20 August 2009


“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
- His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Call me, Mang-Man!
That’s right, Mang-Man is my name; which is short for Mangalorean man. I am a distant cousin of Batman, Superman, He-Man, and Spiderman. Like all superheroes I have meta-human powers, I can fly, dive deep waters, swim along with the sharks (literally), leap across the mountains and I wear my underwear outside - mine is pink!

In the past, whenever there was injustice in the world, a superhero has been born. The cultural degrade in Mangalore has given birth to Mang-Man.

My foremost task is to uplift the cultural drift in Mangalore: To save Mangalore, straying from culture. In short my motto is: Save Culture. That’s why In front of my Mang-suit I have a K that stands for culture. Unfortunately I realized, much later, that the word Culture starts from C and not from K.

My education is limited. I don’t believe in education. Education corrupts minds. Einstein said: “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” How true! Mang-Man bows to Einstein with great respect. I don’t believe in technology either. My weapons are primitive: small stones that I pelt at defaulters.

Before the cultural chaos, there was not much work for me. I used to do voluntary work and roam around job-hunting agencies.

One time, Matsyagandha train stopped at Mulki station. It just didn’t budge. “Everybody get down,” shouted the engine master. All passengers gathered on the platform.
“What’s going on?” asked Santhanam; He had a gunny bag on his head that had an enormous jack fruit. And a sac full of coconuts at his feet.
“Tires are jammed,” said the engine master, “everybody, at the count of three, start pushing the train.”
“What? Pushing the train? Is this a bus?” retorted Santhanam.
“C’mon people, this is Mangalore! Anything is possible here.”
Luckily I was nearby. I sent all the passengers inside the train and pushed the train for a furlong, only then it started moving smoothly.

Another time, I was at Bajpe airport. A trainee pilot forgot to apply the brakes, the plane moved on a straight line and was about to dive in to the abyss - I pulled the plane back clutching its tail.

I was doing all this in the initial days. But nowadays I am busy for such pro bono work.

Like all superheroes, I have enemies too; mine are Mangalore police and Richard Gere.

Enmity with Mangalore Police
I had always wanted to be a police man: protector of Mangalorean culture. This was a dream since childhood.

When I submitted my application for the police post, it got rejected outright. The inspector laughed at my low educational qualification. “Nowadays uneducated loafers want to take the law in their hand,” he said, “Young man, Police station is not a public toilet to enter and exit on your whim.”

“Sir,” I replied politely, “since I am a superhero, I have never used a public toilet. Therefore I am not in a position to understand your analogy.”

“What is this? Are you some kind of a joker? Get out from here, before I throw you out,” he shouted. I came out flying with a great speed.

But nothing can stop the perseverance of a dedicated mind. Finally I have become a police, if not real, a different one – A moral police!

The Richard Gere incident
If you don’t know Richard Gere, then probably you are from distant planet - Tanglomex. I was a big fan of Richard Gere, before his cultural suicide. He was once considered the sexiest man alive.

Women all over the world would do anything just to get a glimpse of him. Julia Roberts, once highly paid actress, accepted the role of a prostitute, in Pretty Woman, just because Gere was in the lead role.

This same Gere, I don’t know what went to his head, during his India visit, in front of hundreds of people, kissed or almost kissed, a Mangalorean lady - Shilpa Shetty! A truly uncultured gesture! Gere was on the AIDS-awareness campaign, preaching safe sex for truck drivers. He probably thought it was safe to kiss a Mangalorean lady.

This incident made me sad, made Mangalorean people sad, made Indian people sad. Later, I heard even Richard Gere felt sad with the guilt of committing something unholy. The only person who was not sad was Shilpa Shetty herself. Her not being sad, made me sadder! Over night, my favorite hero became my arch enemy!

I was planning an attack on Gere, when he quietly left for USA; which unfortunately is not my territory. The IAS (International Association of Superheroes) forbids me from operating in USA. IAS clearly states that a Superhero can not operate in an alien country, if that country has a local Superhero. I am in a fix. I have decided to seek help from my American cousin Spiderman.

