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Friday, 27 April 2012

O Chetan!...Letter of despair, outrage...and envy!



(this post is written purely in jest, and if you read it carefully, you will find that I am laughing at myself, and not at Mr. Bhagat, and am envying the fact that he is so loved and widely read by all classes and sections of society, including my family members.....writing is all about reaching out, and today with an astounding readership, he has managed to do just that, whatever his critics might say)


Dear Mr. Bhagat (may I call you Chetan?)


Your next book is out, and none of mine are.


This is an honest, open letter telling you about my (until now) closed feelings concerning your writing.


I heard that you are quoted as one of the most influential figures in the world. Don't ask me where I got this statistic from---maybe I heard it on the radio...but I smirked to myself (hah!) as I set out to test this fact.


To my utter and horrific surprise, my grocer's college going son has heard of you and has recently bought your first book Five Point Someone! He, who comes from a family where no one has ever read more than the printed price labels in their grocery store! He says it was referred to him by his friend who told him English is not so difficult after all. And how would he know?!


Why am I sooooo worked up, you ask? Well, I cannot tell a story in five points like you (isn't that what the book is about?), so bear with me. You may have to allow for certain creative detours, a bit of analysis (heard of those things?) as well. Promise that you'll stay on and not leave midway? All right, here I go.


Recently, my cousin called to tell me of her ordeal. She used to work for a women's magazine and got laid off some months ago. Two weeks ago, she managed to get a part time job as writer for a social networking website, and do you know the brief her employers gave her? Exactly that, i.e., be brief, to the point, and forget about fancy writing! Of all the nerve!


Let me tell you that she is extremely well read, has been a student of Literature, studied at the best schools and colleges in the world, and can throw in words, phrases, puns, and other such things like other people do frisbees (the good ones, I mean, the ones that are good at throwing and catching frisbees.....I mean...you get my point, don't you?).


I'll have you know that she and I have (she more than I) been taught English by the British themselves, with a few Irish and Germans thrown in (read 'Nuns'), who helped us pick our books with care ("English is best written by British authors"), and even had us write reviews about those that we had read, which they rated ("five on ten is the highest this class will ever get from me"). 


When Shakespeare, Milton and Keats got too much for us, we were advised to relax with the writings of P G Wodehouse (What's that you're asking? Who is he? You don't know P.G. Wodehouse??), who wrote things like,


"The..... was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say 'when'!".....from his book "Very Good Jeeves."


Got it? The humour, I mean...see, that's one of my points. 


People, most people, like the grocer's college going son, just don't get it, the subtle humour, and ask stupid questions like 'what?', when they really should be asking 'when?" What's that? Its utter rubbish, you say?


Mr. Bhagat, you do know that English was brought to India by the British, and was supposed to be spoken, read, and written in a particular way? 


Writers were supposed to laboriously go through tomes of classics and poems (because we had never ever seen a Daffodil in our lives, and we took a long time to understand when 'when' didn't mean when!). 


No one could just get up and decide to become a writer!


We were supposed to write about the grocer, his family, their daily doings and the goings on in their lives, (and not for him) from an expert observer's point of view, as a skilled craftsman, who would dig out a worthy word for every activity, every nuance....e.g., 


"Suddenly overcome with lassitude and ennui, the immensely banal and prosaic nature of his work struck him like a bolt of lightning, and he wondered what would ensue if he simply threw off the yoke of generations, and declared a sa famille( that's French...writers in English have to know a bit of French, its the rule!) his prurient thoughts!"


See?  Such labour, such effort, finding uncommon words and elevating (I could have used 'lifting' here, but I didn't......now that's what writing, real writing is all about!) an ordinary existence and sentence to one worthy of being in a book.......See?


And all was so well in our world of words, that we never realised when (and here I mean the normal 'when')  it ceased to exist outside our minds.


You, an IT (tech) guy, just kind of stole up upon us, and literally wrote us 'discerning' folks off! 


Do you know how many people, especially techies, dream of writing books that earn a bomb, and retiring thereafter? I know, I live in a place that is swarming with them. 


Their point is (and that's the annoying thing about them; they always talk, without fail, in points!), if you can do it, so can they! You've gone and given hope to people who have probably read just one book in all their lives----yours! Imagine!


So dear Chetan, sorry, Mr. Bhagat, its time we (as in 'wordy' writers), woke up from this ennui, this lassitude, or even this langour, this tediuosness....what's that you say? Can't I use simple words? Oh, all right....


Its time we woke up from this boredom (simple enough?), brought upon by a certain jobless state, where people like us, a diminishing band, are reduced to being 'brief', and to practicing our craft in secret.....


How, you ask? Oh, don't tell anyone, but we send mails to each other with beautifully concocted, embroidered, delicately and strategically placed words here and there, that only we understand and that other people call funny.......last time I sent one, two people actually read it (one was my husband who I forced it upon!)


So, my last point is (you're still there, I hope), tell me, no teach me, how to unlearn, simplify....tell me how to write for the grocer's, the mason's, the......the......heck, even my own nephew has read you! Tell me, how do you write for such a wide range of readers?


For, you see, in all our learning the language and the craft, we forgot to pay attention to a small, though vital detail....we completely overlooked the reader! 


(I tell  you, my nephew, who has read your books, wouldn't have spent more than a few seconds on this piece of writing...so can you see how serious this is?).


So dear Mr. Bhagat, astute businessman-cum-writer that you are, would you please share your secret (how you know exactly what my grocer's college going son and nephew are interested in), so that I may be as widely read as you, and perhaps even replace you as one of the most influential persons in the world (in case you decide to take a vacation from writing)? Please?


Hey Chetan, er, Mr Bhagat? What are you taking those notes for? What?? You've got an idea for your next book after reading my post? You're going to write about would-be writers? Hey, what's going on in that clever mind of yours? Remember, you got that idea here....remember, you'll have to pay me royalty...come back, listen, let's work this out...hey!