On Writing

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been in love with the written word. That dates back to fourth grade because my memory seems to have blocked out life before that. Starting with ‘The Secret of the Burnt Cottage’ by Enid Blyton only to demolish library after library in the neighbourhood and devour all their books hungrily, I was, to put it mildly, a voracious reader.

As Stephen King famously said ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that’.

I had, in my childhood, picked up some basic tools for my English essays. My teachers in Chennai, India, were delighted that my compositions were imaginative and conveyed concepts such as solar eclipses during which the sky went dark only to convince the ‘locals’ of the ‘tribe’ that the protagonist of my essay had supernatural powers (an idea inspired by Tintin), horses with wings and other mythical creatures.

From class nine onward, for a long time, however, I forsake reading for pleasure. I still don’t know how I let it happen. That took a heavy toll on my writing and should I say, identity. But for some sporadic reading, I didn’t read like I breathed. Which was what happened earlier. So life slowly began to ebb away from me, until I was a shell of my former self. In my quest to be a freelance feature writer, my writing lost all soul.

Now, 40, I have rediscovered the joys of reading. And writing. And editing. I feel like Voldemort who is getting stronger and stronger after drinking the unicorn’s blood, except that I’m on the good side. I would definitely choose Gryffindor if a sorting hat were to be placed over my head.

Four years ago, I was in Bangalore, India, at a café where a book event was being conducted. Yasmeen Premji, author of ‘Days of Gold and Sepia’, and wife of billionaire industrialist Azim Premji, was discussing her book. I’d been invited to the event and landed up with a copy of the book to get her autograph.

When I went up to her desk, she asked me whether I was a writer. I said I wasn’t sure. She was quick to say “Then, you most certainly are.”

I guess writing to me is like cycling. Once you learn to cycle, you don’t forget it. You get back on the bike and it gives you a sense of freedom as you propel the bike forward by pedaling. Similarly, writing about topics of my choice is cathartic. It sets free my spirit and strengthens my sense of self. I identify as a writer and editor. A published author has told me that I make a better editor than a writer, but the need to express myself never goes away. Call it my way of putting myself out there, my small way of trying to make a mark in this huge cosmos before we all become dust and return to the earth, the drive remains. The desire to get better at it remains. What I will make of myself remains to be seen. I may just continue to remain a small speck in this cosmos. But that’s okay too 🙂

My ‘Metamorphosis’ with Andaleeb Wajid

I had first met Andaleeb Wajid at a workshop for writers at Urban Solace – Café for the Soul, a wonderful haunt I used to frequent in Bangalore way back in March 2014. The workshop was called Metamorphosis and it was an opportunity for aspiring writers, the many wannabes among us to showcase our writing skills to her and the panel of published writers with her.

I’d gone because I’d co-written three chapters of a chick litt novel with a friend. Although I’m supposed to be the writer here, my friend had done all the sassy, witty bits and I’d done the sappy, ‘straight-from-the-heart’ (read: boring) ones. Once I reached the venue, I noticed a motley crew among which a former colleague of mine from The World Bank, Chennai, who was a good writer; a young Turk who was right then with India Syndicate, a company I had worked with earlier; Christina Daniels, author, who was hosting most of these events at Urban Solace and who had let me know of it; and Perry Menzies, gracious host and owner of Urban Solace and many others.

Several of them read out their manuscripts and I decided right there and then that mine was too frivolous to be read. So I didn’t read it. I had had the first three chapters ready! So much for self-confidence.

Cut to March 2017.

I finally downloaded Andaleeb’s book, ‘Blinkers Off’ on Kindle Unlimited.

It was about a young girl Noor, who is intelligent and self-conscious about her weight, who is making a documentary film about weddings in her film class, and who has to deal with a snooty bitchy bimbette, in what seems to be a love triangle. It’s all very innocent love, though, and seen through the eyes of a conservative Muslim girl. I loved it. The author is so sure of who she is.

After reading this book, I was motivated to write in my diary and wrote 26 pages, which are not for public consumption, since they are painfully honest and it wouldn’t be wise to reveal such vulnerabilities to this evil world. But what I’m trying to say is that the book inspired me to write.

Insight : I think, as a writer, one needs to be sure of oneself and only then one will have a voice. That has been my problem. I’ve been rather mixed –up so my voice has not been steady.

I don’t know if that was one of the things you intended to convey through your book, but I got that out of ‘Blinkers Off.

Thanks, Andaleeb, for the inspiration!

‘An Unsuitable Boy’: A suitable read

Little did I know I was going to spend an entire 12 hours with ‘An Unsuitable Boy’ – calm down! The e-book not the man himself.#KaranJohar Before he wakes up and sues me. And 12 hours, not coz I’m a slow reader but because I watched a bit of a movie, went out, ate, and exercised in between.

At first, I hated his preface. Coz I thought it was too self-centered. But then once the book started and he wrote about being on the sets of DDLJ, the Kuch Kuch hota hai journey and getting sucked into the movie world, the book sucked me in too.

His passion leapt off the page. The prose was not fantastic, but the book was filled with clarity of thought and a crystal clear memory for dates and incidents. As a single woman approaching her 40s, I found myself sharing his worldview

“When you’re single, unattached, all you do is hear about other people’s love stories, traumas, problems, and all the nonsense that goes on in a relationship.”

I thought to myself…there’s something so fundamentally relatable and middle class about this guy although he is probably one of the richest in the country.

He quickly laid that to rest when he shared an anecdote where he ordered three costume changes for a beggar and recounted tales of how he used to read old issues of Harper’s Bazaar as a child.

He talks about how his dad was one of the most loved people in the film fraternity and of his financial troubles, how both his parents discouraged him from the film business, how the industry was different those days to producers, the important role SRK, Aditya Chopra and Kajol have played in his life, how those relationships developed, his childhood friends, his business partnerships and the business ventures Dharma productions is involved in.

His story is simply told and he has revealed his vulnerabilities, which is not easy for a celebrity of his stature to do. This book is a must-read for creative folk and ad agency guys.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Vote for Dr. Sunitha Krishnan before the 25th of Sep, 2014

I voted for her. I’ve written an article about her in the past. Here’s the link to the article: http://news.in.msn.com/her_courage/profile-sunitha-krishnan
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She was gang raped by 8 people at the age of 15 and many think this defines her, but this isn’t her identity.

She is Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, an Indian social activist, and co-founder of Prajwala.

She is best known for her fight against human trafficking and for saving more than 10,000 (ten thousands) of lives who were forced into prostitution. She has surpassed all barriers of human courage and used her traumatic experience to define her path to bring victims of sex trafficking back to mainstream society. In the process of saving lives, she has been attacked 14 times by criminals and left hearing impaired in her ear, but her determination has got stronger with time.
Here is a chance for us to pay tribute to her work.

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan has been selected as one of the five finalists for the Prestigious “2014 NELSON MANDELA – Graca Machel Innovation Award” ! The shortlisting of the finalists has been done by an International Jury!

The following link will provide every supporter an opportunity to vote for Dr. Sunitha Krishnan! The voting ends on 25th September!

http://www.civicus.org/awards/#/home

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