Here Come The Spyders

Here Come The Spyders

I know why you’re here.

You have questions, right? Too many loose ends, too many incomplete stories. You tried connecting the dots, but you need more info. You want some answers, and you want them now. Fair enough.

You’ve come to the right place. It’s my job to tell you what you want to know – if you have the required security clearance, since most of what I’m about to tell you is highly classified.

How do you get the clearance?

Not to be rude or anything, but if you need to ask, maybe you shouldn’t be here.

Fine!

In the interests of full disclosure, and since my therapist wants me to try to be less obstructive about… well… everything, I will guide you to the ISRO liaison office in Mumbai.

Go the file-room in the basement. There will be a guy wearing a grey safari suit. That’s your guy.

How does ISRO come into the picture?

It doesn’t.

Mr Safari Suit is just running a nice little side business, in addition to whatever he does for ISRO.

He borrows their premises, unofficially, of course. He’ll arrange for you to get the required clearance, provided you ask for the right form.

See, R&AW is not about to just give away such precious information. You have to earn it.

So, if you don’t even know which form to ask for, you’re on your own.

Maybe, and I’m not judging here, but maybe, you don’t deserve the clearance for such sensitive and top-secret information.

Hey now, don’t be sad. Show a little gumption! Stand up to Mr Safari Suit.

He’s just another civil servant, trying to bind you in red-tape. Tell him that you want to view the files on The Spyders, and be very firm.

Got your clearance? Excellent! Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. This story will take some time.

First of all, let me introduce myself.

My name is Samira Joshi. I’m seventeen years old and I’m a spy. I’m part of a secret organisation called The Spyders.

I know Apeksha was supposed to introduce us, but eh! Isn’t this more fun?

So, say hello to my fellow Spyders!

Let’s start with Debbie.

A genius with a heart of gold

Oh yeah! When Debbie’s on a diet, meal times have to be navigated like land mines, because that girl has been known to chuck plates at people.

But, if you ever need someone to hack into your government’s secure servers and get you some info, Debbie’s your girl.

Don’t be fooled by her baby face. She could give Einstein a run for his money.

Moving on to Tina.

The first Spyder
Tina and I were enemies, to start with. Now, we’re friends. To be honest, I still don’t fully trust her not to kill me in my sleep. Shh! Don’t tell her that!

She was the first Spyder. She’s disciplined, hard working, reliable, and like a volcano waiting to erupt. Trust me, you don’t want to get on her bad side.

The next Spyder you must meet is Sweety.

Fiercely loyal, Sweety

Sweety’s real fun! If you’ve enjoyed Money Heist, she’s like Nairobi… the PG-13 version of her, that is.

She is absolutely fearless. Well, almost. She’s scared to bits of her grandmother.

And now, the one Spyder that’s most likely to get you killed, because she goes around with her head in a cloud of C-4 and circuit breakers, completely oblivious to the world around her – Milli.

Milli - the explosives expert

As for me, here goes.

The girl who wanted to be a spy
Of all the Spyders, I am the one who was born to be a spy. My parents have trained me for this job since I was a little girl. But now, they say they want me to be a doctor.

As if.

The story of my journey into espionage is encrypted into a secret file called, Along Came A Spyder.

If you want to access that file, do check out Apeksha’s page. She’ll keep you updated.

Uh-oh!

Sorry, guys. I’ll have to end this unauthorised tête-à-tête now, because our boss, Col. Singh, is slightly over-protective.

If he finds out that we’ve been hopping from blog to blog, he will totally cut off our Internet access for the rest of the year, because we’re supposed to be a secret sisterhood.

So, take care. Stay safe and healthy, and what’s more important, stay home!

 

The Inconstant Blogger

The Inconstant Blogger

It is a poorly-kept secret that I have been writing “elsewhere” and not on this blog, the last couple of weeks.  My friend Rasheed Hooda, who once declared me Queen of the No-Niche Bloggers, likes to do to me what I so blithely do to others. Like the Pied Piper, but instead of a flute he balloon-twists his way through the Internet, leaving breadcrumbs and nudging and cajoling until it’s hard not to follow his wanderings. This time, he lured me back to Medium, where I had an account, circa 2015, but only as a reader.

An Accidental Writing Portfolio?

I had stumbled onto the site long ago – The Atlantic has a presence there – and that may be where I first read work by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Is it any wonder, then, that I had never ventured to write, there? I had not seen Medium as it is widely regarded – as a blogging platform. And as a writer who viewed Medium as a platform for more serious, professionally vetted and edited writing, can you imagine my horror at returning there to learn that every comment is treated as a Story? That people had actually “clapped” for some of the passing comments I’d left behind? I had…followers. A lot of followers. 1,277 of them, as of this moment. I’d already built an audience there, without even trying.

Who were these people and why were they following me? Mostly, I think, they were writers, hoping that I would follow them back. But of course, I hadn’t. I hadn’t returned to Medium at all in about three years. I followed everyone back, indiscriminately. And then I deleted all my Stories – my comments. I tested the waters by re-posting an old blog post. A few readers, there, liked it.

And then Rasheed started nudging. Join the Medium Partner Program, he nudged. Maybe it’ll be another income stream, he suggested. I’m all for getting paid to write, but I had no intention of publishing listicles and formulaic blog posts like “8 Things You’re Doing Wrong with Your Life – Pay Special Attention to Number 6,” just to earn a few pennies. Been there, done that: Themestream, Redpaper, Vines… The idea of micropayments, tiny amounts of cash in return for the time spent reading an article – the challenge of holding a reader’s attention long enough to earn a payment for the work – has its appeal. But I was still determined to be worthy of rubbing elbows with writers published in The Atlantic.

