“New Girl in the City” (sort of)

After a semester and a quarter spent groaning and carping away in Mumbai (with a few notable existential meltdowns along the way), I only just realized that I never got around to writing the generic ‘new girl in the city’ post. As it happens, this is the oldest, most sacred tradition of the “Indian girl” blog genre and is thus my one true obligation as an almost 19-year-old human of the internet, who just moved colleges and cities on a very confusing impulse. I can’t believe I have neglected to do my bit, I am ashamed of myself and my lazy online existence.

But hey better late than never. At least I remembered.

What will follow is an elaborate breakdown of Rajsi 2.0 with all the tweaks and updates discussed in fair detail.

Right of the bat, I want to confirm the stereotype- this city is ridiculously fast-paced. To demonstrate via metaphor, if Ahmedabad was a happy little puppy frolicking in landscaped backyards owned by the nouveau riche, Mumbai is a ravenous Cheetah on rollerblades tearing through the grasses of wild Savannas. And can vouch for my acute lack of stamina after a number of breathy walks on littered sidewalks and across jampacked roads. So intense is the speed of this bizarre metropolitan planet that I have to literally catch my breath every time I dare leave my apartment (not that I have bothered to change myself to match it any better- the burden of this particular problem lies easily on my shrug-prone, lazy-boned shoulders.)

Now, I must confess of my secret exhaustion. I admit that it becomes increasingly unsettling when I stay out too long in the company of flighty, fun-loving friends who don’t need to charge their introvert batteries as desperately as I need to. In fact, the facial muscles of professional extroverts constantly befuddle me when I see this species effortlessly charm entire nights away at the meagre cost of a little, smudged mascara and mild, breathy tiredness. The lifestyle of the cheery continues to remain a puzzling enigma. (I do not mean to polarise, but I genuinely don’t understand- how do you people do it? I admire even as I whine). The judgemental, slacker lifestyle that I have always shamelessly lived appears to be approximately the same, but I cannot deny that there has been a perceptible change in how I move through the motions of an ordinary day now.

Firstly, I have unintentionally begun to walk fast and developed the sort of urban impatience that honking taxi drivers in the spirit of traffic perfectly represent. I still tend to wander and get lost, of course, but well I do it a lot faster now. Additionally, my ability to avoid all undesired eye contact has almost been perfected and my 180-degree peripheral vision to stare at vague, scandalous college mates could probably shame amateur spy recruits. There is also much to be said about my new, unexpected elitism- I have recently graduated to a whole new level of social escapism and snobbery. Somehow, my approach to companionable acquaintanceship has become darkly egocentric- I use people with brains to clear my own head. I ignore the uninteresting. I vent out my thoughts for personal articulation, and then I leave behind baffled, stressed-out folk as debris. I selfishly navigate through the electric ocean of adolescent group dynamics like an indifferent, hipster jellyfish, with solid defensive detachment and very rare emotional expressions on my face.

Oh, and I have been stealing stationary and cutting my own hair.

Am I a monster now? This has to be the peak of my self-absorption, right?.

And even though I was always one for sharp introspection and generally excessive thinking, the new me makes me quite uncomfortable sometimes because of the way it requires self-analysis and tangent elaboration like an addictive chemical drug. Don’t get me wrong, I am having the best of times, doing what I want to do, growing into myself, dabbling with new ideas, reading interesting things every day.

Life’s great.

It’s just that I have changed, and I am morbidly aware of it. It really irks me how I managed to become so different so easily and that I can pinpoint so many of these developments. My self-image has had to undergo considerable (reluctant) alteration. I am clearly not as nice as I used to be. I hate not relating to old versions of myself and knowing exactly why I can’t.

“People change” is what everyone always tells me, but nobody ever gave me instructions on what to do when I began to change myself.

So keeping tabs on my own evolution (devolution?) is suddenly an imperative in my mind because I have come to acknowledge that one day,  I might wake up in a strange, exotic country with rainbow nails and buzzcut hair and not even recognize myself as a familiar person. It is not impossible. I know that I become an indistinguishable part of the world around me, but I can be so many different people if I just choose to be them. The world is what I see, and what I am, becomes the world.  I cannot resist novelty if I wish to survive and thrive as a human being, both in the world outside and in the turmoil inside, but I can at least try to notice when it is happening. This self-awareness is the foundation of all self-respect in our kind, and I guess I will just have to roll with it.

