Thursday, April 30, 2015

Writer Rites-Part 1

Today's writer can't afford the proverbial ivory tower. It's a hard struggle to get published, even with the new phenomenon of self-publishing.  And that's a good thing because there're loads of writer resources out there to get the ink flowing. 

On Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, Pinterest and other social media, you'll find a host of tips and tricks of the trade. I'm an ardent follower of many such links.

It's not that you'll start rolling in money by merely reading them, or even if you adhere to their instructions.

Even if you're published, there's no point if no one pays a penny for your thoughts.

Besides writing worthwhile content, you've got to get it out there and get it read. And that's not enough these days. Not many copies will sell, piracy or not. This is the depressing truth.

So, should you give up?


All is not lost. Look at it this way: writing is your passion, right? Your passion rarely pays your bills. However, your passion can help fuel a following. A faithful readership of your blog and other output, can be called into action, when the time comes, to buy (rare and difficult to achieve) your books and to prove to sponsors that you've a sizeable following.

Everyone wants to be a someone. Failing which, everyone wants to be seen with someone. If you can manage to work up the confidence, get into the public eye. It's not that difficult if you put some sweat into it. There's always a need for speakers at some event or other-keep a look out for such opportunities. Workshops can work wonders to promote a non-entity to a certain level of stardom-craft one and fill the public need for something or the other. Schools and colleges, libraries and many other organisations often need "fillers". Tweet about your talk or workshop, Face Book it, blog it...

Once you're a somebody, your output is a conversation piece, coveted coffee table d├ęcor.

I don't know if I'll ever make it but, with the help of free resources for writers, I'll get cracking, at the very least.

Most of these resources are put together by writers of some contemporary success and a lot of them lay bare their various trials and triumphs.

So, though I write regularly, I'm, as of now, setting myself an agenda.

A good first step is to follow the Ray Bradbury Challenge.
The Ray Bradbury Challenge is based on advice Ray gave to writers. Part one is to read one short story, one poem, and one essay every night for 1000 nights. Part two is to write at least one short story every week for a year or more. He said it's impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row. It must therefore also be impossible to write over 140 bad stories in a row!
If you'd like to keep up with what I'm reading for this challenge,  follow me on writersrites.
Access resources on my Pinterest Board Writer Rites.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hairy Tales

We are our hair.

Long hair on a woman in India is now a rare sight. And rarity can give things status. Thus, women with long hair in India were considered beautiful, pious, and good wife-material. Females of all ages spent ages on their hair: washing it, drying it, combing it, delousing it, oiling it and adorning it. Soap nuts, sheekakai and other messy natural products were used to wash hair.

Up to the 70s, at least, shampoo was considered a wasteful luxury. The natural products were too time consuming as city life styles began to take over and many used a brown soap which was also used for washing clothes.

And then life began to get very busy indeed. Today everybody uses shampoo, from the very poor up to the filthy rich. And the length of hair has considerably shortened.

But let's not leave the men out of this hairy tale. Long haired lovers sprouted all over, not necessarily from Liverpool alone. In the 60s and into the 70s, young men drove their parents to despair with their shoulder length tresses. At school, when I was a young lady, there was this one young man who played a guitar in a band and had long glossy hair. I'd hang out with one of his kid brothers and so I once got a glimpse of the wannabe rock star at his home: he had his hair tied in a towel very much like what you saw in some foreign magazine for the ladies. Today, it's a sign of being arty farty.

On the other hand, long hair has long been a trademark of the Sadhu.

To cut a long tale short, let's go from all that hair to none.

Baldness and virility. Come to think of it, I've rarely seen a poor man bald. Are the poor less virile?

Villains in films are frequently bald.

Many societies shave a person's head to shame them. High caste widows had to be shorn.

And then the Indian priest is somewhat shorn, and the monk too. No hair symbolises piety.

