Accidental India: A review

As we celebrate our 64th republic day, it would be interesting to review the country’s achievements in the last 64 years. Instead of taking on the arduous task myself, I shall review a book that does just that. An extremely interesting book titled ‘Accidental India’ by Shankkar Aiyar.

The book is written on an interesting premise that most of the good things that happened in India happened accidentally and at the points when the country was in the brink of grave crisis. The book tries to show every great step taken by the country as the initiative of a small group of heroic individuals fighting bravely against the country’s political system and bureaucratic machinery that tries its best to pull them down. It portrays the story of years of struggle that finally succeed only when the country’s ruling class is pushed to the corner and forced to let them succeed to avoid the grave crisis facing the country. At all other times, vested interests seek to beat down any attempts towards progressive initiatives. Most of us know this instinctively, but is very interesting indeed to study the country’s history and learn about specific instances and how exactly the country’s system works.

The seven key turning points the book deals with are:-

1. Dismantling of the License Raj by Narasimha Rao Government.

2. India’s green revolution pioneered by M.S. Swaminathan supported by C.Subramaniam and Lal Bahdur Shastri

3. Nationalizing of Banks by Indira Gandhi government leading to all parts of the country including rural areas getting coverage.

4. India’s white revolution pioneered by Verghese Kurien

5. The Mid Day Meal program for children pioneered by Tamil Nadu Government under M.G. Ramachandran

6. India’s IT and BPO revolution supported by reforms brought by people like IAS officer Vittal

7. The fight for getting the citizens of India the Right to Information by Aruna Roy and others.

Each of the above is dealt with comprehensively from a historic perspective starting from the need and the first conception of the idea. The entire history of the struggle to make the idea come to fruition and all the individuals involved is covered. Along the way we get to know about the background of the individuals, their motivations, their frustrations and their struggles against every attempt by the political and bureaucratic class to scuttle the idea at every stage. That makes each chapter read like a story and keeps the attention of the reader riveted till the end. We root for the hero and start feeling empathy for the struggle rather than just dry detached intellectual understanding of the issues.

I am not sure if I personally agree with the final conclusion. The writer concludes that the system should change and reforms should be well planned and executed based on a vision and not just happen in response to crisis. He points out that there is lot of pain and struggle involved for the common people the way change is happening currently. He suggests we have been lucky so far that right things happened at the right time to avoid disasters, in spite of numerous missed opportunities and continuous bungling by the country’s rulers and administrators. He feels that luck might not always lend us the hand and unless we have a leadership that manages change systematically with a long term vision, we might not tide through the next crisis. This may be true. But such leadership is not going to jump from the sky. The current system is well entrenched and they are not going to voluntarily step down and give way to more sincere and enlightened leadership. The educated middle class who read this book have neither the financial power nor the numerical strength to bring this change about either. So I feel it is only wishful thinking and focus should be more on what we can do at our level.

Also I am not sure if things can really work so well orchestrated and planned to a script the way China tries to do it. I read a book called ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins that suggests even for corporates, greatness comes from creation of right environment rather than meticulous planning. I feel that is more important at a national level as well. Possibly the author’s suggestion is also along this direction and not exactly the over planning that China indulges in. China’s over planning in my opinion is as much a risk as India’s under planning as I feel it restricts the agility to react to unexpected changes in the world that have not been factored in the assumptions based on which plans are made.

Coming back to the book, I feel it has done a balanced job, tilting neither left nor right, giving equal credit to capitalistic and socialistic reforms. Things are explained lucidly and easy for anybody even without knowledge of economics to understand. The book is a bit expensive at Rs. 700. But I feel it is worth it. It is a book to buy, keep and revisit, not the type to read once and throw. It has so many details and each issue has so many nuances that cannot be grasped and remembered entirely in one reading. So it is nice to keep it on the shelf and read again. Also, I feel a book like this gives much more value for your time and money than a year’s newspapers. It gives you clarity and puts things in the right perspective.

This review is also a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

The Original IndiBlogger Meet

How many bloggers do you need to mime ‘Robin Hood’? Fifteen apparently! With 15 members we could enact the whole play. But it becomes a challenge when all you have to do is mime. Final result was utter chaos. Fifteen of us got on stage with no clue what we were supposed to do. But surprisingly someone from the audience still managed to guess right, denying us even the worst team award, which was claimed by Dr. Vidya Sury’s team claiming to have created such a complicated mime that no one could possibly guess it. The only saving grace of our team was our captain Gyan Ban, who reprised the role of a person with dual personality disorder confused whether he was a bandit from ancient English literature or a cop from modern day Hindi movies.

