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27.11.09

the ballad of novel workshop

At the beginning of November, I had the good opportunity of attending a 3 day writer's workshop by Kavita Bhanot (soft spoken, bright, good looking, articulate, and the first British NRI I had seen who was trying to suppress her accent for desis) and Amrita Lila Kumar (intelligent, experienced, charming, a hint of sternness tempered with sharp wit). It was a novel (pun intended) experience. And while everyone else churned out Booker worthy serious stuff, this is what yours truly came up with. I blame it on Lewis Carroll and Rowling.




Edited version

Raghav had been watching the telly on mute for over 3 hours now. By now he had seen an animated reporter exposing a tantric, the artist formerly known as Baby Khushbu dancing it out with Vijaykanth, a rather vampirish East European guy with a scar for a mouth chatting up a waif of a woman, some Japanese cartoon- a Pokemon, Doremon or some other mon, and a series of equally random and utterly forgettable images. It was like tapping into the dream of some electronic sentient being.

He took out the pillow from under his arm. It stank. No matter. He should be getting some sleep if he wanted to bag that assignment the next day. 4000 for a 6 hour job wasn’t that bad. And who knew some hotshot director might notice him on an underwear pack. Sure, anything could happen.

Raghav checked the wallclock, a quaint oval thing with fat golden hands and tiny roman numerals. It was almost 2.30 in the morning. Sadiq and Sumant had retired to their beds at 11 like the good boys they were.

Raghav got up and smoothed the pillow. He stretched like an overgrown but underfed cat, ran fingers through his unkempt hair (which didn’t do much for the hair) and got out into the cramped little balcony that overlooked the Bangladeshi jhuggi on the other side of the road. Carefully planting his elbows on the cold railing, he joined the tips of his fingers like some Sicilian crimelord surveying his ghetto kingdom. Scorcese would have approved.

Had it been drizzling? Raghav hadn’t noticed. The street shone like Rexine as it reflected the streetlights. Raghav loved the street in the night, silent and familiar like an old friend. A rogue car would streak through it every now and then and disturb its tranquil vigil. Delhi had a fair number of insomniacs like him. One day he would found a Secret Brotherhood of Insomniacs, he decided.

His chain of thoughts was rattled by a sudden movement in the least lit portion of the street. Was it a dog? No, a cat. A rather large cat. The movement he had noticed was the cat’s tail twitching like a fat grub. Raghav didn’t know strays could get this huge.

*

The cat stared at Raghav in an unblinking catty way, its raggedy coat a hodgepodge of red, brown, rust and all the other shades of red, and maybe a tinge of blue, depending on the light. Its large round eyes glittered like tiny flames in the poor light. Raghav didn’t know it yet, but the cat came from another world- an overworld wrapped over our world; a world that managed to stay hidden in plain sight not because it meant to, but simply because human minds were ill-equipped to process its chaotic nature. Human minds, you see, were these puny boxes filled, well mostly with self-importance, but also with boring stuff they liked to call facts, driven by a compulsion to fit everything rather neatly within their tiny little boxiness. Anything that didn’t fit in was simply ignored or forgotten. It was unbelievable really, a bit like magic in the cat’s world. The cat’s world, on the other hand, was bigger and if you tried looking at it like a human (now why would you), much stranger. The darkness there, for instance, was darker. The evil- fouler. But there was also wonder. In fact, it was wonder that weaved everything together in the cat’s world, a bit like what boredom did for this world. And Raghav was about to take a small harmless trip to the cat’s world, whether he liked it or not.

Unedited version
Raghav had been watching the telly on mute for over 3 hours now. By now he had seen an animated reporter exposing a tantric (in a rather flattering way, he thought), the artist formerly known as Baby Khushbu dancing and bouncing it out with Vijaykanth like a woman possessed (man, she must be having caffeine for breakfast, lunch, dinner AND midnight snacks); a rather vampirish East European guy with a scar for a mouth chatting up a waif of a woman (would it lead to a steamy encounter, he must check in a while), some Japanese cartoon- a Pokemon or Doremon or some other mon (no doubt a little pest of a kid somewhere wanted to own the special edition plastic dolls of all its characters with movable joints and secret plastic weapons and cute little pets that transformed into still-cute-but-not-so-little-now monsters when threatened by other not-so-cute-and-not-so-little monsters) and a series of equally random and utterly forgettable images. It was like tapping into the dream of some electronic sentient being, perhaps an advance scout for an invading army from the planet of the tellies.

He took out the pillow (folded twice over) from under his arm. It stank. No matter. He should be getting some sleep if he wanted to bag that assignment tomorrow. 4000 for a 6 hour job wasn’t that bad. And who knew some hotshot director might notice him on an underwear pack. Sure, anything could happen.
Raghav checked the wallclock, a quaint oval thing the colour of dry grass with fat golden hands and tiny roman numerals, also golden. The clock was an esteemed member of his small but growing club of quaint objects populated by several odd (and cheap and often extraordinarily ugly) thingthangs that he liked to adopt from time to time. It was almost 2.30 in the morning. Sadiq and Sumant had retired to their beds at 11 like the good boys they were.

