The musings of a (not-so) single chick in the city. (Don't think that the term chick is derogoratory. We refer to boys by a number of terms). The travails in the life of an ex-miss-goody-two-shoes, ex-journalist, ex-small time model, ex-television actress, of being female in Chennai/ Pune/Bangalore, of ideas old and ideas new....

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Attention Uncles : Simple girls don't exist!

I am an expert on matrimonial ads. Seen a plenty of them to satisfy my folks into quietude. That I found fault with most of them is not the issue. The point is that I have scanned a lot, and I mean, a LOT of them. And I see in the space for 'partner preferences' or whatever there is always this phrase - 'simple girl' and this is an oxymoron. (Unless the girl is mentally challenged from birth, there is no way she is a simpleton.)

And I just don't understand this insistence on wanting a simple girl. Because no girl is simple. The wanna-be mother-in-law knows that. She wasn't simple. How does she expect her daughter-in-law to be? Maybe the idea is to let the impression stay with her husband, even after thirty years of marriage. I don't know.

We are born devious. If not, we learn to be devious. Every girl becomes a manipulator at some point. Do not let looks fool you. The cute ones, the ugly ones, ones that look like innocence personified, even the stupidest ones of my sex is wily in a way that men cannot imagine. (Well, a few, who have been blessed, learn to see through this. Even fewer are wily enough to predict and block these kind of manoeuvrings.) See, we are not physically strong and cannot get things done through force in a world where half the population is biologically designed to be stronger than us. We can deal straight with the men that can be dealt with straight. (By which I mean intelligent men.) This is plan B. This is our way of getting things done. Do not blame us. It is our solution to the blow that biology dealt us. If a woman chooses not be wily and manipulative, then there is usually a compelling reason. (Usually ideals like love and respect are tossed around. Or that they are investing in a long term relationship, and manipulating is something that always comes back to bite us later, and we know it.)

So, by the term "simple girl" people in my community mean a girl who does not do underhand things like sub-textual nudging, diverting thought flow in the other party, out and out manipulation etc etc. I asked a few people (extended aunties and uncles). Also uncles were more vociferous in defending their demanding a 'simple girl'. Probably they understand on some level that they are the puppets and their wives are the masters. One uncle actually said, "We don't want troubles that smart girls give. Making our sons get radical ideas, and sowing dissension in the larger family". I was laughing in my head.

I give you an example to show that 'Simple girls' do not exist. This incident happened a while ago. There is a twenty year old in my group, we shall call her KS. Fair, thin, demure, girly-pretty in a way that make guys drool and think of introducing the girl to their mommies. She has the requisite IQ points. Not book wise, but sharp enough in the general sense of the word. She looks like the epitome of a simpleton.

I like her well enough. But see, even within girls, seeing through the outer manifestation is a little hard. A bunch of us went to see a movie. Let me explain the existing scenario. There is a guy who fancied me (JS). And KS fancied him, which I did not know was specific fancy-ing. Sure, there had been discussions on who was good looking and all. Cannot avoid this. It is inevitable in any newly formed group.

So, we file into the theatre, it is dark already, and previews are running. Two guys were in front of me, and they entered the row first. KS was next and then me and JS had manoeuvred himself to enter the row of seats behind me, which had registered with both of us. So while I am thinking, 'Do I want to sit next to the dude and give him ideas?" KS has gone and seated herself leaving a seat between the first two fellows and herself, and tells me in a hyper voice, "Hey, I saved you a seat!" making it a logical for me to sit on one side of her, while JS sits on the other. Three more of our group filed in after him.

I, usually aware of what is going on , sub text and context wise- was taken aback. It was a simple enough move of making me sit away from the chap and letting her sit next to him in one shot. The fact was, it was so skillfully done. By KS, who looks like ice -cream wouldn't melt in her mouth, and glows with a kind of childish- naivety and joy, it is hard to credit her with underhand tactics.

I was pissed. Because I do not like having decisions taken out of my hand, even if I would have decided the same thing. She was and still is welcome to him. But, the incident only served to reinforce the idea. NO such thing as a simple girl. Women are not simpletons. While they might let people think so, because it suits their purposes, they know it under all those layers of self-delusion.

