Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Is It Right to Boycott the News Media?

Because of their anger and loathing for the news media, several of my friends – writers themselves – have turned against the media. This is manifested by their boycott of newspapers, news televisions (sometimes, televisions altogether), and sundry other media. I am disturbed by this. True, news can’t be believed any more, it could be paid news. There is pollution of media by big interests who don’t stop at anything. Which must be what Obama meant when he said, “I like it that you cover news from all angles, because one of them might turn out to be accurate.” Cynically said, with a pinch of Obama’s brand of humour.

These people who have knowledge and awareness who should have interpreted the news for us mortals have given up trying to catch what is going on. Instead it’s the liars, plagiarists, cheats, thieves and forgers that we are getting to hear these days. I can go on but I don’t see the reason why I should. And, the feeling is not quite nice. Okay I can understand your sentiments, I sympathise with your sense of outrage. But how will you writers write when you don’t understand the world around you? Even a technical writer needs to know the product about which he is writing, else, how would he write?

How then will you know what is going on in this world? I am not a big fan of today’s news media, but I do read the papers (three) and watch several news channels. (For news on the USA I go to Russia Today which has the best news on the USA and none about Russia itself. Is it some remnant of cold-war propaganda? I don’t know.) The BBC is the BBC is the Beeb. Perhaps, they should show more programming than their in-house ads, which I have by heart, committed to memory. I feel most of their programmes are cut and edited to suit the time slot. So the words “We live the news” and “wall of sound” will be forever embedded in my mind, thank you BBC.

The world is moving into a kind of anarchic state. All our best leaders are gone, and thinking about it, they wouldn’t have been leaders if they were alive today. The leaders of today are people who go to any extent to project their personalities. It doesn’t help if all our thought leaders become silent and don’t have a medium to express themselves. The media is playing a sinister role by excluding these thought leaders. So what’s the solution? How can we make you read more, discuss more, debate more without resorting to violent protests, which the world is going through? How can we bring you back to reading?

The television screen is full of violent protesters these days. I can see occupiers, sloganeers, card holders, and stone throwers in the thousands. That’s due to the extreme deprivation these people face. The Middle East is a powder keg, just shutting our eyes won’t help. The US thinks Iran will stop the ISIS just like it thought Pakistan will stop the Talibans. And that’s not going to happen.

So, as they say, watch this space.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Woke up in a haze today. Don’t know why, but some days are like that. Went for a walk. I couldn’t pinpoint the reason for my rage but I felt rage inside. It was tumultuous, engaging, and riotous. It seemed everything was coming at me at the same time: the betrayals, the snide remarks, the failed connections, the rejections. The rage deepened over a few hours. Then I saw a video of this South African comedian imitating an Indian, especially our accent. That lightened the rage. I felt free for some time. Walking helped. I saw a rain-swollen canal, water in it flowing smoothly. It was turbulent, but had a contained sort of turbulence, like the one inside my head.

Then it lifted. What was it? What had made me so mad? I had woken up late, was that the cause? No, it can’t be. Was it the rain drumming against my windowpanes, its beats like drums gone crazy, a rhythm gone mad? Don’t know. Some days are like that. I feel rage, I feel helpless. The comedian lightened things, that’s the magic of comedy, to involve you, make you warm and fuzzy in the head. Music uplifts me. But my ipod lies idle because I read that wearing the earpiece increases bacteria a hundred times. Some such nonsense. I like to hear nature when I walk: the bird sounds, the sound of the stream, the rain pattering on the road, the bark of dogs, the insistent call of cuckoos. I find it soothing, uplifting. It’s calm where I walk, there’s a pond, lot of greenery, some uninhabited temples, and some slums coming up on the opposite side of the pond.

Ever since I acquired a paunch I have been the object of ridicule. I tend to retain water in the stomach. People laugh at me, or, tease me. I tell them it’s because of too much beer. South Indians tend to have big bellies sticking out, which is no consolation. But the doctor says it’s because of the salt I ate and the medical condition I have. Every day in office, in the thick of work, I used to feel the pangs for something to eat and I would send the peon for those hideous salted potato chips. I was working for my family, to pay my bills, is that a reason for ridicule? I have tried everything to get rid of the nasty bulge. But it stays, as if it were the Holy Grail, my holy grail. I hide my paunch with jackets from Fab India. They are expensive.

