All posts by Shantanu Baruah

A #writer driven by passion, a #healthcare thought leader by profession and a #technologist by heart with #entrepreneurship bend of mind #aspiringauthor

Dwindled Hope

I am not a rock,
I may appear strong,
But I split to pieces,
When pushed beyond limits.

Nor I am the valiant dune,
Fighting the wilderness,
As I faintly dissolve,
Like the scribbles on the sand.

Maybe I am that truth,
That is hard to behold,
Beyond you reckon,
That muddles all that you believed to be real.

Or an illusion,
That you think is beyond your reach,
That may leave you with pain,
And a world of unknowns.

If you want,
I could be that wind,
That sweeps you off your feet,
And blinds you with a fragrance,
That lasts for eternity.

Or the moon,
That appears when you need the most,
In darkest of nights,
Spreading light not shimmering,
That soothes your being.

If you can,
Once free your soul from the worldly traps,
Expunge your dreads and any pulsating threats,
You will feel my heartbeat,
Oscillating rhythmically with yours taking us along to a serene abode.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Advertisements

France Travelogue​ – Cannes Day 2

Cannes

Cannes, oh you beauty. The glamor, nature’s brilliance, historic monuments, and miles of sea blue settings, Cannes had it all.

Ever since France decided to make Cannes as the world’s film and arts center in the year 1946, the place had been sought after by the who’s who of the celebrity world. Be it leisurely vacation or for the shooting of films like the Golden Eye, Cannes had innumerable Hollywood’s memories canvassed all around the place. Like the locals said, if the hotels had ears, there would be untold stories to tell.

We dedicated about 6 hours to explore Cannes. This time we decided to take the train – a 20 minutes ride from Nice St. Augustine station.  Right outside the train station, there was an information center. You can get all the tour details or a city map if you would like to explore the place on feet.

We made a left from the train station and headed towards the beach,  about 20 minutes walk along the Boulevard de la Croisette.  Once we reached the waters, we made a slight right to reach the main attraction of Cannes – Palais des Festivals et des Congres.

The Petit train ride was one of the best way to explore the city.  The train was about a 40 minutes ride and ran every 30 minutes.  One could board the train right outside Palais des Festivals for 10 Euros, children under 12 could ride for free.  The train offered a running commentary, with headphones and choice of language. I highly recommend listening to the interesting facts while enjoying the ride.

The tour would take you through the beach side-walk showcasing the famous hotels, the old port, arrays of shops and the old town.

Palais des Festivals et des Congres  was the main attraction at Cannes. We stopped by the red carpet that had graced the past and the present celebrities on its famous stairs. We took some time to enjoy the view, strolled around the beachside park and captured some memories. The toy train started right outside the famous red carpet stairs, and we waited for our ride to arrive.

The toy train ride took us through the famous Boulevard de la Croisette. On one side we saw the elegant strip with the display of famous hotels such as Le Grand Hotel,  Majestic Barriere, and Martinez and on the other side, we saw the beautiful beaches of Cannes.

The train then looped around the Palm Beach Casino, the place where the young and the rich party. The place offered game rooms facing the Lerins Islands, an upscale restaurant, and terrace overlooking the sea.  Shortly after that, the train took us through the branded arrays of shops through the narrow streets of Cannes.

From there the train headed towards the old town, Le Suquet. The town sat on top of a hill overlooking Cannes. The cobbled streets, the narrow pathways and the local restaurants, all provide the distinct flavor of the history of this place which dated back to the 12th century.  The train then climbed the narrow road and stopped by an old fortress – the Notre-Dame de l’Espérance. The fortress was built in the 14th century and offered some stunning views of the old harbor and the city.

The stone roads were laid over 400 years ago and gave the reminiscent history of the old fisherman’s bringing their fresh catch to the old market(Marche Forville) alongside the rue-saint Antonie road.

After 40 minutes of the enthralling ride, we concluded our journey at the Palais de Congres building.

