2010: A Plot for the Plot

* * *

“Fascinating” would not even describe the enthusiasm of Liis Variku, the 18-year-old from Estonia.. As her teacher for English Literature and Comprehension, I was intrigued from day one.. Now, after 12 months, Liis was in Finland, and once again she had done me proud.. As I heard her presentation for The European World CLASS Culture Expo 2010, even this late in December, my blood felt warm and I was glued to the television screen.. The Israeli salad that my wife served me as I watched was great on my senses.. cucumber, onion, capsicum, black beans, chick peas, tomato – and a tingling dressing..


The first time I saw her at NorthView High, she had told me of her goal to be an English teacher in her native Estonia.. She also had another project at hand.. The Exhibition of People in Dec, ’10 in Finland, which partially funded her stay in the US was a showcase of people living in 2010 in a certain part of the world.. She was to document the life of 5 people that she would befriend in the US.. The final act was to be accumulated from willing participants, complete with visuals and verbal or written permission from the interviewees..

FIVE interviews..? And in-depth personal at that? An average American would make less than 9 (8.6 to be exact) number of close friends in his/her lifetime.. And Liis had an year to make 5.. I had wondered if that was possible, for I did not even know the name of the great-grandfather who lived next door to mine, let alone if he was dying..

Miss Universe 2010 - Jimena Navarrete
The 2010 Miss Universe: Jimena Navarrete


Today, carefully and deliberately, she was presenting her work..

“#1 is Kushi Ganzorig comes from Mongolia, where the horse to human ratio is 14:1. She had come to the States on a two-year Au Pair program.. One that enabled her to work as a nanny/cook for an American family in exchange for a  monthly allowance, shelter and the assistance required to attend an evening community program for learning English. I soon found out that Kushi was a victim of abuse at her employer’s household.. The husband/father of the house, had repeatedly stole her underwear from the washing machine and also sexually assaulted her without the knowledge of the Lady of the house.. He blackmailed her for 6 months, before she confided in me.. Today, she dreams of being a teacher and helping kids better communicate with the world and she sees English as a means to do it.. In so many ways, her resilience and her will power reminds of a great leader and an inspiring woman in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi. (pronounced Awn Sahn Sue Chee)”

When I first heard about her from Liis, I was embarrassed to realize that Kushi did not tell me anything personally, even though she had been my student much before Liis came around.. And I had to know the reason, why would she be forthcoming to a man again and trust someone with a p*nis anymore.. I mentioned it to a lawyer friend, and asked Kushi if I should arrange for her to go home.. And her decision did not surprise me, because she declared that so much was at stake..

2010 Page

“#2 is Marina Camacho, a strong-willed petite Latino girl.. If the word IRONY had a look and feel, her life would have to be put on a pedestal and be surrounded by glass windows and put on display.. She has recently lost her family in unfathomable tragedy.. When Chile and the world along with it, cheered and celebrated the lives of 33 miners stuck underground for more than two months, she had a personal reason to stay glued to the news, one of the miners was her own brother-in-law.. The day she heard his voice when he was pulled out in a makeshift life capsule from inside the earth some 2250  feet below, the feeling was ecstatic.. Life was great.. Her family was now preparing for an endless season of happiness, when tragedy struck less than 72 hours after he got home.. A giant sink hole swallowed the house the entire family of  aunts, uncles and cousins had gathered to celebrate the safe return of her sister’s husband..”

Marina had later found out that rescuers dug the bodies of her parents and relatives to find that they had laid out a meal for 14 family members and were probably having their lunch at the time of their deaths..


Chile Miners - Under Ground


“#3 Isabella Tudor is a great girl: As a part-time waitress at the nearby Italian restaurant, I had befriended her and encouraged her to reveal her story.. The girl is from Moldova and we soon found out that we both had crazy plans for our futures..

