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How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 5

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    WRITER’S BLOCK

A writer’s eye looks at things in a different way than a layperson’s would. Hence her head is full of ideas and it would take lifetimes to actually use them all in the writing. But sometimes, this faucet seems to be tightly closed. And try as they might, the writer is not able to wrench out a single word. This situation is fondly called, Writer’s Block. But this need not be a permanent state of being.

(If you are a writing your first novel, the first draft would mostly flow out. As is popularly said, everyone has atleast one story within them. Make the most of this beginner’s luck).

 WHY THE BLOCK 

The most common reason for a block is not knowing enough about the subject you’re writing on. If it is fiction, then perhaps you are not completely clued in to your characters, their likes and dislikes and their propensities. Going deeper into their psyche could give you enough matter to break any blocks in your mind about them.

Yet another reason for the Block is not believing that you have a story to tell, especially when you read the books written by the writers whose writings you idolise.

But the fact is that if you felt within you a spark (to write a novel)that wanted to burn bright then that is a sure sign that your story is worth writing.

Sometimes the writer gets into the rut of misconception that every word that flows out of his pen into the page must be brilliant and final.  Every writer knows that words have to be written and then re-written a number of times before they flow and you know you’ve got the best words that will work for you story. This is VERY HARD WORK. So avoid the self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviour which prevent you from writing, and blaming ‘Writer’s Block’ for it.

Stop thinking about what the world will think of your story, whether they will like it or not, whether they will approve of it or not, whether they will still respect you after you write your story or not (hey, do you really need such people in your life?).

 BREAK THE BLOCK

Just write the words that excite you, that want to be written by you.

Write like no-one is going to be reading what you have written.

 FREE THE WRITING

A practical way out of the Block is by free writing. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about a subject of your choice, perhaps the character who’s causing you distress or even your story. Write uninhibitedly and soon you might find gems that could give you a breakthrough.

 What are the methods you use to get over Writers Block?

 (Read How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 1, 2, 3, and 4.

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How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 4

DO YOU HAVE A WRITING BUDDY?

“Anything you do deeply is very lonely. There are many Zen students here, but the ones that are going deep are very lonely.”

“Are you lonely?” I asked him.

“Of course,” he answered. “But I do not let it toss me away. It is just loneliness.”

~ Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. The visualization and the capturing of the inspirations and the impressions, all need to be done in quietude. But many times, we need a certain push that only another writer can understand and provide.

It is a proven fact that accountability can make the difference between the success and failure of a venture. Going on a diet? Going to take 10,000 steps daily? Going to write daily?

Accountability will make you feel like taking action even when you’d rather just watch television or surf the net.

These are buddies. Gym buddies, diet buddies, walking buddies, writing buddies.

Identify one such friend, or two. Whose writing strengths match yours. Then, fix up the time and amount of writing you will do.

It could be timed writing. Or even timed editing. Buddies remind you of your writing goals when you forget them. And they goad you to follow up on your promises you made to yourself and to others. They read what you’ve written. They tell you what is working and what isn’t. When they give a patient hearing to your ideas, the vision becomes clearer and the story becomes stronger. We can never be objective about our own writing. Our buddies point out to us our weaknesses, whether it a skewed POV or a rambling text or even a sequence of plot events which is implausible.

In the earlier days of publishing, editors at the publishing houses took on the role of writing buddy, in a way. Through encouragement and regular but constant goading, they ensured the writers completed writing their books. In fact, well-known Canadian author, Mark Anthony Jarman, in a writing workshop by Avid Learning held at the Kalaghoda Art Festival, revealed it was thanks to this unceasing badgering by his editor that he was able to complete writing most of his books.

Mark Anthony Jarman

Writing buddies are invaluable. If you don’t have one, you need to get one ASAP.

But remember, worthwhile relationships are never one-sided.

Will you be a great writing buddy, too?

Read How To Write A Novel During NaNoWriMo – 1, 2, and 3.

 

How To Write A Novel in 30 Days – 3

Like I promised last week, here I am with some light to throw on PHYSICAL CREATIVITIES.

