Thursday, December 20, 2012

World Corruption Index - India is Badly Off

Well this isn't very surprising news. But to see how fare against other nations of the world in the corruption index is rather, in a manner of speaking, interesting. 

Here's an index of the level of corruption in the world. The darker shade of red indicates the most corrupt countries. India is at the bottom of the pile, meaning most corrupt and Canada, Sweden, Norway, Australia have no corruption. Or, so it seems. One notices that not one country in Asia and Africa is free from corruption except for Japan. 

Hm. Charts can lie also, but this one I think is genuine, so it gets my endorsement.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Am Off for a Week's Holiday in Kerala, South India

Well, it's nice to know that a week from now I will be in Kerala, my home state in the south of India. As before, I will be spending nostalgia-filled evenings in the tropical climate, with a symphony of insect sounds playing in my ears. I will be posting less and enjoying myself, a deserved break, so to speak. I will be carrying my laptop on which I will try to write, but my schedule is so tight that I don't think I would be able to. There a housewarming, a wedding, a meeting of the disasporic family units (from my mother's side) spread in the U.A.E., South Africa, U.S.A., etc. So I will be meeting cousins whom I haven't met in my whole life, nephews and nieces of whose existence I was unaware till now. A lot of good food will be served to which I look forward, and fresh coconut water  and coconut chutney made from burnt coconut flesh too. This latter chutney a favourite cuisine of my brother-in-law T.V. Philip makes my mouth water as I write this. Hehe. So see you soon! Have a great Christmas!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the Subject of Rape in India; the Entertainment Media Is to Blame

Rape is again in the news. No, sorry, it has always been in the news in India. Everyday I open the paper to read about a father raping his three-year-old daughter, many men gangraping a minor, an innocent girl raped by her own uncle. It's downright sickening.

Now, enough, prattle, watch this video. It shows a journalist reporting on the rape of a medical student in a moving bus at 9 p.m. in the capital Delhi. The incident happened yesterday. The student and her boyfriend were returning home after watching a movie and they needed a lift to their homes. As so happens in the capital there are a number of private bus operators who run mini-buses offering rides cheap and the girl and her escort must have been tempted to step into the bus that halted in front of her. She must have done it a hundred times before without incident, moreover, her boyfriend was with her.

Four men inside the bus beat up the boyfriend and gangraped the girl, who passed out. Still the rape continued; the bus continued to circle the roads of the capital. They were abandoned after they were stripped. The girl is battling for her life in a hospital's intensive care unit. As for the boy, he must be traumatised beyond words.

About the video. Hm. As the journalist was reporting about the incident where it happened, a car stopped and its three inhabitants, all men, started teasing her. They didn't spare a journalist reporting on a crime! Unluckily for them, they were caught on camera. What have we come to, if we have come to anything at all?

Now, I always blame the entertainment media for spoiling the youth of the country. I have been told to shut up on this, which I do fairly easily. The objectification of women in the entertainment media is responsible and I can't absolve them of responsibility. Every time I watch television I cringe at the sexual thrusting of the "item girl" so suggestive, so come hither. The message sent out is "women are available, you just need to ask them, tease them."

Everybody knows this is what is wrong, but all of them shy away from pointing a finger. Because films are made by rich producers and rich stars. Even the item girls are paid two crores to do their pelvis thrusting. And our newspapers, upholders of morality, glorify these same stars who spoil the moral values of Indian youth. Two leading newspapers of India have nothing but semi-naked wannabe item girls on their pages, day in and day out. They don't even have a small space for a writer, poet, artist, or, struggling musician. All you see is short dresses, thighs and plunging necklines. What can they do when our Bollywood is like that only? Yeah, they can do a lot, for instance, why don't they write about it? Why don't they come out and say it's downright wrong and is leading the youth astray? I mean Bombay Times. It used to be an intellectual-cultural news supplement when Bachi Karkaria edited it. No longer. HT's Time Out is equally depraved. Every newspaper in the country today has a supplement that deals with flesh and sleaze. What right do they have to condemn a rape instigated by their own editorial policies? Yeah, I ask, what? 

I used to be in the thick of this money for editorial business, but I saw no reason to continue in it. I quit. I was a marketing something, something. I forget what. When these money for editorial guys would drop in on me I would ask them what the going rate was and I was astounded. They jack up the prices every now and then. They even have a rate card! And they measure out editorial coverage in square centimetres. They even have an annual contract with discounts thrown in and a guarantee to make you a page three celebrity. The last one is my invention of course.

Our youth have become spoilt and depraved. I have eavesdropped into their conversation and find they call each other "laudey" meaning penis. They don't call each other by their names or just a yaar. I have surreptitiously peeked into their SMSes and find that a a youth's girlfriend calls him "kameeney, kuttey," a very Bollywood invention. Where's their sense of respect? No wonder youth who use such language will naturally think of raping and throwing acid when their demands are not met. Need I say more?

(Disclaimer: The author has written the above in a haze of chagrin combined with outrage combined with helplessness. The contents may be taken in that spirit.)

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Finished an extensive re-write on the novel

Hmmmmppppff! Finished another round of editing on the novel. Did that sitting in the nearby Cafe Coffee Day (CCD), as I was being interrupted a lot at home. There are the usual callers: courier boys, postmen, fund-seekers for causes I didn't know exist, fishwoman, etc.I think I can work better in CCD. There was the 12.12.12. concert playing on the television. I could see my heroes: Bruce Springstein, Roger Daltry, Mike Jagger, Eric Clapton and the lot, but I couldn't hear them because the Cafe has some rule against putting on the sound. So you can see what is going on but can't hear. May be,that's to scare away people like me who buy a coffee, or, tea, and sit for hours. Hm. They didn't mind me, though. I could work seamlessly, somehow, and was not the least bit distracted. The results are here on this blog, do pay it a visit, friend, critic, well wisher. I am sure there's something for all of you in it.


Click on the above links. Be sure to leave a comment, which will be very much appreciated. Comments are back on my blog.Yes, because of a glitch the link wasn't visible for some time. But, everything is forgiven and back to normal again. So, do comment!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where are the book critics gone? Where are the book lovers?

Where are the book critics gone? Where are the book lovers?

Jeet Thayil, author of the recently acclaimed novel Narcopolis, recently derided Indian book critics saying that book critics didn't read a novel, instead they read other critics and if the general consensus is unsatisfactory then they also write a nasty piece. This is not book criticism, but book gossip and copycat journalism. 

