Monday, September 27, 2010

Morning has broken

The best time in our house is breakfast time. We're all foraging for different kinds of food, and reading different newspapers, sharing whatever bits we think are amusing. Woman falls out of train into sea and survives. Columbian police arrest drug dealer's parrot for giving warning of their approach. Woman gets roughed up by neighbours because her dog poops in front of their house. Obama's not coming to Bangalore because he's afraid of the techies. If there's no interesting news, we amuse ourselves by checking how many exaggerations the Times of India crams into the same story the Hindu has reported with great restraint. Occasionally, arguments break out as we all have widely differing views on whatever the main headline is, but they usually end abruptly in a quest for a five-letter word for boredom or an Italian composer. This last is my mother who is deeply addicted to the Guardian Quick Crossword. My Dad will promptly make up a word that fools nobody (he often thinks I'm still eight). In between, we blame each other for the failure of the vegetables we painstakingly planted or take credit for whatever fruit the garden has recently produced. We hotly debate the merits of some new block of flats that none of us is going to buy, earnestly study the dog adoption listings for a pet we're not going to get, and, if it's a Sunday, my Dad will search the matrimonial ads for a bridegroom I'm not going to marry. We interfere with each other's plans for the day, get in the way of the maid and are generally friendly to each other. Of course, conditions deteriorate as the day progresses and dinner is usually the worst time, but that does not stop us from inflicting our company on each other. Looking back, this seems to have always been the pattern in the household, more or less. You'd think that by now we'd have taken the hint and gone in for TV dinners.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Writing for pleasure?

Some days words don't come easy. Other days they don't come at all. Now and then I feel – as everyone does – that I'd like to go back and try the road not taken. Then again, I feel like that's the road I'm on, and wish I'd taken the other, well-travelled one. Noise is alternatively comforting and oppressive. Silence does that too. Rules are hard to follow, and difficult to renounce. Fear follows hard on hope. Faith is the hardest thing to do. Some days it's half-full. On others, half-empty. Sometimes the glass isn't even there.

"Writing, particularly fiction writing, is an act of quiet terror. You are alone all at once with your genius and your ineptitude, and your errors are as public as possible," as Gene Weingarten says in "The Hardy Boys: The Final Chapter", an old article in the Washington Post (it's a great read for those of us who grew up with the Hardy Boys. Or Nancy Drew, for that matter).

Writing a book is ridiculously hard work. The reckless number of debut novels unleashed every month baffles me - who are all these people and how are they doing it?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

An Indiranagar sub-culture

It's Cafe Coffee Day on 12th Main. I'm sitting with my laptop open, typing desultorily and waiting for a friend to join me. At the table next to me three people are doing business. I know this not from their conversation, which I'm not paying attention to, but the tones of their voices. After a while, I look up and see that they're discussing the new logo of their company. I can see the screen clearly and I automatically critique the logo in my mind. It's not much longer before I feel impelled to lean across and present my credentials and opinions. The upshot of this is an offer from the guy to introduce me to publishers for my book, and a freelance project.

Over the next few weeks, at various other caf├ęs, more freelance projects and job referrals come my way from others engaged in trying to turn early mid-life crises into pots of gold. It seems this town is full of people who work better in cafes than in cubicles. There are far more of us than I'd thought. We followed the prescribed path from birth. We got the reasonable education, no hitch, became reasonable adults at eighteen, no question, found the reasonable job, no sweat. We moved smoothly from good company to better one with scarcely a break, climbed steadily with reasonable reward. We stayed firmly on the rails for 15 or 16 years until the Great Pointsman in the Sky (or the evil one below) fell asleep or something and we found ourselves suddenly thrown off, bruised and unreasonable. The early troubles we should have had suddenly come due, we take our belated gap year and give ourselves the career angst we skipped.

Most of us are still walking beside the rails, half ready to leap on should another slow train arrive, but we're getting more unreasonable by the hour. Most of us will return anyway to some cubicle or the other, refreshed by the break. But the 0.1 per cent who don't, will, in between dodging the bouncing cheques, invent the next Mac or Google, found the new Tata or become another AR Rahman or Chetan Bhagat. I don't know yet which category I will belong to, but it's an exciting time here in the recycle bin.

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