Ask hundred people the definition of creativity, almost eighty would say it is about “thinking out of the box”.

All this while one would have thought that this box referred to must be some hypothetical box, which one had to jump out of if one had a wish to be creative.

But what would happen if you were actually put inside a life-sized box? A sealed box. Bet you’d try all the creativity at your disposal to get out of that box. Besides of course, hammering on the sides with your fists, hoping SOMEBODY would hear you.

Jokes aside, according to research done, those outside the physical box scored more points on creativity, than those inside it.

Here are some ways in which physical actions can jog your creativity into higher gear:

  • Write standing up:
    Ernest Hemingway did it. So did Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf. Have you tried it?
  • Write with your non-dominant hand:
    The discomfort and unusualness of using the non-dominant hand opens up untraveled pathways in the brain, giving you a piece of writing that might either be utterly worthless or a super-precious gem. At least it allows you to bypass your oft-used clichéd words, phrases and ideas.
  • Lie down under the stars:
    On a dark, starry night, go to a quiet, open space (preferably a garden) and even if you don’t lie down, atleast throw back your head and savour the unending vastness of the black night interspersed with the sparkling stars. You’ll forget all your worries and stress when you realize how microscopial they are in the face of the gorgeous beauty of the Universe. This letting go ( of control/worry/fear) is what will allow your creativity to manifest – not just in writing, but in every aspect of life.

  • Go for a walk, but CARRY a voice recorder:
    No, not that sort of a walk where you burn 300 calories per mile (or whatever the exact figures are). More like an amble. An aimless walk, gentle steps, your mind travelling all over the world, especially into the world of the stories you’ve written or even plan to write. Stopping to stare at a particularly intriguing flower, or a bush that sprouts fragrant flowers only at dusk. All the while, talking into the recorder. Allowing the words to come to you instead of trying to drag them towards you. Talk without judgment. You will soon know which words you must keep and which you can delete.

Which is your favourite creativity-inducing physical activity?

Read How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 1 and 2

HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 30 DAYS – 2

There are two types of people in this world:

  • Those who like a well-ordered, disciplined life and
  • Those who always crave excitement and a routine life bores them almost to death.

We will talk about the second group because the first group has everything planned out and doesn’t really need any further inputs. Mostly.

So the people who crave excitement try to find it in dangerous sporting activities such as bungee jumping, river rafting or even sky diving. The more adventurous ones even take it up as a profession. Such as bullfighting.

And if you are an Avenger or a Superpower-person, you get your thrills in kicking the a** of those mammoth antagonists that more often than advance towards you from the horizon, stomping over buildings and buses and scattering  laypersons like ants whose piece of candy has been snatched away.

Those who cannot physically access these activities try to find excitement in activities like substance abuse and other type of addictions.

These are the Excitement-Junkies (EJ).

These activities can be life-threatening (except if you are an Avenger or Super-power person) and most of us don’t want to lose our lives in pursuit of excitement. What options do most EJs have, then?

Here is where NaNoWriMo comes in.

Coverpic banner

Photo Credit: NaNoWriMo

If you are a creative person and ever felt the call to write a novel (which is also why you are reading this article), the ‘Deadline’ is the device that will bring to you all the excitement of a battle without endangering your life.

30 days of writing, a minimum word count, not doing your daily minimum, the word-backlog piling on, the approaching deadline and the thrill of validating your novel a few minutes before 11:59pm on 30th November. Slaying a dragon couldn’t give you this kind of a high. EJs of the world, rejoice.

Conversely, writing to a deadline is also ‘being in a Zen state’ or ‘being in the moment.’

Okay, let us try an experiment.

Open a New Word doc. Or a blank page in your notebook.

Now write 500 words of a story using these words:

crash, crumpled paper, straw, gravel, ochre.

There is no time limit. Begin now.

Finished? Not yet? Why?

Okay, let that go.

Open another New doc or blank page, as the case may be.

Set the timer on your phone for 15 minutes. Ready?

Now, using these words: social worker, mop, hotel room, beeper, write a story of 500 words within 15 minutes, beginning NOW.