Call it whatever you may, but the days of discerning critic of the past, who used to protect the reader and certain moral standards in artistic works is gone. The Times of India doesn't have a books critic or editor, instead they publish books themselves. Most newspapers don't have books editors, even if they have, they are themselves authors (or people with aspirations) who would gladly pillory a book, just because they see the writer as a threat. 

In this context it is difficult to believe that New York Times has a different supplement altogether for books and the arts. The Times of London has a Times Literary Review and the Boston Globe has a literary section. 

Newspapers in India that have been kind to books are few and far between. Mint does feature reviews, so does DNA (I have not been getting DNA for some days.) The Sunday edition of DNA had 4 pages of book reviews and I pored over these delicious offerings with greed. Outlook is the magazine to watch for book reviews and publishing trends in general. Certainly, the editor and the books editor should be appreciated for this.

Newspapers that don't feature books reviews are slowly wringing the neck of the hen that lays golden eggs. At least, that's what I think. Books may be difficult to handle, will clutter the well-laid office space, and may look incongruous perched on untidy desks. (Clean desk, eh?) But they also promote the reading habit and spread ideas and engender discourse which is crucial for a newspaper's development. Without books intellectual development isn't possible. The reason why most Indian youth don't read books of any kind is because they were not introduced to books through book reviews and discussions. Today, persuading a teenager to read when there is television and internet, is a nightmarish exercise. I tried to persuade my son to read, but the books are put away after a few pages with the excuse that they aren't interesting. Reading a book requires patience and perseverance and sometimes authors take a long time to establish characters and come to the point. 

Our public libraries are also dying: for funds, for patronage, for lack of interest. Most college libraries maintain their books under lock and key and if you want a certain book forms have to be filled up and reasons stated. The US takes pride in the number of libraries they have and how well they are maintained and run.

I was a member of the American Centre and British Council libraries till they shifted to various other places to which access is difficult. American Centre library functions from Bandra-Kurla Complex while British Council Library is situated in Lower Parel where walking on the street is a nightmare. May be, because they were so popular they decided to locate them in remote locations, at least, I feel that way. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Times Literary Carnival

I was at the Times Literary Carnival yesterday.  Despite Times of India's pulling power, the audience was sparse yesterday. The sessions last year were better attended. What went wrong? Are we seeing a polarisation of literary festivals. Hehehe. Meaning Litlive's  (Tata's) people will not attend Litcarnival and vice versa? Well, that would be taking literature to new heights of bitching. Why were so many icons of literary life in India missing despite the money and the media clout: newspaper, television, internet, magazines? 

Saw the mother-daughter duo of Anita Desai and Kiran Desai in conversation with the publisher of penguin. What else can you expect from this session except a view of their writing habits and some mother-daughter pow-wow. Turned out to be that exactly. What did I benefit. Nothing. In fact I wanted someone who has read Anita Desai to quiz her on her characters and story plots. There are many sessions like that such as "Bringing up Vikram" about bringing up Vikram Seth. Come on, now which aspiring writer would be interested in that? They won't be bringing up any writers soon, not in the literal sense. Add something intellectually challenging, something zingy. Is this a Carnival or what? Suketu Mehta hasn't written anything after "Maximum City" for eight years and he was there as the keynote speaker. Wow! 

I saw a cute penguin car near the entrance (oh I forgot to photograph it, it was an ambassador of vintage make) which advertised the company more than its books. There were moderate crowds at the book shops, but no one at the Times Book Stalls. Food was expensive. Imagine a sandwich selling for Rs 150. Can't afford these Litfests, what say? 

Some cooling salve was applied by Jeet Thayil's session with Anjali Joseph, author of Saraswati Park. Jeet rued that the gentler days of the seventies and eighties have gone. 1992 altered the character of the city, he said. He said his research for Narcopolis was drawn from personal experience of the opium dens in his student years at Wilson College, which he calls embedded journalism.

He read an excerpt from his opera Babur in London and said Babur was a ruthless killer and also a poet. Babur said, "Writing badly will make you ill." Yeah, it will. I feel ill after writing a bad blog post and  despair about it night and day. This is one of those. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Absolute Rot in Indian Olympic Association -- A Foreign Body Had to Point Out Our "Chalta Hai" Attitude

My writing desk, where I am now!
It's pathetic! The International Olympic Committee had to point out that the Indian Olympic Association's means of administration was all wrong: bad elections, bad managing of talent, bad programmes, et cetera. Now, isn't there anyone in the country who could have pointed that out. Are we so callous about what happens in our sporting bodies? Goes to show the limits to which cronyism has fallen in this country.

I guess all those rumours about gross mismanagement now ring true, now that the unsightly warts have been exposed. The whole thing reeks of undemocratic principles and the rule of ruffian elements. Could we have a clean-up of the sporting system please? Why isn't the sports ministry involved? It's a sad state when ex-convicts are ruling over bodies which by their nature should be democratic, free, fair and transparent.

Is it any wonder that our athletes don't win at the Olympics? Four medals you say? Well that's nothing considering we have 1 billion people, brother. Japan has far less people and more medals to show.

Meanwhile here's a picture of the state of the road before my house in Artist Village. You may also want to read my story "The Roads of Artist Village" here.

The other picture is the desk from which I am writing this.

See what the b******* have done to my road!
John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Citizens of Bougainvillea Islands Fight with Bows and Arrows. Video

The struggle of indigenous people everywhere has fascinated me. Here's how a rag-a-tag army of native people armed with bows, arrows, and stones are fighting a battle to rescue the Bougainville islands from powerful corporate organisations such as Rio Tinto Zinc.



Watch the award-winning movie, it's heartrending to see their struggle, as with struggles of indigenous people everywhere around the world. Will they succeed? Will they be suppressed by the more powerful guns and helicopters of Australia and Papua New Guinea?

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Of Childhood Bullies and Fist Fights

It was a re-union of sorts. It was at a friend's daughter's wedding, this being the season of nuptials. We had all lived in the same building in Chembur, in a lower middle class locality. There were a few tormentors of my younger days, a few of my best friends. Ah, there was also the girl I could die for, in fact most of us could, on seeing whom I had to hide my face. Not that I was embarrassed  but because age wasn't kind to her. She looked like a hag. I couldn't bear to look at the once-beautiful face and wondered what could have made her such a femme fatale in our younger days.

We all had changed and we all had remained the same. We have grown bald and white-haired. We had become pot-bellied or frightfully thin with our own particular diseases. Cricket was a passion with us, I remember waking up to the feeling of being the star left-arm bowler of the team. I could bat too. I had once scored around 30 runs coming in the tail end of the batting order. The captain, when he woke in the morning, came out with his head down, because the ugly girl who lived opposite his house was a bad omen for the team. Those days on which he sighted her inauspicious face, the team lost heavily.