After a quick bite in a close by Italian joint, we headed to the beach. The French Riviera had all kinds of beaches – Rocky, pebble, and Sand. Cannes offers mostly sandy beaches. The waves were mild and water was warm enough for us to enjoy the rest of the afternoon soaked in water and sand.

It was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for the Monaco by the Night tour.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Urban Girl

You are fearless,
You speak your mind,
You are what life beacons to,
A refreshing delight,
You are the urban girl.

You appear rugged,
But have a tender heart,
It takes a man to know you,
Pity others who missed the sight,
You are the urban girl.

You are ingenious,
You experiment with life,
You challenge the usual,
You hardly hesitate from being strife,
You are the urban girl.

Break those shackles,
Detest domination,
Spread your wings,
Start a revolution,
My urban girl.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Trip To France – Travelogue​ – Part 1

A recreational trip to France was high on my to-do list. Living the life of a Parisian, wandering the cobbled web streets and bathing my eyes with the time-tested historical monuments was always the vacation I dreamt of.

It was almost end of August when I realized in few weeks the summer was coming to an end. With France on my mind, I booked my trip quite impromptu – 3 days in Paris and 3 days in Nice. I had less than two weeks to visit this beautiful place and I did not have any set itinerary. 15 years back I came to this city so many times (for work) that I thought I knew what to do this time around. But traveling for work did not give me the chance to truly explore this beautiful part of the world, and it was not until the last few days when I realized I need to plan my trip.

Like any netizen would do, I turned to the web. There were many web sites with titles like “20 best things to do in France” or “The Must-See Attractions in Paris”, but nothing came close to what I was looking for. Frustrated I turned to my friends, but all I got from them was the list of places I should visit.  I finally figured it out and undoubtedly had a great time.

I wrote this travelogue with a simple objective, help plan your days better whenever you decide to be in this beautiful place.  The first part of my blog is all about the South Eastern part of the France. I will write about Paris in my next blog.

If you had visited France and have something to add, please leave your comments in the reply box.

South Eastern France

Visiting the south of France was one of the best decision I ever made. The pristine French Riviera, the azure of the Mediterranean Sea and breathtaking picturesque mountain view – everything appeared like a leaf out from a picture book.

The rich history of Europe was reflective in every direction your eyes could visibly see. The Greek and Roman-inspired facade, the Russian influenced Cathedral and renaissance of old times breathed from the vast architectural brilliance the place offered.

I was in Nice for three days. Not enough by any measures. With the promise to return back soon, I am writing this travelogue to provide you a round-up of what to do, where to go, and most importantly best way to reach the places.

Transportation

One thing I liked about Europe was the connectivity – The transportation was well thought out and meticulously designed. You could reach any place by train, tram or by the bus. Following were few ways I traveled around:

  •  Private Car: I took this option for a day and I had mixed feelings about it. With a fixed itinerary and a good knowledge of the place, taking a private car could be a great option. In my case, I was dependent on the driver to show me places, and it was not the best way to maximize the investment. The standard rate for a private car was about 60-70 euro an hour. You could negotiate a better rate when you hire them for a longer time. I got 8 hours for 300 euros, which is quite cheap.
  • Guided tour: If you do not want to apply your brain and enjoy a guided sight-seeing experience instead, taking a tour could be the answer. You could get many guided tour options, available in the hotels and public information places. I took one private tour – “Night by the Monaco”. I would let you know more about it in my travel experience below.
  • Point to point ride share: Uber is ubiquitously available all around France. Best way to move around for food,  points of attraction (when legs gave up on you) or to any destination of your choice. a 30 minutes ride could cost you about 18-30 Euros.
  • Use public transportation: all the towns I wanted to visit in and around Nice were well-connected by trains and buses.  It was light on the wallet and best way to commute.

Day 1

Places visited:  Antibes, Grasse, and Eze
Mode of Transportation: Private Car
Time spent:  8 Hours

Antibes

We started our journey with a trip to the mountains, to a small town called Antibes. An old Mediterranean village in the French Riviera with civilization traced back to iron age. Our first stop was at Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc. A legendary luxury hotel at the tip of Cap d’ Antibes. The hotel history dated back to 1869. It was a private mansion of  Hippolyte de Villemessant, the founder of French Newspaper Le Figaro, who built it for seeking writing inspiration. In the year 1887, it opened as a Hotel.

