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Someone sent this to me. Apparently these wise ass answers are the actual responses by the website officials . I don’t know if this is true. The reason I’m posting this (besides the fact that they are funny) is to show that an idea for an interesting character can come from random places. Yes, even irritating friends who insist on bulk mailing stupid jokes.

Q :      Does it ever get windy in India? I have never seen it  rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A:      We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q :      Will I be able to see elephants in the street? (USA)
A:      Depends how much you’ve been drinking.

Q:      I want to walk from Delhi to Goa- can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A:      Sure, it’s only three thousand kms, take lots of water.

Q:       Is it safe to run around in the bushes in India?   (Sweden)  
A:      So it’s true what they say about Swedes.

Q:       Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in India? Can you send me a list of them in Delhi, Chennai, Calcutta and Bangalore? (UK)
A:      What did your last slave die of?

Q:       Can you give me some information about hippo racing in India?  (USA)
A:      A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. In-di-a is that big triangle in  the middle of the Pacific & Indian Ocean  which does not.. oh forget it. …… Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Goa.  Come naked.

Q:       Which direction is North in India? (USA)
A:      Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions.
 

Q:       Can I bring cutlery into India? (  UK)
A:      Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q:       Can you send me the Indiana Pacers matches schedule? (France)
A:       Indiana is a state in the Unites States of…oh forget it.  Sure, the Indiana Pacers matches are played every Tuesday  night in Goa, straight after the hippo races.  Come naked.
 
Q:      Can I wear high heels in India? ( UK )
A:      You’re a British politician, right?

Q:     Are there supermarkets in Bangalore, and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A:      No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q:    Please send a list of all doctors in India who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A:      Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from.  All Indian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make  good pets.
 

Q:       Do you have perfume in India? ( France)
A:      No, WE don’t stink.

Q:       I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth.  Can you tell me where I can sell it in India?  (USA) 

A:      Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q:       Do you celebrate Christmas in India? (France)
A:      Only at Christmas.
 

Q:       Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A:      Yes, but you’ll have to learn it first

Q:       Can I see Taj Mahal anytime? (Italy)
A:      As long as you are not blind, you can see it anytime.
 
Q:       Do you have Toilet paper? (USA)
A:      No, we use sand paper. (we have different grades)

Even as I post this, a smart ass character is already forming in my head.

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I guess this post is in response to my readers’ constant queries about chucking their jobs and taking up writing and how I feel about it. My usual advice is caution. Not because the proposition is dicey – I have written a post sometime ago about how aspiring writers in India have never had it so good – but because I feel one should wait and find out if they have it in them to be writers.

People make these decisions under a misguided assumption about how writing being a glamorous profession. It is not. It is just like any other job and requires you to show up at work day after day after day whether you feel like it or not. In addition to that, it is a lonely job. At least in a normal job you have coffee and cigarette breaks where you can have laugh away your frustrations with buddies and subvert your suicidal tendencies.

I, myself am seriously considering switching from my sixth floor flat to one on the first floor. So the breeze won’t be as nice but at least there will be less of a mess to clean up. I may even escape with just a broken limb or two and little or no irreparable damage.

All these thoughts got me thinking about whether there was a way one could find out if they have it in them to be a writer. And then I happened to go to Shelfari where all these people were raving about this site which, apparently, is a Godsend.

It is a bit like tail the story, an experiment that I myself had started sometime ago whereby I (or anyone) started a story and then someone else took it up and then someone else and so on. My experiment was a success for while but then it fizzled out, mainly because I didn’t have the time to moderate it and propel the story forward when interest levels waned. Plus the subject I had chosen, a sci-fi kinda thing, didn’t exactly set everyone afire.

Now there is panhistoria.  There are dozens and dozens of novels with numerous people writing them. The novels are in every sort of genre from horror to fantasy to action to romance to westerns. You can simply ask to join in on any one of them. Or you can start your own novel.