We were one of the best cricket teams in Tilak Nagar, Chembur. Victory was sweet and so was defeat disappointing. We laughed and ate ice golas when we won and cried when we lost. We were a disparate bunch. Some studied in English-medium and some in Marathi-medium schools. Our differences were settled in fist fights. Yes, I had a few run ins with my contemporaries. I had challenged the bully and he had beat me badly once. Then we became friends again and had new respect for each other.

Well, we loved, fought, made up and played cricket, football, marbles, gilli danda, kabaddi, kho-kho and our days were filled with outdoor activity. How many of today's children know the exotic games we used to play? How many play any game at all? 

Those were the daze!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Read My Latest Short Story "The Roads of Artist Village"

Diwali is gone and the wedding fever grips Bombay. Yesterday a newspaper – don’t remember which – reported that there will be three thousand weddings this season. I have attended two weddings and am going for a third one today. It is also getting cold in Bombay as never before. Then there will be “I am dreaming of a White Christmas,” and Santa Claus.

 

Read my latest short story The Roads of Artist Village. It’s about bureaucratic apathy and its attendants. The way we care about our roads show how much concerned we are about the people and their welfare. Well, the protagonist is a person similar to me, but not quite. There should be a personal space between character and creator. I am reading Nikolay Gogol’s Deal Souls and realize what a great talent he has been.

 

The road outside my house is dug up. What can I do about it? I have given up trying to correct things. Now I let things flow. The machines came in wheezing and snorting as usual and I said, “There goes the neighbourhood.”

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book Preview: Bitch Goddess for Dummies and Love Stories 1-14

Feverish editing is going on on my novel Mr.Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard seeing that my friend Maya Sharma Shriram has completed her novel and has also signed up with a publisher. (Like her book Bitch Goddess for Dummies here.) Thanks Maya for showing me the way and giving me encouragement to go on. She came to the launch of my book Bright Lights and was the first to get an autograph from author me. Hehe. It felt nice.

Meanwhile Annie Zaidi's Love Stories 1-14 is also out and it looks to be a good volume. I had heard her read some the stories in Caferati readings and I think she has a wonderful style of writing.

Both the above writers are close to my heart, and being women, they write well and sensitively. So buy their books read them and pass them on. After all, literature is to be savoured and spread around, isn't it?

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Sixties and the Seventies in Bombay: For All Those Who Want to Immerse in Its Nostalgia

I am often asked by young people how growing up in the sixties and seventies in Bombay was. I can't express to them the intellectual ferment and the portent of great things that growing up in this period entailed. It was heady times, as I recollect it with fondness. Those people and institutions exist now (except a few who have died or dissipated) but in a very jaded and compromised form.

Disclaimer: this is by no means an exhaustive list, I don't want to be exhausted by a blog post, so I will put here what's top of the mind. So here goes:

THE SIXTIES AND SEVENTIES

The All India Radio auditorium used to screen art films.

Shyam Benegal and Muzaffar Ali used to make art films and Shabana and Naseeruddin used to act in them.

Shobhaa Rajadhyaksha (Kilachand, De) used to edit Society, the society gossip magazine.

We used to use beat terms like: squat, grub, cool, groovy, bread, et cetera. Go here for the whole glossary.

Khushwant Singh was editor of Illustrated Weekly (Double spread for poems each week edited by Pritish Nandy)

Pritish Nandy used to write poems and edit them.

Anil Dharkar was working in Debonair and Imtiaz Dharkar was editing its poetry page (this was the time when no magazine or sunday newspaper was complete without the poetry page).

Adil Jussawala was writing poetry and writing learned articles in Debonair.

Salim Peeeradina was conducting poetry appreciation classes.

Rohinton Mistry used to play Bob Dylan songs in clubs and hotels and as opening acts.

Pop/Rock concerts used to take place at Rang Bhavan. If you reach late you get a seat on the last row. 

Nandu Bhende played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and used to play with Savage Encounter and Atomic Forest.

Alyque Padamsee wrote copy and directed Jesus Christ Superstar.

Kamala Das was writing poetry and conducting readings at her residence

Nissim Ezekiel and Dom Moraes were writing poetry that could change literary stereotypes.

MF Hussain was painting his canvasses which later became controversial.

Samovar was the meeting place for bohemians. Much happened here. What, please don't ask.

Arun Kolhatkar has a permanent place inside Wayside Inn restaurant.

Russi Karanjia was editing Blitz.

Gulshan Ewing was editing Star & Style and Eves Weekly.

Radicalism and revolution were in the air. We were all radicals in a sense.

Desmond Doig edited Junior Statesman, a newspaper that was as much Bombay as Calcutta.

TOI group had a magazine targetted at youth called Youth Times.

Rajika Kirpalani brought out a young people's newspaper called Hi.

Baburao Patel was editor of Mother India.

Everywhere, on sidewalks, you could find books and Indian magazines. You could read them even if you didn't buy.

Dhirubhai Ambani was a struggling textile manufacturer.

Bal Thackeray left Free Press to start his own magazine Marmik. Dizi replaced him as cartoonist in Free Press.

Behram Congractor or Busybee worked in Evening News of India (TOI group) and wrote his column Round and About.

Mario Miranda also drew cartoons. 

Monginis was a restaurant on Veer Nariman Road.

Old Mr. McDonnald ran a dancing school in Colaba called "McDonald's."

By no means exhaustive, but that's the gist, guys. Hope you get the tremendous impact of the intellectual churn of those days. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: A Mysterious Death at Sainik Farms

A Mysterious Death at Sainik Farms, as the title makes it obvious is a detective novel set in Delhi. What makes the novel unique is the way it is told without much embellishments and theatrics. Author Rukmani Anandani has a lucid style and a mellifluous voice that lets the pace build up on its own and climaxes rather nicely. I wouldn’t dare give the plot away, for its for the reader to enjoy.

Detective GP Iyer has his flaws but is an endearing investigator. He is a brainy South Indian with a droopy moustache and is not as old as he seems from his name. He is fond of reciting Kural poetry, some of which are featured in the novel:

Inordinate desire destroys the home
And leads to crime at once.

Goes with the mood set by the novel. It’s good to read an Indian detective novel written in the tradition of Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot. And, how can I forget Sherlock Holmes?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

With My Wife and Picture of Class of 1973

Here's a picture of me with my wife of twenty-eight years clicked by my son
Ronnie. I am wearing a traditional Indian dress while she is wearing a
traditional Kerala dress. My wife is the principal of a school in New
Bombay. We had just returned from our friend Ganga's son's (Akash's) wedding
reception in Chembur, Bombay. It was a happy occasion where many of our
classmates were present.

