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The mercurial mom

Freelancer moms!

Haven’t we all been called mercurial at some point or the other in our professional/personal life? I, for one, am bona fide mercurial — here’s why.

“mercurial (adj): characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood” — Merriam Webster
https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day/mercurial-2012-09-16

It’s not all that bad being called mercurial; you might just be Mercury (the planet) personified.
A fascinating planet indeed:
– The smallest and closest planet to the sun, BUT not the hottest
– Mercury orbits with lightning fast speed around the sun. A mercurial year lasts only 88 days, as it is almost tidally locked with the sun. HOWEVER, it takes an unusually long time to rotate on its own axis —a typical day lasts for 176 earth days!
– It has an exceptionally large and dense molten iron core, BUT has an unusually weak magnetic field.

A cornucopia of contradictions, this planet!
https://theplanets.org/mercury/

So, here’s an ode to all volatile, intensely passionate, creative, quick-witted, spontaneous, and distracted freelancer moms.

Always in step with the sun,
That’s my mercurial mum.

Zigzagging through the day
managing the home,
her work,
my play,

With a schedule that changes
every minute
it leaves me awestruck,
whenever she says —
“Yes, I’ve already done it”

Be it my school projects
Or baking for
the school bake sale,
Or the tenth errand
she had to run that day.

An authentic eccentric she is,
Just like mercury’s orbit;
Sometimes an ogre, sometimes a hobbit.

With ice-cold concentration,
engrossed in her work;
were you to interrupt
volcanoes are bound to erupt

She barely sleeps,
it takes a toll,
her iron core
shrinking ever more.

that iron core,
so bewildering —
dense but not rigid,
fluid and not fragile
Its magnetic pull
doesn’t hold you back,
it gives you wings to fly.

© Pavitra Baxi 2020

The Rubik’s cube — a writer’s tool?

It happened one sultry summer morning; I was sipping my coffee and watching my nephew solve the Rubik’s cube in less than a minute and repeating the feat over and over again.

Somewhat captivated, I asked him, “How are you doing it. Can you teach me?”

A pair of bewildered eyes shot back: “I can’t. It’s tough. You won’t get it”, he said.

I stared into my coffee mug and thought to myself — how tough can it really be? After all, I’ve tackled calculus in college and waded through the murky waters of thermodynamics. What’s not to get in this toy puzzle.

With a bruised ego and a steely resolve, I set out to unravel the mysteries of the cube.

Solving the Rubik’s cube

Ernő Rubik, a Hungarian professor of architecture and inventor of the Rubik’s cube, initially created it as a working model to demonstrate how individual elements of a three-dimensional models can move independently without the entire model falling apart.

He made a prototype cube by arranging a bunch of smaller cubes on a central pivot. He painted each side of this prototype cube a different colour. When he moved the individual cubes from their starting position — to demonstrate how individual elements can be moved without the model coming apart — the colours got mixed up. It wasn’t easy for him to get smaller cubes back to their starting position; rumour has it that Ernő Rubik took more than a month to solve the prototype cube. Not surprising at all, since the smaller cubes can be arranged in 43 quintillion possible combinations.

26 individual cubes make up the Rubik’s cube. Current models have a standard colour scheme: white is opposite yellow, blue is opposite green and orange is opposite red. With the white side facing you, red comes on the top, green is on the right, orange at the bottom and blue on the left. The centre cube of each side works as an anchor and guide. The aim is to move the edge cubes and the corner cubes in a sequence of steps to eventually match the colour of the centre cube. These moves, also called algorithms, make the solution sound mathematical and scary. But these algorithms are just a sequence of steps to get the individual cubes back to their starting position.

Typing “how to solve the Rubik’s cube” will give you 8 million hits in Google — a deluge of videos, blogposts and guides will confuse and scare you further. Most of these solutions, posted by smug solvers expecting you to read their mind as they explain the process, are difficult to follow. Out of the eight million solutions, I found only ONE video helpful. Here’s the link to it:

Do Rubik’s cube solvers have a higher IQ than mere mortals like us? I disagree. For solving the cube, what you really need is patience, perseverance and a decent sense of spatial orientation.

What’s in it for writers (and translators)?

Our mind is a giant Rubik’s cube of thoughts. Within the confines of the mind, thoughts move between the logic, emotion and action centres depending on our mood and emotions. We are always thinking: we think thoughts and then think some more on thoughts about our thoughts. A portable thought sorter is what we need…

Solve the cube — sort your thoughts

Working with languages, managing deadlines and our business: at any given time, a zillion thoughts run through our mind — multitasking at its worse. Solving the cube, I inadvertently sort my thoughts out by imagining the different sides of a cube as different facets of my life. Sorting is good but sometimes a quick distraction is what will work the best…

A welcome distraction

Writers are a broody lot; scrupulously analysing thoughts and endlessly searching for the perfect word or phrase to describe them. To maintain sanity we need short, frequent breaks. Fiddling with a Rubik’s cube does just that. It serves as a quick distraction because solving the cube needs full concentration. This shift of focus helps to decouple our thoughts, giving the overactive mind a much-needed break…

A substitute for coffee (or tea)?

