Friday, December 10, 2010

Nerd Alert!

 Even if you are not nerdy you should act and/or look like one. This is the universal truth that dawned upon me this Friday afternoon as I sit entering mundane quotidian data in my journal. Today is a nice day for journal writing—cold weather, a chance of flurries, and a spouse busy with his work. Nothing can open you up like the above mentioned conditions, and if you are lucky enough to have all the ingredients together you leg the world and head for your notebook. For some moments I dabbled with ideas. I looked back with forced-pleasantry at the hinterland in my mind and tried to catch those fast-fish like images and memories that are now there and now vanished. I have, however, finally chanced upon something that I have been meaning to write about for sometime.

Today I remember that one day not so long ago when I realized that I should drown my cute and trendy wardrobe and procure a bunch of nerdy costumes and accessories: an over-large T-shirt with dirty patches, a pair of loose fitting trousers, a beaded neck-wear, and a geeky-eye wear; this last item being a must if you want to resemble something that is even remotely nerdish. I will tell you why I had this apparently outlandish idea. It so happened that a month back Vanderbilt University had several distinguished authors come over and enlighten the numerous writing enthusiasts, English literature aficionados and sleepy undergrads about their writing experience. The series of lectures being unrestricted and free to all, I was there to exfoliate my writing skills.

The series of public readings kicked-off with the appearance of Edward Hirsh, a name I am sure that is familiar to you all; and in case, you haven’t heard of this rhymester—although he seldom uses rhyme in his poetry, just google him.  The reading was scheduled to start at seven in the evening, and there I was with notebook in hand before the soon-to-be-opened entrance fifteen minutes prior to the start of the literary show. Initially I had thought to present self in complete formal raiment; however, later I decided to opt for something more regular— a pair of jeans and an evening top, red in color and snazzy to a degree. Imagine my consternation when as soon as I shimmered in and saw a group of listeners already seated dressed in baggy outfits, their hair undone and wild, their eyes covered by dim and thick glasses—a group of uggles, as you would undoubtedly think my first reaction was, but no, far from that, they were writers, real-life fiction-smiths dressed in a way writers should. I felt intimidated. For a moment I stood staring at them, wondering if I had walked into some other room; I asked a girl with geeky glasses who appeared to have just had recovered from a serious attack of depression, if that was the room the eminent writer would alight. The girl replied in an affirmative and scanning me asked whether I was there for the lecture. I replied nervously. At first I felt she couldn’t digest the news, may be she thought I was an anachronism— and I don’t blame her having just thought the same after drinking in somber-eyed spectacles seated in the room— but then she became almost cordial and told me that the writer would be there in a jiffy and directed me to a seat.

 The room was just another university room: large, white walled, a writing board hung up on the wall behind the teacher’s desk, etc. Having overcome the idea of turning about and leaving the damned place, I seated myself in one of the student chairs and began cursing my husband at whose insistence I had agreed to listen to the blasted lecture. I sat there wondering when the next hour would be over and I would get back home and partake of the wonderful dinner that I had prepared. The thought of food always cheers me, and I felt a little bucked up. I noticed at the moment that the rest of the listening-flock were blowing in, chunnering, giggling undergrads in pairs, and a sea of more nerds. I felt anxious. One of them, a girl wearing a hippy outfit and bogo shoes, seated beside me with a giant notebook and asked me if I were a writer. This is the one question that I dread. In lighter company I would have given her a ripe answer and said that I was a writer, one who is still mastering the art or words to that effect. But now I felt the life gasoline frizz inside me. A wave of diffidence broke in my heart and the vision of nerdy folks chunnering serious stuff clouded my conscience to such an overwhelming level that I denied my profession and replied in the negative.  The girl seemed displeased. I asked her if she had read anything by the poet, to which she exposed a set of fine teeth and showed me a few loose printout sheets. I realized she was a rookie. Relieved, I complemented her on her choice of earrings; she was touched. She complemented me back. “You have beautiful hair.” I smiled. Girls love complements.

A few moments later the writer blew in. He was a grandpa-faced individual with a genial manner and unish to me, nevertheless, they were good and I enjoyed listening to them. I noticed some of the students pushing their pens speedily and writing down every word the writer was uttering. I wanted to use my blank notebook, too. I took out my pen and began crafting words, things that I understood from the poems, basic things that passed my limited admiration. The girl beside me was busy with her scaly thighs; she scratched them absentmindedly and showed no interested to the dreamy poetic lines or to my sidelong glances.  Her notebook sat in her lap, face up and her Pentel Wow! rolled in the page-divider.

After half an hour I had started liking the session and almost managed to turn my fears into serious purpose by trying to think deep. I felt like yawning.  After another half an hour, the session was over and the public clapped their hands. The writer humbly stood at his designated spot soaking in the adulation and giving the audience a glad eye. He dedicated five more minutes of his precious time to answer the questions that we might have. I had hoped a query deluge, but when I saw most of the geeky blighters surrounding me pretending not to listen to the last sentence the poet had spoken and still writing busily God knows what in their ledgers, I felt reassured. Kind of funny it was to observe that the nerds complete from top to bottom in nerdy attire had no question to pose to an academic who was standing with an expectant face on the podium. I realized that may be I was wrong in feeling so much intimidated by their looks. May be most of them were ordinary writers like me engaged in the process of strengthening their skills. Eventually some people rose and posed some questions to the writer, but I didn’t hear most of them. I was experiencing a moment of epiphany. I felt that in this generally flavicomous group I may be a minority in appearance, but I do stand in the same level. I was a writer.

That night when I got home I thought about the experience, turning the whole evening over and over in my mind. I had always found it difficult to walk into a group and tell people that I am a writer. I still question myself if I am indeed one; I am unsure, I am humble. But then it occurred to me that the best way to alter situations of poorly handled career details would be to dress like a nerd. Adorn the geeky outfit and half of the job is done. People will look at you and “feel” the aura of prescience exuding from your bod and would stop short of posing the career query. Judging by the intelligence level of humdrum people I come across in my daily life, I have come to the conclusion that vainglorious boasting is the right way. In case you cannot sell yourself to the world and pretend to be it all, you will end up being a loner. And this is where a nerdy-outfit solves all your problems. Don them, love them, and see the wow glances you get. In a day you can feel, or at least pose, as a space-scientist, a jack of all trades without even trying to be one. It’s all in the dress, a complete package of confidence far more emboldening than a thorough knowledge of a beloved subject. I have been giving this idea of dressing like a literature-nerd a lot of thought. And, to be honest, if in a year I see myself in the same stratosphere, I am going to don such outrageous pieces of clothing. My finer fashion sense may scorn and rebuke my attempt, but it is time Jeeves take a back seat and let Wooster wear his purple socks, if you know what I mean. 

Have a wonderful weekend.