With a deadline looming ahead, your inner editor does not get an opportunity to barge in with its deprecating words. And with limited time at your disposal to finish the story your mind gets totally involved in the task, relegating all extraneous thoughts to the back- burner. Isn’t that what meditation is all about. And really, if after a gap of time, say a few days or months, you read what you have written, you’d be quite pleasantly surprised. “Have I written this?” is one of the most common expressions that describe what you feel.

But if words like meditation confuse or scare you, then consider deadline being the weapon that can wipeout the curse of “one day.” According to Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, the world is full of “one day novelists” – those people who proclaim to the world that ‘one day, they will write a novel.’

That day is the 1st of November. Get ready for it.

P.S. The prompts given above are from http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/ It is a very good idea to write to prompts (within a time deadline). This exercises both both your physical and mental creativities. Try it.

More about physical creativities next week.

Hopefully, you have signed up at NaNoWriMo already. If you are on Facebook, check out the Wrimo India Page too.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please feel free to share this post (Go on, share it) but only with relevant attribution and with a link to this blog. Failure to do so will invite the evil eyes and you know how tough it is to get rid of those!!!

 

HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 30 DAYS – 1

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

If you google either NaNoWriMo or ‘How to write a novel in 30 days,’ you’ll get thousands of links, most of them helpful and many of them repetitions.

As a five-time ML (aka Volunteer and Motivational Leader) and seven-time winner of NaNoWriMo, I have observed and studied and experienced and come up with a list of things one can do to be able to write a novel this November. In the next few weeks, I shall share them with you so, come November you are fully equipped and excited to write your novel.

These tips would work for both first-time wrimos* as well as veteran wrimos. My sincere advice to first timers is: Just write that novel without getting bogged down with the technicalities. Write like how Rumi asks a lover to dance. Write as if no-one is watching (and really, that is the only way to write).

So, onto the tips for today:

  • READ a lot
    Self-explanatory. Read in the genre that you love. Romance, literary, thrillers, paranormal, horror, fantasy, YA, sci-fi and/or a combination of these.

But also read a lot of non-fiction. Especially in subjects you are passionate about. My list includes (in no particular order): creativity, love, cooking (reading about it), spirituality, nutrition and marriage.

What subjects does your list include?

  • LISTEN to people

Go out often, to crowded places (no dearth of them in our beloved country, no?). Eavesdrop on conversations, jot down interesting ones. Go to the garden, to the café, to the railway station, the airport, a deserted lane late in the evening and stand under the boughs of the bougainvillea, and write. Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to write whatever wants to be written, don’t judge.

Heard something interesting lately? An interesting dialect/dialogue/turn of phrase?

  • ALWAYS carry a small notebook

And make it a point to write something in it, everyday. Make it a habit. And the more you write, the more interesting will your writing become. Will you ever use what you are writing? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. But the quality of your writing will improve, that is a given.

Until next week, then.

And don’t forget to sign up at nanowrimo[dot]org if you haven’t already. Camp NaNoWriMo begins in July. Time to write that novel you always wanted to, right?

DIG THE WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY – Making your money work hard and smart

Some years ago, a well-known, award-winning screenplay writer visited our writers’ group for a tête-à-tête on writing. At the end of it, I asked him if it was possible to make a living through writing. He just shook his head-full shock of white hair and said, “I also work in advertising.”

In recent times, best-selling author, Ravi Subramanian, continues in his banking career even while producing best-selling novels year after year.

Lately, there has been a spate of articles about the husband’s hefty salary making the wife’s writerly life possible and even easier.

THE ONLY CONSTANT IN LIFE IS CHANGE

If one has a well-paying job or a flourishing business, it is only a matter of harnessing whatever time one has and utilizing it for attaining the writerly dream. But what if you fantasize about throwing up your job (that sucks out your soul, daily) so that you can devote your time and energy to bringing to life all those stories gestating within you? Also, down-sizing and salary reductions are more the norm than the exception these days.

DIG YOUR WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY

Wealth generation becomes important in such a scenario. Passive income, the money that comes in from investments, is the key to the freedom of time.

But there can be leaks in the well that could harm the return on your investments.

If you’re a High Net-worth Individual or a Financial Institution, you might not need to worry about it as your hordes of legal counsels would do it for you.

THREE MISTAKES RETAIL INVESTORS MAKE:

  • paying too much and often unknowingly for their investments in the form of commissions
  • not diversifying the investment optimally and
  • a portfolio that does not support their risk preferences/goals.

Smart investing advice, then becomes the decider between creating wealth or just making money, from one’s investments.

Yes, yes, I know. We are writers and all that financial jargon can make some of us go all glaze-eyed.

I was lucky, a few years ago, to meet a financial advisor who suggested some amazing  mutual funds to invest in which gave me good returns  but sadly he left the company he was working for and joined another  industry. I could have made the same investing decisions if I had studied the mutual funds and their performance, etc. But then, I’d rather be doing what I do best and love most: yes, writing.

TRUST-WORTHY INVESTMENT ADVICE

I’d leave these decisions to trust-worthy professionals:

ORO Wealth is an online investment platform which is pioneering a new, honest approach to wealth management for retail investors.

ORO Wealth

ORO Wealth aims to provide an enhanced investing experience to retail investors.

According to ORO Wealth, most people invest in the Regular Plans of Mutual Funds. These regular plans have inbuilt expenses in the form of commissions for distributors and in the long run, they provide lower returns to the investor (the leaks in the well I mentioned above).  Buying Direct Plans of the same funds give you greater returns and this is what HNIs and financial institutions do.

But so far, retail investors have not been able to take advantage of Direct Plans for two reasons:

  •  Lack of information
  • Hassles in buying Direct Plans as compared to Regular Plans

ORO Wealth comes into the picture, here:

  • They are India’s first platform for transacting in Direct Plans of mutual funds from multiple AMCs in one place.
  • They are investor-friendly portfolio tracking etc.
  • They provide investors access to valuable data on Direct plans and on commissions in different Regular plans through the user-friendly ORO fund screener (https://orowealth.com/#/screener)

Investors can enjoy these services by paying a small convenience fee (Rs. 50 for transactions below Rs. 1 lakh and 0.1% (one time) of the transaction amount for transactions above Rs. 1 lakh).

ORO WEALTH PREMIUM ACCOUNT

Like how an editor/writing coach can make your writing shine if you are a writer with advanced skills, in the same way, retail investors with a portfolio greater than 1 lakh can avail of ORO’s Premium Account. This account is a handholding of sorts, with specialized advice on making your portfolio provide you greater returns commensurate with your goals and risk-preferences (find out more about the Premium Account by signing up here)

Go on, check out ORO Wealth: ” Invest with ORO and experience the difference that truly low-cost investing and good, unbiased advice can make to returns.”

The only thing that can happen is that you become wealthier, with more time to write.

 

 

The 3 things a travel writer must remember

(What is this about: Travel Writing Workshop conducted by veteran writer Dilip D’Souza as part of the Writing Workshops held in Asiatic Society’s Central Library by Avid Learning for the Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2015)

If you thought travel-writing meant just writing about your travels then you would be as mistaken as the hundred other participants that gathered one Sunday morning in the Durbar Hall of Mumbai’s Central Library to attend the Travel Writing Workshop by award-winning writer, Dilip D’Souza.

If this is a contrarian view then you would also find it unusual that D’Souza wore a bolo tie (a string tie with a moon and stars design, worn by the cowboys of Texas) because he hates ties but mainly because he wanted to hide a stain on his shirt.

And if you are a writer, you would be quite impressed with D’Souza’s empathetic nature as he set the ground rule that ever piece of writing read in that session was to be greeted by an enthusiastic ‘wow’.

So, what is travel writing?

How would you tell differently what hundreds and thousands have already told about the places you are visiting?

1) Travel writing is about ‘telling stories’

Aim of telling your story should be to get your readers to start thinking and exploring what your writing means to them. How would your reader walk or would he talk if he knew about your experiences? Let your reader make their own connections.
At this point, we had to turn to the person next to us and tell them our travel story (which made me realize I need a lot of practice in oral story telling).