The dubitable joys of alcohol - A presentation

'The Joys of alcohol' is the tentative title that my group members have come up with, for a presentation in a communication process class. ( I am only concerned because there is chunk of marks alloted for this in our term final. This is the kind of thing ones does for twelfth class General studies paper. While my classmates are only 3 years past this kind of thing, imagine my weariness. It has been ten years since I have had to do such pointless exercises. I am not questioning the use of standing in front of a bunch of unwilling listeners and trying to get over your stage fear. But I've done it enough. The majority of the class can talk/communicate failry well in a public speaking/corporate presentation scenario. It is the slow ones that have still not managed to learn the skill and they are the lowest denominator and for whom this class is designed. But we know who sets the speed in the army right? It is not the cavalry. It is the infantry.)

 Forget the rise in onion price, the sad state of gender inequality, the naxal issue in the central and eastern states, oh no, we are doing a presentation on the questionable joys of alcohol. And I'm swamped with the intended editing/writing/readin and studying that I have to do, that I do not have the time to research any topic worth presenting to the class. The fact that practically no one wants to spend ATP in their grey cells to even consider a new subject that might be interesting could also be a reason.

Meanwhile, I have a maid who comes home and insists on conducting long conversations with me in Marathi and Hindi, while I nod diligently with differeing levels of incomprehension. She insists on bathing even vegetable dishes in fat, that everytime I see the food I imagine a blocked cardiac vessel in my future. Back to her chattering, each day she talks about what is bothering her the most. Sometimes it is her husband's cardiac troubles (Duh! Its the oil you are so liberal with. Didn't anyone tell you that cholesterol comes from that? I tried telling her to practise stinginess with oil at her place like we instruct her to cook here. She says the food tastes good only with lots of oil!), sometimes about how the kids in her area once past the age of fifteen, sixteen become loafers, imitating the youth in the neighbourhood, and stop going to school and roam aorund drinking, smoking -  both weed and tobacco, sniffing - whitener, turpentine, etc etc. At times it is about how her two co-sisters (women who had married brothers) talk about the other behind their backs to out maid and how it annoys her. There is a lot of gesturing and acting to get her meaning across, with me mumbling the few phrases I know in Hindi. So yes, I have become a quasi therapist listening to her woes. If only there was some money in it for me! 'sigh'.

One week Later : Since the group decided they did not want to look like they were promoting the drinking of alcohol, the topic was changed to "Alcohol - Not just a Drink", but it was preceisely the drinking the presentation mostly talked about. :D

 Of all the lame presentations that were done for the comm. process class, I am glad to report that ours wasn't the worst. Topics ranged from mundane ones like Financial Planning (which was very informative I should add, even if most students snoozed durign this one, because of the pedantic style it was presented in ), Cyber crime, Tata Steel Company (I mean what were they thinking? Take the ppt. straight out of the company's website? It was like a propaganda/cavassing talk to potential investors. Not that anyone bought it), Homosexuality and stigma( This wasnt actually bad, content wise. Except for a lot of twittering from the immature male section of the class, where the homophobes are the maximum, percentage-wise, and whom the presentaion was aimed at, in the first place and obviously didn't get through), addiction ( This was focussed on letting go of tobacco, because three members from that group are smokers. Did the research for the presentation actually help them? Or was the sincere asking of all addicts to seek help, a way of ridding themselves of guilt about their addiction? No one knows) The best was a presentation on Black holes and time travel. That was actually fun as it left the realm of boring facts and explored the imaginary in a fun way with videos and animation. Or maybe I'm just a geek.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fair and?

It is hard being a girl in this day and age. I tell you, our mothers did not have this kind of pressure. At least in South India of the 70's and 80's when my mother was roaming about breaking young men's hearts (Not that I am, mind you. Am too old to do that, I like to tell myself, and stifle the vanity before it can assert itself and say that I could if i wanted to. In conclusion, I am not breaking any young guy's heart. At least, not intentionally.), she did not spend a fortune on moisturisers, or deodorants or conditioners. All she knew was red lipstick and perfume, and that too, only for important occasions. They did have one major expense, I must concede. Talcum powder, which was a big deal those days. Lily of the valley, I think was the fancy face powder they used, and kajal, for drawing out the length of their eyes (Hema malini and other actresses , of the 'tightly wrapped sari with short pallu' period, come to mind, when I see college pictures of my mother and her friends). But what is one cosmetic item compared to everything that a girl these days has to have on her dresser?

