Friday, March 28, 2014

A Missing Aeroplane in the Indian Ocean and Other Musings....

Some things just upset me. Like this one: a jet plane from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing veers away and is not seen again for more than two weeks. Information comes very slowly over the media: much tom-tomed (yes, that's the word) as on-the-spot reportage and live coverage. I think of the relatives of people on board, their desperation, their stoicism, their occasional outbursts. Is this the modern world we live in? Is this the technological advancement we have made - making soldiers, most likely to be soldiers, looking out of windows to spot some tell-tale sign of the jet. Has the suicide/terror angle been investigated? Is this some kind of modern Hara-kiri?

Well, no one knows.

India said it will join the search and quite forgot about it. Well, um, it happened in our back yard, the Indian Ocean and we forgot about it. How else do you explain the virtual blanking out of India from the references by the experts. "!@#$%^&* unka plane gaya hai, hamara kya jata hai," they must have said in hushed voices. But there were Indians on board and Indian planes should have been sent for the search in the Indian Ocean. Of course, a great public relations opportunity of making use of a much international aeronautical disaster to display our advancements and achievements was lost. An Indian plane should have reported that it has spotted debris. We owed it to the world and the families of the compatriots on board. Largely situational albeit a significant positioning as a power of consequence in the Indian Ocean. On the other hand China offered to snoop around in our territorial waters (the ingenious Chinese know their diplomacy and war tactics much better).

Well, we wait, we wait for what? For Godot? For some news from Australia, China, Malaysia, even Thailand. No, not India.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Man in Light Bulb Is No More! R.I.P. Khushwant Singh

I saw him at Tata Litlive, a frail old Sardarji, talking to someone at the Experimental Theatre where he was going to receive a lifetime achievement award. I wanted to go and introduce myself. But what do I introduce myself as? As a writer I don’t anything substantial to talk about, all I have is a bunch of short stories, poems, a blog, and a novel permanently in a state of suspended animation. Well, er, hum. Here is a man of substance, considerable amounts of it, charm, wit, and achievement and I was overwhelmed. That is to say I didn’t muster the courage to speak to him. And, damn! I bungled that opportunity, which will never come again. I thought writers like him are immortal, they don’t just die. So, no worries, maybe, after the novel is published I could introduce myself and give him a copy of my magnum opus.


Alas and Alack, that’s not to be! The sardarji in a light bulb is no more. Mario’s cartoon of him, pictured him in a light bulb. Why I don’t know, because Mario is also no more. It could be that he wrote at night, or, it could be that ideas for his columns spring to mind like a light bulb, a sixty watt one. Writers are such mysterious creatures.


My first acquaintance with his writing was through the Illustrated Weekly of India which he edited. My dad would bring the magazine home from office and immediately all the neighbours would want to read it. (Actually they wanted to ogle at the semi-nude pictures.) It contained salacious bits of information no newspaper dared to print in those days. He would not spare the holy cows of society. He satirized Amrita Sher-Gill’s paintings, he rubbished Godmen like Rajnish, he spoke boldly against Bhindranwale. Nobody was above his acerbic wit, he spared no one: neither self-styled gurus or punch-drunk divas. Sometimes you hated him for his frank criticisms; sometimes you loved him for demolishing an icon. His style was simple and he gave his journalists full freedom. I have read his articles and columns but not his novels. I mean to, soon. This is a loss that must be recorded in letters of black in our literary history.


As I am writing this I receive a call from a friend who worked with him in the Times group. He says he used to come to office in a tee-shirt and mostly his pheta would be either blue or yellow in colour, and that he was jovial with the staff. This is quite a departure from the norm because those were the days of casteism in the editorial echelons. Forget editors, not even assistant editors would drag their stiff asses to the copy desk to see how a story was going. But he changed it all and we got a new crop of editors – Akbar, Karkaria, Nair, D’Monte – all who believed in his style of running a publication.


Rest in peace Khushwant Singh, man in a light bulb!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Working Hardly on the Novel - Love Writing; Hate Editing

Sorry for not being in this space for some time. It's that I am reading the novel on my Kindle and have noticed a lot of printer's devils - hm, the abominable creature's guts - in them, which I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

I love writing. But it's the editing that I hate, no, detest with all my being. While writing keeps you entertained and innovating, it's the editing that kills. I have edited the novel four (repeat four) times and I guess there is one more editing to go. 