There are not many moderators with binding rules so your creativity is not curbed. Besides the interactive participation, having people wait on for your additions to stories keeps you on deadline. It forces you to write regularly which is a good thing of you are a procrastinator. Plus there’s an element of competition which always helps. You try to wow the readers by outdoing the author before you. As a result you read more – you’ve gotta first read to outclass ­– and hone your writing skills.

If you want to be a writer, go there and see if you can stick it out, whether you have enough ideas in you and, more importantly, if you are having fun.

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Whenever stuck for ideas, the news is your best source. It certainly is my best source. Just recently I was stuck for an idea for a character whose public profile was impeachable but who had a sinister private profile. And then Lt. Col Shrikant Purohit came along.

When the news first came out, it left most of us reeling with shock. A member of the Indian Army, the one institution that still commands respect, engaged in terrorist activities, why the idea was outrageous. Or was it?

Look at it from his point of view.

(Disclaimer: This is pure speculation and is not based on any facts)

He was probably a loyal member of this stellar organization, serving his country without question in inhospitable and downright hostile areas. He was probably engaged in counter insurgency ops in J&K. He was probably freezing his butt off patrolling at Siachen in knee deep snow.

For what?  To protect an openly ungrateful people and a government that doesn’t care. Through unjustified brickbats and unfair pay commissions he remained stoic and his patriotism was unshakable.

They caught several terrorists who were later let off for political or other reasons (prisoners for hostages kinda exchange). And (behold the mother of all ironies) one of these very rascals later went on to become a prominent political figure whom Purohit was forced to salute! It is just too much. And the straw that broke the camel’s back. Is it any wonder that the Mumbai Police openly refused to salute Gawli (or was it protect, or both)?

Of course this is only a general outline. Many people snap under unrelenting stress, and in a variety of ways, not necessarily anarchical. To explain his leanings towards militant Hinduism, you’d have to first concede that he was an Alpha male type personality, and then go back and reconstruct his childhood. To begin with, you’d have to consider that he was probably raised in a middle class Hindu household with allegiance to the Sangh, which was not a terrorist organization.

Even at this stage, to him, religion was private and had no place in his professional life at all. But gradually, he saw the rise of Islamic terrorism and, what seemed to him, a persecution of Hindus. This rhetoric was, no doubt, inculcated by a newly radicalised Sangh. He knew that the Government would not do anything about it, only pander to minorities. And that he had to do something if he had to arrest the inevitable downward slide of his beloved country into chaos. Here he probably saw Israel, with their prompt and retaliatory bombing, as an example. And a religious vigilante was born.

If you undertake this speculative exercise, bam, you’ve got a character. Hell, you’ve got a story.

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One thing is for sure. Whatever regrets I had about giving up my career in investment banking, I don’t any more. I have to admit that I did feel twinges of doubt when the markets were soaring and all my colleagues were taking home upwards of a crore (10 mil) while I was struggling to eke out a tenth of that.

I’ve been through such a bear phase before, in the year 2000. And living through two such phases is just too much for any one person to bear. Okay, poor choice of words there. I should have said endure. I personally know at least two people from the industry who’ve suffered fatal heart attacks in their early thirties. All right, perhaps it wasn’t the pressure alone that did them in. Their almost completely non-vegetarian diet and incessant smoking and drinking probably also had something to do with it.

We are in for a rough time here in India as well. It is a global pandemic and in these integrated times global flows of liquidity decide what course a country’s development will take. Domestic liquidity was stemmed in earlier to fight inflation and now companies are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to borrow abroad. So how do they carry on their operations?

We are in for lower GDP growth, job, cuts, lower savings, lower investment and, therefore, lower growth. What was once a virtuous cycle of positives on all the above counts is fast turning into a vicious cycle. How long it could take to sort itself out – 12 months, 18 months, 24 months or more, is anybody’s guess.