2)Travel writing is about ‘sweating the details’

Observe details because these are the things that make your story unforgettable. We were asked to look around the room and observe the details we might not have noticed earlier. A question about the builder of the place got a lot of affirmative replies but my mind had remained glued to the majestic stairs at the front of the Library.

Some examples from various texts:  “We rushed to the man who sat in the office drinking a warm Coke, feet on his desk, and he told us that the pool was dirty so they had decided to drain it.” This sentence gives us a good look into the lackadaisical attitude of the man in the office. Another poignant example of a silent detail which speaks the words: In a house which has lost its young son to the war, the light switch in his room is taped over so that the light cannot be ever switched off.

3)Travel writing is about “doing the hardest thing in your life and that is making your story personal.”

Here a question was asked to Dilip D’souza (perhaps by me only): How much of the story needs to be fact and how much fiction? To which the reply was: Be true to yourself and only then can you be true to the reader.

Throughout the session travel writing excerpts of different authors were read out by D’Souza and a lot of learning took place as we analyzed the words and their meaning in that particular context. I was thrilled too that my deductions proved correct when I pointed out pieces which I believed were written by him.

At the end of the session, we had to write down our verbally told stories after making it more personal.

****

What I wrote in the workshop:

For someone who could get lost inside even a tiny, cramped office typical of Mumbai and need directions to the exit, it was foolhardy to venture alone towards the Metro Station after a memorable meet-up with friends.

But adventure beckoned and the road thronged with Sunday revelers added to the thrill of walking alone on a beautiful Delhi road. Till I realized that I was lost. A wrong turn, perhaps? Not a problem, I thought, taking out my phone to call the friend whom I was staying with, to ask for directions.

My Blackberry was dead. Completely discharged. It had been acting like a diva ever since I landed in Delhi. Dropped calls. Texts that could not be replied to because Madam BB decided to get ‘hanged’ at that particular moment and rendering futile all efforts at re-booting. I shook the phone, willing it to start. Nada. Suddenly, the revelers began to look loutish and the road looked like the path to hell. Where the hell was the Metro Station? It did not seem such a great idea to ask the people around for directions. In front of me loomed a large maidan which I was sure I had never seen before in my three or four trips to this side of Connaught Place. I did not remember my friend’s phone number.

I wanted to cry.

THE 3 THINGS I RE- LEARNED AT A COLLABORATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP

The advertisement flyer said “We will use stolen quotes and stupid games to create our writing. This is not about being precious; it’s not even about being good – it’s about finding ways to begin writing, to stop being scared of it and look at it as a collaborative practice.”

I HAD to participate in this workshop so I registered immediately.

The next step was to pay the fees to confirm my participation. And then disaster struck. Saskia from Thespo called to say that the workshop had been filled. There were only 10 seats because Rachael Clerke who was conducting the workshop (at Prithvi House) wanted to keep the group intimate to facilitate easier writing and sharing. Alas, my procrastination in paying the fees (I vacillated between online payment and paying by cash, which would mean travelling to the Thespo office) had cost me a seat at this workshop.

I was devastated and requested and re-requested to be allowed to attend. Many emails were exchanged which mainly consisted of me asking to be added to the group and Saskia trying to interest me in another workshop. But I had now become like that adamant child who refuses any other brand of chocolate except the one he’s set his mind on.
Finally, Rachael read the email communication and decided my keenness was genuine and I merited a seat and yayyy, I was at the workshop (on 16th December, 2014).

Therefore, LESSON NO.1 – Persistence pays.

At the workshop

At the workshop

It was an eclectic group of theatre/performance artists, literature students and even an advocate. The ambience was cozy, the warm wooden floors offset quite well by the black walls and the bright white circles shining down from the spotlights on the ceiling. We began with my most fave activity. Writing the Morning Pages. And so, even though I’d already done them once in the morning, I joined in with enthusiasm. And it was at the end of the writing that I had a couple of epiphanies: 1) I did prefer a particular ambience to do my writing in and 2) I re-discovered my love for teaching.