From the length and lack of hair, let's move on to the straight and curly and wavy. I get the impression that, much like the case with the whitening creams, straight hair sets a standard in what is the appropriate way for hair to be.

Mine is rather wavy and my mom often said it's a sign of a bad temper. Ages later, in the 2000s, every hair dresser I visited seemed to want to "relax" my hair.

But then there's the perm, the Afro and all those curls!

It's possible that an "outstanding" head of hair intimidates. 

And then there's dreadlocks and the matted hair of the sadhus. Symbols of renunciation. 

Hair grows. Hair is cut. And then there's the other hair. For some it's a daily struggle shaving, plucking, depilation and laser removal.

And what about colour? Once upon a time, hair colour went hand in hand with a person's race.  Today, you can have almost any colour hair you like.

I've noted that people in the highest reaches of power rarely dye their white hair. So white hair might give a person an air of authority. 

I'd love to hair, sorry, hear your take. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Our Life Together

I grew up in an urban unit family: father, mother, sister and I. And when I married we were another urban unit family: father, mother and son. Now my son is married and he and his wife live nearby. Urban life is all hustle bustle and we rarely get together. So it was a very special time for us when the four of us went on a two day trip to Goa.

Although we enjoyed Goa thoroughly, the most memorable moment for me was the dinner we shared on the train. For many train journeys when my son was a little boy I used to pack food. It must have been the memories of those meals which made me cook up a storm: thair sadam (curd rice), lemon rice, pickles, some leftover caramel custard, a dry grated carrot sabzi, an aloo hari pyaz sabzi, some puris and my version of Vathal Kuzhambu. It was deeply moving for me to sit with the three people I love most in the whole world and share this hodgepodge of foods while the train raced through the night. 

There is something very sacred about having a meal together with family. Most of the time, nowadays, we eat while watching TV or something on the Internet. Even in my childhood, my sister and I would read and eat. My sister and I would spend time drawing on our plates with our fingers when the meal was over. It was a kind of bonding-and I have seen my college days bestie also teaching her younger sis how to do this. 

I have seen a family where the father would quiz his sons at table. It was not as boring as one might imagine as he was well read and a charming gentleman. These days, more often than not, shared family meals are either in silence with only the clinking of the utensils or fertile grounds for little squabbles. Yet, the highlight of a life together is eating together.

When my husband and I began life together, we had nothing. Our friends at university, which is where we met and began our new life, brought us a broken pan and a kerosene pump stove left behind by my youngest brother-in-law when he had left the same university. I vividly remember my husband reading to me from James Joyce as I wrestled to create a meal in that one pan which also served as our plate after it was cooked. 

After that, his life was increasingly so taken up by the rat race that we rarely had a family meal. But the girl I'm blessed to have as daughter-in-law made a world of difference. Whenever she is around we become a family. Besides the train journey dinner, I shall also cherish the memory of a meal we all cooked together when they were staying in another city and had come to visit us. 

They had to leave early the next morning and wanted to make some sandwiches for the journey. We took out various leftovers and all of us got creative. My daughter in law made a really yummy fry out of various leftover meats and my son made some toasted sandwiches. Each one was busy chopping, buttering, roasting, frying and whatnot! There was laughter amid the hustle bustle rather than only the regulation "Pass me the this or the that".

It is that special time together which made me think that if I'm ever lucky enough to not only own a home but also design it, I would want a large kitchen cum dining room. I've already started that hunt! I found that on this page I could click on the icon for flats and get a 3 D view of the plans. 

It's been a confusing search but I've settled on one website upon which to build my day dreams. A dream is the first step to reality! 

All this food talk is making me hungry and so I shall leave you for now with this advice: make your family or couple mealtimes an occasion for bonding. Smile at each other often. Savour the food and offer unreserved gratitude to the one who cooked the meal. 

All religions have rituals to be observed before a meal but it is not necessary to be so traditional or formal. Gratitude is an expression of love. And Love is all we all need at any given time.