Monday, 7 April 2008



3.) WRITE WRITE WRITE: Ok, you may not have expected this, but writing is the big brother of reading. It forces you to cough up the words—like a school bully demands your pocket money. You can’t let your mind wander when you have to put thoughts on paper or screen. Once done, everyone can examine your thoughts objectively. And of course your writing can be redrafted for effectiveness. You can craft your language. In crafting your work, you discipline your thinking; and fitter thinking shows itself in more articulate expression.

Grab every chance to express yourself in writing—other than your dreaded essays and reports, there’s your messaging on net: blog posts, emails, etc. Make it a habit. It doesn’t take long, but write often, get used to the keys. Force yourself to express opinions. Doesn’t matter how silly you might think they are…nobody’s assessing

A word about sms and msn: they’re fun and have a language of their own (which I thoroughly enjoy and am learning daily…guess from whom…haha!) but you need to pay greater attention to your skills in formal, academic, or even plain, expression for the purposes that lie ahead—your college and future office work.

4.) THE ONE THING: If I had to choose one aspect of the English language that helps distinguish English from most other languages (or at least from all the languages I know) I’d have the say DOUBLE MEANINGS. I’m mentioning this in conclusion because this is the one thing which—once you master it, or at least get comfortable with it—will open your mind’s door to a treasure chamber of the gems of the language. Better yet, you will really begin to enjoy expressing yourself in English. You will wield simile, metaphor, figurative speech, idiom, symbolism, imagery, allegory as happily as you click your chopsticks or finger-spoon your nasi kandar.

Let me show you what I mean….. (with the simplest—and most fun of the lot!—similes.)
In her award winning book, The God of Small Things (Flamingo, London, 1997) Southern Indian writer Arundhati Roy used similes (and metaphors) to stunning effect. Up until the time I picked up her book I had never seen so many similes in one small novel, never been so entertained by so remarkable and playful a use of the English language. She well deserved the 1997 Booker Prize.

You’d be lucky to find a few similes per chapter in your ordinary novel, but by Page 9 of her 300+ page book she’d already used 7.

Here’s how her writer’s eyes see ordinary things.

Page 1) Falling Rain: Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, ploughing it up like gunfire.

Page 1) Roof: The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat.

Page 4) Corpse’s Face: Her face was pale and as wrinkled as a dhobi’s thumb for being in water too long.

Page 4) Mourners In Church: …the yellow church swelled like a throat with the sound of sad singing.

Page 5) Grandma’s Tears: Her tears trickled down…and trembled along her jaw like raindrops on the edge of a roof.

Page 6) If An Indian Man Painting A Sky On The Church Ceiling Had Accidentally Fallen Down: …dropping like a dark star out of the sky that he had made. Lying broken on the hot church floor, dark blood spilling from his skull like a secret.

Page 9) Night Insects: Strange insects appeared like ideas in the evenings and burned themselves on Baby Kochama’s dim 40-watt bulbs.

This is not fancy language. It’s strenuous and muscular, like an army taking new territory. (Hehe.) And entirely appropriate for her narrative of the memoirs of a dizygotic twin coming home, and coming to terms with the abuse by a pedophile of her other half, and trying to accept a traumatic tragedy in childhood they both share.

When you begin to get a grip on double meanings—and multiple meanings—when you begin to practise it, like a habit, you will find your listeners absorbed with you, like a date by candlelight. If not absorbed then at least smiling, like a nursing mother. You will connect better. Because you endear your listener—and that’s usually part of the presentation battle won. Equally importantly you will be training your mind to think through a multiplicity of layers, a plethora of disciplines—and merge them—to derive that rich, rich creation that we’re all after in our architecture and in our lives.

Ok, let’s see if you’ve absorbed anything at all...haha!. Here’s a puzzle...

Cont:- part 4/4

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