The view from the hotel was breathtaking. One could see the tall mountains on one side and the vast spread valleys on the other. The driver insisted us to see Antibes’s landscape from the capture below and we didn’t regret it. Besides offering regular cabana, the resort also offered independent villas.  Rates were overly expensive as it was peak seasons but it could be a great location for leisure in off-season times.

IMG_1948

After a drink at the terrace enjoying the mild summer sun in the open canvas, we decided to head to the Antibes town. The old town was laced with people leisurely strolling around. Arrays of custom shops and restaurants covered the area. We stopped by a Lebanese Restaurant, Le Phenicia. The food was excellent and the place was in a classic Mediterranean setting with the rocky beach ocean on one side and a worn out fort on the other.

We wandered around, enjoyed the view, checked few shops, explored the town square, and before we realized it was time to leave Antibes.

Grasse

Grasse – the perfume capital of the world. It was about a 20 minutes scenic drive from Antibes on the mountainous road above the Mediterranean Sea. We were about 1000 meters above sea level,  and it was one of the most popular towns in the French Riviera.

After climbing the serpentine roads and passing through the gorgeous old town we reached the Galimard perfume factory. Galimard is one of the 40+ factories that the region housed. Perfume making was the main business of this small town. 70% of world’s perfume gets manufactured here. The famous brands like Chanel, Dior, Nina Ricci, all chose Grasse for making their perfumes.

Galimard was the oldest and one of the most popular perfume factory in the region. It offered a free tour of the place – taking through the 17th Century perfume making process to the modern days’ advancement.

The bronze containers from the old days to hold the essence,  the carefully crafted fragrance extracting process, the unscripted art of making perfumes and the distillation and condensation – one could experience it all on this tour.

The place also offered an English-speaking guide, which was very helpful. There were some great things I learned about the perfume business.  I am listing down few titbits that fascinated me.

  • “The person who helps in making perfumes are called NOSES. there are only 200 noses in the world. 40 of them are French and 38 of them live in Grasse! No wonder Grasse is labelled as the perfume capital of the world
  • The big companies work with the noses to launch their new products. They can smell hundreds of different samples and distinctly call it out. A Nose beginning fees is about 8k euro a month. Also, because of the nature of the job they only work 2 hours a day. A dream job indeed, but it is a God gifted skill that cannot be learned.
  • The flowers used to make perfume are Mimosa, Rose, Jasmine, Violet, lavender. All of them grows abundantly in Grasse. However, because of pent-up demand roses are now imported from Turkey and Bulgaria, and jasmine from India.
  • Though flowers are the traditional perfumers choice, recent times has also seen fruity and spicy flavors.
  • It takes 120 KG of rose petals to make a bottle of Essence!! Talk about volume”

Towards the end of the tour, we could experience some of the future perfumes that were getting manufactured and were not on the store shelf yet.  And one could shell out few euros to buy it. The pure perfume (without any alcohol mixture) costs about 60 euro for a 100 ml bottle. Kind of a neat deal.

I highly recommend a tour to Grasse. After all, perfume defines the mood and there is no better way to experience it.

Though Cannes was close by, we planned to come by the next day. The reason was simple we wanted to spend some good time on the beach and we did not have enough time today to pack it up in the Agenda. The next and the final stop for the day was Eze.

Eze

Drive to Eze from Antibes was about 40 minutes. Eze was located at the border of Monaco and close to Nice. With its history dating back to 2000 BC and a view to die for, Eze was one place in the French Riviera I couldn’t have missed.

The village of Eze was on top of a mountain. The Eze of Church is a climb up through the curved paths of the village. Throughout the walks, you could experience the arrays of boutique shops, elegant restaurants, and breathtaking turquoise view of the sea.