So there goes me, a doddering old idiot, a tottering fool, a cranky and bankrupt writer back to another editing. I should have gone back to painting which would have been more lucrative. Ho, hm. 

Wish me luck, because, sorry folks, it's going to take a while.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Honoured to Be Felicitated by David Sassoon Library

I have only served in two managing committees so far: the church committee and David Sassoon Reading Room and Library (see pic), the iconic library in Kala Ghoda where the literature section of the venerable Kala Ghoda Festival takes place.

The David Sassoon Library
The Certificate of appreciation
While my service to the church is understood and appreciated, I was pleasantly surprised when Adv. Vivek Ajgaokar, President, David Sassoon Library (DSL) decided to felicitate me along with other who have rendered service to it. Ergo, the neatly gilded certificate was conferred to me at a function in the refurbished library in the presence of dignitaries, an MLA, judges, lawyers, and sundry others.

Accepting this in my own humble way (IMHO), I said a few words about the library and how I came to be associated with it. (I confess I didn't do much good for the library except select some good books for it.) Which went thusly:

I was appointed editor of the Bombay Management Association's journal AMBIT by none other than Mr. M.B.Bhaskare, former MD of Greaves Cotton. The association is situated in Army & Navy Building, where Westside is at present. Actually Westside used to be the atrium of Army & Navy Building. And further, in actual fact, this atrium was the entrance to the Army & Navy Stores back in the halcyon days.

Ah, how the memory wanders over these stray threads of my past. Those were humongous times spent reading in the DSL and watching shows of Hussain, Raza, Monet and Picasso at the Jehangir Art Gallery and the NGMA, National Gallery of Modern Art for those who came late.

Thanks DSL and Adv. Vivek Ajgaokar for this honour.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Danger of Doniger’s Book Pulping

Wendy Doniger’s book Hinduism: An Alternate History was pulped. Enough has been written about it by the pundits of prose and I need not go into them here. But there are two aftermathic consequences I wish to draw attention to here. The book must be pulp by now, rotting in the gutter or in the recycling factory but two things give me sleepless nights, i.e., causes for frequent hotness under the collar.

One, first and foremost is Censorship. There is grave danger here. The publishers instead of being editors would turn into censors and will stop considering whatever they don’t like. The excuses they can mouth are so many:
No, this won’t sell
No, the plot line is weak
There’s no market for this
To them I say: first you publish a cerebral author writing about controversial and topical human issues and then see if there is a market for it. With this attitude of censoriousness nothing controversial can be published in India and we will have more cookbooks, hagiographies, and travel directories. It’s better not to take a risk than try out something that could turn controversial. It’s as they say: sit at your desk for 20 years and then complain that nothing ever happens.

The danger is in us becoming a people without history and a people who needs foreigners to write our history. We then become a people whose human condition went unexamined and we complain that foreigners have a stereotypical attitude towards us. Heard that familiar refrain, eh?

Second, is self censorship. This would be a corollary of the one mentioned above, i.e., censorship. When a writer finds that his/her works are slammed even before they could see light, then he/she goes into a shell and becomes his own censor. This is also a virulent disease in society. We find hundred of articulate people who write well and they fail to find a publisher to give them the opportunity. They go into a shell, become depressed and begin to think they aren’t good enough.

This is a phenomenon that is really happening in our society. There are so many narrow-minded vigilante groups around that we tend not to take up issues which we think are important for our own benefit. One of them is culture vigilante-ism. This is the most pernicious of the brain-dead groups advocating going back in evolution. The reasons they trot out are, “but that’s not our culture,” “but, we need to preserve our culture.” Well, if culture is to be preserved then insert it in a bottle, pour some formaldehyde in it, and keep it on the shelf for all time. We would never have progressed from leaf-wearing Neanderthals if we believed this type of people.

A culture is as good as its ability to adapt. And, adapt we must to changing patterns of life around us. Otherwise, we would go the way of the lemmings. Sorry, lemmings, no harm meant.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Not Been Blogging for a Long Time. Now I Know How to Upload My Writing to Kindle

Yeah, I know, I have been so involved with my Kindle that I have not been blogging these past days. After all, it's a brilliant invention and I have been reading loads of stuff.
I carry it wherever I go and am a bit smitten by its dark and pretty looks.

