Thursday, June 30, 2011
Educate, enlighten me, please, please, please!
By the by, we are using acronyms like mad. Modern world will be totally unrecognisable to a 19th century visitor, methinks. What is PFA? It's "please find attached." What is FYI? It's "for your information." Do we have to go to all those lengths. I wonder why (IWW).
ROFLAMAO is commonly used. It means "rolling on the floor laughing my ass off." Really? Are you doing that when you write that acronym? Hardly. You would be sitting stooped and smirking like a computer-addicted, keyboard junkie. If we roll on the floor, all our kilos would complain, I am sure.
Come on, let's be clear, let's be simple, there used to be a time when people stopped and smelled the roses. Now we find plastic roses probably smeared with deodorant. **Gross**
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
There's such vividness and wondrous rootedness to the locality in African writing which is, however, lacking in the writing of my peers in India. Things come out in all earnest and rawness. After all, most of our literature is generated by the western educated (preferable non-resident) Indian. A Cambridge or Harvard education seems to be a sine qua non. Oh, you should hear the uppity accents in writer meets and writer soirees. True British, or "Friends-ish (the sitcom, I mean.)." I have written about this before, but nobody seems to care. Is it lack of talent, or our education system which is to blame? The other day I saw a man in train reading a Chetan Bhagat novel with his fingers pointing to the line he was reading. I guess he is a new convert to reading and he is starting with someone he can understand. This I like. My son also reads Chetan Bhagat and thinks he is a great writer. Hm. I don't think he can digest Salman Rushdie, or Amitav Ghosh.
I have tried to write with local themes and local speech - nothing great according to my son - but the results have been, at best, lukewarm.
Look forward to gorging on the stories in the present Caine Prize volume titled "To See the Mountain".
Monday, June 27, 2011
I think I'm a control freak by nature, but one of the things I look for in other people's writing is the ability to confer freedom. That's what I want to be able to do myself. I like a writer who doesn't have to be in total control of how their readers react. More mystery, less explanation. All I can say is I'm working on it. But it's so hard! I really feel I'm just at the base of a huge mountain called 'learning how to write'. I'm still only 35. Learning to write is a task that takes up your whole life.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
"Be careful what you water your dreams with.
Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dreams.
Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success"
If only we could water our dreams with optimism and solutions instead of worry and fear. My fears aren't what it used to be. I used to be a coward. I have now gotten rid of my fears and can perform better than I used to. I guess for performing one needs to concentrate and be prepared and not be afraid.
Anyway, I have spoken in public and am a trained public speaker, which gives me confidence. So over the coming weeks I will be writing my presentation and rehearsing it before my wife. Alas, she is the only audience on whom I can inflict my creative spiel. I am thankful to her for the various improvements she has suggested in my previous appearances before audiences. Hope she does this time around too.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
|Sunil Poolani, rebel, writer, vanity publisher , he wanted to create history in the Indian publishing industry. But the end was indeed sad. His addictions put paid to his dreams.|
Friday, June 24, 2011
Flower's which we should all adore.
So sweet and strong they stand alone
So graceful have these flower's grown.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
In Civilization: the West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson, the author argues that the West succeeded because it had certain killer application (as in killer apps, commonly referred to by programming geeks). These are:
- Firstly, competition that gave the West a major military and technical advantage
- Secondly, science, almost completely Euro-centred from Copernicus to Newton
- Thirdly, safety of property, which he argues was the basis of the American Revolution
- Medicine, the fourth, was beneficial to the West but also to its colonies
- The fifth, consumer society, which is vital because workers were also consumers who would themselves provide the demand for the output of the Industrial Revolution
- Ferguson's sixth and last "killer application" is Protestant work ethics.
Ferguson leaves many questions unanswered. Would like to take a look at the book though.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Gandhi is the topic of the season going by another book on him: Going Native: Gandhi's Relationship with Western Women by Thomas Weber. It is self explanatory and came to me via this book review in Outlook.