Hair must be straight and shiny( shampoo, conditioner, anti-fritzer, mousse, gel, you name it, and among the 5 girls in my apartment, we would have at least two variants of each product). Arms, legs and all exposed body parts tweezed, shaved, or femmed out. Face moisturised/sun screened/sun blocked, eyebrows neat, eyes highlighted. (In this day and age, you have to look good, or the big nasty happens. A prettier, younger model replaces you. It is funny really, when a seventeen year old uses more products than a twenty five year old.) When does this insecurity start? And how do you deal with it? Or worse, make sure your own daughter in the future does not fall prey to this ultimate self doubt of "Will I ever look good eneough?"

I recently saw an advert for a soap manufactured by the big bad cancer conglomerate, where, in a medical college, a girl student suddenly discovers that she has a voice, because she started using the beauty soap. A medical student, of all things. Doesnt matter that she is going to be a doctor and save lives, but that she needs a soap to give her opinions about where the class goes for a vacation. "Azhagu namma kaila thaan irukku", goes the tag line. I felt nauseated. Every 'Fair and lovely' advert I had ever seen came to mind. Everything preying on young chicks' insecure psyches. I have an aunt, who has really dark skin, who has been using fair and lovely since I was five. I was five and I knew what it was. And, she looks exactly as she did twenty years ago. Not even a millionth fraction of a shade (That graded paper they give you so lovingly with some of those products to compare with your skin ????Urghhh!) different.

And all those chemicals are really bad for you. And if you are preggers, no, no.

Now, why did I start on this? Do I have a big solution? No, I don't. But I do know that every time I wear eye-liner on a work day, to boost my monday morning blues, or get that particular -stubbornly resisting my charms- guy to notice my eyes, I would stop for a second, and re-asses. I am not saying I would give up smelling nice and fresh, or my smooth hair for a frizzy, uncontrollable mess. But that extra time that goes to figuring out how to look different for the day, could definetly be used for a few more moments of sleep, or finishing up that adrenalin spiking car chase sequence on that Andy McDermot novel, or horror of horrors (as my really cool Theory of Communication professor, who makes for many interesting stories, would say) spent writing home assignments for my Management process teacher (Who probably was a pre-school teacher before she got the misfortune to land at our B-school. Yes, she gives us home-assignments, and checks if we have written them. Every class.)

So, after that rambling, I just want to say that - If you use a lot of chemicals on your face and body on a regular basis. Stop! Think! How much of it do you really need?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

For all the experience in the world...

I have always prided myself on overcoming my (existential, among other things) anxiety and trying new things. Talking to a stranger for no purpose at all, except to just talk. So, some six- to seven years ago, I started doing that. It was first a chick waiting for someone outside Barista. Then, a guy browsing books in Landmark and so on.  I can give lessons on how to talk to stangers about  nothing at all, and yet not spook them off.  (Of course they are wondering if you are hitting on them, or going to ask them for donations, or are an unsubtle lesbian, or a con artist, etc etc, yet how to keep them responding for a reasonable length of time without running away, till you want to let them off.)

Recently we were given an assignement to do just that. My B-school's idea to make would-be-managers get comfortable with uncomfortable situations. See, I'd already been there done that. So, that got me thinking, What are the things that I am uncomfortable with, that are do-able and havent yet done? Many small things, I was sure.