And so, LESSON NO.2 – Varying one’s place of writing once in a while can yield delightful results.

Rachael, Saskia and my fellow workshoppers

Rachael, Saskia and my fellow workshoppers

We played word games. Then we selected interesting words such as blues, stirrup, puck, sea-biscuit (my most fave) and used them to write story excerpts. We formed groups of four each. On one sheet of paper (per group), each one of us wrote a piece but the twist was that the previous writing was hidden so one just wrote whatever one wanted to, continuing from the bridge words: and then…; meanwhile..; but…. While writing a couple of pieces, I realized that my writing was following a particularly staid path. So, keeping the original intent of not being precious or even good with the words I jumped in with a playful attitude and really had a lot of fun. And when the pieces were read together as a whole, they made for quite interesting reading.

The next assignment was even more interesting. A new piece of writing had to be developed from a given excerpt. Some had to make a list from that while others had to make a poem and or even a letter. Finally, one had to edit another’s piece to make it different from the original while still retaining its essence. The environment was supportive enough for all of us to read out what we had written. At the end of the workshop we had written about a 100 pieces in all.

Finally, LESSON No.3 – Writing in collaboration with other writers can give a much higher and more interesting output.

Merchandise at the Thespo Tamasha

Merchandise at the Thespo Tamasha

 

Thespo at Prithvi

Thespo at Prithvi

So, what are the writing lessons you’ve re-learned lately?

Authorial Aspirations

Last year I bumped into A-Z Blogging Challenge towards the end of March and having been an irregular blogger took it up to push myself out of my own comfort blogozone. I blogged to the letters without a theme and yes, it did get a bit stressful at times.

This year should be different (and of course, less stressful), I decided. Camp NaNoWriMo is in full swing this April. So, why not blog about my journey with NaNoWriMo as the Asia::India ML which I have been since 2011? And perhaps throw in some writing tips – from writers of yore and also some from me (with five first drafts written and one being edited, and having access to thousands of Wrimos writing one every year, I could share an insight or two, no?).

Okay, don’t shudder. It is not going to be about Me, Me, and Me.

I aim to present to you a fun peek into the life of a NaNoWriMo ML as well as the agony and the ecstasy of writing.

Today, then, is about Authorial Aspirations.

WRITING AT CAMP NANOWRIMO

WRITING AT CAMP NANOWRIMO

Writing for me came as a ‘should’. There was always this teeny-weeny voice (‘The Voice’) within me that piped up at the strangest of times saying, “You should write.” Should?!?! Should?!?! Well, no-one says ‘No’ to ‘The Voice’. So, as a practicing fashion designer I looked for ways to write. Even as a trained jewellery designer. Articles for trade magazines and newsletters were followed by editing opportunities from newsletters of local environmental groups. It was all good.

And then, one day in 2009, ‘The Voice’ wanted me to write fiction, more specifically, a novel. Which is when I bumped into NaNoWriMo (nanowrimo[dot]org), on 31st October, 2009 and wrote my first novel in the month of November, that same year. And the next year too.

In 2011, I became an ML (More about this at ‘M’, perhaps). For the past two years I had been totally focused on writing my own novels. But now, besides writing my own novel I had to be the Main Motivator for others who too retained a desire to write one. In fact, helping other writers fulfill their authorial aspirations and reach their writing goals seemed to give me even greater satisfaction than writing my own novel.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that writing my first novel was so much wonderful fun. Words just flowed. Colourful characters were born with ease and they melded well with each other. There was a plot, too. And interesting conflicts. Perhaps, some day I might edit it.

Writing Tip#1: First drafts are best written speedily. Yes, a lot of the writing might be crap but the speediness puts the thinking brain on hold and brings forth the feeling brain which is where all the best stories come from. (Sonia Rao).

 

This post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge being conducted by the lovely Arlee BirdDamyanti, Alex and others. Today’s letter is of course, ‘A’.

