Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another Excerpt from My Novel - a Bit Provocative - from My Novel "Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard

Since it's a Sunday and I am feeling lazy, I am posting another excerpt from my novel. This is a bit provocative, so watch out! Don't say I didnst warn thou! Comments are welcome as always.

Excerpt:

Then I come out, wipe my tears, smoke a cigarette and stare at the sea and then stare some more at the well-fed bodies that do a petulant dance before my hungry eyes. Impossibly beautiful girls. The best girls I have ever seen. They wear sexy clothes – denims, tank tops which bare the midriff and navel. They sport straightened hair, low-slung jeans that show their panties, mini-skirts of a sheer fabric which leaves nothing much to the imagination, and a huge a-generation-ago-I-would-have-been-under-a-veil-but-now-I-am-liberated attitude. A pair of jeans accentuates a woman's shape; it takes a woman's behind and transforms it into a variety of tempting and luscious fruity forms: apple, pear, peach, mango, guava, papaya, etc. Ah, the forbidden fruits! Forbidden, at least to me. I sometimes put myself – because of my low social acceptability, due to my colour – into the fair skin of my friend Darius Screwala and – mysteriously and magically – great possibilities seem to assume aspects of certitude. Darius Screwala! My friend! The smooth-talking Priapic seducer of women, how I envy you.

Newness: that's what this country has in plenty – liberation of a sex, gender equality, and attitude. They could give the Britney Spears and Paris Hiltons of the world tough competition – just liberated from repressive men –, looking as if they have just been torn away from their mothers' bosoms, tasting the first freedom of the wide world of adulthood, such innocent beauties. Oh God! Oh great Zara! Looking at them makes me want to cry again. Though I am drunk, the sadness and moroseness hasn't left me. It wasn't like this before I left for the U.S. Those days only the Roman Catholics and Parisis (the Aarcees and the Parisees) dated girls and went out in the evenings. Now the Moomoori, Zoozoori, Malloori, and Bongoori girls dominate. The universality of the well-fed young bodies displayed before me do something to me. I find myself wildly aroused. I am so hopelessly aroused that I have to face a wall to hide my shame. They must be having their first sexual trysts in parked cars and the Family Rooms of shady restaurants. I am jealous. With Parul I haven't had sex for months; I wank off once in a while. For me sex has lost meaning. Parul if only you had spread your legs for me once in a month I would have been a happy man. I could have understood a stream drying up, not a total drought. 

Excerpt ends.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Good; The Bad, The Ugly

Indeed times are bad. (Don't blame me since the bad mood persisted over a wasted morning when I witnessed a fight in train between two screwed up individuals [both unshaved and disheveled, some fashion this] with nothing worth calling manners, to my knowledge. I lost on my precious reading time on my daily commute and am still disoriented.) I guess MTV and VTV has done a big disservice by introducing the casual culture among youth. Both the young guys were wearing casual clothes.

But this morning had a spark of the good. Yes, serendipitously, sometimes the good overcomes the bad. Sanjay Dubey is a rickshaw driver I am friendly with. He is very polite and asks me for old clothes. So I give him old sweaters, trousers and a few shirts that I no longer wear. This morning he drove me to the station and gave me back ten rupees when I had given him twenty (the fare is rupees fifteen). I was touched. So I gave him back the ten rupees and said he should keep the change. This is good.

Last night the rickshaw driver was not like Sanjay Dubey. He charged me Rs 20 when my usual fare was Rs 18. He said the fares had been increased and didn't I know? I said I didn't, no notifications had come in the papers. What papers, he says, who believes the papers these days, we have our unions. God, is it the breakdown of communications? What do the media pundits have to say about this in this age of information overload? This is bad.

Last night I went to buy a brush for the toilet. I am very particular about toilets and I want mine to be as clean as in a hotel (if the hotels can do it why can't I?). I have no hesitation in saying I clean mine myself. The day before I had bought one from Sector 4 of Belapur and he had charged me Rs 25. So yesterday I went to another shop nearby in Sector 6 and the bloody lout told me to pay Rs 50, i.e., double the amount. Ugh! A 100 per cent profit on top of their usual profit margin. This is unfair, this is profiteering, this is absolute highway robbery (except that I don't see any trace of a highway nearby). This ugly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Police State, Are We?