So here is me trying to hold on to some parts of myself as I let go of the others. On my terms.

Here is me hoping Rajsi 3.0 turns out to be a happy human too.


How Good is the Bad 

“It would’ve required a supernatural intervention for him to have your morality given his environment.”

Methods of Rationality. 

I spend a lot of my free time battling my own mind. There are many questionable things crammed up in there, exploding without warning and pulling me into bouts of deep, unnecessary introspections at inconvenient moments in an otherwise easy, typically privileged life.  I always end up being unbearably lost in the crevices of my brain with questions about very basic things that never have satisfactory answers. Eventually, realizing how fruitless it is to wonder in metaphysical loops, I encourage myself to think a certain way for the preservation of my soft sanity.

But even though I try, or rather aspire, to be open-minded and accepting of all things morally right, I often find myself confused and astray in a labyrinth of highly contradictory thoughts and misplaced sentiments.

Due to my own inadvertent reluctance, it tends to get very complicated. When you put your own beliefs on a high pedestal, you tend to unconsciously belittle everyone else’s, ignoring the basic courtesy of granting at least the benefit of the doubt to the supposedly close-minded and by doing this, you paradoxically become a narrow-minded person yourself. Your open-mindedness becomes restricted to only the things you can comprehend and articulate. You become forever doomed to be blinded by your own self-gratification.  You become judgemental and preachy. You see in black and white, and you fail to forgive.

In these scenarios of intense moral crisis, the dilemma of what is good and what is bad takes centre stage more times than not.

With reference to just fiction, consider this question: Is it okay to kill a man?

Now as a righteous, kind human being, you say of course it’s not okay to kill a man. I believe in Atticus Finch and Disney tropes. Shounen manga and teen fiction trilogies have taught me that taking a life is the ultimate ethical ordeal that is always overcome with successful self-restraint by the harassed, optimistic protagonist.  A hero simply doesn’t kill by virtue of being a hero.

But then you watch a Mafia movie, where underhand murders happen like spontaneous brunch plans and men casually cheat on their wives like there was hardly any moral consideration involved. Here, in a complex world where things get grey, your degree of morality evolves to another, more multifaceted plane, where you now root for the one who kills the bad guys only.

Then you watch a war film, where killing the opponent is survival, and here you just hope for the protagonist to kill as many enemies as he can to ensure his own safety.

You pause, step back and think, and allow your brain to melt.

Of course, in real life contexts, things are hardly as exciting and conveniently direct, but it is undeniable that they are definitely as blurry. Furthermore, we don’t have any protagonists to read. A serial killer is as much the main character of his own life as a Tibetan monk is of his. We can’t just rationally answer if anything is truly okay or not. We can only believe whatever feels like it’s right.

In the end, it’s always about instinct. Screw the law. You can’t deny your prejudices, you can only work on them.

Sometimes you might want to support the infidels, the other times you might love the drug dealers and sex addicts. Everything is dark and the grey area of reality spans almost the entire spectrum of uncomfortable situations.

Having morals while claiming to be open-minded can be extremely difficult as well. An unchecked liberal mindset can lead to moral hypocrisy in certain circumstances and stubborn moral self-righteousness can make you blind to new developments.

Before deciding anything it’s imperative to consider the context and the settings. The Mafia, the Ordinary man and the Shounen hero- all have chinks in their armors. They have as much a right to make a mistake as you do.

You should not guilt yourself with your own half-ripe ethics. Let yourself decide about things, and stay true to your own thoughts above anyone else’s.

As Albert Camus said, “Those who prefer their principles over their happiness, they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.”

So then what can we do to calm our desperately high-strung conscience?

Well, we can catch the winds, hold the grounds and absorb the words and the ways of the world. We can think in relatives. Weigh out our options. Embrace the ambiguity that is life. Open our minds.

Consider shades. And, above all, give chances.

But, yeah, in the real world, it’s not okay to kill a man or to support sexual predators. This is a metaphor. Take it in the right spirit, please.



The inside of my head has scratched walls and dim lights. I am home to multiple disconnected philosophies and second-hand wonderings. The mirror reflection of intensely articulated words and painstakingly drawn out plots that stem in shudders of epiphany- in another’s mind.

I am a copy cat. I photograph ideas with my mimic magic memory and swirl them into new sequences to make them sound like they are my own. I emulate emotions, I retell stories, I think again. I copy, I adopt and even though I fail utterly to be truly original, I create…well, almost. And with all the guilt that veils my worn down learnings, I grow…sort of.

I rise like the flames of an igniting fire on a camping weekend, crackling with newfound energy with each piece of broken wood consumed in menacing flashes of orange. I grow to be more than myself, integrating different minds with bad sewing skills and a crooked needle, reveling in the beauty of words I did not come up with.

There was a dull ache in my heart that thickened each time I failed to think entirely for myself. The lust for creativity was too jarring for my bones and i could not accept my own cripplingly obvious lack of innovativeness. I was lost and I was bitter. Why must everything I think of have already been thought of before?

I struggled with the black manifestations of my inner conflicts in metal armor and chapped skin. I was relentless, I was desperate, I was confused.

Which is why I never realized when I learned to imprint the wisps of my own mind on the ghosts of groundbreaking ideas.

Somewhere along the line, without me knowing, my brain started leaving behind snail trails on the distances it covered, and my opinion grew more to be my own. This felt odd and vague and it was definitely a compromise.

But it worked.

So I do not feel ashamed when my scattered brain mimics genius anymore…as long as it learns to go beyond itself. There is nothing truly new in this world of cyclical traditions and rigged patterns. But beyond the constricted reality of my skull, there exist unexplored fields of evergreen thoughts and blooming ideas. Before I even contemplate planting my own seeds, I must dare to trudge in the high grasses- to take on concepts beyond simple comprehension and still have the strength to wonder about them. To have the guts to improvise.

To make things more than what they are- in a way that is, at least, completely my own.

And so I am a copycat, not much more, but none the less.

Ball Gown Ammunition


My teeth chatter incessantly when winter strikes with its frozen whip, frosting my thoughts and throwing them asunder, leaving me to tremble huddled up in sweaters with thumb holes and curry stains, terrified of my crippling inability to melt the ice on fogged-up windowsills.

My voice stutters strangely when I speak before the glassy eyes of strangers who care too less, floundering for words I knew perfectly well a mere moment back, angry tears brimming and breath frustratingly hitched as I fail to face the red scrutiny of vanilla folk.

My heart betrays me when I steal a glance down the length of a skyscraper, lurching and pounding, beating with unfamiliar rhythms,  depriving me of the calm beauty of the fairy-lit, metropolitan surface that is a bit too below for comfort.

You see, I am a bit of a scaredy cat. My skin is still porcelain. I exist infinitely breakable.

I am armed with nothing but a rubber-band encircling my wrist (for when the going gets so tough that I need to get my head pulled straight into focus) and the shrug on my shoulders to propel all burdens away like a catapult to distances that lie beyond the pride lands, and into the elephant graveyard of forbidden adventures.

And forbidden the adventures remain.

98Because I want to be too many things at once. One moment I am Elizabeth Bennet, revelling in my golden perceptions about the pretensions of society and my own self-assured conquest of the trivial; and the next I am Arthur Dent, casually drifting down the star-spangled galaxy, baffled and numb and craving tea above all else in the absurdity of the boundless universe.

You see, I like playing dress up. I like to ski down the spectrums of personality and breathe in different airs. I like to want. 

So I want to wake up each morning and I want to fall asleep again. I want to have a thriving social life but I never want to leave my room again.  I want to befriend strangers and tell them what I feel about trivial things but I don’t want to give the dark world the benefit of my insecure opinions. I want to burrow into the depths of the world but I want to spread glorious angel wings and fly.

And well, I want to live with no worries for the rest of my days but oh I just can’t WAIT to be king.

In the end, though, I am only left to realize that no matter what I want, at this crisp, electric moment of endless possibilities, I cannot leave my footprints on the sands of time because my paw still falls pathetically in the mould of Mufasa’s legacy, reminding me that my time still hasn’t come yet, that my swords haven’t been forged yet, that my growl isn’t a roar yet, that I am not prepared for war yet.

I need real ammunition before I plan world domination- I need more sweaters in winter, more calming deep breaths on stage, more resolve at a height, and more steel in my skin.

Because for people like me, who want to be everything at once, victory is not as simple as defeating the enemy. We need chocolate and bullets on the battlefield because even as we obliterate, we get hungry. We need gold crowns on our heads and a commoner’s disguise under the cushions of our thrones because we need to be able to vanish when we don’t want to rule.

I like playing dress up a bit too much.

So, you see, before any war, I need to prepare for my own whims.

Because ball gowns are expensive, and the old ones need to be stitched up.

The Stranded Alien

I find it incredibly difficult to introduce myself. When ambushed by the vague curiosity that fuels all acquaintanceship, I never know what I am expected to say, what I am supposed to include in what I say, and, more importantly, if I even know myself correctly. All it takes for me to spiral off into an existential void of philosophical frustration is a harmless, well-meaning stranger who, out of sheer politeness, bothers to ask me who I am and what my interests are.

Now, I meet people all the time so an introduction is a fairly common social situation I find myself stranded in. And yet, whenever I stand before someone I have never met before, prompted to talk out of common curtsy,  my heart inexplicably thumps faster, my brain explosively short circuits and all that comes out of my pathetically mumbly mouth is “I…uh..like…lots of stuff….yeah…books and stuff.”

Because really now,  who the hell am I?

There are too many things I cannot convey about my little-lost iceberg self. There is very little that you, a complete stranger, would even want to know. All that I like is fictional and all the qualities I think I have are based on subjective conclusions people around me have drawn based on episodic interactions.

Am I funny?  Am I smart? Am I creative? Do I really know any of those things about myselfAm I all or any of those things?  Because this new person in front of me, awkwardly smiling in his good-natured uneasiness as I take too long to answer, knows absolutely nothing about me in this amazingly oblivious  moment and I have the golden opportunity to truly express myself as essentially as I can, with the  purest essence of my personality and the most exact explanation of what I really think of the world and myself. The thrill catches up to my confusion but here I always stutter and I here I always fail because you see, I don’t know anything about myself, at all, in that one heated, critical moment.

Let me try and explain.

When I was in 9th grade, I used to wonder a lot about aliens. It is still amusing to see how familiar the extraterrestrials are in science fiction stories. They eat from a strange mouth, they occasionally express emotions, they see through distorted eyes, they touch with finger-like projections, and they sniff through, well, questionable organs, but they sniff nonetheless. It is fairly evident how conceptions of ‘alive’ and ‘weird’  that we hold so deeply in our brains plague our clumsy imaginations. I think it is very close-minded of us to imagine the otherworldly on our skeletons. The aliens might be stones, stars, mattresses, thoughts, burps, cosmic handkerchiefs for all we know, and they could still be more “alive” then we could ever claim to be. Who the heck knows? How can we be so blinded by our own stereotypes?

What makes us so cocky?

It also fascinates me that these carelessly fantasized, unknown creatures from outer space are repeatedly conjured up to baffle us, humans, when, objectively speaking, we are pretty peculiar creatures ourselves. See yourselves from the perspective of an alien and tell me you are not “abnormal”. I mean, we have millions of antennae sprouting from the peak of our bodies, all cropped and coloured. Moist, squishy balls rotate freakishly in two sunken sockets on our fronts, reflecting light and squirting salty water once in a while. There is an odd nob at the centre of our faces that scrunches up when we feel disgusted. We have calcium bricks lining the inside of a cavity that has a monstrous, pink mound of wriggly flesh we use to taste things and to make complicated sounds. There are twisted, semi-circular projections on both sides of our roundish tops through which we perceive noises and vibrations and this,  my friend, is just the head.

The world is a lot weirder than we think it is and once we get rid of all the prejudices and notions that govern our heavily influenced minds, everything seems absolutely bonkers.  And it is amusing and funny and overwhelming all at the same time.

To think of all the things we have made up about this world is a delight in waiting rooms and boring lectures.

I came up with this idea when I was just a kid, but now as a technical adult, I have trouble identifying with anything in particular as a part of my being. There is a weird paranoia settled in my heart that I am failing to see something frighteningly obvious because I have been blinded by the life I have lived. Things are hardly ever how they seem. But they are only what I see of them.

And so, who am I but the sum of all the man-made assumptions and interpretations created by delusional creatures like myself? I am a boring bystander to the man sitting next to me at the airport and I am the smartest of the lot in the loving eyes of my parents. I am a great friend and I am a terrible friend. I am cold and aloof and I am warm and enthusiastic. I am never any of those things at the same time, but in the eyes of everyone around me, I am always a version of myself. So then, I ask again, who am I? 

I think it would take an alien to really know me, or anyone else for that matter. I need to be abducted by a UFO in a cornfield and given a complete psychological and physical probe by the ever-obliging friendly neighbourhood extraterrestrials in their ultra high-tech spaceships to learn the truths that swirl within me in Ferris wheels of confusion.

Because only the absolutely strange can judge my normalcy objectively. And that’s all there is to that.

Oh well.

I am frequently humbled by thoughts like this. When I am asked questions about things as basic as my introduction, I am  embarrassingly tongue-tied owing to the speeding of a thousand pointless thoughts through my mind. The answer is way too scattered and stupid and far-fetched to articulate in my undependable mind.

It is a pain but, ultimately, it hardly warrants any inconvenience to the rest of the waiting world.

So, to the man, who was only trying to be nice and hardly cares about my existential dilemmas, I want to say- I know I am being a fumbling idiot when you’ve asked me something so simple and I know I am failing at this situation terribly. I sincerely apologize for disappointing you so utterly dear polite stranger, but consider aliens and know how utterly ridiculous your question is in the first place.

To anyone I am forced to seek an introduction of, I want to say don’t worry if you think you made a fool of yourself as you grasped at straws of yourself, I only understand too well and I don’t think you are lame.

The Day I Became an Adult a Little Bit


Bhopal is not, in any sense of the word, a happening place. It is a pleasantly silent city with not many things to do and an overpowering atmosphere of general drowsiness- a combination so perfectly dull that it inevitably breeds the kind of lethargy no 18-year-old on a vacation can escape.There is good food, no chores, great Wi-Fi, and absolutely no reason to leave the perfectly air-conditioned room.

Since I moved houses, I struggled deeply to be productive in this city of indefinitely delayed dreams and I proceeded to fail as miserably as Italy did in World War II. Maybe more miserably. I went days without actually walking to another room. I frustrated my sister by taking over her bed and refusing to budge. I did nothing at all and I did it all day. I almost rolled my eyes and gave up on the pathetic excuse of a kid that was myself.

Until one day, a small, withered car arrived at my door with a small, smiley man who insisted on teaching me the frighteningly adult act of driving. I took a moment to comprehend this new development. My parents are scarily vague beings, I thought. But I had to do what I had to do.

And so I had to leave my room.

I had to leave behind my blanket cocoon with all its lazy daydreams and get into the driver’s seat that felt horrifyingly symbolic of future responsibilities. I had to jam my foot down on the clutch, change the gears with wobbly hands, and turn the keys of the car that roared to life a few seconds before I was expecting it to.

The moment the engine ignited, a thousand thoughts fleeted through my cluttered brain, ranging from the predictable plot progression of a romance anime I follow to the ominous surety that I was definitely going to kill someone today. As twisted as it may sound, the idea of the latter gave me an odd thrill and the bullet speed of my train of thought made me unnaturally alert. I felt like I was doing something that required a certain level of competence, and a sense of urgency I hadn’t felt for a long, long while overwhelmed me. I was finally learning a life skill and I could kill if I wasn’t careful.

I got so excited.

The numbness that had begun to characterize my personality faded away in an instant and with a glint in my eye, I pressed hard on the accelerator, welcoming all the adventures the rickety vehicle would bring to me. The car jerked forward and died, just like all of my hopes and dreams as I realized that it takes more than optimism and zeal to make a car move.

Lesson number one: Calm down kid. Take it slow.

So I did one of the two things you can do when you fail this pathetically- I looked at the little instructor and laughed apologetically while ruffling the back of my head- the perfect picture of a good-natured fool.

He was unperturbed, almost as if he was expecting my wild, impatient, unwarranted confidence. Youth must be insanely predictable to the experienced, I wondered while he checked all the controls. As he methodically guided my movements, the car slowly, timidly whimpered to life.

This sound wasn’t nearly the roar of an alpha lion- the effect my sensationalized brain so desired. It was, in fact, a tiny splash- a baby duck going for its first swim.

I sighed. Oh well.