Then I got used to the ridicule. It doesn’t matter to me; it’s absurd to be so concerned by it. I have better things to do. I see a thick carapace forming, the hardening of my skin, the callusing. It doesn’t rain when I walk, though the sky is overcast. I return to my den after reading the newspapers. That’s when I thought of writing this.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Now Comes the Hard Part

Here comes the hard part. The final sub-editing part, where I correct grammar, spelling without actually going too much into the story or the presentation. That’s all settled and cast in stone by now. I’d rather not change that. It means a lot of heartbreak because of the disgust of having to sit for long time in one spot and having to concentrate. Many times I reach for the desktop where I have internet and log-in to Facebook. Should I? Shouldn’t I? My hand is poised, hovering, approaching the mouse, withdraws and then in a decisive move I move the small rat-like contraption and “Click.” Another few hours lost. That’s my Facebook addiction. I can’t avoid that from happening. At least the novel is about the man who started this addiction, which I have named Facespook. It’s because the man who initially steered the idea of Facebook, or, its precursor Harvard Connect, was an Indian.   

Friday, May 1, 2015

Writing a Novel Is Like Putting a Universe Together

Writing a novel is like putting a universe together: constructing its foundations first, living in it for days, acquainting with the people, and then letting it go. It’s a very slow process that requires immense patience. But once you are good at it, there’s a lot going for you. Recently I completed my novel and now, horrors, I am submitting to those whom I trust for a first look.

But then why do writers take this arduous journey to nowhere. Half the time – when you are writing - you are wondering what the critics will say. You are in turmoil, you don’t think straight, your narrative may falter, in which case – God forbid – you go back and rewrite. All along, you are not being compensated for your time. You are in constant dilemma: will my character say this; will he behave thus? Yes, in western countries you have grants, which you can avail while writing a novel. Yann Martel was on a grant when he wrote Life of Pi. But in India you have nothing. Zilch!

Yes, there is something. Aha! You get a lot of shit thrown at you if you read a chapter at a writer’s community. You sink into perdition once again. People in Indian write in their own language plus English (own language + English). I mean, Malayalis write in their English, Tamilians write in their English, you get the drift, right?

My effort has been to steer away from stereotype to portray a stereotype. In Mr. Bandookwala I have written about different communities and the different ways they talk English, without identifying the community. It becomes obvious which community I am talking about, and at the same time, a foreigner can laugh at the quaint way we talk. It was a tough task. But, now that it is done, I have the jitters again.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Miracles Happen, with Yoga and Exercise

This is from my main blog, reproduced here so you know what's happening in my life:

The doctor went through the reports I gave him and smiled, “your reports are good, come let’s examine you.” Usually he has a grim expression on his face and rarely smiles, and, therefore, this must be good news. I lie down, he examines me. “You have made good progress; your problem is under remission, so we are taking you off the surgery list.”

Warmed the cockles, ventricles, the aorta, and whatever else there is. I thanked my Lord and saviour then and there. I was praying for a breakthrough, and now that I got it, I will keep working for it. For a doctor recovery of the patient is his ultimate reward and I could give him that, I am proud to think. My wife would be happy with the news. She has been through a lot since my last illness. I would have to continue with medicines though. I agree. He fills out a new list of medicines.

For the past few months I have been maintaining a strict regimen of meditation, yoga, weights, and walking. It’s not easy and is a tough regimen, which I followed because of the seriousness I felt about my situation. I have many more things to find closure to and the thought was troubling me. Even if it took my entire morning hours I didn’t deviate from the schedule. First comes meditation, which brings my mind and body together and prepares my body to tune up, as musicians do on their instruments. The body, according to me, is like a machine that needs tuning so that it can work continuously. Then I do pranayama, deep breathing, for about 45 minutes to one hour. This is essential to get oxygen and blood to the unreachable parts of the body, ergo, I have the abovementioned tuning effect. Then the ultimate of all yoga postures, the Surya Namaskars, which is a combination of several asanas in one. I can do only five of them, because it is difficult. It involves every muscle groups in my body and it has given me a lot of flexibility. It gives my body a lightness which is needed to prevent arthritis and falls.

I don’t put the fan on, because sweating is what I want to do. By the end of this routine I start sweating. Then it is to weights, two four-kilo weights in either hands, so that blood thumps through the arteries and I feel the abdominal muscles move. The skeletal system is better controlled by muscles than fat. Then it is breakfast and the newspapers before I go for my morning walk. I walk, in sunlight, may be, two or two-and-a-half kilometres, on an undulating road swinging my arms. Here also I sweat a lot. I hear the chirp of birds, I look at the greenery, I listen to music on my ipod, and I feel the freedom. I have made progress, which I have been praying for all these days.