Bella tries to be keep it business as usual, because she cannot let the pain come in the way of her dreams.. In April, when news of her father’s illness reached her, she gathered up her savings, 2000 dollars in total, bought a flight ticket to Moldova to be with him during his last days.. The volcanic ash clouds over the commercial airspace in Northern Europe indefinitely stalled air traffic for days.. The ash clouds were as a result of volcanic eruptions beneath an ice cap in Iceland, and the travel disruption was said to be the highest since the Second World War.. After hopping over multiple  airports for 26 days, all along with little communication with the outside world, Bella made it in time only to touch the ice cold grave stone of her father..”

Bella would joke with Liis, that next time she would prefer to be in a flight diversion situation because someone illegibly scribbled the word ‘bomb’ on the mirror in the bathroom.. That issue is national security, so it would be an emergency and the passengers would at least be treated with great care and respect for the fear of setting off a bomb!

Page 2 - 2010
Lady Gaga in a meat dress; Old woman eating soup; Heart attack at a Taco stand; Angelina Jolie at a movie set;

“#4 is Kyle Gopichund from India: As part of the project, I have 5 people to introduce to you.. And the 4th one has to be Mr. Gopichund, my English teacher in the US and my mentor! Some people just refuse to live a nondescript life..! And Kyle is one of them, he wrote and published Essays to repudiate the popular theory that the Media was imposing on the general public.. That the holy land of Ayodhya was a point of contention and how Indians were divided on who should get the land, Muslims or Hindus.. He presented some interesting research that the young of India did not care as much about religious and communal divisions than their own cell phones and the current movie schedules of their favorite Bollywood movies in the nearest multiplexes.. Of course, the Supreme Court of India eventually ruled their landmark decision of dividing the land between both Muslims and Hindus, which Kyle thought was a great secular ruling that uplifts the principles of Indian Democracy!”

And then as if she was addressing me directly, she said, “Sir, if you are listening, this one is for you! The Finns are warm and friendly people, and they have bidets in their toilets.. And it sure does feel good! Ha ha.. I am looking forward to the year 2011 with your inspirations and your tutelage, I hope to land a teaching position in Estonia soon..”

Landslide victim
2010 China Landslide victim: (REUTERS/Aly Song)

At that moment, I did not have to listen to who her number 5 would be.. For me, it was Liis Variku..

#5 Liis Variku from Estonia: Liis was barely here for an year, but she left me with a lot of memories.. I remember having conversations and debates over coffee at our midtown condo balcony, looking down at the highway traffic right below us.. My wife would occasionally join in, but would mostly be recording us and making fun of our worldly views.. Liis would pose difficult questions, what the psychology of fear meant, and if the quotient of fear was greater in public places when surrounded by 1000s of strangers or while sitting at home in the company of family and friends losing away the few remaining hours of life to an incurable cancer.. The stampede at the Khmer Water Festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – where thousands of people in panic ran across a bridge to save themselves from the rising waters of the river killing around 400 people crushing them under their feet as they ran..

When asked to write a current affairs essay, she had written about the The Deepwater Horizon oil platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and how many thousands of people lost their livelihoods for generations to come.. She wrote about how the world treats America and its richness and how poor people and their misery was shoved off in the back burner both by the Media and BP(The British Petroleum Company) who were playing with people’s sloppy memories.. All in the name of quick turnaround for any claims and financial help requests that they were processing daily – 20 BILLION dollars to be given away and efficiently – That was the agenda, right??!!

All through, the young girl had taught me one great lesson of all.. That there were a lot of people along with her in the United States of America, because it was the land of opportunities where they did not have to give up their dreams so easily.. I was often dumbfounded at the profound nature of her perspectives, but I realized that I shared this sentiment with her and all of them!