Common people in India do not tangle with the police because they know what happens. Makes me wonder if we have graduated from a police-thanedar culture into something more advanced. In the US it's the same, i.e., no better. There they call them "thugs in uniform" about which this story will vouch.

The Indian situation is complicated by the interference of the legislative and executive arms of the government. True, if you are in trouble a member of legislative assembly or a political leader can surely ensure your release. However in this instance, the contact with a political leader didn't work.Twenty-three persons were arrested and detained without giving a proper reason for their incarceration in Bombay. And, it turns out, they weren't the guilty party, but the hotel was. It transpires that the hotel didn't have the necessary permit to serve liquor.

And while on the subject what about the much tom-tom-ed police reforms.

Link courtesy Annie Zaidi's blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sangam House Residencies - Corrigendum

Sorry, forgot to mention. The link below is courtesy: Caferati Listings! Thanks Caferati for letting me know!

Sangam House Residencies

Sangam House has various residencies available for serious writers. I intend to apply. Do peruse and apply, would like to meet up, if luck favours and I am there (A big "If" isn't it?! Details are here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Space Seller Are You Kidding?

The job involves media buying. It's a dicey business because space seller executives lie about their circulation and rates all the time. It's amazing what they will do to fudge figures.

- Mr. John (Yeah, I am Mr. John!), the rate for full page is Rs 1,80,000 but we give you ad for Rs 45,000.

- Wow! That's a 75 per cent discount. What's your circulation?

- 2,50,000 copies.

- So a page in your magazine will cost me Rs 45,000 divided by 2,50,000 (the number of copies) right? That is 18 paise.

- Yes.

- So, a ream of paper costs Rs 1500 these days. So one sheet of paper of 16 pages cost Rs 3 (since a ream has 500 sheets). So a page costs Rs 3 divided by 16, right. That is 18 paise right?

- Yes.

- So you are telling me you will take our advertisement for 18 paise and publish it on paper costing 18 paise. What about your salary? What about printing costs? What about distribution costs?

- No idea, sir.

- Then get Id** (Oops! I almost said this).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shed a Tear for Publishing and Advertising

This is important. Significant. At least, I think it is.

Let me put this in context. It occurred to me when some young people who were gathered together were appreciating an advertorial (If you don't know the word, it means an advertisement written in the form of an editorial article, for which actually the advertiser pays.) It seemed to me that the youngsters sitting with me don't even know that news used to be pure and unadulterated in the innocent old days.

Once publications, I mean periodicals (a term in which I include newspapers), were repositories of knowledge and information and reporters and editors were the gatekeepers to existing knowledge about what happens. Over the years the paradigm seems to have changed. So much so that it is no longer recognisable as to feel that periodicals are no longer thought of as they were. (May be, at my age, having seen fifty years of newspapers I am assuming too much.) But certain disparities come to mind and here are a few of them.

Those days newspapers used to write news stories not public relations agencies. These days newspapers don't trust their own reporters and sub-editors to write stories, they trust the PR agencies. I don't know why.

Advertisements were advertisements and editorials were editorials. Never the twain met. The term advertorial was not invented. I have worked in both departments and I remember that the editorial people always had the upper hand when it came to space allocation. Advertisements were looked at as derivatives of editorial and not otherwise.

The editors of newspapers were public figures, feted and celebrated. These days I don't know who is editor because they maintain a low profile.

The following are the writing specialists newspapers have eliminated:

1. Foreign correspondent
2. Indian classical music critic
3. Western classical music critic
4. Drama critic (one for each language)
5. Legal correspondent
6. Rural reporter
7. Resident editor
8. Literary critic
9. Chief sub-editor
10.Chief reporter
11.Education correspondent
12.Entertainment editor
13.Sub-editor
14.Copy boy

So on, so forth....

By selling editorial space newspaper owners are weakening their newspapers (or, their products). There isn't anyone saying "I read it in --- newspaper," anymore. The credibility of newspapers has gone down. Whereas most people read newspapers in trains in those days, these days people reading newspapers in trains are newspaper workers themselves, that too, to find out which ads they haven't received.

Advertising agencies aren't those of old. In those days ad agencies released their own advertisements through their media department. Today ad agencies consists of servicing executives and creative artists. The media buying is done elsewhere.

Those days the newspapers and publications were supreme. These days ad agencies can dictate terms to the media; with a few exceptions, of course.

Where are the small magazines? There used to be hundreds of small specialised magazines devoted to their own fields of interest. Most of them have folded up from lack of advertising support. I, too, worked for some such publications.

So guys when you go "woo, great advertorial," "ah, this is so nice," also think about the lost art of advertising and publishing and shed a tear.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lacking in Simple Manners, Did You Say?

Is this some breakdown in manners or what? Consider the following two instances:

First: Yesterday as I was standing in queue for a first-class railway pass at Belapur station, a man insinuated himself into the queue saying he wanted a first class pass. I told him I am also waiting for a first class pass and that he should come after me. Usually, a person when he realises he is mistaken apologises or raises his eyebrow and waits.

But he wasn't willing to do both and still inserted his hand into the booking window before me. Goodness, what bad manners! The result was a shouting match between me and the twerp. I think some people aren't willing to admit they are mistaken and aren't willing to say a simple sorry. Duh!

Second: A man is leaning his weight on me in train. I can feel the pressure of his body on me and I am slightly off balance. Then the train lurches and I am thrown off balance and my glass flies off and I almost topple on the man nearby. Here also there is an unbelievable lack of manners. He doesn't apologise and tries to defend himself with: "You are standing as if you are in a public garden, you will topple, no?"

Gah! What's the matter with people? Or, is it me? No, I don't think it is me. I guess it is our propensity to justify our wrongs, a pathological need to prove that we can never be wrong. Where will this lead us? Aren't we well advised on basic manners by our peers and our seniors. I can understand a temporary lack of manners, but this is almost general, all pervasive.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Belgian Senators' Wives to Be Asked to Deny Sex to Spouses?

Here's Kira Cochrane writing in the Guardian about a Belgian senator's solution to the hung parliament in the country. Her (Yes, its a she) solution: have a sex strike. Meaning, ask wives of senators in Belgium to cross their legs during their noctural romantic trysts with their partners, or, whatever, until some kind of coalition is formed. A country can't run without a government, you see! Neither can it run without sex.

So the mantra: If you want sex have a government. **Grin**

Read the article, nothing like a novel idea (it has been tried before), considering sex is a great motivator.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) and KGAF Poetry Slam

Went to Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) yesterday. Main objective was to participate in the KGAF poetry slam. (I confess I couldn't cover this festival in detail as I was busy with a project launch and hardly found the time to visit it except for the panel discussion on "Getting Published.")

The festival has changed a lot over the years. There were metal detectors and security personnel this time at the Lion's Gate end and none at the Jehangir Art Gallery end. Beats me! The checking and frisking were perfunctory. More of a routine. When I was finished with the checking I found that there wasn't any space to stand. It had become like the 8.51 local I took every morning for Belapur. Only standing space, and that too I couldn't move a limb for fear of hitting somebody.

God, where did all this people come from! Was my first frantic thought. But then the thought faded as I got swamped by the ethnic chic on display. I wanted to perhaps buy all of them if I had the money: quaint pottery work, quilted jackets and bags, furniture and articles of everyday use, handicrafts, handicrafts, handicrafts, crockery and most of all, food.

Almost everyone had a camera and some were seen posting from their camera to their Facebook and Twitter pages. Guess it shows the power of social media to spread the word virally (a form of marketing where message is passed on from friend to friend by email, Facebook, Twitter.). So I can say viral marketing was out in full force. There were people posing for pictures in front of the sculptures, children being carried on shoulders, lovers cuddling to each other. Hm. Nice way to spend an evening.

