Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The 'I AM BUSY' fiction

People are more busy than ever in urban India. At least they are under the assumption that they are. To be busy is a privilege, a social stamp of importance. In fact, if you are not on the run in your bustling city, you are the odd one out. It can be stated with assurance that a hardworking farmer in any village would have more free time than the average urban dweller (employed or otherwise) states that he or she doesn't have. Why indeed?

The 18 to 35 age group are sealed to their computer seats more than ever. As a recent survey showed, most people are not looking for anything in particular on the Internet, most of the time. Just how much time would one need to check their email accounts? When was the last time you logged on to a social networking site and found anything useful? Online videos, when you are done with TV, then there is the dependable cell phone waiting to whisk you away.

Free time inevitably bring in self-reflection and introspection, the truth becomes more evident and inescapable than ever. Fear looms, jealousies, regrets and tears too.What you repress by day, accumulates at night. Habit-induced sleeplessness has thus become a culture. You sit, post comments and make wise statements on Facebook, sometimes right till dawn. You drink that the mind may be temporarily numb. You will do anything to evade what is looming right in front. There is an illusion of safety too, you are not alone. There is a whole hoard, including your friends and relatives who are playing the same game.

"So what do I do instead? What to do when I am not busy?" We do not have the time to consider these options. That's all it will take - rest, relaxation and self-reflection. Meanwhile, busyness flourishes. Advertisements, celebrities, employers, educational institutions are busy emphasising this delusion.

Hell, there should be time to waste. For it is in that wasted, empty time that you are regally seated on your throne. Now, can you while it away?

Monday, 10 September 2012

Literature: Celebrating O. Henry's 150th Birth Anniversary

A profile of O.Henry and a reproduction of the opening paragraphs from A Gift of Mag
(click image for large size view)

Now, how often do you read authors on the eve of their 150th birth anniversary? Well, we are still reading O.Henry, voraciously.

William Sydney Porter was born on September 11, 1862, a date now synonymous with an overpowering act of violence. It is not known for certain when Porter started using the pen name: O.Henry. The general agreement among biographers is that the first story under the pseudonym appeared when he was serving a jail term for embezzlement. The logical reasoning: Porter wanted to hide his criminal record from potential publishers. Porter was 33 then and by the time of his death in 1910, he had more than 300 complete short stories to his credit.

The clinching aspect of a classic O.Henry story is the surprise element; how a story could be brought to an abrupt end with one final revelation that added up all the threads in one revealing sentence. Additional sentences would then conclude with reasoning, if required, to the revelation.

That O.Henry came up with astounding stories in his 16-year writing career was well, astounding. Another aspect that O.Henry didn't share with the last sentence you read, was a staggering, amazing and dumbfounding range of  vocabulary. Critics have often had many thorns to pick with this aspect, many terming it as ostentatious.  Under the magnifying glass, though, this facet has been considered as thoughtful, and effective in the field of semantics*.

Among the most famous and often compiled stories of O.Henry is The Gift of the Magi. Many book lovers would remember it - A young couple with limited economic means, the woman with luscious long hair and her husband, the proud owner of an ancestral watch. Another recommendation is The Last Leaf – Set as it is in a painter’s colony and tells of beliefs, life, death and a certain painting.

So if you are yet to read any O.Henry story, we heartily suggest adding him to your reading list.

(Semantics* - The study of language meaning)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Author Ashwin Sanghi on IBN Live Chat (September 7, 2012)

Ashwin Sanghi is the much-lauded author of Chanakya's Chant (2010) and The Rozabal Line (2008). His new release The Krishna Key is again to do with history. On the IBN Live chat arranged today, he answered a couple of my questions, among many others.  

Q. What inspired you to write your first book? How difficult was it to write it all down on a day-to-day basis? How easy is it to write now, now that you are a published writer?

Ashwin Sanghi: My maternal grandfather was a voracious reader and poet who would send me a book each week to read. At the end of the week I had to send him a one-page letter about why I liked or disliked it. Up until 2005, I had remained a voracious reader without having any idea that there was a writer lurking inside of me. In that year I visited Rozabal—a shrine in the heart of Srinagar, which carries the legend that the person buried there is none other than Jesus Christ himself. I was fascinated by the story and began reading and researching everything that I could lay my hands on. Twelve months later, having devoured fifty-seven books on the subject, I had multiple theories swimming in my head. My wife casually suggested that I should try weaving the disparate threads into a single cohesive whole and that gentle nudge got me started on The Rozabal Line. The rest, as they say, is history. It wasn't difficult to write... I didn't know what I was doing. Challenges seem much less intimidating when you don't know what you're up against! When you are an unknown commodity, it's easier to write. Once you are known, your readership has expectations from you and this implies that you will always question yourself about whether it is good enough.

Q. Would you consider writing something totally contemporary and modern as compared to the historical canvas of your works so far?

Ashwin Sanghi: My next book is based upon an incident that happened in 1949. Most of the story is in the present day and there is very little history. So the answer to your question is yes.