Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Guest spot

I liked this piece by Vaaz, so I've posted it here with permission.

Tips for native writers by N(on)Is & NRIs

As you know by now (if you are a struggling Indian writer who was always dying to publish(IWDP), the big publishing houses are suddenly stumbling upon Non Indians(NI) and full or half Indian NRI (FI’s HI’s), born and bred in pure white lands & schools, writing on India, as a new gimmick, to hit the jack pot by selling the stuff to fully Indian born and bred grateful natives(IBBN).

A not so imaginary discourse between two such famous NI &FI(in India) writers, Darling Pimple & Chooti Devrani, took place in an exotic Caribbean Island, about their writings, their generous concern for the native writers and readers. The literary correspondent( herself a poor IWDP) of the famous national daily Sindoo, witnessed it in awe, while sipping a fresh lime juice (you understand now what we mean when we say IWDP) and the Sindoo, always wanting to educate their IBBN and the IWDPs of the latest trends in the literary circles, published extracts of their discourse, after paying a handsome royalty to the two writers(of course in euros you silly!).

DP-Ah! Weather here is so much less muggy… You know just flew down from Dayli, what a contrast.

CeeD- I know, I know, as my grand mother used to say it is hot and hotter in Calcata… you know its Coolcoota now, strange.
DP- oh! That reminds me of your book ‘spices …’er.. er sorry I am not able to recollect the full title, jet lag you know.

CeeD- I know myself just dropped from my latest book promo in Bambay and am soon leaving to Sydney for the next promo. Too much traffic and tight schedules… feel like one of those ballyhoo stars..oops I think my pronunciation stinks…

DP- Spices again..ha ha..OK let’s get serious. The lady from the Sondu, oops my pronunciation also …she’s on a job to write on our concern about those struggling Indian native writers.. we should be looking at the both literature historically and literarily to understand where they went wrong.

CeeD- You mean history and literature, that will be cool! Both were my majors at Harvard!!

DP- what I want to say is that this country had some kind of literary writing in ancient times but you know it was all oral, very well. But modern times you want to write even a simple story it requires research, some home work.

CeeD- My connection with the country is through my dad who migrated to the promised land with just an engineering degree in hand. I think yours should be more adventurous?

DP-Sort of, my great great grand father, served in the company as an accountant. May be some right and some wrong calculations, for a nice retirement back in the kingdom! So you see it’s my second home!

CeeD- I know as my grandmother said a few things about cooking and spices but I went to Coolcoota and lived in the crowded Toolly gang for a few months and did my research on variety of spices, amidst the din of a hundred helpful cousins and nieces, not to forget a few desperate aunties trying to palm of their rosegool looking sons to me in matrimony!

DP- Exactly what I mean. You see that spices book of yours, sorry I still cannot recollect the whole title, there is so much research done, the smell wafts out from each page. That becomes obvious even in the very first chapter itself.

CeeD- Not just research, I was, man, consuming the variety I was writing about! So it was not just historical but literal..oo..oo the very thought makes me sweat!

(at this stage our IDTP guiltily looks at her glass which she had to hold on to, till the end of the discourse).

DP- Well when I wrote about the last Moghul, the subject was not easy. No native seriously wrote about him. I could not initially lay my hands on any writer who had done serious work.. Mind you I was writing partly history, partly fiction but still I had to do my home work right.

CeeD- I can understand. In most of the third world this is the problem. Not much research especially in literature or history has been done. That is why I went for pure fiction so I need not complain..

DP- But even in spices there is history. It was Vascodagama who went all the way from Portugal to India in search of spices and he did find it and the rest as they say is history! So I plunged into history of Moghuls by accessing variety of sources.

Cee D- Oh, how was that possible unless you learnt some local language and read native literature in Urdoo or Indi!

DP- Not from native writing. There I had an excellent support from the government & bureaucracy, surprisingly!
I am not sure it could have happened in any other country of that region, since you see the country has some functioning democracy and they are kind to foreigners!

CeeD- That’s great to hear. In fact you know Coolcoota has an elected Communist government for more than 4 decades!!! I find the place as good or as bad as any other place in the country. Same awful chaotic traffic, poverty, corruption & cows. But the poor people keep electing the same party since others are probably worse.
Well I am sorry I sound political and critical..

DP- well I think it’s just liberty of the writer to say what she feels seriously about. In my case doors opened in the corridors of power. Archive files and documents hitherto not touched or seen by many, came tumbling out like magic. My native friends were surprised. As a writer it’s important that you should understand that to be able to gain access into the corridors of power you should gain their confidence. This the native writer lacks.

(Our IDPT thinks how that would be possible for a local writer, who probably would have ended up in Tihar, on the charge of attempting to detonate the secretariat. It’s an art! Perhaps this man should write a separate book on it).

CeeD- You made a very interesting point about the governance. It’s an art which I hope the native writers carefully nurture. My problem relates more getting visa for short visits.
But then that is not much of an issue. However I notice yet another problem in native writing. Many of them tend to write for small audiences on sometimes not very native topics. You know a writer who writes on lonely women and string of affairs. Such writing is till difficult to sell in a conservative society.

(how many native writers did you two read dears! Our lime juice wala wondered.)

DP- There are a few writers who attempt something big but end it tamely without energy with which they began. Every one want to become a Solomon Rishi or Jumping Lemuri. No doubt SR writing has inspired many to take the pen but there can be only one Rishi. You should understand that the man developed his own style after coming to whiteland and studying there. That influence is completely different if you are born and brought up in hot Dayli or Coolcota. You should develop your own style. But research, that’s what I will underline dear, research!

CeeD- I may not fully go with you there. Writing also has to do with imagination. of course certain reading here and there to hone your skills. That’s important. This was dinned to me at Harvard. I know not many of theses natives are fortunate to go there or Oxford. But that’s what writing is all about. As we say back home, you get out of the kitchen if it’s too hot. There is no point in complaining. That’s my advice to aspiring native writers.

(by now our fresh lime observer is getting a little un-comfortable, she thinks she is being directly addressed. It’s getting to be a bit hot and she is flushed but she cannot afford another lime on Sindoo’s account. She is trying to dig into her butt pocket to see if there is any Caribbean coins left sticking. damn none, she cursed).

DP- Well you know I have an early morning flight to Sao Polo, for promo of my moghul book that is coming out in Spanish in two days. Iam happy that a tiny history of a country is traveling to thousands of kilometers to another continent to another culture. We should be thankful to the publishers who take the risk.

CeeD- Yes, it’s ultimately the publisher who takes the risk therefore your responsibility becomes all the more greater to stick to quality, whether it is historical or purely literary.

Our empty juice by now is working out furiously in her mind as to which crap to cut out from editing. “Well I leave it to the editor. Probably the old goat will print the whole stuff verbatim.” It hardly mattered to her. She did not have one parent of foreign origin or at least had her silly parents somehow migrated, when it was easy a few decades back, to the promised land of Mac Donald Duck, she would have automatically gained recognition and authority with the publishers, to speak about the culture and history of her native country, however dumb or shallow her knowledge was. National news papers, like hers would have dined and wined her to get a few bites, exclusively, for their literary supplement, for the hungry IDTPs and thirsty natives. Its all karma she thought. “I’ll go back and change the direction of my chair I placed in the study” she decided.