KGAF Poetry Slam

Luckily, I got an entry into the Poetry Slam organised by Caferati through a wild card entry. The quality of poetry is of a high order and in previous years there have been quite tough competition. Till now I have been an onlooker, but this year I decided to take a plunge.

Into the first round I found that the poetic sensibility of the Hindi poets were quite keen and sharper than that of the English poets. (This happened to be a mixed slam of English and Hindi poems.) I read sang my poem "Fires of the Faithless" pacing the stage as I did so. Into the second round I began to have apprehensions. Something like a kind of "this isn't going well" feeling came over me. I realise now that my poems weren't contemporary as the Hindi poems were. They were quite general. I sang another poem "Freedom," which had to be cut by a moderator because I exceeded the allotted time limit. Never mind. What was important - according to me - was competing and not winning. I had put myself on stage and performed. I had performed uniquely at that. None of the other poets paced as they performed. Also, I was the only poet who had memorised my lines.

No problem. Lesson learnt from this slam: poetry should touch the heart and there should be a distinct poetic sensibility as the Hindi poets had. There are other poetry slams to write soulful and stirring poetry about.Being busy on the novel I had neglected poetry some what. This may be a stimulus to take it more seriously.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bombay - Safe City You Say?

The last few days have been hell. I had enough time to get home, eat dinner, and fall on the bed, after the nightly prayers, of course. "The family that prays together, stays together," has been a motto my dad followed, and I too, follow it, in his footsteps. A few words of thanks and grace ends my day, as also it does begin it.

I write here about the bad overcrowding, the crowds inside trains, the incidents of violence. My novel is about violence in a seeming peaceful city - Bombay. The well-placed people living in "gated communities" who drive cars and are in safe jobs like banking, mutual funds, government services, will vouch that its a safe city. But people like me who work odd hours and travel odd places have seen the reverse. There is silent sullen violence waiting to happen in Bombay. Be warned!

And so it happened in broad daylight in the building next to where I work. The gangsters (or, to be politically correct, the assailants) entered the office, were stopped by the bodyguards of a businessman, where they opened fire. The bullets hit a bodyguard and he collapsed. By this time the neighbouring office employees were alerted and made a big commotion. The assailants escaped.

The man lay there bleeding. I saw a fat man through the window, his huge torso soaked in blood, being given water to drink. (That's the wrong thing to do to a man who is bleeding. Water thins the blood leading to more bleeding.) By now a crowd has gathered, a crowd called "public" here. They are kind and offer all sorts of help. He is lifted into a car. I learn later that he died on the way to the hospital.

It's still broad daylight and this death in daylight has upset me. How can anyone walk into an office and pump bullets into a person? How can anyone drive into a busy commercial area full of offices and shoot somebody? Still, I feel, Bombay isn't a safe city notwithstanding what people living in "gated communities" and driving cars and holidaying in Paris would say. In spite of having all sorts of bureaucratic controls, we wink at security and access control. We take these things lightly, in fact, we are frivolous about our own safety, which we shouldn't take too lightly in these troubled times.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Once upon a Time on the Internet - Scamsters Wrote More

Guess Internet scamsters have become lazy. See! Once upon a time they used to be more detailed and creative about stories about their minister grandfathers who left them fortunes that they needed to transfer into my account because they were feeling generous, and all. They sent me the briefest of brief emails, given below:

Name.....

Location...

Tell...

(Lazy, lazy, lazy!)

For them I have the following observations:

You don't think I am that gullible and naive to fall for your tricks.Do you? (Especially since I fell for your

So, you thought by being brief and pithy you can hide your grammatical and syntax errors which made you stand out like an Everest among hills? Please, please write a few words so that we know you are doing some work and that you aren't as dumb as we think.

Do you think the internet is such a fake medium for you to scam everyone with your shady offers? Go, get a life.

Even if one in a thousand fell for your Mountebank offers, you know snake oil, and all, I don't think you will be able to sleep well at night after what you have done.I mean any night.

So can you (considering I am broke) send me 500 million pounds - which you promise me - without any advances from me?