Day-to-day life
Being a moral police is not easy. My foremost job is to preserve culture. This is a difficult job, particularly when nobody knows what exactly our culture is, but wants to follow it strictly.

I am waiting eagerly for the publication of Dr. No Brainer’s much awaited book – “How to survive in Mangalore: a cultural approach.” I expect few good tips from the book.

Sometimes I hide near the movie theatres, waiting for young couples. I promptly send them back, if I find one. Few days back I saw this couple near the movie theatre, walking hand in hand, without a care for the world. I made a sudden entry.
“Freeze police!” I said.
The couple got startled.
“Can I see some ID?” said the boy once recovered from the initial shock.
“I don’t need an ID. I am a moral police,” I said. The girl recognized me from my attire.
“Mang-Man we both are legally mature,” said the girl.
“May be legally, but not culturally mature!” I retorted. (I don’t know what that means. Ha Ha. But it sounds cool!)
“Why don’t you mind your own business?” said the boy.
This really hurt me. Who is this young moron to question the great cultural superhero? I raised my hand and with all my power let off a blow. But the girl intervened. The blow landed on her face. Her cheek turned red. Tears rolled down.

The boy started but the girl stopped him. She looked straight at my eyes. “So Mang-Man this is what you have become; slapping your own women. Is this your culture?” she asked. Then she spat on my face.

Finding Neverland
I got so dejected by this incident: I just wanted a drink. So I flew straight to the nearby pub.

Recently MAMP (Mangalorean Association of Moral Police) has installed metal mannequins at the entrance of all alcohol serving venues. Just before the entry you would place your hand on the metal hand of the mannequin, which will recognize by bio-scan whether you are a male or a female. Only for males the door will be opened. It won’t open for females; instead they will receive a mild electromagnetic shock from the metal-man.

Once inside, I took a corner seat and ordered my favorite drink –martini, shaken but not stirred! There was no power; hence the metal-man at the entrance was not working. To my horror I saw an old lady entering the pub. She walked straight to the barman.
“Could you sir, kindly, oblige me with a glass of water?” she said.
“Ma’am, my culture forbids me to entertain a lady in this establishment,” replied the barman politely.
“Kind sir, I am asking only for a glass of water.”
“If only you were a gentleman -”
“But sir, only a glass of water-”
“My lady, today you ask for water tomorrow you will ask for Vodka. Where is our culture headed?” said the exasperated barman.
“Sir, what kind of a culture distinguishes men and women as unequal, when God has made them equal?”

And the old lady left. I quietly followed her. She went straight to the bus stand.
“When is the next bus that leaves this doomed place?” she asked a conductor.
“Next bus to where?”
“Any place, I just want to leave.”
“Let me see,” conductor shuffled his time table, “we have a bus in 5 minutes that leaves for – Neverland,” he said.
“Give me a one-way ticket to Neverland.” She said.

A matter of Heart
Some time people confuse my role. They expect a lot from me. Like this one time - I was in Ideal, enjoying Gadbad.
“Somebody please help,” I heard a piercing shriek. Immediately people gathered.
“Don’t worry ma’am Mang-Man is here,” someone suggested. Then a lady, a bit relaxed now realizing my presence, came to me.
“Mang-Man, could you please help my husband?”
“What is wrong?”
“Looks like he is having a heart attack.”
“Madam,” I said kindly, “this is a medical issue; whereas I am a moral police. Though I can help, this is clearly not my responsibility.”
“Please Mang-Man,” she begged.
“I am sorry Madam; I can only provide you moral support.”

Then two identical looking men came forward.
“Madam, we will help you,” they said. They helped the fallen man with first-aid.
“We have called the Ambulance; it will be here any minute.” They consoled the lady.
“Thank you gentlemen; you are true Mangaloreans,” she said.
“On the contrary we are outsiders-”
“Outsiders?! Where are you from?”
“We are aliens.”
“Yes Ma’am. We are from planet – Tanglomex. We are doing a human study here.”
“Oh! Please come home sometime for tea. Do you drink tea?”
“We are afraid it is not possible. We are leaving today.”
“Why? Can’t you stay for couple of more days?” said the lady earnestly.
“We need to leave as soon as possible. This place is not safe for aliens.”
“Where are you going?”
“We are leaving for Iran today night.”
“Iran? Why my God?” she was shocked. “There is a war going on in Iran?”
“We know about the war, ma’am. In war, unlike this place, things are predictable.” Their conversation stopped abruptly at the sirens of the ambulance. The aliens set the patient in the ambulance, consoled the lady again; then they left for their long odyssey.

