A brilliant interview of author Claire Fullerton on writing where she explores the nuances and expression. Ronavan came up with an amazing interview which is rich in content and an education to aspiring authors. Shared from Ronovan’s blog.
It was 4 o’cl when I reached Pune Station. I scampered and wriggled my way amidst the motley crowd, stomping my feet upstairs at the booking hall. I waited for another 30 minutes before I walked to the ticket window and asked the gentleman, one ticket second class Mumbai, excited to board one of the trains I normally travel by, Deccan Queen-the favorite or Pragati Express.
I removed my wallet from the jeans pocket and flipped the money out before placing it back inside, making an exit away from the ticket counter, almost leaving the guy speechless. I didn’t know what got over me and cursed myself on my way out of the station. I felt like turning back and going to the railway station but finally paid the bus ticket to Mumbai. I was kicking myself for behaving so weird, which I normally never do.
It was Tuesday evening, July 2006, the same day blast occurred in seven trains in Mumbai. The bus entered the outskirt of Mumbai and I was enjoying the scenery, past TISS and RK studio at Chembur when a guy, accompanying his mother received a call on his cell. It was his father. “What! Train blast in Mumbai.” Everyone in the bus heard him and sent a tizzy of sort when his mom said, “Mumbai mein kya ho raha hai (What’s happening in Mumbai?” I asked the guy and he told bomb has been planted in seven trains in the city.
I got scared, wondering what will happen now since I gotta check in the hotel and knowing the history in the city after every terror strike, staying in a hotel would be quite a task. I shared my concern with the guy who was sitting on the opposite seat with his mom. We exchanged numbers and he asked to give a call in case of any problem, prodded by his mother. The bus driver was unwilling to drop passengers to Dadar, fearing of riots and tense situation looming in the city. Despite protests, the bus stopped all passengers at Sion. Immediately, I called home and friends, to inform that I am alright and there is nothing to worry. But, woe betide me as all phone networks were jammed. I lit a cigarette and stood, waiting for the BEST Bus, to come that will ferry me to Dadar.
At the right moment, a car stopped near the bus stop and we were asked to get inside since they will ferry us to our destination. The coupled removed their car from the garage and was trying to help stranded passengers. That’s what I like about the city and yes, it’s ‘The Spirit of Mumbai.’ Read the related post here.
I was dropped at Mumbai and saw a bus to Mumbai Central in front of us in the traffic at Dadar. The helpful couple asked me, if I’ll be alright and hopped out, not without thanking them, storming inside the moving vehicle. Tried calling Adi but his phone was jammed. Only then, I remember my Parsi relative-I am not a Parsi-Parveen aunty and when I entered the colony, someone stopped me, asking where I was going. I told him, meeting Parveen aunty. I walked up the wooden stairs and Parveen aunty opened the door. I said, “Vishal.”
Aunty just came back to Mumbai in the morning after London holidays in the morning and told me that I was lucky. I stayed over and she ordered chicken fried rice and we had dinner together. Early morning, aunty woke me up, saying sorry but she received a bad news. Her nephew is missing and was hurrying to the hospital to find out. Her nephew was working in London and came back to Mumbai a short while ago. His wife has just delivered a baby. It tears the heart apart and didn’t know what to say. Had quick shower and breakfast before wishing courage to aunty.
I bought a copy of Mid-Day before taking a cab to Churchgate, walked at Marine Drive and sipping beer at Not Just Jazz by the Bay. I was depressed during the day, reading the newspaper on how many lives were lost and gleaning through the pictures. During the evening, I boarded the empty local on the way back to Mumbai Central where I checked at a hotel. Adi called and came to me, telling how horde of relatives came to stay at his house on the day of the blast. He took me home, the next day. We traveled on his bike in the city, wondering how the blast rocked Mumbai but the city stood firm on its feet in no time. This is Mumbai and nothing on earth can deter the city, its spirit. It was back to normal life, cars honking and swerving their way, the crowd always in a rush, lifeline in the city ‘locals’ and couples sitting at Marine Drive.