I know "greed is good" as Gordon Gekko said once upon a time, but I didn't know it was this good and this simple, really!

Monday, February 07, 2011

All the Bunkum about New Urbanism

Heard in a crowded train, the following meaningless words. It shows people are making conversation because they have a phone, not because they have something to say:

"I had nothing else to do, so I called you."

"I was looking at your number in the mobile phone so I thought of calling you."

"People have come from their weekends, so this crowd."

"The government is doing nothing."

"Your hand is poking my ribs."

"You pushed", "you pushed", "you pushed", "you pushed" arguments.

"We are like animals."

"No, even animals are better."

Ha... ha... ha...!

Meaningless talk, meaningless issues, meaningless commute.

Today was bad in train. I was almost swamped by people. It was also growing hot signaling, perhaps, the end of winter. I was wearing a sleeveless jacket as precaution, but it seemed I had on too much. The book I had brought to read remained in the jacket pocket. I was inundated by walls of flesh from all side. I don't want to go into a homily about "growing urbanisation" and "modern conurbations." It gets too boring.

Churned by muscles into a whirlpool of flesh, jostled in a never-ending quick-flowing stream of people entering and exiting near the door I hear a thud. I look down. A commuter's lunch box has fallen down. There it lay, it's owner unable to retrieve it for fear of being trampled. Poor man's lunch and lunch box is gone for sure.

I know some of the commuters who are traveling with me. Most of them have cars. None of them drive to work or, at least, car pool to work. This may sound selfish but I would like to see the trains a little less crowded, as it used to be when I came to live in Artist Village, New Bombay, 22 years ago. There is a man who is a senior person in a real estate fund. I know because he had suggested some business opportunity, which didn't interest me. He has a good income at least five time mine. Yet he prefers to travel in the crowded train.

Oh God! Are we daft or what? Why are we so insecure? He must have purchased a Rs. 6-million (USD 131 thousand) 2-bedroom flat and a Rs 1 million car (Yes, I have ridden inside it.) just to show off. Then why isn't he using the car? I mean, people who have cars should travel by car and not crowd people like me out of the train.

Look at the average population densities in urban centres in the following countries (I know I am comparing apples to oranges but just to give you an idea):

  • Canada - 400/km2
  • US - 10,00/km2
  • China 1,500/km2
  • Bombay 22,922 /km2

This must be the most crowded city in the world and it's growing every day. Yes I can feel it in my bones which are crunched by the churn of flesh around me. I hear this bunkum about "gated communities" and "new urbanism." But to them let me ask this:

"What about quality of life? Are you pretentious millionaire traveling in a train satisfied with the quality of life you are getting? Outside your 'new urban communities' you will face the same problems all over again. So, what's your future?"

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Creativity in Advertising

This happened some years ago. 

A top marketing honcho sat through pitches, saw umpteen presentations and mock campaigns and then hired the advertising agency to handle their marketing and branding activities. The brief given was that the ads should be "out-of-the-box" (I don't know what this means but its the cool phrase to drop at award functions and film premiers.). Also, lest I forget, the agency was asked to give priority to creativity in their marketing and branding campaigns.

The agency was as glad as a poodle at the sight of biscuit and they burnt a lot of midnight oil and did a few ads and collaterals for the company - all with a view of creativity. So with a lot of fanfare and phone calls the agency and client met to discuss the marketing plan. The meeting began. The Vice-president of the agency started the pitch and presented the ads with a great flourish. However, the chief marketing officer was unimpressed and threw away all the campaigns proposed. The conversation went something like this:

Agency: We have designed these ads to give a visual and spatial look encompassing a theme of furniture - which really shows how concerned you are with the environment of the clients and the employees. **giggles nervously**

Client: No, no, it will not work. We don't want fancy pictures and text. I just want a simple statement of facts. I want simplicity of the message not something convoluted.

Agency: but sir, remember, you had asked us to be creative in our ads, we have done that. See how creative this picture is, and this, and this, and this.

Client: all very well, but we are the people who will be selling the products. What of that?