She finally concluded her presentation to a standing ovation, with this,

The world in 2010 has seen floods in India, China, Caracas, Pakistan.. a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti.. And some lives have changed forever.. We have also seen the eye-catching spectacle of The 2010 Winter Olympics Whistler, Canada and the breathtaking feats of India for the 2010 Commonwealth games in New Delhi, India.. Here is to hoping that THE YEAR 2011 will be a little better year for the World than ever before.. !!


Winter Olympics Canada - CommonWealth Games India
2010: Winter Olympics Canada – CommonWealth Games India

Is Life a better fictional author than any of us..? Is the idea of a great fiction generally overrated?! Does LIFE always seem to have a better plot for a story??

Are there any stories that you have heard or read this year, that have made a deep and permanent change in you?! What news did you hear in 2010, that you thought was the most impactful, and may be fit the thought of Mark Twain, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”


A foot note: The (hyper)links lead to REAL stories of 2010.. And this story is as narrated by Kyle Gopichund, a High School English teacher.

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Add yours →

  1. Such an intriguing post, but I have a couple of questions – which don’t really pertain to the excellence of the subject matter and story:

    Who is the narrator of this story? Since it seems to be written by a man, are you the author of a fictional post (with true stories blended in)or is the author a guest blogger?

    Whatever the answers, I enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

    • Thank you Paula for reading it thoroughly, I know because of your awesome feedback! I have added more information in the ‘A foot note’ section of the story at the very end! Appreciate your readership, and I am glad that you enjoyed it! To answer your question, the first part of your assumption is correct :) Thanks and have a great day!!

      • I confess, dear Heart, to not having clicked on the links – shame on me. I figured that as I was mostly familiar with the news surrounding them that it wouldn’t be necessary to grasping the full intent of your post!.. As I take the time to view each one, I’m discovering I was wrong. Thank you for your kind and indulgent clarification!

        • Paula, please don’t be sorry! I have tried as much as possible to make the post self-contained, in the sense that there should be no need to click on the links otherwise.. The links and the track backs are only for the readers to check up on extremely unfamiliar news! And also to give credit to the images that I use.
          Trust me Paula, your advice was right on!
          Thank you for this Friday morning check back! It feels exciting :)

  2. Very inspiring, thought-provoking, intense post! Loved the pictures to go along with the stories, too.

    Who’s inspired me this year? You, among others!

    • Gally, thanks for reading and letting me experience what you felt! Thanks for your time and your compliments. It is a tall order, but one that I will try my best to fulfil.. Thanks for the support and your visit today, it is lovely to see you again :)

  3. Rachana, what a grand display of characters. As before, I am left with a strong suspicion that this is all true. Mark Twain’s quotes summarizes it perfectly. However, that simply adds to the intrigue.

    As I write this, Liis is vibrantly alive in my head and I’m feeling that I need to know how all the others are now doing. :)

    • Oh Amy, you nurture me, don’t you?! You try to make me feel the best as I possibly can, and thank you for that! I am glad you can think of Liis as one amongst us, for she is a strong girl, but often is bullet-riddled when she sees anyone suffer.. The other girls and Kyle are walking along with her, picking up and dusting off their sadness, because they realize “pain” was not going anywhere, so, they might as well move on.. :) Thanks for checking on them ;)

  4. The title of this piece alone is great for thought Heart. I will surely write about a story or news that made a big impact on me before the year ends.

    Mark Twain reminded me of this: Fiction sounds like truth because most fiction are based on truth.

    Btw, you might want to edit this typo: ‘Is Life a better a (sic) fictional author than any of us..?’

    • Thanks Poch, I will be waiting to see what you come up with my dear News man :D I like your interpretation of Mark Twain’s quote so much.. Yes, of course, without truth, without the experiences and interactions, fiction can never be that intriguing in the first place! And you justified your “Content Curator” title very much when you pointed out the typo in my piece! Thanks, I will fix it now :)

  5. Thanks for including the Olympics to add some light to 2010 ;-) … it feels a bit depressed to be reminded of all the tragedies that happened during the year and makes a permanent mark when you do so through personal stories!