The church at Eze is a piece of archeological brilliance. The place history dated back to the 12th century. No wonder the French government has marked it as a historical site of importance.

You could appreciate the scenic view,  climb the hill-top, overhear the local dialect, buy local mementos and eat at a local restaurant – Village of Eze offered so much of wonder, amazement, and peach

How to reach:  You could take the SNCF train from Nice St. Augustin Train station to Eze, Antibes, and Grasse. Please check the train timings from the information center.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Mentions

Life is Beautiful

The turf may appear rough,
It might be difficult to pierce the gruff,
But when you do go beyond it,
And fight till the end with sheer grit,
You’ll find,
Life is still beautiful,

Your heart still bleeds,
She has gone it is hard to believe,
But you keep that hope of her return afloat,
Hold her smile deep in your thoughts,
The wait will define,
That the life is beautiful.

You had a cord,
That held your life,
You clung to it,
With all the might,
You blinked and the cord snapped,
Making you fall in a winded trap,
You thought you met your end,
As you dashed to a ghostly descend,
Until you heart detested accepting the fate,
And it found a path for your escape,
Then you realized,
Depending on that string was so wrong,
You had to expunge bereavement and stay strong,

When you come to terms with self,
Then life remains always beautiful.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Reverie

It was a reverie
A canvas daubed with your memories
Now awoke to bitter actuality
I am discerned of your abrupt evanesce
And that withered hope of your appearance
Is dwindling away with the passing time
Knowing I couldn’t mend it
Making my heart bereaved of your endearment

But not the soul
Never deprived of your thoughts
Though our time was short-lived
The reminiscence enough to cherish forever
Your impressions still fresh from yesterday
For the times when I am alone
To bring that occasional smile
Drifting me to a reverie
Where I can live with your memories.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Writing About Situations

Often writing challenges authors with the classic paradox of situation description. How much is enough to aptly describe a plot surroundings is a debate amongst writers for a long time?

It can be the house the protagonist is approaching or a barren land the lead person is traversing on. Storytelling often needs readers to appreciate the plot’s backdrop. The settings, in a subconscious way, adds a realness to the narration.

While undoubtedly describing the context enhances the recount, overdoing or writing too little takes the shine away from tale-telling. Maintaining a fine balance differentiate a good writer from the crowd. In this post, I will share my experience about the usage of setting description. This is solely based on the learnings I harnessed while writing my first book, and by no means a scholarly advice. Please leave your suggestion, ideas, and thoughts in the thread below to enhance the learnings.

Consider the following situations

  1. You are describing a chasing scene. Your protagonist is on the run, trying to escape from some goons. You want to make the situation appear intense and nerve wrecking, with the readers gaping to know what happens next.  So how should you orient your narration? Should your sole focus be on the characters or should you attempt explaining the terrain as well?
  2. The protagonist is meeting someone for the first time in a house. Assume it is an important meeting that will reveal part of the suspense you have built thus far in your story. The protagonist is approaching the house. Should you focus on the conversation between them or should you also find space in your writing to describe the house location, surroundings, and interiors?

Before I provide my point of view for the above situations, let me explain the ground rules I follow in my writing:

  1. Building A Plot:  when building a plot describing the surroundings is extremely important. You want to ensure your reader is consumed in your fictitious (or non-fictitious based on the genre of your story) diegesis as if they are living through it.  What is the shade of weather? Is there any semblance of weather to the character’s state of mind? What about the place? Is it an urban location or a desolate scene? What about the people? Is the place crowded or an isolated location in a faraway place? In developing a plot describing the character’s surroundings is extremely crucial to get your reader’s attention.
  2. Character’s Thought Process: sometimes your story’s character is in constant battle with his/her mind about a past incidence or situational circumstances. In such settings, the debate between competing thoughts is more important than the surroundings the character is in. If the writing gives more weight to the character’s milieu than the battling thoughts your protagonist is going through, there is a high probability your readers will get disengage. In such situations giving importance to character’s perturbations should take the center stage and everything else should either be ignored or kept to bare minimum.
  3. Chasing scenes:  chasing scenes are usually the most difficult ones to explain. While on a run the surroundings play an important role, providing too many details can make the chase appear pale. Chasing are gripping and fast-moving. At every turn, there is despair for some and hope for few. The thumb rule I follow is to keep the surroundings’ explanation enough to be enticing. Oscillate between the character and everything else to keep the reader engaged and intrigued.
  4. Traveling to a new place: when the character, particularly the protagonist, is traveling to a new place. Take some time to describe the place. It always helps the reader to settle down with the new ambiance and help flow into the new dimension that your story is submerging to. However, ensure that the description of place compliments the character’s thought process. Avoid providing excruciating details of the place, unless it is required for the setting, otherwise, you may lose your reader’s interest.