In case people are wondering what the above is all about, that was about the Indi Blogger meet sponsored by Harper Collins and HP at the Fortune Capital Hotel. Then there was also samosas, sandwiches, gulab jamuns , rolls and tea. Unfortunately, no cake though. Last meet Leo had given feedback that there should be chocolate cake instead of plain vanilla cake. So seems like they removed cake itself from the menu to shift attention from the food. But then food happens to be the best aspect of the meet as that is when you can move around freely and talk to fellow bloggers. There were also pen drives, headsets, books published by Harper Collins, printers and t-shirts. After all can one deny the charm free stuff holds for us Indians? Suresh was awarded a book each for his bald head and broken wrist. Naba was awarded a USB drive for coughing. Princess Poo was awarded a head set for being scolded by her mother. Guess this gives people some pointers on what all one needs to do to win free stuff at Indi Bloggers meets, which incidentally was also one of the topics discussed in the final section of the met.

The sponsors’ message for the meet was to fight against piracy and fakes. The sponsor rambled a bit about advantages of using original HP cartridges and then let some bloggers speak about their experiences of their content being duplicated. It was a good idea by the sponsors to relate the two. But strangely the topic did not generate the kind of Kolaveri it usually does on facebook discussions on plagiarism. ‘Why Kolaveri di’ was incidentally another topic in the final section of the meet. Mr. Balasubramaniam Meghanathan bagged a printer by sharing his tale of woe on this topic – apparently that is all there is left for him to say to his wife after twelve years of marriage.

True to the maxim that bloggers should be seen and not heard, neither I nor Leo said anything when our turn came in 30 seconds of fame. Guess the original saying was with respect to children. Talking of children, we had a 10 year old blogger in our midst, Sidharth the son of another blogger Rachna, who took away a printer for his enthusiastic participation. A lot of bloggers however used the 30 seconds of fame to showcase their multi-faceted talent. Rachna herself enthralled us all with her singing talent. Saro Sena impressed us with her linguistic skills while Balu, never the one to miss an opportunity did a Manmohan Singh act. Farida and Raghav never fail to impress the audience with their tale of grit and determination to fight against the tough odds life had thrown at them. They are after all the true heroes of blog-o-sphere who blog for the purpose of inspiring people to emulate them and take life in their stride.

Last but not the least, we had our own fun in our mini gang, which is actually the main reason I attend meets other than the chance to meet folks who I have known in blog-o-sphere in person. The known bloggers I met the first time in person this time were Rachna, Saro Sena and Ranjit Raj. Our fun team this time had Princess Poo, Naba, Tanmayee, Nethra, Nimisha, Siddesh and Deepika Kabe. Notable absentees were Sibi Mathew, Ghanchakkar, Tina, Santosh and Harsha. We stuck on staunchly together despite conspiracies by the Indiblogger team to disperse us in the larger crowd. We managed to get an instant photograph clicked in Sidhesh's trademark Ravan pose as well, which now adorns our Bangalore Bloggers Bistro group.

That’s it I guess. So long and thank you for all the fish, Team Indiblogger. Read fish as fun. Why should we call fun as fun only? Why can’t we call fun as fish and fish as fun? Maybe we can take that question for discussion in the next Indi Meet or I can somehow work that line cleverly in my introduction next time to make myself more visible.

Whatever it Takes

I am finally back with the blog reviews for this year and I open my innings with the review of the blog of this blogger who I call the angry young man of blog-o-sphere. Like Amitabh Bachchan from the films of the 1970s he is someone who strongly resents the evils of the society and raises his voice against them. Check out deepakspeaks if you want to read someone who has the courage to call a spade a spade.

The blog name is appropriate. ‘Whatever it takes’ kind of conveys the bold hard speaking image of the blog. The design and colors are kind of neat and the blog presents an overall no nonsense look which again goes well with the theme. The widgets have also been chosen appropriately. They are arranged neatly without giving the blog a too cluttered a look. One suggestion I would give when he goes for his own domain would be to have the blog url same as blog title so that people can remember it.