Now what I have done is upload my novel to my Kindle and, there it is, as if it (read I) have already been published. The formatting is as of a published book and everything is so presentable, it makes me wonder why I didn't buy a Kindle earlier.

Of course, during the reading I am watching for bloopers in the plot and the language,
little, little inconsistencies here and there, no,
as Catherine, Dinshaw's mother would say. It helps that the novel is one big file and not many small files, so that I can browse whichever portion I would like to edit.
Also, a printout wouldn't give you the feel a book, the font for instance, as the Kindle can.

How I went about it is as follows:

When you buy Kindle you get a Kindle email address, something like This is just a concept email and don't try to open it on your Outlook or elsewhere. When you mail your documents to you
documents will be transferred to your Kindle device for free [Advise: you should be logged in to Amazon and should have a wi-fi connection.]. If you want it transferred without wi-fi you will have to pay a fee for their document transfer network, Whispernet.

Simple? Do let me know if it works for you. Just imagine the joy of having hundreds of boring documents in a free-flowing Kindle format for you to read in trains, in cars, in monrail, in metro,
doctor's waiting room,
well, whatever!

I think Amazon and kindle should pay me for this recommendation. Yeah they should.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Trying This Post from Our Kindle

Ever since we bought our Kindle Paperwhite we have been experimenting new things on it: how to hilight a portion of text and have it sent to FB and Twitter, how to read email and browse,and more importantly how to download books and articles. So, kind readers, this-blog-is-cool fans wenare trying out our first post on the Kindle. Hurrray!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Finished Another Landmark - Copy Editing the Novel

Another landmark! No, nothing to do with Landmark, the bookstore, of which we are a regular visitor and fan, though we have seen the area for books shrinking, of late. Last time we were there we bought an expensive leather shoebox which we intend to use as our toiletry box. An expensive toiletry box from a book store? Dumb us! Why are we a bibliophile and not a clothesphile, or, toiletryphile, for starters?

We finished another painful editing process on the novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard. This time it was copy editing, removing silly spelling mistakes, respecting word territory (we make this mistake too often, i.e., using same words repeatedly in close proximity), removing needless footnotes (there were too many, in the final copy we intend to eliminate all footnotes), deleting self-indulgent passages (of this there were too many), eliminating literary flourishes (Ahem!).

All this because, in the madly competitive world of today, where anyone owning a laptop is writing a novel (ya know, "am writing a novel" is the best pick-up line there is, beats "I have seen you somewhere"), publishers depend too much on literary agents to turn out publishable manuscripts. And, this is the sorry part, literary agents won't look at manuscripts that have simple flaws, no matter how good they are (they receive too many submissions that are utter tripe). We don't blame them, poor fellows, much harried as they are about copyrights, territories, and suchlike.

Now, boo hoo, we have to sit down and carry out all those corrections, 350 pages of them. Writing sucks. Why weren't we a painter, an architect, a musician?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Singing and Strumming at a Christmas Celebration!

The occasion was Kairali Belapur’s Christmas celebrations and friend Henry wanted me to sing a song. So I dug out an old Christmas song I had written and composed, changed a few lyrics, and sang. The change in lyrics was because when I actually stood and sang there appeared to be some tunelessness, some mis-match in the harmonies.

Singing and strumming... it isn't easy. My right hand is a blur!
Then there was the situation, the stage fright to be thought about. My son said, “Papa, don’t make an ass of yourself, one mistake and they will laugh at you for ages.” He is my biggest critic. Son, Papa can handle all that, I am, sort of, well, used to all that. Son didn’t come for the performance, so as not to be ridiculed by friends. Wifey was supportive. But then, can I do it? What will those Malayalis whom I meet everyday think? They don’t even know I write, write poetry, sing!

So I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach as I sat through the program. There was a lot of Karaoke singing, which is acceptable these days, I guess. Then my turn came and I went on stage, after some backstage shenanigans. One of the singers, a pretty young lady was so overcome she refused to sing despite a lot of coaxing by her mother. Then – for the first time in my life – I sang standing up strumming my guitar. Hitherto, I had only sat and played the guitar. Must say standing up, playing the instrument, and singing is tough. You have to concentrate on so many different things. But, I managed fine without nervousness, well, not much.