 As the car slowly stuttered forward, my heart fluttered and my breath hitched. For the first time in my life, I was completely in control. Nothing was holding me back. I was manoeuvring this vehicle all on my own and the sense of purpose this revelation gave me made my chest swell and my eyes shine. I enjoyed it deeply until I noticed the break and clutch near my instructor’s feet and realized how idiotic it was of me to presume that all the reigns were in my hands. Who the hell was I? Just a naïve student a bit too enthusiastic to actually learn anything.

Lesson number two: Don’t forget your place.

 And so I began to learn driving.

 After a day or two of hopeless flailing, in spite of my pitiful hand-eye coordination, I learned to go forward without any perceptible jerks. I changed gears from neutral to first to second with hesitant and careful movements. I tried so hard to smoothly manipulate the clutch and the break.

There were too many things to keep track of. Mirror for the back, mirror on the side. Depth perception. Calculated distances. Steering wheel. Potholes. Speed Breakers. Blind turns. Impatient drivers and honk, honk, HONK.

 I wasn’t excited anymore. I was concentrating too hard to be emotionally aware of anything. My mind was entirely focused on the road and the controls in my hand. I was completely in “the zone”.

That’s why I didn’t notice when the instructor stopped guiding me. I didn’t acknowledge his smiles of approval each time I slowed down before a speed breaker or honked when we reached a blind turn. It took me a long time to see that the little man beside me barely touched the brake and clutch at his feet anymore.

Four days later, as we were cruising down a relatively empty road, the instructor directed me with two simple words that brought the old me came back for a moment with a pleasant jolt of surprise.

“Fourth gear,” he said, as naturally as if he was telling me to turn on the indicator before a turn.

I looked at him puzzled, momentarily unaware of what this sudden development meant. I pushed the gear forward as I pressed the clutch and in that one smooth movement, it hit me. I snapped out of my trance and noticed how different everything had been in this very seat a mere few days ago.

I realized that for a while now, I had been on my own and I smiled observing how ridiculous it was that I hadn’t even noticed.

Lesson number three: Don’t think too much, kid. Just do what it takes.

 When I got out from the car on the fifth day, I knew I was different. I knew something now. Even if that something was as trivial as driving a small, stupid car.

Some part of me grew up along the road (get it? Because driving? No? Okay.) And even if it exists deep, deep, deep beneath layers of stubborn childishness, I know now that it is there.

…..and that sort of makes me uncomfortable.






The Truth in Our Tropes 

In the past year, I have arguably wasted a lot of my precious time (that could have been spent dancing and socializing in lively, youthful parties or, alternatively, researching and discussing intellectual legal matters) on things that are generally perceived as being utterly pointless – if not completely juvenile – by most people my age and older.

To summarize – I read a few too many story books, I discovered crazy strange fan fiction, and I watched way, way too much anime.

The funny thing is, I can’t bring myself to believe that I wasted all of the time that so many claim is forever lost, down the drain of persistent procrastination. I had quite a lot of fun on all of my many simulated adventures and I learnt a lot about several useless things.  I absorbed multiple stories and explored numerous avenues of flamboyant creativity. I had a great time.

And fun does not warrant regret.

Incidentally, I also became accustomed to all the strange elements that hazily, clumsily, frustratingly separate fiction from reality. I have always been one of those sad, gullible geeks that fall for fantastical explanations far too willingly, instinctively weighing how exciting and cool a prospect is far above how pragmatic it is in real life circumstances.

Fun fact: I switched from 11th-grade science within a month. 

My flawed judgement and illogical decision-making are results of that misleading, deceptive border that divides the real from the unreal. For instance, if you tell me Atlantis exists, I will convince myself to believe you, even if the evidence is dubious at best and the source is a homeless man in a cardboard box. Why you ask? Because I know too many stories where reluctance to believe in something bizarre was the root of all conflict, and because I like to hope for the mythical and the otherworldly. I am, partly, a product of everything I’ve read, watched and experienced. And as a result, I am pretty damn easy to fool.

But, well, even a fool learns to recognize patterns over time.

Which brings me to the point of this blog- TROPES. For those of you who don’t know what they are, think of them as popular plot devices. Frameworks along which stories pan out. Gimmicks and tricks that a writer employs to lure in crowds. 

The art of identifying tropes fascinates me because when you try to trope, you learn and explore the psychology behind fiction. You understand the algorithms that create good and evil and everything in between and you know when you are being played. You appreciate patterns, you embrace ridiculous concepts, and you capitalize on imagination. You learn the ways of the fictional worlds. 