Excerpt from the review by Tridip Suhrud:
Thomas Weber is one of those rare scholars who wrote the most authoritative account of the Dandi March, gave a history of the Shanti Sena and studied the impact of Gandhian ideals in movements such as Chipko. This enabled him to understand the people around Gandhi who influenced him and were in turn influenced by him—Gandhi both as a disciple and a mentor.
Well, so this is only of academic interest, could be, for the interest of posterity. But Airbus adds a rider which states, ""Such technologies are already being developed and, while they may not be seen in the exact same manner as in the Airbus Concept Plane and Cabin, some of them could feature in future Airbus aircraft programmes".
Hm, well, sort of, kind of, what will the world be then, I don't know. Would global warming have wiped off the ozone layer, I don't know. Would intelligent life be a possibility on earth, I don't know. That's a lot of "I don't knows."
Picture and link courtesy: The Economist.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
This for Kaspa and Fiona through Christian D'Mello.
They are both on a mission to help the world connect with the world through writing. They are also getting married on Saturday the 18th of June.
For their fantasy wedding present, they are asking people across the world to write them a 'small stone' and post it on their blogs or on Facebook or Twitter.
A small stone is a short piece of observational writing – simply pay attention to something properly and then write it down. Find out more about small stones here.
If you're willing to help, we'd love you to do things:
1) Re-post this blog on your own blog any time before June the 18th and give your readers a chance to hear about what we're doing. You can simply copy and paste the text, or you can find the html here.
2) Write us a small stone on our wedding day whilst we're saying our vows and eating cake, post it on your blog, and send it to us.
We also have a July challenge coming soon, when we'll be challenging you to notice one thing every day during July and write it down.
Thank you for listening, and we hope we'll be returning from our honeymoon to an inbox crammed with small stones, including yours.
Kaspa & Fiona
Sunday, June 19, 2011
How and when did you realise you wanted to be a writer? How did it all start for you?
I started writing when I was about 5-6 years old and wrote through my school and college years – writing was an integral part of my growing up years – poems that got pasted on the school board, essays that were praised by the teachers, the odd competition or two won in the local newspapers... editing the school and college magazines... that kind of thing. Then it sort of fell by the wayside, as I started first, my working life and then a family. The decision to become a writer came much later... one morning I woke up to the sobering realization that I was about to turn forty and I hadn't even begun to be the writer that some part of me had always assumed I would be.
How did your first novel come about? Are you satisfied with its performance? Every author feels his/her work could have been better. Do you have that feeling?
It grew out of a short story I was working on. My short story collection (which comes out sometime next year) is a bit of a Kashmir to Kanyakumari affair in the sense that the stories are all set in the different parts of the country that I've worked in, or lived in, or visited. This was one of the stories and I felt the plot was powerful enough to merit a longer treatment, thus the novel happened.
About being satisfied with its performance, I really don't know the answer. I'm happy that many readers have got back to me with words of praise and that it got short-listed for The Hindu Best Fiction prize... but apart from that I don't really know how it's done relative to say other books published in the same year. I'm just hoping that it will be around for a while and readers will come to it as and when they are meant to.
"Come, Before Evening Falls" is a novel about a long time ago. How did you discover what life was like then?
Well, it's set about 100 years ago. It isn't that long ago – the history of that period is quite well documented in terms of the independence movement and the socio-religious reform movements that were taking place then. In a way the area and people I was writing about – rural Haryana and the Jat community – were a bit more of a challenge but I drew on some excellent research papers by historians and sociologists in addition to drawing upon my own experiences. Also in some ways the essential rhythm, pattern and pace of life in villages in India hasn't changed all that much.
Did winning the "India Smiles" short story contest help in any way?
If you mean in any practical sort of way like a book contract then the answer is No. But, it got me off to an auspicious start and I took it as a sign that I was right in my decision to start writing again after a hiatus of about fifteen years. And the Sulekha folks set up a blog for all the contestants and I continue to post my pieces there, every now and then, till today. It gave me a platform at a time when I needed one and I was happy to use it.