In terms of content, the blog posts are mostly opinions on social issues, though now and then one can see creative works such as 55 fictions too. He expresses his opinion crisply and in a lucid manner bringing in a personal context as well making it an engaging read. The language is not very elitist and the kind a regular Indian would be able to relate to. However I would still recommend paying some attention to spelling and grammar to ensure reader feels he cares for them enough to edit the content he gives out to them. Overall he conveys an image of someone who strongly believes in what he says. He says things strongly without mincing any words and is not cowed down by social norms. His posts do not indicate deep analysis and he may always not be right in what he says. But his writing bells the cat. Many of his opinions are those that many people have in their minds but afraid to say it for the fear of being politically incorrect. So all the people silenced by need for diplomacy will have a vicarious enjoyment reading him say the things they wanted to say but could not.

One advice I would give to increase readership would be to introduce a pattern to his writing and stick to it religiously. What I mean by pattern is to give some predictability in his postings. Say, he can make it a point to make a post on one burning issue every week. That way the readers know, if there is a serious issue, Deepak will definitely have a say on it and as soon as an issue comes up, they will go over to his blog to check what Deepak has to say on it. Also as I suggest for most people it is better to make the blog niche and bring some focus. So things like generic creative expressions can be avoided or a separate blog can be created for that kind of content.

In terms of navigation, I feel he has done a great job. There are archives, most read section and the search feature. One suggestion from me is to give links inside a new post to other earlier posts on related topics he has written earlier. That would reduce the bounce rate of the blog and retain the reader on the blog longer. He has managed tabs quite nicely having the awards on a separate tab and having spate tabs for the about him section, for contacting him and reading and requesting guest posts. That helps in de-cluttering the sidebar. In terms of widgets, I feel they have been chosen with care and arranged neatly. One suggestion however would be to move the followers widget to the side or bottom. It does not look good to see the ‘followers’ widget coming up right on top even before the content begins.

Coming to the interaction, it is quite good and he does take out time to respond to readers. He is also active on social media and actively tries to engage with folks. The brash attitude that works well for the blog however can rub people the wrong way at times when carried over to interpersonal interactions. That is however unavoidable as one cannot provide a different image on a blog and different image on personal interactions.

This is definitely a blog I would recommend everyone to try out. I can’t assure you will definitely like it but you will definitely admire the spunk this kid has got. Find below a selection of five posts that is reflective of his writings

2. OMG!
3. Gangs of bloggers

A Sankranti Tale - Part 2

The lunch was indeed sumptuous. The food is usually the best part of this festival. There was sweet pongal, salt pongal, five vegetable side dishes, vatha kulambu, rasam, vada and payasam.

Why so many vegetable side dishes today, ma?

As I told you earlier today is the harvest festival. So we would have samples from various items of produce. We usually have five or seven vegetables made on this day. The vegetables have to be indigenous vegetables only and not all these foreign vegetables

What is wrong with foreign vegetables, ma?

They don’t subscribe to Indian values!

This is not at all funny! Why don’t you teach him something useful for a change?

Ok. Well, on a serious note, the answer lies in the theory of evolution. Over centuries, our bodies have evolved to derive nutrition from certain types of food. Therefore local foods are healthiest. Something new can seriously disrupt the health. It is the same from the farmer’s point of view as well. The eco system is closely interlinked: the soil, the bacteria, the insects, the animals, the other plants etc. A plant that is not indigenous can seriously disrupt the eco system.

Neeraj again had a blank look.

Shankar was by now in his elements. “Let me give an example. Rabbits are not an indigenous species in Australia and they were introduced by settlers. Since it was not a local animal, there were no local predators that ate rabbits.

But rabbits are so cute. Why do we need some animals to eat them? Isn't it nice for them to live peacefully without threat from cruel foxes and wolves?

Listen to what happened! Without predators rabbits kept multiplying and the country was teeming with rabbits. There were so many rabbits everywhere and they were just eating up all the crops. At this rate all plants in Australia would have been destroyed by the rabbits and it would have become a waste land. So man had to turn predator and start hunting down the rabbits.

Animals I can understand. But what is the problem with plants?

Different plants have to compete with each other for the same minerals in the soil. Say the foreign plant is used to tougher conditions abroad while the local plant has had it easy. Then the foreign plant will hog all the minerals, outgrow the local plants and totally crowd out the local plants. Also the local insects may not be used to the foreign plants and may go for an all-out attack on the remaining local plants thus reducing their chances even further. The local animals may not be used to eating the foreign plants and may start dying of starvation as they can’t evolve so fast. This the whole eco system would go kaput. It is a vast topic. But are you getting the general drift?

Neeraj was still looking confused. But he nodded his head. It had got him thinking.

The whole point is that we should not go against nature. If we go against nature it will have disastrous consequences,” Rama summarized.

Shankar shook his head, “That is not really true. Humanity has always tried to conquer nature. Even farming itself actually is an act against nature. Man forces nature to produce things he needs rather than what would have been naturally produced. And man has always been selectively breeding certain varieties of plants and animals to suit his needs. Just that it was slow and the eco system had time to adapt. Now the changes introduced by man are so rapid. Things like genetically modified crops are completely disruptive. From favoring certain species of plants to bringing in new plants from distant regions, now man has taken on the role of God and creating altogether new species of plants.

Rama once again piped in. “And you say all this is for good? I read that genetically modified crops cause all kinds of health problems, even cancer. That is why so many people are protesting against it and many countries have even banned them. Genetically modified crops should never be allowed.

The march of science can be slowed but never stopped. Any new technology comes with its own pitfalls. We should find solutions to the problems and not stop progress altogether. Can you imagine the possibilities? By cracking the genetic code, we will be able to create new species of plants and animals and maybe even entirely new eco systems. This could very well be the deal breaker if we are to move out of earth and begin to settle new planets.

Once again you have started all your sci-fi nonsense? You have to bring it in everywhere, don’t you?

It is not nonsense. Do you know China is seriously considering setting up a settlement in Mars?

Neeraj’s ears had perked up at the mention of Mars. He had been getting bored with all the talk of agriculture and eco systems. Astronomy, rockets and space travel were a more interesting topic.

Really, Pa? Do you think we would soon have humans on Mars?

Why not, my son? To my great grandfather, it was unimaginable to travel out of his village. To my grandfather, North India looked distant and unreachable. Your own grandfather has never left the Indian shores. For me, foreign travel has become routine. It is very much possible in your time; inter-planetary travel could very well be the norm. There are some people who think science has come to an end and we just need to get on with life. But there have always been people who have thought that from the times of Archimedes to Galileo to Einstein. In spite of this we have come so far and there is still a long way to go. As they say, the stars are the limit.

Shankar’s eyes were shining as were Neeraj’s. Lunch was done. Rama had already got busy clearing the plates. Father and son had the luxury to sit on their asses and dream of the glorious future only because she was there to take care of the mundane present.

Click here for Part 1

A Sankranti Tale - Part 1

The milk is going to boil,” shouted Rama from the kitchen.

Nobody seemed to bother. She sighed. She seemed to be the only one interested in the festivities. Her husband and son were lost in their own worlds. Neeraj was busy playing Farmville and Shankar had his nose buried in a book.

Shankar protested loudly as the book was snatched from his hand and Neeraj joined the chorus as he himself was snatched from his laptop. Soon all three were in the kitchen shouting Pongal-o-Pongal as the milk boiled over.

Why do we have to enact all this drama every year, Ma? It all feels so silly

Well boss, there ain’t no such thing as free lunches. If you want to eat all the good stuff today, you need to sing for your food.

Rama frowned, “Is this the kind of things you say to a kid? No wonder he is already turning a cynic like you.

Then turning to Neeraj, she explained, “Today is the harvest festival. It is the day when we thank God for giving rains for the crops due to which we have enough food for the rest of the year. Our celebration of the milk boiling over is a representation of the bounty of food God has given us filling our vessels to the brim and spilling over.

But mom, we are not farmers. Why are we celebrating?

Look who is speaking, dude! Every time I see, you are on Farmville and you are saying you are not a farmer!

Rama ignored him. “We no longer live in village and do farming ourselves. But our ancestors were farmers. I remember as a child every summer holidays we used to go to our grandfather’s village. The fresh air, the paddy fields, the cows and calves – it all used to be so wonderful.

Her expression became distant and dreamy as her thoughts wandered to the days of her childhood.