Long working hours, mental exhaustion and the 12th cup of coffee means a numb body and an unresponsive mind. In such situations, a quick round of sorting the coloured cubes shakes off our stupor.  The splash of colour; the swift, deliberate movements; the elation of solving the cube from one of the 43 quintillion possible combinations — priceless!

When words stop making sense I dive into the world of misaligned cubes and try to set them straight in the hopes of aligning my thoughts, generate new ones and stop feeling miserable. Solace is in the fact that there is at least one mystery I’m able to solve without having to tear my hair out.

Wound up in your words

We all know, great content is important to attract your target audience. You might use the best of fonts, liveliest of colors and the most dazzling of images, but if your content is lackluster, your audience will not be impressed. Same is true for the way we articulate, the words we use and how we speak.

Our words glamorize us. You must have experienced it too — you gravitate easily towards people who have a command over their language. I’ll even go a step further and add that an ordinary-looking person, who articulates well, starts appearing prettier/handsomer to us.

So along with your skin, rejuvenate your brain cells too. Read more, write even more and create your world of words — there will always be someone waiting to be impressed.

Not your smile,
nor your seductive eyes;
darlin’ I’m wound up
in your words.

More than the perfume you wear,
Or the fragrance in your hair,
darlin’ I’m wound up
in your words.

Your crazy observations
and their articulations,
Make my heart skip a beat
Your words —
they are such a treat.

In a world lacking originality,
Cardboard cutouts of the
most popular personalities
What stands out,
Is the way you speak
The words you use
Saying how you feel.

Don’t shy away,
From bringing out your best;
The words you use
Matter more than
Your make-up or your dress…

© 2020 Pavitra Baxi

Header pic: http://www.teltrilogy.com/

Write more…metaphors

Isn’t it true that inspiration strikes in situations least expected?

For me, it was while watching Sex Education on Netflix. The scene when Jackson recites the following lines for auditioning in the school play:

“Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief.”

Breaking the monotony, these lines made the me sit up and take notice.

That’s the power of a metaphor. Unlike a simile, that’ll spoon-feed the emotion by employing “like” and “as”; metaphors make your imagination work a bit harder.


So, what is a metaphor?
Metaphor comes from the Greek word metapherein, which means “to transfer”. You transfer the meaning of one phrase/object to another. They are made up of two parts. Tenor: what you wish to describe. It could be a person, an emotion or a concept. Vehicle: a figurative expression, which carries the meaning of the tenor.

For example:

“But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? Is it the east, and Juliet is the sun?”
Juliet (tenor) is compared to the sun, and her standing at the window is likened to sunrise. Qualities of the sun, are transferred to Juliet and you instantly visualize her —bright as the sunlight. There is no need for a literal description.


Why use metaphors?
1. Metaphors make it easier to explain abstract concepts
Let’s say, you want to explain jealousy.
You could use the dictionary definition: a hostile attitude towards a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage (from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jealous)
OR

A metaphor instead: “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

Metaphors are also handy in explaining tricky scientific concepts.
Take for example, Entropy
Dictionary definition of Entropy is the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entropy)
OR
A metaphor can explain it better: Entropy is akin to children bouncing in a bouncy castle —disorder, uncertainty in a system and energy expended without doing any useful work.


2. Metaphors make your prose livelier
Let’s not rush into love
OR
“It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be” – Juliet hinting that it would be foolish to rush into love.
Which one sounds better?


3. Metaphors makes your think
Metaphors provide a brief pause in the prose for the readers to gather their thoughts, visualize and explore various possibilities. Readers like it when writers make them think.


Different versions of metaphors

Direct metaphors: A straightforward transfer of meaning using “is”
“All the world is a stage”
Implied metaphors: Comparison is made between two things, but one of them isn’t mentioned.
“Thoughts fluttering through my head” Thoughts are compared to butterflies — no mention of a butterfly though, that’s for you to imagine.
Extended metaphors: When a metaphor is made up of more than one phrase.
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.”

Romeo, going on and on and on about his lady love…


Writing metaphors is tough but not impossible. Once you master the art, you will be tempted to use a lot of it in your writing. Use it sparingly so as not to slow down your readers and drown them in a sea of implications.

© 2020 Pavitra Baxi

Thoughts are promiscuous

As writers, we are told to always write our thoughts down. We take them for granted and prioritize work, home and children; knowing fully well how difficult those thoughts (good ones and bad ones) are to come by. Frustrated by their fickleness, I wrote a poem.



Thoughts are promiscuous,
never loyal to you.
Falsely believing you own them,
will do more harm than good.


Like seductive butterflies
they want all our attention,
but only for a split-second;
they have better things to do.


False promises they will give you;
of residing in your head.
Don’t be fooled,
they’ll be gone,
leaving you in dread.


So, how do you get them,
to be all yours?
Write them down,
whenever and wherever you can.


Use your phones,
Carry a book and a pen.
Post-its work well too,
Or use tissue papers instead.


Sane ones, insane ones,
Grab them all,
We need them to master our craft —
to get our point across.


© 2020 Pavitra Baxi