Thursday, November 19, 2015

The art of falling in love with a writer

 *Replace 'he' with 'she' as required

It’s his first book. You pick it up only because it was recommended. You read the back cover. Writing is not his first love.  You’re sceptical of first time writers, especially ones who haven’t been killing themselves to perfect the art of writing. You look at the name of the publisher. Not a bad one. So he has been able to convince them. Interesting. You read the foreword. He has been promoted by big names. He had connections. People who could put in a good word for him here or there. Your scepticism only increases.

The author’s bio details his professional life. A few bare facts listed without emotion.

Page 1. You aren’t greatly impressed. You could almost sense the author’s hands shake as he wrote the first line. There is a jitter, an uncertainty. Can I really do this?-type. You smirk and continue.

It is a memoir. You let out a chuckle on page 2. He is funny. Sort of. At least he knows how to laugh at himself.

You don’t realise you have crossed twenty pages. That was smooth and engrossing. Not a writer, huh? Some writer must have polished it for him, naturally. But who cares? Why do you try to justify the good writing? Of course someone would have edited it. Every good writer needs a great editor. This is a good read. Period. Don't let your writer-reader head work more than necessary.

Flipping more and more pages. It is a small-ish book. And it is funny. In some places, uncontrollably so. A little spiced up, perhaps. But again, who cares, as long as it is not over-done. You go back to the author’s bio. Who is he?

He calls himself lucky. I was there at the right place at the right time. I was the only one who got the chance. This repeats, and your innate intolerance lifts its hairy head. Surely he was not the only one, there were others? You remember the time when you overheard someone say, “No one could calm the screaming infant for hours. Then I came, gently touched his arm and he quieted down within seconds.” Yeah, right.

But this one? He is sincere and modest. He really believes it. You’re curious again; you go back to the bio. What are you looking for? Something between the lines. There’s nothing.

He is kind to the other characters in the memoir. Even when they misbehave, he stops short of abusing them. Is it real? Or a writer’s need to appear politically correct? You sense a gap. There is a slight rounding of the edges.

You close the book. The journey's over. But you're still there, out on the road. And you're smiling.

You’ve been there. Not exactly, but somewhere nearby. You've been hearing his thoughts. You're seeing the world through his eyes. You're inside. Yes, you know who he is. You have been reading between the lines, from the moment you picked up the book.

And you wonder, you wonder…

Saturday, November 7, 2015

An exercise in Murphy's Law

First it was the rain.

Come to think of it, there is almost always a root cause that sets the whole Murphy's Law mechanism in motion.

I booked a cab as usual. The last time I had booked one, we had reached fifteen minutes early. You know Ola, they always have a car two minutes away from my place. Always. But not this time. The rain, as I said. And the cabs began to vanish right before my eyes, from the app. Finally, I find one fourteen minutes away. Fourteen minutes. We'll be late by a couple of minutes, but that's okay, I thought.

After ten minutes, I can still see the cab driver ten minutes away on the app. I call him up. "Rain, Madam!" he says. "Traffic! Rain! I'm coming."

My son is becoming restless. He will be late for his football coaching. We watch the car progress inch by inch through the highway (through the tracking option in the app). Finally he is here. Ten minutes for the coaching to start. "We're going to be very late," I said to my son. I have an inkling that we're going to be very very late. He wriggled his hands and made a complaining face.

The distance to the destination - eight-ish kilometres - can be covered in fifteen minutes, on a clear and sunny day with no chance of meatballs. Apart from a fair amount of traffic, there is a railway gate and a handful of traffic signals on the way. On normal days, one of these will delay us by five minutes. One of these, mind you. You now know which way the story is headed.

The rain is quite intense as we get into the car. We begin to crawl forward. There are vehicles everywhere. One wonders whether they all fell from the sky with the rain. The first traffic signal is red. Of course.

The railway gate is closed. Naturally.

When the gate is opened, there is the usual mad rush to beat everyone to the other side. One decent truck driver has placed himself diagonally across the gate. He came from the perpendicular road and had to make a 90 degree to enter the railway gate, but got stuck at 45. With cars on all sides, a BMTC bus's nose almost touching his butt, a scooter scampering through the gaps, there is no way he can. No one can move unless this guy evaporates into thin air.

My son and I watch this deadlock in exasperation. The coaching must have begun now. He has tears in his eyes. He hates being late. He looks at me as if I am to blame.

The truck driver and the car facing him engage in a dance. We're right behind this car. The car dude finally gives in and reverses. He takes himself to one side, out of the way. Did I tell you we were stranded right on top of the railway tracks, between the two gates, all this time? A train or an engine that decided to take an evening stroll through the tracks would have really added colour to the scene.

There is a gap where the car was. The truck inches forward, and other vehicles squeeze in. Everyone ignores the car which had given way. He is stuck by the side and would not be able to move until the madness is over.

Finally all is well and the truck makes its turn, the car dude swears never to drive again on a rainy day (among other things), and we continue on our paths.

The rain gets heavier and the road is flooded. We reach the next traffic junction. I see green light from a distance. When we approach, it turns to red. The countdown begins at 120. We stare at it in disbelief. "Sometimes, everything that can go wrong, will," I said wisely to my son. He did not seem very impressed or comforted.

The longest two minutes passed. I expected a traffic light malfunction or something else that would delay us another ten minutes. Wonder why that didn't happen.

We crawl (wade?) in the rain and reach twenty minutes past the time. By then we both have attained a Zen level of calm. My son is just relieved that we made it before the coaching is over.

As I pay the driver and get out, I look up at the sky. It promises another episode one hour later, when it is time to return home.

Monday, November 2, 2015

An ode to futile dreams

They come in, unbidden
Like advices, unsolicited,

Making the impossible
Appear real...

At nights they
work their magic

Weaving hope
Into our secret desires

Painting the daybreak
With promising colours

Splashing some shades
into our fantasies

Those cruel, false,
impractical dreams...