Saturday, June 3, 2017

MY JOURNEY AS A WRITER - 1




After seven years of blogging with 230 posts and nearly 50,000 views and two books published during the last three years and in the process having keyed in close to 3,50,000 words this has been a journey through a labyrinth of a world of words. This defines my life post retirement and though it is not a full-time occupation it has been a meaningful one and helped me through the process of exploring my inner world and coming to terms with the external web of relationships surrounding me. I am a better person now.

I have grown to appreciate and empathize with people, things and events, which in the past would have just passed me by as I was too preoccupied with all things centered around my own existence. Maybe I have more time now but that alone is not the reason for this empathy. Ever since I started putting my fingers on the keyboard (like the good old pen on paper) I found the words give shape to experiences and people populate the pages of the word document. There are stories out there back in our world which still lie undiscovered waiting to be given form. Though I have an image I do not have a plot when I start of and I write as the story unfolds. This is very much in evidence in my second book ‘Darkness and Beyond – A Medley of Many Lives’ the characters developed as I continued writing and when I look back now I feel happy that I have done justice without resorting to over emphasis and melodrama, making them feel more real. Writing without a plot has made me grow along with the characters and make their experiences my own. It has been more exciting and adventurous this way. I felt like a reader myself waiting for the next piece to fall in place.

It is when darkness falls and I am at my work table with only the table lamp on that my explorations start. I retreat into that world where things past and people whose lives have crossed mine, emerge. Not that I wallow in nostalgia and ache for things gone by, it is when they become characters on the pages, taking shape on the screen in front of me.

My journey started nearly forty-four years ago on a winter day which by no standards can be called winter in Bombay but for the fact that it was in December. The Introduction to my first book Í am just An Ordinary Man’ gives an account of this –

It was in 1973 that I first started to write. Since then I have reread what I wrote from time to time whenever I felt I was being swept away by the mundane existence of an inconsequential life. Now as I hold the diary in my hands, a possession forty years old, feel the pages which have more or less turned brown, and as the whiff of an ancient fragrance burrows its way through the corridors of my mind, I am transported through the years to that day in December 1973. I was shaken out of a stupor into which I had fallen. It all happened in the bus you may say. As I sat in the bus, a good two hours’ drive to my destination, I was riveted to my seat without being aware of what was happening around me. I am still unable to comprehend what it was, but maybe it was something which had been building up inside over a period of time, spilled over. When the bus reached its final stop, I got down and rushed home. I took out an old diary and started to write. I penned down a few lines in verse, which when I look back now does indicate the angst that had been haunting me then. I called it Ghosts. Though the ghosts have long since been exorcised, they still lurk in the background.

For the next three years, I wrote with an intensity that only youth can shower. There was rebellion, there was romance and there was angst, filling the pages of my diary more in verse initially and a shift to prose gradually. I filled up nearly two diaries with my writings during that period. The writings ranged, though largely unstructured, from deeply introspective to the romantic. These later served as the building blocks for my blog and my books. This was also a time when my reading peaked and a habit which I have retained to this day.
Stephen King in his book On Writing says-

If you want to be writer, you must do two things above all others; read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.

Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work.

My early reading has had a lasting influence on my thought process. Though I read all genres the ones that left an impact were the existentialist writings of Camus, Sartre, Kafka, Dostoevsky and the works of Hermann Hesse.
Maybe I was reading Camus’s The Rebel, I am not sure, but I ended writing some pieces when the Emergency in India was declared and the day the papers went with a blank first page as a symbolic silent protest -  

Cobwebs
People don’t be blind,
You are hurting me,
But I don’t mind.
Just open your eyes
And you will find,
I am beside you.
Your eyes are now open,
You still don’t see;
Well it’s the darkness,
The cobwebs cut the light out.
Raise your hands
And you will find,
The cobwebs are above you:
It’s the top that needs a cleaning.
The air is foul, you cannot breathe,
Cause the cobwebs cut the air off.
Stop hitting me,
Here’s my back,
Climb, reach for the top,
Clear the cobwebs once for all,
For it’s there,
That needs a cleaning.

Why are people scared?
Why are people scared?
I wonder, they wonder.
Is it mounting frustration,
That has given rise,
To a weird hallucination?
They walk as if in fear,
With their eyes closed,
They do not speak nor hear,
Led, as if by an unseen force,
They walk the road,
Heedless where it goes.
If there were a pit,
They would fall into it,
Without a word or a whimper.
Why don’t you open your eyes?
You’re not blind
Wake up from the trance;
With all your strength, you should try,
Only then there is a chance.
If you take the trouble,
To use your mind,
To question or to answer,
From the front, never behind.

I also wrote –
Batons shall not beat us back,
And even though our skulls do crack,
We should fight with all our might,
For what is just and what is right.

My writing abruptly stopped or rather pushed to the background as I felt myself immerse deeper into the humdrum of a normal existence with its attendant gains and pains. It was not writer’s block, but only changed priorities. I have come a long way since then.

(To be continued)