It’s a lot better than being in an ICU which should be re-named Intensive Carelessness Unit. All the outside world is screened off, you can only talk to the nurses, the wardboys, and your own wife. ICUs are dull places, where there is no sunlight, you are fixed to machines that go, “blip, blip, twing, twing, twing,” those machines have a life of their own. Though you are spending a ton of money, you aren’t getting any humane treatment back. This must be the only industry where they are careless towards a high-paying customer. You are treated with callousness, you are just another patient about to conk off. The machines keep you awake in the night, and, therefore, you get no sleep. Then how will you recover?

I am writing a longer piece on my experience. Something called, “Would you trust your life to the medical professional?” Or, something such. India needs good doctors of which there is a shortage, especially general practitioners. The country needs good trained nurses who have a holistic and humane touch for treatment, and not a big attitude problem. The new lot of nurses can’t even give an injection properly. They aren’t paid much because hospitals are money making businesses.  Well, most of them are Mallus, from my native place.

My advice to all of you dear readers. Exercise your bodies, do yoga anything that stretches those idle muscles. Medicines can’t cure everything.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

How I Got Rid of "Ester Nutzer"

For weeks it sat on my browser - Chrome - two words I had no clue about. "Ester Nutzer." I didn't know what it meant. Was it Malaware? Was it a spying program? Was it one of those phishing things I hear about.
Though reasonably tech savvy I had no idea what this was.

I was completely at a loss.

I put a message of Facebook. The replies weren't encouraging. I searched the net and found that "Ester Nutzer" meant first user
​ ​
in German
. Well I am the first user of my computer, who else could have access to it?

I downloaded a Malaware programme, which was of no use to remove those two hateful words. Again, the sense of loss continued unwittingly. I have too many documents of importance on the computer to want to lose anything. 
Only now have I realised the importance of backing up my data.

We live in an age devoid of privacy. Whatever we do is available and visible to someone sitting somewhere. I was thinking of this: is he reading my mail, is he deleting my files? Who is he? And
, interestingly,the US administration says they have a right to snoop into our emails in the greater interest of humanity. I know the security of the human race comes before anything else in this beleaguered world, but what about my security? Is there no guaranty
for that?

Then today I went to the settings of my browser. (It is the icon with the three horizontal lines right at the top end of the browser.
There again I find my friend "Ester Nutzer" sitting above my name as the first user. What the heck
Get away, off with you, man. I don't want you snooping on my computer anymore. There was a small button to delete him. I did it.

Mercifully now my browser doesn't have his august presence imprinted on it. I can rest content.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Finished Fourth Round of Editing on Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard

Finished the Fourth Round of Editing on the Novel

Coming to the end of a long journey is filled with forebodings. It's like the disembarkation after a train journey, where you are a bit shaken and the ground beneath you seem to weave and your head is fuzzy with the sights you have seen. Yeah, something similar. What next? Your steps falter, you find it hard to adjust to the light, and you think what's bleddy wrong with me. You were never like this before. What's this feeling of emptiness?

The thought that is troubling you now is: how do you push this down the publishing shaft where a lot of talented writers have perished? Will it disappear into nothingness or will it be smooth sailing? A sense of danger abounds, you feel the vacuum building.

Let us end this waffling. First things first, the fourth editing of your novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard has drawn to a close. You are immensely satisfied by the work you have done. If anything, this novel will define your writing, your oeuvre. The last month, after the hospitalisation, has been a very productive phase in your writing. So many days of waking up at 5 a.m. has helped. You think morning is the best time to write.

But what lies ahead? Heard the literary scene is bitchy and bastardy. So much so that all the big slots are taken; and whatever is left is being filled up fast by those smart kids with their laptops and spreadsheets. Yeah, spreadsheets for plotting. What chance do you stand? What if your novel meets with failure? Face it. Every movie director encounters it on Friday; every author has to reconcile to the eventuality on the launch date.

Right now there are a hundred doubts running through your mind. You are confused. Will it succeed? Won't it? Will it be accepted, rejected, ignored, panned? Will there be polemics, will there be vehement opposition, will there be an extreme reaction?

You have heard it said that the author has to let it go at some point. But you hate to let go of your baby. You are the possessive kind. You think you will have your say on the book cover. You already have sketches of how it should look. You wish you had a good agent who can push your work. Ah, that would be nice, and then you can relax. Anyone?

You think the system is biased against new authors. Somehow there's this set notion that a new author takes long to be established in the market. Is that true? Anyone?

Meanwhile, after the fourth round of editing, you sit and fret. Is there anybody out there?