 

 

Under The Magnifying Glass: Who is Arjun Choudhuri?

(Television. Social. Blogs. Words. Sounds. Images.
The reader could be forgiven for feeling drowned in this vast Media-Ocean, the bearer of both poisons and panaceas, even as he tries to assimilate the sensations and information that assail him. Through the quarterly series, “Under The Magnifying Glass”, I intend to churn this Ocean and bring forth to you, in their entirety (as much as is possible) some gems that rise to the surface, those magicians who lure us inside the irresistible webs they weave with their art and their craft, be it with words, sounds or images.
Presenting to you, then, the first in the series):

Who is Arjun Choudhuri?

ON ANOTHER MEETING WITH MYSELF
This is a poem that once was my body
or thought or remembering.
Recesses of uncertainty, like spiders,
like roaches, like never blossomed flowers,
hid these lines from blackened eyes.

This was once the poem I was.
Now, it is not much of a disorder,
not even a careful song dissipated
into the heart of a nightly mist.
Now it is just another bit of word.

 Word is that we were all poems once.
Now that the new science of forgetting has come,
we are no longer those, poems, or disorders.
Now there are only recesses with roaches in them.
No word has yet arrived as to when

we might just be poems again.
(By Arjun Choudhuri. Private Collection, September 2013)

Dipping into his mother’s memories of his childhood, Arjun Choudhuri tells of his very first book of ‘writing’ in which his four-year-old self wrote his very first ‘poem’: “Shillong is beautiful./ Silchar is not./ Silchar is my home./ Shillong is not.”

That infant verse has today blossomed into a poetic voice that is fresh and bright, evocative and  sensuous, unique and contemporary.  Into poetry that draws you again and again, vivifying, even as you try to cajole out its meaning, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not.

Twenty-five years after that first verse, this prolific  poet/writer/translator/researcher is no stranger to awards, whether it is as a topper in the University exams or receiving the Kavyanandan Award by Suranandan Bharati in December 2010, for his contribution to poetry and translation from Northeast India or even the Nirnawye Medal in 2012, for contributions to Literature, from the Nirnawye Shilpigosthhi.

Northeast India is where Arjun Choudhuri lives, specifically in Silchar, which is part of the Barak Valley which has been witness to a turbulent, strife-filled history.

The Bawrobawkro River, that runs through the Barak valley is as dear to Arjun as is the Moon, and the trees and the rain and Equality.  And so he says in ‘METROPHOBIA’ (April 2012): My eyes bathe you, engendered river,/ in showers of knowing created for you/ with the minute seas of known bodies./ I am – Bawrobawkro – I am you.

‘Home’ which is yet another recurrent theme in Arjun Choudhuri’s poems is further epitomized in “BORDERING POETRY” which is perhaps the first anthology of translations of the poetry written originally in Bengali by poets from Barak region.

THE BARAK VALLEY EXPRESS

That train which never left, I had been a passenger on it.

Those kisses at departure were re-birthed as legend
like the great hearth-snake beneath the homestead.
Those rapt waitings invoked the cow-dust hour
with the incessant clatter of their hooves on the highway.

Many a train arrived and left after that. Many a slumbering eye
in innumerable compartments opened at the silent station.
Yet that dream devoid shadow that never leaves, and
the departing after that, were delayed, and delayed still.

All my departing, burdened by that sole non-departing,
become ceaseless returns through the period of a lifetime.
All our sayings, burdened by that sole non-departing,
search for small, cheap hotels on the dismal roadsides
and for succor, for life’s main, for the fates that be.

Between departing and non-departing, there are unmoving bridges
that sooner or later, and quite gradually, turn into confining prisons.

That train which shall never leave, I had been a passenger on it.
(By Amitabha Dev Choudhury. Translation by Arjun Choudhuri, Bordering Poetry).

 

Coming Next: Arjun Choudhuri ko gussa kyon aata hain?
(What makes Arjun Choudhuri so angry?)

(P.S.: I’d love it if you shared this blogpost – everyblogger’s dream – but please remember the copyright to the poems rest with the poets).

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