08 July 2008

My world

“Completely at home? You mean in my natural state? ……….You know, blessed father, you shouldn’t challenge me to be in my natural state, you shouldn’t risk it … I myself will not go so far as to be in my natural state. I am warning you in order to protect you”
- Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s - The Brothers Karamazov )

Often people fail to recognize the artist in them. You may say to yourself (or to the computer screen in front), art is not my cup of tea or not my cup of coffee (if you are a sophisticated coffee drinker).

But let me assure you, like M&Ms, there is a little bit of artist in every one of us. If you have ever written a leave note, to attend grandpa’s funeral, when he was still alive, congratulate yourself, you are a creative writer! If you have forged parent’s signature for reasons unmentionable and un-publishable, you are an artist yourself.

Now that I have convinced (or confused) you, that you are an artist, let’s move forward.

I had an impression (probably have, even now), any person, who can write two sentences ending in rhymes; and who writes them in individual lines is a - Poet. I don’t know how I got that idea; probably I read contemporary poems, or probably an overdose of popular cinema. Funny, what all kind of notions people carry.

One of my first poems was,

My name is Ravi
I am a - Kavi

Now when I remember those lines, I feel may be those were my lowest days of creativity. The dumbest people I know can not come up with dumber lines than my 2 lines. Some critics think they are my ONLY creative lines. Let’s hope they are wrong and forgive them.

In those days though, I really got charged up, considered my self a poet, showed the piece of art to my mom.

She stared the paper for a whole minute, tore it into hundred pieces. Grabbed me by the collar, gave me a narrow look, “Listen to me carefully Ravi,” she said, “I am investing thousands for your education. I don't want you to be a dumb writer. There is no MONEY in writing.”

“Believe me!” she looked desperate, “I have married a poet; I don’t want another in the family!”

That, kind of sealed my fate. I didn’t write a single creative line, for years to come, till I married, till my wife came to know my history, and she said one day – “Let me see who is stopping my husband from writing!”

So with new backup, new vigor, with new woman in my life (old woman was – mom!), I wrote few articles, which to my horror got published. I can not believe (even now) there are real life people in flesh and blood who read my articles! People who, if they like, opt to read Tolstoy, Narayan, O. Henry, Dickens but have found time to read my articles. Can life be more beautiful? Or is this an early indication of world coming to an end.

The other Boleyn man
Being a writer is not sexy. People think you are useless. Useless to do anything meaningful, that is money oriented. World is full of people not understanding the meaning of: A thing of beauty is joy forever. But they definitely understand what Shakespeare said: All I want is money! Just kidding, Shakespeare didn’t say that!

There is no writer’s day; but there is one for fools! (April 1st sad I have to mention that for the sake of people, for whom the day is celebrated).

Not much money in writing though, not much respect either. My mom was correct there, although she was wrong about many other things, including her opinion about my wife!

Your prospects in any venture reduce drastically and exponentially the moment people come to know you are a writer. My father in law thinks, not only I am useless (writer or not), but also rest of the writing gang. “Why write a story,” he says, “when everyone knows it is not real!” Can you counter that?

I spent considerable amount of time and energy convincing this person that I am the most suitable boy for his Barbie doll. And I almost failed.

First time I met him, he asked – “Can you keep my daughter happy?”
“Of course,” I said.
“Frankly I feel she has better prospects. But I guess one can not expect everything from this MTV generation. I am happy; at least she has not selected a story teller or song writer.”

“I am a writer myself” I said. That was a mistake.
“I knew it! God, do you earn your living by writing?”
“No Sir. I am a software engineer by profession.”
“Good choice! They pay outrageously for software engineers. What are you going to do once this Y2K is solved?”
“I will find something”

“Have you ever thought of becoming a full time writer?”
“No Sir”
“Good. If you have any such plans, then forget about marrying my daughter”
That was sometime back. Subsequently I have started writing, not full time, but now and then. No Jay Leno, Letterman shows for me! No people standing in line for autograph, just a man in the crowd.

Mom’s influence
If you have read my previous articles (which I am sure you have not), you might have noticed that all my articles are real life incidents; with very less (debatable) literary license. That is because I have very little or near-to-zero imagination to write stories.

This lack of imagination has forced me to write real life incidents, some of them I am not really proud about.

Once, long time back, accidentally (debatable again), I went to a dance bar. Which no one knew in my family, till I wrote about it (Can you believe that?) in one of my earlier articles. Now it has sort of become a family scandal.

“Why did you write about it?” mom asked me last time.
“Mom, I went there only once, 10 years ago, that was an enlightening experience.”

“Enlightening?! Are you out of your…God! What kind of person gets enlightened in a dance bar?” she cribbed, “More over you are abroad, we have to face the music here. You have put more mud on our family reputation than any one else. Write Chandamama kind of stories. Write about the thirsty crow, finding a half filled jug of water- ”
“That story is already told…” I said.
“Write the same story again, replace the crow with some other bird, may be a pigeon”
“Mom, that is plagiarism!”
“What? You think you can use high sounding phony words with me? Forgot, who taught you A B C?”

One can not really convince ones mom.

Wild goose chasers
After this lecture from mom, for sometime, I stopped writing real life incidents. Instead, I wrote a short story; with only one character in it; an old man waiting for his death. My relatives and close friends will notice traces of my grand father in the old man. I can’t help it.

I am sure it is not publishable. There is no alien attack or magic wands in the story; only an old man waiting for his death. It’s an art -movie kind of story. Tea without milk, Diet Coke, You know what I mean? The kind of story whose depth people will understand only after writer’s death. At the moment though, only a ground nut seller would find any use from the pages of the story.