Today, I offered to buy ciggies for a friend, coz I was going out and she wasnt. I'd been brought up in Chennai, where smoking is worse than drinking, so I'd never ever bought cigarettes before. The particular kind she wanted wasnt available in the first three shops I asked. Walking on FC Road, going from one potti kadai (small shop) to another, asking for cigarettes was weird. I was given very disapproving looks from several quarters. It was fun. And here I'd thought that buying condoms would be the weirdest, nope but that isnt half as fun as this.  I've made up my mind to go an ask for an i-pill one day, just to see how the chemist looks at me :D

In other news, exams for the first trimester just got over, and classrooms are wearing that deserted look they do when footfalls are absent. Except, we do have classes scheduled, but almost the whole class has gone off searching for their mommies and daddies to their home-towns.( Reason - they are all barely into their twenties, there is even a teen in the population.) As a result, it is a lot of free time to roam around Pune/shop on M.G Road/ while away time - with endless episodes of House M.D and Changeling-Psy books by Nalini Singh. (Yeah, yeah, it is part of the cringeworthy paranormal romance genre, and yes, the romance is cliche'd, I just skip the sex bits (they are the same in book after book, "they made sweet love", where both parties orgasm every time, and mulitple times to boot, seriously? seriously? who are they trying to kid? ) but the plot of the series is interesting for brain-strain-free reading).

On the fun side of things, I'm encouraging someone I shouldnt, not flirting with someone I want to, and pursuing someone who is not exactly right.

More later.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A moment on the lips....

Eating. Why am I fixated with such a mundane activity, you might ask. But this is not about cooking / baking/ grilling/ braising etc etc that I blog about usually, where the preparation of food takes on a big part of the experience. This is about just eating.

Since Ive become a poor bachelorette (Now why does that word make you think of plastic blondes of reality TV sucking face with/yelling obsceneties at equally or usually more dumb guys? Damn I read too much US  weekly!) living on peanuts in Pune, I've been eating. A lot. Dhabelis, paani puris, chocolate toast, samosas, sandwhiches with green / white/ chilly red pastes of dubious origins, rolls, wraps and much more. This is beyond the regular thaali thingies that are lunch staple on most days. Food is cheap, at least this type of food is. And its yummy and alien to my south Indian palate. And so I eat.

Rather I should say I ate, since my waistline started reflecting my gluttony. And by now I have tried every small, big, popular, notorious joint near my college, and thats a lot considering that this location is the student Mecca of Pune. Now that I know where everything is, I can nip down to any place for a fix of any type of food craving I might get. (I have started walking at least one way to college, a good thirty minute walk, so that the misbehaving waist can start listening to what Im saying again :D)

Movies : been watching a lot of those too. At least one a week at the local multiplex. Given that we havent discovered other activities around here, running to the movies seem to be a choice passtime. At these mall/multiplexes, I've been studying the dressing habits of the Punewaalis. Conservative, I'd expected. But girls here show less skin than the ones in Chennai, and man are those ppl conservative! (See, one might argue that the girls in the areas Im talking about are all student influx population from the cow-belt, but still, here, far away from home, no parental supervision!) You'd think, given the proximity to Bombay, the chicks here would be a little more 'couldnt care less about what others think of me'. But, nope. Girls here would win my nosy orthodox aunt's approval sooner than she'd spot them.

About their attitudes and mores. I dont even want to get started!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Life in Pune

Well, life here is not all that different from life in Chennai in the most basic of senses. The kids here have the same angst, possesive bf/gf issues, transparent bra straps for low cut tops and halters (since - "oh! how can you not wear one?????" Doesnt matter even if you are a size 30 or 32 and it doesnt really matter. Or if you switch to strapless bras - then - "Oh! I hope that is your bra's top line, I mean, you obviously can't be not wearing one," accompanied by a sickly sweet smile), PGs are usually dirty, hardly maintainenced and dilapilated flats/bungalows breathing their last, etc etc
So, all in all, situation for youngsters from outside is pretty much the same as in any cosmopolitan city.

Of course there are differences : While Chennai has a decent immigrant student population, Pune overflows with it. read somewhere that urban Pune population is more than 60% students. Dark, pale and all shades in between, hunky guys and very consciously preening girls strut down streets. This city is what guys/girls from small towns would report to their homies in a gushy tone, 'Dude, so many fucking hot chicks,' or, 'machan....oorellam orae super figurudaa' . You get my point. You can replace this with its hindi or feminine version.