I took help of the above scenarios to provide my perspective of writing about situations. The list by no means is exhaustive, but are select few to help explain my thoughts. Let us now revisit the two situations I outline in the beginning of my post:

  1. Chasing Scene: “The road was deserted. Not a soul was visible and the desolate afternoon was occasional battered by the roar of the passing wind. Amanda was running with all her might, unaware how far away the goons were from her. At times she was tempted to take shelter in the random patches of brier that kept appearing in a haphazard way across the desolate road.  But every time the thought occurred she decided otherwise. For the hope of finding a passing soul for her rescue was tempting enough than the respite of any temporary shelter.” As you can see I blend the surroundings explanation with the chase. The circumstantial navigation details are important, but so is the character’s state of mind.
  2. The protagonist in a house: “The house was standing alone dilapidated. The wrought iron gates were rust ridden and almost in the verge of giving away the long-standing guard, it braved over time. The ghostly appearance of the house had an uncanny eerie as if welcoming Amanda with a wicked smile. Reluctantly she pushed the gate and it broke the silence with an awkward squealing noise. It was a tall metal door. Though the house was in shambles, the access to the abode was guarded as if it was a bastion. She knocked the door. No one appeared.  She knocked again. The silence continued. The intensity of her knock kept increasing with every passing minute, but the door stood there inquietude. A sense of dejection loomed her. Frustrated, she turned away from the door asphyxiated and exhausted, when a slow cracking noise surged back the diminishing hope with extreme urgency. She turned around and saw an old frail figure appearing from behind the guarded door.” Another example of leveraging the surroundings to enhance the character’s approach to a situation. When the protagonist enters the house – probably you can more focus on the conversation and the characters.

Hope you find the blog useful. I will eagerly wait to learn from your experiences as well. Leave your thoughts and comments in the discussion box below.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Keeping Humanity Alive

Not too long ago I was on a Trans Atlantic flight to Hong Kong. To beat the evening traffic I started early and reached airport way before time. I found a quiet place and remained indulged in reading a half read fiction book, intending to finish it before boarding. My sitting area was right next to the customer service desk. The line was not long. There were three people waiting for their turn, while two agents were servicing customers. The agents were taking a long time to resolve whatever issue the travelers had. I presumed re-routing passengers on missed flights would be a complex phenomenon.  Soon, I lost interest in the book and dawdled into observing the people waiting for their turn to get served.

Most of the passengers looked asphyxiated and ruffled except for one person. He was last amongst the three in the queue and looked calm as he patiently waited for his turn. He was smartly dressed and appeared to be in his mid-thirties. About half an hour passed by and the agents thus far had dealt with only two customers.  Before the agents could call upon the next in the line, there was a sudden surge of anxious travelers joining the line. The queue which was just three people long was now extended to over 10+ people.

The first to join the existing line, next to the neatly garbed gentleman, was a lady.   She looked tormented and appeared extremely fidgety. Looking at her I could sense that if she failed to get help soon, she would break down. I presumed she must have missed her connecting flight and was desperate to avoid getting stranded at the airport. The lady had a conversation with the person in front of her, presumably asking him to let her go first. The gentleman allowed her to go in front of him. And then I saw him coming out of the line. I was baffled. He was waiting for more than 30 minutes.  Why would he leave the line when he was so close to getting to the agent?