Post script: Like a friend shared with me yesterday as we harked back to the fateful day on July 11, it was all destiny and luck. The initial plan was to travel by train to Dadar and from there take a local to Chruchgate, like I normally do. Unbelievable! The post doesn’t seek to cast a comment on the court judgement on Tuesday, nine years later but go back to the day where I experienced kindness and came face to face with fate.
Breeze of wind jettisoned revelers at the promenade,
Umbrella flung in the sea.
Cold breeze and maelstrom of wind slapping faces,
as one struggles to maintain balance on the toes.
A new season, announces its arrival,
happy faces welcoming the change, ever ready to embrace the joy and fury of nature.
Small troubles forgotten, taking a shower in the drizzle that came unannounced.
Twist and turn in the body, oscillating to-and-fro,
swinging to the call of the weather and bringing happiness unlimited to the heart.
Warming up to the beauty of trees and flowers fluttering,
one feels the magic at every nano second like a soul possessed with joy.
“Trust, like the soul, never returns once it is gone.” ~ Publilius Syrus
Avish shouldn’t have been born in this age. A young and energetic, 18-year-old, he wore his heart on his sleeve and blindly trust anyone, who made friends with him. He took people at face value. After all, he was of jovial nature and has an endearing quality, the smile on his face and the kindness that made him won so many friends. He was grateful to life and the gentle nature in people.
The time, he started working in the cafe on his laptop, he became friends with a girl and took no time to be besotted with her. After all, she used her charm on him but faked it off, pretending that she is in love with him and that what matters to her are the simple things in life. They started dating and holding hands inside the cafe. Shaina would spend the nights chatting with Avish on whatsapp and he introduced his best friend, Karan, to her. He was oblivious what they were doing behind his back. The kind-hearted fellow that he is never doubted their intentions and trusted both Shaina and Karan with his life. For his, the two were his world. Nothing in the universe could conspire to make him doubt their intentions.
It was a bright sunny day when Shaina walked in and hugged him. They reclined on the chair and ordered coffee, waiting for Karan who would soon hop in during his office break. Avish had to make a call and and asked Shaina to have a look at his laptop. He came back after 15 minutes and didn’t notice that the laptop was switched off, his password altered.
The three best friends Shaina, Avish and Karan spent the whole day together laughing at silly jokes and promising that they will always remain together through thick and thin. Avish waved to them and went home to get ready for the party later where he had to give the document to the boss. He took his shower and dressed in his favorite black suit for the special occasion. Before leaving home, he checked his laptop but to his horror, the document was missing. Avish frantically searched the laptop but the document couldn’t be retrieved anywhere.
He walked to the party in front of guests and both his best friend and girl friend couldn’t be seen anywhere. The boss wrestled him, “Avish! What have you done? How much money have you pocketed to trade this sensitive document?”. He couldn’t comprehend what was happening and explained to his boss, how the document has mysteriously disappeared from his laptop. His boss was aghast, “Buddy, give this shit to someone else. You know where the document is? It’s with the rival company. Our guys wanted to press charges against you but I shielded you since I’ve known you since a long time. I hope that you won’t get carried away next time by money. You better leave and just ruined your career. At least, be happy you are not behind bars.
Avish was dejected and left the party. Outside, he saw two heads smooching by the lake and he got a shock to see Shaina and Karan into each other’s arms. He got his answers, the ones he considered close to him stole the sensitive document that shred his life into tiny pieces. His dream was shattered. Avish’s soul was bruised and knew that he could never trust anyone with his life.
Shiny and breezy atmosphere wafting in the ear.
Weapon of light and thunder suddenly sprang to life and brings mesmerizing joy to one’s existence.
Mesmerized at the cloud bursting in colors and bringing dollops of happiness,
power of sheer magic and energy sparkling everywhere.
A day of immense happiness at the sight brilliant hue in the sky,
rekindles hope and sheer optimism.