Minority Report
There are 4 groups in Mangalore: Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Mang-Man. Mang-Man doesn't belong to any religious group. His fight is for culture.

One of the many unique things in Mangalore is minorities are powerful here. Minorities rule! This is against general logic and common sense, but it is a fact. Christians are a minority compared to Hindus hence powerful. Muslims are minorities compared to Christians, hence more powerful than Hindus and Christians.

However, since Mang-Man is alone, and a minority compared to every other group, he is the most powerful man/super-man in Mangalore.

The minority rules – is one of Dr. No Brainer’s many theories. According to him, many universal laws, which otherwise function perfectly, become null and void in Mangalore. He once famously claimed that, in Mangalore, if an apple falls from a tree, instead of coming down, would go up to the sky. Nobody could disprove this, since we don’t have apple trees in Mangalore.

Dr. No Brainer’s theory
Dr. No Brainer is not a doctor in medical sense. He was an usher at the local cinema theatre; the one who keeps the half part of your movie ticket and guides you to the seat with a torch light. Because of his job, he saw more movies than a regular viewer; and developed a wild imagination.

During his free time he used to scribble small articles on the back side of the movie posters. One such article, which was supposed to be a joke, got printed by mistake in the local news paper. People didn’t get the joke; they thought it to be very serious. This article later got published several times and got translated in many languages, is now widely known as – Dr. No Brainer’s theory.

The theory says that there are multiple Gods, at least one for each religion. Each religion has its own heaven and hell. The theory claimed that sins don’t get carried over when you convert to a new religion. The last point was a hope for many old criminals. Many old people, who had led an amoral life, converted to a new religion, with the hope of gaining an entry to heaven.

Overnight No Brainer became Dr. No Brainer. He has left his old job. He is a big-shot now. He has formed his own group – Universal Brothers. He conducts seminars on his theories. The theories say everything and nothing at the same time. The theories convince his disciples and confuse his foes. He moves among influential people who don’t understand his theories. And the ones who understand his theories, a lesser group, loathes him; one such person is the village idiot.

The village idiot
The village idiot roams around the city without any concern. He was a teacher once. In fact I was his student in the elementary class.

He opposed Dr. No Brainer vehemently. One time, in a public meeting, Dr. No Brainer challenged him with a peculiar question: “What is your stand on God and religion?”

The teacher said: “All religions are like rivers. They merge in one God like rivers merging at one sea.”

There was a wild roar and cacophony. People could not digest this. Dr. No Brainer’s theory was already accepted by many. The teacher was immediately declared insane.

Thenceforth his roaming started. He didn’t bother anyone afterwards. At night he slept in the church graveyard. One day from the graveyard he saw a light at a distance. A house was on fire. The idiot tried to wakeup the neighbors; no one budged. In desperation, he ran to the church and pulled the church bell.

People heard the bell at the unusual hour. They sensed something was wrong. Soon a large crowd gathered. And 5 lives from the burning house were saved.

However MAMP arrested the idiot. A committee was called. The Idiot got questioned. The chairman said: “Dear Sir, Idiot, you have committed an unpardonable crime.”
“What is my crime?” retorted the idiot.
“You have committed a sacrilege by using church bell for an unholy purpose!”
“The most learned members of the committee,” said the idiot,
“Is a church bell holier than the human lives?”

This aggravated the committee; they punished the idiot severely. The committee forbade the idiot from using his brains. Because it strongly believed that common sense would lead one to commit unholy deeds.