My curiosity got the best of me and I couldn’t refrain from approaching him. I introduced myself and imposed my question with a clear hint of bewilderment in my voice. He smiled and answered,  “I was on the line to explore my options of getting an upgrade. When I learned that the people behind me missed their connecting flights and are trying to get on another plane to avoid staying at the airport overnight,  I realized my problem was trivial as compared to theirs.”

I smiled and thanked him for keeping humanity alive.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Because I have You

I am not afraid of any stormy night,
When the wind bellows dreadfully,
And lightning cracks the pitch-dark skies.

Nor I fear the thunderous squall,
When the waves crash ghastly,
Bringing everything under its impassive thrall.

It is not that I am brave,
Or a gladiator who can avert a stave,
Nor I have any magical span,
Or belong to some mysterious clan.

If you ask me what makes me take such bold strides,
The reason is simple, for I have you by my side.

In every spark of that lighting, I see your smile,
Every boisterous squall I find your beguile,
And when you are there in every shape of life,
Why should I fear from any stormy night?

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Finding The Right Words

As an aspiring author, one of the most tedious jobs I invariably face is to find that one word, which can express my writing in the most desirable way. How I always avoid getting entangled in those long-winded sentences and attempt to express my thoughts in few select verse.

Let me explain this with an example. I am sure you remember the distinct smell of mud after the first rain. That pungent smell that is so hard to explain, but it lingers on your mind. You can feel it but struggle hard to express it in words. Well, there is a word for it – it is called Petrichor. Will it not be cool to use this word in your writing. Something like,

“You are the raindrop that meddlewith soil,
petrichor raising gently making my heartto moil, 
The colors of rainbow defines your being,
You are a free-spirited anima with a soul that is clean.”

So how do you get such words in your treasure trove? Let us explore

Read voraciously, but with a twist – we all know the best way to become a better writer is by becoming an even superior reader. But reading alone is not enough. To become a good writer you need to exhibit some discipline in reading. Here are few things I religiously do

  1. Select books on the genre you are writing on. Reading the same genre helps in not only understanding how the plots are built, but also to appreciate the author’s choice of words.
  2. While reading, as you come across a difficult word or a word that gets your attention, note it down. Look them up in the dictionary, understand what it means.
  3. Noting the words is not enough though. We are not wired to remember everything that comes to us. So put them in practice. How? Learn what parts of speech the word is. Create your own sentences. Implement it. Experiment it. The more you use them, higher the chance of you using them in your writing.

It is not easy to read a book with such constraints. It takes much longer to finish, and at times may break the excitement of reading. Particularly if the book is interesting. But who says writing is easy.

Thesaurus – a boon or curse: Writing has become much easier than before. Tools like Microsoft Word gives ready access to word banks. While synonym does help, blind use of the same will make your writing look shallow. Here is why

  1. A synonym is a replacement for a word to word. It is not an alternative to a sentence or a phrase.
  2. It is a misconception that using a difficult word makes writing look cool. It is the choice of right words, not difficult that makes writing interesting.
  3. Not all words describe the same situation. Consider the following sentence. “The rescuers marked him alive after the catastrophic storm.”  One of the synonyms of alive is extant. However, “extant” is used more in the context of the existence of documents. So if one chose to use extant instead of alive the sentence will not make sense.
  4. Be careful with the parts of speech. Some synonyms are adjectives. And replacing a noun with an adjective can make your sentence confusing. Consider this. “The fetters clamped him to the ground.” One of the synonyms of fetter is a constraint. However, while fetter is used as a noun in the above sentence, the constraint is a verb. Changing fetters to constraints is not appropriate in the above situation.

So when you use synonym, consider the tense, the parts of speech and enhancement factor before using them.

These are some of the simple, yet powerful ways I have used to enhance my writing. Hope you find it useful. Let me know your thoughts, and if you have few more hidden tricks up your sleeves, please leave them in the discussion thread.

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah