old books only take up so much space. I wonder about the family that would come in this house after me; I wonder if the man would be a good father, a loving husband. I wonder if he would care about losing his family, his home.

The thoughts swirling in my head, I continue to stare at the ad. I can hear Willy yipping close by. It makes for certain poignancy in the story of my life that the last eventful thing I would remember is my ad and Willy’s bark. As I close my eyes for a second, I see the beautiful city lights twinkling, beckoning me, or perhaps taunting me. I can no longer hear Willy’s bark.

Posted in Creative Writing Competition, Prose

Freshers Creative Writing Competition: Best entries #2

Topic: Literally Idioms

-Prakash Matthew

It was Halloween time in wonder world and all the fairies, witches, wizards and demons had come together in festive spirit. It was holiday for magic school as well and all the young spells, charms, blessings, wishes and hexes were excited about the day that was to be. Frida, a hex (who’d grow up to be the most terrible of hexes) and Turo, a blessing, were best of friends. They lived in neighbouring clouds and played on the same planet everyday. They would often go on secret trips to explore the mortal life in various galaxies. They enjoyed watching the pretty flowers bloom, the plants sprout up and the varied emotions of the ever serious higher life forms.

“We should be Jipsy and Jetsy from the golo world,” said Turo with a twinkle in her eye. “Na! Something more dangerous and exciting,” said Frida. “Maybe two eyed nebular giants with purple flames.” Turo didn’t agree. After a long discussion they decided to dress up as green Martians and visit Mars for the evening. They were very excited. They had a quick nap, a drink from the fountain of bliss and left for their adventure.

Thick black fumes were rising from the planet as Turo and Frida approached Mars. The higher beings had declared war on each other over lortep, a dark liquid which fuelled the Martian ground mobiles and aerocrafts. The lortep reserves were depleting fast and the Martians fought among themselves for the last few wells. The war had reached its peak and both sides were on the verge of destroying the entire planet! Turo and Frida were used to this sort of mayhem across galaxies and decided to make the best of it. They roamed around observing the life forms, who always grouped together during a crisis. Some groups were chanting words, some were reading books written by their ancestors or dancing in odd manners while few other groups were planning the next day’s war.

As they flew around the planet enjoying its fleeting beauty, they heard a cry that shook their spirits. They flew towards the sound. It was the agony of a Martian, a Martian whose mate had died. The Martian was in pain and distress and he was sobbing and grieving his partner’s death.

“Hey! Who are you two? Hands in the air. NOW!”

A dozen heavily armed Martians surrounded Turo and Frida. They were in front of a Martian military fort.

“Guluparantha,” Frida cried.

The guards looked at each other, lowered their weapons and allowed Turo and Frida through the gate because Frida had just said the secret password to enter the fort.

Frida and Turo entered the fort and saw King Amabo crying, holding his partner in his arms. All the ministers shot looks at the two, not recognising who they were.

Turo uttered softly, “Mogambo”. The words had barely left her mouth and the Martian started coming back to life. Turo didn’t know what came over her.

All were looking with great astonishment as the Martian struggled to move his body.

Frida broke free of his initial shock. He looked at Turo. It was against the cosmic laws to interfere in the lives of Mortals. Turo looked down still unable to comprehend what had come over her.

“Konecskon.”

Frida muttered the death hex. Frida took Turo’s arm and walked away unnoticed from the bustling crowd that had by now surrounded the reviving corpse. The Martian was dead, again. But he had re-lived long enough to convey to his friend one last message – “Stop the war.”

The war ended the next morning. Amabo signed a peace treaty with his fellow Martians honouring his lifelong companion.

Thus the planet was saved from doom by Turo. Turo, a blessing in disguise.