Old man at the market place
The whole world is waiting for the 27th annual intergalactic seminar, which will be held in the distant planet - Tanglomex. It’s a proud moment for Mangaloreans. Since the only representative from earth would be none other than our own – Dr. No Brainer. He will mainly talk about his new theory on multiple suns and moons. The theory demonstrates the need for multiple suns and moons, one each per religion; according to him that would help solving the chaos.

On the market days he has seen doing charity work. He donates small gifts to the beggars. On these occasions he wears the white gloves without fail. He waits for a short period, till some one clicks a picture. Then he rushes away, he is a busy man. The picture appears on the front page of the next day edition of the local news paper.

Last Thursday, kind Dr. No Brainer met a wretched beggar at the market place.
“Are you hungry?” asked the kind soul of Dr. No Brainer.
“Sir, Is it not evident?” said the shivering beggar.
“I can make your belly amply full for the rest of your life,” promised Dr. No Brainer.
“You Sir, are a great man.”
“But one condition-”
“Anything, kind sir”
“Are you a member of any group?”
“Yes Sir. I am a member of NF-2 (No Food No Future).”
“Hmmm. You must convert to – Universal Brothers.”
“Sir, I am just a hungry man. I will convert to anything.”
“That’s very good. Tell me, dear beggar-man, what are your views on - salvation of the soul?”
This confused the beggar. But the cunning beggar intelligently replied: “Your views are my views sir.”
“Smart man,” that pleased the noble soul of Dr. No Brainer, “Would you like low-fat-cream-cheese or fruit-jam on your bread?”

The greatest player
Like Universal Brothers and NF-2, there are many minor groups in Mangalore. They have their own agenda. One of them is – UGON (Under God One Nation). UGON is a small group of highly dedicated members. Its motto is to make Mangalore an independent country. It also wants a dedicated sun and moon for Mangalore. There is a virtual group whose name is – Communal Harmony. To which every Mangalorean belongs - virtually. There is S4 (Secret Society of Secret Societies), no one knows who its members are. Finally there is a real and very active our own – Cosa Nostra.

But above all there is a group, which is undercover, about which nobody has any information. This group creates a lot of misdeeds. Sometime I travel incognito as a holy man. Every body thinks I am a holy man, but in reality I am Mang-Man undercover. I am on a constant lookout for any one of the group members. That would give me some information. I don’t know who they are and what they want. Recently this group has attacked the holy places. Luckily Universal Brothers reached the venue immediately; though they could not help much.

On the day of the attack on holy places, I roamed around, disguised as a holy man. I wanted at least some lead on the miscreants. And then I saw this guy, in the market, sitting at a corner. He clearly didn’t belong there. He had a kind, peaceful radiant face.
On nearing he said: “Hello Mang-Man”

I got shocked. How did he recognize me! It is humanly impossible. There could be only one possibility; and a thin smile appeared on my face.
"Hello God," I said.
"Hello again," God said.
"God, what are you doing here?"
"I am taking rest. This place is very peaceful."
Sure! Taking rest in the market place! Bla bla bla. I mean he is God. He needs to be unique.
"Holy places have been attacked!” I informed God. “Now that you are here; I guess it’s a fiasco."
God gave a knowing smile.
“Careful God,” I warned him, “they are trying to kill you!”

This is the idiot speaking
The attack on the holy places has created more chaos. I heard that the idiot has been stabbed and hospitalized. I rushed to the hospital.
“He doesn’t have much time,” said the doctor.

Idiot was really weak. He had all sorts of tubes poked in his body.

“Who did this to you?”
“That is not important,” said the idiot.
“I will-“
“Listen to me Mang-Man,” he breathed heavily, “I don’t have much time.”

“I am listening,” I said with a sigh.

“Mang-Man, things are not black and white as you think. There is more than what it seems externally.

When I was younger, things were simple. And people were simple. As a young man, I wanted no fame and no money. I just wanted a small family, wife, kids and good friends; a small home and understanding neighbors. Not much. That is all I wanted from life. Am I wrong in expecting these things?

One time, I amassed few rupees, asked my old father to take a holy pilgrimage. My father didn’t show any interest. No place is holier than our place, he said.