A translation of imagination into reality.
Translucent and positive thoughts mingle with the mind and particles in the soul.
it suddenly started to become true.
A lesser mortal expressing surprise as days of anguish and turmoil is subsided into ashes.
I count my stars in the cloud.
Happiness has a name and it’s called, belief in the potent energy.
Yeh baarish ka mausam aur woh lambi sans lene ka maza kuch aur hai.
Ji chahta hoon ek cutting chai peel oon aur bheeg jaaye.
Jiyo dil se.
Isse kehte hai choti si khushi.
Woh sanata joh raaste pe cha gayi,
dil khush hota hai aur kuch likhne ka mann ho raha hai.
Baarish ki ek kahani iss pal mein.
This post Hindi Baatein is written as part of Sharmistha’s initiative to promote Hindi and I am writing something after a long break.
Usha Narayanan: The challenge was mythology with a contemporary flavor
Who doesn’t love tales of mythology? As children, we would be enthralled by captivating stories of Indian mythologies narrated in books and by our parents. Yet, in our innocent minds, we dream of heroes having super power and didn’t realize that they could be made as humane as possible, with flaws. Today, the blog features Usha Narayanan whose book, Pradyumna-Son of Krishna, a tale about mythological characters with human face, has already climbed the chart of best seller. A gold medallist in English from University of Madras and double Masters, Usha Narayanan has been a creative director in ad agencies and Radio City 91.1 FM, managed corporate communications and CSR in Scope International and Standard Chartered Bank.
Having lived most of her life in Chennai and did a writing course in Honolulu, Usha is surrounded by her ‘Opinionated Cats’ and her first book, ‘The Madras Magler’ a suspense thriller received rave reviews. The epic fantasy ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ is on the market and her third one, a rom-com’, ‘Love, Lies and Lay Offs’ will hit the market in October.
Her next is ‘Love, Lies and Layoffs,’ a romcom published by Harlequin-Harper Collins in October 2015.
Today, the face of Indian mythology is changing with authors giving characters a human face. Is this how you depicted and saw Pradyumna?
The beauty of our ancient mythology is that the lessons they teach and the philosophy they embody are relevant to modern life as well. Our gods are portrayed as having the same emotions we do ― envy, greed, lust, fear and anger ― which are sometimes personified as Lobha, Kama, Bhaya, etc. Perhaps, our ancestors wished to make their teachings more palatable by couching them in colourful tales that captured the imagination.
My challenge was to recreate mythology with a contemporary flavour, to attract and hold attention with a tale unheard of till now. And going by the bestseller status of ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’, I think I have succeeded to some extent. Readers view Pradyumna as a human being much like themselves, struggling with his fears and weaknesses, striving to make his impact on a world that seems to be ruled by the wicked. This makes my story relevant to every reader.
Your first book ‘The Madras Mangler’ was a thriller; ‘Pradyumna’ is based on mythology and the next one, ‘Love, Lies and Layoffs’ is a rom-com. How challenging it is to change genre?
Each genre has its own grammar and you must learn the rules in order to be able to pull it off smoothly. A thriller, for instance, relies heavily on the external landscape: action, location, clues, red herrings and so on. There’s not much space to dwell on inner thoughts or feelings. A romance on the other hand is all about emotions, the love and hate that whirls a man and a woman into a fast tango that ends in a warm embrace.
‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ has all the action of a thriller, plus the emotional turmoil of someone tormented by demons from his own past. Then, there is the inspirational dimension of a man who must fight demigods and demons before he can attain his goal, if at all he does. Hence, this epic fantasy which is half myth and half imagined ― was definitely the most challenging to write.
Whatever the genre I choose, I ensure that there are some elements that I regard as essential: a strong plot, intriguing characters, suspense and sizzling dialogue.
Classic question: How did the idea of Pradyumna cropped up and what can readers expect from the book?