Agency: But, sir, try these out we are sure sales will resut. This is a creative design, in totality a wonderful piece of advertising for which we spent many sleepless nights. 

Client: You say it is creative, show me where (which part of the world) has such a campaign been released?

Agency: Sir, then where is the creativity if we imitate some other ad campaign?

Client: When we say be creative we mean be clever when you plagiarise things. We call it research. We do it all the time.

Some definition this!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Playing Badminton after All These Years

Thunk, thunk, thunk, goes our badminton racquets. The body gets warm, the face flushes with sweat, the muscles ache, but I like it, this activity of the body, a game, a game, after such a long time. I am playing after a long time, that too, because I have a badminton partner these days, no make that two. It's better to play a game than just walking in the morning I realise, it gets the body in tone, in shape.

Sitting hunched as I do for long periods: in the office, at home, in the train, I had developed a shoulder pain - could be spondylosis (wrongly called spondylitis by all concerned. People, people it is spondylosis.). I was alarmed. I used to get cramps in hands, I couldn't lift much weight, a certain stiffness around the shoulder and neck. All part of the process called ageing. One thing we all ignore is that we all grow old, we are growing old all the time. In Anupam Kher's wassit serial he asks a child if she would die one day. She answers, "I will not die, only old and infirm people die." Poor girl! We put heavy pressure on our bodies and take pride in thinking we can take it, and more. This is a wrong notion.

True, I was a wild one, putting in 84-hour weeks (yes in Saudi Arabia) and even more elsewhere. I think people like me are an exploited lot. I have worked for private organisation that exploited me and my talents and left me feeling hollow and useless. The hollow man! A certain fear and foreboding made me go through it all thinking of my family, my son's studies, the various debts I had to pay.

Well, all that used to be. Now life's a lot better now that I am playing a game, a sport. I used to be a sportsman. I led my house in the school inter-school championships, I represented college in football. However, after quitting college I had never gone back to sport. Now, all that has changed thanks to Masood and Mahesh, my badminton partners these days. The body feels a lot better these days.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bad Train Habits!

Two bad train habits observed recently!

Woo Hoo! Read This!

Woo Hoo! Read this!

"In short according to their site, Oxigen is an IT enabled transaction and payment processing platform for electronic delivery of prepaid and transaction/payment management services in a seamlessly networked environment through a rapidly expanding retail network."

This is from Microsoft's own blog.

I used to write like this. I still do. That's because people in corporations want us to write like that. I have my reservations about writing - a bit breathless isn't it - of this sort. Look at the genius of it: so many clauses and sub clauses, so many unchewable words, so many unexpressed concepts, so many ideas, ideas, ideas, ideas!

It's writing such as this (mea culpa!) that defeats the purpose of writing. I can't help because if I write plainly they say you are too simple, too direct. Right now I am in a stage where I am tired and sick of this kind writing.

What say? Why don't we teach creative writing - compulsorily - in the management institutes?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

My Writing Creed, Now That's Out of the Way

This is a statement of my writing creed, what I hold dear as my writing objective. It is as much for people who like my writing, as well as for critics who allege (wrongly, I suppose) that I can't write. One (a vanity publisher) had the temerity to tell me to do my job go home and watch television with family. I don't know what prompted that outburst. I guess it is a risk that every writer (or, artist, for that matter takes as part of her calling). I confess I am not as good as some hugely talented writers who have come in from commercial streams such as advertising and public relations to dominate the writing spectrum. I admire their raw talents and their egotistical quest to dominate platforms and forums. Man, they can hijack the system and then set themselves up as arbiters of literary taste. To them I say a "നമസ്കാരം, नमस्ते, greetings". I want no part in your scheme of things. Sadly, you don't seem to write anything worth the while.

