Monday, September 30, 2013

ART OF WRITING III (Story writing)

Once upon  a time, there was a king……” How many such tales have been spun down the ages and how many more avid readers have lapped them up! Sages have educated their disciples with stories: mothers have put their naughty children to bed with stories: errant husbands have escaped the wrath  of wives with stories: writers have spread messages with stories. All of them have one thing in common: a fertile imagination and the desire to educate and entertain.
The dictionary defines a story as an “account of real or fictitious events – a course of life of a person.” Going by this definition, little wonder that everyone loves a story because it is but human behavior, its course and its consequences. Another reason why a story is popular is because we don’t live long enough to make all the mistakes and learn from them. A story gives us the lessons we have to emulate, in a nut-shell. A story is a capsular saga of the values of life, its pitfalls, its triumphs and ultimately is meaning. It presents examples of human emotions as they surface under different circumstances, and raises the reader’s consciousness about the many facets of living.
If a story has been a time-tested form of conveying a message effectively, it is because it absorbs the reader’s attention with its many elements, all of which are slices of reality. A story writer is like a polished mirror which reflects all that is happening around without distortion. The threefold aim of the writer is to entertain, inform and, sometimes, present a viable solution to a problem. Thus, a story writer has a commitment to the reader’s credibility. His canvas must portray reality as it exists or should exist, depending upon his intention. His character must inspire and instruct – not like a moralist but as a fellow being, sharing his experiences for the benefit of mankind. The setting must be harmonious and in tune with the characters drawn from it. The conflicts must be convincing and the climax a satisfying finale. The story writer is a weaver, picking the right threads and arranging the warp and weft in such a way that they flow into each other without a gaping hole.
How does one acquire the art of story writing? As we all are a bundle of emotions, make mistakes, and conflicts, surely we can all write stories? On the surface of it, every human being is a story-teller. It is just that some tell it well and some don’t. The ones who do are the hardworking; they have their skills of observation, analyse the findings and present the results in the most acceptable form. To be sure, some are born story writers, some achieve the status; even in those cases where it is thrust upon them, it can become a fruitful experience.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

ART OF WRITING II ('intention')

The ‘intention’ to correct the ills of society has gripped many a writer. One of the first of this genre was Charles Dickens. Through his works, he stirred public opinion against many a corrosive practice that plagued society. Child labour was of them and he tackled it with such zeal that many an adult of later years owed his childhood to Dickens. The current trend in India is to stir public opinion about dowry deaths and other atrocities committed on women. Many writers have made this crusade their main intention and one hopes for their success.
     To malign public figures is the intention of some writers. They are always on the prowl for scandals connected with people who are well-known. Celebrity capers seem more exciting than similar instances of lesser mortals. By doing this, they add glitter and glamour to sin, thus tempting gullible readers into following in the footsteps of their subjects.
     The satirist is a writer whose intention is to amuse while throwing light on the evils of society or political depravities. Jonathan Swift was a master craftsman in this art. His Gulliver’s Travels is ostensibly an amusing tale of a stranded traveler but under this cloak lies the bitterest attack on political farces. To be a writer like this, one has to have a thorough knowledge of what is happening and the ability to write with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. After Swift, R.K.Laxman has mastered this art in his cartoons.
     P.G. Wodehouse is the best example of a writer’s ‘intention’ to amuse. There is nothing but unadulterated tomfoolery in his works. Situations are bizarre sometimes, events turn topsy-turvy and characters are down-right absurd. There is an air of incredible belief in what’s happening but not for a moment does the reader probe into probabilities or possibilities. He just goes on a carefree ride with the author, the only casualty being a ‘stitch in the side’. This unsullied bid to amuse is the most important tool of a humorist. Some of R.K. Narayan’s works have this quality.
      To inform is a very laudable intention a writer can have. Today is the golden age of the print media with increasing literacy opening up the doors of knowledge to many. One advantage of this ‘intention’ is that the writer needs to have a deep knowledge of the subject and a flair for putting it across palatably to the reader. This intention is just what men of science, medicine and other technological areas need. As long as they are true to their intention, they are not expected to entertain.
     ‘To keep myself occupied’ is the intention of some writers. A very good pastime and to be encouraged. Writing requires such concentration that all one’s mental resources are harnessed and it also ties down the person to a desk – this automatically keeps him away from mischief.AS Francis Bacon said..’Writing makes a perfect man (woman!)’
     So, before you write, stop and think – what’s your intention? Honourable, we hope!

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Once upon a time, there was a princess who had a very wicked step mother. Everyday, the little princess was made to do all the hard work in and around the house while her step sisters enjoyed watching TV and playing video games… day

 I am sure you have heard this kind of story any number of times while you were growing up and now, moved on to bestsellers and lengthy novels. Reading gives a lot of pleasure no doubt but writing has its own charm.Of course,it is easier to read what others write than be a writer but, I am  attempting to share with you the art of writing and hope you will enjoy the tips I will be giving you and then get down to writing yourself. We believe that one has to be a born writer. My personal experience has been that one can cultivate writing skills Just as one can learn cooking as both are creative and require imagination and innovation. Just as cooking a dish requires certain ingredients; writing too begins with some basic ingredients like knowledge of grammar and good vocabulary. These can be learnt over a period of time.
Writing begins with reading. The more you read, the better you will be able to write. It is good to read a range of authors to get an idea about different styles and approaches. Some writers have a very simple style like R K Narayan, which anyone can understand. This style is becoming more popular now as people have less time to read and understand.
. Before you get down to writing, check your ‘intention’. What is your attitude towards writing? The way you write depends on your answer to this question. To some, writing may just be a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”—such a writer brings to the work a sincerity which rubs off on the reader, immediately establishing a rapport. This kind of writing has the stamp of a genius at work. There may be nothing studied about it. There may not be the technical perfection a critic looks for nor the ’pep’ that bestsellers are famous for.
 Then comes the ‘intention’ to shock. Some writers love to glorify their so called sins—whether real or imaginary—just to capture readership. It is amazing how trash sells more than masterpieces. The writer is purely out to cash in on the command over the ability to write. To a large extent, Oscar Wilde was guilty of this ‘intention’. His works are replete with epigrams which shock or shatter accepted norms. But he brought to it a refreshing sincerity that was unique in an otherwise hypocritical society. To any aspiring writer, the works of Oscar Wilde can be delightful exposure to the art of writing --- to shock and please!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Evolution of Pati..short story

 “ Pati… are you done?”  Alamelu yelled from the room next door.
“Yes Kanna… I am ready “, responded Meenakshi , firmly  closing the suitcase. She had managed to squeeze in the packet of mint powder that her sister in law had given her for gas in the tummy.
She mentally went over the contents of the box…. Rasam powder, gooseberry pickle….
Tamarind chutney…. Tapioca pickle….jack fruit jam…chutney powder….instant idli /dosa packets,……ragi papads….
“Pati… please come here and help me with my packing…” Alamelu’s impatient voice forced her to go to help her grand daughter.
Alamelu had her clothes strewn around and she sat amidst piles of blouses she had got stitched by Sundari maami next door, readymade petticoats, Underclothes and stacks of Kanjeevaram sarees.”Kanna…. I have only seen your pictures in some terrible looking pants…. Are you really going to wear all these?”
“ Yes Pati… I am getting married remember? See this blue one? I will wear for my ‘jaanavasu’ this orange for the wedding and this brocade for the reception. I hope you are carrying your nine yards sarees pati……”
  Meenakshi nodded but silently smiled at her own plans. For over sixty odd years, she had wrapped herself like a mummy in nine yards of ordeal. She was just fifteen when her son Kittu was born. After that, her mother –in- law (a cantankerous woman) had insisted on her wearing nine-yard saree. Her view was that a mother should be responsible and wearing a nine yards saree was a manifestation of that. Imagine carrying those cumbersome streams of silk to San Francisco! No way. She had other plans but Alamelu need not know that now. The girl was all excited about her marriage. Poor kid…little did she know that excitement of a wedding was far removed from realities of marriage! Let the girl have her dreams, sighed Meenakshi

As she helped Alamelu put away her trousseau, Meenakshi remembered her own       
wardrobe. But that sufficed as the only outings were to the temple close by and the small grocery shop down the street. And now, here she was- all set to cross the seven seas (a deadly sin according to her 80 year old mother – in- law). The old woman was jealous of her going to America where she said white men and women walked naked on the street, Meenakshi wondered where she had got the idea.
“Don’t listen to her pati”--- Alamelu had consoled her….’ She must have seen Baywatch  on the TV”! It was so sweet of Alamelu to insist on her going with her to America for her wedding. She had even bought her ticket! All because she adored her “pati” who had brought her up since she was barely three when her parents died in an accident. Meenakshi wiped a tear stealthily because Alamelu would chide her like Rajesh Khanna and say “Pati….I hate tears”! 
 Luckily, her sister-in-law, a dour faced shrew, agreed to take care of mother-in-law (all because the crotchety old woman had three gold chains and a diamond nose ring which she could swindle from). Ever since her husband died when she was expecting her first born, Kittu (Alamelu’s father),Meenakshi had lead a Spartan life.Here was her great chance to change her destiny.Nine yards be hanged! She did not intend taking any of her sarees. She had other plans.
The bumpy ride to the station, the train journey to Chennai and the long drive to the airport left Meenakshi little time to think of her future. Alamelu, God bless her, was an efficient young lady who handled all the formalities and at last, they were on their flight…away from the small town Srirangam to San Francisco.

* * *
 “Pati…here we are. This is my apartment. See how clean I have kept it. Aren’t you proud of me?”
Alamelu was really a sweet child. Her love and concern overwhelmed Meenakshi as she took a quick look around the small but tastefully furnished apartment. What a change from the low roofed, dingy house she had lived in for over six decades! Girls these days have a better deal she muttered to herself and walked towards the small mantap with Lord Krishna’s idol that she had given Alamelu, when she went to study in America four years ago, warning her to stay away from the real life Krishnas!
“ Pati, let us open this MTR ready to eat rasam rice-I am famished”…said Alamelu, reaching out for the packet from the suitcase of goodies
“ No…no..Alamelu”…protested Meenakshi,”why don’t you order a pizza?’
“ Pppppati…..pppppizza?” stammered Alamelu, shocked-”what do you mean?surely you won’t eat that!”
“ Ofcourse I will child.. I am sick of rasam and rice. I want to eat all that nice stuff that I have seen on TV…I am loving it”
Totally zapped by this new avatar of her pati, Alamelu ordered a deep pan veg pizza and went to the bathroom to shower. Coming out in her bathrobe, she asked Meenakshi to wrap her saree around and wear it in the room, as the bathroom was tiny.
“ No saree child, give me a robe like yours. That is more convenient”
With her mouth open in amazement, Alamelu gave her a bathrobe from her closet. After an hour, Meenakshi stepped out of the bathroom, her wet hair framing her face and the gown hugging her figure. Alamelu had never seen Pati look so young and lissome!
Meenakshi tucked into the luscious Pizza while Alamelu watched in awe.
“ Pati…you are cool!, she squealed,”Sudhir is going to love you.You know what, I am going to pay for the SUN TV channel for you as a treat!”
“No…no…child”, said Meenakshi vehemently. ” I don’t want to see all those women sobbing and scheming and the men slapping and shouting. I want to watch Oprah Winfrey”
“ But Pati you will not understand the progarmme, it is in English”
“ Ofcourse I will! I used to get up at 5 and watch her shows every morning while your great grandma was asleep. I bought a learn English in 30 days book and know to speak and write! Wanted to surprise you because I knew you would bring me to this country sometime!”
“ are a dark horse! Who would have thought that you would be up to all this”, gurgled Alamelu with glee. She was going to have fun with this new grandma.
“Yes child. I have come fully prepared to be a new woman, leaving behind the old Meenakshi in Srirangam.”
“ Pati.. Let us go shopping and get you a pair of trousers and shirt. What the Dickens…if you want to change, let us go full hog! I will get you a new hair cut and color and give you a great make over as Oprah says”, chirped Alamelu.
“ I am loving it” ,Meenakshi said mischievously

Rrrrrring…Alamelu went to answer the doorbell.
“ Hi Mel…lovely to see you back”, gushed Kathy giving Alamelu a bear hug ” and this is your grandma? Wow, she is awesome.”
“ Yes” stuttered Alamelu, still recovering from the shock of her Pati’s makeover plans.
“ Hello grandma… I am Kathy, Alamelu has told me so much about you but I had a different image of you! Can I also call you Pati?”
“Hello Kathy”, Said Maeenakshi in her carefully cultivated American accent,”Call me Patty”.
 The evolution was complete!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Journey of a Journalist VIII

It was time to launch a magazine! Srivatsa was transferred to Bangalore and I missed the magazine culture of Bombay. Bangalore did not have a city magazine so Blossom City was my answer to this. My son Anil who had graduated in Journalism from Mysore, joined me and we had a good publication with wholesome coverage of all aspects of the city and its people.  It was also a launch pad for budding journalists who have done well for themselves now-like Maria Abraham who joined The Week and later Reuteurs, Daniel George, Ranjit Prasanna, Stanley Carvalho, Aparna Khanolkar, Prajwal Hegde, Gautam Machaiah ,  Ravi Sharma and others. But there is more to running a magazine than just writing. Both Anil and I found out this harsh reality and we had to close it after two years. I remember the first anniversary of the magazine when we had a fabulous show at a prestigious venue in Bangalore.N Ram of The Hindu was the chief guest and we had the hoi poi of the city watching our stage show “Bangalore Darshan – a spoof on the city and its people.

I happened to read the autobiography of a TV Host in USA when I was visiting my son Anil and his wife Deepali  for 4 months. That is when I got the idea of writing my own! After all, a life worth living is worth writing about! So Time of my life-my autobiography was my gift to myself on my 50th birthday. Another autobiographical book I published, Corporate Draupadi, was a chronicle of my experience in a Public Sector organization.

Writing was my hobby but teaching has always been my passion. I got the opportunity to combine both as a guest faculty in the K C College of Management Studies, teaching journalism. Many of those who were in my class went on to become staffers in well known publications but the most enterprising of them all was Dilnavaz Shroff who launched her own publication Woman Executive Digest. Like all fund starved periodicals, this too died a natural death after a few years but it certainly remains a landmark in the filed of journalism and I am happy to record that!

Journalism is a reflection of the life and times of people. As a freelance Journalist for over three decades, I  captured this in my  articles/features/interviews and profiles .PEN DRIVE-Journey of a Journalist 1973-2005 is a coffee table book of 160 pages with a motley selection of 200 published pieces in leading dailies and periodicals. Scanned and presented in their original glory, the collection showcases the myriad facets of people well known and not so well known. Also featured are book and film reviews, humour pieces and assorted subjects. It is an encapsulated history of personalized journalism and a peep into magazine/paper production three decades ago. The quality of printing and production adds value to the anthology.

               Brought out in a limited Edition, the book is a collector’s item and is priced at Rs 2500