It is so goddamn interesting.

One of the many popular tropes that I’ve come across in my recent fantastical endeavours is what I like to call “The Mulan Haircut”. You know exactly what I am talking about.

The meek, helpless heroine with no apparent skills or distinguished personality traits cuts off her long beautiful hair with a fierce slash of a sword and emerges strong, independent, and decidedly badass. She becomes worthy of being acknowledged by her one true love and, after a dramatic monologue or two, goes ahead to take the enemy head-on, armed with her strength of character and a bunch of awed comrades. Haircuts are quite the craze in fiction.

But real women, who are known to do something drastic to their hair after a bad breakup or a horrible day at work, are scarcely seen reclaiming thrones and defeating villainous adversaries in battles unto death. Unrealistic, clichéd and pointlessly theatrical, you might say. But that’s not the point. Forget the setting and the bright character constructs and focus on the sentiment behind the haircut. It’s worth noting how the incentive stays essentially the same, fiction or reality: a deep, almost desperate longing for change. The message is constant – that worlds may wary and faiths may waver, but fierce female protagonists will continue to kick ass in their own versions of reality. And if it takes a haircut for them to get their game on, then so be it. Bring out the scissors and the fussy hairstylists. Or, alternatively, a sharp majestic sword that stands for old fathers’ warrior legacies. Whichever works better.

Much as I hate being deceived by intensified metaphors, I also love the sliver of reality in what these bizarre tropes come to express. There is a deep-seated emotion that pulsates through the veins of every hackneyed concept. There are countless fictional universes with sleek, fearless heroes and socially awkward, nerdy sidekicks and unstable, megalomaniac villains- all advocating the same old, comforting belief that evil always perishes and good is worth rooting for.

You roll your eyes but clichés sell. They tell you exactly what you’d like to hear- and their credibility as dependable trajectories is evident because they have been used with success for years before you even came into the picture. This is what earns them the title of a cliché in the first place. So what I am saying is that it does not make you weak to give in sometimes. People need a few delusions to take on the world with confidence. I mean, how can you ever believe in never giving up if your favourite character loses the ridiculously overpowered battle at the end of a long immersive epic? Why would you dare dream up a romance if the ordinary hero didn’t end up with the enigma of a heroine he fatefully encountered? What would chill you to the bone if the villain refused to be quintessentially creepy and manic?

Cut the writers some slack, man.

Sure, you will get bored of all these repetitive ideas eventually and crave more from the story than just a feeling, but you will still secretly watch cheesy romantic comedies after a long day of work. You need your classic, feel-good tropes once in a while. Admitting that is cool. The creativity of an artist cannot be accurately mapped, but nothing prevents us from examining the formulas and enjoying them nonetheless.

However, what is even more interesting than the reliability of these old tricks of the trade is the constant change that media experiences with new audiences. Today subverted clichés sell much more in this world of hipster glasses and compulsive cringing- We as a generation crave new in the face of the old. We roll eyes at happy endings and we seek edgy novelty in our stories. We aspire to rise above the classics and create a more precise reality. 

But here is the thing- As fiction ages with the spastic swings of perpetually erratic fan preferences, so do tropes. They don’t die out, contrary to popular beliefs. They evolve, turn in on themselves, and breed new clichés. They become precedents and benchmarks and points of reference, providing the basic raw material for new satirical interpretations. 

So, the bad guy saves the day, the hero reveals dark chinks in his personality, and the damsel chooses to love the dragon more than the prince- and the reason we enjoy these premises so much is because we are aware of the old stories these new ones are different from and on what grounds they are different. There would be no innovation if there was no convention.

It is amazing how stories twist and turn and evolve and recycle into beautiful things over and over again. 

And you know what? Nothing excites me more than the thrill of the unknown rising from the roots of the only too well known. 

This is why I stay loyal to fiction. No matter what all the “mature” readers from the fancy bookstores say, I strongly believe that you can never get bored of the unreal, even when you know the ruse. New things are always right around the corner -waiting to be thrown at you by a mad writer who dares to venture beyond the obviously pleasing, slowly merging into the mainstream of growing ideas and increasing acceptance, sneaking their way into your preferences and hoping, with a thousand fingers crossed, to somehow amuse you with their existence. Entertaiment is tough business.