    People watch soap operas and think they’re no more than just fictional account on life, an entertaining peep show over people’s stories that are not to be believed anyway … they think life is duller than what presented on screen … they haven’t been friends with Mark Twain to know how wrong they’re ;-)

    Life is not driven by some sort of a destiny, nor it is completely out of our control … it is rather our response to the random events, challenges and opportunities thrown at us … and the randomness is what makes it feel like we’re not in control, until we realize we choose our responses … I find this a comforting thought

    I very much like to point to people to the story of Vik Muniz, who became a famous artist because of how he choose to respond when someone almost put a bullet through his head in a fight … I recommend watching him telling his story as he unveils his unconventional art forms at TED http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/vik_muniz_makes_art_with_wire_sugar.html

    2010 was time of growth for me Rachana … I learned a lot, I got out of my cocoon and tried new stuff … but what really made it valuable is the interaction with people, listening to their stories, arguing over various points, learning from each other … thank you so much for being part of that growth!


    • Vik Muniz, smart and edgy.. and definitely conveying what he wants to! Amazing Kima.. thanks for sharing! I know it has been a year of great hurt for humanity.. But natural disasters and calamities have always been part of our lives.. There was so much good and inspiring moments also in the year, but I did not purposefully include too many of them..
      Recently, even I was thinking in these lines, that we are just products of our situations.. And how we react in some trying moments that life throws at us! You are right to think that way!!
      Kima, it is humility like yours that often brings me down to my knees.. I would repeat every word of what you said and for the same reason, I have started to believe in the power of the Internet after meeting so many people like you.. Indeed, 2010, has been wonderful in more than one way! Thank you!

  6. The pleasure is all mine!

    Don’t forget to send me your address so I can send you some Winter Nutella and especially Writer’s Nutela for the holidays ;-)

  7. Hi Rachana,

    As always very fascinating and well written.
    Life and the world are full of tragedies everyday, I cannot tell if one year is better or worse than the other. Fact is that the majority of people in the world live under miserable circumstances, and as long as every 15 seconds or so a child dies of hunger, I cannot say that a year has been particularly good for mankind.
    Everyday disasters are not as obvious as the great catastrophes shown in the news.

    I remembered something interesting.
    In Germany we also have comedians like Jay Leno and on one TV show, one of them said something like:
    “I am now showing you something shocking, unexpected.”
    Then you saw a plane about to land. He commented the entire way while it was approaching the runway. The viewer expected something terrible to happen any second.
    Then, just before the plane touched the ground the show host said something like: “This morning at 8.00 o’clock, a plane landed in Frankfurt airport, and everything went perfectly normal, nothing happened at all. I just thought that when you only see the bad things on news why not show something that is not negative for a change?”

    That’s what I like about some comedians here in Germany – some of them can be serious sometimes and make you think.

    Keep up the good work, Rachana!

    • That is an amazing perspective, Timo! Yes, in light of all these tragedies, I do not know if there is any wish that prays for the next year better than the present year.. ! Even while we are continued to hit by so many natural disasters, Men still find time, energy and resources to wage their own battle against one another.. !
      I love how this Jay Leno counterpart in Germany has sent such a great message across.. The media needs to take a hint too.. More good news and more positive news needs to be out there for people to see and experience.. As they say journalists are messengers who always seem to have bad news.. :)
      Thanks Timo, a great contribution, I am not surprised that you picked this “news” as something that has made a mark on you.. ! His idea is unique!

  8. Thanks for the well written post that inspires.

    There are so many powerful stories that I miss because so much of our news tends to focus on celebrity gossip and other unimportant events on the grand scheme of things–I appreciate the reminder.

    • Thanks SD, I have been devoid of puritanism myself.. TMZ, OMG, PerezHilton, RadarOnline, you name it – I have got it on my Favorites..
      People like you and a few other ‘news’ blogs I regularly read keep me grounded and help me keep it real! Thanks for stopping by!! Have a great week ahead!

