I haven’t been able to publish much on the blog, since I am writing my book.
I have always wanted to write this.
I have always wanted to be so busy writing my book that I had no time for anything else. Like the writers they show in movies, books, and clichés, I wanted to be this writer who is shabby and unshaven, and unmindful of the earth going round the sun.
The truth, however, is a completely different matter.
Having a blog is a tricky thing. It gives you this sense of importance, of having achieved something. Since the medium is personal – a reply, a comment, a word of appreciation – is just a few clicks of a button away, you get this feeling that you’re finally doing something important.
It was sometime in 2011 that I had decided to start writing a book. It was to be a natural extension of writing my blog. I would finish writing the manuscript and send it out to publishers and then get published.
And then, I would marry Kareena Kapoor.
As you can see, most of it was mythical.
It has been a treacherously lonely journey. Partly because of my discipline, or the lack of it, and partly because of the myths I had associated with being a writer.
The discipline part I cannot do much about. I start writing something, and then I am distracted by YouTube, that evil website that was created by software engineers so that writers do not acquire fame and wealth in their lives. And just when I am in a bit of a flow, I look down to the left bottom of the Word page, and see the Word Count and think, “Wow! 1000 words!! That should be enough for a day, no?”
I have read books and manuals, stolen advice from Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King, spoken at length about my ideas. I have held my brainchildren in my hands lovingly and showed them to my friends, who nodded in appreciation and took another sip from their glasses. And then, like Ganga, I took my brainchildren and dumped them in the water.
For the most part, I had started telling people that I want to write a book because people would keep asking me what I wanted to do after my course. I had no clue, and so I would say that.
If you have no plan in your head, and someone is bugging your ass off about what you plan to do, simply say – “I want to write a book.” Most people will keep quiet once you’ve said that.
Most people. The others will start off with their pearls of wisdom:
1. “Tu toh next Chetan Bhagat banega, yaar.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I find Chetan Bhagat’s books terribly shitty. Yes, they sell like cold cakes, and in numbers that would make Salman Rushdie issue a fatwa against the man.
But frankly, I find his books very lame. There are the same cardboard characters in every book – a whimpering, spineless narrator; an idealistic, studly friend; and a girl who wears salwars but likes to do the chiggy-whiggy in bed.
But the curse of the next Chetan Bhagat title must have been conferred on every aspiring writer in the country.
2. “Can you make me a character in your book?”
This one is trickier. As a writer, you are expected to draw from your treasure of experiences. I cannot write about the Cold War or revolts in Congo because I have no clue about them. And the most exciting thing about being brought up in a middle class Indian household, is losing one’s virginity. So what does one write about?
One writes about their own experiences. And this is where it is tricky. Since the people around you know you are writing a book, how can you not draw from their personalities without them trying to guess who it is? And what if some of them think of themselves as heroes, and my opinion about them is that of a protagonemad?
3. “Famous hone ke baad humein bhool mat jaana, bhai.”
I am sure Chetan Bhagat can chill in his house and smoke Cuban cigars, but for the most part, writing a book pays you peanuts (and I don’t mean the tasty, fried variety). Having quit my job, I have to draw a balance between the Writer Who Doesn’t Give a Fuck, and The Tenant who Pays the Rent. Difficult line to draw, and I was always terrible at Geometry.
I do Stand Up comedy, but that is as widely accepted in Hyderabad as vibrators being sold in Big Bazaar. Most of the time, the people I go to work for ask me one of the following three questions:
- Kis kiska mimicry kar sakte ho?
- Kavi sammelan type ka kar sakte ho?
- If this goes well, we’ll pay you from the next time. Fine?
That is when the Writer Who Doesn’t Give a Fuck has to bow his head and step back, and the Tenant Who Pays the Rent has to step forward, smile an oily smile, and stretch out his hand.
For the most part, it is a terribly lonely business.
Which now brings me to the myths I had associated with being a writer.
I had always imagined myself as a cool author. Not the guy who talks in long, winding sentences, using words that only a quarter of the audience would understand. I prided myself on being the Cool Author. And how does this Cool Author write?
He drinks, and then he smokes a joint. And then, ideas start raining from the sky. He sits in front of his computer and assimilates the rainfall into his head, the pitter-patter of the raindrops being converted into the click-clack of the keyboard.
And as the Cool Author drinks some more and smokes some more joints, he keeps typing, chipping away at the statue with a glass in one hand, and a joint in another.
I couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, if the Truth was at North Pole, I was somewhere on Mars, waiting for Mangalyaan to finally break into the orbit so I could go back home.
I have begun four chapters of four books, and when people ask me what I’m writing, I choose the one most likely to impress them, and begin narrating it out to them.
They are all my children – these stories – and I stand on the banks of Ganga, holding them close to my chest. Afraid that I might have to drown them in the river, as Shantanu stands behind me and says, “What the heck?”
For the most part, I have realised that writing is about spending time with yourself. In a completely non-masturbatory way. It is about digging deep into your own thoughts and shutting the door on the world outside and putting those thoughts down on paper.
And yet, when this realization hit me like the morning sun after a month of winter darkness, I still hadn’t moved any further.
So have I made my peace with it?
I don’t know. The myths I had about writing have been shattered. But I still wage a war with Discipline. On some nights, I sleep a satisfied sleep, having beaten the enemy like Gregor Clegane. On other nights, I go to sleep feeling like an Australian spinner playing a test match at Baroda.
Now, when people ask me what I’m writing – I have an answer ready.
I first look at the person and do a quick, Holmes-like judgement.
If it is a young person, I say – “Non-fiction. I am doing a psychoanalytical study of the farmers in Venezuela.”
If it is an elderly person, I say – “Fiction. A book about a psycho killer who rapes newly wed brides. It’s called Shakalaka, Baby.”
I don’t get too many questions after that.