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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Killing the Water

I recently interacted with Bangladesh born author Mahmud Rahman after reading his recently published collection of short stories, KILLING THE WATER (penguin). He had so many fascinating things to say, it was a tough job to pare it all down to a bare bones 800 word newspaper column. "Use the axe if you have to," he advised me, no matter how it pained my writerly heart.The published interview appears in Deccan Herald.

In a section that got edited out in the published interview, the author shares personal experiences which moulded him as a storyteller;

"I wrote all along, ever since my schooldays. But I took up narrative prose only in the mid 90s. There’s a story behind that turn. On a cold winter day in 1993, I boarded a bus to Detroit and a woman seemed to resent me taking the seat next to her. But once we began to talk, we continued for hours. A black woman from the American South, she insisted on seeking out parallels in our lives. I immediately wrote up that compelling encounter as a story. Exhilarated by the process, I took up writing workshops. At that point I exchanged emails with a new friend from a completely different background, sharing stories from our lives in an attempt to understand one another. She insisted that I paint scenes with words, to make my world come alive.
I began enjoying the ability to create fiction and play with new possibilities. Interactions with wonderful teachers and peers during my MFA from Mills College in California broadened my vistas."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

robots to the rescue

A recent news item set me thinking. The wonders of human ingenuity know no bounds. The miracles of the future which visionaries once imagined, are taking place right here and now.

A Bangalore based techie has invented robots to cook, clean and splash water on his head if he oversleeps. Best of all, he has sourced the parts from the by-lanes of S P Road to make his invention accessible to the rich and the not-so-well-heeled alike. Thanks to him, we can all dream of owning personal robots that do our boring chores, leaving us free to enjoy ourselves. Robots taking care of our daily needs will be a blessing, as they will shield us from much of our inter-personal relationship hassles.
In today’s mega cities, it’s people, people everywhere, but few who meaningfully talk or care. We jostle against hordes of people wherever we happen to be. And these fleeting encounters are more often unpleasant than not. The foul-mouthed jerk who spews venomous road rage, cussed folks who push and shove in queues, leering lechers and ‘eve teasers’, silver-tongued cheats; such charming people and their ilk are forever throwing themselves in our faces. Read more of my tongue in cheek take in Bangalore Mirror

Monday, April 19, 2010

Meeting author Shreekumar Varma

I recently had the pleasure of interacting with Shreekumar Varma. My account appears in BTW magazine. Given below is the full, unedited version.
Shreekumar Varma’s novels include Lament of Mohini and Devil’s Garden, and he is the author of the plays Platform, Midnight Hotel and the award-winning Dark Lord and Bow of Rama. His latest novel, Maria’s Room (Harper Collins), was long listed for the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize. That's not all. He has written charming books for younger readers, too.

1. How would you want to be known? How did being descended from the great Raja Ravi Varma affect your personal growth as a literary artist?

I'd want to be known as a good writer, a story-teller. Descending from greatness puts you on a platform. If you don't perform, you're left with the shadow of achievement, not achievement itself. But there's an aura of art in the family that I believe has reached me as well. Many of my relatives paint. I write.

2. When and how did you start writing?

I started writing very early. My first short story was published while I was in high school. But my first book for children, Pazhassi Raja: The Royal Rebel, was published in 1997. My book was about Pazhassi Raja, who was probably the very first freedom fighter. Even at that time, Lament of Mohini (Penguin) was in the process of being written.

3. How did you deal with adverse criticism and struggle in your initial years as a writer?

Actually, the first review was the worst. After that, it was smooth sailing, and I've had people saying good things about Lament of Mohini through the years. Baseless criticism tends to floor you. Till you realize that the calibre of the critic comes through in his review, and shows up the worth of the opinions expressed. You either accept or discard them.

4. Where do you find inspiration?

I tend to subconsciously store details, of people, places, lives, colour, smell. When a good idea for a story shows up, I use some of these details. Sometimes a good idea may hibernate for years. There also many in-house stories in my family! I'm lucky in that I use many forms. So it could become a short story, play, maybe melt into poetry, or form the basis of a novel.

5. Your best and worst experiences as a writer?

The act of writing is, of course, the best experience. It's the moment of creation. Next comes the moment when you're sitting in an auditorium, watching your play being staged. If it's done well, you're in heaven, and the audience response takes you higher. The worst experiences have to do with shoddy critics and secondary level colleagues such as editor, director or cast, who may treat your work without respect or understanding. Fortunately, that hasn't happened to me as yet.

6. How did the ideas for Maria’s Room come to you?

During the launch of Mohini, we stopped for a few days in Goa. There was a storm. There were two silent couples in our car. There was a different Goa out there. And the idea was born, upstaging another book I was trying to write at that time. I usually find that some of the things I write actually happen!

Monday, April 12, 2010

kafkaesque dilemma

I've lived in the same place and voted regularly since 1995. But in 2008 I became entangled in a Kafkaesque situation when the names of my family members and me mysteriously vanished from the voters' list. Upon receiving numerous similar complaints from the residents of Bangalore, the authorities took up the process of updating and revision. We stood in long queues, first to have wrong/garbled entries deleted, then to enter our names afresh correctly into the computerised system, and then again to have our photos taken for identity cards. Yet despite several rounds of corrections, many errors continue to exist, giving rise to much speculation among my fellow citizens. Read my tongue-in-cheek take here in Bangalore Mirror