Not my ancestors. My grandfather was a postmaster and my great grandfather was a criminal lawyer. As far as I can trace my ancestors, none were farmers. We were all more the intellectual type, you know. But you seem to have taken after your mother's folks, eh?

Then he added hastily as he saw Rama’s lips forming into a pout, “Yeah but your mom is right, Farm life has its own charm. As a kid, I used to be fond of Enid Blyton’s farm series. She makes it all sound so fascinating that there were times when even I found myself longing for a country life. You must read them sometime. Enid Blyton books are a much more wholesome read compared to all these hunger games, thirst games and other stuff you kids read these days.

True,” Rama added. “I shudder when I read some of the children’s books these days. They are full of blood and gore and the characters in them seem more like psychopaths than kids. No wonder we hear of so many cases these days of shoot outs at schools.

Shankar’s face became serious and thoughtful, “The reason for the current social upheaval runs deeper than that. You would be surprised to know that all this has links again to your agriculture.

He waited for a response from her and seeing none he picked up the book he had been reading and displayed the cover page to his wife and son. The title read, ‘Future Shock by Alvin Toffler’.

Then with an air of a professor he continued. “That is exactly what this book is about. It says most of our current traditions, value systems and cultural norms were based on the needs of an agricultural age. The family system, the gender roles etc. were result of the need to sustain stable rural communities. But now more and more people are moving away from rural life and most of the old values are no longer relevant. But people are finding it difficult to let go and adapt to a new culture that is emerging. That is causing lot of emotional disturbance leading to suicides, violence and depression.

Neeraj had a blank expression on his face. All this was going right over his head. Rama got up and proceeded to the kitchen.

Once you start lecturing you will go on and on. You both have nothing to do the whole day. So you can keep talking till the cows go home. But I still have a lot of work to do. If I sit talking to you, soon we will all be hungry and there will be nothing to eat.”

Peace prevailed for next hour or so as everyone went back to what they were doing: Rama, to her cooking, Neeraj to his game and Shankar to his book. Soon it was time for lunch.

Click here for Part 2

National Youth Day Special

Today is national youth day, the 150th birthday of Swami Vivekananda. It is a bit ironic that a Sanyasin ‘s birthday is celebrated as youth day given the distrust with which holy men are viewed by youth these days. Even the genuine ones, if any, often appeal more to the older ones.

But I personally feel Vivekananda was a class apart and his cool dude kick ass attitude would appeal even to the youth of today. Vivekananda was one who inspired in me a lot of respect for the life of the monk and it saddens me to see so many comments against holy men on Facebook and twitter. To give a counter view of sorts, I present in the form of five 55 fictions (an entire story told in 55 words, an exercise for fiction writers to practice brevity of words), glimpses from the life of a genuine holy man. 


It was already thirty minutes past time. Everyone was getting restless. When would they see this famous Indian monk? The organizers were tense. Where was he?

Then they saw him: walking majestically taking measured steps. They rushed towards him to bid him make haste.

He calmly replied, “You live in time. I live in eternity.


He refused to listen to the song of a courtesan.

But her song still wafted to his distant ears. She sang of the touchstone that turns a holy iron idol as well as a butcher’s knife to gold without discrimination.

That opened his eyes. True saints know no discrimination.

He returned and begged her forgiveness.


The furious bull charged towards him. The calm man however did not bat an eyelid.

It changed its mind at the last minute.

Later, sharing his thoughts while facing the bull, he said, “I was calculating the speed of the bull and how far I would be thrown off by the impact of the collision.


The king scoffed at the Hindu practice of worshiping idols, “The stupid people think that God exists in the stone idol.

Vivekananda asked the orderly to bring a portrait of the king’s father. He requested the courtiers to spit at it. None Complied. “The stupid courtiers think your father exists in the painting,” he said.


A young man was not getting peace of mind through meditation.

Vivekananda inquired how he meditated.

Within a dark room with all doors and windows closed,” he replied.

Vivekananda said, “If you truly want peace of mind, open all the windows and doors, go outside, and serve the living Gods: the poor and the suffering.

Once upon the tracks of Mumbai

It is interesting to see the evolution of Indian fiction in English. From being confined to serious academic kind of fiction read only by elite, Chetan Bhagat triggered an explosion of campus romances. Now when people are fast getting fed up of campus romances, we are seeing the emergence of new genres. “Once upon the tracks of Mumbai’ is one such different kind of book. It has an interesting premise of a middle class autistic person turning super hero.