Raghav got up and smoothed the pillow. He stretched like an overgrown but underfed cat, ran three fingers through his unkempt hair (which didn’t do much for the hair) and got out into the cramped little balcony that offered a view of the vehicles parked between his building and the compound wall, the 12 feet wide road outside the wall and the jhuggis on the other side that were home to mostly Bangladeshi immigrants. Carefully planting his elbows on the cold railing, he joined the tips of his fingers like some Sicilian crimelord surveying his kingdom in a ghetto in New York or Chicago. Scorcese would have approved.

Had it been drizzling? Raghav hadn’t noticed, but it must have. The street was shiny black, like Rexene, reflecting the white streetlight from the electric poles placed 20 steps apart (he had counted). A rogue car would streak through the otherwise desolate street every now and then, and disturb its tranquil vigil. Delhi had a fair number of fellow insomniacs. One day he would found a Secret Brotherhood of Insomniacs, or Insomniacs Anonymous, or something. He liked the still street in the night. Like an old friend you could hang out with and just read or play a video game. No pressure to talk or share a bawdy joke or be clever all the time or find an activity to do together (nothing dirty, mind you). Just sit in silence and read.

His chain of thought was rattled by a sudden movement in the least lit portion of the street (the exact midpoint between two adjacent poles, 10 steps from each of them). Was it a dog? No, a cat. A rather large cat. The movement he had noticed was the cat’s tail twitching and twisting like a slow fat grub. Raghav didn’t know strays could get this huge, almost as big as one of them boxer dogs.

*

The cat stared at Raghav in an unblinking catty way, its raggedy coat a hodgepodge of red, brown, rust and all the other shades of red, and maybe a tinge of blue, depending on the light. Its large round eyes glittered in the poor light, like rubies, or tiny flames. Raghav didn’t know it yet, but the cat came from another world. An overworld of sorts, wrapped over the world Raghav knew where being realistic and practical was considered a compliment. The cat’s world managed to stay hidden in plain sight, not because it meant to do so, but simply for the fact that human minds cannot process chaos too well. Now human minds were these puny little boxes filled, well mostly with self-importance, but also with loads of boring stuff they liked to call facts, driven by a compulsion to fit everything rather neatly within their tiny little boxiness. Anything that didn’t fit was simply ignored or discarded or forgotten. It was unbelievable, a bit like magic in the world the cat belonged to. The cat’s world, on the other hand, was bigger and if you tried looking at it like a human (now why would you), much stranger. The darkness there, for instance, was darker. The evil- fouler. But there was also wonder. In fact, it was wonder that weaved everything together in the cat’s world. (A bit like what boredom did for this world). And Raghav was about to take a small harmless trip to the cat’s world, whether he liked it or not.

31 comments:

Cioara Andrei said...

Foarte interesant subiectul postat de tine. M-am uitat pe blogul tau si imi place ce am vazut.Cu siguranta am sa il mai vizitez.
O zi buna!

Manish Bhatt said...

Draga ciora, eu va multumesc pentru natura comentariu. Tot intr-o vizita. Au un mare avantaj.

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vickramediwan said...

Loved to read your piece again Manish. I still remember how you made up the opening of a published novel at the workshop and fooled me at least in believing it was the actual opening. You have talent, don't let it go to waste brother. Let me know if you are writing anything these days.

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The relative complexities of men's and women's style

Both men and women could feel the difficulties of keeping their clothing up-to-date and in time, yet men's fashion often seems a lot easier. Of course, for both sexes, garments and fashion options may be just as complicated, and there are numerous'trendy'things that could easily become fashion faux pas - who will say they often times see people running around in 70s flames? On the other side, men's fashion includes a few staple items which can exist eternally - which man is planning to watch out of place with a good-quality, tailored suit, for example? Select basic pieces, colors and materials and you'll never seem out-of-place.

Why classic men's fashion is eternal

The classic man's suit has hardly changed for over a hundred years. True, there are several types for different occasions, but they are all popular in their search for a smart, sharp search for the wearer. The good thing about classic style for men is that it's effectively trendy efficiently cool. A well-groomed gentleman can typically appear his sharpest in a well-tailored suit, and this can be a testament to the design of such clothing. A suit will undoubtedly be used to work in several careers due to the professional look it affords to the wearer, instilling a feeling of respect and confidence. Similarly a match will undoubtedly be used to several social occasions, like a tuxedo to a black-tie event. This amazing flexibility that enables matches to be utilized in almost all events is what gives it its classic edge and a permanent invest men's fashion.

Modern trends in classic men's fashion

Though common men's designs will never be replaced, it's interesting to observe that shifts in men's fashion trends have produced particular basic clothes back into fashion. The acceptance of vintage clothing, particularly, has taken back a wide-variety of basic models into men's closets, such as that of the dandy man. 'Dandy'is a term used to reference men who clothe themselves in a classic yet elegant way, working in a sophisticated method and placing value on appearance. This pattern for almost'over-the-top'traditional fashion for men is evident from events including the'Tweed Run', where men and girls of all ages dress in obviously Victorian-style clothing and take to the streets on vintage bicycles - with lots of the men wearing remarkable mustaches! This is just one of many types of evidence exhibiting the resurgence of such styles. There are also numerous blogs online which give attention to gentlemanly style - such as'The Dandy Project'and'Dandyism'- as well as whole web sites such as'The Art of Manliness'specialized in providing articles on traditional men's fashion and grooming.

In summary, although certain issues with basic men's style could be cut back as new trends, the basic garments that they are based on will never fall out of fashion.

"All it requires really are a few basic costumes. And there's one key - the simpler the better." - Cary Grant

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