For me, the good difference is that alcohol is cheaper, not that Ive had much time to experiment with it. I guess now that ragging ( what 'they' refer to euphemistically as the informal induction 'process') is finally over, with its attendant assignment writing and hunting for bizzaire accesories and clothes -for the dress code, we will have some time to explore the pubs and clubs in and around Pune.

Went to Papa Johns a coupla days ago. My first time since coming back to India, umm, the cheese really does melt, and in copious amounts. Then we went to a hookah bar. In the spirit of properly trying things, I learnt how to inhale the smoke. There was a nice Paan flavour in one, and the experts in our group also picked an orange mint thingy, which wasnt as good.

Needless to add, the tobacco went straight to my head. Since, Ive had no previous exposure to tobacco, I understand it gets to one quick. Left the place feeling sick and happy. (I've heard thats what tobacco does, but never really understood it.) Now I know better. The happy is the slight intoxication due to the tobacco content in the hookah, and the sick is a kind of vague nausea underneath the happy. I also read somewhere that when an addict goes cold turkey on ciggies, the sick and happy turns to sick and unhappy very quickly. Don't think I'm going to be a big fan of hookahs. The nausea was not a good feeling. Give me alcohol any day!

The language is a problem for those who dont know Marathi, but imagine my plight, not even being able to converse in Hindi! Atleast I can understand the language, thanks to umpteen bollywood movies, and cousins raised in the north. I am trying to learn the hindi script now. Unlike Tamil nadu, road and shop signs do not include the English version. Even buses proudly proclaim their numbers and routes only in Hindi and Marathi. Hence the urgent need to learn Hindi.

More later.

Pondering in Pune

I wrote this a month and a half ago - just getting around to posting it.

We mostly don’t recognise when we have a good thing going. We realise what a good deal we had only in retrospect. But if we had realised that sooner, would we ever have new experiences, and adventures? Where do you draw the line at appreciating what you have and what you need to go in search of?

For example, I recently moved away from my family home to live in a strange new city, Pune, alone. While I was chaffing at the bit to get away, when faced with all the restrictions at my parent’s house, I did know what I would be giving up. Rules, curfews, innumerable calls in case of every ten minutes after the long needle hit the hour, anxiety if daughter is out after the sun goes down that no parent ever manages to completely quell in spite of respectable escorts of both gender accompanying said daughter. It goes on and on. I also knew the perks I’d be giving up. A higher middle class lifestyle, air conditioning in the room, clothes washed by servant or machine, dried, folded and or ironed and left on my beautifully thick mattress, or better, in my closet for me to pull out whenever. Food that easily aces inspection on nutrition, hygiene and taste.

Now, in a strange room, finally with the privacy and freedom that I’m yet to experience, I feel a pang of homesickness. Just for the three plug points for stove, fridge and laptop. Water that does not require waiting for the bucket to fill up, or a pump that needs switching on after trekking in your sleep wear through wet shrubs, weeds , ferns and the muck left behind by last night’s rain and residual croaking frogs that think that a cloudy morning is disguised dusk. (Which you know is a sure sign that snakes are nearby.)

P.S : there are snakes nearby - the girl who has the room next to me got a nasty surprise hissing at her when she entered her room last night and switched on the light.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The question of vampires and their diet

      I have read a bunch of vampire novels in the last two years, the popular ones and the unpopular ones, you know, Bella’s stories, Sookie’s stories, Vampyres being trained in a school that prays to Nyx, tried some of the vampire romances (hmm, hmm, done that too. The Vegas vampire series, for example. urgh!), some Jim Butcher ones that feature different types of vamps, stories of the necromancer who also slays vampires, on the whole, a lot of vampire novels. Now, the big mystique is the hotter than hot male vamps that are amazing as tortured heroes, or cunning chiefs, or just plain bad boys. I get it, and so do a lot of women, and hence the books sell.
    Now, my sis Y, who also reads a lot, and has a read a few vamp books, asked me in one of our many sensible discussions between drooling over the fictitious hero vamps, weather I’d have a relationship with a cow? It’s food for a lot of humans! She said. True, but I’m a vegetarian( which is also an argument in the Bella stories, Edward is vegetarian, so doesn’t eat cows, or human blood), so it doesn’t count, I say.
     But the argument stays. Would anyone sane, kiss, make out or have sex with a cow or a pig or even say a tomato? And would people pay to read about it? Unless of course the person we are talking about is gross and has very very unnatural sexual preferences.
      Even though the logical argument is solid, the stories still continue to enchant new readers–because of the basic truth- that girls love reading about bad boys, and girls love reading about boys struggling with their bad natures even better.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Books, covers and terrace chats.