What all this means for a writer is of course, new story ideas to reflect newer realities. For example, many thriller writers almost went out of business after the end of the cold war between the USA and USSR. Till they found terror. Perhaps it is time to think the same economically?

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O Grammar, Where Art Thou?

Aspiring writers send me all sorts of stuff to read through. Here’s one from a writer who felt that what he had written was good.

“I didn’t knew if I could trust him. He was an addict and a liar and, though he assures me he wasn’t using again, his constricted pupils told me otherwise.”

And then he wonders why his work is rejected time and again?

This sentence can be used as dialogue if you have a character who speaks like that. But as a part of the main narrative, it’s a strict no-no.

It’s not enough that you have a gripping story. If your manuscript if full of such basic grammatical errors, no editor is going to approve it. Who wants to sift through reams and reams full of such errors?

Let’s face it, if you want to be a published writer, one of the most essential things is to write correct English. Good English is desirable but correct English is more important. You can’t say stuff like, “I wants to be a writer” and hope to be taken seriously. Or misspell words like ardourous. It’s either arduous or ardent. Decide which. What is it that you want to say – difficult or passionate?

Your sentence construction, vocabulary and spelling have to be solid. I found this list on the web and found it hilarious. As a test, check it out. If you can find out what’s funny about it, you’re on your way to becoming a writer.

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It’s official. Indians don’t write.

It’s true. I’m a member of Shelfari and have tried to encourage writing amongst Indians. No go. In spite of gentle and not so gentle reminders and encouragemnet, they just wont!

I try to tell them it’s a good thing to write. As you write more, you become more focused and articulate. You don’t need to write much, but you must write, and write often. Writing just fifteen minutes a day, every day, adds up to about book every year! So think about it. 

And if that wasn’t enough motivation, writing, it seems helps also helps you lose weight! Julia Cameron, in her new book, The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size” talks about this at length. Artists and writers are familiar with Julia Cameron. For those who aren’t she is the creator of the morning pages concept.

So get cracking!

On a separate note, thank you all for reading the first chapter of Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions and giving feedback. Thanks, it means a lot.

For new visitors, I’ve posted the first chapter of Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions. You can read it here.

 

 
 

 

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yippee! Advance copies should be out anytime now. From then on it will be another 2-3 weeks before Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions hits bookstores.

Meanwhile I’m stumbling along with my next one, tentatively titled Bindaas Babe goes to Bollywood (BBB) for now. I love doing this. I love alliterations and am constantly on the lookout for new fun ones. I also love metaphors and similes and enjoy inventing them.

Currently I am exploring the characters who will play prominent and cameo parts in BBB. I haven’t yet got a handle on them completely but that’s part of the fun. You discover as you lurch along. Or, if you prefer, get into their skin as I progress. Right now they are still sketches I had outlined on paper.

All I really want from them is to add fun and element of unpredictability. Even though I know how the book ends, someone has to provide the extra layers. Or the stimulus to the protagonist, tentaively christened, Bindu (how imgainative) to reveal hers.

BBB, like Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, is not the Kite Runner which is a straightforward story, simply told. The writer does not bother to add layers. Perhaps he does not trust that he can handle subtleties of a more complex narrative. In which case it is a good thing. Whenever in doubt follow the K.I.S.S. principle – keep it simple stupid.

So all that I really am looking to do is build characters with traits that have the potential to chafe against Bindu’s (or anyone else’s in the story) and provide conflict. So even if you know right away that a character is lying, you don’t know why? Is he guilty of the crime? Or does he simply hate the person asking him? It is a wonderful tool to keep up the suspense and hold reader interest.

So whenever you begin writing and outline your characters, always think of characteristics that are diametrically opposite to others’. Even simple ones work. For instance, one person could be sloppy and the other, a cleanliness freak. There is potential for explosive conflict there. If left alone together for any length of time they are likely to take a hatchet to each other. Or find a way to make their cohabitation work! You see, that’s the fun of it. You never know what’s going to happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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