The best thing I liked about the story is the pace. There is never a dull moment and it is easy to finish the book in one sitting. The language has maintained a correct balance between simplicity and elegance. It would not send the average Indian rushing for the dictionary and at the same time not earn too many brickbats from the pundits like some of the other popular Indian authors. The descriptions of the surroundings are really vivid and the book beautifully conjures up images of life in a middle class colony in Mumbai.

The hero instantly establishes an emotional connect with the readers. The other characters are also well sketched though most of them are stereotypical. Special attention has been given to the heroine but she also fits the typical stereotype of the modern Indian girl. There is hardly anything unique and memorable about her as such.

Aside from providing entertainment literature also has a social function. In this aspect this book brings out the problems faced by modern young woman in the Indian society. It brings out how the traditional family and society curb their aspirations and how the modern outside world tries to exploit them. The heroine in the story is caught between the traditional conservative family and society in the railway colony on one side and lecherous bosses and road side Romeos on the other. The story however does not provide any solution or inspiration to numerous women living in such situations.

Similarly the story highlights the problems faced by a differently enabled person in a middle class family. It brings out how the family and society fail to understand the feelings and aspirations of an autistic person. As I mentioned earlier the protagonist easily wins the sympathy of the reader and hopefully it will transform the way people view people with mental deformities.

Whereas Rishi has indeed done a commendable job, Indian writers still have a long way to go to catch up with some of the Western giants. So as an honest reviewer I need to point out the failings as well. One of the things I felt did not work was the first person narrative. The writer randomly mixes up first person and third person narrative. What adds to the confusion is that there is hardly any differentiation in style between the two. The first person narrative sounds too intellectual and does not at all sound like autistic hero. Authors attempting first person narrative must try to suppress their own voice and give voice to their characters. Rishi has failed in this aspect. Also whereas the character is immensely lovable, he is not realistic. There is too much inconsistency. Maybe some people might quote examples of autistic savants to justify how the hero of this story seems to understand some really complicated things but does not seem to understand some very simple things. But as a general reader I did not feel the character to be realistic. It was as if he was a normal smart hero who suddenly remembers he is autistic every now and then like the hero in the movie ‘My Name is Khan’.

One of the key aspects of a story is the ending. Sad ends work for some stories, happy ends work for others. Though a reader may not be able to guess, the narrative leads him to want one particular type of ending and a different ending leaves the reader disappointed. That is what happened with me in the movie ‘Jab tak hai jaan’. Not that I found the movie any good otherwise also. But as far as this book goes, I liked the ending. I am not going to make this review a spoiler by mentioning what happens in the end though.

So overall I found it quite a decent story. It would make an excellent script for a Bollywood movie starring Salman Khan. I think the writer has also something on similar lines in mind seeing the comments from people in the film industry on his book. He also mentions a fictional film star called Shahir Khan in his story who the hero in the story is supposed to bear a striking resemblance to. I doubt if it can be just a coincidence that he sounds very much like Salman Khan. I wish Rishi best of luck in his endeavors and hope to see a film based on his book soon.

Looking Forward and Back - 1 Jan 2013

So I start off the first day of this year continuing my reflections as a writer I started on the last day of last year. It is strange when you have written 20 posts, you feel as if you have exhausted all your content but when you are at 200 posts, you feel there is so much left to write. I have already mentioned some of the things I am planning to write in this year. But that is not all. There is more.

Reviews of my favorite books are something I have been doing since my early days of blogging. This I hope to keep up so that it helps me understand what makes good fiction and also introduce my readers to some brilliant books. Review of new books and blogs are also something I hope to continue. Finding weaknesses in other’s works will possibly help me discover the same in my own works. I plan to go a bit slow on reviews though as critiquing people is a stressful exercise and I have my bread winning activities already giving me sufficient stress. I might also do some analytical pieces now and then. But not too often as the best component of analysis is debate. Debate and exchange of strong opinions are again stressful. So I would like to keep them for the time when stress at office and home is not too high.