Now look at our place. People are afraid to come here. We are busy with religious fights. What is a religious victory, to a mother, who has lost a son in this chaos? What future we are promising our children?

Why do we have to fight for a home for God, when He has created the whole universe?

And what promise of heaven, initiates these ghastly deeds? I don’t want a heaven that forbids entry to my neighbor just because he is of a different religion. And how a God is different from man, if he desires my neighbor’s blood?”

I heard the whole thing silently. Then suddenly, reasons unknown to me, I asked: “Dear Teacher, what is the greatest crime?"

He gave a thin smile.
"Taking advantage of innocent people's faith is the greatest crime." Those were his last words. Then he died.

Though Idiot didn’t belong to any group, one of the religions, who claimed Idiot to be a pious devotee, avenged his death by killing a bus conductor of a different religion.

The change
The death of the idiot has changed me. I don't need big reasons for a change. Remember, I am a superhero, not a human being.

I must say, half of what he said I didn’t understand. My ignorance made me sad. I decided to overcome this handicap by reading as much as possible.

Later, I spent hour after hour at the library. Being a superhero I can read extremely fast. I read all the important books: classics, philosophies, biographies, memoirs, history, and art. Finally I read Gita, Koran and Bible.

After so much reading, my views have changed. I can see the things more clearly. Then one day I asked myself – who would benefit from the idiot’s death?

The truth
I met Dr. No Brainer at his head quarters. I didn’t beat around the bushes.
“Why did you kill – The idiot?” I asked.
“He was not an Idiot, Mang-Man. Never for a second had I thought him to be an idiot.”
“Then why did you kill him?”
“He was a threat.”
“What threat?”
“Threat to whatever I preach.”
“Are you saying – your preaching’s are wrong?”
“I don’t know what is right or wrong. I have always said what people wanted to hear.”
“Your mindless murder has cost the bus-conductor his life.”
“My people killed the bus conductor.”
“Yes. Mang-Man, I killed both, the Idiot and the Conductor.”
“Why did you do that?”
“To create religious chaos.”
“If you are such a bad person, why did your people save the attack on the holy places?”
“Why do you think, Universal Brothers were the first to reach the demolished holy places?”
“They were the ones who started the attack on holy places. And they were the ones acted like saving them.”
“You have been playing with people’s innocence.”
“That is true.”
“You are evil, Dr. No Brainer”
“I can not deny that.”
“Why did you create all this confusion?”
“You are an innocent man, Mang-Man.”
“Why did you create this chaos? What is your motive? You must believe in something.”
“Money and power”
That was it: His motives.
“I am going to expose you, Dr. No Brainer,” I said.
“Do you think you can really do that? How will you do that? Universal Brothers won’t allow you to leave this building.”

“Don’t forget Dr. No Brainer, since I am a minority - since I don’t belong to any group, I am the most powerful person.”
“Do you really believe that Mang-Man?” Dr. No Brainer laughed, “Though I appreciate you supporting my minority theory, I would suggest you to use your common sense.”

Dr. No Brainer has succeeded in convincing people that I am a public enemy. I have been charged with crimes against humanity. And my punishment is public death by stoning.

On the allotted day a large crowd gathered at the open ground. People came from distant places. I was on a small podium with my hands cuffed. Dr. No Brainer gave a small speech on two suns two moons theory. Once again he succeeded in convincing or confusing the crowd. The confused crowd gave a wild approving cheer.

“Why so much delay? The last bus to my village leaves in half hour,” someone shouted.

People were ready with stones. Some people were betting; there was a prize for every perfect aim.
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” I shouted.
“What is that Mang-Man, is that a movie dialogue? It is very funny,” said a villager; poor fool, don't even know where that comes from.
“Kind Sirs,” I said, “just finish the business. Aim for the head.”
“You are funny Mang-Man”
“I, sirs, kindly accept the complement.” I sighed.
Crowd was getting restless by the moment.
“Mang-Man, why don’t you free yourself, and show everyone that you are a true superhero,” someone else shouted.
That’s what people want - A magician!