Still, I asked a literary colleague of mine to have a look at it.

“I am very sorry” he said “I read only Chekhov!”

This made me immensely sad but also curious about Chekhov. I read couple of stories by Anton Chekhov. I must admit he was a great writer. With what ever knowledge I have, of contemporary literature I can boldly say there will not be another Chekhov in my life time. For that matter there won’t be a Chekhov in your life time as well (Don’t stare the monitor like that!).

This may be sad news for ONLY-Chekhov guys. Sad, they have raised the bar so high. Sad the contemporary literature is not in a position to quench their superior literary thirst.

Interestingly Chekov himself read lot of other writers who were far below his standards!

In the beginning
Sometime I wonder why one should write. There may be numeral reasons for others. I have a special reason though.

People have ignored me life long. They have side lined me, rejected me, discarded my ideas. This constant rejection and a need for recognition have made me a rambler.

Long time back (flash back time), must be very long, I can’t recollect the exact date. I was in school. It must be some kind of catechism class. I was not really concentrating, but one thing the teacher said really caught my attention.

“…..probably the most important thing he said was: Love your enemy. No one has said that before, till today. Just three little words. Love your enemy. So powerful. My dear students, such a wonderful thought, such marvelous and absolutely wonderful -”

“I disagree!” I shouted from the last bench.
“What? Who is that?”

“It is not only utopian but also impractical.”
“Do you know whom you are disagreeing with?” teacher asked.
“I have to agree, I don’t know the gentleman personally, or at least I am positive about it, never the less I disagree with his statement”

“Shut up and sit down,” said the teacher bluntly, “Ignorant fool”
“Don’t corrupt other children with your ideas” she warned.
“I am not corrupting anyone”

“Yes, you are! Well, the other day I was told, you roam around telling people that there will be telephones in future without wires?”

“Yes!” I said enthusiastically.

“And how would they communicate? Telepathy?”
“I don’t know, but it seems possible”
“And also according to you, in future, people no need to go to banks to withdraw money. There will be small automated machines which will do that for us?”
“Probably the machine will ask the potential customer, whether he wants notes in hundreds or tens?” sarcastically she asked.
“It is possible”
“And all these so called intelligent automated machines – just sit around, with large amount of cash in them, without getting attention from burglars and thieves?”
“Now, isn’t it utopian Mr. Lobo? Don’t spoil the students. Well, I may even dare to suggest you to keep your ideas to yourself, for the time being, for your own good.”

None of the students understood what she was saying. Though, I clearly recognized the threat. The teacher had a brother in Mumbai, who had come down to our place; there were rumors that he had links with the underworld.

I kept low for sometime; stopped contradicting the teacher. Deep in my heart though, I decided if I ever become a writer, I would write about it.

Grandma’s version
All grandparents exaggerate their grandkids. My grandma almost convinced strangers that her grandkid (that is me) is not less than Alexander! According to her I fought with a mad dog when I was kid and saved the whole family single handedly.

Clearly, I don’t remember this incident, but she says I was too young to remember.

According to her I didn't spend much time with mom, instead with the intellectuals and religious elders in the family. I listened to them when they discussed God, Chaos theory and global warming. So my current writing is a vent to all the listening I did during my kid days!

Nothing is far from truth. Even though I would give my right hand for these incidents to be true, but they are really far fetched.

“Grandma, you should not spread these stories, when people are really thinking of institutionalizing you!” I warned her, “In your last version it was a mad tiger and not mad dog! People don’t doubt my capability to fight the mad tiger at that tender age. But they are more curious to know: How did you find out the tiger was mad? People laugh at you – “

“I don't care. They are the same people who laughed at Galileo”
“What? Who?”
“Galileo Galilei”
“Jesus, grandma, Galileo had a point.” I gave in. It was really useless.

An abstract ending
Apart from everything, a writer should write for himself. He should write for his own satisfaction than enlightening others. Are we all keepers of our brothers? If so, what the brothers will do? Who gives the rights to critics - to judge? Who nominates them? When do you really become a critic? Why there are no statues for critics? Why don’t critics create their own art? Why do moms have to interfere in everything? Why do father in laws hate their son in laws? Why do we have crop circles? Is there an end for Ekta Kapoor serials? Is there really a life after death? Who is John Galt? What am I talking?

[My editor has written me a letter asking the meaning of above paragraph; and its possible relation to the whole article. Frankly I don’t know the meaning myself. I am sure the critics will find some meaning. I have resubmitted the article with this content in brackets, hoping they publish it ‘as is’.]

My old teacher told me last time she read couple of my articles and it seems she liked them.
“Did you ever read – Chekov?” I asked her, to be on the safer side.
“I have read Chekov” she said “Still for a beginner you write well”
What she wants from me? Does she need some sort of donation? Is she serious? There is something fishy here, oh God, am I on air? Am I on MTV Bakra, where is Cyrus? All this confusion bogged my mind. But I have decided to believe her, I believe anything, even flattery, I am prone to flattery.

What next. This is the problem of amateur writers. They just don’t know how to gracefully end an article. As a reader you expect something more, you feel the writer has rambled a lot, probably now he will tell some facts. But no, there is no next page, no more links to click, there is no grand finale, just an abstract ending. You scroll down, expecting more, but there is nothing; you see only links for archived articles and reader comments!
This article was previously published at daiji - RL


  1. Hey Ravi..very nice to see ur article..
    got it from google..
    was actually searching in daijiworld...

  2. dancebar, thats still etched in your mind!!!, mine too. can't see the point in it. was my only visit as well.


  3. Seems u really dislike Ekta Kapoor...