Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Commentator Asks, I Answer

Here's a comment that came late last night in reaction to my post on being a spiritual guru:

Some questions for you.

How are you able to quote verbatim the conversations you had with others here? Don't thoughts like these come: What will their reaction be to know their casual conversation has been analyzed and posted?

Scotch laden as most of your posts are, made late in the night, does it knock your head when you read the posts next day in uninebriated state, like, "What crap I have written?"

I am glad the commentator asked these questions. It gives me the chance to clarify a few things, and also share a few things about my blogging/writing.

The first question is how I am able to quote verbatim the conversations I have with others. It's simple: you only have to keep your ears and eyes open. When you come home and tell your wife or mother what happened in the office or in the college, don't you repeat verbatim what you've heard? When you gossip or bitch about a person, don't you mimic his or her words verbatim?

As a journalist, you are self-trained to listen and remember. As a writer, it becomes second nature to listen and observe and take mental notes. It becomes part of your job. That is why writers rarely have a boring moment. There might be superficial boredom at times, there might be moments of frustration or loneliness, but they are rarely ever bored or blank. Every moment in their life is a conscious or subconscious exercise in material-collection. Even family members become potential characters: their characteristics, mannerisms and conversations are stored away in some corner of their minds for future use.

The question is how verbatim it is. Well, it doesn't have to be an exact reproduction, as long as the sense is conveyed and the truth is not distorted. It is easy to invent a conversation or a quote, but that is simply not done. It is malpractice, unless your work is strictly fiction. But since this blog is about facts and not fiction, the quotes are always real and as verbatim as possible.

Question no. 2: Does it ever occur to me what those people will feel if they realise their casual conversation has been analysed and posted?

Yes, it does occur to me and that is why I don't name names and try to mask the situation if necessary. Moreover, I don't write offensive stuff about people I quote, neither do I run them down. I only use their point of view as a tool to put forward mine. As for analysing a casual conversation: well, that's my job. People are their real selves only during a casual conversation, and that's the time to get into their minds. If I were to announce at a dinner table, "Look guys, I am going to analyse and write about every word that is spoken here," each one would immediately don a mask.

Above all, it is the privilege of being a writer to analyse conversations or events and write about them. And as a blogger, you also have the privilege of having a platform to air your views. I have earned these privileges. And no one is stopping you, dear commentator, from recording your version of the evening. All you need to do is sign up with Blogger or Livejournal. It would be heartening to get a view from the other side of the dining table.

Question no. 3: Scotch laden as most of your posts are, made late in the night, does it knock your head when you read the posts next day in uninebriated state, like, "What crap I have written?"

Oh yes, there are occasions when I wonder, the next morning, what crap have I written. So much so that I feel like deleting those posts. What holds me back from deleting them is a simple logic: my blog is like a public park where entry is free of cost. Anyone can come in and spend how much ever time they feel like. They can admire the plants, spit on them, do whatever they feel like. So why worry so much about the crap that might be lying around? If the visitors had to pay an entry fee, I would have perhaps worked extra hard to see that I don't write crap. Or may be I would have not written at all.

But let me assure you, dear commentator, that what I write or how I write would not be any different even if I were to sit in front of the computer at nine in the morning with a cup to tea instead of a glass of whisky. I could still be writing crap.

Ah, nothing beats writing late in the night, when the whole world is fast asleep and when there is a glass of whisky sitting by your elbow, urging you to stay up and think hard. Just one sip and you find your thought process unlocked. The writing flows. But here, I have a confession to make: the first three or four paragraphs of my posts are always written without the aid of alcohol. I write them stark sober.

It's like this: I am very lazy by temperament, and as long as I know there is sufficient booze at home, I show no hurry in making a drink. For making a drink involves getting the bottle, getting a glass, getting the water and so on -- things that are best postponed. In the meanwhile, I start writing my post. There are several frustrating moments before I get a satisfactory first sentence, and then a satisfactory first paragraph. The battle somewhat eases off with the completion of the first para, but the struggle continues till I have written another two or three paras. That's when I feel like taking a break and get up to make a drink. But by then, the tone of the post has already been set.

Alcohol merely helps to resume the writing with vigour. It unlocks your thought process and makes you passionate and emotional about what you are writing. It gives conviction to your thoughts and lends you the will-power to finish with articulating those thoughts no matter how long it takes. This is also possible without the help of alcohol; but alcohol, somehow, helps you with the turn of phrases. I mean, when you are mildly drunk, you are no longer inhibited and you let your thoughts flow out like a river. Haven't you seen shy and reticent men becoming passionate poets after a drink or two?

The whole idea of drinking alcohol is that it lifts your spirits. So why not record your thoughts and emotions when your spirits are in an uplifted state? Certain emotions are completely dormant -- and therefore unknown to you -- without the aid of alcohol. I have a friend who has many qualities, but I never thought of him as a singer. He is a guy who would rather rescue a woman from the clutches of a rapist and earn her admiration rather than impress her with his singing. One night, he drank up an entire bottle of red wine I had got from Pondicherry. Lo behold, he had become a singer! I can't even begin to tell you how good he sounded: he should have been singing at Chennai's Margazhi festival. But in real life he happens to be a journalist who ekes out a living by editing copies and giving headlines. So that's what alcohol can do to you: it can bring out facets which you are not even aware of.

But then, it is important to know the difference between alcohol lifting your spirits and alcohol numbing your senses. Any seasoned writer would realise when exactly his senses are beginning to get numb: he would instantly stop writing and return to the piece only the next morning.

So to say that my pieces are Scotch-laden is factually wrong. It is fun to write while you are drinking, but impossible to write while you are drunk.

Anymore questions?


love is fragile said...

I love reading your blog..keep writing...

Anonymous said...

get more booze home ;)

Soumya said...

This intellectual wrestling is quite entertaining - for the spectator,at least:)

Anonymous said...

well defended :)

Anonymous said...

Muuuuaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!! Love you

Unknown said...

gr8 going Bish ... i loved this one ;o)

Anonymous said...

Pleasant surprise to see my comments turned to post with detailed answers!
Thank you.

Now one more. A more general one.

You have given so much about yourself in this blog - including the sexual adventures. Whats your take on facing people in real life? I mean, you are not writing all these under some pseudonym.
Is it a "I dont give a damn about what you think about me" attitude?

Most people cant dream of writing like this under real name and going to office next day!


Shuvashree Ghosh said...

Why are you wasting words wrestling with immature people who do not have the guts to even write their names on a comment. Use them more creatively.

Being your wife if I don't have a problem with what you say or write what do you care about the world and comments as the previous one from people who obviously lack intellectual clarity .....Now don't be shocked at my comment here :))))
Shuvashree Ghosh

Anonymous said...

Wow! With such solid support from your wife. There is no stopping you....Go, reach the sky...

Zig.... :)

love is fragile said...

Great compatibility..keep going Bish don't look back and don't bother about "Khokla Comments"

Anonymous said...

Huh! At least BG and a few others took it in the right sense.

For those intellectuals who didn't - It was not "Questioning" him but a reader's attempt to understand the writer's perspective.

Anonymous said...

Mr/Ms Anon...good reply to the intellectually qualified...