I signed my first book contract yesterday with Hachette India! yay for me!It could take anywhere between 6-12 months for the book to hit the shelves, and I hear that this is a relatively short period and I should be thankful! :-)

Now, the thing I wanted to talk about was - the cover. I had two people apply to design the cover, even before the manuscript was fully written, one was my sister the art student whom we shall call 'Y' and the other was my newspaper designer friend, the graphic guy. I love both their styles, but there is no way that a newbie writer has final say on cover design. I'm not even sure how much of a say I would have in the matters outside of the words :-)

Now that it is official, I have many more people wanting to do the cover. lol. And graphic guy and Y, gracefully conceding that there isnt much I can say now for this one, are already fighting about who would hypothetically get to design my book covers and the art work for my next work, which has maps and stuff. :-D

I went for an audition yesterday for an advert, to play a young mother, and it was rather funny. I have done this before, but yesterday was the first time I felt I could and should connect to the character, mostly because I realised that most of my friends are mommies or are preggers or are wannabe preggers, and I'm happy aunt to a few tots.It's sad -only twenty five and already some one else is more important in your life than yourself. I think such self sacrifice can wait a few more years, don't you?

My only single best friend -K- (all other bf's are hitched- sadness) and me had a long bitching session yesterday about boys (Its time I started calling them men- but still) : her two men, one she plans to marry and the other she has on stand by :-) and my abortive non - affair non relationship with the writer guy,and about several other exes, one we kind of share(now, this boy was at one point dating another of our friends - But thats a whole other story :-)) on my high high terrace, cool evening wind on our faces, while sister Y and cousin A got high and drunky on the other side of the terrace. The chinese food was quite nice smelling, but they refused to share, meanies.

Anyway- my point is that- there is nothing as cathartic as a bitching session with your best mate- while stressing about a writing project, monies owed by ad companies, waiting on admission lists, and many other things.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Love, life and ...

Love, life and all that jazz.
Love, life and the beer can!
Love, life and dream on...

These are all titles of desi english novels or 'Indian Writing' published in the last couple of years. Why this fixation on naming their books with 'love, life ...' (Duh, that is what most 'serious' Indian authors do, we are adamant about being literary, which is writing about love and life, at least a part of us thinks that is the best kind of writing there is...about life....that is not the issue here, I love Ghosh, Roy, Verma,Bagchi, you name them) when other authors have done just that, that too recently enough to stay in people's memories.

Ideally, you'd want your book's title to stand out! grab attention! etc etc, and if you really really want the title to resemble something familiar to hook the reader browing at the book shop, which might entice them to pick it up - you call it 'Non-twilight', or an 'Unsuitable boy'. But why this fixation on "love, life...and three more words', I just dont understand.

Okay, will tell you why I'm ranting about this - I was at Crossword, Chennai two days ago, minding my own business and looking sadly at all the books I cant really afford to buy, and accidentally was recruited to attend a book launch thing that they were doing in the cafe they have on the upper level.

It was for 'Love, life & all that jazz' by Ahmed Faiyaz. Now, I have attended book launches as a reporter and enjoyed the experiences. But now I saw them from the author's perspective, given that it might be me doing the same thing at some point.(Fingers still crossed about being accepted for publication, signing contracts etc, but gasp, gasp).

And when the event began, the room was quite empty and it was really sad to see the plight of the organiser lady and the young author (relatively young among authors, probably a few years older than me) looked a bit lost as he scanned the empty seats. (I'm already dreading the situation, I'd probably go and hide if it was me- if I didnt have an obligation to myself and the publisher to sell as many copies as I could :-( which was what was making Faiyaz sit and continue. (reluctantly, you can conclude.)

