John Updike dies at 76



John Updike, the American poet, novelist, short story writer and a literary critic has died of Lung Cancer. He battled with this disease but was all the while quiet in public, it was on January 27 that he lost this battle. He was 76. He is particularly famous for his Rabbit series among which are included: Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit At Rest and Rabbit Remembered.
He was a religious man with a shy and modest nature. He was living in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts with his second wife. Only a few weeks ago, he told an interviewer that he had no intentions of retiring and was just "showing signs of mental deteoriation" (as quoted by Telegraph).  Catch a glimpse of his books  on Amazon at: John Updike's Books

The Most Cherishable Freedom


Rousseau has rightly remarked ‘Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains’. We all love our freedom and this can very well be called the most treasured thing. Imagine being a slave, and then only can we judge the extent of significance of this precious freedom. It was on August 15, 1947 that India won its freedom from the British empire. India was declared a Sovereign State when the Constitution was enforced on January 26, 1950. Today we celebrate the 60th Republic Day of our country, with its magnificent and unparalleled parade on the Rajpath in New Delhi.

Here I present for my readers some most cherished quotes of the Indian leaders about freedom:

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”                                                   

– Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

“We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?”                                             - Jawahar Lal Nehru

“We must re-dedicate ourselves on this day to the peaceful but sure realisation of the dream that had inspired the Father of our Nation and the other captains and soldiers of our freedom struggle, the dream of establishing a classless, co-operative, free and happy society in "his country," "We must remember that this is more a day of dedications than of rejoicing - dedication to the glorious task of making the peasants and workers the toilers and the thinkers fully free, happy and cultured”           -Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India

We must learn to cherish our freedom and also make it a point that we help others in doing so. We have to respect others’ freedom too. What needs to be kept in mind always is that our freedom is not absolute. The limit of our freedom ends where the boundary of the other’s freedom begins. So respect others. And as Mahatma Gandhi said, “We must become the change we want to see.” 

Literary Jewels from Obama's Inaugural Speech


The winds of change have swept across America. The precursor is the man “whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.” This    year old, Barack Obama with a towering and commanding personality chose to be sworn in with his full name Barack Hossein Obama.

The reason why a political event has made it to a literary blog is his well-worded and literary speech. I share with you some of his meaningful quotes from his inaugural speech:

“Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

“…our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.”

“Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.”

He also quoted the following lines: "Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

Obama finished his speech with the following brilliant, very meaningful words; giving his speech a perfect finishing touch – ending on a hopeful and promising note:

“With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

First Morning Thoughts

How many of us wake up in the morning and say, "Today is another great day!"? Only a countable few, I am sure. A majority of us instead grumble about the unwanted impending tasks to be completed that day. Kids would lament "Oh no! I have to go school again." Some would  simply be wary of the troubles that could be there, those which haven't yet cropped up.
To some life seems to be "a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury , signifying nothing" (Shakespeare in 'Macbeth'). Instead life should be taken as a tale of happiness and laughter. If you feel the happiness is eluding you, try creating it yourself. Enjoy each moment and savour each of the memories of the gone by beautiful days. 
Pat yourself in the morning and you'll have a confident 'you'. Always give credit to yourself for the tasks that you have accomplished. Don't wait for others to encourage you. Be  your own greatest motivating force. Bring to your mind the pleasant things that you'll be indulging in as the day progresses. You'll find yourself filled with a fresh enthusiasm, ready to face the day. 
So be up and doing with an all new you!

Is Swift really a misanthrope?

The word ‘misanthrope’ means hater of mankind or the one who has a distrust for human character in general. To some extent Gulliver directs his satires towards the meanness of human being.

The allegation of 'misanthropy' has been levelled against Swift in context of his book 'Gulliver's Travels'. In Book I, Gulliver is a ship’s surgeon who sails from Bristol. After a shipwreck he sails to an island, Lilliput. Gulliver has talked of the selfishness of man everywhere(he reduces the people to the height of six inches). In Book II, Gulliver is in Brobdingnag, where in front of the tall people he seems to be a Lilliputian.  The book is replete with instances showing human vanities.  Gulliver has used the words: “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.” In Book III, Gulliver laughs at the futile efforts of scientists and philosophers.  In the flying island named Lagodo, he watches scientists engaged in foolish pursuits. The charge of misanthropy is proven more in case of Book IV. In Book IV, Swift has described the country of Houyhnhnms, who are horses blessed with reason. The author here contrasts their rational society with the beastiality of Yahoos, who are beasts in shape of human beings. 

 In his essay 'A Modest Proposal' Swift writes that the Irish should reduce their burden by selling their surplus children to the rich.  His book 'A Tale of Tub' is also considered a proof towards Swift's misanthropy. 

So what do you think: Is Swift really a misanthrope? Share your views.