“I can save you,” Dr. No Brainer whispered in my ears, “If you join Universal Brothers”
“Never,” I said.

“Any last wish?” he held the mike near to me.
“Dear Mangaloreans,” I said, “I will not be present to bother you henceforth. This place is in your hands. Please be kind to your home town.” When I said that, I lost control, a small droplet against my wish, rolled down from the edge of my right eye.

“Mang-Man, do you need to be so dramatic?” asked Dr. No Brainer.

I didn’t say anything. Someone blind folded me. Among the shouts of the crowd I felt divinely peaceful. And I waited. It was a short wait.

Note: If you liked this short story, you might like my other short stories as well. Click here for more. 

Note: The article was initially published here.

09 August 2009

Writing Tips

Following are some tips for new writers; also a checklist for myself. I collected them over a period from various sources. Hence I cannot take any credit for the article. I hope these points will give some hope and direction for aspiring writers.

I will update the article as I find new points. Also update the sources for these points as I recollect them. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

· Read, Read and Read (If you don’t follow this rule, then you can’t become a writer. You can as well discontinue reading further.)

· Write daily (Keep a daily schedule. I don‘t write on weekends.
  Note: Sept 2012 
  I do write on weekends now. This change has happened after my daughter. In the past, I used to write in the evenings. Daughter doesn't allow that anymore. Now I write in the mornings. Daily. 6:30AM to 7:30AM. 

· Maintain a diary or a folder on the desktop to write your ideas (I get ideas all the time, I use post-its, sometimes I write on my hand. I have small book-lets everywhere. Ideas come rarely; You can't afford to lose them. )

· Read a Dictionary (Or do something to improve your vocabulary.)

· Read 500 books before writing your first short story. (I did)

· Write 50 short stories/articles before writing a book. - Further information by Alex Keegan

· Write for yourself (Ignore the critics; There are no statues for the critics!)

· Observe how your favorite writers create characters and situations.

· Avoid slang, flowery language and big words (The goal is to tell a story, not to show your readers how smart you are.)

· Don’t tell them, show them (be practical. Don't fall for this trap.)

· Know your readers

· Re read the drafts

· Cut the length by 10% in the second draft. (On Writing by Stephen King)

· Observe people in real life (they will be your future characters)

· One central theme

· Use a good grammar book 

· Be passionate about your characters (R K Narayan, Gogol)

· Once finished, don’t publish the story immediately, take a one week break, reread the draft once again after a week, do the changes and submit for publishing

· Reread your old published articles and find out what changes you could have made

· Do research on your subject (Write a bit less than what you know. Ice-berg theory. Hemingway.)

· Avoid technical terms and jargon

· In a short story start very close to the ending (Kurt Vonnegut)

· In a short story use minimum characters

· Don't be afraid of mistakes; Veterans make less mistakes,  beginners more. Many of your readers won't even notice the mistakes.

· Read War and Peace
· Concentrate on small characters, make them interesting
· Don't be afraid of having the setting of your story in your small town

· Read the kind of books you want to write 

· Avoid big words (but use the right words) 

· Read your favorite book sentence by sentence and, understand the mechanics of writing 

· Avoid adverbs--ly words. 

· The good story has a conflict: Hero wants something, bad-guy wants exactly opposite. 

· End of the story, the main character (and readers!) should have some transformation. 

· Don't kill your main character 

· In the initial stages write stories with plot 

· Use clear, unambiguous prose 

· Every scene should move forward the plot 

· Avoid describing anatomy in a sexual scene. (Avoid sexual scenes, if they are irrelevant to the main theme.) 

· Avoid colloquialism

Books on writing
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
Writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg 

Articles on writing
Fiction Writing Articles

Books on Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Books on style 

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman

Grammar reference
Online english grammar
Whose grammar is it anyway? by C. Edward Good 
Handbook of English Grammar and Usage by Mark Lester and Larry Beason 

Advanced books on writing 
Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver 
Characters and viewpoint by Orson Scott Card 

Books on Editing 

Self-Editing for fiction writers by Rennie Browne and Dave King