Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Monday, April 21, 2008

identity crisis

The nightmare began several months ago. A man verifying the voters’ list pressed our doorbell, ringing the death knell of my status as a normal citizen of this great land. My family members were excommunicated from the electoral rolls! I dashed off an e-mail to the editors of this newspaper, hoping to catch the attention of the powers that be. I duly filled Form 6 with proof of identity and residence, and submitted it to the local municipal office. Nobody seemed to care that we had lived in the same address for over a decade, voted in all previous elections, and continued to possess official voters’ identity cards to prove it. The voters’ list was revised, yet we still did not exist.

No, I had not morphed into a gigantic insect, though the chain of events did resemble a Kafkaesque nightmare. I continued to spend most of my time breathing, eating and sleeping on this very planet, and I did indeed cast a shadow wherever I stood. The fact that I walked proved that I was not yet dead. The friendly neighbourhood grocer, dhobi, watchman, fishmonger and garbage collector were my witnesses. But then, they also probably didn’t exist according to the current electoral rolls.

Taking time to introspect, I wondered where I had erred. When I submitted my Form 6 to the concerned official, did I incur disapproval in presumptuously asking for an acknowledgement? I did notice that the figure of august authority was too busy to tear off acknowledgement slips for others. If I returned to the same official with my form, would he remember the tall lady with hair like a bird’s nest after a storm? The quest for truth and justice is an arduous task. One must keep faith, be determined, and learn to think out of the box. I thought of a stratagem worthy of the Gestapo or Mossad to bypass my gaffe in dealing with upholders of supreme authority. This time, I sent our forms in the hands of a trusty and suitably nondescript local lad. Mission accomplished, the lad returned with acknowledgements, that too without even having to ask. I am praying, crossing my fingers and toes, and touching wood. God and officialdom willing, my ninety-plus father will realize his dream of being the oldest voter from his constituency.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

death by blogging

Compulsive blogging can actually kill, says a recent news report. Some folks who got into blogging reams of daily, weekly and monthly blog posts to build a buzz around products apparently could not cope with the hectic pace. One blogger, who earned a living from posting in gazillion blogs died of a heart attack while another with comparable blogging compulsions also simply fizzled out of this world.
Were these deaths a string of coincidences? Any overwhelming compulsion can stress a person out, resulting in avoidable health problems and perhaps untimely death. The spontaneous joy of blogging, or any activity, for that matter, is destroyed if one is under constant pressure to churn out a certain quantity of writing.
Blogging for pleasure sans profit can also sometimes spring surprise rewards. My writer friend Vinod Ekbote
recently won a prize dinner for his
blog .One success led to another. "The New Indian Express carries an
excerpt from a post from my blog in today's edition on the front page," he says.
"The excerpt, incidentally, is from the post I wrote about the prize
dinner I won for my blog.
Yesterday, the Editor in Chief of Random House India-Chiki Sarkar-
left a comment on my blog though only to tell Jhumpa Lahiri's new book
can be ordered online.
Blogging sure is getting me attention folks. I'm on cloud 99!"

You can win, and retain your health and sanity, and perhaps even gain some fame and money by being spontaneous.

Friday, April 04, 2008

tripe and trivia with morning coffeee

I sometimes pity readers of English language publications in India. Popular magazines and newspapers carry an overwhelming amount of advertising and commerce driven material. Enough has been said about even editorial space in major newspapers being available at a price. Do we need to daily read news items aggressively pushing for farmyard animal type promiscuity? Must we be fed an overdose of celebrity tripe and trivia with our morning coffee?

We seem to have the women's magazine style of formula fare on the one hand, and 'literary' and sometimes boring and inaccessible 'highbrow' writing on the other. But what about well-written, imaginative and interesting works which a wider range of general readers can understand and enjoy?

There could be several reasons for this. There are many high quality popular magazines in our Indian languages where new writers can test and hone their literary skills. But English, the language that strangely enough connects our mutilingual society, has too much of commerce driven drivel in print.

The book publishing scene is also commercially driven. Big names and celeb authors sell. If one is not already famous, one can't hope to get a book published easily. The few original and interesting new authors in English who do manage to gt published, get little publicity. If people don't know about new books or see them displayed in store shelves, how will they buy and read them?

The attitude of some serious writers is also interesting. A well-known consumer rights activist, classical musician and author of seven books recently told me, "Only one of my books is a collection of short stories. The rest are serious works on biographies, music, etc."

Idiots who indulge in creative writing (usually unpaid because it is non-commercial) get routinely ridiculed even in Indian writers' groups, :-))because their writing doesn't earn big money.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

foolish thoughts

It's April Fool's Day. Writers, especially the 'creative types', are perceived as generally fooling around and never engaged in anything remotely connected to serious pursuits. Even 'serious' writers tend to look down upon the foolish dreamers. The other day, a well known consumer rights activist, musician and author of seven books told me, "Only one of my books is a collection of short stories. The rest are all on serious subjects such as biography and music."

If, as my friend Bob Sanchez says, fiction is based on lies, then why do we lie? Are more likely to add colourful touches to the truth with those we know, rather than with perfect strangers?
People lie for several reasons. We desire to protect our public selves, and consciously try to mould the impressions we convey to others. We also lie to protect out private lives and our sense of self worth.

We lie to escape from reality, and sometimes, we also lie in an effort to uravel the web of half truths that entangle reality.