At the same wedding reception the other photo in this post was taken, which
shows us, classmates in the class of 1973 of Adarsha Vidyalaya, Chembur.
Almost 40 years have passed and the changes in us are manifest. I am also
appending a photo that was taken 40 year earlier (in those halcyon days of
innocence and ingenuity) in the compound of Adarsha Vidyalaya. Notices the
differences?

Yes, we are older, wiser, richer and more affluent but at the same time we
are afflicted and troubled by what the future holds for us. Have the choices
taken been right? Have done the right things? Where will all this take us?
Don't know. I am waiting for answers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Aranmula International Airport to Be Operational by 2014

This news is something I cherished for a long time.

I was born in a small village in Kerala called Kidangannoor which falls in the Aranmula panchayat. News is that an international airport is coming up at Aranmula which has been going through various environment clearances and opposition from certain lobbies. The good tiding is that the Kerala government is investing in ten per cent of the equity of the new airport. 

Why I welcome Aranmula airport? My chief argument (for which many may call me a traitor and an opportunist) is that I will be able to reach home faster. There was time when, in my childhood, that is, to reach home it took four full days by various modes of transport (coal-driven trains, buses, taxis, walking-on-feet), and by the end of it I was dead tired. Today it takes two days to reach my village from Bombay, that too, after spending a lot of money en route.

Another thing is that it will bring some modernity to this rural village. I, as a city dweller, I expect some basic necessities to be available in my home town, which wasn't there till now. Basic things like noodles, a packet of biscuit, a refill for the pen, etc. Having to go five kilometres to fetch these is a tiring task and takes the whole day.

The downside could be that there will be the roar of jet engine, as the runway is situated close to my house. But I think I can live with that.

The Aranmula International Airport intends to be functional by 2014. Hope it brings cheers to those who hail from this area.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Diwali Is Here. Hope Diwali Is a Blessed Time for You!

So, the festival of lights - Diwali - is here. And here's a picture I took on my evening walk yesterday in Belapur, New Bombay.

Anywhere I turn on my usual walk there are coloured lights, shimmering, coruscating,  winking, bursting, evanescing, disporting mirthfully and the whole area has a suffusion of light. It's Diwali, the festival commemorating the return of Ram to Ayodhya after winning back his wife from Ravana. Legend has it that people waiting with lighted lamps to welcome him back after the tiring battle.

Be that as it may, Diwali is the festival of lights, and I will remember it as such. It's joyous fun time when people exchange gifts and sweets and I hope I receive my usual quota too. I hope I won't be disappointed by a bad economy and the disturbing scams that surfaced recently of which I have written here. Johntext.de is a website published in Germany by my friend Hans-Jurgen John and I have a regular column in it and I am their India Manager. Now that I have the time I am doing something productive. So, please read the article.

Here's wishing you all, my readers, a Happy Diwali. May this be a bless Diwali to all of you. 



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Diwali is here!

Here's a lantern I saw on my  evening walk which is a symbol of the advent of Diwali the festival of lights.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

At the CCD Lounge Belapur

We are a great fan of CCD. But the new CCD Lounge is even better having unlimited wi-fi (CCD only allows 45 minutes of connectivity).

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

We Are Transforming from a Market Economy to a Market Society, Says New Book

What we have been writing on this blog and talking about till we have been told to shut up. Yes, now we have proof that slowly the world is becoming a market society where everything is for sale. (So, maybe, a newspaper that we know that sells editorial space need not worry, but that’s a worrying thought.)

 

This was said by not a less worthy personage than Anne T. and Robert M. Bass professor of Government at Harvard University Michael J. Sandel. His book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets is out. What he says in an interview in DNA to Vivek Kaul is that today we have migrated from being a society governed by market economy to a market society. Money has the power to buy and sell services such as direct check-ins for first class passengers, queue-less entry into amusement parks, and preferred waiting lounges for a certain category of people. In India we call it influence but in the West it is a kind of industry in itself. So if you want to be at a hearing of the Congress at Washington DC you can get a “queue standing company” to send a person who will camp overnight at the relevant place so that you can get in when the door opens.

 

Rather nice, no?

 

You might dismiss it as “we know it, it happens in India.” Now that’s a reaction from a man in the street. But the ethical implications of this transition are rather grievous. Today money can buy everything and one can buy ones way into power, and, also, more money. To purist it might seems like the ultimate Armageddon. Yes, it is. In India we put a price on everything even relationships are based on what monetary value it can bring in the long run. So, is the selling of editorial space as alluded above wrong? It seems Indian newspapers these days are surviving on that source of revenue, while all over the world news establishments are closing down.

 

Alas, this process isn’t reversible. So more and more people are being pushed down into the category of the poor dependents of the rich ones. This is particularly noticeable in the corporate sector. We have seen managers and directors enjoying vacations, foreign jaunts while poor sloggers (like us) work all day to complete their jobs. And the very prospect of giving a day off on Saturdays sends them into a tizzy. Actually it’s so very unfair, but what can we do about it? Today our youngsters know this fact and that’s what’s giving rise to most crimes.

 

So the mantra is “Get into the big league and stay there by hook or by crook.” So be prepared to deal with crooks.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Literature Live Bombay - Day Four - A Green Poet and His Performance

Being a writer of poems, performance poetry is close to my heart. However, my performances have been restricted to singing the songs I have composed. So, it was a pleasant surprise when I went to Martin Kiszko’s program “Green Poems for a Blue Planet” at Bombay Literature Fest. (I think the organizers have to decide whether it is Litfest, Literature fest, Litlive, or, Literature Live, because all these names cropped up in a muddle in all announcements and programs.)

 

The show had already begun and there was this poet on stage who recited his poems from memory appropriately demonstrating each with masterly dramatic ease using props and background projections. All his poems were based on the environment and its protection. In the UK he is also known as “UK’s Green Poet” which is a name given him by a member of the audience. In fact, he was so dramatic that the audience was taken up with his style and was engrossed. Same here. Here are some samplers, which I noted, though I was busy taking pictures.

 

“Ode to Broccoli”

“Though you are Italian Da Vinci never painted you.”

 

“Recycle Me”

“Recycle me into a super plastic hero who would swallow all the garbage around.”

“A great Hoover that vacuums all the gunk.”

 

“Overgreen”

“When I go to bed I say, perhaps I have been overgreen.”

 

These are only vignettes from his performance, and by no means exhaustive. His book, published recently, has over 56 such poems. He gives performances at schools, colleges, and even at parties. Later in the foyer I meet him again and he was very charming and personable explaining some of the techniques he uses. I think I will adopt those techniques to do performance poetry, when, I don’t know. As UK’s only green poet, I guess this poet is going places with his socially relevant message.

Wild flowers gathered on my morning walk

Wild flowers gathered on my morning walk in artist village. Proves that in India plants flower in winter too!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

With the UK's Green Poet Martin Kiszko

Me and the UK's green poet at Litfest Bombay.

Day Three Bombay Lit Fest - David Godwin and Breaking 80

It’s day three of the Bombay Litfest and I am there to meet super agent David Godwin. I am excited. David Godwin is God for all aspiring writers (pun intended). After all, the man who discovered Arundhati Roy must be no ornery chap. I notice him almost immediately. He is tall, has a ruddy complexion, has a head full of blonde hair, and something very youthful in him though he claims to be sixty. He is here to launch his book Breaking 80 which according to him is his first and only book and is mostly about golf. I don’t golf, no, I don’t know a put from a caddy. I would think a caddy is something you put in those small holes on the patch of grass called greens. As for handicaps, I don’t have any except a bulging beer belly, a reminder of the beery days of yore.

 

So what do I talk to him about, I wonder, as I inch towards the God animatedly talking to his circle of female admirers. How do I tear him away? I guess, seeing me waiting to talk to him, he does the tearing away himself (no wonder, having handled umpteen such circumstances), turning away from all the “shawashwashaw” of the feigned upper class lisp of the “growing-old-baby-log” to face me. I introduce myself as a writer and his Facebook friend. I ask him about Bombay and how he likes it. “Well, it’s a fascinating city.” I say I am working on a novel and he says, “You mean you have submitted a novel to me?” I say, no, I am editing my novel. “Then send it to me, also mention that you met me here.” It’s too brief. But I have connected with God. Then the army of female admirers takes over and I make a dignified retreat and, now, I can go home content.

 

Inside, Anil Dharkar does the book launch. David in his preamble before he reads from his book says that he finds his job interesting, “You get the privilege of seeing the book in its purest form.” The man likes what he is doing. Why don’t I also say I love writing a novel and finish the editing soon, eh?

 

He also say, “I like helping writers on the journey to get their book to the audience.” Which is what he did to Arundhati Roy’s book. “I had heard of her and she sent me the novel in a neat package. I read it and I was fascinated.” The man has described his entire work in so few words. He takes a manuscript to the ultimate consumer, the audience. And here I am stuck with merely not being able to get my manuscript in shape, leave along taking it to the audience. Bah!

 

And what does he look for in the writing? “I look for the tone, the voice of the writer. Then something clicks.”

 

And to sum up, “It’s an immensely rewarding experience, discovering new people, voices, cultures, which is what all literature is about.”

 

During question hour a gentleman sitting beside me asks him what sort of haggling he does for advances to his authors. “I haggle. Yes, I haggle for around three-and-half million.”

 

Another gentleman mentions that he has been rejected by God himself. The God just smiles to this. Guess, to be rejected is also a privilege as far as God is concerned. For hadn’t God rejected the Israelis many times in the Negev desert?   

Friday, November 02, 2012

Day 1 Bombay Literary Festival



(From Left: Peter Griffin, Naresh Fernandes, Benjamin Law and Annie Zaidi)

Ah, well, we will use Bombay instead of Mumbai.After all, the Tata's (organiser's) headquarters is still Bombay House, isn't it?

Litlive 2012 has had a, sort of lukewarm reception so far. Most events are going to half empty seats. One hoped a better interest in the proceedings from Bombaywallas. Or, was it lack of advertising and promotion? One sees a measuredly cynical reation to the festival from  the crotchety old lady at Victoria Terminus. No coverage, no programs of the day, and no hype that only the wily old lady can generate. 

Ah, well, there we go again. 

We walk into "The Definite Article" where our friend Peter Griffin is moderating. Other friends in the panel include Annie Zaidi and Naresh Fernandes. (We get acquainted with Naresh only this day though we are in touch on Twitter.) The subject is Long Form journalism, though the discussion also veered into Twitter journalism.

Peter's taxi caught fire on the way to the festival. He came late, his usual air of calm unruffled, coiffure (he has waist-length hair) well maintained.

Annie started off by saying that these days a 750-word article is considered long form. A gasp went up from the audience. Anyway, the statement set the tone for the discussion. Annie mentioned Dilip D'Souza's blog and kind of journalism, which we also follow. Dilip does these longish articles on his blog and then wraps it up with a long-form article for the medium that has commissioned his work. His work is always very perspicacious and his research is exhaustive. So, Dilip has Annie's approval as the appropriate long-form journalist. She knows, she has done a good many long-form articles when she was with Frontline.

Has Twitter made us write less? This is what Peter has to say. No. With twitter people are writing and reading more, all the time. "I skim a lot, read a lot, may be, in small parcels." 

Benjamin Law is a writer from Australia and we have heard about his book Family Law, which people say is immensely funny. We haven't read him yet but mean to. He teaches long-form journalism and is of the view that the whole face of journalism is changing. Newspapers in Australia are downsizing and he says by the end of this year many newspapers would be cutting on staff and expenses preferring to go dital, as Newsweek has done recently. He says people will depend more on digital news and existing newspapers may be converted into  weekend newspapers carrying views and analyses. (Oh, that would mean an end to an hour of bliss on the terrace with the morning cuppa for us.) People will look for news from the digital media: Twitter feeds, news aggregators, social media, online newspapers, etc. 

So what does all this portend? Is long-form journalism dead? No. It's still alive in the online form as here it is not constrained for space. An online journalist can write as much as he/she likes, besides he/she can also blog about it. Naresh is strictly against blogging. He is of the view that one should write only when one gets paid for it. Also, as Annie pointed out, there are magazines like Caravan in India which are oriented towards long-form journalism.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Ambani's billion dollar Architectural folly.

Saw this monstrosity while travelling to Litlive. Then realised it is the Ambani's billion-dollar architectural folly, yeah, now memory strikes, it's Antill, isn't it?  (Didn't remember its name the first time.) 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The stitches came off!

The stitches and surgical dressing came off today. I am relieved. My profound sympathies for those suffering from surgical and post-surgical trauma. God bless you all. Thanks for your words of comfort which really helped in my recovery. Now I am back with greater resolve.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Hospital Experience - Masked Figures Wearing Military Green

Now here it is, for those who have not been under the round shadow-less lights, lying supine for your surgeon to poke their sharp blades into your innards. Not for the queasy, I warn you. 

First, when you are admitted for surgery they do a plethora of tests: Xrays, blood test (oh! the blood suckers with their metal pincers!), sonography, and umpteen other tests you lose count of. How can you remember everything when you have been reduced to a piece of meat by these nurses, doctors and ward boys. One of my worst nightmares was when the ward boy came to shave me. Shave? I don't need a shave. "No your abdomen, including, um, private parts, and thighs have to be shaved. Shock. I am not going to allow it, I say. "Better do, doctor only suggested it." I scream bloody horror and ask for the nurse. The cute girl from Kerala (her first job) says it has to be done for every surgery. Can't they do without it in my case? No. So I endure this very ticklish issue, though my body revolted at it. What a job the ward boy has, isn't he offended by the sight of unsighly naked flesh? Who would do such a job.

Then I am taken to the operation theatre as a lamb to slaughter wearing a long tunic and nothing else. I haven't had anything to eat or drink, not even water. The first sight of the theatre intimidates with its giant lights, the round orbs like some futuristic dinosaur waiting to devour. Then I am made to lie down on a narrow bed, extend my arms. They, mysterious masked figures wearing dark-green military-fatigue-like shrouds connect me to all sorts of tubes while I stare at the light overhead. Then the friendly surgeon appears and asks me how I am. I say, in my most cheerful voice, which is now a croak, I am okay. He explains the procedure which makes me nearly panic and get up and run. He smiles and assures me there is nothing to worry and that he has done hundreds of such surgeries. So, I trust him.

Then a chirpy lady, the anaesthetist, comes and tells me that she will administer an injection, "two pin pricks" which will freeze me from waist down. I feel these pin pricks, and by now can't do anything, as I am a mere piece of meat to them. Of course, I would have presented a funny picture lying there supine, arms spread out, naked, while the machines beeped and burred. "There is this device that measures your blood pressure that will tighten every five minutes. It won't make you uncomfortable no?" She says. No, I manage to croak. I calibrate the progress with this machine. I divide the one hour of surgery by how many times the machine's tube tightens itself around my arm. Twelve five-hour contractions, i.e., one hour, and I am done. Not a big deal.

Then I find that my entire bottom part, waist down, is numb and dismiss the prospect of getting up and bolting as a distant possibility, only to be attempted if an earthquake or nuclear war strikes. Then the chirpy lady covers my eyes and I can only hear them talking about their last vacation in Kerala and some other technical mumbo-jumbo. I can feel the pressure of the doctor's hands on my stomach. I desperately count the contractions of the blood pressure monitor, five, six, and only six more to go. Then eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve.

Then I can feel his hands stitch me up and a sigh escapes my lips. I have lived through it to tell my tale. It's a tale of valour and courage on my part. Well done! 

"Have you been to Kerala?" the surgeon asks.

"Doctor I am from Kerala, a true-blue Mallu, who loves his fish curry" I say.

"Oh, I could guess as much from your calm. Your blood pressure was constant throughout."

"Yeah, we are a very calm people. Sort of...." He didn't get my sarcasm.

I don't tell him about the instinct I had to get up and bolt. No, that would shock him. They uncover my eyes as the dressing is put on and the necessary injection of pain-killers given. I don't feel much pain, only a vague heaviness around the stomach, and my legs feel like it belongs to some other hairy animal. 

"You can move your legs in one hour, don't worry. You shouldn't get out of bed for one day. Only liquid food should be eaten." The doctor says. 

Oh God! I didn't know it was so complicated. However, there were no earthquakes or nuclear strikes. I am safe. I remember the days when I was looking after my dad in hospital. These sort of instructions were given then too. How the years have passed and I am a patient now and my son is looking after me. It's nearly a decade since the time I spent anxious hours by my dad's bed. I remember feeling sad, loney and bereft. None of my four siblings came to help me look after my dad. The nurses were blase and careless newcomers who had paid the hospital to learn nursing and were fulfilling the cumpulsory service they were required to do. 

I was lucky to get a good and cheerful doctor to whom I am grateful. I was not made to feel like a helpless victim, His good cheer made me feel good and saw me through my recovery. Now here I am fully recovering and marching towards full rejuvenation. Thanks be to God! 

Life is but a transient journey in which we all are a mere breaths of wind. Here today gone tomorrow. If you are reading this, dear reader, you might have a similar experience some time in life. When you do, be courageous, fill your mind with good thoughts and treat your doctor as your friend who wants to do good things to you and wishes you well. That's half the job done.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My small Amitabh beard

Right now it is a straggling beard. Hope to make it a luxuriant one like that of Amitabh's. Hope he doesn't trademark his beard. It was earlier called Bulganin after the Russian revolutionary. Speaking of which, I detest the term Goatee. What me goat? No, forget it buddy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

This plant gladdened my heart

The long serrated leaves, the stark contrast with the backdrop caught my eye. Whipped out my mobile and clicked this. I had to. What to do?

Breakfast of fluffy idlis

Today's breakfast consists of these fluffy idlis and green chutney. It's Sunday so everything moves glacially.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Went for a walk!

Went for a walk today. Could feel the muscular tendons creaking after the long hiatus of inactivity. But now I am more reconciled to my slowness, deliberately, I must say. Got to increase my place slowly so that recovery is complete. As i often say, not a problem.

Book Review: "Red House" by Mark Haddon

An unemployed, depressed neuroradiologist, his wife and three children go on a vacation to mamma's brother, his second wife, and his step children in a Red House in Herefordshire. Things turn out not as they expected the vacation to be. Mamma learns that she hardly knows her brother. They keep up appearances but something goes awry, throwing up irreconcilable differences. 

Mark Haddon's narrative pulls along at a very leisurely pace, his words are pithy and laconic, e.g., "He flushed the toilet and washed his hands. Bed." Another innovative use of language is in the dialogue which also display a tendency towards taciturnity. Short. Telegraphic. Modern texting teenagers would approve.

When style is visibly displayed it becomes a distraction, so the narrative ambles along at its own pace. However, a good read on a rainy day, when you have nothing else besides hot coffee.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Watching Television, Hibernating towards Recovery

When you have surgery it's the recovery that is annoying, taking too long. Also the regimen of not moving to much - jerks can affect the wound - the medicines that follow, the palliatives, which I feel is my doctor being overcautious. I considered myself a healthy human being before surgery and now feel I am a bit wobbly. Just a little bit. May be, it will go a way as it has come. Now I am spending long hours in the swing on the terrace, hardly able to work. When I am on the net, it is on Facebook and Twitter. Now I wonder what I would have done without them.

I played around a bit on my guitar, but the notes all came out wonky. What was gained must have diminished in quality without practice. Damn! That reminds me. I mostly watch travel channels these days. I don't have the patience for movies. I heard a presenter on Travelxp channel saying, "the view is so damn beautiful." How can a view be damned and beautiful? That shows we use words without thinking, without weighing them. Earlier I saw the same presenter waving, literally brandishing, a knife at the person she was interviewing. She was in the process of eating a meal. Flash. Flash. Doesn't she know   it is bad manners to wave cutlery? I got scared viewing the programme.  

Today is the cricket T20 final. West Indies plays Sri Lanka. I am supporting Sri Lanka because I have visited the country and like its friendly people. I hope they win. So, cheer up people of Serendip, my favourite Indian Ocean island, I am with you Chris Gayle or no Chris Gayle!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Petals Lit by the Sun

I had pruned this plant and am joyed to see new leaves shooting out in the sun.

Plastic Chair

Recovery is a slow process, the tissues have to build muscles have to join, blood has to flow. Read yesterday that Vitamin D is present in light sunlight of early morning. So,  I sunned myself and it felt good. That a man who takes every precaution to be healthy is also vulnerable points to the stridency of modern life. I used to walk 3 kms, stretch, yoga, and lift weights didn't deter illness. Thanks for all your good wishes, it really  matters that you care. Mua... mua....

Friday, October 05, 2012

Recuperating, Revising, Reinventing

John P. Matthew
On the swing on the terrace.
Recharging, remodelling, rejuvenating, but never daring to give up. That's me. Thanks readers for being such a lovely audience. I am now in the tenth year of continuous blogging. Love you for your continued support!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Ah! To Be Back Again!

A miracle happened. I went in for surgery fearing a lot of things. I am on the wrong side of fifty,and I have a few other problems which could complicate things. Mercifully nothing happened. What happened inside the operation theatre was miraculous. Doctor said my blood pressure was constant throughout, I never gave them any trouble and I didn't get afraid of their big machines. You know, you can get a fright from walking into an operating theatre: the big lights, the doctors in masks, some unknown language being spoken, the sound of huge machines monitoring pressure, the intense concentration of the doctors. Well, such like. And you lay supine, helpless, completely at the mercy of the men and women in masks. 

However, the doctor who did my surgery Dr. Vijay Kumar and the anaesthetist Dr. Lovina Bhatia talked -- and you won't believe this, joked -- about their vacation to Kerala. Ah, now Kerala is a favourite destination, being a denizen of that tiny state. So, I joined in the conversation when they were operating me (I was under local anaesthesia.). "Have you been to Munnar, lovely place." That was how light it was.

It was a miracle. Yes, miracles do happen. Now the dressing was checked yesterday and the doctor said I am progressing well and will be able to go back to my duties from Monday. I praise and thank the Lord for this. My wife and son stood by me like a rock and I am lucky to have good doctors, who laugh and joke through a surgery. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hans John with My son

This is my German-writer friend Hans John Jurgen with my son Ronnie when we dined out in Ashwith, New Bombay. Hans manages johntext.de, a website that features quality writing from around the world.

With my friend Hans John Jurgen

I am with Hans John Jurgen, a friend I met online. He is a German writer settled in Switzerland and has a human and humourous outlook on life, same as me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Affliction that Must Be Corrected

It started as a small tumescence and then grew to an embarassing size, the circumference of a small Indian gooseberry (amla). People would stare at us, they still do, as we passed, as the protuberance made our stomach even bigger than it was. (Must confess we always had a round belly, from the imbibing of the bitters.) We felt humiliated every time someone looked at it and then pointedly at us. Many are the minutes of silent agony we suffered. Sometimes, people would pass comments, "which month is it?" Even our friends made unkind remarks. This was because the tummy resembled that of a carrying mother. We then understood, quite deeply, how a woman must feel when she is carrying. The embarassing looks, the agony, the feeling of frustration. How our mother must have felt when she was carrying us.

Another thing this drove home to us is that unfortunately people do not repeat do not look kindly upon those who are afflicted. They tease and they make fun as if they will never fall sick in their lives. Tough luck guys, you are going to face even worse. Just wait and watch.

So our trusted physician, a good man, said it can be corrected by a simple surgery. But then the price he indicated made us goggle. Rs 100,000. Anway, we are going ahead and will be admitted to a New Bombay hospital tomorrow. Please pray for us and hope everything goes well.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Visit to a Police Chowky

We have rarely visited police stations. There hasn't been any need, as we are not the complaining type, or, type causing trouble. Therefore when a police chowky opened in the locality we and our friend Henry went there to investigate. This is especially after the shaken state in which this incident left us. And in today's newspaper we read about how migration is leading to new forms of violence. Ergo, we visited this police chowky to inquire about what is going on.

Now policemen in Bombay and New Bombay think they are God's gift to mankind. We assumed things must have changed, what with the periodic lectures by Commissioners hinting at what they have been doing to make the police public friendly. But we must confess we received a frosty and less than friendly welcome at this chowky. Our friend Henry initiated the process.

"We need your telephone number in case there is a housebreak or roberry." He didn't give a straight answer, instead the conversation went something as follows:

"Where do you live?"

Henry told him.

"How long have you been living here."

Henry told him it has been around two decades.

"I have not seen you around here."

Henry said it's not his (Henry's) fault.

"Telephone numbers are not given. You phone the main police station and they will inform us."

End of interview. Is he the taciturn type, or what? We don't know. We were not given the telephone numbers by these servants of the people. We thought something was seriously lacking in their training. We were made to feel like culprits instead of law abiding citizens. Then all those rumours about what happens in a police station could be true, we assume. Just assuming.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Testing a New Way to Post on Our Blogs

We have been using gmail to post our blogposts to blogger so far. This has been made imperative by several factors, especial among which is a lack of time. As my rich friend Dhansukhbhai Jethalal Shah (who owns a building with a private helipad in Malabar Hill) would say, what to do? We have to worship our stomachs, no? Now that we have a faster and better computer courtesy of good friend (thanks friend!) we are posting this as a test post. If this works, nothing like it, you will be able to read more of our ruminations on subjects of esoteric interest. Till then keeping our fingers crossed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Stray Thoughts about Migration and Feeling Threatened

We are feeling a little down. No progress made on several fronts: writing, job, health. No we won't go into specifics, because there are a lot at stake. But when some incident happens it takes the wind out of our wings. Like it happened yesterday.

Beside Artist Village - a calm space where we reside - has sprouted a slum, as if out of nowhere. Artist Village is scenically set in a forest which also has a pond, where we go for a walk in the morning, sometimes in the evening. It's whispered about the people living in the slum, they have political support. We have been trying to get it removed without any success, because political support is a dangerous thing to fight against. It consists of huts whose flimsy existence depends on twigs dug into the ground. The inhabitants are impverished, living from hand to mouth. As so happens it has its rowdy elements too. 

Now what happened is like this. We and our German friend Hans John Jurgen were going towards the dam in the evening yesterday when we were encountered by a gang of drunk boys from the slums. They shouted obscenities at us and one came towards us as if to strike. We sensed a very serious situation that could mean a lot of harm done to both us and our visiting friend and walked away. There was this particular man with a deformed hand who walked behind us insulting us. We don't know if it was because Hans was a foreigner, or, they have some hidden resentment towards me. Can't they respect a foreigner and accord him some courtesy? We had the phone number of the Belapur police station ready, if the situation went out of hand. But it didn't come to that.

We are the legal residents of Artist Village and imagine us being threatened by the illeagal occupiers of land near us. We felt threatened. Our chagrin at this incident knows no bounds and we are still smarting all over from the incident. But then is this a socio-economic phenomena, which we have to face with increasing migration to cities? It is said that in the near future 75 per cent of India will live in cities. We think this is a prognosis of something really bad which will happen to our cities of the future. So beware and watch out.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Virtual Procession of Scandals

And now, ahem, Coalgate. Why call it Coalgate? Because coal fields were allocated? Can't those jaded journos find another name that could nail the coffin, such as, erm, Kholsakhol (Kholsa for coal and khol for open)? There has been a procession of scams tainting the nation and who can keep quiet when all hell is breaking loose? Has a sense of shame left us? Is there no end to this loop of corruption? Anyways, Coalgate it is. The list recent scams is endless:

Commonwealth Games (remember toilet rolls worth Rs 400?)
Adarsh (bureacrats and relatives of politicians cornering flats in a housing society meant only for former soliders)
Irrigation scam (involving billion wherein money was spent but no dams or canals were built)
The 2G spectrum scam

Why bother to rack our poor over-worked brain tottering towards senility when there is the following list of scandals on Wikipaedia.


Do the political class think that they are invincible and not answerable to anyone? We don't have the answers. Do you? We are glad the judge who adjudicated the Aseem Trivedi case said as follows as reported by The Times of India:

"Today you attacked a cartoonist. Tomorrow it could be a filmmaker and then a screenplay writer. We are living in a free society. Everybody has freedom of speech and expression," said a division bench of Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud and Justice Amjad Sayed.

We have full faith in the Indian judiciary and the press which time and again have come to the rescue of the nation. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Case of the Loutish Richshaw Driver

Something that riled us today and we are thinking endlessly about it. Pay careful attention to the sequence of events. We were standing in the autorickshaw queue and the auto comes along and a man who wasn't in the queue gets in. We protest. We say we were in queue but the man wasn't. The man in the beetle-shaped, black curtain-flapping autorickshaw got down. The rickshaw driver again insisted that he will carry that man and not us and forced the man to get in and drove off.

Since it was raining we didn't have the time to take a picture of the rickshaw number. We had made a similar complaint about a rickshaw earlier and we had got a call from the Regional Transport Office (RTO), some minion, but, nevertheless a valuable cog in the wheel. This is provocation of the highest order, a slight we can't forget soon. We have been thinking over it, quite persistently. It has upset us quite bad. But we let it pass. After all, you can't fight all the ill-mannered louts all the time. And, to think we used to tip these rickshaw drivers! They don't deserve it. To think they are going on strike on Friday! Again, do they deserve to be paid extra?

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Another Disappointment - Collection of Short Stories

Disappointments are a part of a writer's life. We have taken rejection badly in the past. But this once I was hoping for something better. Tch Tch. We shouldn't be too optimistic. Why can't some positive news bunch itself together and schlepp us out of this morass of despondency? We don't know. We are sharing it here so that you there know how tedious the process of writing is.

Submitted our short story collection to a publisher (as a friend recommended, an up-and-coming one) and got an email saying, "the reviewer has not approved," blah blah. Do you know how much effort we put into editing and sending you the bloody submission? Do you know how much time is required to even think of the plot and write the stories? Do you know how much creative juices have flowed?

Well, hm, nobody knows the inside of a submitting writer. It's all hope and despondency when a rejection comes. But we are sort of inured by now to these vicissitudes, these ups and downs. (we had to spend a minute looking up "vicissitudes.) Writing is not easy folks. As Hemingway said, "Writing is easy. Just sit in front of the typewriter and bleed."

He got that right. But, then, now it's the laptop you sit before.

By the way, today we retrieved some data from an old laptop, which is no irreparable, or, so my computerwala friend informs me. The data is important to us as it contains the manuscript of the book we were writing on Kerala. So the cycle now restarts, buy new laptop, write novel, book (whatever) and then junk the laptop and move your book to another laptop. When will this process end. Sigh!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Jerry Pinto on Writing: Begin Again If You Fail

We read this excellent piece by Jerry Pinto on writing on Facebook. Especially read the exhortations to writers he has written with such sensitivity, care and concern. That's because he is a teacher too and who better than a teacher to teach you about writing. There is a honesty and selflessness about the writing, a sense of sharing without asking "What's in it for me? Why should I do it." Not for nothing is Jerry such a writer and poet with a mass following.

We agree some of the pitfalls of being a writer has been amply covered. But here we add a new spin to it as is our wont. Some of the practical aspects you might find when you let it be known you want to be a writer. All these people pretend to sit in ivory towers and pontificate and not write anything. Know why? Because if they write they would be found out. Simple. The greatest effort an aspiring writer can make is to sit in front of his desk and write. Get inspired by life, get inspired by what you read and then write, write, write.

"He/she can't write to save his life."

"He/she is a bad writer."

"He/she doesn't have a voice."

"He/she hasn't read much."

"He/she doesn't know grammar from farmer."

Yes, all these we have heard before and are repeating here. The first was said to us by a vanity publisher who drank himself to his grave. He was our boss for some time and a mean boss at that. Such mean people exist, we can't do anything about them. They destroy themselves and in the process try to destroy others.

So, follow Jerry's advise and do the following:

Keep at it.

Keep going when it's not working. It won't start working on its own, you have to make.

Keep going when it's not coming out right. It may be right, you may not be able to see it.

Keep going when you're feeling low. That's when Dylan Thomas did his best work.

Keep going when you're blazing like a comet. That's when Alan Ginsberg did his best work.

Keep going when you're rejected. J K Rowling was rejected too.

Keep writing. But don't be in a hurry to publish. That should happen organically and too many writers are mainlining steroids. Wait. It will happen. Naturally.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.