When Hellen Keller’s story The Frost King was published in 1892, she found herself accused of plagiarising Margaret T Canby’s The Frost Fairies. Keller explained that she may have read The Frost Fairies and forgotten it. She was 11 at the time.
We tend to incorporate in our work, many ideas and thoughts that are not our own, considering them to be inspirations. I was about the same age as Keller was when I wrote a short story inspired (to be honest, highly inspired) by the eternal story of the Snow White. In fact, I was about to send that piece of writing to a short story writing contest!
Wikipedia says, ‘Cryptomnesia occurs when a forgotten memory returns without it being recognized as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original. It is a memory bias whereby a person may falsely recall generating a thought, an idea, a song, or a joke, not deliberately engaging in plagiarism but rather experiencing a memory as if it were a new inspiration.’ Good that we have a word in place that aids in explaining something that could turn out to be criminal. Bad that it still does not help us save grace.
The year 1994 saw John Cameron Fogerty, the famous American musician charged with accusations of self plagiarism. Fogerty’s song “Old Man down” was claimed to be a musical copy of his previous song “Run through the Jungle” the rights of which were still with Fantasy Records, a company the musician had left to pursue a solo career with Warner Brothers. This was an amusing and important case from an artist’s perspective. Is your work your own after you sell its rights to someone else?
Some instances of plagiarism leave no room for contemplation. The movie ‘Black Swan’ was indeed a Japanese cartoon. However, there are pieces of work that are inspired by some other works or sometimes, incidences. This might make the nuances between plagiarism and inspiration finer. Take the example of Eyes without a face, the song and the movie.
Consider the innovations of Bollywood which has grown accustomed to accusations of plagiarism. You pick a song and begin humming it. Chances are that you will find yourself mouthing words of some other song that has the same tune. The most recent one in news is the song Pandeyji from the film Dabangg2 which has its tune lifted from the old song chalat musafir of the movie Teesri Kasam. Scrambling up of lyrics and music of some songs with an aim to create a fresh (read revised) one is not unknown.
To our delight, jokes have escaped this scrutiny. They can be used and reused for they belong to none and yet everyone.
Last month, we slid into a New Year. When I was a kid, New Year continued to be new only till we got acclimatized to writing 2013 instead of 2012 in notes, letters and cards. I say this because me and my school-mates faced this difficulty at getting rid of the old year in our school notebooks. We would often dedicate one page from our notebooks for some crafty design to pry the pages used in the old year from those to be used in the new one. This bestowed us with a sense of pleasure and ushered in a competition among us to design the most beautiful New Year page with little independence in terms of colours and art. A compliment from a teacher would make for a prize. This would boost the creative intelligence into designing hand-made New Year cards.
I left school and also the madness of designing the New Year page. Then came the trend of New Year resolutions. I cannot recall any that I really made, though I decidedly thought of some, just to speak of one when asked by teachers and friends.
One crazy thing about the New Year that refused to leave me was the belief that things that you do on the first day of the year tend to cling to you throughout the year. This made me ensure that I was happy, did not rise before time, did not cry or fall sick, ate well, etc. The list would never end unless I term the day as the happiest and the perfect one.
This list registered some changes by shifting focus to more meaningful things as I grew up. Everyday errands made their way out of the list while things like wearing new clothes stayed in.
As time passed and I grew older, nothing remained new. Now, new year celebrations last just before the new year sets in. 31st of December is the night to celebrate by eating out with family and friends. The night becomes a night to remember. The madness that I clung to has now left me alone. The importance of the new year is limited to getting a day off from work, reading about how celebrities plan to have fun, going through the important events of the past year and avoiding to ponder at the goals to set for the upcoming year.
I am often inclined to think of God and the belief in Him. (Let God be a He for the ease of writing) Do people really believe in God? Or, is He loved only for His power? Do we love him when we are in need or do we also know His needs? Does He need us? If we are supposed to be His children, then of course He needs us. If we really are His children, then why do we beg for things? Why not simply ask Him like you ask your biological dad? Time and again we have chosen to question the faith in Him.
If God exists, then why is the sinner happy and the innocent in pain? What ‘kind’ of pain are we talking about? Let’s jot down the plight of the mankind. A poor man works hard for earning money to support his family but another man snatches away the money from him. This man gets money without any toil whereas the poor man gets nothing. Both are the children of God. Now, whom should God be with? If you ask any common man/woman like me I will say let the thief be punished and the poor man get his money back. Is that what God will really do? Are your monetary needs more important than the love for God? You want His Godliness or His love? Will this love change if your children go to bed with empty stomachs? And, where is the justice? The thief got the money and I got God’s love and compassion. But does God have to prove His existence every time? Aah..we happened to forget that the thief is also His child. Plus, what if the thief too was in need? But he did choose the wrong way.
That one was easy. What if the thief takes life of a person and God gives no justice? Will you still love God? He could not prevent a wrongdoing from happening. He failed in sending the helping hand. In fact, He has kept the thief as happy as ever but the bereaved family is still suffering. No justice. No relief. No sympathy. God still exists? Fine, He doesn’t have to give evidence of His existence but He has to take the responsibility of His children. He has to play the father of all and in trying to not play down this role, he has to have ‘the power’. He has been so good to so many but failed to be the same to everybody.
If I believe in God, I believe in Him for everything in my life, for the good, the bad and everything in between these two. I will thank Him, blame Him and sometimes forget Him.
When He created the world, He knew He would be questioned recurrently. He wants to be our father and friend but we have made Him God. He wanted to be the rational father and we made Him the miraculous almighty.