The event began 45 minutes after it was scheduled, with about 10 poeple, but thankfully the seats filled up a little by little, and by the end of the event 3/4ths of the seats were occupied. I could actually see the author get more confident when people started arriving randomly from the floor below after hearing bits of reading he did.

I liked what I heard, and the book was reasonably priced, but I hadnt carried cash in hand that day, so stopped by landmark today to see if I could grab a copy. That was when I figured there were three books with similar names, all published in the last coupla years.

And hence the ranting. Can't we be a little creative? Atleast google titles we like to see if there are matches, and if there were some, whether they were recently published, things like that. I'm still going to read the book, but this is just making me think of why we find titles and want to stick to them, though they might work against us. I mean, if there was Swarchkopf, and Schwarzkopf, some people might buy the wrong one. Okay, that was a bad example, but you get the drift.

So long...

It has been a while since I put finger to keyboard to write a post here, because I have been well, pre-occupied. I have, in the past year and a half, been acting in ads,a television show and anchoring news at a private channel based here in Chennai, the latter of which basically means party propaganda in the guise of news, and most importantly, I have managed to get around to writing my first novel. (This is where there is drumroll in my head:-)

While I actually finished the writing between Sep '08-Dec '08, I had been languishing and feeling sorry for myself at the lack of response from any publisher I wrote to all through last year. (Now, I'd been sending in the manuscript to the editorial offices of the major publishers in India, as instructed in the submission guidelines each of them specify on their websites. Turns out thats not how you go about it(!) and Im not talking about getting it to a publisher through an agent, but that is another story.)

Here goes- you have a m.s that you think can be published (not talking about vanity publishing here- dunno whether it was intentionally named thus - anyway -the term is self explanatory- talking about proper publishing house that publishes your work and pays you money for it.), this is what you do :

You have to find out the name of the editor who deals with the genre of fiction your book falls under in whichever publishing house you are targetting and send your manuscript to him/her. Now, it seems simple enough when it is put that way. Except Publishing companies in India just do not give that kind of information clearly on their websites, and you just send it to the editorial department, it is put into the dreaded 'slush pile' and doesnt see the light o' day. And if at all someone there notices that you took the trouble to print it beautifully on bonded paper, with double spaces, send it and all, you get a even more dreaded 'form' letter, where your name is just inserted into the 'to' space and tell you 'sorry , we cant publish your book. good luck.' and usually dont even mention the name of your m.s.

Let's say you do call a publisher up and ask for info about who is the editor in charge of the genre you are writing for, and some kind soul takes pity on you, and gives you info without slamming down the phone on yet another 'wanna be' writer, you have to verify that info, because folks at publishing companies seem to be a very mobile population. Children and teen books editor at Company A one week is at the same position at a rival company the next.So your addressee not there, THUD, one more m.s hits the ever growing slush pile.

Now, once you find out and play the game, i.e, you manage to identify the editors you want to send it to - then the rejection game probably continues. So, you think maybe an agent is a good idea. Tringggggg. Wrong. They are even more beseiged with they want to read, but their reading lists are longer than editors.

And on top of all this, normal response time, if at all there is one, is approximately 3-6 months, leaning more towards the higher limit of the range.

So, all the bad things have been said. But there are some good things. You send it to the proper people and then good things could happen. For eg: I got a reply from an editor who told me how I could make the manuscript better, and also just because they said no- I shouldn't lose heart. And another editor responded within three days of my sending the sample chapters of the m.s to her to send the entire thing. Fingers crossed!

(Note : I know I have said more negative things here than positive for people who want to write - but so have a bunch of other writers- in fact there are books on 'why not to be a writer' and I found two such tomes at the BCL, Chennai. Seems writer angst funds a huge industry by itself :-)

I have also been experimenting with cooking along the way. I had a soup fixation for a while, and so roasted red peppers, roasted pumpkin, french onion, wild mushrooms, spinach, zuccinni, carrots and celery, and all types of quash were made into soups, and my family got bored after a while :D

The croissant bug arrived recently, and its all about controlling the melting butter sheets that envelope thin dough sheets and preventing it from frying the bottom of the dough instead of cooking it. And as Merryl Streep's Julie says, 'Is there anything better than butter?'