Then there is also satire, philosophy, poetry and humor. I probably won’t do anything specifically as humor posts though I will try and season all my posts with a sprinkling of humor. This year I have totally neglected poetry. I hope I can do some philosophical posts or poetry when I am deeply thoughtful. Otherwise also I am hoping I can incorporate these two elements in my nostalgia and Hogwarts origins. Satire is something I have been doing a lot for contests mostly taking a swipe at the sponsors. But then the problem is only contest participants get it. With my abdication from contests, I hope I can do more broad based satire that will appeal to all in the coming year. But I must frankly admit I am a bit of a coward to do the audacious political satire some of the more popular bloggers indulge in. The thought of seeing the inside of a police station like those Mumbai Tweet girls doesn't seem to particularly excite me.

Contests were indeed the highlight of my last two years of blogging. But the moment I mentioned contests, it was unavoidable to mention contests are not going to be part of my blogging any more. That took me into the year to come without doing full justice to the year that went by. Now coming back to the year that went by, the real highlight of the year was my emerging from my four years of isolation in the virtual world to connect with bloggers at a personal level through various mediums – both virtual and real. This has fostered a community feeling which one finds only during school and college and at entry level job. I interacted with folks on blogger forums; blogger chats, created a Facebook account and a Gmail account exclusively to interact with blogger friends and also attended 3-4 meets and met bloggers personally. There was also this interesting event called Indian Bloggers League, which though by itself was a failure, served to bring bloggers in different cities together and develop communities. At least in Bangalore, we now have a close knit community of bloggers thanks to IBL.

Also this year saw me taking a few baby steps towards becoming a genuine writer of fiction. To start with, I managed to write two longer stories – one of length 14000 words and another of length 5000 words. Then, one of the short stories written by me is going to be published in a multiple genre, multiple author anthology to be brought out early this year. Incidentally it is my favorite genre: science fiction. I shall probably write an entire post on my journey from a reluctant reader to a hardcore fan to a writer of science fiction. I also submitted entries for contests organized by Harper Collins and Penguin, though the genre is not my favorite one. In the coming year I hope to submit more entries for publication opportunities. I have also joined with a few liked minded writers and started an initiative to help each other develop our fiction writing skills. Another highlight of the year was attending a writer’s workshop where I got to meet a couple of published authors and a few aspiring authors. All this might even inspire me to work on a manuscript for a novel or a collection of short stories this year.

A confusion that continues to haunt me however is self-publishing versus running after publishers versus remaining a blogger for life. I think the basis of this confusion as well as my obsession with ‘genuine’ readers for my writing is due to my lack of clarity about my purpose of being a writer. So I gave a deep thought to it. Clearly I don’t fancy the glitz and glamour of a bestselling author. The loss of privacy and freedom of movement associated with being a celebrity I feel is definitely not worth it. Nor can I be like Charles Strickland of Moon and Six Pence and just create works of art for my own satisfaction away from the eyes of the world and burn them away before I leave the world. I feel the need to be read which explains my obsession with readers and their comments. I want to know if my writing had some intrinsic value or am I just indulging in an idle whim like a child scrawling on the wall with crayons? Or would humanity be better served if I devoted my time to more productive pursuits?

This line of thought brought me to the more fundamental question of why do I read, what is the value of art and the difference between art and entertainment. A science fiction book I was reading gave me an unexpected insight about art around a week back. Art might actually have a spiritual significance. My current view of purpose of human existence is a journey towards a state of absolute perfection. Art I feel is a physical expression of the striving of the artist’s soul towards perfection. From the point of view of the one appreciating the art, a genuine work of art should cause the receiver’s soul to resonate on similar wavelength thus giving an impetus to his or her own soul’s journey towards the ideal state of perfection. So art is something that should confer an everlasting benediction on the one experiencing it. Entertainment on the other hand is something that gives you a temporary high for a limited period of time like a glass of alcohol.

I think I am getting into deeper waters and this topic can go on and on. Also these kind of concepts can be felt but difficult to explain using logic and intellect. The bottom line is I see some value in art in general and my desire to write in particular. So that gives me at least a general vague sense of direction for now. But I still don’t have clear answers for specific questions of a more practical nature like whether I should keep my blog going or pursue publication opportunities more aggressively. I guess for now I will keep all options open and just keep moving on taking things as they come. Hopefully time will bring more wisdom. After all isn't the purpose of life itself in some ways all about finding answers to those difficult questions?

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces