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.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Rich Are Less Likely to Reach Out to Others During Times of Trouble

According to a study by UC Berkeley affluent people (read: rich) people are less likely to reach out to others during times of trouble. Now we suspected this a long time ago, well, um, in a clich├ęd and melodramatic way, modelled upon the quintessential Hindi movie plot. In the said plot - quintessential or otherwise - the father of the poor hero who wants to marry the rich girlfriend often says, "Woh log bade log hai; unke sath hamara kya vasta." Something to that effect, considering how poor our Hindi is.  

Another phenomenon (if we can call it that) which the article in Science Daily points out is that while the poor value their families, communities, and colleagues; the rich do not hesitate to relocate if the salary offered is higher. Briefly put, as is our wont, it means that for the rich money is everything and they hang on to it as if the rest of the world didn't matter. This is all the more evident in our own poor country where there is not much by way of philanthropic work by the rich. Our affluent people open schools and hospitals if they think it could be profitable. Money, the filthy lucre even we crave for, is everything for them. (We must state, even among us there are the pretenders who say money is unimportant, but would scramble to grab a few greenbacks if the opportunity presents itself.)

We have noticed this time and again in our personal peregrinations here and there. The poor would give alms and would tip a cabbie a fiver while a rich man would fight for every rupee. Poor people opened the doors of their homes  for the poor in the deluge Bombay witnessed while the rich bolted their doors and saw television. Hm. 

A story we heard about the world's richest man of those days - Paul Getty - is that he installed a pay phone inside his sumptuous mansion so that employees in his house could make calls at their expense. No wonder he died such a miserable death with not one of his relatives by his bedside.

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 01, 2012

Shed a Tear for Maya Kodnani

We still can't believe Maya Kodnani, a woman, a doctor (gynacologist, at that), a politician, and a minister could do it. For days we have been shaking our head and saying to ourself, "this can't be happening." But it has happened. How can this happen? See what we mean? We still haven't come, sort of, to terms with it. The fact that she has been arrested and convicted points a finger at her complicity in one of the worst communal carnage the country witnessed. She now has to spend 28 years in jail, which would mean her entire life.

We also see her as a victim. Higher-ups gave a command and she obeyed it. Rather zealously. We shed a tear for the Maya Kodnanis of our country. They are mere pawns. They are doomed to spend their lives in prison. Now the very people who gave the command have distanced themselves from her. Can the minister for women and child welfare look at another woman and child of a community and sleep peaceably in the night? As a doctor her responsibility is to protect lives not kill. As a woman she is naturally designed to nurture life. She has failed in both.

Actually, rather cynically, we thought nothing would come out of the Special Investigative Team (SIT) that was probing into the carnage. Just another white wash, we were telling ourselves. But they did a commendable job gathering evidence and sentencing the guilty. So, all hope is not lost. 

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.