I’m Not a Hack, I’m a Busker!

pink and white concrete building

By January, that first “dip-a-toe-in-the-water” story that I’d posted had earned a whole penny. Dreadful.

Then came The Great Pause. Celebrities showed up on TikTok and Instagram and competed for attention with ordinary, but extraordinarily creative, people. They came without make-up or camera crews, and they came with bad lighting and laundry baskets in view. The originality was breathtaking. “We’re all in this together!” we all proclaimed, but almost as soon as we shouted the hurrah, it was clear that we were not, in fact, “all in this together.” The real celebrities still had more expensive homes, even if they tried filming from their walk-in closets. Pandemic brought into sharp relief the differences that separated us: wealth, “essentialness,” ideology, sense of duty, sense of humor, maturity. Who had the capacity to find the silver linings among the scraps of rust; who could turn rust into useful things? And, if nothing else, who had the capacity to entertain themselves and not be bored under #StaySafeStayHome orders?

Normally, I’d have relished the quiet, the solitude, the ability to sleep in late without guilt. I had plans, too. Vague, but serious, plans. I was going to write a novel, finally. But now, it wasn’t a choice, and I felt less inspired, less creative, less imaginative than I’d envisioned my April self. I felt like a small boat, anchored, motor running, with no one at the helm. Rudderless. There were no waves, just little circular ripples.

So. Why not try Medium as a writer, for a change? Why not. 

Busking is performance art. So is impromptu collaboration, as you can see here:

View at Medium.com

two biplane on flightThat was fun.

So Where Am I Going with This?

I still don’t see Medium as a “blogging platform,” even if that’s what it is. Jahangiri.us is my website, and Medium never will be. It’s more like a warm-up area before the performance. As is this, in a way – but I control it. My original plan was to use Medium to increase readership on my own blog. I know that Amy Marley gets that; I think she’s the only reader from Medium who ever followed me from there to here – and that’s probably because I’m one of the few who went straight from her bio on Medium to her own blog.

I think that I have widened my reach and found a new audience for my writing, but there is little cross-pollination. “Build it, and they will come,” is utter bullshit. Marketing and PR are exhausting.

It’s not my intention to drag you, Constant Reader, over there. Although I have done exactly that, to at least two of you – and I don’t think you were disappointed. You will find some of Medium’s best articles tucked behind their paywall, including most of the ones I publish there. But even a few of those are free each month whether you choose to pay the $5/month membership fee, or not. Much of that is distributed to the writers whose work you spent time reading (so no skimming, okay?) My plan is to use whatever pennies I earn busking over there to support my own $5/month Medium membership and maybe help pay for the domain and hosting fees (about $250/year) here.

I’m Not a “Joiner,” but It’s Nice to Find a Writing Community

I’m not big on writing groups, but that’s probably just because it’s hard to find the right one. To build a sense of community isn’t easy, and why would you trade reads and edits with people you don’t feel a sense of kinship with?

Shortly after dragging me over to Medium, Rasheed coaxed me, like a wild bird, over to a Publication called, “ILLUMINATION.” Its founder, Dr. Mehmet Yildiz, has the sort of boundless energy for promoting himself and others that you might attribute to a whole team of PR people. He, himself, swears it has something to do with the strength of his mitochondria, and I can’t quibble – whatever it is, no amount of vitamin supplements is giving it to me. I became a contributor there, and to two other publications: Writers Blokke and The Bad Influence. In the process, I’ve made writer-friends. I’ve connected more with my Facebook friend, Bob Jasper, who is spreading his wings over on Medium as a writer – I’m not the only one Rasheed plays Pied Piper to!

I’ve also learned how to use and administer Slack workspaces, and started building my own little community of writers – independent of Medium or WordPress or YouTube or any other platform, just a small community of friends who don’t talk about the horrors of the day. We write about them, if we must, but for the most part, we’re pretty determined to write about the worlds that live in imagination or the silver linings we’ve found and want to share. We don’t just trade links and outrage and mutual despair. We trade links to say, “Hey, I made this thing. Come lookit!” like excited nine year olds. Because we’re starting to feel energized and creative, and having fun with that, again.

 

Sunny Sundays

Sunny Sundays

Cooler temperatures, blue skies, and sunshine mean one thing: long walks in the park. Kickerillo-Mischer is still top of my list of favorites. The alligators haven’t been spotted in the lake since Hurricane Harvey; I’ve asked a few times. But that’s good news for the raptors, apparently; the fish are more plentiful and a large osprey was circling the lake, diving for his dinner, skimming the surface of the water. Graceful, snow-white herons watched from the shore. Even a gaggle of geese strutted about in the woods.

Chinese geese are so called because they descend from the wild swan geese of Asia. According to Ashton Waterfowl, “there are two kinds of Chinese geese: those that hate the world and everything that moves within it, and those which have to be picked up and carried to their shed. They are so tame that they prefer to stand around your feet and won’t be driven.”

My experience with geese up until this weekend has been limited to wild Canada geese, and they’ve invariably been of the first type. While camping with my son at Lake Somerville, many years ago, I encountered a small flock of Canada geese. I gave the giant birds a wide berth, as three teenaged girls approached, presumably to pet the cute beasts. “Stop. No. Don’t,” I thought, silently, not even bothering to channel my inner Willy Wonka. Those girls ran through five campsites without stopping to ask permission to enter. The birds grew bored by the fourth. 

This flock of Chinese geese waddled right by me, their feathers unflapped. 

Listen While Reading!

A walk in the park is a great way to burn calories! Homemade traditional Scottish Shortbread is a great way to replace them:

Cream together two softened sticks of butter and a half cup of sugar. Mix in 9 ozs. of all-purpose flour. Bake at 300º F for 35 minutes. Cut and let cool, or scoop out of the pan with a spoon and eat warm!

Almost too easy…