Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We Are Back!

We are back, as said by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the terminator movie. But he said I will be back. What difference? None. 

At once all computers at home conked out. Our laptop, son's desktop, both decided to strike. Our laptop was beyond repair, the repair centre girl sweetly told us, noting the pain on our face. We realised then that laptops are delicate little things - like wives - and we were pretty rough on it. Our work and pictures and artworks were saved in disks and and something called "dropbox" which is amazing, so check it out. In the retired state that we are in, we can't afford to invest in a new laptop, though we hear the thingamajig costs a lot less than before. We had paid two salaries to buy our laptop and had starved to make ends meet. Well, ahem!

So, sonny has gone and upgraded his desktop, which working fine, thank you. Being a computer scientist he knows the insides of the scrawny thing we are writing this on. What we see as a mass or wires and blinking lights hold meaning to a computer scientist because, like a doctor, he can spot what is wrong. "The Hard Disk is corrupted," he says. While we know of corruption in high places we don't know what corruption has to do with computers. May be, the hard disk borrowed some money from the mother board and didn't pay it back. Which brings us to mother board, whoever thought of mother as a board is plain sick in his thinking apparatus. This one has a good stereo attached and listening to music is a wonderful experience. Not quite the experience we have had yesterday when we listened to the Bose stereo at Croma in Belapur. That music was so good, the guitar chords so pure, it brought tears to our eyes and a lump in the throat. (We always listen to guitar chords, as we play the instrument, at least, try to.)

Be that as it may, we were warned to be extra careful while using this desktop, don't download anything, said sonny. And who bought this contraption in the first place? Okay, we let it pass.

The landmark of our completing ten years of blogging has passed and no one took notice. We asked the newspapers who we know to do a story on us (so it will help with the novel) and none of them responded. Who wants to feature a pony-tailed blogger? Hm, the world has other things to do.

The pony-tail is growing fine despite the barbs aimed at it. We have drawn stares, comments, denunciations, anger, surprise, laughs over our pony-tail, which is also fine. Guess it will take some time to get adjusted to. Shahrukh sports one is our constant excuse. It looks different and writers should look different. We grew it to remind us that we have a novel to complete. We have not edited it for the last three days, which is being lazy. But our financial worries overtake our writing, which needs calm and intense concentration. Will we be able to give it (novel) that? What's the purpose of all this if it will be rejected? Should we go on? What difference will it - the novel - make. Will it alter our complacency, that smug all-knowing world where things are swept into the past without a thought? Does society need someone to document its stories? Isn't it futile considering there are hardly anybody who attends book readings? Aren't we wasting time as the industrial worker from the oil company living next door thinks. (He has a car, two bikes, a bungalow  lots of gold, Diwali bonus, what have you?)

A barrage of such questions almost floored us yesterday. Sometimes the loneliness of old age can be excruciating. Doubts can overcome one and cast a pall of gloom on our very existence. 

But we plod on regardless. As Ram Chander the securityman at the nearby newly-opened hospital in the neighborhood says, "din kat raha hai." We became acquainted on our morning walks. Meaning days are "being cut" from the gross total of our living days. That's a clumsy translation, but we will let it stand. We are hungry and lunch is waiting.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why We Don't Have Good Copyeditors?

We recently read a few pages of an anthology, one in which our short story was published. Then we put the book down and winced. Winced because there were a lot of mistakes, that even the most underpaid sub-editor (a tribe of which we used to be a member) would have discovered. We wondered if the copy has been "subbed" at all. That hurt us because it was our book, one we made our debut with. It made us feel like dirt. To our horror, we discovered later that these days publishers don't employ the tribe called "su-editors" or "copyeditors". They do an editing online and then it goes to press. There is lot of difference between editing online and correcting proof on paper. Online you tend to scan and not really read, many, many, errors thus get overlooked.

We think this was the horror story which was waiting to happen, putting the computer to work where it couldn't be of any help. A story that has killed the demand for good copy editors, which, partially, contributed to our downfall. The copy desk, once the privilege of well-read, all-knowing, grammar-proficient sub-editors who really controlled quality is now dead, as an institution or otherwise as a profession. That's why Indian novels turn out to be of atrocious quality, you turn away in disgust at the mistakes. Pick up a Bhagat or a Trivedi and you are spot on. Combined with this is the fact that there aren't anything called fact checking or research and the book becomes a poor cousin of those produced abroad.

In the mad scramble for releasing titles, publishing houses are forgetting a very important ingredient of the publishing process, the copy desk. No, this is not self glorification, this is the plain truth. Everyday we have to wince through the growing number of mistakes in newspapers and magazines and, believe us, the online media isn't free of them either. You don't have to skim deep enough, you will find the bloopers floating on the surface itself. I have a novel before me which begins "Only one death reported in the press," in the second line. It seems as if one death rose from some graveyard and reported itself to the newspapers concerned.

Don't worry, the meaning is clear, no? Why bother with grammar or syntax as long as meaning is clear? True not all writers (including us, yes, we need a lot of editing) are perfect, but a second opinion is what the publisher must seek and what could be better than the in-house second opinion of the sub-editor? I have worked under brilliant Chief sub-editors (the leader of the copy desk) who could point to a mistake though the entire team might have overlooked it.

Ah, those were the days! Could we bring them back please!