  9. theextinctexistentialist December 13, 2010 — 4:18 pm

    I have exactly 8.6 close friends! I guess that makes me an average American. :) This post fills me with the urge to travel the world and meet new people. I’ve only been to three other countries (and that’s counting Canada!).

    • You make me laugh EE! First for the 8.6 and then for treating Canada as a separate country from ours!! Of course, the same applies to Mexico, if it comes to that debate ;)
      Thanks for stopping by and congratulations on your new own personal domain, it is a great step for every writer, to have their own space! Of course, your reason amuses me, that you want to play around with the HTML code :D Wishing that 2011 will be a very productive year for your writing.. And you can travel a country or two!!

  10. Truth is not always factual. This is both truthful and heartfelt.

    Wonderful job pointing to so many of the travesties, both the personal and global.

    You do this very well, Rachana. I receive it as a gift, a precious gift. Thank you.

    Hold on to your values. They are real.

  11. Hi Rachana,

    I admit i did not fully read this post but surely i will come back to read it :-). As always, your post is the best.

    • You are funny FonZ.. !! I am surprised that you even made time to read when you are so busy..! And, if I were receiving,
      1. The SME100 Awards: Malaysia’s Fast Moving Companies 2010
      and 2. The Enterprise50 2010 by the Malaysian Ministry of Industry and International Trade.
      I wouldn’t bother to read and comment! ;)
      Now, it is just your time, and you should enjoy it!!! Congratulations once again :)

  12. Hi Rachana,

    I just read everything. I too made a lot of friends during my time in the US. Even until today we are still in contacts. ( Thanks to Facebook :-) ). When i was in Illinois, i knew one great family, Mr & Mrs Forgy and their daughter, janet. They were like my family. Janet offered help if i wanted to stay in the US after my studies . I thanked her and told her that yes i loved to stay but i came here to complete my studies and to go home. Unfortunately, after i moved to California, some time later i lost contact with them. I wrote about them in my blog post .. http://thefonz1608.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/the-forgys-the-fonzee/ .

    America, the land of opportunities, that was what i wrote in one of my classes in California. But my class teacher kept on telling me not to write that. I did not understand why and she never told me why? And until today i never look for the reason why :-) . Why should i as everyone is unique and the world is also unique. ” I am what my servant perceives of me ” is the word i love to mention it to myself. I must make sure i perceive good things even if i read about sad and bad stories. That does not mean i have no heart but rather i dont want to get depressed and stop doing anything about it. This word is what God says. :-)

  13. I have always felt the division between fiction and non-fiction to straddle a very fine line. Even the author who writes non-fiction can choose what to share of the research he has done. Writing is an art form I admire for the simple reason that the writer must paint pictures with words. You have painted a lovely picture of aspirations toward something better, not only for the characters but for your readers. That is quite an accomplishment, bringing your reader along to aspire to something better. Good post, Rachana.

    • Thank you Leslie, I was not sure if it turned out to be a positive or a negative post.. And yes, I wanted to convey what you say here.. The girls were aspiring to get somewhere and try to be tenacious, even when troubles and tragedies are being constant road blocks.. Thank you for taking time to read me.. It means a lot that you also choose to visit from time and time.. Appreciate it!

  14. Very nice Rachana!

    I enjoyed this one very much, the fact the story wrent along with current issues was fascinating, some questions though…

    1. Was the little girl really being followed by soldiers?

    2. If Liis Variku was the woman responsible for finding 5 people to interview, how come she was the fifth (or did I miss something completely)?

    I have a month break so I’ll be sure to come by and post/read more often, be sure to leave me some good ones!

    Peace, Mr. Mojo Risin

    • Mojo I am traveling right now, I promise I will get back to you on these questions :) Meanwhile you have a great Christmas!!!