The Spontaneous Overflow

“If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all” – this is how the celebrated poet, John Keats put it. Poetry is actually a spontaneous overflow of emotions, as Wordsworth said. I myself experienced it yet another time. I wrote a poem at a time when I wondered if my mind could ever be diverted towards writing a poem, and this time was when I was studying for my exam the next day. The day was when the festival of Lohri was being celebrated on January 12 and I could hear the beats of the drum. And it took me just a minute to jot it down. This is what I wrote:

I am pitying myself at this time!

I hear voices of celebration around me,

but I cannot rejoice

‘Coz I am condemned to testing myself!!!

O! that I were free -

free from the ties that bind.

The bird is free, so is the child

Why not I?

Nobody answers…

It is I who was the chooser;

and now the difference it makes to me:

Being engulfed by the binding vine!

That was just a poetic outpour but anyway the exam was good (thanks to my preparation). After all, we have to work hard to achieve something. And now I am waiting for the result. I suppose, wishes never end! Do they? Think about it.

Prove Yourself !

We have to prove ourselves everyday with each passing moment. I remember the existentialistic philosophy here. Sartre wrote a book entitled, ‘Being and Nothing’. He was of the view that ‘man first is then defines himself’. Even in our day to day life we have to define our identity. Otherwise life won’t be so meaningful after all.

It is we who give meaning to our existence. Life isn’t just the exercise of breathing in or out. There’s much more to it. Life is what we make out of it. It is we ourselves who mould the clay of life, shaping it with our fingers and giving it the finishing touches as time goes by. But sometimes the tide of time blows a cover of dust over it. The secret is to reshape that dust to match the existing sculpture. Mix it in such a way that nobody know the duality of its existence.  Let it be just like a natural cover – a layer on top; a layer that covers the small holes left in the earlier mould.

So get going and don’t complain about the dust that others blow upon you, take it in your stride. They have just provided more material to you to shine and rise. According to a French Proverb, "It is only the tree loaded with fruits that people throw stones at." The difference will be in your approach towards them, whether you use them as stepping stones or the stumbling blocks.


G.B. Shaw's 'Arms and the Man'

George Bernard Shaw's 'Arms and the Man' has been one to the most memorable plays that I have ever read. I present here a few of the quotes from the same: 

"Soldiering, my dear madam, is the coward's art of attacking mercilessly when you are strong, and keeping out of harm's way when you are weak. That is the whole secret of successful fighting. Get your enemy at a disadvantage; and never, on any account, fight him on equal terms."

"My rank is the highest known in Switzerland: I'm a free citizen."
"A narrow shave; but a miss is as good as a mile. Dear young lady, your servant until death. I wish for your sake I had joined the Bulgarian army instead of the Servian. I am not a native Servian."
"I've no ammunition. What use are cartridges in battle? I always carry chocolate instead; and I finished the last cake of that yesterday."

"...And I hadn't even a revolver cartridge--nothing but chocolate. We'd no bayonets--nothing. Of course, they just cut us to bits. And there was Don Quixote flourishing like a drum major, thinking he'd done the cleverest thing ever known, whereas he ought to be courtmartialled for it. Of all the fools ever let loose on a field of battle, that man must be the very maddest. He and his regiment simply committed suicide--only the pistol missed fire, that's all."

I am sure you all must have enjoyed reading those quotes. We don't always read a book or a piece of writing just for the sake of literary criticism but more often it is for the sake of enjoying simply the language and expression. I have read this play for a large number of times not because I have to write an essay on it but because I simply love Shaw's language and the dialogues of his play.

Plot Dog top 5 - contest dated December 26

My article was selected among top five in non-fiction category: “The Yardsticks of Life - Success and Failure”
All the selected entries in various categories are as follows:

POETRY
Khaye Cardenas - “The Woman’s Silent Prayer” - Every woman’s silent prayer.
Dragon Blogger - “Two Sides To Every Tale”- Poem about a man being wrongly accused and sentenced.
Dragon Blogger - “Why Does Mommy Cry?” - Emotional poem about parents fighting from the mind of a child.
Daisy Bookworm - “Breath” - A poem detailing the evils of wearing real, steel boned corsets for a woman.
exquisite corpse“Great Is The Morning” – Collaborative Poetry.

PROSE
FICTION

Jenn - “Worlds Apart (Chapter One)” - The first chapter of a multi-part story about a relationship doomed by the time in which it occurred.
Jennifer M Scott - “Dear God” - a woman writes a letter to god asking for her death.

OPINION / NON-FICTION / NON-FICTION RANT

Harneet Singh - “Life with an Aim” - Today people are becoming more materialistic. They attach their aim of life with the materialistic things.
Amritbir Kaur - “The Yardsticks of Life - Success and Failure” - Is life measurable? Can we divide it into watertight compartments of success and failure? Find answers to these and much more…

ABOUT WRITING

Khaye Cardenas “Please Excuse Me I Am Writing Again” - The writer talks about the things that keep her from writing.

The results are also available at: Plot Dog

The Last Day

Once again it's December 31. It has been a ritual to have a seemingly long, improbable and a questionable list of resolutions fo...