Any advice for writers struggling with unpublished works and a lot of hope? Such as yours truly!
Well the stock answer to this question is persist, persevere, believe in yourself and JK Rowling got rejected x number of times... but I'm not going to say it... in the absence of an affirmation from a publisher and readers how are any of us to really to know which of us should persist and which one would be better off feeding the pigeons instead? My advice instead is to have a relationship with your writing that is independent of worldly measures of success like publishing, sales, reviews and honours. This couplet by Amir Khusrau sums up how I think any writer should approach their work:
"Khusrau, baazi prem ki mein kheli pi ke sangh,
Jeet gayi toh piya morre, haari toh pi ke sangh"
The bottomline is that if you love writing, whether you succeed or fail, you've spent your life doing what you loved.
You have said instead of writing what you know you write about writing what you want to know. Is there a risk in doing that? You know, sometimes research is difficult and material isn't available.
It wasn't meant as a blanket prescription for all writers. Some people manage to make very compelling literature out of their own lives – it's just that I'm not one of them. Writing for me is an adventure, a means of exploring my world, arriving at new insights. It's the way I'm structured – I find other lives, other places, other situations endlessly fascinating. To remain stuck inside the limits of what I already know seem like an awful deprivation to me.
How do you match family and writing? What's your most convenient time to write?
I write Mondays to Fridays, 9 am to about 2pm, longer and on weekends if something really exciting is happening in my story. I don't think family and writing go very well together. You have to carve out your writing time and space and say it loudly and clearly to all concerned till they get it – This matters to me, so don't mess with me on this. I am continually surprised by the innocence of many beginners – they seem to assume that all of their lives will continue to happen as is and they'll also manage to write that breakthrough novel. In truth, something has got to give... in my case I gave up the things that I felt I could do without to make that space for writing... I don't watch TV, talk to friends on the phone, or socialize much. Also, my parenting style is very hands off... I'm not as continuously involved in the minutiae of my children's lives as today's yummy mummy standards seem to decree.
Is there a fixed quota, as in 1000 words a day or something?
I rely quite a bit on word counts to keep me on course. It varies greatly along the way though... I break myself in slowly with something very easy like 200 words a day and keep stepping the required word count up as the work gathers momentum. At peak productivity it's about a 1000-1200 words a day.
Do you blog? What's your blog's name?
I blog only sporadically. I have a blog which goes by my name on the Sulekha site (http://manjul-bajaj.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm). Then there is another called Kalamdawaat (http://manjulbajaj.blogspot.com/ ) where I post my poetry in Hindustani and Eh Mera Geet where I post my English transcreations of Shiv Batalvi's Punjabi poetry (http://ehmerageet.blogspot.com/ ), and a separate blog for Come, Before Evening Falls (http://comebeforeeveningfalls.blogspot.com/ ). I also have a poetry channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/ManjulBajaj ).
How do you write? Pen on paper or laptop?
Mostly laptop. Pen on paper when I'm stuck and need to doodle my way inside a piece.
What's your frank assessment of the Indian literary scene?
In my more dour moments I tend to think that there are more of us writers around in India than readers. But objectively speaking the Indian literary scene is in very fine fettle and we've come a long way in the last twenty or so years – there are more publishers, more imprints, more book stores and chains, more genres and some very fine writing coming out of the Indian sub-continent as a whole. I try to keep abreast of current writing from the region and every year there are at least 2-3 books which make one go 'Wow'. Of course, there's a lot of really tacky stuff being published too but if there are readers for it then how can you argue with that – you can't dictate tastes and really there is space and scope enough here for many different kinds of writing to grow side by side.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
The fact that I'm a bit foolhardy and free spirited. I go pretty much where I want to, do whatever I feel like doing with my writing... as a result over the years you can expect a certain range and versatility from my work – it's unlikely to be very repetitive. That apart I strive for clarity of thought and language that is lucid but I don't think I can claim those as my strengths, just the underlying principles... some readers take to it, others prefer complexity.
Did online literary groups help in the writing process?
Yes, they are a wonderful place to test out your writing voice, experiment with new styles, get feedback when you're starting out. You just have to use them with a certain degree of discernment... make sure you don't get stuck in a cyber-ghetto of sorts. Many people get so complacent inside of the writing forums they are part of that they forget that there's a larger world out there with far more exacting standards.
Anything else you would like to say?
I think it's very important to have at least a couple of close, real life writer friends. People who like both you and your writing and vice versa, who you can trust absolutely to give you honest feedback, who'll hold your hand through writer-ly neurosis and despair, kick you in the butt if you're getting too bloody minded or complacent, and celebrate with you any success that you might have, and whom you'll do the same for unreservedly. It makes the writing life that much easier and safeguards you from the danger of taking everything that happens to you too personally... mostly its par for the course stuff.
Thanks John and best of luck with your own writing.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
The situation was so bad - imagine being squeezed by well fed bodies (parathas and idlis and dosas) from all sides - that I was standing on my toes all through the one hour of the commute. I didn't know where my limbs were, my sandals were trodden by seemingly iron-clad shoes. Then I took out Issac Bashevis Singer's novel "Scum" and began reading about an ageing man looking to rejuvenate himself. Appropriate! A neighbour noticed this and asked where I got my books.
"American Centre Library."
"You mean that building with the policemen with AK-47 guns and blue-wearing private security men? I thought that was some high-security American embassy, and stuff. Is knowledge such a security threat? What are the charges?"
"I don't know if knowledge is a security threat. They perceive it that way these days. Rupees four hundred a year to borrow books. They have internet, videos, CDs, all sorts of information. It's a storehouse of information and records, but poorly used."
"You mean information is that cheap? I love reading and didn't know books and knowledge were available for reading so cheaply."
"Yes, you can operate your wi-fi and surf the Internet for free."
"I am amazed. With information so widely available and cheap why are we so badly informed?"
"Because we are fatigued by the propaganda that goes with the information. The subliminal invitation to try out something and spend money on it. We like to be influenced by the high-octane sales spiel of the media."
"I find I am spending on unwanted gadgets like mobile phones and not spending enough on books that give information."
"Yes. We are all prey to business and commercial interests. We don't value information and enlightenment as we used to."
"It's a pity isn't it? We would buy a mass-manufactured gadget but not a book."
"Because a gadget increases our brand value, just by being associated with it, a brand - Sony, Nokia, Samsung. The rise of branding has on the other hand seen the decline of perceived beauty in literature and performing arts. Whereas, popular entertainment were adaptation of literary works in the past literature is now created for shows and movies exclusively. These works are garnished and a hype generated to make profits and then it sinks into the pit of past attempts at entertainment. Nothing is of lasting value anymore."
I don't know if the conversation led anywhere. Was it germane talk, or, was it idle talk? By the time the crowd had thinned and there was more room around us. I took a good look at the youth: earnest eyes, stubble, casual dressing: youth hungering for knowledge and information and wished there were more like him. All we have these days are young people craving for more gadgets in which they can watch films and music videos.
Friday, June 17, 2011
It is amazing how the Second World War which has a lot of significance for Indians - my uncle died in the South-East-Asian corridor (he was secretly in Subhash Chandra Bose's INA) - is ignored by us all. We all are to blame.What happened to the many Indians who died fighting for the British Empire. What happened to the Indian National Army (INA). We are a people without a curiosity and obsession with the past.
At least, the above account by Ed Offley is worth looking forward to:
By the war's end, Germany had sent 830 U-boats into the battle, 2,653 Allied merchant vessels and 175 warships had been sunk, and more than 71,000 civilian crewmen and naval gunners had been killed, most of these losses coming in the North Atlantic. The German submariners fared much worse, with 717 of the U-boats sunk or wrecked, a 70 percent fatality rate, and almost half the 11,510 surviving crewmen in Allied prison camps.
To go around with tee-shirts claiming to be "Slut" is not becoming of Indian womanhood. Indian women have made progress in all sphere and have stood in for men in times of need and crisis. So, why this imitiation of a few women who want to call themselves, "Sluts" and thereby degrade themselves? They probably don't realise the meaning of the word. A search for its definition returns this on Google, "Slut or slattern is a pejorative term meaning an individual who is sexually promiscuous." So how can a woman who isn't promiscuous label herself as a "slut?" So do we title this walk as that of women who are promiscuous?
Feminism is okay by me. Women need to emerge from the dark ages into one of enlightenment and participation. I have worked and am working for some wonderful women bosses who don't lose their cool like men do. (Imagine, on the other hand, I have worked with so-called successful men who were absolute paranoid nervous wrecks and bigot. One used to count the number of switches on the office switchboard everyday and also get mad if the peon didn't wash his cup properly. Imagine, imagine!) I guess a Mamta Banerji, Jayalalitha, Sheila Dixit and an Indira Nooyi among others of the progressive women who are changing the paradigm in India wouldn't associate in any way with being called a slattern. So why should Indian women label themselves as such in a walk that is being planned in Delhi?
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
When I ask him what he sings he says Oriya songs.
"Where did you sing it?"
"I sang it in Orissa for a music video, an Odiya music video."
"Oh, then you must have been paid a lot of money, eh? Music video players are paid well."
"Why? Singers like Sonu, Adnan, what's that short guy's name? I forget. They are well paid no?"
"No sir. I was not paid at all."
"What? You mean you were not paid a single paise for singing and dancing in the music video?"
"Then why did you do it?"
"Because they said the music video will make me famous. They gave me a CD of video and said I can be a singer in Bombay."
"In fact, they took money to put me in their music video. Rs 5000."
"What? So that's why you came here."
"Yes. I came here, I had to make that money I had lost. But in Bombay nobody makes Odiya music videos."
"So that's why you became a security guard and work 12 hours a day?"
"Yes, sir. No other jobs were available."
That's another one of the con jobs being perpetrated in the name of entertainment in our country. I felt pity for him because he keeps pestering me for small loans all the time. I tell him I am in need of loans myself.
Monday, June 13, 2011
There should be some control over the fasting that is happening around this country. Everybody goes on strike. Isn't fasting a sort of "attempted suicide"? And "attempted suicide" is a crime right? So why not book them for a crime? It's a shame that leaders and icons of a democratic society should resort to fast unto death to have their demands met. Is there no alternative? Isn't there nothing like consensus building on our mass media that beams absolute rubbish into the one billion homes? Isn't there anyone out there who could speak out for the masses without masquerading their black deeds in masks of self-righteousness?
I don't know. Frankly I don't.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
According to him a Boomerang Poem (a genre of his own invention) is:
"English Shi" (on my blog), because it follows certain other conventions of Shi [classical Chinese poem, which can most typically be in 8 lines, with 5 characters (or in English, 5 stresses) per line]. Most crucial is that the 2 middle couplets (if the poem is construed as being comprised of 4 couplets) both demonstrate what we call (in Chinese poetics) "grammatical parallelism." In the Boomerang Poem form, I've not always kept to that latter -- but all in all, it carries the poem much farther when one's able to do it.
David is an American who studied Chinese, classical Chinese, he says. He also studied the Gazal and wrote a few Gazals in English. Not surprising, since I know of poets who write Gazals in Marathi. He works for a living in Beverley HIlls. Now, can you imagine that? Heard of movies like "Down and Out in Beverley Hills," "Beverley Hills Cops," eh? Dude, I would give anything to know what it's like.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
One such was "Mon-ey Dinesha". "Mon-ey Dinesha" is a piece of dialogue from a Mohan Lal movie. And that year when I went to Kerala the entire population was saying to each other, "Mon-ey Dinesha." People address me as Dinesha and I say, mercifully, my parents haven't baptised me with that name. I didn't know it then. How was I to know? But I know now after seeing the movie and Mohan Lal's declamatory dialogue delivery. Oh, what power in each syllable, what resonance in each word.
This time when I went to Kerala my aunt said "Entha oru Ksheenam?" "Why are you looking so weak?" This is from a woman who is in her seventies and is frail and doddering. At least, I am not shaking with palsy. One learns. Then when I was in my brother's house a neighbour said the same thing, "Entha oru ksheenam?" I don't know from which movie this is taken. I will learn. One always learns. People like to tease, especially in Kerala. That's what is distinctive about Malayalis.
Monday, June 06, 2011
My contractor is a Sri Lankan from Negombo. Now, Negombo and I have a connection. Negombo or the clear skies, the swaying palms, the golden beaches. On my way to work for a British multinational in Jeddah I lived a few days in Hotel Golden Sands in Negombo and loved the place. My plans to go back have not materialised, at least, so far.
"I lived there, I have done work, no, there, only. Close-close, is my house, no, just a few minutes. My people, all rich, well settled, foreign, Dubai, all places, they send me money. Brother-in-law, no, he sent me 2 lakh rupees, tell, go back to Sri Lanka, I don't go. I spend money here, I love it here, in India, beautiful country." The man who left Sri Lanka 25 years ago says. Problem is he loves India and I love Sri Lanka. And the workers he employ are Bangla Deshi. In fact by being an IT superpower and all, we have become the third world's preferred location for emigration. So there are Sri Lankans, Bangla Deshis, Nepalis, even Brazilians in New Bombay where I live. I don't mean any offense to these nations, but we are globalising gradually and people are migrating. Work-wise, they are better, too, in many ways. They are more disciplined and their work ethics is much better.
Combine this to their readyness to accept less than the official rate, they make excellent workers. My thought, not necessary that you, dear reader, should agree. Is this a world phenomena or is it a case in isolation?
Saturday, June 04, 2011
I was mesmerised by the pictures - in black and white - and could go back in time to that age when an unfree nation was seeking freedom and a people was just waking from a long sleep of oppression.
I still wonder about that age. What held the people together, what went on in their minds, what did they dream about for themselves? Surely USA which is the dream of most Indians was the Wild West in those days. Did we have a view of ourselves, of what we are now? Could they even think what a new nation they would be sire-ing. So what? Anyone?
Friday, June 03, 2011
If not, better brush up on your Naipaul quotient. Get back on the books gathering dust in your library shelf.
I scored 6 on 10. Hm. And, I thought I was well read. Grumble, Grumble!
Like what? Like: some repair works on the home (a must before rains) have been delayed by the contractor, editing of novel not going as desired, some petty social networking issues bugging me, some architecture students walked up to my house and wanted my opinion on Artist Village (this was elevating, but the fact that I can be traced from a blog post is somewhat a revelation), somebody phoned me based on my social networking information on Facebook, so was in a dither whether my information is so transparent. The last one is indeed upsetting because this person is not a friend on Facebook. The how? what? of it is to be investigated.
Issues, issues, issues, is what Dhansukhbhai Jethalal Shah, my portly billionaire friend who lives in a six-storey mansion on Malabar Hill says.
Seems Nobel Laureate V.S.Naipaul has stirred a hornet's nest with his comment reported in the Hindu "I don't think so…I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me."
Now, I don't know what prompted the comment. I think Sir Vidya is a great writer given to great thoughts, which may err on the side of controversial pronouncements now and then. That's why I don't agree with him now and then. But Anthonybhai disagrees. He says Sir Vidya is growing old and it is showing. I say "Shut up, Anthony, nothing of that sort."