    • 1. I have read in Reuters from where I took this picture and also multiple other places that there is a not a single day in the lives of kids and youth from the ages of Zero to 20 in LEBANON and PALESTINE, that have not seen or heard the sounds of war and explosions in their lives.. In essence the war has been ongoing for twenty or more years now and almost all in a day’s work if you will..
      The girl in the picture is walking to school – business as usual for her; the soldier waging war in dangerously close proximity – business as usual for them! Terrifying!
      2. Mojo, as Kyle was watching, he was so engrossed in the thoughts of his interaction and her courage that in his heart, he did not care who Liis was going to present as her ultimate pick for the 5th person. In the first draft of the story, I had thought of writing as if Liis would present herself instead of Kyle imagining her to be (his) pick; but I thought it would sound too self effacing for a modest girl profile of Liis.. :)
      You are right in pointing out the choice of the 5th person. If this was written as Kyle’s first person account, it might as well flow as per his thoughts.. That is what I thought I would end it as.. Thanks for reading and the feedback.. It encourages me to take writing more seriously! Thank you!!

      • Jeeze, that is unbelievable that soldiers would put young childrens’ lives at stake, you’d think someone would have a heart and put their damn weapons down. Oh I see, that makes sense. I hardly get the pleasure of being so curiously interested as I am with your posts (have you read the Chapters to Gally’s novel?? Brilliant!) and I appreciate the time and skill you put into creating such stories, I just hope my curiosity and questioning doesn’t get you annoyed, I critique and question with love :).

        Mr. Mojo Risin

        • I did not get a chance to read Gally in December, but I plan to go back now! Indeed, she is a very creative girl!! :)
          No Mojo, you read me for whatever it is worth and critique it, I appreciate your time and thought that goes into it..

  15. By “Good ones” I meant your posts, (thought I’d clarify) hahaha.

  16. Ok Rachana,have a lovely trip and Merry Christmas to you as well :). Jeeze, I get my vacation and you decide to take yours, hahaha.

    Talk to you soon,

    Mr. Mojo Risin

    • So, you have not heard of the story Tit for tat.. Hmmm.. I will have to tell you that one day ;)
      OK, just jokes here.. I am back, and am working on some tactical answers to your questions!
      Hope you had a lovely past weekend with family!!

      • Rachana!!! Great to hear from you again, besides the toy-induced concussion, how was your vacation?

        I’ll comment further on your other responses :).

        • Mojo, our vacation was great! We visited a few islands of the Caribbean and a few islands of the West Indies and the beautiful country(US Territory) of Puerto Rico! West Indies is similar to India in the sense that there are huge fans of the game CRICKET(similar to baseball in the US) there, and we met a lot of street vendors and taxi drivers who were super fans of the game and even traveled between islands to watch their favorite teams play! It was funny, to see when one of them showed us the picture of Sachin Tendulkar (a Cricket Icon of India) as his Blackberry’s wallpaper :))
          Unfortunately, there is a lot of inertia associated with any such great breaks, getting back to reality is a terrible struggle ;)
          So, that is where the family is now! La-la land!!

          • That does sound like a lot of fun, I’ve never seen a cricket match nor know the rules, but never too late to see :).

            Everyone needs a break from reality now and then, I’m glad you got to enjoy it with your family :).

            I hope you have pictures from Puerto Rico that you’d be willing to share, I hear it’s beautiful (though any foreign territory is beautiful to me).

  17. powerful post.
    I always admired your ability to show people things that are worthy and thought provoking…

    keep it up.
    Thanks for the support of 2010.
    best wishes for 2011.

    • Jingle, thank you for your time! And thanks for the ending my 2010 with a summary of your feedback. I truly appreciate it, it means so much to strike a chord, if the reader and the writer connect, you know that is a great feeling.. I am sure you have experienced that multiple times with your own subtle yet powerful messages!
      Thanks and wish you a happy New Year too!

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