I am, i confess, in the literary environs because I love literature, not for any other. I have never misused it for personal aggrandizement (I feel I have been falsely accused of having been "greedy for money" by some, show me one article or piece [or one job] for which I have bargained for more. Being a bit ingenuous in money matters, I have gladly accepted whatever I could get.). Laugh all you want behind my back, I don't mind, because that's the situation clear and simply stated. I have developed this love (of literature) very early in life by reading and through attempting to write poems, short stories, and short vignettes. I still remember receiving a Bible (The Gospel of St. Matthew) as a gift in Sunday School and I sat and read the whole holy book in one go. Perhaps this may have been influenced by the awareness that some of my uncles were great writers. I don't know if this is the right premise to take up writing. Instead of being a source of embarrassment, it has been a source of pride and strength for me. One of my teachers (Parameshwaran Iyer) in school called my writing flowery and ornamental; still some people do. I think writing should have a distinct quality of ornaments - gold, silver, copper - in it and shouldn't be too repressed as to seem dry and artificial. This doesn't mean I would - consciously or unconsciously - use an excess of ornaments. No way. I edit out all ostentatious ornamentation.

I have graduated to writing novels when the riots happened in Bombay in 1992. I felt something significant was happening and I should record it. At that time I was traveling all over Bombay and saw first hand what petty politics had unleashed on unsuspecting citizens. I saw burning shops, burning slums and violence and mayhem. It then struck me to write about the migrant experience and the result was my novel "The Love Song of Luke Varkey." Luke Varkey is a migrant to Bombay, falls in love, and struggles to make ends meet and being unable, abandons his love and migrates to a Persian Gulf country. Being a first novel I struggled with it, too much, I now realise. I changed things and then changed again leading to the novel burgeoning into a huge gorilla of a work, sitting in my computer, and, occasionally, teasing me by baring its teeth. I should have let go earlier on.

That was when I abandoned it. It wasn't a novel but an opinionated selfish expression of bitterness. Whether it was my angst or the character's I am not too sure. I guess it was my diatribe against something personal. Then I realised that I shouldn't ventilate in a novel, it's not the done thing. It becomes too personal. You lose focus and objectivity and become involved. A novel is about what is happening in society, to other people, though you might tell it in first person singular. Novels have a purpose above personal concerns, it is a definitive documentation of the times. That's why I believe in it and am sure it will continue to survive. I have tried to make amends in my second novel which I am writing - Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

But then I was living in an age when laptops became cheap and everyone who could buy a laptop began to dream of being a novelist. I might sound a bit selfish here, but it's true that every boy or girl began tapping a novel into the laptop and began dreaming of publishing glory. I am not saying they shouldn't. They should. It's good that people realise how important the novel is. (A former colleague asked me if I could ghostwrite his novel and that he has an interesting story to tell. If only I had the time!) The sheer numbers became a bit daunting. If in a country of 1 billion people even 1 per cent dreamt of publishing glory it would mean 10 million manuscripts under development and out of the 10 million if 10 per cent can afford a laptop then one million manuscripts are being actually churned out.

However, what was disconcerting was that this ten million writers don't buy ten million copies of novels. That meant reading habits were abysmally low. Of the 11,000 (approx.) books that are published if even one wannabe author bought one book there would be sales of 1000 books per title. Ask a publisher and she will say this is not true.

How can a country not read and still publish? How can a people, a country, not educate themselves and make rockets? The same conundrum applies to how India runs more on hope than on cold hard science and technology. I guess I will leave it to the smart boys/girls with their laptops and facebook and twitter accounts to sort this out. If they can that is.

I digress; I am sorry. What I am waffling towards is that I am not new enough to be brash and egotistical about my writing and not old enough to be considered unworthy of internet and social media. So, where does that leave me? A bit confused perhaps, a bit disoriented mostly, a lot undecided as to what is my future as a writer.

Ah, this is turning out to be a longish rant. However, what I am sure about is I am not mad about being published or about getting recognised publicly. I am in my fifties and old enough to realise that ambition can depend a lot of circumstances and luck. I am willing to take that chance. I would rather have an unsung and unappreciated role than play a leading one. I am content to plough a lone furrow and wait out for something to turn up at my door. If it doesn't, I would be as content that I have loved literature and writing and am still committed to it. I thought I would get this out of the way so, there I am.