Usually in epic tales, we see the brave, upright hero winning his battle against the armies of darkness. So it is in the Mahabharata, we see that the Kurus are annihilated by the Pandavas with Krishna’s protection. This Great War and the story of Krishna himself have been told and retold in numerous ways, but the story of what happens when he leaves the earth is lost in time. When he returns to Vaikunta at the end of his avatar, Kali Yuga sets in and evil pervades men’s lives. Who is the redeemer who can save the world now from sin? The natural successor to Krishna is his son Pradyumna, but what do we know about him?
This was the paradox that drew me to this great warrior, passionate lover, caring father and son that made him the central figure in my book. Where does he come from and where does his destiny take him? Can he overcome his karma that has made him a destroyer many times? Book 1 of this two-part series answers these questions in part, with a bigger struggle awaiting him in the sequel.
To sum up, I will say that ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ brings you action, adventure, romance, divinity and inspiration in a perfect blend!
During the writing and research conducted on Pradyumna, what struck you the most? How different is Pradyumna from Krishna and how he became your perfect hero? Was the sequel planned or did it spring from your fascination with the character?
What struck me most during my research was that there was so much that I did not know. I studied in a convent school and read Enid Blyton, not Valmiki or Kamban. My parents were too busy to narrate stories from our epics. So when I started delving into our myths, I was astonished by many facts I came across. For instance, did you know that the Gita was not first spoken to Arjuna? Krishna bequeathed it on the sun god, who passed it on to Manu, the father of mankind, who then conveyed it to Ikshvaku, the head of Rama’s solar dynasty. But then men forgot the lord’s message and he had to be born again to expound the eternal truths.
Coming to the difference between father and son, Krishna is clearly a god come down to earth, but Pradyumna is a mere mortal who struggles to find himself. He is the mystery figure who appears out of nowhere, not really heroic to start with, but one who must fight to advance every step. The sheer numbers of those opposing him is stupefying. But still he fights on. Is he a fool, an idealist, or both? In our hearts, we too long to be that hero, that inspiring figure who lives up to the loftiest notions of what an individual can be. We wish to shake off our inertia, take on the world and win. We root for him, indirectly rooting for ourselves. No wonder that Pradyumna appeals to readers across age groups!
As for the sequel, his story turned out to be much greater in scope and depth than I could fit into one book. So now we have Pradyumna straddling two books with his majestic presence!
You also wrote stories, ‘My Little Spitfire’ and ‘One Crazy Day in the life of a Teenager.’ How different is the process of writing shorts and novels?
A short story captures a slice of life or emotion, the story of an hour or even a moment! A sudden impulse, a momentary passion, a spark of an idea ― and you can plunge directly into a short story. My two short stories were written in a few hours each, for I was carried along by a spontaneous flow of thought. But, a novel is humongous in comparison. You need a plot and structure, a theme, great characters, conflicts, scenes, and so much more. Louisa May Alcott declared, ‘I want to do something splendid. Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I am dead.’ She was talking of writing novels! Therefore, I would say that a novel is not something you can get into in a half-hearted manner.
Being a former creative director in advertising and corporate communications, how did the writing bug hit you or would you say it was bound to happen after being in the creative field?
Who doesn’t dream of doing something that doesn’t require dealing with a long commute, a nasty boss or office politics? But the compulsions of making a living, building a career and dealing with other mundane concerns bog you down. I had honed my writing skills over many years. Marketing skills were part and parcel of my life as an advertising professional. And once I wrote the first short story, the creative bug seduced me into letting go of practical concerns and soaring unfettered into the skies. The amazing reviews I got for my first book ‘The Madras Mangler’ emboldened me to continue as an author. My second, ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ is steadily expanding its footprint. Now in my third book, coming out in October 2015, I attempt a rom-com. ‘Love, Lies and Layoffs’ is set amidst the frenzy and fever of a bustling media empire in Mumbai. It’s a fun look at contemporary office life, with lashings of humor and power play, romance and heartbreak.