Midway through the performance I felt my strumming becoming unsteady. Haven’t I rehearsed this for three days? Panic. Overcome by singing the choral part twice, no, thrice. Then it was time to say “Thank you, God bless,” and go off stage. Wifey says applause was deafening. A woman sitting beside her wanted to know how I do it. As if wifey knows how I do it. Hehe. Takes hundreds of hours of practice, lady. I am self-taught, so, it’s all the more harder. All those lonely hours you would be watching television serials, I am strummin, and singin! Nothing in life is easy, really, nothing.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A Few Musings at the End of an Eventful 2013

A few thoughts at the end of an eventful 2013. We live in troubled times. Well, yes, that’s an obvious truth we need not emphasise. However, trouble is of the variety that never existed in our days, halcyon days in which we lived a deprived but enjoyable life nevertheless. Yet, we ignore certain realities, take risks, trust our intuition – which turns out to be wrong – and proceed gingerly. We forgive but we can’t forget. We hold hands and try to forget those piercing barbs aimed at us, we gamely accept kitsch such as reality shows and the petty tripe shown therein just to go with the flow. And, this worries us. Time heals but also leaves scars.

Many people left us for their heavenly abodes, among them our friends. Sarasa Gopal’s death shocked us, as did that of Varghese Mathew, a regular church-attendee and active member in all spiritual activities. You were never meant to die, people. You were supposed to live and share the milk of human kindness and joy with us. As the above, so did Mandela’s departure disturb us. We have an idea that may be a distortion of truth which goes: God calls all good people to him and leaves the trash – like us – to haunt the earth with our inanity (MS Word changed this to “insanity” and, shocked as I was, changed it back).

India’s biggest business brat (we call him immature little chap [ILC]) drunkenly crashed his car and hurts a few people. We say, no, it’s okay, brats are meant to crash cars. What else are they for? Already police may have been bought. We know. This brat’s mother – who is into serving the poor – doesn’t like to see peons (this is hearsay from someone who works in the office) around the office. So when she arrives peons are told to hide their poverty-stricken personage somewhere. All this they do because the brat’s grandfather worked hard and built an empire for his sons and grandchildren. We have ingrained in us this concept of dynasty, the bade log (big people) syndrome which makes things easy for the ILC to get away scot free. Is this a good thing? Why don’t we introspect on this?

We had the occasion of working with a few ILCs. Believe you me, they, with their immaturity can make your life hell. We had to correct their incompetence and also praise them for attributes they didn’t have. Another ILC is making it big in music, another ILC is making it in films, another ILC is making it in politics. And, ironically, we all are standing aside, giving way to these ILCs. Nay, we are even endorsing them and condoning their transgressions with the law.

One such ILC who is in prison now, should have been in an institution long ago for drug possession and terror-related activities. Another ILC is facing manslaughter charges for recklessly killing a few people with his SUV. We shut our eyes to all these, seemingly trivial atrocities, which really aren’t. Then can we blame them for turning into monster wife-beaters and social psychopaths? Can we invite them for a public function knowing their background? Can we wait in queue for a glimpse of them inside a theatre, hall, or, public place?

No, none of the above. But they are the pillars of society, turning up at social functions and invited to functions of Governors, Prime Ministers, and Presidents. So, hm, where are we going wrong? Can morality be judged by the tenets we clung to earlier? We don’t know.

We digress. On the culture-literature front we see nothing great happening. The Tata Litlive and Times Carnival went by without much ado. A trend started by Pablo Ganguli with his “Kitab” events has set off a chain of literary festivals throughout the country. Hats off to Pablo. Though he was ostracised because of allegations made by vested-interested people, he was the precursor and originator of the idea of literary festivals in India. We wonder why the same people who criticized Ganguly have their tongues firmly in mouth about the other festivals, where they may have been treated worse.

Our politics will see a cataclysmic something happening this year. The AAP’s success will change the equation quite a lot. Popular leaders have upset staid political set ups – such as Congress and BJP – before as well. This is the age of instant gratifications and in a fire if you shout “follow me I know a way out” people will follow you. Well, ahem, that’s what is happening to the world now.

There’s more to be said but do come again to read them. Meanwhile, saying goodbye with hope for the new year that’s at our door. Happy 2014!