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The land of women

SHE, with her hands delicate and fragile, ran one index finger up the heel and then down to the base of the shoe, wavering, frail, her eyes following it as it grazed along the surface of the green leather, as if handling something precariously close to destruction, like she couldn't believe what she could see in front of her eyes. He watched as her subtle fingers tantalizingly moved itself along the contours of the shoe, and finally having rounded the curve at the base, rested on the foot of the stiletto.

“What are you doing?” He didn't understand, he couldn't comprehend at all why she would go into this reverie every time she spotted a shoe, why her eyes would sparkle at the very prospect of buying an Italian stiletto. She didn't respond, as he had expected, but merely let out a small 'hmm?' to let him know she was listening. She picked it up with both her hands and looked at the sole, a glint of admiration in her eyes.

“Hello?” Still, no response.

He looked around the store, bustling with overweight women in their twenties and thirties, drooling over pieces of leather and canvas, swooning over the prices, their 'oohs' and 'aahs' piercing the constant buzz of conversation every now and then. This was the land of women, where superficiality reached an all time high, where material things ruled, and little insignificant things which only they themselves noticed, mattered. He looked around, and all he could see was a vast pool triviality. He picked up a black, sparkling flat-bottom and looked at the price tag. He could only roll his eyes.

“Yes.” Smooth and gentle, her voice interrupted his thoughts, and he turned to see her holding each shoe in each hand.


“Yes.” Her ever-so-elaborate reply.

“Yes, what?”

“I'm taking this.”

“You're taking it?” It was hard for him to keep the elation out of his voice.

“Yes, I am.” She rolled her eyes at him, having had to repeat herself. But he didn't care. At last the shoe hunt was over. They had basically gone to every shoe store in the city, her eyes either not finding the satisfactory size, or the heel, the right colour, the right shape, and he had trudged behind, wondering what in God's name was the point of all this. He looked at them, and all he saw was a pair of shoes. They were useful, yes, and sometimes stylish. But whoever noticed? He simply did not get the point. What was the point of wasting so much energy on something only they themselves would notice? What was the point of spending so much money on something whose beauty was as irrelevant? He just could not see it through their eyes.

He flipped the tag over and looked at the price. His eyes darted to and from the tag and her face, bafflement etched across his face.

“What?” She asked.

What? What? WHAT?! He stared at the tag a little longer, as the number 8500 registered slowly in his mind.

“Nothing,” he sighed. He had promised her he'd get her whatever she wanted for her birthday, and this was what her heart had settled upon, he could see. With reluctance in his grip, he handed his credit card over to the sales clerk, watching his money disappear meaninglessly before his eyes.

They got out of the shop, and the transformation she had gone through was noticeable instantaneously. Her eyes twinkled with glee, and she had let her hair fall, frolicking against her shoulder blades, her diamond studded earrings gleaming in the sunlight, and there was an obvious spring in her step, as she hummed “When You Say Nothing At All.” How appropriate.

Just then, he heard a certain roar, and a Mazda, fully modified, howled past them, sleek and beautiful, leaving dust swirling behind. He stared at it as it whizzed by, admiring the glean of its paint job, the shine of its rims, and the smoothness of the curves, enticing. He whistled.

“I don't get it,” she mumbled, rolling her eyes. “What's the point of spending so much money for that piece of farting metal?”


By S. N. Rasul

Writing tips:

Getting it on paper at all

ENID Blyton, Roald Dahl, Joanne Harris. Entwining the magical, the bizarre, the thought-provoking and the poignant. How can you read and not be inspired to try anything of your own? They make it seem so easy!

So grab a pen and paper, or sit at your PC. Churn out those revolutionary ideas, let your imagination go, and all that rot! Watch how they pour forth in an endless stream arranging themselves seamlessly, like clay into a mould. Embellish with a choice word or phrase here and there, et voila! A masterpiece at your fingertips!

If only it were so.
The reality of course, as most realities go, is much more complicated. There is no mould. And ideas do not pour forth in an endless stream until the most inconvenient times. The moment you reach for that pen, the slivers of fancy that were so tantalizingly dancing the conga around your head will come to a sharp standstill, scatter and hide themselves in the nooks and crannies of mundane existence. By the time you're actually in a position to write anything, an ominous cloud of blankness will descend. You will be able to those wretched fancies sniggering at your plight from somewhere just beyond your reach but that will be all. It is most aggravating.

So, how do you lure those abstract thoughts back? How do you force them out of your fingers and give them the form of a readable story?

Well, you could try reading one. Like you haven't heard that before. But no, I do not mean idly flipping through pages to stave off boredom when the PC's out of order. Sit down with a can of coke (or a cup of coffee), place the book on your lap and proceed to well and thoroughly dissect it. Watch the storyline, See how it progresses, observe its tempo. Note how each incident, character and mood relates to the next and try to spot key points, which the author may have placed down first, and then filled in the details between. Short stories work best for this; obviously, you wouldn't want to attack some chunky big novel when your own potential masterwork is slipping through your fingers.

Now to create your own.
There are numerous ways of beginning a story, none of which will occur to you when you actually have to begin one. Because introductions, especially first sentences, are naturally inclined towards being a royal pain in the you-know-what. They flatly refuse to be penned. So forget them. (I can just see some of my long-suffering friends rolling their eyes as I write this). Begin in the middle. Or the end. A smashing conclusion might be lost because you spent too much time dwelling on the first sentence. I speak from painful experience here. But perhaps introductions work well with you after all. Whichever suits you best, really as aforesaid, there is no mould. Jot down random words, phrases, paragraphs, whatever little thing you remember from the initial brilliant idea and, just maybe, the rest will come inching back.

In all probability, the bits and pieces you'll be able to retrieve won't always seem nearly as nice. Perhaps that perfect first sentence is lost forever, or just doesn't fit anymore and you don't like the new one. Jot it down anyways. The end result may not be too bad. That's the beauty of it, like some insane jigsaw puzzle whose pieces you keep on trimming to fit however you want and not even you can really tell how it will end up.

An approach that usually works well for me is focusing on key points. These are often the easiest to work with since they persist longer than other elusive details and, once you have them down, working the rest of the story around them becomes astonishingly simpler. Sometimes, if you know what you want to convey, you can build up your entire story around that single point. Recall the story you read. It could any factor, from a significant turning point to some small detail. These do not necessarily have to relate to your theme just something to develop the plot around. They can be anywhere along the storyline. Think 'Sleeping Beauty'. The key point is her pricking her finger and falling into a very persistent coma. So the story of her life is made to revolve around that one little incident. Ok, so I was a rather crucial one but sometimes it needn't even be that.

“When he was thirteen, my brother Jem broke his arm at the elbow” the opening sentence of Harper Lee's 'To kill A Mockingbird'. From there the author goes on to explain exactly how her characters are led up to that experience. In between she brings in courtroom drama, issues of racial prejudice and a poignant picture of the Great Depression. Pulitzer Prize-winning material.

So there you go -- a point or two you could try working with when you embark on you next literary endeavour. Of course, bear in mind that this could very well be the worst advice anyone has given you regarding writing. There are about six billion people around right now and six billion different approaches to go along with them. Which just about renders the object of this article pointless. So really, the best you can do is to experiment with each lot until you find your own. No 'tricks of the trade', I'm afraid. But there never are for this sort of thing, are there?

By Risana Nahreen Malik



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